A recent controversial post spurred a tempest of comments on both sides of the “gay marriage” issue. During that posting flurry, a commenter named Tucker asked some very interesting questions concerning the Christian faith. In fact, there were a lot of interesting questions, comments and answers that directly or indirectly touched on Christian beliefs.
As a Christian I feel compelled to post something regarding questions Tucker had raised. For instance, she said:
“if you will allow me i would just like to ask an honest question (it is somewhat off topic)…please dont feel that i am attacking any of you…i have posed this question only to people of my like-mind and we just can’t figure it out: as you may have noticed i am not a christian and am not as knowledgeable as i would like to be about the christian faith…what i want to know is how the many facets of christianity are justified? i said it before: if marriage is indeed a religious institution then it should not be changed just because gay people want to fit it…but how then is it justified that there are so many different takes on christianity? are the protestants right, or the catholics? the baptists or the methodists or the anglicans etc…surely if the word of god is so true and all encompassing, christianity should be composed of a very definite set of beliefs, values, morals and laws…why is it that so many christians feel that they can interpret the faith the way they like and in whatever they choose? how do you know what segment of christian society is actually right? every christian thinks he is right and i have yet to find 2 christians who can agree on all aspects of the bible and gods word…”
Commenters like Simon and Highboy made excellent posts in an attempt to address this but now I wish to add my two cents worth.
THE BIBLE is God’s Word to mankind. There are all sorts of translations out there in all sorts of languages. In almost every case the translations agree and there is very little controversy about the actual text of the Bible itself, Old Testament and New. It is how the Bible is interpreted that is at issue.
Denominational Churches have come to conclusions about the major doctrinal issues and made statements of faith to nail those down. Strictly speaking, if you are a Catholic you supposedly both agree to and adhere to the Catholic teachings. If you are a Lutheran, same thing. Of course, there is more than one faction within the Catholic Church and more than one Lutheran group and so on. So the outsider will hear more than one opinion on many doctrinal issues.
Non-Denominational Churches. My family belongs to such a church. The leadership of our church set up some doctrinal guidelines in a statement of faith that are pretty general and leave most issues up to the individual believer and God. There are churches that dispense with a statement of faith entirely and others have much larger and more inclusive ones than ours.
Then there are believers that meet in homes and so on that reject the idea of an organized church at all. Yes, to the outsider looking in it looks pretty disorganized. Why can’t Christians get it together??!!
Fact is, if you don’t believe that Jesus came to save you and that you must trust in Him and His sacrifice to repair your relationship with God you actually aren’t a Christian. The Apostles main job was to preach Christ, crucified and risen again and help spread the faith around. No Christ, no Chistianity.
The point is that man should have a real and individual relationship with God. This is what I understand from the Bible. This is both the beauty and the confusing aspect of Christianity, that it is not a large group of Stepford believers all saying the exact same things.
But here are two things from the Bible that really help. First, the Bible itself is the source for understanding doctrine:
“2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
The entire Bible is useful and authoritative as to how a Christian should live out his life on this earth and to help us know the nature of God.
“Romans 15:4 – For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
The Old Testament, written in the past to the Jews who were under the law, is now for our learning but is no longer law. Christ brought about redemption through His blood and thereby salvation. We believers are now “new creatures”, bought by the blood of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
There are several additional principles Bible students use to study and understand the Bible, including understanding context, previous Bible teachings and audience,etc. Become a Christian and begin the journey, I say!
As to a Christian’s standing with God and hope of heaven, Tucker wrote:
“apologies…i am being sarcastic and somewhat pedantic…but only to prove a point…the rules for acceptance are so finicky and interpreted differently by almost every christian or at least every christian church or subgroup…surely god would have laid it out in clear, straightforward english…surely he wants his people to be aware of the prerequisites for entry into heaven…isnt is kind of perverted of him to leave it so open ended so all of you christians are left constantly wondering if you have done enough and fulfilled all the criteria?”
I say, salvation? Romans 5:1 begins: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
and the thought continues in Romans 5:9 – “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
Salvation and also right standing with God…
And then Ephesians 2:8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
And Titus 3:5 – “..he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”
As a Christian, I give God credit for saving and preserving my salvation. I do the best I can to live as He would have me live and much of that is by yielding myself to the leading of His Spirit and following the teachings in the Bible as I understand them and helped to understand by the Spirit within. I don’t justify myself by what I say or do, but I do seek to give God a good reputation by what I say or do. Christianity may, from the outside, appear to be inconsistent. The goal of every believer, though, is to be as consistently like Christ as possible.
(Thanks to Bible Gateway for the quotes from the Bible.)