Have you ever been asked "how can you call yourself a Christian?" How could you possibly be a Christian and do, see, think, listen, or agree with "that"? What I find very funny is "that" usually has nothing to do with behavior that could be defined as sin. The "that" is usually something like voting for a democrat, listening to rock n roll, or watching Teletubies on TV.
Of course, all of the "thats" are inevitably tied to the idea of an absolute and perfect moral authority (God). However, this perfect and unchanging authority seems to be remarkably flexible, not to mention a little contradictory at times. He has been used to justify slavery and inspire the abolitionist movement. He has been used to promote and preserve peace as well as to justify civil unrest. (Civil rights movement)
Because God is perfect and unchanging then any contradictions to the Holiness of God would have to come from man and not God. We have the bible; the very Word of God to inspire and guide us. So how does this happen? Where is man getting these ideas from? Why the confusion?
This happens because of doctrines. Mans attempt to put God in a box, to make God more manageable and easy to understand. The Holy Bible is the inspired word of God yet thousands of doctrines are derived from this perfect and unchanging book that is Gods Word. As a matter of fact every doctrine is held up to this truth and asked "is it biblical?"
The Catholic Church has only survived by adopting new doctrines every so often, calling into question the idea of a system that is suppose to be infallible yet still in need of revision from time to time. The Protestants seem to have withheld any attempt to reconcile their doctrines, choosing instead to split at the slightest hint of disagreement, creating hundreds if not thousands of denominations, not counting all of the independent churches with no authority beyond their four walls and dysfunctional leadership.
Christians with similar beliefs get along well enough at retreats, crusades, conferences, and any other event that might bring two denominations together. However, respect for other doctrines is directly related to the level of agreement of the doctrine in question, and at the same time disagreeing with which doctrines are worth arguing over and creating a new denomination that agrees with both doctrines that are being argued over and completely forgetting the doctrine in question. (Makes sense if you don't think about it)
Churches are governed by the doctrines they adopt. Paul says in Galatians that he is amazed how quick people turn from the gospel he taught to a different gospel which is no gospel at all. The problem is that "churches" are people and people are foul-able. When people try and attempt to understand the what's, why's, and how's of God they will interpret scripture to make sense of their limited understand. In turn dismiss any science that may contradict their understanding of scripture. Scripture should be held up to science to prove the science not visa versa.
Too often scriptures are absolute truth only if the scripture passage reinforces a particular notion or idea; but ignored as "Old Covenant" when it doesn't serve ones purpose. Why does God's opinion always match up with the person claiming to speak for him? The person saying "you couldn't possibly be a Christian" must know what Gods will is or they wouldn't make such an accusation. I believe God has a will; my question is why can't anybody demonstrate that they know what it is? Even if it is a little subjective, like saying ice cream is yummy, shouldn't everyone agree with it? If that were the case then politics would be easy! What should we do? What God wants! All in favor? Yes! It's Unanimous. Let's go out for ice cream and celebrate! Unfortunately it is not that easy.
Likewise, if a doctrine is to inspire morality, would not the followers of the doctrine demonstrate morality? There is no statistical difference between those who attend church regularly and those who do not. Christians are every bit as likely to have been divorced, been drunk or used drugs, to have purchased or viewed pornography, committed adultery, or anything else you can think of. If it is a sin there has been a Christian that has done it.
No matter what the scripture or doctrine is people have a tendency to either find the scripture that they agree with or find a bible translation that has the scripture that lines up with what they are already think. The scriptures do not always change people, but too often people change scriptures so they don't have too. Morality gets held up as some kind of heavenly trump card, "if you disagree with "that" then you must disagree with God". Does this statement end all questioning, and discussion?
I don't believe truth can be established by faith. It can only be discovered, which explains why universities place so much emphasis on research. I'm sure there has been many smart and spiritual people study Gods Word. That is why I am so confused by the number of different doctrines. Truth is an absolute and should be proven as such through study and research. So why is there not one absolute true doctrine?
I know there are several churches that claim to be the true "church," but if that were true then wouldn't there only be one true church and not several? So how can the question "how can you call yourself a Christian" even be asked? It's obvious that being a Christian is subjective at best if Christianity itself can not discern what the absolute truth is. I guess the question itself is subjective and proves the ignorance of the person asking it. Basically the question might as well be a statement…. "I call myself a Christian and because you are not acting like me you must not be a Christian"
I have a growing contempt for the word "Christian" or any kind of label, like "Christ-Follower," as if changing the words changes the reality. If I'm not a "Christian" then I'm not spiritual? Defining people by what they are not instead of by what they are make no sense at all. I love God. I am very confident in my relationship with Christ. So why do I feel the need to put on a show when I am around other Christians? There is a joke often told about Christians and it goes like this…"if you are going to invite a Christian to your party you better invite two because if you invite just one Christian they will drink all your beer. If you invite two, they won't drink in front of each other."
That's funny because there is an element of truth to it. So why do I feel the need to act like a "Christian" when I am in front of other Christians? Why am I more comfortable around non believers? Perhaps it is because a non believer accepts me for who I am even if I make a mistake now and then. Funny how a non Christian is more Christ like then the Christian that feels the need to ask "how can you call yourself a Christian" every time you make a mistake or forget to act just right. It makes me not want to call myself a Christian, especially if that means I have to be like the person asking the question.
Some say I'm skeptical because I often answer a question with a question. I get asked "How can I call myself a Christian?" So I ask… What do you have to do to be a Christian? That question will most likely get you that deer caught in the headlights look. It is fun to see "Christians" stumble with that question but ultimately it will be answered at the lowest common denominator. Believe that Jesus was the son of God and died for your sins and rose again. Some form of that statement will be the answer.
"What else do you have to do to be a Christian?" This is the question that has caused all the commotion and the need to create doctrine because no one can agree on what should happen next. Get Baptized! Great… How? And here we go! You're not a Christian unless you do it like I do it. So it stands to reason that a question with more then one "right" answer really doesn't have a correct answer at all.
When Jesus asked his disciples "who do you say that I am" it was Peter that said "you are the Christ, Son of the living God". This is very interesting because in Jesus' entire ministry he never said he was the son of God but as soon as Peter made this statement Jesus said yep! And that will be the very foundation I build my church on. Take all the denominations in the Christian faith and they all will agree on that one point…That Jesus is the Christ Son of the living God
"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men"…and they followed. Jesus did not walk up them and say "Hi, I'm Jesus Christ the Son of God, follow me." It wasn't until three years later that they discovered who he was. These men (disciples) spent three years with Jesus, they lived with Him, ate with Him, they did everything with Him, but it was not Jesus who told them who He was. The revelation that Jesus was the "Christ" came from the Holy Spirit only after seeing what Jesus did and listening to what He said. It was a process of discovery. The very "revelation" of who God is… the belief and acceptance of that truth is a process of discovery
In Philippians it says to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This would imply that salvation is a personal process. If we are to work out our own salvation it stands to reason that it will be different for everyone. The discovery of Jesus and the realization of His deity is the Genesis of who we are in Christ. The very reason we are a "Christian". So the question "How can you call yourself a Christian" can't be about anything you have done if becoming a Christian isn't about anything you did?
So why are "Christians" so concerned by what you do? Is there something to gain if we act like a stereotypical Christian? After the revelation that Jesus is the Christ Son of the living God we gain heaven. Is there more to gain? The bible says we will receive a crown after the judgment. What are we going to be judged on if all our sins are forgiven, wiped clean, forgotten, and made righteous?
It would be impossible to live in grace if grace didn't exist. If there is a judgment for a righteous man then has anything really been forgiven? Are we saying what one does after they received Jesus as their Lord can keep them out of heaven? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of why Jesus came in the first place? In the same way if what one does after they received Jesus as their Lord gains them a crown or several crowns seems to defeat the purpose of why Jesus came also.
Jesus came so we might have life in abundance not so we can have abundance in heaven. Jesus said "not to store up treasures here on earth but rather we should store up treasure in heaven." Okay, it makes sense that you can't take it with you. So what is life in abundance look like? It can't be about things you can buy because you can't take it with you. Rather life in abundance must be about the things money (treasure) can't buy such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
So then how does one go about storing up treasure in heaven? Is the treasure the crown or crowns? I hope not because the question could be asked in heaven "how can you call yourself a Christian with a tiny crown like that?" "Look at my crown and see how big it is, look how good I was and how average you were." "I am great!" The very idea that there will be status in heaven based on how good you were as a Christian takes grace out of the equation, and the Mormons would be right?
Jesus told a parable about labors in the vineyard. "The kingdom of Heaven is like this"…and Jesus tells a story about labors who worked in the vineyard. Some worked all day and some worked for a few minutes but all got paid the same. The kingdom of heaven is like that. Jesus didn't say the ones who worked all day were going to get a crown for a bonus
Jesus also said "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So if one is doing good things to gain a crown wouldn't you have to ask where their heart is? Jesus says above all else we should love God and love people. So, where should ones heart be?
Common sense says ones heart should be on loving God and people. So how could treasure in heaven possibly be anything one could have ownership of such as a crown. It puts into question every action a Christian does. It would distort and minimize any good someone would do. It would eventually undermine what it means to be a Christian and could cause one to forget why Jesus came in the first place? To seek and save what is lost. The only thing that makes it to heaven is ones soul…. Our souls were the treasure Jesus sought and bought.
If one was going to store up treasure in heaven it makes since that they would be leading people down the road of discovery. They would be showing people Jesus trough their own actions rather then judging people by their actions. Most people avoid Christianity because of the hypocrites who ask "how can you call yourself a Christian?" Unfortunately it is Christians that make Christianity difficult. Salvation is simple; it's running the gauntlet of self righteous Christians judging your every action that is hard. Christians hate being called hypocrites but too often it is the Christians who love to point out the speck in your eye while ignoring the plank in their own eye.
The Holy Spirit has proved to work just fine without any help from judgmental Christians. I believe the Holy Spirit can work through people but in a loving and gentle way. Not by a rogue Christian spitting judgmental venom by asking "how can you call yourself a Christian?" He did talk through an ass once but that doesn't give anyone the right to be an ass. Remember when you point your finger there are four more pointing back at you.
I am not saying we can wallow in Grace. The question "how can you call yourself a Christian" is a great question and should be asked often. One should stand in front of a mirror and ask themselves often "how can you call yourself a Christian" then answer it honestly. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life. Be the Christian you want others to be.
"Dear Jesus, I love you, I submit my life to you, I will identify myself with you, I will call myself a Christian, Lord please help me be worthy of the title…Amen"