‘Isn’t Truth important?’ ‘God is not pleased when we don’t worship him with ‘truth’ or try to mix truth with falsehoods.’
These comments are argued by faithful conservative Christians who feel that any degree deviation from their church’s teaching or any uncertainty over a belief being true or not is an absolute crisis that cannot be tolerated. Indeed, it is precisely because they pride themselves on taking a firm stand on what they feel is scripturally true that many are attracted to such organizations and can’t imagine a life outside of it. To them, it is only their church that has the courage to stick to what the scriptures say and not to dilute the message with ‘false man-made ideas’. So in reasoning with such ones you have to tackle the concept of Truth. Specifically, does the Bible say that you must be 100% correct in your theology in order to be saved? And, does any organization hold claim to a one and only ‘truth’?
Let’s look at a few examples from the gospels. First, the evil-doer who was crucified next to Jesus. We are not told anything about his beliefs. He was most likely Jewish in theology. We do know he was being put to death by the Romans, which means that his life was…not quite going to plan. He wasn’t a disciple. Very doubtful he had any substantial knowledge of Jesus, much less knowledge about such things as Salvation (I mean, if Christ’s own disciples couldn’t grasp it, what hope did this guy have?). Still when in what was probably his version of a hail Mary pass to the endzone as time expired, he asked Jesus to remember him. And of course we all know Jesus’s reply: ‘ummm…yeah….I’m sorry but I don’t think you have completed the current Bible study course. Have you even been baptized? Did you even sign off on the Church’s statement of faith? Well check back with me when your done and we’ll talk. Love ya!’ Of course not!!!! “You will be with me in Paradise” is what he really said.
Second, take a look at the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25. What’s interesting is that both groups are examined and ‘judged’ (if you want to call it that) on ZERO theological beliefs. It wasn’t ‘the sheep shall go into life because they alone had the closest answers on my Bible test I gave out’. The whole basis for a distinction between the two groups was purely on their actions. How were they treating their fellow humans, especially the most vulnerable amoung us?
Okay, so what about all the epistles in the New Testament? If correct theology wasn’t the most important thing, then why was Paul and others constantly writing to them? Fair point. Look at the people they were writing to though -the Corinthians, Galatians, the people addressed in James and Jude. They clearly had some pretty screwed up ideas that needed to be corrected. But how were they addressed in each letter? ‘Holy ones’, ‘Saints’, ‘God’s chosen’, ‘Holy and loved’. They obviously were still in good standing despite their wacky beliefs.
Is theology important? I believe so. And if you feel you cant go along with an idea in your heart, then don’t. There can be a right and wrong for us personally, but that is not for some group of people to decode for us. Theology can also change. It can be updated through changing circumstances ( that’s kinda how we transitioned from Judaism to Christianity anyway). If God works that way with us, bringing new insights, new light if you will, then why get so worked up over if we have everything right? It could change tomorrow. Unless of course that your need for certainty is also tied into your belief that your church is the one and only true church. Which brings me to my next point.
No your church hasn’t got it all figured out. The early church fathers had mistaken beliefs, as did the reformers of the middle ages, as did the Evangelical preachers that led to mainstream churches today. Not one of them had God’s email address to receive 100% correct theology. No golden plates to outline what to have faith in. All have been right, and all have been wrong. I beleive God is big enough to handle it and still love us (and even our neighbor with heretical ideas). When the disciples complained to Jesus that there were some that were performing miracles in his name but were not part of their cool club, Jesus said to leave them alone. They were just fine. He didn’t say to shun them or to try to convert them to the ‘truth’. They could follow Jesus in thier own way (and their way was apparently to not follow him). Back to the sheep and the goats parable. You’ll notice that when Jesus shows up in the story to say that he approved of the sheep and what they were doing, they were shocked! They had no idea that what they were doing was being counted to them as if they were serving Christ. You would think that if a church or group claims to be ‘God’s organization’ then it would be pretty obvious. But no, the sheep in the story were just as suprised to find that out as we are. So to me I would be wary of any group that ‘just knows’ they are correct.
I got screwed up beliefs and so do you. Or maybe you don’t have any beliefs. Thats ok. God can handle it! It seems though that we can’t.