Monday, February 3, 2014

Belonging to a Church

I had a thought provoking conversation with a friend recently. The issue: Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian? My position is that although God alone knows his heart, his close associates said he never confessed to being a Christian and others say that he never believed in the Resurrection of the Dead. My friend said that he was likely a Christian because he attended a Presbyterian Church. We all know that Lincoln quoted the Bible often in his speeches and writings. Was "Honest Abe" a genuine Christian? Let's examine nothing more than the premises enumerated thus far.

First off, what is a Christian? There are many positions on what it takes to be a Christian. Let's look at some of them:

1) One must be born into a church family.
2) One must be baptized as a baby.
3) A Christian must take a catechism class.
4) Some believe adult baptism defines a Christian.
5) Others that one must confess church doctrine.
6) Some that church attendance is sufficient.
7) Others that belief in Christ is the exclusive requirement.
8) Many believe good works saves.
9) Others profess that God elects those who are saved and that the Christian has no choice.
10) Others are "saved" because it has been the law (Colonial Days)
11) Others contend that one must worship in the methods of the early church.
12) Some believe that secret knowledge is required.
13) One must belong to a particular denomination or sect.
14) Some propose that a salvation is when you consider your sinful life and desire change.

I could keep on going, and this list is far from comprehensive. It does represent many modern denominations and sects. My earliest "salvation" occurred in a liberal Methodist Church where the reverend announced to the congregation that I was "saved" because I had just got an "A" in catechism class. A friend of mine in the same denomination said he was saved because he attended regularly. I asked another Methodist what it takes to get saved and he replied "I don't know how they do it!" I'm not picking on Methodists, but that's where my experience lies! (Methodists do teach personal salvation and many Methodists are evangelical Christians, but liberalism lies strongly within that denomination. More later on liberalism).

Therefore, to settle whether Abraham Lincoln was a Christian or not we must know what a Christian IS.  Where can we expect to find out? Although many Christians disagree, I suggest we turn to scripture! "Christians" disagree, even on that, because some don't believe that scripture is "divinely inspired"; God's word revealed to man! Is it or isn't it?

2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."  
1 Corinthians 2:13 (ESV) "And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual."  
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. "
1 Corinthians 2:4 ( ESV) "And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power..."  
2 Peter 1:20 (ESV) "Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation."  
If a "Christian" fails to believe what was written by our early church fathers who knew Jesus and talked to Him daily, those may as well quit reading right now!  Their heart may be too stubborn to believe! Just as modern legal documents called "witness statements" are acceptable evidence in trying cases, written scripture does the same. If the existence of Jesus was tried in a modern court, scripture and history would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he lived. Furthermore, the same witness statements would testify to the authenticity of his miracles; miracles which only could come from God!

Hence, a Christian believes that scripture is divinely inspired. Those churches which teach that the Bible is merely the words of man deny the testimony of Jesus's contemporaries; those who died because they were so certain that Jesus IS God that they died horrible deaths rather than recant.  Divine inspiration, "god-breathed", is a standard for the establishment of biblical canon. Orthodox theology has always taken canon as sacred scripture and canon is "god-breathed scripture! Modern churches which in effect call the apostles "liars" are not the true church. Although many true Christians may attend those churches they are in danger of being deceived.

What churches are those? It's mainline non-evangelical protestant denominations which are liberal or progressive in belief. They claim that "the Bible is not considered a collection of factual statements, but instead an anthology that documents the human authors' beliefs and feelings about God at the time of its writing—within a historical or cultural context." (Wikipedia). Most denominations believe in divine inspiration, but not divinely dictated. That belief is that God planted the message (truth), but the authors wrote truth in their own vocabulary reflecting their own personality. The message is still God's, but the style is the writer's.

One church stands out as rejecting divine inspiration. That's the Unitarian-Universalist Church. However, many mainline denominations have been contaminated by Unitarianism. Those are the liberal or progressive churches. Most members of churches, such as the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA, don't believe in divine inspiration notwithstanding their own official doctrines which teaches divine inspiration in some form.

Proposition #1: To be a Christian one must believe that the Bible is the actual truth of God written by those who had personal communication with God. For The Old Testament God spoke to man in visions, dreams, actual words and thoughts. In The New Testament God (Jesus) physically spoke to and taught the apostles who wrote his words. Those inspired tests written after the ministry of Jesus were written in visions; this being the Book of Revelation.

(To be Continued)



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