Friday, February 22, 2013

Talking to Myself (Part 1)

A week ago I posted a little article "Why I'm not a Christian" in which I gave 3 reasons why a hypothetical me would reject Christianity. Several people commented that I should respond to myself. While I still think the best response to all 3 points involves actions and not more words, there is nothing wrong with a both/and approach. So I'll devote a note to each one. Here's how non-Christian Matthew started out:

First, I can't believe in Christianity because Christianity doesn't know what to believe. Jesus supposedly lived, died, and rose again. Jesus himself said that when the Holy Spirit came, He would lead Christians into all truth. But it's been about 2,000 years now and Christians still don't really know the truth about anything! They disagree about everything! And it's not like they only quibble over little things. Ask a Christian to explain the Trinity! Ask them to explain how someone gets saved! They disagree about the very basic components of their faith! And not only do they disagree, they're NASTY about it. Am I supposed to be impressed by a religion that claims to be based on love and yet has to divide into a handful of churches (at least) in each town?

Hypothetical Matthew makes a pretty good argument! Christianity appears to be deeply divided. Catholics and Protestants don't get alone (and they both tend to ignore the Eastern Orthodox). Protestantism has protested itself into thousands of denominations. No two Christians agree about everything. Is this what Christians call unity?

That's a good question. If unity is measured by equivalent beliefs, then Christianity is certainly not unified. But why should unity be measured in that way? Isn't that uniformity rather than unity? If Christians throughout the world agreed on every little detail, wouldn't one suspect there is some sort of mass delusion at play (either demonic or due to drinking the same Kool-Aid)? The reality is that unity is not found in uniformity, it is found in common direction.

Are Christians all headed in the same direction? By definition. Christians are people following Jesus. If I start out in Buffalo and my friend starts out in Chicago, but we're both headed to Cleveland... we are going in the same direction and share a unified purpose. The fact that we are at different places to begin with, and all along the way, is really beside the point. Granted, some people who claim to be Christians aren't actually following Jesus at all. But that is beside the point too. We don't define a Christian by profession of the label, but by pursuit of the Lord. Christians share a unified purpose and will one day share a unified destination.

Hypothetical Matthew made the same mistake that real Matthew used to make... that is... he thought Christianity was primarily a list of beliefs rather than the love of a person (Jesus). Because of this, he defined unity along those lines. The cool thing is, once you understand unity as a shared love and pursuit of Jesus, the diversity of beliefs among Christians actually becomes a valuable asset rather than a mark against Christianity. It is in our intense diversity that we are best equipped to discern doctrinal truth! Indeed, perhaps the best way the Spirit leads us toward all truth is by means of diversity, discussion, and loving debate.

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