Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hierarchy of Belief

What must one believe to be a Christian? Let me lay it out on a scale, from the most fundamental and necessary to the least. Only one who believes the entire scale can truly call him or herself a Bible-believing Christian, and I would add, truly a person of faith in the fullest sense of the word. Will people who believe less than the whole scale be saved? Yes, I do think that is possible, but they are weak in faith and limited in their growth into Christ.
  • Jesus rose from the dead
  • Jesus is the Son of God, God with us
  • Jesus is our leader, unquestioned, as is everything he taught and said
  • The Old Testament is true, every jot and tittle
  • Moses was an actual deliverer, the Exodus an actual migration
  • Noah was an actual person, the Flood an actual event
  • Adam and Eve were actual persons, the Creation Week an actual occurrence
What is generally concentrated on in discussions of Christian doctrine is the why's and how's (e.g. penal substitution, grace rather than works, etc.), but often at the cost of ignoring what is actually the foundation underlying everything. Christianity starts with an event--Jesus rising from the dead. If you buy the top of the list, the next three are logically consequent in turn, leading to the last three. One repercussion: a theistic evolutionist is not in any way, shape or form, a biblical Christian.


marvin said...

I think this is something all groups will agree with upon.

Nikos said...

Don't you have to believe that the Word of God is inspired and God's Word to us. This seems so basic that it gets over looked.

SLW said...

Hello Marvin,
I would hope so anyhow. ;-)

SLW said...

Hello Nikos, welcome to the Sound.

I think that general issue would fall under "The Old Testament is true, every jot and tittle.

The New Testament would fall under "everything he taught and said," even though it was not written until about 20 years into the life of the Church, and then not fully understood as such for maybe close to 100 years. It still represents what Jesus taught and entrusted to the Apostles, and what he empowered those Apostles to establish.

David said...

I may be misunderstanding the reasoning here, but given the way you've tied various statements together, it appears to me that if there was no Global Flood, then much of Christiainity would be doubt.

SLW said...

Hello David, welcome to the Sound.

Jesus believed in the Flood, so far as we can tell from his statements about the actual incident (e.g. Matthew 24:37-8) and his view of the OT in general (e.g. Matthew 5:17). If the Son of God took the Flood to be a verity, I see no other viable approach for us than to do so as well. Although, I suppose one could attempt to approach the subject from the angle you suggested, I think the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the "evidence" that verifies the Flood, rather than the Flood verifying that Jesus rose from the dead (Christianity).

David said...

I understand what you are saying when you state that "the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the "evidence" that verifies the Flood".

But what if there actually was no Global Flood? You position seems to tie Christianity to a requirement that something be true about the physical or natural world. In this case, the "something" is a flood. What if the natural world is different from what it would have to be in order to support Christiainty? What if there was no flood?

SLW said...

You position seems to tie Christianity to a requirement that something be true about the physical or natural world.

Yes, that is so--that Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead. That is what we have the witness of the Apostles stating, within recorded time in history, and which is verified by the reception of the Holy Spirit by those that believe.

I know the Flood is not accepted among geologists, but for the believer in Christ's resurrection, the choice is between the testimony of him who rose from the dead or the interpretation of the geologic record by those that have not risen from the dead. Is their state of knowledge perfect enough, that on the basis of it, one would be well-advised to trash that of Christ? I certainly don't think so.

So when you ask, "what if there was no flood?" I say, impossible.

David said...

"That is what we have the witness of the Apostles stating."

Were you there? No. I wasn't there either. So, the conclusion that that Jesus rose from the dead is based on evaluation of historical data, just like the conclusions about flood/no flood. Futher more, in the case of the resurrection, the data in question are all in the form of human writing, and I think that it's clear that the human-written record may be quite flawed. Say what you will about rocks and fossils, at least they weren't created by flawed humans. As far as the knowledge of Jesus is concerned, well, Jesus didn't actually write down his views, right?

So, is your state of knowledge perfect enough to know with absolute certainty that this event (resurrection) occurred? I certainly don't think so.

Please don't misunderstand my tone here. I'm not trying to be rude or snarky or sarcastic at all. Not in the least. I'm just trying to point out that whether we are talking about human history or geology, there will always be many uncertainties. I can't say that it's "impossible" that Jesus rose from the dead, but on the other hand, I don't see how you can say it's "impossible" that there was no global flood.

Is it really "impossible" that there wasn't a global flood? Not only is it not "impossible", the data suggest that it's very, very, very likely that that there wasn't a global flood. There are libraries of data that suggest that there was no global flood. I honestly don't see how the data can be ignored, and that's one reason why I think it's a flawed strategy to tie Christianity to the requirement that this particular something be true about the physical or natural world.

As an exmple, you're in Pennsylvania, right? How far beneath the surface is the Marcellus shale?

SLW said...

Thank you for not being snarky. I didn't take your comments that way, and have appreciated your contributions.

I understand the rationality of your viewpoint, and wouldn't argue against its logic. Christianity, at its most fundamental is a faith perspective, not a rational one. That does not mean that Christianity is irrational, but that it requires a threshold of faith to embrace (and that starts with acknowledging the resurrection of a dead guy). It's not that there isn't good evidence for the event, but that it's of a nature that if a person is disposed to dismiss it, God hasn't put it forth in a way that requires such a one to spit into the wind in order to do so.

The book of Hebrews describes faith thusly: "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Faith is certainly informed by facts, but is not formed from them. For instance, the fact of existence makes it plausible that there is a cause of existence. That is not a slam dunk for the existence of God, but if one believes in God, it certainly is validating. Similarly, there is an ancient testimony concerning one who rose from the dead, which exerts life-changing impact on those who believe it to this day. That is not a slam dunk establishing the resurrection of Christ, but that those original witnesses were willing to die to spread that testimony, and it changes lives today certainly is validating.

Faith is not a rational exercise of investigation that results in an incontrovertible finding of fact. Faith in Christ is a conviction stirred by the Spirit of God, that interprets facts in a way not limited by the merely rational. Faith is something that arises out of an encounter with the divine. That is not to say that faith requires one to park his or her brain, but that there is more to life than meets the eye and faith is what is needed to access that. Without faith facts can look one way, with faith, they can look another.

I don't think the geologic record, in the absence of any other information, would lead anyone to the conclusions of Genesis. Yet, Jesus said it was so. Having trusted Christ, I've come to experience him, and I'm willing to trust his judgment. All those libraries of counter interpretation of facts cannot, for me, trump the judgment of one who rose from the dead.

David said...

Thank you for the clarity and honesty of your answer. I think that I understand your position, and I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. Cheers.