Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, January 7, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections On Faith For the Years of Winter

“You cannot be a Christian and not believe in a spirit world.” That is a direct Twitter quote. It has gotten a lot of retweets, so it must be true. Well…

I agree with that statement, almost, but I have some problems with it.

In the first place, it’s a convoluted sentence. Double negatives are always confusing.

More importantly, I am leery of any “You can’t be a Christian unless…” statement. There are a lot of ways to be a Christian, and I doubt that any of them are exclusive. I doubt that God says about any part of Christian faith, “You can’t be a Christian unless…”

Well, I may have to take that back. I’m not sure if you can be a Christian if you don’t have a potluck pan. [1]

Any discussion like this, though, reminds me of Steve, and of Kathy.

Steve was a young man in a church I pastored. A friend invited him to a different church. There he became quite enthralled with their belief-centered form of Christianity. “You can’t be a Christian unless you believe…”

One day he came to tell me why he was going to leave us and go to that church. This included explaining to me that you cannot be a Christian unless you believe in the substitutionary atonement.

“What about Kathy?” I said.

Kathy was a young woman in our church. She was 28 years old, but, through no fault of her own, she had the mental capacity of a four-year-old. She loved to come to church. She loved to recite the Lord’s Prayer and sing the hymns. Sometimes she used different words than the rest of us for prayers and hymns, but nobody cared. Kathy was ours, and we were hers.

“Kathy can’t even say substitutionary atonement, let alone believe in it,” I said. “Are you saying she can’t be a Christian? Are you going to assign her to hell?”

With some sadness, but also a bit of the glee that goes with the new and hardline believer, Steve admitted that yes, Kathy could not be a Christian, and yes, she would go to hell.

It makes sense to assume that Christians believe in a spirit world. After all, God is Spirit. I think, though, I’d rather leave it to that God of Spirit to lead each person in the way that she or he is supposed to be a Christian rather than declaring some absolute bottom line that any of us comes up with. 

Steve later became a pastor in that other denomination. It did not work out well. Everyone in his congregation had a different exclusive absolute about what you had to do or believe to be a Christian.


1] When daughter Katie was dating the Roman Catholic who became her husband, he asked her what you had to do to be a Methodist. Her reply: “You have to believe in God and have a 9x13 pan.”

I tweet as yooper1721.

No comments:

Post a Comment