Badges

March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I write this not knowing exactly where it’s going to go or how it’s going to sound, so if I sound a little harsh or it rambles on a little bit, please forgive me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about something and it was sparked by some of the things that I’ve seen and heard over the past week or so. There have been instances where I’ve seen Christians talking about something that is dear to them and when someone disagrees with them, they are instantly defensive. Or, if things aren’t like they think they should be, those that are not lining up with their view aren’t saved, or at the very least are seen as lesser because they don’t agree. It’s kind of sad really. It did get me thinking however.

I’ve been a Christian for about 10 years now. In that 10 years, I’ve seen and done a lot of things. Some of those things I wish I could take back. I was a part of the Word of Faith “movement” for awhile. Ignorance isn’t pretty sometimes. By the grace of God, I’ve been drawn out of that and have become sounder in my understanding of scripture. I’ve also been a part of Precept Ministries for about 6 years. When I say “a part”, I don’t work there. What I mean is that I see (and others seem to feel this way too) that those who are involved with Precept on any level are one big family. I know of two or three people that I bug almost constantly with questions and they never seem to mind.

All of this comes to my point very randomly. It seems that it is very easy for Christians to wear everything they believe like a badge. They do this with just about anything really. They do it with their denomination, which version of the Westminster confession (or other confessions) they hold to, they do it with the teachers they follow, and it can even get down to music style or type of service they have. This past week I stopped and began to look at this. From what I see in scripture, there isn’t supposed to be this kind of divisive attitude:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Here, Paul says that there shouldn’t be divisions, but there are. I’ve heard snide remarks concerning all kinds of different Christians beliefs and ideas. I’ve even seen the kind of separation that Paul talks about here. I’ve seen people argue over whether or not you’re a Calvinist and those that aren’t (or haven’t thought about it, or didn’t know, or don’t really concern themselves with it) are looked down upon. It’s like their saying “I’m of Calvin” and those who aren’t are somehow not as pious. I’ve seen the same thing happen with popular teachers of today’s time (or even of times past). People like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, Mark Dever, Phil Johnson, and others have had their names brought up in arguments like they are the leader of a completely different sect of Christianity. I doubt that any of them would approve.

I’ve seen arguments where someone will ask a question or point something out to think about and another will respond with a link to what John MacArthur says on the subject. Or they will talk about what R.C. Sproul says about it. Or Calvin, or Luther, or Dever, or any one of a number of other great men and women. My question about this is, should it matter? I am glad to read what any of these men and women say because they are all much, much smarter than I am, but at what point do we stop and look at the scriptures ourselves? When do we become in danger of putting these men/women and their teachings above scripture itself? Do I agree with everything that John MacArthur teaches? Nope. (Some of you may have just started praying for my salvation and that’s ok….I appreciate the thought) Does that mean that I think that everything he teaches is wrong? Nope. I just disagree with him on some things. The same thing goes for the other men listed. None of them got it/get it completely right! Gasp! I know, I have said things that would rile up many people, but these are things that the men above already know. They know that they don’t have everything right. If they did, they would be God, and last time I checked they’re not.

This doesn’t keep people that listen to their teachings from wearing the names of these men like a badge. John Calvin would be appalled at the use of his name in the way it is today because he was a humble man who didn’t want the attention for himself. He didn’t even have his grave marked so that no one would attribute anything to him that he didn’t deserve. Luther was the same way. And, from what I understand of many of today’s great teachers, they would be in agreement with this. So, if that is the view of those men, why isn’t it our own? Why do we continue to wear someone’s name or ideas like a badge? Why are we quicker to throw out something they wrote than what the scriptures say? It doesn’t make sense to me.

While I cannot say the exact reason for every instance of this happening, I can think of a few that might be the case. One reason may be that the people posting the other stuff haven’t studied the scriptures themselves. It is much easier to find ready-made bits of theological argument to toss out instead of doing the work yourself. Another reason may be that they agree with what the other person said. That’s all well and good, and I find myself in this place often enough. But I have tried not to just become another mouthpiece for any man, regardless of how good or respected a teacher they are. I would rather take what they say and compare it to scripture (like the Bereans) in order to make sure that it’s right. I’ve been burned often enough for taking something someone else wrote at face value only to find out later that it is completely wrong.

Instead of wearing someone else’s name as a badge of honor (“I’m in so-and-so’s camp”), shouldn’t we be wearing Christ? Isn’t that what Paul’s main concern was? The people of Corinth were so focused on the divisive nature of the cliques that they completely neglected (or worse negated) the truth of Christ’s gospel that they were supposed to be preaching. They were not preaching the gospel like they should have been. Instead, it was all about who’s group they were in and it was causing divisions. I don’t see how this helps grow, edify, or equip the saints for the work of service. I do see how this can cause people to not come to Christ.

Before someone gets confused or misunderstands me, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t talk about different things. We can even debate some stuff. This is good and it sharpens us. I have debated for years and can be blunt and even harsh sometimes. But, when we debate, we must remember who we’re debating. If we are debating Christians, we must remember that they are our brethren – we aren’t supposed to doggedly attack them because they disagree with us on some things that aren’t foundational. If we are debating non-Christians, then it should be handled with grace so that they might be saved. If we are debating heretics, then we can be a little more forceful, but we must still be careful. If someone is following a heretic out of ignorance, then we must treat them like any other non-Christian and season our speech with grace so that they might be saved from the heresy. If, on the other hand, the person is someone who has heard the truth and has spent much energy denying that truth (especially to the point of teaching others that truth), then we shouldn’t hold back. We should let them know the truth and make it clear that they are heretics. Even this should be done with grace though, and that’s something that I’ve seen missing in much of the ongoing “debates” lately. Again though, I have to say, we have to make sure we understand just who we’re debating with!

In the end, it is the gospel that matters most. It is not wearing other people as a badge or absolutely condemning everyone that disagrees with you even on the smallest points. If we can’t even discuss things among ourselves without having everything meltdown or explode into a flurry of unfair and graceless comments, why do we think that those outside the church are going to be turned from their sins or lead to Christ? They won’t if we’re not presenting Him to them in every way.

I have been guilty of wearing others as a badge and I have gotten better about not doing it. Personally, I couldn’t care less about names. I tend not to like labels very much. It is way to easy to attack others on one point of what they believe instead of their beliefs as a whole. I just want to follow what scripture says, and allow it to change me to be more like Christ. I want that for others too. If I end up wearing someone else as a badge, please forgive me. If I get passionate about some things and forget who I’m talking to, forgive me for that as well. And I’ll try to do the same for my fellow Christians….

Church Business

February 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Christianity | 2 Comments
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The other day on my “safe for the whole family” radio station, I was listening to the ~Christian~ hosts talk about children, youth, and young adult ministries. I will preface all of this with the fact that I find it really hard to listen to much “Christian” radio anymore. The topics of discussion seem to have no real value and the music isn’t much better. There is no theological discussion, as you’re about to see. Instead, it seems like it’s just a bunch of church-going people who are trying to be “relevant” and sound like the world so that they will gain unbelieving listeners. Then, they can sneak the name of Jesus in on them (which they always seem to forget to do…) and maybe make a false convert. Continue Reading Church Business…


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