Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Calling Out Christians

I have, on more than one occasion, offered the phrase "genuine Christians" in my writings. In case the implication is unclear, what I have meant by prefacing the noun "Christians" with the adjective "genuine" is that there are folks that call themselves "Christians" who are, in fact, not genuine. They are lying or they are deceived, but they are not genuine.

Is this a fair thing to say? I would argue that it isn't merely fair; it's biblical. We are told repeatedly in the New Testament that false teachers would be the bain of the Church. They would "come out from us" (1 John 2:18-19). John calls them "antichrists". They would cry, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name?" (Matt 7:22). Tares among wheat. Judaizers. Heretics. They are not a matter of question. They are a biblical certainty. The Bible is abundantly clear that there will be false "believers" in the Church. For me, then, to suggest the same is not revolutionary, but simply submitting to the Word of God.

Last month Peter Heck wrote a piece arguing that it's a sin for Christians to vote for Obama. Understand that he did so in response to a Roman Catholic bishop who said the same thing. When the candidate supports killing babies in and even out of the womb, when he discards what Jesus defined as "marriage" and considers Jesus's view as discriminatory, when he embraces as moral what the Bible clearly calls sin, this writer considers it unchristian to vote for that candidate. He considers the term "Christian Democrat", considering today's Democratic Party platform, an oxymoron.

Is this a fair thing to say? Again, on the surface, given the Scriptures and the facts, it is a general truth. There are fake Christians -- people who perhaps believe themselves to be genuine -- whose choices and words (1 John 2:19) demonstrate that they are fake. It is fair, biblical, and rational. But let me say this. I do not aim to be the one to point fingers at individuals. It is one thing to say "There are false Christians" and it is entirely another to say, "and you are one." Using Heck's example, it is entirely true that the Democratic Party holds large swaths of anti-Christian values. That's a general fact. But arguing that everyone who votes for the party holds the equivalent values is questionable. The same is true in the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic theology has some serious problems. It equates to "saved by works". It violates the concept of grace apart from merit (and does so explicitly). It eliminates imputed righteousness. If you hold to pure Roman Catholic theology, you do not hold to Christian theology. But I can say with absolute certainty that individuals in the Roman Catholic church do not subscribe (or even know of) that theology even though they're in that church. As a generality, then, the theology is wrong, but in terms of real individuals, I would not be able to say blindly, "All Roman Catholics are false Christians." It just isn't the case.

And, look, this isn't limited to "genuine Christians". I would, for instance, continue to stand on the certainty that homosexual behavior is a sin. On the other hand, beating my neighbor who is practicing homosexual behavior over the head with his sin would be pointless. Hunting down those in such behavior to shake my finger in their faces and warn them of God's wrath for that act wouldn't be of value. There are better approaches and, frankly, bigger concerns. (Trust me. No one is going to Hell because they committed a homosexual act. Rather, committing such acts is the product of a sinful life that needs Christ.) So declaring a general truth is not the equivalent to beating an individual over the head with the particulars.

Is it right to call out other Christians or to differentiate between "genuine" and "fake" Christians? Since Jesus did it, I'd have to say it is likely a good thing to do. Am I likely, then, to walk around pointing to people and telling them, "You know, you're not a genuine Christian"? No, not likely. I frankly don't know. So I will call out "genuine" versus "fake" in general, point to the differences, suggest that people in "this" category might need to check themselves, that sort of thing. Since God has not made me privy to the heart, so I cannot know. But for those who would argue that we should keep quiet about such things entirely, I would suggest that you'll need to take that up with Christ ... and the authors of Scripture ... first. You can give me your arguments after you straighten them out.

88 comments:

Bubba said...

Stan, I would be surprised if your fairly anodyne essay doesn't nevertheless generate criticism from people who describe themselves as Christians.

In anticipation of that criticism, I would ask any critic whether we cannot be confident at least about a bare minimum of propositions regarding Christianity -- a set of "Big Truths," if you will.

If literally no belief is absolutely mandatory for Christian faith, does it not mean that Christianity can mean literally anything?

Is the command to love your neighbor mandatory, such that the denial of that command can be rightly denounced as contrary to Christianity, even if the denial comes from someone who claims to be a Christian?

And what about basic theism? Is the belief that God exists mandatory, such that we can confidently and rightly denounce any denial of God's actual existence as contrary to Christianity, even if the denial comes from one who claims to be a Christian minister?

I would love to see clear and coherent answers to these questions from anyone who would balk at your essay.

Stan said...

Brian McClaren, in his book A Generous Orthodoxy, made the argument that truth -- what is or isn't true -- is a relic of times past and no longer viable. Who is or is not in the kingdom is the wrong question. His "generous orthodoxy" served to embrace everyone ("generous") at the expense of truth ("orthodoxy"). It isn't an uncommon approach. "The Bible isn't a book of rules. It's just general guidelines, ideas, mostly what you make of it."

Indeed, I know of a pastor in good standing in the PCUSA who is an atheist who denies the Resurrection (and possibly even the existence) of Christ. Theism? No, not necessary. "Big Truths". Passe. No, no, we've moved on from that.

And, like you, I would not be able to see anything beyond the fact that this removes any meaning at all from anything deemed "Christianity".

Craig said...

We have come to a point where all that is necessary to be considered a christian, is to refer to yourself as a christian. Your example of the PCUSA pastor is a great one, and he's not alone. A PCUSA church in (I believe) Texas accepted an atheist into membership.

In my view, what is most unfortunate about this is that it provides a bunch of folks with a big club (or a broad brush) to use against real Christians. For example, I don't know anyone who would suggest that the Westboro Baptist folks are real christians, yet we all know folks who are happy to accept and suggest that what goes on there is an example of what all Christians must be like. (Interesting that the Phelps flock are all democrats)

Shoot, at this point all you need in some folks eyes is just to say "I believe in XYZ list of the "right" things, therefore I must be a christian." As long as you don't actually define what you mean when you use the terms.

I think Bubba's right that this will generate a fair degree of push back, when your point really shouldn't be arguable. You certainly have Biblical support, and I thin we've all seen real world examples to back this up.

Dan Trabue said...

I had planned on not addressing this, but Bubba appears to want an answer to a question and I'll be glad to provide it. I believe my answer should be completely anodyne, as well. Self-evident and obvious (as opposed to what you put forth in this commentary as "clear...") to a fault.

Bubba asked...

If literally no belief is absolutely mandatory for Christian faith, does it not mean that Christianity can mean literally anything?

1. Christianity would be - first of all and primarily - the belief(s) generated from the teachings of Jesus, called Christ. Thus, I don't know of anyone who would ever suggest that Christianity can mean "literally anything." Of course not.

2. Therefore, clearly and self-evidently, ANY teaching that would be directly in conflict with Jesus' teachings would not be "Christ-ian."

3. For instance, Jesus clearly taught that we should love our neighbors, love our enemies and love and care for the "least of these." Anyone who teaches we should HATE our enemies or neighbors, that is someone teaching an anti-Christ-ian message.

4. So, to answer Bubba's question, Yes, obviously there are some things that are beyond Christian teaching.

5. Christianity has also come to mean something beyond the self-evident/by-defintion meaning of "belief generated from the teachings of Jesus Christ."

It has also come to mean "the teachings of 'the church'" where "church" itself is somewhat vaguely defined (WHOSE church, which set of beliefs from which denomination or sect or sub-denomination are we speaking of?). Is it necessary to pledge allegiance to one particular denomination's (or group of denominations) entire set of beliefs in order to be Christian? I think most Christians would affirm, "No."

It is only a rational conclusion, unless you're one of those who suggests that ONE particular denomination/sect of Christianity is the True Religion. Most of Christianity has rejected such a authoritarian approach to Christianity, and rightly so, it seems to me.

6. The problem, it seems to me, is that some people have elevated "the church's" teachings (speaking of some grouping of some particular denominations/sects) to the level of Christ's teachings. That would be a dangerous way to go, it seems to me. I think clearly, we who love the teachings of Christ and seek to follow Christ MUST pledge ourselves to follow Christ as best we know how, prayerfully, soberly seeking God's ways. And if we believe that belief X, Y or Z of denomination A, B and/or C is mistaken, then we are obliged to follow God, not humanity, as Peter testified in the Bible.

Does that address your question, Bubba?

Stan said...

"the belief(s) generated from the teachings of Jesus, called Christ."

McClaren is an example of how that concept is pushed to mean "literally anything". He speaks of "7 Jesuses" and embraces some while rejecting others. His notion of "a generous orthodoxy" is the idea that everyone gets saved and nothing distinguishes. Or there is Chuck Currie who claims "We pride ourselves on being places where all points of view are accepted." Or there is our PCUSA pastor who rejects an actual Jesus Himself and embraces what this nonexistent Jesus teaches ... sort of. Indeed, he embraces the Jesus Seminar that chooses (by vote) what may or may not have been Jesus's words and deeds.

It is interesting that some would put the Bible in tension with Jesus, as if there are things that Jesus taught that were contrary to the rest or that the rest taught that were contrary to His words. I find the "Red Letter Christian" to be quite bizarre in this concept.

Regardless of Dan's agreement or disagreement with McClaren-esque et al views, I'm not at all sure what he means. For instance, I understand that Jesus clearly taught we are to love our neighbors. Agreement! But what "love your neighbor" means and whether or not it is a rule are both in question, and surely Dan wouldn't think someone was not a Christian because they failed to love their neighbor. So it's still not clear whether or not anyone can claim that there are genuine beliefs that define "Christian" (and, consequently, exclude some from being "Christian").

Stan said...

I think, in fact, that for a large number of people Craig is correct. Declaring yourself "Christian" is the fundamental requirement to be "Christian", and "genuine" in that context has no meaning.

(As a result, of course, "Christian" equally has no meaning.)

Craig said...

Dan,

In just this brief set of comments there have been several specific people mentioned who would disagree with your point number 1.

The fact that you choose to skip this is interesting.

The folks in question are folks who would be most closely identified with your "side" in terms of both politics and how you view christianity.

Craig said...

Just a general question. While certainly Christ is central to what we can Christianity, can we ignore the teachings of the preincarnate Christ or relegate those to secondary status?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

But what "love your neighbor" means and whether or not it is a rule are both in question, and surely Dan wouldn't think someone was not a Christian because they failed to love their neighbor.

This is where Christian Grace comes into play. We may disagree on whether it is more or less "loving" to give the homeless fella who smells of alcohol a handout of money, whether or not it is loving to spank our children, whether or not it is within the bounds of God's love to kill our enemies, but those who hold to the belief "love everyone" and salvation by God's grace, those folk I would consider Christian. Why wouldn't we?

Christians can be mistaken, even on important and deadly issues, but we are not saved by our correct knowledge of all good and evil, we are saved by God's grace.

On the other hand, the person who REJECTS the notion of loving our enemy (for instance) that person is rejecting Christian teaching. Those who REJECT out of hand the notion of salvation by God's grace, that person has stepped outside of Christian teaching.

So, I'm saying we CAN find folk who reject Christianity, I think wisdom and grace leads us towards inclusion, even if we think a fellow Christian is mistaken because, once again, we are not saved by perfect knowledge, but by Grace.

Bubba said...

Stan:

"Brian McClaren, in his book A Generous Orthodoxy, made the argument that truth -- what is or isn't true -- is a relic of times past and no longer viable."

Surely McClaren believes that the argument is ITSELF true, that the claim "truth isn't viable" is itself true, viable, and relevant for today.

His position is incoherent, as incoherent as the claim, "all sentences are false."

Bubba said...

Dan, I appreciate your addressing my questions, but you didn't answer all of them, most significantly the questions regarding basic theism.

You write, "Yes, obviously there are some things that are beyond Christian teaching."

Great! We agree.

Is the denial of God's existence beyond Christian teaching?

You write, "clearly and self-evidently, ANY teaching that would be directly in conflict with Jesus' teachings would not be 'Christ-ian,'" and Jesus commanded us to love God, which cannot preclude acknowledging His existence. How can a person love anyone if he denies that that person exists?

You say that we must pledge ourselves to following Christ, "soberly seeking God's ways," implying that He exists, giving us a way to follow.

You say again, "we are obliged to follow God," but it is absurd to contemplate that a person could follow God while denying Him.

Dan:

If a person believes that God is merely a symbol, should we not IMMEDIATELY conclude that this person cannot possibly be a Christian, even if he happens to speak behind a pulpit twice a fortnight?

David said...

I'm not so sure Dan's "live and let live" mentality is all that biblical. In fact, I'm pretty sure Scripture tells us to call other Christians out on their sins, even so far as kicking them out of the congregation if they remain unrepentant.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Is the denial of God's existence beyond Christian teaching?

I would think that people who don't believe in God don't believe in Christianity, sure. Are there huge number of people claiming to Christianity who don't believe in God? I'm not aware of any large group like that.

Having said that, is it possible that someone could "accept Christ" - in that they accept the teachings of Jesus, believe in repenting of their sins and following in Christ's Way and in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and what He taught - and yet not believe in God as typically understood? Sure, I guess there might be some small number of folk out there like that. In that tremendously tiny group of people, are they saved? I don't know, that would be between God and them.

If one accepts all Jesus' teachings BUT they don't agree with the traditional concept of "God," as a Spirit above all, omniscient and omnipotent, but visualize God as "the Great Collective Conscience" or some such - is that "rejecting" Jesus' teachings? I don't think I would characterize it that way.

I would say that I place a great deal more stock in someone's faith in Jesus who truly takes all of Jesus' teachings seriously with the exception of that one thing (and a big thing it is) than I would in the person who claims to believe in God and to be a Christian but who doesn't take Jesus' teachings seriously.

But clearly, someone who does not believe in the notion of God or in Jesus as the Son of God is outside of traditional Christianity.

I just hesitate to say, "He's not saved..." because the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we will sometimes be surprised to learn who was saved and who was not. I accept that teaching pretty seriously.

Does that answer your question?

Dan Trabue said...

David said...

I'm not so sure Dan's "live and let live" mentality is all that biblical. In fact, I'm pretty sure Scripture tells us to call other Christians out on their sins, even so far as kicking them out of the congregation if they remain unrepentant.

And I agree. If someone recognizes X behavior as sin and they refuse to back off of it and repent, then disassociating from them is a reasonable thing to do.

But what of "Joe" who disagrees with the rest of your church that smoking is a sin and refuses to "repent" of what he does not believe is sinful? Or what if Joe disagrees with his church that drinking alcohol is sinful and refuses to repent? Or what if he disagrees with the church's teaching on atonement, or on how to baptize someone (sprinkle vs dunk), or on voting for Democrats...? Where do you draw the line, David, on kicking someone out of your church NOT for refusing to repent, but for disagreeing with you on a behavior or a tenet?

Is your church one that teaches drinking alcohol or being divorced and remarried or cursing is sinful? Do you think all those who have done these things should be kicked out of your church, even if they disagree with the majority opinion?

I don't.

Disassociation is for clear, harmful sinful behavior, not mere disagreements over tenets. In matters of non-essentials, I always vote for Grace. And Grace is an essential.

Stan said...

Are there huge numbers of people claiming atheism and Christianity? No, of course not. Are there people claiming atheism and Christianity? Yes, there are. And, as has been indicated, there are even pastors ("in good standing", even) who deny the existence of Christ, pick and choose what they want of this "Christ's" teaching and even deny the need for "salvation". I know you're not so keen on Substitutionary Atonement, but some are opposed to any atonement at all. These well-respected (in some circles) pastors and theologians classify themselves as Christians while denying the deity of Christ, the existence of "the Son of God", and the existence of God.

The point of the post was "Is it right to point out that there are beliefs that disqualify some as 'Christians' even if they claim to be." I obviously claimed that it was right and biblical. You don't appear to have a problem with people holding a non-biblical, non-Christ understanding of God. Without pointing fingers at individuals (like the pastors used as examples above), would you say that there are any genine articles of faith that would necessarily qualify someone as "Christian" (and, by necessity, disqualify those who do not hold to them)? Or are you disagreeing wholeheartedly with the concept of "genuine" versus "fake" Christians or calling them such? You said that some would be "outside of traditional Christianity", followed by "I just hesitate to say, 'He's not saved'". Is this a blanket disagreement with the position of the post? Is there, in your view, such a thing as a "so-called brother" who would not, actually, be a brother in Christ?

David said...

It does appear Dan is having a hard time distinguishing between one of God's children and someone claiming to be one of God's children.

As for your response to me, if a congregation believed a certain activity was a sin, followed all the biblical steps in confronting the person, and the person refused to repent, then yes, I believe that congregation has the RIGHT to not allow that person to commune with them. May it be the extremely debatable sin of drinking, or the clear cut sin of sexual immorality, it is the responsibility of the pastor(s) to protect his flock from the infestation of sin. And before you get all uppity, this isn't talking about occasional sins, but lifestyle sins, constant, unrepentant.

Stan said...

"And before you get all uppity..."

"Uppity"? Who talks like that anymore? :)

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

I obviously claimed that it was right and biblical. You don't appear to have a problem with people holding a non-biblical, non-Christ understanding of God.

You have misunderstood my position. I think that you all, for instance, hold a non-biblical, non-Christ understanding of God's views about war and peace, for instance. Or about marriage, for instance. I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God in areas of atonement, for instance.

And I DO have a problem with that. I'm just not willing to reject your brotherhood in Christ because we disagree about what I think are fundamentally clear and important issues.

You appear willing to do so.

I don't reject your brotherhood in Christ because I do not think that you are intentionally choosing the wrong, but that you are merely sincerely mistaken. Those brothers and sisters who are sincerely mistaken are NOT un-saved because of their error, they are just wrong.

On what basis would I reject someone's Christianity simply because they are wrong? That would be lacking in grace and I will not go there, for I am well aware of my own ability to be sincerely mistaken and I do so desparately need grace, myself.

Stan...

Without pointing fingers at individuals (like the pastors used as examples above), would you say that there are any genine articles of faith that would necessarily qualify someone as "Christian" (and, by necessity, disqualify those who do not hold to them)?

If any "Christians" rejected Christ's teaching - deliberately embracing anti-Christ-ian teachings, I would reject the suggestion that they are Christians.

At the same time (and I'm trying to be clear here), the bible teaches us that we may well be surprised about who is and who isn't "saved..." so, given the Bible's teaching, I'm loathe to go there.

In the examples of false teachers that get called out in the Bible, these are nearly always identified NOT as Christians, but people who are deliberately/specifically NOT christians but pretending to be in order to get rich or power. Theirs is a deliberate deception, and not speaking of those who are simply confused.

If I find someone who is deliberately teaching stuff they know to be wrong/teaching things merely to increase their wealth or power, I think that they should be rebuked and disassociated with.

But that is not the same as those who are merely sincerely mistaken. So, to answer your next question...

Or are you disagreeing wholeheartedly with the concept of "genuine" versus "fake" Christians or calling them such?

I disagree wholeheartedly with the notion of calling the "merely sincerely mistaken" ones "fake" Christians because I don't believe that is biblical or grace-full. In fact, I think it is contrary to reason, to the bible and to that grace, by which we are saved.

I think that answers your questions, let me know if I've failed to convey my position so that you can understand it.

Dan Trabue said...

David...

It does appear Dan is having a hard time distinguishing between one of God's children and someone claiming to be one of God's children.

What would make you think that? One of God's children are those poor sinners whose desire is to follow God by God's grace, who ask for forgiveness and seek God's grace and God's Ways.

Those who AREN'T God's children (in the sense you mean, anyway - there is a sense that we ALL are God's Children, biblically speaking) are those who choose to REJECT God's grace and God's ways.

Where do you see difficulty in my understanding, David? Be specific, that would help.

David...

As for your response to me, if a congregation believed a certain activity was a sin, followed all the biblical steps in confronting the person, and the person refused to repent, then yes, I believe that congregation has the RIGHT to not allow that person to commune with them.

"Refusing to repent" requires first that they KNOW to repent. The person who does not believe drinking to be sinful is not "refusing to repent," he's disagreeing with the church on the nature of that behavior.

You're saying that those who disagree with the church on various non-essential opinions SHOULD BE "excommunicated..."?

Again, I would ask where you draw the line? Surely your church is full of people who don't hold the same opinions on a variety of non-essential topics. Do you hold that people must be in lockstep on every opinion? I can't believe that to be true.

So, if not, then where do you draw the line? The pastor and 4/5th of the deacons and 3/4 of the church body think that drinking, cursing, smoking cigarettes, smoking pot and voting Democratic is sinful/wrong - do you kick out everyone else who disagrees? Or do you have some grace on non-essential, debatable matters?

David...

May it be the extremely debatable sin of drinking, or the clear cut sin of sexual immorality, it is the responsibility of the pastor(s) to protect his flock from the infestation of sin.

So, you don't think it is a church-wide responsibility, at all, but left purely to the whim of a pastor, is that what I'm hearing you saying? You'd never make it in a traditional Baptist or anabaptist church with that attitude (well, it's not like we'd ask you to leave or anything..., you'd just be out of place).

So, do you agree with your pastor on every possible behavior and church tenet?

I guess what I'm trying to get across is that NO churches (except for possibly a very few, very fundamentalist churches) believe in insisting lockstep agreement on 100% of issues. That's just not a sustainable opinion to hold in any group larger than one person.

David...

And before you get all uppity, this isn't talking about occasional sins, but lifestyle sins, constant, unrepentant.

? Not getting uppity and I understand your point. But I am not sure that you are getting mine: The person who does not believe drinking, cursing, smoking, voting Democratic, gay marriage to be wrong does not have an "unrepentant" attitude. "Unrepentant" means unwilling to repent/not repentant. If one does not think a behavior is sinful, they don't hold an attitude of unrepentance, they merely disagree with you.

You are saying (or are you) that 100% of the congregation has to agree 100% with your pastor? I don't think you really think that, do you?

Stan said...

"I think that you all, for instance, hold a non-biblical, non-Christ understanding of God's views about war and peace, for instance."

Bubba asked if there were actual beliefs that would cause you to "call out" (my word) someone as a "fake" Christian rather than a "genuine" Christian (again, my classifications). He specifically asked about theism. Thus, I deliberately asked about theism. I didn't ask about details, war and peace, or whether ont not it's okay to smoke. I asked about those who call themselves Christians while holding a view opposed to the Bible's and to Christ's view on the nature and existence of God. There are those possessing MDIv degrees and occupying pulpits who are self-proclaimed atheists and self-proclaimed Christians. (Not that degrees or pulpits make a difference, but that they push them out of the periphery into the mainstream.) They aren't merely mistaken in their doctrine, but deny the existence of God and the existence of Christ. They are not "deliberately teaching stuff they know to be wrong", but things they genuinely believe. It's just that what they genuinely believe is in direct opposition to theism and basic Christianity (as you yourself has defined it).

Thus, with your answer to that question as well as the second, it would appear that you are absolutely opposed to calling out Christians who hold any beliefs even if they are atheists calling themselves Christians because you find it to be "graceless". Your version of grace, then, would appear to be all-encompassing. What we believe is irrelevant. Claiming Christianity is sufficient to be included in Christianity. Or, at least, it would be wrong of folks (like Jesus or Paul) to call others out for false Christianity.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

with your answer to that question as well as the second, it would appear that you are absolutely opposed to calling out Christians who hold any beliefs even if they are atheists calling themselves Christians because you find it to be "graceless".

I pointed out specifically Stan, that I AM willing to "call out" Christians on mistaken beliefs.

Given the Bible's teachings, I'm unwilling to say that one who confesses Christ is "not a Christian" or a "fake Christian," simply because they may not define things the same way I do.

As to these specific pastors, perhaps if you had a specific belief, quoted in context, I could better deal with your question.

But let me make up one:

A pastor claims to be a Christian and says, "I am a Christian but I don't believe Jesus was actually God, there is no god, only humans who make up stuff about God to control others..."

I don't think that person is a Christian, despite what they may say. I don't know that something like that ever happens in the real world, but if so, that person is not a Christian, classically defined.

Stan...

What we believe is irrelevant. Claiming Christianity is sufficient to be included in Christianity. Or, at least, it would be wrong of folks (like Jesus or Paul) to call others out for false Christianity.

1. I do not believe "what we believe is irrelevant." Quite the opposite. As I've stated plenty of times.

2. I do not beleive that "Claiming Christianity is sufficient to be included in Christianity." As I've stated.

3. I do not believe Jesus or Paul were wrong for calling out FALSE, deliberate deceivers as not being part of God's kingdom. But Jesus and Paul do not call out sincerely mistaken actual believers as being "false." That does not happen.

Does that clear up your mistakes for you and help you better understand my actual positions?

Stan said...

Okay, Dan, fine. It seems impossible to keep on topic. The post was about "genuine" and "fake" Christians and whether or not they should be "called out". You continue to dance around "mistaken beliefs". Not the point. Not the topic.

So when I said, "What we believe is irrelevant", I meant "in terms of the topic" and ... keeping on topic is impossible.

As such, of course, I'm not really clear on your position. You state categorically that a pastor who claims to be a Christian while denying Christ or God is not a Christian, but then hold that "sincerely mistaken" is not the same thing. The imaginary pastor of your example is not a Christian because he denies that Jesus was God or even the existence of God, so I can only guess that such an imaginary pastor is not "sincerely mistaken".

Bottom line, of course, this was Bubba's question to you. I think I understand your position. I think you are opposed to calling anyone a "fake Christian" as long as they sincerely believe. I think, in other words, that you are fundamentally opposed to the premise of my post. And that's not a surprise, is it? (Rhetorical question.)

Dan Trabue said...

and I would just ask, where do you draw the line?

Does someone need to be in 100% lockstep agreement with you on all topics in order to not be called a "false Christian," or is there some grace on debatable matters?

I don't think either you or David actually hold to the position "One must be in 100% agreement with me (or my pastor) in order to not be called a 'false Christian.'"

It just seems vague where you draw the line. To me.

Stan said...

See? Not the topic. The topic was if you draw the line. And, more to the point, if there is a line that is crossed, are you (we) to point it out, comment on it, "call out"? The line is not in view, but whether or not it exists and whether or not it can be talked about in public.

Actually, the topic was whether or not it's okay to call it a sin for Christians to do x, wasn't it? It was Bubba's question that moved it to this place.

Craig said...

"I don't know that something like that ever happens in the real world, but if so, that person is not a Christian, classically defined."

Dan, I am telling you now that this in fact is happening right now as we speak. I know if at least three ordained PCUSA pastors who openly teach, write, and speak publically in this vein. One in particular is quite clear that God does not exist, that Jesus (if he existed was not the second person of the Godhead) was just some guy in Israel who didn't actually teach all of the teachings you suggest are necessary to be a christian, and that the bible is a work of fiction.

Now you know, you have no excuse. NOt only does this guy believe this, but he proclaims it from the pulpit.

Would you agree that it is problematic to teach false doctrine to the church? Does not the Bible suggest that folks like this will come to a bad end?

Do the research, look stuff up, or I can e mail you a list of quotes.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

One in particular is quite clear that God does not exist, that Jesus (if he existed was not the second person of the Godhead) was just some guy in Israel who didn't actually teach all of the teachings you suggest are necessary to be a christian, and that the bible is a work of fiction.

? So why does he identify as a Christian?

I think something is missing from your report.

Stan said...

Nothing is missing, Dan. It has been amply documented, but, of course, his own blog is the best source. He even sets out clear essays on why he is a Christian while disavowing all fundamental Christian doctrines. And he takes those to task who suggest he is not a Christian when he denies the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, the reality of Scripture, even the words of Christ. And he's not alone.

Dan Trabue said...

If so, okay, then he's an outlier. 1 in a million.

If I get a chance, I'll try looking up his stuff.

But I don't know that it changes my message voiced here. You all seem to draw the bar way too high and without sufficient notice given to grace in the face of non-essential, debatable points.

Number of times that Jesus or the apostles excommunicate someone who is merely mistaken in the Bible? Zero. I think it is a poor idea for us to go down a road that Jesus our Lord didn't.

Why would we?

Craig said...

Dan,

What part of the fact that this person is an ordained pastor in the PCUSA (by anyone's definition one of the "mainline" protestant denominations in the US) are you confused by.

the two "official" titles for this position are, 1. Teaching Elder or 2. Minister of word and sacrament.

In case you aren't familiar with PCUSA polity, a little digression may be in order. The PCUSA is what is known as a "connectional" denomination. In practice this means that as long as this (these) gentlemen are ordained as MWS in good standing in their presbytery, their views are (at least technically) endorsed by the PCUSA as a whole.

Below are two of the questionsathat all candidates for Ordination must answer in the PCUSA.

1. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and
through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

2. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique
and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

Obviously the correct answer in this circumstance is YES in both cases.


Now it would seem to me that the only way one could answer these questions correctly is to believe that God exists and that the Bible is not fiction. IF someone who did NOT believe that God existed and DID believe that the Scriptures are fiction answered these questions affirmatively, an unbiased observer would have to conclude that they were either lying or had redefined the terms beyond recognition.

A couple of quotes that make the point.

"I don't believe in the existence of supernatural beings including "God". I don't think "God" caused or causes things, intervenes, or decides not to intervene. Nature is what Nature does. We are Nature. I do think when we speak of "God" or to "God" or through "God" we are expressing the deepest part of ourselves."

"What Art Dewey and the Fellows of Westar have done is offer a fresh translation of Paul's seven letters. They regard Acts as a fiction (part of the framing story of Paul) and the other letters traditionally attributed to Paul as impostors. The Westar Fellows are not unique in this. We all learned this in seminary. Furthermore, some of Paul's letters have junk in them (interpolations) that Paul never wrote. And some of the letters are out of order or are a combination of more than one letter. The Authentic Letters of Paul straightens all that out for us."

"Earth is my god. There is no life outside of it as far as I know."

"I want to sing praises to life and Earth, my "god"."

"The entire house of cards is based on fear of an invented deity who will punish those who don't choose correctly, like me. No deity exists. Not Jesus Christ, not Yahweh, not Baal, not Marduk, not Allah, not Zeus, not the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not the Wizard of Oz. None of them exist. All figments of imagination."


Are these the words of a christian? He identifies as a christian because it pays the bills, not many christian churches will hire a MWS who doesn't call himself a christian. The only thing missing is much, much more of the same kind of thing.

But, take comfort, he's with you politically.

Craig said...

A few more quotes.

""According to the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, the gospel narratives are creative fictions. The authors searched their scriptures to find models for Jesus such as the righteous sufferer in Isaiah and Psalm 22. We know nothing about what actually transpired. From Rome's perspective, Jesus was probably not that big of a deal. He was just another peasant with an attitude who would serve as an example for other peasants with attitudes. Rome sent a message: Don't make trouble or you will end up like these guys. Empire executed Jesus along with thousands of others. Jesus happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The importance of this story is not about the person of Jesus. It is the story of how Empire treats people. When human beings are reduced to collateral damage, when the value of what is under Earth is more valuable than who live on Earth, when unnamed people are trampled under the wheel of progress, the passion of account of Jesus is the story of the trampled." Suitable for a doorknob."

"Further, all the gospel accounts are fictions, so the fish eating Jesus with nail holes in his hands is a literary character."

"This is again interesting for us who lead worship. The major holy days of the Christian faith (in order of importance) Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost are all based on fictional narratives."

"For instance, at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening we are having a...

BELTANE CELEBRATION, 6p, May 1st marks the pagan festival of Beltane - "bright fire" or "fire of Bel." Bel was the Celtic sun god who was in his glory during the light half of the year. In the old traditions, this feast day celebrated the new growth and fertility of the land and all of its inhabitants."

"4. that "God" functions as a symbol. The concept of "God" is a product of myth-making and "God" is no longer credible as a personal, supernatural being. For me, "God" functions as a shorthand for the Universe and sometimes for qualities and aspirations I wish to pursue or to emulate."

"7. that Jesus may have been historical but most of the stories about him in the Bible and elsewhere are legends. But he's cool. He serves as a human ideal and a focal point for devotion (like an ishta deva)."

"It appears that Acts is a second-century work, perhaps as late as 120-125. It is mostly fiction and legend. Its purpose appears to provide a storyline for the beginning of the church and legitimate power structures in the second century. It was pretty effective propaganda. It worked. The church has taken Acts at face value and has regarded it uncritically as history."

"But that isn't the real problem with YHWH. What are YHWH's problems?

First, he wasn't real. YHWH is a fictional character. He never existed except in the imaginations of those who created him."

"Through the 19th century (and in evangelical circles still today) the Bible was regarded as a fairly reliable account of the history of the world. Now we see it as mostly fiction."

If you want more find it yourself.

Stan,

If this is too much don't let it post, or edit it to tase.


Craig said...

Actually, I wouldn't say he's an outlier. There's a small but growing group of these folks incubating in the PCUSA and a few other places.

Stan said...

As it turns out, the latest polls put a much larger number of atheist pastors in the pulpit than you would have imagined. Not an outlier. Add to that the number of pastors in the pulpit who deny the deity of Christ or the validity of Scripture (as in no validity, not "Stan's standard") or whether or not Christ died for our sins (including whether or not we need saving or whether or not anyone perishes) and the list gets much larger. Some estimates are putting up to 70% of mainline liberal church pastors in these categories. (I don't actually trust those estimates, but it is an indication that it's not nearly as "one in a million" that you seem to think.)

Stan said...

No, Craig, 1) it's not too much and 2) I have no ability in this blog format to edit comments. AOK.

Craig said...

It's also important to remember that the one pastor we are using as an example influences a number of people. He leads a church, he blogs, he has a radio show, he's not just some nutcase in a closet somewhere. Further, the PCUSA governing bodies implicitly endorse his call and "theology". Further he represents a growing movement within that PCUSA and other "mainline" denominations.

McLaren has also been mentioned, along with Doug Pagit and others who between them pastor large churches, speak at conferences and sell thousands/millions of books.

As much as you might like to minimize this, there are plenty of examples out there, with more coming.

Bubba said...

I wouldn't want to try to address everything here, even if I could, so I'll just hit the high points.

--

I don't get the focus on numbers. The rarity is offset by the prominence of pastors who are quite open about denying God while still claiming to be Christian.

More than that, we're warned quite clearly in the Bible that a little yeast can affect the entire loaf. ON PRINCIPLE, we shouldn't be blase about people who claim the mantle of Christianity while denying its most fundamental principles.

--

About the central importance of theism, I believe that the denial of God's actual existence isn't just outside of "traditional Christianity," it's outside of Christianity, full-stop and without any qualifying adjectives.

One cannot remove theism from Christianity. Atheistic Christianity is a contradiction in terms -- and a lie -- and theistic Christianity is redundant.

I do think there are two different questions, "is he a Christian?" and "is he saved?" and I was only asking about the former. Even so, if we all agree that we're saved by faith, I don't see how someone can have saving faith in a deity whose existence he denies.

We're saved by faith in God, not by sincerity as such, nowhere does the Bible even hint at the notion that it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you believe it sincerely.

And I don't know how in the world one could be "merely mistaken" in believing that one can be a Christian while denying God. The Christian doctrine that God exists is neither obscure nor difficult to understand.

--

Biblically, grace is God's unmerited and active love, it's not something like "social graces" where it's just rude to dispute a person's claim to be a Christian just(!) because he happens to express the belief that God is fictional, at best a useful but entirely unreal concept.

In disputing His numerous, clear and emphatic warnings about Hell, Rob Bell seems to think he understands love better than Jesus. In the same way, here I think I see a concept of grace that runs quite contrary to the breadth of the New Testament.

Paul was emphatic in pronouncing a solemn curse on anyone who would preach a different gospel -- and their sincerity was never factored in.

John, the Apostle who so emphasized love, also declared that those who denied the Incarnation -- a doctrinal issue -- did so from a spirit of antichrist, and here too we find no exceptions for people whose hearts are in the right place.

Even Jesus Himself corrected the Samaritan woman at the well rather than pat her on the head for whatever religious beliefs she sincerely held.

"You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." - Jn 4:22-23

Note: in spirit AND TRUTH, and it is inconceivable that one could sincerely worship God when he denies that He exists.

Craig said...

Semi off topic warning.

Bubba, inn your opinion can one be saved, but not a Christian?

Stan said...

Bubba: "I do think there are two different questions, 'is he a Christian?' and 'is he saved?'"

I, too, am curious about this. Craig asked if you can be saved without being a Christian. I would also ask if you can be a Christian without being saved. Or, more to the point, how are the two questions different?

Bubba said...

The trivial cases: Abraham, Moses, and Elijah were Jews but not Christians -- at best, they were proto-Christians, as they lived before the messianic prophecies were fulfilled -- but the Gospels are clear that they're saved, from the story of the rich man and Lazarus and from the Transfiguration.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to presume that Noah and Melchizedek were saved, too, and they weren't even Jewish.

On the flip side, Jesus warned that there will be those who preached in His name who He doesn't know: their stated theology might be entirely orthodox, but in their innermost being, they haven't really trusted in Christ. There's the OT idea of a remnant, a true Israel within the merely ethnic Israel, and there's probably a true church within the nominal church.

(And C.S. Lewis might have been more hopeful for non-Christians than the New Testament strictly allows, going by his writing that Aslan accepted one character's service done in the name of the rival Tash. Much as I admire Lewis, here I think he's on thin ice indeed, but I could see how one could hope that pagans who realize their spiritual bankruptcy trust in God for salvation entirely apart from merit, even if they do not know how He purchased salvation through Christ.)

Indeed, all true Christians are saved, and those faithful men and women prior to Christ are also saved even if their beliefs are proto-Christian, but one CAN argue that daylight exists between "X is saved" and "X is a Christian."

Is an overt and honest atheist a Christian? No, even if he claims the word for himself, because one's Christian identity is at least partially the result of one's beliefs, and of all beliefs, atheism is antithetical to Christianity.

Is an overt and honest atheist saved? I don't see how he could be -- how could he have saving faith in God Who he denies? -- but in my experience it's hard enough to get a clear and coherent answer to the questions I actually raise without dealing with issues about whether a DIFFERENT question is functionally equivalent.

Craig said...

Sorry, should be in, not inn.

Craig said...

Bubba,

Thanks. That was pretty much the answer I thought you'd give. I would agree with your characterizations that all "real" Christians are saved. I also see some room (the cases you mentioned, the thief on the cross, deathbed conversion, etc.) that would allow room for someone to be saved (through Christ) without "being a Christian".

Again, thanks.

Interesting that Dan seems to have disappeared.

Dan Trabue said...

? Well, what am I supposed to respond to? I was not making the case that we aren't to call out Christians. I wasn't making the case that some beliefs are not consistent with Christian beliefs.

I was just responding to Bubba's questions.

My only contrary point was that too many people too easily/quickly call "fake Christian" when what they really mean is, "this is someone whom is a Christian by all orthodox standards on essentials and I disagree with him on some non-essentials, therefore he's a fake Christian."

That is not rational or biblical. That was my point and it stands.

What am I supposed to respond to?

Craig said...

Dan,

You were skeptical, you wanted evidence, you disappeared, I found that uncharacteristic or you.

I guess you agree that these folks would fall beyond the bounds of christianity. I also assume that you agree that the fact that they are in positions where their teachings are widely disseminated is even more problematic.

Dan Trabue said...

As I said, except for OUTLIERS, there is no serious problem of Christians not believing in God, not that I'm aware of. People of the sort you cite (even assuming that you're understanding them aright - which is often not the case when conservatives explain what perceived liberals believe, but let's assume so, here), are what? 1% of the church? .01%? This is not a common trait amongst Christians I'm skeptical of anyone suggesting otherwise.

Regardless of the existence of outliers (whatever percentage they may be), it doesn't really change my points that I raised.

It's irrational and unbiblical to say "sincere Christians who are merely mistaken on some point are 'fake Christians' or 'false teachers...'" It just doesn't hold up to sound biblical exegesis or rational thinking.

Bubba said...

Dan, in what possible sense is it irrational to say that Christianity requires a certain set of beliefs, and that those who reject any or all of those beliefs aren't Christian even if they're sincere and merely mistaken?

You can disagree with where others draw the line, and you can even disagree with having a line in the first place, but I do think drawing a line *IS* defensible on rational grounds.

And it's biblical, too. Again consider the passages to which I alluded earlier: Galatians 1:6-9 and I John 4:2-3.

Paul and John are very clear that certain doctrines are outside of orthodoxy, the former pronouncing a solemn curse on those preaching a different gospel and the latter declaring that only the spirit of antichrist prompts people to deny that Jesus came in the flesh.

Since the Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of certain key doctrines, including the bodily resurrection (I Cor 15) in what possible sense is it unbiblical to say that Christianity entails some beliefs to the exclusion of other beliefs?

Can people go too far and insist on their position when consensus isn't necessary and when the opposition position is sincerely held AND well founded? Certainly.

But, at the same time, there are doctrines that we are actually obligated to defend -- charitably, but strongly nevertheless. The existence of God; the historicity and deity of Jesus of Nazareth; His bodily resurrection and His promised return: if a person who denies any of these (just to name a few) while still claiming to be a Christian, he should be opposed quite firmly, no matter how sincerely he happens to be mistaken.

The tendency of others to be hardliners on disputable issues is troubling, but so is your tendency to trivialize assualts on our most important doctrines.

There are self-described Christians who deny even the existence of God, and now that you concede that they exist, you still insist that they are so rare that we don't have to worry about them, even though their number includes ordained ministers in our historically important denominations.

At what point should we speak out against these false teachers -- for their sake, the church's sake, and for the clarity and integrity of God's revealed good news to man? If not when they're preaching from the pulpit, when?

Craig said...

Dan,

Your last comment baffles me. I'm not sure exactly what you mean. On the one hand you could be saying "It's just some outliers and we don't need to be worried about them." or you could be saying "Claiming to be a christian and not believing in the existence of God, just isn't that big of a deal."

I have concerns with either position. If you are saying the the first is your position, then I wonder at what point this sort of thing might concern you. If it's just one guy somewhere, maybe it's not a big deal. But once these kind of folks get to a point where they have pulpit or a radio audience or are selling thousands of books, doesn't that concern you. The fact that it seems you consider McLaren and Pagit "outliers" makes me wonder.

However if my second option is your position, I really don't have anything to respond with.

Personally, once someone gains a regional/national audience and continues to teach what can only be described as heresy, it seems that some concerns should be raised. Obviously we're not talking about a mere mistake, with these folks, but systematic blatant false teaching.

At one point you wrote a blog post about false teachers, and you seemed pretty concerned. I hope that I'm mistaken, but you seem to be giving the indication that when the false teachers are more aligned with you, that it just doesn't seem to be that big of a problem. I hope I'm wrong, but it sure seems that way.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

in what possible sense is it irrational to say that Christianity requires a certain set of beliefs, and that those who reject any or all of those beliefs aren't Christian even if they're sincere and merely mistaken?

Because Jesus (the "Christ" in "Christian," you'll recall) didn't have much use for rules and sets of beliefs. It was a source of constant disagreement with and rebuke of the Pharisees of his day, who lived and died by rules, much to their shame.

If The Christ didn't teach us about holding to rules, but about embracing grace, then THAT is the rule I want to live by: Grace.

Also, since there is NO biblical support for anyone rebuking someone as being "not Christian" who was merely sincerely mistaken, then if we value what THE BIBLE teaches, we'd probably be wary of going where it doesn't go.

The closest you might find to biblical support for rebuking someone as "not Christian" when they were merely mistaken would be perhaps some of Jesus' rebukes of the Pharisees, but we have to keep in mind that at least most of us believe Jesus to have been 100% God, as well as 100% man, so Jesus had an advantage that we don't have - he "knew their hearts..."

Until such time as we are endowed with this god-like wisdom AND because of the biblical model AND because of the negative example of the Pharisees (repeated over and over again), I don't find it rational to live and die by rules, I don't find it rational to say that Jesus had a set of rules he wanted us to live by literally and that deviation from those rules (even innocent misunderstanding) would mean we're lost.

I don't find it rational because it comes to close to the actual heresy of salvation by works, rather than that blessed grace by which we are saved. If Jesus the Christ didn't "require" this set of rules, where would we get off doing so?

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Because Jesus ... didn't have much use for rules and sets of beliefs."

Wow! I mean, just, wow! Not much use for rules or beliefs??? Wow!

You understand that, for instance, rebuking the Pharisees for something was predicated on beliefs and rules, right? I mean, if they were sincerely mistaken, He would have said nothing, right? Certainly you would have to admit that "Go and sin no more" requires "sin" as defined (biblically) by rules (laws). You must understand that "No man comes to the Father but by Me" is part of "a set of beliefs". And the entire concept of hanging out with sinners demands that "sinners" be defined -- rules and beliefs.

Seriously, your claim about the character of Christ is mind-boggling. Wow! Let alone the necessary conclusion that someone who is "sincerely mistaken" on the existence of God and still classifies himself as Christian would need to be recognized as "Christian". Anything else would require "god-like wisdom". Wow!

Craig said...

So, when questioned about his faith Dan responds with a list of beliefs that he seems to believe demonstrate that he is a christian, while at the same time suggesting that there is no list of beliefs that define christianity.

I could be wrong but didn't Jesus say something like "If you love me, keep my commandments."? Seems as though Jesus thought there were some rules to live by.

Again, I could be wrong, but I seem to remember a few places in the Bible where it has some pretty harsh words for those who claim to be Christian but lead the flock astray. Maybe I missed the "mistaken" clause. At some point "mistaken" just beacomes an excuse to allow people to continue. At some point, after having the mistake pointed out a few dozen times, isn't it just stubbornness or something besides "a mistake"?

Dan does raise an interesting point by invoking grace as a response to "error". Wouldn't grace be to correct one who is in error so they are no longer "mistaken"? Is it grace to allow someone to continue in error or sin? Is there a limit on grace? Obviously there are some limits on God's grace, or at least there is a point at which He no longer chooses to offer it.

It's all interesting, but as we can see by the last comment by Dan has moved into the realm of the straw man, too bad.

Stan said...

Craig, you bring up a fundamental belief of mine. Is it "grace" to keep silent when someone is wrong ... or worse? Is it "loving" to stand by and watch people place themselves in serious jeopardy with their sin and say nothing because "We shouldn't be judgmental or intolerant"? I would think that grace and love demand giving people the best -- what's best for them. "You go ahead and do serious harm to yourself. I'll just keep quiet over here. Don't want to be ungracious, you know." Doesn't work in my head.

Bubba said...

Dan, your argument seems to be that we should not strongly oppose heresies about such important details as THE EXISTENCE OF GOD because doing so approaches the "actual heresy" of salvation by works.

It's not only weird to conflate beliefs with works -- assent to declarative truth claims versus obedience to imperative commands -- it's positively incoherent to warn against insisting that Christianity requires theism while simultaneously taking for granted that it requires salvation by faith and not works.

"Salvation by works" is a concept that must be avoided, but not "God doesn't exist"?!

That's not the only inconsistency.

Of all people, you shouldn't assert that Jesus "didn't have much use for rules and sets of beliefs." When you argue that we should focus on the Bible's "big truths," you fixate on ethical commands about loving your neighbor, and IN THIS VERY THREAD you have twice talked about "seeking God's Ways."

--

The fact remains, it's impossible to argue that Christ was uninterested in "rules."

He claimed to fulfill the law and not to abolish it; you once argued that Jesus did in fact abolish the law, and in response, I quoted John Stott's commentary on Matthew 5 AT LENGTH. You tried to discredit Stott, but so far as I know you have never once even attempted to tackle his arguments.

Jesus warned against those who would loosen even the least commandment, and when He was asked about the greatest commandment, He provided an actual answer: He didn't say that He was uninterested about such things.

Mark 7:1-13 is an excellent example of the real issue Jesus had with the Pharisees. It wasn't that they were concerned with rules: it's that they allowed their own human traditions to trump the commandment of God. In Matthew 6, His complaint is clearly that the Pharisees were expanding the permissions and loosening the restrictions -- lust is okay as long as it doesn't lead to adultery; lying is okay, so long as you're breaking a lesser oath; and so forth.

BUT WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT RULES OR COMMANDMENTS THAT CHRISTIANS MUST OBEY; WE'RE TALKING ABOUT DOCTRINE, TRUTH CLAIMS, PROPOSITIONAL STATEMENTS THAT CHRISTIANS MUST AFFIRM.

You remind us (as if we needed the reminder) that Jesus is "the 'Christ' in 'Christian,'" but I'll remind you that "Christ" is a specific title and not Jesus' last name.

"Christ" is the Greek word for the Hebrew term "messiah," and both refer to God's chosen or anointed one.

If a person believes that God is a useful but fictional concept, it is impossible for him to believe -- in any meaningful sense -- that Jesus is the Christ.

How could that first-century itenerant Jewish preacher be chosen by a fictional-but-useful concept?

Craig said...

Stan,

Well said. In my mind it's one thing if one person has some problematic theology, we should certainly be willing to try to correct their errors. But to try to excuse as "mistaken" a group of people who have put a significant amount of time and effort into studying and "supporting" their various heresies is truely troubeling. Then when you realize that these folks have the platforms they do (denominational support/affirmation/leadership, radio, books/magazines, conferences etc) that allows them to influence untold numbers of folks it gets a little concerning.

But hey they're mistaken, just embrace grace. Right?

Bubba said...

One other thing I can't quite get my head around is this:

"Also, since there is NO biblical support for anyone rebuking someone as being 'not Christian' who was merely sincerely mistaken, then if we value what THE BIBLE teaches, we'd probably be wary of going where it doesn't go."

This, from the guy who supports a radical redefinition of marriage, even though THE BIBLE consistently treats it as the union of husband and wife, consistently condemns homosexual behavior, and prominently teaches that God even made us male and female so that a man would become one flesh with his wife -- good thing Dan here is "wary of going where it doesn't go"!

For at least the third time in this thread, I'll bring up Galatians 1 and I John 4, where the Apostles opposed false teaching without ANY consideration whether the false teacher was sincere but "merely mistaken."

The principle is clear: Christ wants us to worship in spirit AND TRUTH, not just sincerity, and as the light of the world, the church has a responsibility to shine the light of truth on egregious error, no matter whether the error is sincerely held.

And let us all be honest.

No one can read Scripture and be the least bit confused about what it teaches regarding the existence of God, the bodily resurrection of Christ and His promised return.

Those who reject these clear teachings aren't confused about the Bible. They simply reject its authority.

They are free to do so, of course, but, in the process, they should not be permitted to confuse what it means to be a Christian.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig (and Stan said something similar)...


Dan does raise an interesting point by invoking grace as a response to "error". Wouldn't grace be to correct one who is in error so they are no longer "mistaken"?


I don't know how many times I have to clarify for you, my friends, that I AM NOT SAYING GRACE REQUIRES BEING SILENT.

Did you catch that? Read again, slowly and closely so that you can understand:

I. AM. NOT. SAYING. THAT. GRACE. REQUIRES. WE. BE. SILENT. WHEN. WE. BELIEVE. SOMEONE. TO. BE. MISTAKEN.

Got it now? Do you understand now that I am NOT saying that someone should remain silent if they believe a loved one in Christ is grossly mistaken on a behavior or thought, just to be gracious? Do you get that idea now, because I sure feel like I've said it 100 times over the last year or two.

Understand the difference:

Grace: That person disagrees with me on a non-essential point. I will not question their salvation or tell them they are a "false teacher," because THAT would be graceless and neither rational or biblical. I MAY talk with them and explain why I think they are mistaken, but I won't reject their Christianity merely because they are sincerely mistaken, nor will I call them a false teacher.

Grace-LESS: While this sinner CLAIMS and CONFESSES to orthodox Christianity on matters of essentials, THEY DISAGREE WITH ME on a NON-ESSENTIAL!!! Therefore, they are obviously false teachers. HERETICS! Kick them out! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

See the difference between grace and NO grace?

YES, Jesus and the followers rebuked people. Yes, Paul spoke of false teacher (those who were DELIBERATELY deceptive, usually for reasons of money and power). BUT, there is NOT ONE instance in the Bible of anyone (perhaps other than God, who can, you know, actually KNOW OUR HEARTS - unlike you or me) who rejected as "heretic" or "false teacher" one who was merely sincerely mistaken.

Embrace grace, my friends, and have yourself a blessed Christmas season, full of Christ's joy and grace and peace.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba, re: Galatians 1 and 1 John 4...

Galatians:

Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

TRYING TO PERVERT. That is a deliberate EFFORT to confuse, NOT a sincere mistake.

1 John 4:

This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

SPIRIT OF FALSEHOOD. Someone who is sincerely mistaken does not have a "spirit of falsehood," I would suggest, but rather is simply mistaken.

Thanks for the biblical support for my position. I think if you'll investigate each instance of someone calling down false teachers, you'll see there is at least the suggestion of deliberate deception. On the other hand, there is not ONE SINGLE PASSAGE that suggests, "This person is wrong, but sincerely mistaken, not deliberately being false."

NOT ONE.

Thanks.

Stan said...

Dan,

You used the concept multiple times in this comment. You mentioned "non-essential point", "orthodox Christianity", "essentials". The question at hand in this post and its comments has lalways been precisely this concept. Are there "essentials"? Is there "orthodox Christianity"? If a person, sincere or not, falls outside of these "essentials", outside of this "orthodox Christianity", are they "Christian"? Or does grace require that we ignore anything as "essentials", understand that "orthodox Christianity" cannot be known, and leave it up to the individual to decide? That has been the question all along. Bubba's original question had to do with bare essentials. Are there bare requirements (like theism) to be classified as "Christian"? It has appeared that you've been denying that all along, and here you appear to be agreeing with it (while you appear to disagree with the commenters).

Oh, and on this whole "sincerely mistaken" concept, your favorite method of determining what we should do is not the whole of Scripture, but what Jesus did, and your favorite example of failure in Jesus's time was the Pharisees. You understand, don't you, that the Pharisees were "sincerely mistaken". Jesus praised their sincerity on multiple counts. In order to earn salvation, you would have to exceed their righteousness, which was considerable. They understood that the Scriptures contained salvation. They were very keen on prayer and tithing. Jesus commended them on their sincerity. But they were sincerely wrong. When Jesus told them they were of their father, the devil, the father of lies, do you think they were responding, "Curses! He's found us out!"? No. They were outraged because they sincerely believed they were right.

The book of Galatians was written regarding legalism. In it Paul tells the story of when Peter came to visit. Peter fell into the error of going along to get along with the visiting Jews. Paul called him out in public. Peter wasn't trying to seduce people away from the truth. He wasn't trying to be evil. He accidently stepped in the wrong direction, unaware that he was doing it. And Paul didn't show him "grace". He called him on it.

Jesus didn't do what you seem to think. The other characters in Scripture didn't do what you seem to think. "Sincerely mistaken" isn't an excuse. Grace does not demand that we keep silent on it. When those who come before Christ who sincerely believe they are working for Him but are mistaken, He will not be gracious. He will tell them, "Depart from Me; I never knew you." "Sincerely mistaken" doesn't wash, not for Christ, not for the Apostles, not for the Prophets, not in the Bible.

Bubba said...

Dan:

It's actually arguable, but let me concede (for the sake of argument) that, in the specific instance of those who were troubling the Galatians, the false teachers were engaged in deliberate deceit.

Paul did more than address the one situation, however, as I'll explain shortly.

John's "spirit of falsehood" may mean more than a human's attitude of deliberate deceit, since it is contrasted with the capital-S Spirit of truth, i.e., the Holy Spirit. John's view was CLEARLY more cosmic, as just a few verses prior to the (partial) verse you quote, John references "the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already."

(Recall that it was John who uniquely recorded, in his gospel, Jesus' calling the devil "the father of lies," in Jn 8:44.)

It is entirely possible that this demonic spirit of falsehood can mislead even those who are quite sincere and "simply mistaken."

I say that because, like Paul, John makes UNIVERSAL CLAIMS about people who promulgate falsehood.

Paul:

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: IF ANYONE is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." - Gal 1:8-9, ESV, emphasis mine

No exceptions for those who are "merely mistaken."

John:

"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and EVERY SPIRIT that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already." - 1 Jn 4:2-3

Again, no exceptions based on sincerity.

And look at the verse you partially quoted:

"We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error." - I Jn 4:6

Again, a universal statement: WHOEVER, without any stated regard for intent or sincerity.

Bubba said...

Dan, the most important fact about Galatians and I John is that they both deal with issues that are CLEARLY essential doctrines -- salvation apart from works and the Incarnation, Jesus' coming in the flesh.

Unless I'm overlooking it, you're the only one here who's been talking about disagreements over non-essential doctrines. Ctrl-F and you'll see that, until Stan's comment this morning, you're the ONLY person who's used the word "essential" and its opposite, prefixed with "non-."

I've explicitly mentioned only those doctrines about which there can be no genuine disagreement among Christians: the command to love your neighbor, the historicity and deity of Jesus of Nazareth, His bodily resurrection and His promised return, and -- most emphatically -- the fundamental doctrine of the existence of God.

We're not talking about debatable points, here. We never have been.

In lecturing us about grace, you talk about a person who "disagrees with me on a non-essential point" and a person who "CLAIMS and CONFESSES to orthodox Christianity on matters of essentials, [but] DISAGREE[S] WITH ME on a NON-ESSENTIAL!!!"

What about the essentials?

Why do you persist in beating around the bush?

Let me return to the first time you used the word "non-essential," on 11/29.

"Disassociation is for clear, harmful sinful behavior, not mere disagreements over tenets. In matters of non-essentials, I always vote for Grace. And Grace is an essential."

Here, you focus entirely on **BEHAVIOR** -- "clear, harmful sinful behavior" -- and you downplay disagreements over "tenets" without making ANY DISTINCTION WHATSOEVER between essential tenets and debatable tenets.

(Again, Galatians and I John make clear that the line isn't just about behavior, but about beliefs.)

Even when addressing the case of a person claiming to be a Christian while denying God -- despite our pointing out that there ARE people who do this very thing, even from the pulpit, you treat it as a pure hypothetical -- you cannot say that's outside Christianity without qualification.

You write, "that person is not a Christian, classically defined." [emphasis mine]

"But clearly, someone who does not believe in the notion of God or in Jesus as the Son of God is outside of traditional Christianity." [emphasis mine]

He's only outside of "traditional" Christianity, and he's not a Christian, "classically defined."

NOT that he's not a Christian, full-stop.

Stan's recent questions deserve an answer.

Are there doctrines that are truly essential, such that they're denial actually does place a person outside of Christianity, actual orthodoxy and NOT JUST a traditional, classical, or conventional definition?

Bubba said...

Last sentence should read "their denial," not "they're denial."

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

He's only outside of "traditional" Christianity, and he's not a Christian, "classically defined."

NOT that he's not a Christian, full-stop.

Stan's recent questions deserve an answer.



I've answered several times, I'll answer again and try to be yet even more clear so you can understand...

I. IF someone does not accept salvation by God's grace through faith in Jesus;
If someone does not accept that Jesus is the son of God, who came teaching God's good news of salvation for all by God's grace, who died and rose again from the dead;
If someone does not accept that there is a God, the great Creator of all, who loves us so much that God came to be with us in the form of Jesus and comes to be with us/comfort us/guide us in the form of the Holy Spirit;
If someone does not accept the notion of asking for forgiveness of sins, of repenting and turning away from known sin and seeking instead to walk in Jesus' Steps/Way;

If someone does not accept these basic essentials of Christianity, then that person IS NOT a Christian as it is classically understood within the orthodox church.

II. Does that mean that this person is not saved? THAT, I am not willing to say precisely because of biblical teaching. I am not God enough to know that person's heart or their true relationship with God. The Bible teaches clearly that we may well be surprised by who is and isn't "in."

I don't know how I can be more clear. The above is MY EXACT POSITION, as well as I can explain it.

As to this from Stan (and raised by others)...

Dan Trabue: "Because Jesus ... didn't have much use for rules and sets of beliefs."

Wow! I mean, just, wow! Not much use for rules or beliefs??? Wow!


You all are stumbling over this phrase of mine and clearly not understanding the intent. Allow me to clarify:

My point was that Jesus repeatedly made the point that IF one's concern was for Rules, they've missed the point. IF they view Scripture merely as a petty little rule book and we must hew to each rule woodenly and precisely, THEN they have missed the point of Scripture. This was the Pharisees' downfall.

My point was that the POINT of the Gospel is NOT rule-following, but rather grace.

Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.

The good news is all about Grace, love, forgiveness, acceptance. IF we get hung up on the rules to the point we miss the grace and love, WE HAVE MISSED THE POINT.

The POINT is not blind obedience to a prescribed set of rules found in Scripture (and EXTENSIONS of those rules created by humans - things like "The commandment 'observe the sabbath' means you can walk this far on the Sabbath and no more," or "Lev 18 saying men shall not lie with men means that gay guys can't marry...") the point is not THAT sort of blind adherence to mere rules, the point is living a life of love and grace, for it is by grace that we are saved.

The Bible is FULL of warnings (rules, if you will) against this sort of adherence to the letter of the law - which KILLS - and encouragements of living lives of grace.

Jesus had little use for mindless obedience to rules. The point is GRACE. We ought not miss the POINT for the RULES. I think Jesus (and indeed, orthodox Christianity) is clear on this point.

Craig said...

"...I AM NOT SAYING GRACE REQUIRES BEING SILENT."
Dan, despite the blog equivalent of yelling about this, you completely and utterly misrepresent what I said. I quite clearly asked some general questions about what you seemed to be suggesting in your comments. (Just like you do.) (one clue is the funny looking punctuation mark at the end of the sentence) I notice that rather than answer all of them, you chose to (figuratively) shout a response to something that no one accused you of. While at the same time engaging in the same behavior you are (figuratively) shouting about. Interesting tactic that. Maybe after you calm down you could actually address the actual questions I asked.

As far as embrace grace.


"Grace-LESS: While this sinner CLAIMS and CONFESSES to orthodox Christianity on matters of essentials,..."

Straw man. In the examples we've given you we are talking about people who do not embrace an orthodox understanding of essentials, yet call themselves christians.

"THEY DISAGREE WITH ME on a NON-ESSENTIAL!!!..."

Since when are things like the existence of God, and the deity of Christ non-essentials? This is the kind of thing we're talking about. The fact that you are unaware of the extent of this kind of thing doesn't mean it doesn't happen, nor does simply writing it off as a couple of "mistaken" "outliers" erase what is actually happening.

"Therefore, they are obviously false teachers."

Yes, one who denies essential doctrines of Christianity, and uses means from a local church pulpit to media, to conferences to teach others this false doctrine pretty much defines false teacher. You've demonstrated amply the grace with which you respond to those who disagree with you, what's wrong with correctly identifying someone who teaches falsehoods as a false teacher?


"HERETICS"
IN the examples I've given, the term seems to fit pretty well.


"Kick them out!"

I would think that there is ample Biblical support for removing those who consistently and unrepentantly teach things contrary to orthodox Christianity from whatever fellowship/denomination/church they are in. Wouldn't grace suggest that exposing folks to the Truth is better than allowing someone unrestrained latitude to teach falsehoods?


"OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!"
If you can provide support for anyone in this thread actually suggesting beheading, I'll consider your charge. But it looks like one of your usual tactics.

"I think if you'll investigate each instance of someone calling down false teachers, you'll see there is at least the suggestion of deliberate deception."

I think that if you'll investigate each instance that I've mentioned, you'll find that I'm talking about people who are being deliberately deceptive.

How would you describe someone who (in the best possible light) was intentionally vague and equivocal (or at worst outright lied) in answering the series of questions that led to becoming an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA?

To echo Bubba, we're not talking about a hypothetical, we're not talking about outliers, we're talking about a conflict that is being played out currently in the PCUSA (hence my concern about these issues), and most likely soon in the other "mainline" Protestant denominations. If you don't mind folks leading people astray, just admit it and move on. It's beyond question that there is a dividing line between Christian and not Christian. It's just too bad you have such a hard time explaining exactly where you'd draw the line.

Craig said...

"If someone does not accept these basic essentials of Christianity, then that person IS NOT a Christian as it is classically understood within the orthodox church."

Your answer here seems to leave room for the possibility that there is some other definition under which such a person could be considered a Christian. Is that your point.

Maybe you missed it but the saved/Christian dichotomy was addressed much earlier in the thread.

I could be wrong, but I don't necessarily think that we're talking about salvation as much as being a "real" Christian.

One more question. Is it reasonable to believe that someone who has truly received God's gift of salvation would intentionally deny the existence of the giver of the gift of salvation? Or would such a person willingly and intentionally lead others away from the God who saved him?

Bubba said...

Dan:

"My point was that Jesus repeatedly made the point that IF one's concern was for Rules, they've missed the point. IF they view Scripture merely as a petty little rule book and we must hew to each rule woodenly and precisely, THEN they have missed the point of Scripture. This was the Pharisees' downfall."

Even aside from the strawman formulation about wooden obedience to a "pretty little rule book," you're way off when it comes to Jesus' view of Scripture and His complaint about the Pharisees.

Jesus affirmed Scripture to the smallest penstroke and warned about omitting even the least commandment.

The Pharisees, meanwhile, WERE NOT RIGOROUS in their attempt to obey God's written word. As Stott persuasively argued, they sought to loosen the restrictions and broaden the permissions.

You can tell this from the last "you have heard" statement in the Sermon on the Mount.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" - Mt 5:43

That first bit is a quote from Scripture, Leviticus 19:18 (but even here, the Pharisees dropped the "as yourself" requirement), but the second bit is found nowhere in Scripture. "Hate your enemy" is never commanded, and in fact it requires going against passages like Exodus 23:4.

This isn't the first time I've made this point; at some point you should actually argue why I'm wrong.

--

Now, in providing YOUR EXACT POSITION, you make this claim.

"If someone does not accept these basic essentials of Christianity, then that person IS NOT a Christian as it is classically understood within the orthodox church." [emphasis mine]

You don't know how you could be more clear; I do, and so let me ask you this:

Is this classical understanding to which you allude correct to the exclusion of all rival understandings?

If so, why not drop that last phrase and state simply, "that person IS NOT a Christian," full-stop?

Doing so WOULD make your position more clear, if in fact that is what you believe.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Is this classical understanding to which you allude correct to the exclusion of all rival understandings?

If so, why not drop that last phrase and state simply, "that person IS NOT a Christian," full-stop?

Doing so WOULD make your position more clear, if in fact that is what you believe.


I am specifically saying that I DO NOT KNOW. I do not hold all knowledge and wisdom. I do not know others' hearts and exact position and relation with God. I know that sometimes people say things that isn't exactly what they mean. I know that some people say things that they internally interpret differently than others do.

To say, "THAT person is NOT a Christian," would presume that the orthodox traditional HUMAN understanding of what it means to be a Christian is wholly without error.

Being a traditional orthodox Christian myself, I fully affirm that we are fallible humans, CAPABLE of error. Therefore, to suggest that some group of humans has an understanding that is without error on ANY point is a questionable venture, it seems to me.

You may have 100% confidence in human understanding, but I do not.

Therefore, while I can gladly affirm the non-theist "christian" isn't a Christian in the orthodox sense, I can not affirm that he is not a "Christ-ian," - one who is following Christ - and I can not and will not affirm that he is not saved.

For now, we see as through a glass darkly, but then, face to face...

~St Paul

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.


~Iris Dement

Craig said...

Dan,

It seems as though Bubba and I are asking a lot of similar questions. If it helps you, don't feel like you have to answer twice.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, where I said...

I am specifically saying that I DO NOT KNOW.

...I should add that I don't think you know, either. God has not told us if Mr X - who believes that God is best viewed simply as God, not as a Triune God - if that Mr X is not saved because he views God slightly differently than we traditionalists do.

God has nowhere said or told us, "Those who don't think of Me as a Trinity are hell-bound and never saved and are NOT Christian," therefore, we simply factually do not know, either. Not me, not you.

Indeed, if Mrs Y believes in Jesus and his teachings, but takes the "son of God" stuff metaphorically, God has not even told either you or me that Mrs Y isn't saved for that, either.

Clearly, Mrs Y is not a Christian in the orthodox sense, but does God consider her a "Christian," and is she saved? We, don't know.

God has not told us.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "To say, 'THAT person is NOT a Christian,' would presume that the orthodox traditional HUMAN understanding of what it means to be a Christian is wholly without error."

Just for reference, this would be a classic illustration of a strawman argument. No one at any time has suggested "wholly without error." The question has been "Are there some things we can know with sufficient certainty to be able to recognize 'Christian' or not?" Anything at all?

But let me understand you. It is your view that there are essential elements of genuine Christianity. (You listed things like "salvation by God's grace through faith in Jesus", "Jesus is the son of God", and "there is a God" just by way of example.) You hold that failing these essentials, "that person IS NOT a Christian." Okay, so far, so good. But it appears, at the end of the day, that your bottom line is humans cannot truly know what essential or orthodox Christianity actually is, even at some basic, bottom line level. As such it is impossible to know if anyone is or is not a Christian (or saved, which appears to be a different category for you, like someone might be saved but not be a Christian ... or vice versa).

I would have to guess, then, that you would consider it unwise (and I'm using a kinder term than you would -- you'd prefer more like "unbiblical", "ungracious", or maybe even "pharisaical") of anyone to say things like "They went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" or even "Depart from Me; I never knew you." It appears to be your position that no human can know with any real certainty any essentials by which we must be saved or by which anyone may or may not be called a Christian.

Craig said...

It's amazing that we have a fair amount of Biblical examples of ordinary folks being able to discern who are true followers of God and who aren't (we even have a Spiritual Gift to help out), but here we have Dan who can't just let his yes be yes etc. and plainly say "Yes, there is a line between Christian and non-Christian and I believe that the line is XYZ.". Instead we get pious mumbo jumbo that seems to answer the question with out actually saying anything or committing to a position.

Craig said...

I thought Bubba made it pretty clear that one can be saved without being a chrsitian. Yet Dan keeps trying to muddy the waters by equating the two.

I guess I see it as a little disturbing that Dan seem to see so little power in salvation. When the Bible speaks of salvation it speaks of radical transformation, death to life kind of stuff. But Dan seems content with a salvation where one there is no change. A salvation where one can follow a "god" maybe even "Jesus", and yet not be concerned with the actual existence of ones savior. At the risk of opening a huge can of worms here, one kind of has to wonder what Dan's definition of salvation is. (I know it's by God's grace, that's quite clear) What happens when one is saved? Saved from what? Saved from who? Does one who is saved actively work against or deny the God who saved them?

Feel free to delete this if it's too far afield, but curiosity overwhelms me.

David said...

By Dan's reasoning, atheists might be saved, Hindu's might be saved, agnostics might be saved, satanists might be saved. We can't know apparently. Even though the idea that we can't know someone is saved is unbiblical. Dan, please stop trolling. You make ridiculous claims in the name of "traditional, orthodox Christianity" and yet deny most every tradition and do not adhere to orthodoxy in any way. You deny the work of the Holy Spirit. You deny the necessity of the deity of Jesus. You deny the necessity of the existence of God. Either you are a very confused person, or you are the most tenacious troll on the internet.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

But Dan seems content with a salvation where one there is no change.

Then you still don't understand my actual position. The best way you can tell that I don't think something rather stupid-sounding like that is by the way I've never SAID that.

David...

By Dan's reasoning, atheists might be saved, Hindu's might be saved, agnostics might be saved...

Not MY reasoning. I'm just going by what the bible says. You know, like you all say we ought to do.

Who would have THOUGHT that that thief on the cross would be that day in Paradise?

Who would have imagined that the brother in Jesus' parable who did NOT affirm what the father commanded would be the one to be praised by the father?

I think the bible clearly teaches us not to place confidence in OUR understanding but instead, on God's grace.

You all may think that you all can KNOW with certainty anything about the state of others' eternal salvation, but I'm not so sure of my perfect knowledge. Nor am I so sure of your perfect knowledge either.

Condemn me for striving to be humble in my estimation of my wisdom if you must. Humility seems the wiser path to take, to me.

Stan said...

I think we've talked Dan's view to death here. He will staunchly hold his ideas as valid and true but in no way binding or true for anyone else. He will staunchly hold that this is the biblical, gracious, and humble position. And we won't be talking him off that ledge any time soon.

I just wanted to point out to the rest the error of equating "Don't assume you know the truth" with "humility". When the truth is stated by God clearly in His Word and we wave our hands at it and say, "We can't know the truth", that's not humble. That's arrogant. And it's not biblical to assume that the Bible cannot be rightly understood with any confidence or gracious to hold that we shouldn't hold to a set of truths given by God by which we must be saved. (I am not saying that about Dan. I'm saying that about the position.)

Dan Trabue said...

AND, if I had SAID "we can't know the Truth..." you might have some point. Instead, I just pointed out the reality that we can't PERFECTLY know ALL truth, something that is observable and rational and clear to see.

Instead, I have pointed out "It is fitting to be humble rather than claim we know ALL TRUTH and know it perfectly."

Stan, if you can't rightly read and interpret MY WORDS written here in the same language and societal context, on what would you make the suggestion that you can perfectly understand God's Ways based on words written centuries ago in a completely different context?

OR, would you agree with me that you CAN'T perfectly know all things?

It's the reasonable position to take. Anything else is arrogant.

Stan said...

Dan, Dan, Dan, you do so love to throw out complaints about things like "strawman" arguments and then, when I point them out to you from your own words, you ignore them completely. I pointed out that no one at any time in this discussion has ever suggested anything like "perfectly know all things", and that to suggest such a thing is a fine example of a strawman argument since no one is making such an argument. You still do it. Shows a lack of attention at best.

The question has never been "Can we perfectly know all things?" The question throughout this entire discussion has always been "Can we know a minimum of things?" Is there a minimum (you referred to "essentials") that we can know that qualifies as "Christian"? And you have continued to hold both "Yes, there is" and "No, we can't say that." If you need me to go back through your comments and demonstrate where you've held both, please let me know. If not, I think it's quite clear that you hold both and will continue to hold both and regard that position as virtue. I think it's equally clear that I don't regard the position as rational, biblical, or virtuous. That's not so hard to see, is it?

Bubba said...

Dan, human fallibility does not imply utter incompetence. It's one thing to say that humans cannot discern with absolute precision the line that separates Christianity's essential doctrines from those that are debatable, it's another thing ENTIRELY to say that we cannot even discern with real confidence that even BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is indeed one of those essentials, placed so far from that dividing line (wherever it may be placed precisely) that it cannot possibly reside on the other side.

--

I appreciate your clarification, and evidently you CAN be more clear than you were earlier.

I do believe your earlier comment was misleading, misleading not because it was untrue, but because it presents an irrelevant statement in the place of a relevant statement.

"If someone does not accept these basic essentials of Christianity, then that person IS NOT a Christian as it is classically understood within the orthodox church."

This is something you evidently believe, but it's irrelevant, because we were talking about ACTUAL Christianity, not just the traditional, classical, conventional, historical understanding of Christianity.

You wrote this uncontroversial statement about an irrelevant issue, and in doing so, you omitted what is actually germane to this discussion -- namely, your belief that Christianity is ultimately unknowable, that it is so opaque that we cannot even know whether basic theism is an essential doctrine.

That material omission is not exactly evidence of candor.

--

But to address what you believe about human fallibility, one can see even in this thread that you don't apply your belief consistently.

"Being a traditional orthodox Christian myself, I fully affirm that we are fallible humans, CAPABLE of error. Therefore, to suggest that some group of humans has an understanding that is without error on ANY point is a questionable venture, it seems to me."

You think human fallibility should prevent us from opposing preachers who claim the mantle of Christianity while denying even the existence of God.

But you don't evidently think human fallibility should prevent YOU from opposing US.

You seem quite confident in lecturing us about grace and even invoking Paul's opposition to salvation by works to argue against our following in his footsteps in recognizing that false doctrines exist, can be recognized, and must be opposed.

Taken to its logical conclusion, your understanding of human fallibility requires a kind of paralysis: we should act only on what we know, we cannot know anything with any real confidence, and therefore we cannot act.

(It also requires the contradiction of believing we can know nothing EXCEPT the fact that we know nothing.)

But you don't take your position to its logical conclusion. You invoke it only to paralyze us, with never an apparent thought about how it should paralyze you as well.

You use your belief very selectively indeed, and in targeting the idea that we can indeed know that some doctrines are indespensible to Christianity -- DOCTRINES LIKE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD -- you're enabling those who deny God from the pulpit. After all, you're not hectoring THEM not to declare with confidence that God is just a useful fiction; you barely acknowledge that they even exist, and you dismiss them as statistically insignificant.

As in an actual armed conflict, those who call for unilateral disarmament of one side are effectively working for the other side's victory.

Dan, in the principle you espouse and in its selective application, you are setting yourself in opposition to the clarity and integrity of the gospel.

Bubba said...

Dan, you posit, correctly, "we can't PERFECTLY know ALL truth, something that is observable and rational and clear to see."

Okay, but can we perfectly know ANY truth?

Can we perfectly know that contradiction is impossible, or even more simply, that 2+2 = 4?

Dan Trabue said...

Seeing as how you all consistently don't understand my words, perhaps it's time to close this conversation?

Bubba...

You think human fallibility should prevent us from opposing preachers who claim the mantle of Christianity while denying even the existence of God.

As always, I didn't say that, nor do I believe it. The way you can tell is by the way I never said it.

Again, if you all can't read and rightly understand MY words, written in a common era, culture and language, I don't see holding out much hope that you can rightly understand ancient words in an ancient text.

We shall just have to struggle in humility and grace together.

Have a blessed Christmas season, my dear brothers in Christ!

Stan said...

The common thread. On one hand, "Dan seems to believe that we cannot rightly understand God's Word sufficiently to be sure of anything regarding salvation." On the other hand, Dan repeatedly denies that this is his position while repeatedly affirming "I don't see holding out much hope that you can rightly understand ancient words in an ancient text."

I suppose that readers will have to decide for themselves. Does Dan believe we can know anything certainly enough to say "This is Christian and that is not", or does he believe that we cannot? The original question from Bubba appears to remain unanswered.

Bubba said...

Dan, the comment you quote seems to be an accurate summary of what you wrote in the following three paragraphs:

"Being a traditional orthodox Christian myself, I fully affirm that we are fallible humans, CAPABLE of error. Therefore, to suggest that some group of humans has an understanding that is without error on ANY point is a questionable venture, it seems to me.

"You may have 100% confidence in human understanding, but I do not.

"Therefore, while I can gladly affirm the non-theist "christian" isn't a Christian in the orthodox sense, I can not affirm that he is not a "Christ-ian," - one who is following Christ - and I can not and will not affirm that he is not saved.
" [emphasis mine]

You affirm human fallibility, and "therefore" you cannot affirm that a "non-theist" isn't a Christian.

If that's not what you believe, you shouldn't have written it -- and you are welcome to explain yourself further.

I don't seem to have trouble understanding other people, and yet you keep running into people who supposedly JUST cannot understand you -- me, Neil, Stan. Maybe the problem isn't us.

"Again, if you all can't read and rightly understand MY words, written in a common era, culture and language, I don't see holding out much hope that you can rightly understand ancient words in an ancient text."

There's an entirely different way to look at this, Dan. On the one hand, you have first-century Jewish fishermen who have been able to communicate clearly to millions of people across literal millennia despite all sorts of cultural barriers.

You don't have those challenges, you're writing directly to people who share a very common cultural background, and you can't evidently explain what it is you believe regarding whether Christians should insist on the obvious, that Christianity requires theism.

Why is that? After all these years, I still cannot find a charitable explanation.

David said...

This just goes to reaffirm my belief that Dan T is merely a troll gaining sick pleasure from impeding true conversation.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

I don't seem to have trouble understanding other people, and yet you keep running into people who supposedly JUST cannot understand you -- me, Neil, Stan. Maybe the problem isn't us.

If it were JUST me, I'd guess you might have a point. But many conservative types have a hard time repeating back accurately what ANY person coming from a different place has said.

It seems (in my humble opinion) to be a problem with a mind that is closed to ideas - "if someone thinks something differently than me on some points, then clearly, they are evil and wrong and there's nothing else to consider, because MY understanding is aligned with God and so, disagreeing with me is akin to disagreeing with God..."

I would hope that you could see that THAT sort of mindset would rationally have a hard time understanding others aright.

Craig said...

"Then you still don't understand my actual position. The best way you can tell that I don't think something rather stupid-sounding like that is by the way I've never SAID that."

I know you never said that, you've actually never answered my question about it, that's why I used the word "seems". The use of the qualifier does two things; 1. It indicates the fact that what you have said leads the reader in a certain direction. 2. It opens the door for you to explain why your position differs from what it seems to be.

It is, as usual, illuminating that you chose to continue to obfuscate, rather than clarify your position or answer the questions asked.

So many questions asked, so few answers. Why should we expect anything else at this point.


Stan, my compliments, you have nailed it exactly when you say "he question has never been "Can we perfectly know all things?" The question throughout this entire discussion has always been "Can we know a minimum of things?"

It is so much easier to shift from that actual topic, to what seems like a pretty irrelevant side issue regarding the fact that some people might be saved without being Christian.

I would go so far as to say that saved is in the realm of God's knowledge. Granted we are given some clues that help us to get some idea of who might be saved, but ultimately only God knows. Christian, on the other hand is a human construct. Given that, it seems that we as humans can determine with a high degree of accuracy who is and is not a Christian.

The interesting thing is that Dan, in other threads, has not been shy about identifying people who he feels are not Christian. Strangely, they all seem to be folks with whom he disagrees. As Bubba has pointed out his screed about George Bush is a pretty good example of this. Given the fact that he has been willing to call out people in the past, his hesitance here to even identify a demarcation between Christian and pretend christian is baffling.

Seems to me someone somewhere said something about letting your yes be yes and you no be no. Maybe someone missed that memo.

Craig said...

"But God whether capitalized or plural has always been a fictional character created in the imaginations of human beings. God has no existence outside of the stories about God. The stories of God and of the gods are our creations. God is our creation. We should own that."

I can't imagine a "real" Christian saying these words.

Craig said...

"The irony surely hasn’t been missed that the two biggest seasons of the traditional Christian calendar, Christmas and Easter, are about events that never happened. From what we know of Jesus, he died. Since he died he must have been born. We have a few of his teachings and parables that we think we can trace back to be close to his voice.

It is possible that his death was violent by execution. Thousands were crucified by imperial bullying. If this happened to Jesus, he was one of many. But the trial of Jesus, the theological meaning attached to it, and the resurrection are all elements of religious legend. The same is true with all the stories surrounding his birth. Angels announcing his arrival, virgin birth, a star moving through the sky and landing over a house, are all constructs of the human imagination. All of these stories are developments in which a human being is given characteristics associated with a god."

Should this really be preached from the pulpit at a Christian Church?

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "many conservative types have a hard time repeating back accurately what ANY person coming from a different place has said."

Nice. You need to stay around just as a prime example of logical fallacies. Very good. This, dear readers, would be classified as the ad hominem fallacy.

The real wonder, of course, is that you choose to use it as your complaint when quite clearly throughout this dialog you have repeatedly done the same thing, even after being called on it. No one but you, for instance, has ever spoken of perfect knowledge, but it has been your continual caricature of the arguments of those with whom you disagree.

Hey, I wonder if that qualifies as the tu quoque fallacy? Oh, I don't know. No longer important.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

The interesting thing is that Dan, in other threads, has not been shy about identifying people who he feels are not Christian.

I'm trying to let this thread go, but there's so much wrong being said. Craig, I'm almost certain that this is entirely fiction. I will say that it is a complete falsehood until you provide support for it.

What I HAVE done is speak of BEHAVIORS - those who'd oppress the poor are not BEHAVING in a Christian fashion. Those who'd slander are not BEHAVING in a Christian fashion (that, according to the Bible, in addition to simple moral reasoning). Those who'd support killing the children of their enemies are not behaving in a Christian fashion.

I have no problem at all (again, you could discern this if you'd read my actual words) with disagreeing with behaviors and saying "THIS BEHAVIOR is not in keeping with Christ's teachings..." But there's a world of difference between calling out BEHAVIORS (biblical, rational, moral) and calling sincerely mistaken people NOT CHRISTIAN (not biblical, not rational, not moral).

Craig said...

Dan,

If I may be so bold, I think most would agree that your lack of clarity and avoidance of questions might be problems in understanding your positions.

If I have a chance I might try to go back and look at some of our past discussions and quote you. But, as usual, I'm quite sure you've not ever claimed that anyone is not a Christian.

I realize that your trying to back out, I only wish you'd obfuscated less and answered more.

Bubba said...

Dan:

"I have no problem at all (again, you could discern this if you'd read my actual words) with disagreeing with behaviors and saying 'THIS BEHAVIOR is not in keeping with Christ's teachings...' But there's a world of difference between calling out BEHAVIORS (biblical, rational, moral) and calling sincerely mistaken people NOT CHRISTIAN (not biblical, not rational, not moral)."

What if those people's BEHAVIOR is based on their being sincerely mistaken about what God command, permits and prohibits?

AND WHAT ABOUT BELIEFS?

Can you not tell someone who denies God's existence, "THIS BELIEF is not in keeping with Christ's teachings"?

It's clearly not in keeping with Christ's teachings, since He both commanded us to love God supremely -- it's hard to love a useful fiction -- and since He claimed to have been sent by God and to be God Himself.

The doctrine of human fallibility doesn't prevent you from standing up against behaviors that you find immoral -- never mind the possibility that you're wrong in doing so.

Why do you find it to be arrogant, close-minded, and bordering on the megalomaniacal to stand up against false doctrines, even in the case where a man claims to be a Christian while denying even the existence of God?

David said...

I just realized Dan T is himself a Pharisee. He puts more stock in orthopraxy than he does in orthodoxy.

Dan T
"I have no problem at all (again, you could discern this if you'd read my actual words) with disagreeing with behaviors and saying 'THIS BEHAVIOR is not in keeping with Christ's teachings...' But there's a world of difference between calling out BEHAVIORS (biblical, rational, moral) and calling sincerely mistaken people NOT CHRISTIAN (not biblical, not rational, not moral)."

By his own words, how we act is more important than what we believe. So, by his reasoning, a person could be an atheist, but live "like a Christian", maybe without the tithing and fellowshipping, that person could end up in heaven because he "practiced" what Jesus preached, no matter that he denied his need for salvation from his sin, no matter that his "good" works are as filthy rags outside of Christ, no matter he denies the existence of the death, burial, and resurrection, all which are orthodoxy.