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Passions in Poetry

What exactly is Christianity?

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Denise
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0 posted 02-27-2002 10:26 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I have started this tread to address some issues raised in Allan's thread. There seems to be so much confusion over issues of Christianity that I feel the need to try to clear the air a bit.

Predestination in the Bible, to my understanding, is not talking about predestination in the sense of a person's ultimate destination. It is stating that a believer has been predestined (after receiving, through faith, the free gift of God's salvation made possible through the sacrifice of Christ) to be conformed to the very image of Christ, imperfectly, or incompletely, if you will, in the here and now, and perfectly or completely in the hereafter.

Also, how can a person make a rational decision about Christianity, for or against, if they don't even know what it is? I've seen some comments that lead me to believe that the knowledge to make any kind of an informed decision is lacking . Sadly, even the majority of "Christendom" doesn't even seem to have a clue anymore. Here is an excellent link for anyone interested in investigating what salvation really is. It's a dangerous thing to just go by what supposed christians say it is and then dismiss it out of hand without checking into what it really is all about and how it can be secured.
http://gracebeliever.com/articles/articles/salvation.htm

And this link here for other related topics that could prove useful for study.

http://gracebeliever.com/


I also have several great links on my homepage (around the middle of the page) that are extremely informative, for anyone interested. (No, you don't have to read my poetry!)

http://artisticwords.homestead.com/home.html


My heart just breaks when I see such gross misunderstanding of Christianity and the resultant misrepresentation of it, and I feel compelled to try to clarify the issues. And compelled out of love, not out of duty or obligation, etc.

I'm not interested in debating doctrines or engaging in pointless arguments,(but welcome any honest discussion, of course). I am only interested in challenging each one of you to study out the issues yourselves and not to assume something or dismiss something on the basis of someone else's presentation, including my own. And remember, your pastor could have it all wrong too!


"He who has been forgiven much, loves much".


Opeth
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1 posted 02-28-2002 10:01 AM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

According to the Scholars and leaders of the Protestant churches: Baptists, Pentacostals, Lutherans, etc...

Christianiy is the ONLY way in which one may be saved and therefore escape the fiery pits of hell in an eternal damnation. If you don't repent for your sins, accept Christ as your saviour, become baptised, receive the Holy Spirit (this one is the key, for without the Holy Spirit, one cannot be born again, and one must be born again in order to be saved.)

If you state that you are a christian and do not believe in what I wrote above, then your church, your type of christianity is not of the mainstream and would be branded as heretical.

Other doctrines and beliefs of mainstream christianity (not inclusive, but the major beliefs)...

1. Immortal soul
2. forever suffering in a hell fire.
3. Sunday is the sabbath
4. The trinity

This is christianity, not according to me, but according to the leaders of christianity - Billy Graham, Dr. Kennedy, etc...and all those denomintations that I have mentioned.



[This message has been edited by Opeth (02-28-2002 10:02 AM).]

Professor Gloom
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2 posted 02-28-2002 10:41 AM       View Profile for Professor Gloom   Email Professor Gloom   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Professor Gloom's Home Page   View IP for Professor Gloom

I must take serious exception to Opeth’s statement,
This may be your perception, but it is not correct for all.
Perhaps some “Christians” believe in the Pit of Dante’,
but not all by far are locked into such narrow views.
What you say is similar to stating all Islamic believer are on a Jihad.
Opeth, you need to open your eyes and mind.
Sunday morning TV is not all the Christians,
And how do you categorize Mormons (Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints)?
Denominations are not Christianity.
What of the Seventh Day Adventist, they worship on Saturday
~ so are they not Christian?

Christianity is based on the teachings of Christ,
Not the Middle Age Churches that evolved.

Gloom
Opeth
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3 posted 02-28-2002 12:08 PM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth


"This may be your perception, but it is not correct for all."


- Did you not read in my post that it is not my perception, but what is taught by "mainstream" christianity. With that being said, I would ask each christian what denomination do they belong to? If the answer was any of the recognized protestant denominations (baptist, lutheran, episcopalian, etc) then that is what their own doctrines state, not me.

If you live in the bible belt, those christians would straighten you out...for sure.

"Perhaps some “Christians” believe in the Pit of Dante’, but not all by far are locked into such narrow views."


- Ah, yes...Dante's Divine Comedy, the catalyst for what now mainstream (and other branches of) christianity believe - The forever suffering in a eternal hellfire, never taught ever, not even in the bible, however, misquotes and misinterps/errors in translations/addings to, etc...the scaring of the masses prevails.

"What you say is similar to stating all Islamic believer are on a Jihad."


- I disagree because the Jihad are the minority where mainstream christian teachings are the majority.

"Opeth, you need to open your eyes and mind."

- My mind and eyes are so far open - that is why I know that christianity is no different than any other religion.

"Sunday morning TV is not all the Christians,"


- That, I know. Why is that even brought up here? I never said it was. "Mainstream" repeat, "mainstream."

"And how do you categorize Mormons (Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints)?"


- Why do personalize what I say? I did not say "I" categorize...again, I am speaking of mainstream (say it again, mainstream) christianity. Should I repeat those denominations, you know the ones that ARE the majority of christianity in this country?  Mainstream christianity labels the Morman faith as a cult. I know this, for I studied with the Mormans for a while.

"Denominations are not Christianity."


- Then why are there denominations? Why don't you christians all join together and believe and worship the same way?  Let me see...from the bible there are numerous examples of Paul telling each church not to divide, to all believe the same way. He even went as far at to tell the church in Corinth, I believe, that there were already members amongst them that were of the devil and intended to deceit and divide them into "splinters."  Is not that what has become of christianity?

"What of the Seventh Day Adventist, they worship on Saturday so are they not Christian?"


- A good friend of mine was a 7-day adventist, we would study together...and you know something...they are correct with regards to the bible and its teachings in that the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. So why do other denominations celebrate on Sunday?  Mainstream christianity call the 7 dayers a cult too.

"Christianity is based on the teachings of Christ,"


Okay, so didn't christ teach many things...like to keep the Sabbath (Saturday) holy?
Tim
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4 posted 02-28-2002 01:44 PM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

Not trying to be critical here, but one ought to be careful about what they know.
I have read the various threads on religous issues and do have to wonder about the animus I detect from some quarters. "Those Christians", and "you Christians" do happen to take in a significant portion of the population of not only the United States, but the world, and like all others, are attempting to make sense and gain meaning of this concept of life. They are as varied as any other religous, social, cultural, or national group.  I do come from the bible belt. I am nearly fifty years of age and honestly do not recall one time in my life that anyone has tried to impose their Christian beliefs upon me or even inquired as to my religous beliefs.  From a personal observational standpoint, those who complain most about Christians trying to impose their beliefs upon them are those who openly attack or question Christianity's validity.  I have no desire to be preached to, no more than I have a desire to hear harangues from those who have some perceived problem with Christianity.  On a whole, I come in contact with the latter far more than the former. I suspect that a person is adult enough to disregard information they do not desire to know.  I do not spend a great deal of time in the Spiritual Forum.  I do not spend a great deal of time in the Adult Forum.  If either is your cup of tea, then go for it.  
Mankind goes through stages from religion to utipian concepts. We seek answers in our own ways.  If I have violated the guidelines for these discussions, I apologize, but fail to see that attack, counter-attack is productive or assists anyone in arriving at the truth.

[This message has been edited by Tim (02-28-2002 01:47 PM).]

Professor Gloom
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5 posted 02-28-2002 04:33 PM       View Profile for Professor Gloom   Email Professor Gloom   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Professor Gloom's Home Page   View IP for Professor Gloom

What exactly is Christianity?
That was the leading question.

To Opeth:

“This is christianity, not according to me, but according to the leaders of christianity - Billy Graham, Dr. Kennedy, etc...and all those denomintations that I have mentioned.” Opeth

This is the statement that brought the Sunday Morning TV comment.

“- My mind and eyes are so far open - that is why I know that christianity is no different than any other religion.” Opeth

I agree, there are similarities of all religions on the base level, so why do you attack this one so harshly?  No, don’t answer, this is a rhetorical question

It is obvious by your comment
“:Mainstream christianity labels the Morman faith as a cult. I know this, for I studied with the Mormans for a while.” Opeth
That you do not understand,
At least you could spell the name correctly “Mormon”
It’s Christianity capitalized (named after Christ a proper name).
Most Christians do not think of the Mormons as a cult, care to bring forth any quotes that suggest that any major religion says that?
Any that would call the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints a cult would be a minority, and you do a disservice to the many people that you slander by suggesting that it is widespread belief.

The answer to the prime question is what I stated

"Christianity is based on the teachings of Christ,"
How people vary in methods are no different that the variation in Islam or Hindu or the beliefs of Zen.

Respond if you care to,
I will not respond to any further rants from you on this subject,
I suggest you stick to basic poetry where your prejudices don’t show.

Gloom
Denise
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6 posted 02-28-2002 09:21 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

"If you state that you are a christian and do not believe in what I wrote above, then your church, your type of christianity is not of the mainstream and would be branded as heretical."

My beliefs are based on my understanding of the teachings found in Scripture and are not in complete accord with all that you have listed above. I'm sure I would be labeled a heretic by some. That doesn't bother me. I hold the same beliefs as did the Apostles Paul, Peter, John, James, etc. as well as Martin Luther and John Calvin and others of the Reformation who brought to light the age-old truths that had been buried for thousands of years.

The main tenant is the offer of salvation to sinful man as a gift (ie, without cost to the recipient) by God's grace through faith in the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, completely independent of man's works. It is a knowing, a trusting, that Christ's sacrifice was and is and always will be my complete sufficiency and my only means of entering heaven. There is nothing in me or of me that could attain this. I can't mix even a little bit of me into the equation. It's all of Him. Whatever differences denominations may have, this is the doctrine of utmost importance and the one by which they stand or fall, in my view.

Issues of obedience, good works, repentence, commitment, etc., are issues for the believer, after salvation, and in no way condition salvation, before or after. God is far more gracious, I believe, than most men dare give Him credit for.

"Mainstream" does not equal "correct". The one does not necessarily follow the other.

And as I said before, I did not start this thread to engage in futile wrangling over different doctrines. My heart is just burdened that Christianity gets a bad rap and is misrepresented and therefore turns people off and sends them running away...and they never even really heard God's message at all. They heard a mere man's thoughts on how man thinks salvation should be obtained. They heard a "religion". All religions tell man what man must achieve in order to be right with God. Christianity is not a religion, in that sense, for it is the only belief system that tells man that God has done all that is necessary and to rest in that glorious knowledge.

I just wanted to try to clear things up a bit in an effort to bring hope to those who may be searching for it.

Thank you all for your contributions.

Brad
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7 posted 02-28-2002 09:37 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm with Tim, I fail to see this going anywhere. Denise gave a concise view of the essence of Chrisitanity and it's of course legitimate to disagree but shouldn't we at least start with the things she said?

Mainstream is a notoriously amorphous term (not without value though), but it seems the arguments here are based on a group of Christians that I criticized in Serenity's Alley thread, they create us v. them worlds (Another question would be is it possible to avoid this?). This is not surprising, but that's not the point:

The point is Denise's statement that the acceptance of Christ requires no payment in return. You simply sincerely have to ask for it.

Do you believe this? Yes, no, maybe?

If so why or why not? She has already pointed out that a number of Christian organizations have missed the point, and I just don't get what arguing their positions as the 'true' Christianity (and then to assume because of that, Christianity is merely another religion) gets us.

European history, of course, doesn't really back up her position but doesn't that make the question more interesting?

Is this the way Christianity should be seen, not the way it is in this world?

---------------------------

For me, it begs a question. If you start from the position, "Something that makes no difference in practice, makes no difference at all" what does Christianity give us in the mundane, material world?

This is answered easily by arguing that the mundane, material world isn't important, but that seems pretty hard to square with how we live our lives.

I don't know, but questions such as these, I think, are worth asking and discussing knowing full well that we're asking the unanswerable.

Religion is not a high school math textbook with the answers in the back.

Brad
Denise
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8 posted 02-28-2002 10:30 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Thanks, Brad, for clarifying the issue at hand.

"Something that makes no difference in practice, makes no difference at all" what does Christianity give us in the mundane, material world?

Well, Brad, I guess the best way to answer this is by describing a family situation, wife/husband, parent/child. Suppose a husband was always fearful that if he didn't measure up perfectly to his wife's very demanding expectations, that he was history. Suppose a child lived in dread that if she didn't jump through all the right hoops to please her parents that they would disown her? Now suppose that you have a couple who are comfortable and relaxed with each other, that they can truly be who they are without fear of rejection. Suppose you have a child who knows without a doubt that no matter how badly she screws up, her parents will always be her parents and will always stand by her. Which of these situations do you suppose would foster the most amount of good will and love in the family that subsequently radiates outward toward society as a whole?

The only thing that works, the only thing that is real, the only thing that begets love and loyalty from the heart is unconditional love and acceptance. Love can't be conditional, otherwise it is not real love.

I see God's entire plan of redemption as His love letter to us, if you will. He gave us the Law simply to show us that we couldn't do it. He needed for us to see that we couldn't do it, that we were helpless, hopeless sinners, so that we would see our need of and accept His gracious offer of salvation. He paid the penalty, took what we deserved, and freely gave us life in Christ by simply believing Him for it, by simply taking Him at His word. You don't even have to ask for it. It's yours when you believe God for it, just as Abraham did. I think the realization of His great love, the gratefulness that is generated in the human heart because of it, brings a far greater chance of "right living" and benefit to society than does living under the Law in dread and fear.

He wants our love and the only way to get that is to offer us unconditional love.

Hey, it works for me!!

Jamie
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9 posted 02-28-2002 10:52 PM       View Profile for Jamie   Email Jamie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Jamie's Home Page   View IP for Jamie

the answers were in the back?

da** it all--
think of the wasted time....heh

J

There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar.
byron

jenni
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10 posted 03-01-2002 04:10 AM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni

i'd just like to say that the whole notion of anyone being "branded a heretic" for disagreeing with some point of doctrine, or even of non-christians suffering eternal damnation in a fiery hell for non-believing, bears absolutely no resemblence to anything i've ever heard in church.  

i grew up as a presbyterian -- hard to get more "mainstream" than that -- and i attended sunday school and went to church fairly regularly, and the idea that my church thought anyone a "heretic" or an "infidel" is just laughable.  nothing could be further from the truth.  i certainly have never thought anything like that, and not because i grew to disagree with what i was taught... it was never taught in the first place.

in fact, i'm not even sure i can identify a presbyterian point of "doctrine", it being so unemphasized in the church.  true, we go to church on sundays, not saturdays, and consider sunday to be the sabbath, i suppose, but if seventh day adventists favor saturdays, who cares?  roman catholics go to confession, they have shrines to the virgin mary and do a heck of a lot of other things presbyterians don't... who cares?  presbyterians do not believe that one must be "born again" to be accepted into heaven, not in the same sense that certain evangelical faiths do... but again, so what?  no one ever taught me anything other than that we are all god's children.  i don't think presbyterians are anything special or unsual in this regard, either; i've never known or met any roman catholic, lutheran, methodist, baptist, etc., who seriously thought i was heretic or was going to hell because i wasn't a member of their denomination.

being a "christian", to me, is simply believing that jesus of nazareth lived, that he was the son of god, that he was crucified, was dead and buried, rose from the dead to ascend into heaven, and that his death and resurrection was in atonement for the sins of mankind.  there are a myriad of denominations with a myriad of differences on certain other points, yes, but certainly the mainstream attitude toward doctrinal differences in modern times is something between a yawn and a mild "how about that" curiosity.  

i know this was not always the case in the long and often troubled history of christianity, and may in fact not be entirely universal among its practitioners today, but the idea of heresy is just so far out of the norm today that the notion indeed seems somewhat quaint.

undoutedly, someone will be able to cite an example of some christian somewhere squawking about heresy and damning nonbelievers to hell.  i don't know of any religion in the world that doesn't incorporate a wide spectrum of beliefs, from the loosey-gooseys to the conservative zealots.  but i think the various responses from the different christian denominations to the september 11 attacks are instructive here.  no leader or spokesperson for any leading denomination has said anything denigrating islam as a religion, or suggested that its followers are bound for hell or any such place; in fact, like our secular leaders, they've been careful to emphasize that condemnations of the terrorists are NOT in any way condemnations of islam itself.  hardly the behavior of people who seriously think muslims are damned because they are not believers.  

anyway, i just thought i'd throw that in here.  thanks for listening, lol.

jenni

[This message has been edited by jenni (03-01-2002 04:18 AM).]

Not A Poet
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11 posted 03-01-2002 02:09 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

One small comment by Opeth above that I think was missed or at least not mentioned again.

quote:
- Did you not read in my post that it is not my perception, but what is taught by "mainstream" christianity.


Actually, I did read that and I think the Prof did too. But I would claim that is also only your perception of what is taught by "mainstream" Christianity.

Pete

Never express yourself more clearly than you can think - Niels Bohr

Opeth
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12 posted 03-01-2002 02:24 PM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

My perception?

Okay...let me see...When I went to a baptist church in Memphis TN, the preacher taught the rules of the Baptist faith, which included:  Sunday as the sabbath, immortal soul, eternal hellfire, the MormOn faith is a cult, etc.

Later, I studies with the Pentacostals and that faith basically agreed with the Baptists in all of the previous doctrines above.

Both of these "mainstream" "bible belt" denominations also repeatedly stressed the fact that one MUST be born again to be saved.
The only difference between those 2 denoms was that the Baptists believe that once saved always saved and the Pentacostals believed one could lose their salvation.

Not my perception, but what was taught.

I have read books by theologians of many of the Protestant faith that concur what I just posted. If you are intetested in finding any of them, go on-line or visit your local library.

Now with that being said, I know that there are other Christian faiths that may not adhere to the previously mentioned doctrines. I never said otherwise. Find out for yourselves.  Ask your preacher if there is an immortal soul, or if there is an eternal damnation, or if there is a trinity, etc.

I believe I was accused of being prejudiced. A personal attack of which I refrained and will refrain from.

To call me or anybody prejudiced without ever meeting with a person in person shows a lack of wisdom on the part of the accuser.

As for subject matter of this thread, I am not attacking any individual. I am attacking the christian religion for its doctrines. If one can't determine the difference in the two...so be it.

[This message has been edited by Opeth (03-01-2002 02:29 PM).]

Brad
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13 posted 03-01-2002 05:38 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

*sigh*

Opeth,

Religion is always a tough subject, one that gets people going faster than a heartbeat in, well, faster than a heartbeat.

Amazingly enough, you seem to be arguing implicitly that Denise's point is wrong, that you're admittedly quick description is correct and that, therefore, Christianity is merely another religion (and therefore not worth the time?).

Were you attacked?

As far as I can tell, someone said you should have a more open mind (just get used to that one) and stick to poety where your prejudices don't show (but of course your prejudices show in poetry as do mine).

They certainly aren't praise, but a certain freedom is necessary if we're going to allow this discussion to move in interesting directions . So far, you have yet to address the main topic, Denise's point about the gift.

Why not?

So far, your argument is that what you've been taught is mainstream but most who have posted contend that it is not. Few, I think, can refute that what you've said isn't a part of some Christianity somewhere; the question is whether it is mainstream, the majority, normal, the usual etc.

But mainstream, by definition, is a matter of perception.  

I don't know how you can prove that everybody here is wrong except perhaps statistically (and we all know what that means) and even that would beg the question whether people see hell fire as literal or metaphorical. If you want, we can also say that Denise's essence is a matter of perception (this is undeniable), but she also believes that this is the correct way to look at it. Apparently, you view your view as the correct way to look at it.

What do we do here?

We can either keep looking/talking past each other or we can attempt to find a few points of agreement and move from there.

What do you, personally, think about Denise's point?

Because, however much you attempt an 'objective' -- does anybody really want me to go there again?   -- point of view, religion is always personal.

thanks for listening,
Brad

[This message has been edited by Brad (03-01-2002 05:40 PM).]

Phaedrus
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14 posted 03-01-2002 06:33 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


I read the salvation link and have a couple of questions:

Which God are we talking about, or are they all the same?

If salvation is free does that mean I don’t have to do or give anything to get it?
jenni
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15 posted 03-01-2002 06:58 PM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni

brad--

you wrote that european history does not seem to support the idea of "the offer of salvation to sinful man as a gift (ie, without cost to the recipient) by God's grace through faith in the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, completely independent of man's works" (as denise very nicely expressed it).  i think you're wrong about that; the argument of "faith vs. works" -- or justification through the external action of man as against justification through faith alone -- was the very foundation of the protestant reformation, an argument that luther, calvin, tyndale, knox et al. won in the long run.  the whole debate is, i believe, basically moot today.

i think denise is absolutely right: "Issues of obedience, good works, repentence, commitment, etc., are issues for the believer, after salvation, and in no way condition salvation, before or after."  i don't think anyone would seriously argue today that one could buy an indulgence from the pope, say (or from anyone else), or fund the building of a cathedral or hospital, and be saved.  this was not always the case, and the re-formation of christian theology on this point was the central purpose of luther, et al. from 1517 onwards.

jenni
Brad
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16 posted 03-01-2002 07:47 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I see your point, but I don't know how to reconcile Luther's anti-semitism with Denise's real world example.

But fair enough, I suppose you could see European history as a kind of dialectical maturation process of Christianity (in this sense, Liberalism's Christian roots would be more emphasized than I usually assume).

Of course, we're not there yet.

In a way, I like this approach, it brings up something that I had planned to add in other religious threads but never got around to it. What this means is that we understand the essence of Christianity better than the early Christians did. This may seem counter-intuitive (because we still follow Plato) but in fact there is no contradition. And there are other examples that back it up (We know more about Egypt than the Greeks did, we know more about the Greeks than the Medieval Europeans did, we know more about Biblical times than the Romantics did).

It's an interesting point.

Brad
Denise
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17 posted 03-01-2002 09:36 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Phaedrus, In response to your questions, I am going to copy and paste from different sources that I feel best express the Christian belief, as they say it better than I can.

The Godhead

We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections, and worthy of precisely the same homage, confidence, and obedience. (Matt. 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; John 1:14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 1:4-6)

Salvation

A person is saved by God's grace (unmerited favor) alone.  What Jesus did when He died on the cross was give you a free gift.  Yes, Free! (Romans 3:24; 5:15 -17; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 2:8).  A gift that is based on His finished work alone.  All that God asks you to do in order to receive this free gift of salvation is to believe it.  It is that simple.

Who or What is the object of your faith?  Is it your own performance and works?  Is it a church?  Is it a religion?  Is it anything other than Jesus Christ?  All God asks in order for you to receive eternal life is make Jesus Christ the object of your faith.  All God asks is that you believe that Jesus died and resurrected for your sins.  God is not asking you to believe in your own works, or in what you do or don't do, or whether you are good or bad, or if you are a member of the right church or religion.  God is asking you to simply believe in the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ!  It is that simple! (John 3:16; John 3:36; John 6:47; Acts 16:31).

God does not make it hard for us!  He has made it so simple that a small child can understand it.  Faith is simple - in fact, it is so simple millions miss it! What must you do to be saved? Do you need to give your life to God first?  Do you need to make a commitment to God first?  Do you need to turn over the controls of your life and submit to God's mastery and Lordship first?  Do you need to clean up your life and start keeping God's laws and commandments first?  Do you need to start doing good works first?  Do you need to pray first?  Do you need to confess, repent or overcome a sin first?  Do you need to join the right church first?  No! No! No!  God says, believe! (John 3:16; John 3:36; John 6:47; Acts 16:31). Simply believe, only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal salvation and you will be saved.

The faith does not need to be great.  Jesus Christ said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 17:20; Luke 13:18-19). But Jesus Christ must be the object of that faith.  Faith the size of a mustard seed grain will save you if it is in Christ alone.  But even if your faith is the size of Mount Everest it will not save you if it is in your own attempts to earn your way into heaven or in anything other than Christ - alone.

The Good News is that Jesus paid the complete price for our eternal salvation (2 Corinthians 8:9; Colossians 2:13-14; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). There is nothing left for us to pay. No cost to count. Just a free gift to receive by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. God accepts only what Christ has done, not what we do.  Jesus' act was the only perfect act of contrition.  Jesus alone had the purity of God, for He was Himself divine.  Therefore He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Now that is good news.

You agree with what God says concerning you -that you are a sinner.  You realize that you are completely powerless to love God and man the way that God requires for entrance into heaven. You recognize your real, sinful condition. You realize that you are unable to do anything to remove the guilt of your sins.  Now all that is left for you to do is believe that Jesus Christ pardoned and removed from His sight all of your past, present and future sins when He willingly died on that Roman cross for you.  Believe that it is only because of Him that you are freely receiving this gift of salvation and that there are no other requirements.  It is based entirely on His grace and His finished work! And if you simply believe you will be saved and you will receive His gift of eternal life.

I hope these help to answer your questions. Of course, the best place to examine these is in the Bible.

Jenni, yes, I agree that the Reformation brought to light the long obscured truth of salvation "by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone." I don't see though that today it is a moot point, unfortunately. Christendom on a large scale seems to be slowly sinking backwards toward the theology of the Middle Ages in as much as they mix man's efforts, submission, obedience, etc. with faith. Grace has to remain unmixed or it is no longer grace, not only for salvation but for living the Christian life ("The just shall live by faith"). The mind of man just seems to have a real struggle with that. How can God be so gracious?!

Brad, you don't have to struggle to reconcile any of man's shortcomings, failings, or blind spots with my real life example. Sanctification is an ongoing lifelong process as the believer yields his thoughts, opinions, etc. to God. It's something that is never finished in this lifetime and once God has delivered us from one thing, we discover another area that needs to be placed under His light. In my example I asked which life situations did you think had the better chance of fostering good-will and love and producing "right living". There is a reason why God's love has to be unconditional -because we're not perfect and won't be this side of heaven.

Also, I don't think that we have a greater understanding of Christianity than did the earliest Christians. They had it right. But it was soon corrupted toward the late 1st Century, early 2nd Century, shortly after the death of the Apostles, as I understand it, and the truths of God's free gift to undeserving sinners through faith in Christ did not reemerge with large scale benefit to mankind until the Reformation, although I am sure there were people in all ages that understood it and believed it.

Thanks for your participation, everyone!

Jamie, I didn't know the answers were in the back of the book either! Geesh, all that studying for nothing?!


Stephanos
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18 posted 03-01-2002 11:30 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Dogma is important, but sometimes clouds the issues...  especially when simplicity is needed to prepare the way for greater understanding.  Only when these basic tenets are laid (common to all orthodox Christianity), can discussions of great (or not so great) theological weight be held.  No need to get into Arminianism Vs. Calvanism, or any other ism until we discuss some basics.  These tend to confuse people at the first.  And most people could care less about the concept of the "Trinity" until they first give God some serious thought, and actually percieve his voice in their spirit, and understand they need him... not religion, but him.


Christianity 101...

God created the world with great glory and purpose,  yet granted his creation the power of free will.  The archetypal heads of humanity (Adam and Eve), were tempted and chose to turn away from God's truth, thus bringing sin into our genes (and spirits).  Thus...

We have been born into a humanity infected with a terrible cancerous  problem... sin.

Sin, because of God's judgement, leads to death and separation from God... both individually and corporately.  Without some fix, we are in dire straits.

But before the world or humanity was ever created, (in the eternal plan of God), he decided to step into time as a man himself and solve the sin problem for all who would believe.

Jesus of Nazereth was born of a virgin Mary ...lived a life of doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching the Kingdom of God... was unjustly put to death by the established religious leaders of that day... to the dismay of his enemies and friends, rose bodily from the dead, appeared to many with great glory, then ascended into Heaven with the promise of his return to restore all things and Judge all who have lived.

His discouraged disciples became mighty apostles, and preached the message that  "forgiveness of sins are given through his name"... that his death on the cross was a payment for everything we could never pay.  While Justice without mercy was set against us... Mercy himself came and took the brunt of the punishment for us at the cross.  With him and trusting in him, we are forgiven and we will be privileged to see all things restored to a greater glory that Eden itself, and are brought back into a RELATIONSHIP with the Father.  Without him, and not believing him, we will face Justice without mercy, and eternity irreversibly disconnected from God...  the fountain-head of order, peace, and goodness... LIFE himself.

Regardless of doctrinal semantics, and bickering over reasons why the "mainstream" belief is right or not... the above is a paraphrased statement of a core belief held by Christians from the start, taught by Jesus and his apostles...and it still remains.

The question is only will we believe.

Stephen.

(This paraphrase is supported by a myriad of scripture and testimony of Christians since the first century-  Email me for any questions)


Brad
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19 posted 03-02-2002 12:25 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This is not a shortcoming:

"I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated."

--Martin Luther

I'm not attacking Christianity here, but at some point history and all of its messiness has to enter the conversation.

And it's the disease metaphor again.

Brad
Stephanos
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20 posted 03-02-2002 12:36 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad...

to put it simply Luther was wrong in this matter...  VERY wrong.  And Many Christians recognize this.  Another example of human fallibility in the history of the Church.

Stephen.
Denise
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21 posted 03-02-2002 03:01 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Brad,

There is no denying the messiness found in history in man's practice of Christianity. Luther definitely went way too far, inexcusably so, in calling for the rulers of his land to engage in the burning of synagogues and the driving out of the Jews from the land in response to their rejecting the Gospel of Christ, and according to Luther, their arrogance toward and mistreatment of Gentiles, or perceived mistreatment. (I don't know, I wasn't there...I may be old, but I ain't that old!     ). It seemed to insence Luther that the Jews (according to Luther) were not acting as grateful guests in a land not their own, but instead fancied themselves as the "masters" and the Gentiles as their "servants", borne out by the fact, I suppose, that the majority of the Jews had become business owners employing the Gentiles, and had come to enjoy lives of wealth, comfort and luxury at the expense of the sweat and toil of the Gentiles. That being the case, Luther definitely erred in his response to that situation, grievously.

As Christians we are called to live on a higher plane than that. We are called upon to suffer all things, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to love our enemies and to do good to all men, to not repay evil with evil. This can only be achieved as we abide in Him, rest in Him, submit our every thought, opinion and desire to Him and allow Him to live His very life through us. Of course, it should go without saying that no one does this perfectly and consistently. But man's failings in no way diminish the work of the Cross. Indeed, they can only point to the absolute necessity of it.

When we trust in Christ for salvation, God justifies us (positionally) at that moment and at that moment our old sin nature is crucified with Him (the cancer is excised and the heart is circumcised, if you will)and we are made a new creation, and this is all of God's doing and not our own, and we are to believe God on these points and reckon it to be so. But sin still dwells in our physical bodies and that will be so as long as we have these physical bodies. Victory over sin, experientally, in the hear and now, comes as we keep our focus on what He has declared that He has done on our behalf and as we allow ourselves to bask in His unconditional love and grace, thus allowing Him to live His very life through these bodies. And so we can see how we are to even live by faith ("the just shall live by faith"), as we don't hang the Law or a list of rules, even the commands to love, turn the other cheek, do good to all men, etc., before our eyes in an attempt to perform these deeds through our own strength or efforts (flesh) because "in our flesh dwells no good thing", but believe that they will be perfomed by the very strength of Christ who indwells us as we rest in Him and trust Him to do just as He promised to do on our behalf.  Sadly, many Christians think that they have to live this life in their own strength. They freely accept God's grace for salvation but then think the rest of the work is up to them. They will not experience the increasingly victorious life until they realize whose responsibility it is to live it. Christ took that responsibility as His own.

Do Christians sin, sometimes even grievously, sometimes even intentionally, sometimes out of ignorance? An honest answer is yes. Of course they do and they will not become perfectly sinless in this lifetime. Are they forgiven anyway? The Cross of Christ is the emphatic answer, YES.

[This message has been edited by Denise (03-02-2002 03:13 PM).]

Phaedrus
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22 posted 03-03-2002 12:58 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


Denise,

You said:

“We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections, and worthy of precisely the same homage, confidence, and obedience. (Matt. 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; John 1:14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 1:4-6)”

Is this a different God from Allah, Buddha etc. and if so which is superior?

You also said:

“A person is saved by God's grace (unmerited favor) alone. What Jesus did when He died on the cross was give you a free gift. Yes, Free! (Romans 3:24; 5:15 -17; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 2:8). A gift that is based on His finished work alone. All that God asks you to do in order to receive this free gift of salvation is to believe it. It is that simple.”

How can this gift be “Free” if there are conditions attached, is this not better described as a reward, something you have to earn by fulfilling the attached conditions?
Denise
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23 posted 03-03-2002 02:59 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Phaedrus,

Christians believe that He is the one and the only eternal God, the creator and sustainer of the universe and the redeemer of mankind, and He says that besides Him there is none other. He is the "First and the Last, the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Revelations 22:13). He is the great "I AM" (Exodus 3:14). In Exodus 3:15 He states: "And God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' "This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations." In the gospel of John chapter 8 verse 58, we see: Jesus said to them "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am".

We do not believe that He is Allah or Buddha. I know that particularly in this day and age, that this is not a politically correct thing to say. But God in not politically correct. He tells it like it is.

As pertains to salvation, receiving His gift through faith in what He has already done is not a meritorious work. It can be compared simply and logically to accepting a gift as one would from a friend or loved one, say as on the occasion of one's birthday or some other special occasion. The giver of the gift has bought or made something and offers it to you. All you do is receive it. That in no way can be seen as a "reward"...it is a gift. Faith is just the "hands", so to speak, by which one receives this spiritual gift, just as with human hands one receives a physical gift. Would someone honestly look at receiving a gift from someone as a condition in the sense of earning a reward? Of course not. In fact, God's salvation is so great that He even says that faith, those "hands" by which to receive, even comes to us as a gift as we hear the word of God. It is not something that we work up somehow within ourselves, struggling in some way in order to produce those "hands". In Romans chapter 10 verse 17 we read: And so faith cometh by hearing, hearing the word of God. And In Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9 we read: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

No other "god" and no religion proclaims nor even pretends to give such glorious gifts to undeserving sinful man. He offers this gift to "Whosoever will". It is freely available to anyone who wants it. God is no respecter of persons, he shows no partiality, in other words. His gift is just that, a gift to sinners, not a reward for the righteous (for none are righteous in His sight in and of themselves). The receiving heart is a humble heart, recognizing its complete and utter inability to earn salvation. It must be received as a gift.

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3: 14-16

I pray that God takes His words contained herein to bless the hearts of many.


Ron
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24 posted 03-03-2002 03:39 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
We do not believe that He is Allah or Buddha.

Denise, you might want to read Who is Allah? before being too definitive. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all spring from the same roots.
 
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