Welcome to the eighth blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture. Today, we take a look at a very non-orthodox idea called Subjective Christianity.
For millennium, man has labored to figure God out. From attempting to describe His nature, or how salvation works, to going through the scriptures and coming up with a list of rules that fulfills earlier commandments given to us, man continues to apply every ounce of his intelligence and limited wisdom to these questions.
And, thousands of years later, man’s understanding of God continues to remain in a confused state, at best. One only has to look to the 40,000+ denominations to see that we are anything, but on the same page. Each one has a different view on everything from the nature of grace, to how we should perform baptisms to how to best serve the community. And while most Christian denominations will state that they ultimately do agree on the essentials with other, major Christian denominations, they ultimately do divide on the basis of their understanding of God’s Word.
Matt Slick, from carm.org writes, “Sadly, there is another reason for denominational differences and that is the failure of Christians to live according to the will of God. The truth is that we are all sinners and we do not see things eye-to-eye. It is an unfortunate truth that denominational differences are due to our shortsightedness and lack of love.”
Not new to our age, divisions over differences of interpretation plagued the early churches. Paul addressed this in Romans 14.1-5
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind,” (Rom. 14:1-5).
Why have we, two thousand years later, still have not learned this critical lesson? Our intellectual approach to scripture presents a big part of the problem. Fighting a post modern movement, modernist Christian leaders stand entrenched in the idea that we can derive objective truth from God’s Word. And, this is true, to an extent. As I covered on an earlier entry, we know certain truths, such as the fact that Jesus died for our sins, from God’s Word. That we do not debate.
But, when leaders extend this idea to cover ‘all truth,’ and areas that the Bible, in itself, does not explicitly spell out, we run into trouble. For example, no where does the Bible spell out an exacting, detailed process for baptism. Yet, we have dozens of different methods (sprinkling, infant, dunking, etc) that various denominations swear by. Each states that they derived the ‘true method’ through careful exegesis of God’s Word.
If you press a leader for the answers to denominationalism, most solid pastors will ultimately answer, ” Neither salvation nor damnation is dependent upon our differences. Our salvation is based on our relationship with Christ.” Yet, week in and week out, they state, through the pulpit, that in matters of how to live, how to ‘run church’, etc, the ‘truth’ is objective and clearly found in God’s Word. They know the truth in their head (That salvation is based only on faith in Christ, and that other matters are secondary), but in actual teaching and living, allow division in these secondary matters to reign supreme. Again, this approach steams from a modernist culture that ultimately belives that all truth and matters of right and wrong must be objective. And, that we can objectively derive all truth through careful study of God’s Word.
Yet, read Paul’s words in the rest of Romans 14. He does not take this approach. He goes as far as to state that God judges the action of the individual not against an objective, black and white measure of right and wrong. Rather, God judges their actions based on faith and lack thereof. The end of that chapter reads, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
We see a similar principle in Colossians 2.
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
*asceticism means “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.”
In other words, our walk with God is not measured against a black and white list of rights and wrongs. God measures our faith with our subjective understanding of what He expects from us. For one person, God has convinced drinking liquor violates God’s Will. For another, God permits drinking. In such matters, does Paul instruct us to sit down with them and attempt to show them how, through our careful study of God’s Word, we became convinced they are doing it all wrong?
No, he does not.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
In other words, keep it to yourself, in the interest of love and harmony. Understand that we have difference of opinion on matters of faith. As long as we agree on the essentials of the gospel, we can enjoy diversity in all secondary matters. As we did with racial divides, we can eliminate division within the body of Christ by embracing our differences, realizing, as Paul taught, that each brother can have a different understanding on such matters, and still please the LORD. While we stand on objective truths clearly spelled in God’s Word, such as the sinfulness of man and the saving power of the gospel message, we understand that walking with Christ in itself may take us down different roads, different perspectives and understanding spiritual matters in different ways.
Welcome to subjective Christianity.
Next Up: Is the Church Physical?
Thank you so much for watching. I would love to hear from you. You can email me at jcservant at cyberlightcomics.com. You can follow me on twitter @jcservant . You can, of course, write comments and questions right here on youtube below. And, who knows, I might address your question right here on the air. Until our next show, may God bless you.