I have been re-thinking the importance of dogmatic assertions concerning the genuine doctrines of the Christian faith and find myself caught between what seems to be opposing standpoints. I say, “seems to be,” because I am convinced that there is really only one correct interpretation of God’s Word; but to a mortal flawed human such as I am, there oftentimes seems to be areas that are not clear. We can know what we know and still not have answers to every situation, we can be firmly rooted in the faith and still not have the answers to some counterpoints raised by those outside the faith. Since I believe that there exists absolute truth in the Scriptures and since I believe that contradictions are impossible when the text is correctly understood; I am left with only my own ignorance to explain the difficulties I encounter.
What precipitated this latest round of head-scratching is the loss of a friend of mine. I didn’t know Billy all that long but he was the kind of a guy who left a lasting impression even after a short encounter. Billy was a salesman, and that was more of an extension of who he was rather than a vocation he worked to excel at. While there were people who he was less than fond of; he found no currency in disliking anyone. If you were an Eskimo you wouldn’t buy ice from him because he was able to sell so well as much as you would buy it because he just made you feel like doing something to thank him for being who he was. Billy isn’t a Christian – well, not what some would call Christian; he was a member of one of those fringe faiths who call on Jesus, but the Jesus they call on is theologically not the Christ of the Bible.
Now I have had the apologetic argument with his wife, (an acquaintance of many years), and have had a little too much fun in pointing out the shortcomings of the church she proclaims but when Billy had his stroke and passed; arguing the validity of religious doctrine didn’t seem like the role that needed to be played. Grief needs to be grieved and even the friends of Job sat silent for a week before offering anything by way of conversation. Not that I think that a quasi-faith is more sound today than I did a couple of weeks ago, but as Solomon teaches, “For everything there is a season.” I know that the last thing a grieving widow wants to hear, or even think about, is whether or not the faith she is depending on to hold it all together is biblically correct.
The Christian knows, if nothing else, that the determination of heaven or hell lies in the relationship between the heart of the believer and the nature of God. We cannot know the condition of another person’s eternal standing in the heavenly realm any more than we can understand the wantonness of our own wandering hearts. Who hasn’t at some point wondered whether or not they, themselves, were truly saved? How can we then stand on our soap boxes and point our pious fingers at others and condemn them to hell for having too little faith, or a flawed or non-existent faith in the one true God? We know that the only way to eternal life is by faith in the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, and we also know that there are many religions that are not truly Christian but we can never suppose that we are able to judge the hearts of those, in those religions.
So what are we to do? We must stand solidly on the biblical principles of the Christian faith and try to educate the non-believer or less mature, so that they can understand the basics of Christianity as well as the things that Christianity does not teach. The essentials are, after all, essential. We will not one day be Gods ourselves, we will not all make it to heaven, there are those among us who will never be given the right to be called children of God and there is no reason to believe that we create our own reality; these are things that arise from the world of the cults and those who seek to profit from an un-knowing public. One triune God, one path to salvation, the universal sinfulness of humankind and the desperate condition of the human race are all things which we need to have firmly rooted in our beings so that we can understand the reasons that God acts in the ways He does.
If we believe in Jesus as the only door to the Father then we are bound to listen to what He tells us. It’s not that we can ever be good enough to face God on our own merit by doing everything we are told, (none of us can do that anyway), but if we are truly ones who have been saved by grace, then we should desire to walk as closely as we can with the model of our destiny, Jesus. Since Jesus tells us that we can trust the Scriptures, we can, and since they were given so that we might know the God of creation we ought to try to get to know Him. God wants that relationship with us; rather, God wants us to form a relationship with Him through His only begotten Son; that can only be had by learning who God really is.
Even though we may know someone who has never seemed to embrace the true God of creation and accept Jesus as his means of salvation, we cannot know that the genuine relationship required for saving faith doesn’t exist within him. Romans 1:20 must be kept in the front of our minds: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This being so, the reverse is equally valid: God’s grace through Jesus is possibly present in someone we might think of as a non-believer because of the natural evidence around him, the same natural evidence of that which has been made that leaves us being without excuse!
Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons or even the Roman Catholics any less saved than evangelical Christians simply because they believe in some things that we don’t? Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Who are we to decide whether or not someone has what’s required to enter heaven? I have concluded that while I am well within the pale of correctness to assert the fundamentals of the Christian faith, I need not try to determine the ultimate eternal state of anyone else. It is enough to stand for biblical truth and the farthest I should ever go in regard to the faith of others is to determine whether or not the tenets of a faith are indeed biblical.
I have no right to judge the heart of any man, especially when I barely know my own, but I can discern the biblical correctness of fringe theologies and I’m actually called to do such things. We are to test the spirits to see if they are of God, we are to contend for the faith and be on our guard against false doctrines but we are not sent to tell anyone that their loved ones went to hell because they conformed to doctrines like infant baptism, not eating certain foods on certain days, or any other ritual practice. The American Indian may be as heaven bound as anyone else, we cannot know. The Muslim, the Hindu, the monk in the temples of the Andes mountains may all have forged genuine saving faiths in the biblical Jesus without their faith’s doctrines being accurate.
This is when the Scripture that says to “judge-not” comes into play. Have we so mastered our own evil propensities that we have time enough to judge others? Are we such perfect lambs that we can help weed out the ones that God should ignore as goats? I say that if we have time enough for that, then we are simply wasting the time we have been given to do good, to edify the church, to be the likeness of the Son we are called to be. If we think so highly of ourselves that we can make unbiblical, doctrinally dogmatic judgments about others, how will we ever find time to do anything which is…
All for the Glory of Christ