Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bringing It Back To Basics.

A few months ago, I helped train a kid who quickly made it known he'd just come out of rehab. He told me some of his story during our lunch break. A relationship with a girl soured, he found himself deep into substance abuse, and he couldn't always control his anger. When I asked him what changed, he told me about the progress he made with AA. He used the phrase "God as you know Him" at several points. I casually asked him what he meant. "Well, I believe God's real, but we all recognize him in a different way. Whether it's Allah, Buddha, Jesus, or whatever."

"I don't think Jesus would agree with you. He made it pretty clear He was God and the only way for people to have a relationship with God." I kept my gentle, friendly tone. The kid didn't seem upset. He acted as if I had somehow agreed with him.

On December 10, the Tennessean printed an article full of quotes similar to my trainee's. A concerned Methodist pastor discovered how many of the people attending his church also claimed to be Buddhist and Wiccan. "Spirituality has become so individual," he said. "We can no longer assume that people embrace even the basics." Later in the article, Alan Cooperman, associate director for the research at the Pew Forum said, "It is as much now the norm as it is the exception for Americans to blend multiple religious beliefs and practices." According to the Pew Forum, a significant number of church-goers believe their interests in reincarnation, astrology, pantheism, necromancy, etc, don't conflict with Christianity. For a while now, I have thought about another quote from the Methodist pastor regarding his attitude toward the situation. "We spend a lot of time talking about the basics," he said.

Nashville has a lot of churches, Christian publishers, Christian musicians, and historically Christian colleges. Having lived here for a few years, talking to locals, and reading articles like the one in the Tennessean, I wonder how many people going to churches know about the basics. The trinity, the death and resurrection of Jesus, sin, salvation, the person and work of the Holy Spirit - some people growing up in the church don't know anything concrete about these simple Christian truths.

I feel like God has put it on my heart to learn how to explain the basics of Christianity. I'm not talking about all the details of a specific theology. I think every Christian should agree that Jesus is God, the Bible is true, stuff like that. So I guess this post in the Press has two purposes. One, I'm going to study on some basics for upcoming essays. Two, I wonder what Press readers think about some of these basics. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs believers to remain "always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you - yet with humility and fear." If someone approached you and asked how you knew the Bible was true, or why you thought Jesus was God, what would you say? That's why I want to know more of why I believe what I believe. At the same time, I want to approach this with humility and fear. That is, I want to allow for grace toward others while keeping full respect toward God.

What do you all think about this? Have you ever felt trapped by questions about the basics of your faith? Have you thought maybe agreeing with a universalist mentality would make it easier to "deal" with the confrontation of people who don't understand these basics? I expect the next few months will do a few things. First, people who don't know Jesus will have answers to questions and come to know Him. Second, Christians who didn't know the foundation of their faith will grow into greater love and trust for Him. Third, nominal, no-faith church-goers will get called out on trying to blend or dilute Christianity.

We'll see you all next month.

2 comments:

Dan Knight said...

Isaiah,

The big difference between man-made religions - which includes a lot of Christianity - and true Christianity is a simple one. On the side of religion, we merit God's blessing. On the side of true Christianity, we receive a gift we don't deserve. Peace, joy, and eternal life are not something we earn or achieve by our efforts; they are the celebratory gifts of a loving father for the prodigals who finally come back to him.

In short: God loves you, and nothing you can do will ever change that. God wants you to know that he created you for his purpose, trust that he knows what is good for us better than we do, own up to our failings, and live a life that reflects the way he has changed our lives.

I think I said that without using a single theological term, and I think it's something that anyone could understand. All the rest - Jesus as Savior and Lord, the presence of the Spirit, the authority of Scripture, etc. - is fleshing out of that truth.

Anonymous said...

isaiah.
i must be honest, i haven't been keeping up with reading your postings as i once did, but am glad that i have come across this one.

i think that you have hit on an issue that is key. without knowing these 'basics' we, as believers don't have anything to stand up. we must know who CHRIST is, why HE came to did for us, and the work that HE does in our life to save us. it is not a work of ourselves. it is not a decision that we choose to make, but a change that happens by a work done by HIM, through HIM, and for HIM. if we get away from this, we then make up some other fantasy religion that will soon meld into all of the other false doctrines.

i look very much forward to what you will have to say in these upcoming months brother. this is also an area that the LORD has really led me to recently. philippians 2:12-13 reminds us that we are to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is GOD who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure." what a beautiful journey that the LORD has led us to.

stand firm in the faith.