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What is the dividing line?

Posted by Chance on July 11, 2007

There has been much discussion on Neil Simpson’s blog concerning what various denominations, particularly the liberal ones, believe. I would easily consider myself a conservative Christian, in the sense that I tend to have the mainstream Christian beliefs. More and more denominations tend to become liberal, in the sense that they have a more liberal as opposed to literal interpretation of the Bible, and they have a more liberal view on cultural issues such as homosexuality/transgenderism.

It was discussed on the blog what the dividing points are. Although I don’t think anyone came out and explicitly said it, I think many would agree with me that the central issue of Christianity is, of course, Christ. The nature of our belief in Christ is what separates Christianity from other religions/spiritual viewpoints. John states in his first epistle that

” 20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”

There are a wide ranges of beliefs within the body of Christianity, but when people deny that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but just a good person, or another prophet, those beliefs fall outside the realm of Christianity. This is not an endorsement in any way of all of [theologically] liberal Christians’ beliefs. And keep in mind, I am far from a theological scholar. It does appear to me, though, that the Bible continually focuses on belief in Christ as the central point, as stated in John 3:16.

16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Some may argue that a belief in the entire Bible is necessary to be a Christian. I don’t quite agree, because Jesus says that we should believe in Him, not the Bible. However, it would seem dangerous to question the authority and authenticity of the Bible, because it could make us question the gospels, and the entire story of Jesus. However, when talking to non-believers, I would tend to focus on the story and evidence of Christ’s life and resurrection and then let the rest of the Bible fall from there.

I don’t want to say anything incorrect here. If I’m missing something major, let me know. Any inputs are welcome.

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13 Responses to “What is the dividing line?”

  1. Neil said

    Excellent points, chance. The exclusivity of Jesus – God himself! – is indeed a dividing line. There are 100 passages saying He is the only way (some of which you noted), so it is clearly a foundational Christian concept.

  2. Lee said

    Different denominations and thinkers can disagree on what certain aspects of the Bible mean or how they should be interpreted, but….

    If you do not take as literal truth John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…” that is the litmus test.

    Believe that, you are a Christian. Don’t, and you’re not.

  3. Lee said

    Looks like I kinda repeated what you already said. Sorry about that, it’s been a while since I’ve been in the game.

  4. Dan Trabue said

    “Believe that, you are a Christian. Don’t, and you’re not.”

    And what if you believe that but don’t believe Jesus’ words as recorded in the Bible. His commands to love our enemies, to beware wealth, to live simply, to care for the least of these?

    I’m reminded of the story of the two brothers who were asked by their father to do a task. One said, No, but went and did it. The other said Yes, but didn’t do it.

    Which one was following the father – the one who said the right thing or the one who did the right thing?

    Or looking at the story of the sheep and the goats. Many amongst the goats thought they had believed the right thing, that God knew them. But God didn’t know them and why? Because they didn’t do for the least of these is the only reason given.

    I’m not saying we are saved by our works. I think the bible teaches we are saved by God’s Grace.

    But I’m much more inclined to consider one a Christian who actually follows Christ’s teachings, as opposed to one who claims to believe that Jesus was the Christ but has little use for Christ’s teachings in their daily life.

    Just some other thoughts…

  5. preacherman said

    Chance,
    Great post and great questions that you ask. The Pope stated this week that the Catholic church is the only true church and tht all other Christians aren’t Christians. Only those who are Catholic are Christians. There are many new articles that you can read where the Pope made those statements.

    I would say you must believe in God, Jesus, in the Holy Spiirt. The Word of God (Bible). Strive to follow Jesus (Be a disciple. Which would include: Faith, obedience: understanding that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Put faith in him (John 3:16-17). Understand we are saved by grace of God not by works (Eph 2:1-10). Repent. God wants all men to repent. (Read Peter’s sermon in acts 2, especially 2:38- When you are baptized you recieve the gift of the holy spirit. See more on baptism:Matt.28:18-20; Mark16:16; Acts 8; 9; 10; Romans 6; 1 Cor 1:10-17; Eph.4:1-6.). No matter how tough life gets we keep going…We keep running the race Phippians 3. We understand that we are not alone that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). We finish the race no matter how hard life gets, no matter what trials, and hardships come our way, no matter what dividing line satan seems to throw us off course, we keep running until we finish. Paul tells Timothy in his 2nd letter Chapter 4 vs. 6-ff “For I am alread being pour out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” We must keep running. Keep running Chance; you can do it. Keep running Lee; you can do it. Keep running Dan; you can do it. Keep running!!! Keep running!!!! We are almost there!!!

  6. preacherman said

    Sorry, Keep running neil! You can make it brother!!!! God is on your side. Remember that! Never forget it!

  7. Dan Trabue said

    William of Ocam:

    All Grace is of God, God is Grace.
    Grace does not require belief. Grace does not require submission. Grace does not require confession.
    The origin of Grace is Love.
    Grace does require acceptance.
    The only sin Grace will not erase is the rejection of Grace, either for ones self or for another.

  8. Chance said

    Good points all.

    Dan, I do agree with you, in that there is a difference in knowing and doing. I suppose one could receive salvation and not do what Jesus said, but they wouldn’t be a very good Christian. I would hope that once one receives Christ, however, it would impact their life enough to do what he says.

  9. Chance said

    “Chance,
    Great post and great questions that you ask. The Pope stated this week that the Catholic church is the only true church and tht all other Christians aren’t Christians. Only those who are Catholic are Christians. There are many new articles that you can read where the Pope made those statements.”

    Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the comments, preacherman.

  10. Lee said

    “His commands to love our enemies, to beware wealth, to live simply, to care for the least of these?”

    I believe those are all Chistian traits as well. But it is the how of those commandments where sincere Christians can disagree.

    You’re pro-choice, I believe, (correct me if wrong) but I believe that “to care for the least of these” means to be pro-life and to stick up for the defenseless fetus.

    You disagree, and think that government should stay out of the way of that decision.

    You are generally in favor of the redistribution of wealth, I am not, and think it would be counterproductive. But both of us think that we should care for the poor. We are both Christian.

    How government should interact with the individual and society, and what laws we should and should not pass, are matters of theology and philosophy that good Christians can disagree on.

    But to what defines what is a Christian, one goes back to John 3:16.

    One can be a good man and not believe it. But one cannot also be a Christian.

  11. Dan Trabue said

    Just to clear up a couple of points.

    1. I’m pro-life.

    2. I’m also opposed to gov’t getting involved in end of life questions that ought to be left up to individuals and families.

    3. That puts me in an uncomfortable and nebulous position on abortion. I’ll leave it at that for now.

    4. It’s not so much a matter of my being “in favor of redistrubtion of wealth,” but more that I acknowledge that it happens all the time. Mostly in the direction of the wealthy.

    5. Thus, I’m for responsible economic policies. Sound ecological policies (which I think is a precursor to sound economic policies).

    6. I’m not in favor of unlimited redistribution of wealth towards the wealthy – I’m opposed to that.

    7. I certainly agree that good Christians can disagree on working out our differences on the above.

    As to this:

    But to what defines what is a Christian, one goes back to John 3:16.

    For God so loved the world that God gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes on him shall have everlasting life.

    Sure. No problem. As far as it goes. But we both know that the Bible says that even the demons believe on him, so where does that leave us?

    I think “believes on him,” means that we agree that Jesus’ teachings are right and we want them as our rule for life, among other things. As I’m relatively sure that you do as well.

  12. Lee said

    Dan, great response.

    Let me here apologize for any curt or less than civil responses in any of our previous internet exchanges. My time away from the keyboard has given me new perspectives on such things. We will probably passionately disagree in the future, as we have in the past, but I realize that in the past I have not handled myself in a way that I should have.

    Yes, I want the teachings of Christ to be the guidepost of how I want to live. Sometimes I, just like everybody else, manage to do so. But more often I don’t.

    I think “believes on him,” means that we agree that Jesus’ teachings are right and we want them as our rule for life, among other things. As I’m relatively sure that you do as well.

    Yes Dan, that is ture. And yes, the demons believe in the divinity of Christ as well. I also want to do more than simply believe, and I think the Christian should do more than just passively “believe.”

    We cannot gain grace by our works, but often times such good works are the byproduct of our grace.

  13. Dan Trabue said

    I agree (and by the way, thanks for the apology – I, too, apologize if ever I was rude or unduly sarcastic), following in the steps of Jesus is a sign that we have accepted the grace of Jesus. But I think it’s that and more.

    It’s a sign that we agree with the teachings of Jesus, even in those times when we fail to live up to them.

    But then, I’m sure we agree on that point as well.

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