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Benjamin-Newton Really Mobile: Christian Unity and Theology
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What does faith mean? Just admitting or intellectually being convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God does not get you to heaven. Even the devil knows and admits this. We are not saved by knowledge of theology; we are saved by obedience. The obedience that God requires to save us is to repent of our sins and believe in Him. Faith is an act of obedience; faith is a choice, an act off the will.
Theology is not an end in and of itself. Theology can even distract us from our faith. The big emphasis on theology of the Evangelical church is there for a reason and is a response to a movement that has attempted to make Christian beliefs symbolic and empty. The great Protestant theologians were not chiefly trying to bring about a separation of church and state or bring rational knowledge as the defining characteristic of European civilization.
Protestant reformers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries believed in very specific things and often were killed, immediately after they professed these beliefs. They argued and persecuted each other over what most of the Church would now consider unessential things. A big part of the Reformation was often more about Church policy and worship, rather than a huge difference in the profession of faith, at least as we see it today.
The Roman Catholic Church is very similar in beliefs and worship as most of the other traditional churches of Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Greece, throughout history, but the difference is that the Roman church never had to deal with persecution, like the other churches did and refused to compromise on any issues, even up until the last 50 years. One of the big ideas that is missing from the Protestant churches is the idea of mysticism.
Mysticism is about letting God be who He is and having an awesome respect for Him. When we pray to God, it is important that we are honest about where we are in our faith and are willing to speak to God directly about things we think are unfair about the Bible or how God acts. At the same time, we need to realize that we are speaking to the all-powerful, all knowing, and perfectly good authority figure.
Although we need not refrain from questioning God, we need to have awesome respect for Him. It troubles me that even believers have no assurance of escaping even the worst forms of suffering in this life, but God has not created nor is He responsible for alleviating our suffering. We caused all suffering, by rejecting God and disobeying Him.
The Protestant churches see theology in a very European legal and rational expression of Christianity. The Evangelical church has poor representation overseas, despite a huge push to evangelize in the third world. The big world Christianities are Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism is the closest to mysticism of any major Protestant group.
One of the limitations of Evangelicals is the emphasis on the rational aspects of God and the idea of convincing people of faith by debate. Oftentimes conversion is reduced down to what seems like a sale of a car. I think there are spiritual reasons for why the Evangelical church exists now in history, despite nothing like it existing before the 20th century or at least until the Reformation. The Evangelical faith is a very effective counter to the New Age movement.
The very uncompromising and very specific theology and the lack of toleration for diversity in beliefs make it next to impossible to water down. The sword cuts both ways, though. Many people such as myself share many aspects of this faith, but cannot accept how narrow this worldview is. One of the big problems with the Evangelical faith is not so much the theology, but the practice. There is a huge fear of the supernatural and an absolute uncompromising unwillingness to learn about other religions.
The other major issue that many potential evangelicals cannot accept is the weird spiritual status they give to America and the support of the business establishment. When leader like George Bush tell people they are born again Christians and then authorize torture and the establishment of a police state, it makes a mockery of Christianity. When the richest Americans claim to be Christians and Christian non-profits keep asking people to give them money, there is little room for God, in this worldview.
This idea of moderation is an important aspect of faith and personal growth and maturity. I have long been extremely literal and this has made it hard for me to understand some important aspects of theology and scripture. I think it is important to not take such extreme stances on things the Bible is not clear about. It would be great if Christians could find a non-denominational core sets of beliefs that the Bible is very clear about and separate core theology necessary for salvation, from more worship or practice related issues in the Church.
It is great that the Church has such continued emphasis on keeping theology pure and continuing to reform the Church, but Christian unity has a place as well. I think we have plenty of different churches and I think it would be great if we could find a way to have more unity. So many Evangelicals agree on so much theology that it would be great if they at least could join together, as they would not need to compromise on core beliefs, to do so.
Too much theology can be as bad as too little theology. Our faith should be about who God is, not who we want Him to be. We need to prioritize our lives the way God has in scripture and need to be able to separate our opinions from what Scripture teaches us. Just because we believe something to be true, it is important to realize that we can and are wrong about much in theology and that is ok.
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