Monday, October 10, 2011

Truth in Labeling

I have a little proposal I would like to make. I want all those who minister or write in the name of Christ to be labeled properly. I mean that it would be nice to know where a person is coming from when he/she makes some statement regarding the Bible or the church.

I found out early in my Christian life that not everyone who claimed to be an authority on the Bible, for example, was approaching it the way that it should be approached. I learned that there were supposed experts on the Bible who denied the divine inspiration of the scriptures and the deity and substitutionary sacrifice and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. It would be nice if I knew that before I wasted a bunch of money on your book or listened to one of your sermons.

I used to go to Christian bookstores and skim through a book looking for clues as to what this author might believe. After a while, I got good at knowing not just certain authors' views, but what publishers I could or could not trust.

Now I have applied my principle to those who are orthodox and those who are heterodox, but it should apply to subgroups as well, because I not only want to know whether or not you actually believe the message of the Bible, but I want to know what Christian category you fall into. Are you orthodox or heretic, Calvinist or Arminian, Pentecostal or cessationist or something in between, dispensationalist or covenantal, inerrantist or not?

Right now when you pick up a Christian book and look at the back of it you see the author's bio. It might read:
Dr. I. M. Smarterthanyou, distinguished professor of all knowledge at the University of Whatever. Dr. Smarterthanyou has every degree in biblical studies know to humankind.

I have to say that this is not all that helpful. I do not need his curriculum vitae. I need to know what he believes about the Bible. How about something like this:
Dr. Smarterthanyou grew up in a fundamentalist home, but was ruined at an apostate seminary and now teaches that God does not really care what you do as long as you are tolerant and not a fundamentalist.

Okay, I am making a joke, but I am making a serious point. What I would actually suggest is something useful and informative. For example:
Dr. Hubris is a Calvinist and dispensationalist who believes in the inerrancy of scripture, but will have nothing to do with anything charismatic or Pentecostal.

Another example: Pastor Allthingstoallpeople is senior pastor of the largest church in the known universe. He's basically orthodox, but is not in-your-face about it. He is charismatic, but never preaches it in public lest he turn certain people off. He has some good things to say, but does not like to step on anyone's toes. He prefers secular language to biblical or religious language while remaining in historic Christian tradition.

I would find this much more useful. I want to know what he believes about the Bible and about Jesus and how he views the scripture. It does not mean that I will not read his book if I disagree with him, but it will help me to make a decision about it.

Are you catching my drift? I just want to know where you are coming from.

Another, less serious, but important suggestion - let ministers and people who minister in the name of Christ carry an authenticated Christian ID card. Now I know that I will hear it from the crowd who oppose ID cards because it is too "Big Brother" or too world governmentalish for them. But hear me out. I am limiting it to certain people.

I have long been aware that "false brethren have crept" into our churches who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God and who secretly "deny the Lord who bought them". In other words, there are even ordained ministers and bishops who say that they are Christian, but who are not even orthodox in their beliefs. Others commit evil and call it good. Just this past week, a practicing, admitted homosexual was ordained in a Presbyterian denomination.

I am just saying that it would be nice if we could have a brief rundown of what you believe (and practice) before you speak in church without my trying to discern it by listening carefully and reading between the lines or asking others who know you well.

Am I suggesting a new inquisition? No, just a little honesty. When you buy a product in the store, it has to include certain information on the label. We should not have to eat it to find out that it contains something we are allergic to.

All right, I know that this is not going to happen and I know there would be fraud and all that, but think about it.

I will start this whole thing off, hoping others will follow my example.

Regarding the Bible: Inerrantist, preferring a more literal reading than most scholars today. I like formal equivalence (word-for-word translations).
Fundamental Doctrines: Perfectly orthodox - Apostles' Creed and all that.
Tradition: Protestant - Pentecostal branch
Specifics: Full Gospel - belief in divine healing in the atonement and God's promises to meet our every need - spirit, soul, body, family, finances, etc. Salvation for the whole person (Shalom).
Eschatology: Pretribulational, premillennial, dispensationalist - but not gloomy (somewhere between classical and progressive).
Sacraments: Regarding the Lord's Supper - Anglican; regarding baptism - Baptist
Holiness: Wesleyan emphasis on grace and perfection; anti-legalistic.

I realize that this is too much information to start with. The first two or three categories should be enough to start. I reiterate that this information should be used with discretion. I read those who are orthodox but not inerrantist. I have benefited from their works and sermons. I have benefited from some Catholic works as well. But I like to know that they are Catholic before I read or listen. Yes, it will change the way I hear them, but it might help me to see something positive in Catholicism that I had not seen before.

Do not let my plea fall to the ground. Join today in this crusade. What would you put on your ID card?

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