Saturday, March 31, 2007

I Guess I'm Not a Christian

At least from the point of view of some as expressed by this blogger, who explains in greater detail James Dobson's statement that Fred Thompson is not a Christian, in that Thompson is not an evangelical Christian. Reading this blogger's explanations on how baptism can rate below asking Jesus into your heart, making a decision, etc., makes me sick to my stomach. It takes me back to one of the worst times in my life, when a teacher at my Lutheran high school was pulling the same song and dance, that being a Christian or not depended on what I did, not what God did for me. I was miserable, upset, confused almost to the point of insanity, wondering if I was pleasing God, if I meant my prayers, if I was really a Christian when I couldn't point to an experience in my life when I was "saved." I knew deep down I didn't need one experience to point back to in order to "prove" my Christianity, but I still felt like I must not measure up in God's eyes. Well, if my Christianity, my standing with God, my eternal future, depend on what I do; then I'm eternally doomed, because I can't do anything on my own. All my righteousness, all my "sinner's prayers," all my "decisions" are as filthy rags before the one true and righteous Judge. Instead, I am clothed with Christ through baptism, united with him in His death and His resurrection, and I daily put off the old man and put on the new. Simul iustus et peccator.

15 comments:

Scottius Maximus said...

Barb!

Great job defending the faith, oh great, and sinister, Lutheran!

And isn't it ironic that a person like Dobson who wears his evangelicalism on his sleeve "was trying to 'read the tea leaves'"? Doesn't that imply divination and mysticism, something which a Christian should not be involved in? We should all therefore make a big stink over this particular sin.

Anyway, not knowing anything about the blogger in question, do you think he was defending what Dobson said, or merely trying to put it in the context of how these "evangelicals" think? It wasn't clear to me, especially since he linked to "Luther at the Movies"!

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Thank you kindly, Scottius!

I'm not sure where the blogger in question stands on these issues, but these were the money quotes for me: The reality of your faith and the security of your salvation is suspect if you can't point to a date and place when you came to faith. I can remember, as a Campus Crusader in college, being very suspicious of people who claimed that they couldn't remember a time when they weren't Christian. There were a number of students in our group who grew up in Christian homes and had been baptized as infants, but they had conversion experiences in college. Many chose to be baptized as adult believers, because only now did they consider themselves Christian. Their earlier church involvement was mere religion, not living faith in and a vital personal relationship with Christ.. I didn't see the blogger "invalidate" these beliefs anwhere in his post, but maybe his regular readers know where he's coming from? I did feel he was defending what Dobson said, from a newbie reader perspective.

Good call on the tea leaves thing! Very Witch of Endor.

Scottius Maximus said...

Barb!

Again, I'm not sure, either, where he comes down on this. But he does begin his remarks with "Let me try to translate and provide some context, without justifying Dobson's comment."

He then dives in to an explanation which again is unclear whether or not he believes the same way now, although he clearly did at one time.

He then ends with...
"While Dobson might be upset that Thompson hasn't come to pay his respects, I suspect Dobson's main problem is that Thompson doesn't wear his faith on his sleeve, that he doesn't talk about his prayer life or having a quiet time or being in a Bible study or listening to Christian radio. The problem with that is that it mistakes the talk for the walk. It puts Dobson (and those he influences) at the mercy of whoever can make the most convincing use of the standard evangelical buzzwords, which doesn't necessarily correlate with genuine devotion to Christ."


But this is just plain silly. One of us should just go to his post and ask him.

You? Or me?

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I went ahead and asked, but my comment is pending approval, so you may not see it for a while.

MichaelBates said...

Barb, I thought I came off as mildly snarky toward Dobson, rather than as a defender. I'm hoping for Fred Thompson to get in the presidential race, and I thought Dobson's comments were off base.

As for my current views, I no longer subscribe to the "decisional regeneration" of my upbringing. Then again, as a Calvinist, I don't subscribe to baptismal regeneration either.

It was in college, while I was still a Campus Crusader, that I began to read some of Luther's works, which shed some new light on the ideas about salvation that I'd grown up with.

I no longer judge a person's Christianity based on whether he had a crisis conversion experience, whether he uses the right Christian buzzwords in his conversation, whether he keeps his radio tuned to the Christian talk station.

But there are still a lot of people who do, especially where I live. And so you have the sometimes humorous phenomenon of liturgical Christians in politics who are expected to explain their faith in terms that evangelicals accept as valid.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Michael, thanks for stopping by and clarifying your point of view. I was honestly unsure even after several readings of your article. I have edited my post accordingly.

TKls2myhrt said...

I'm glad Dobson was quoted as he was. Better for his "true" definition of Christianity be made public. After spending over 20 years as an evangelical, before being reminded by God that He saved me at my baptism, I can assure you that an evangelical's definition of saved is as Dobson said. I'd prefer that they were honest about their "saved by works" definition.

MD said...

I get annoyed with labels. Maybe we should do away with the label christian then there would be no debate as to who was and wasn't one and why. As far as I am concerned the belief in the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ is all that is required for eternal life. After one believes we should just let Christ and holy spirit perform their magic within the individual. Surely Christ won't let the beliver down.

TKls2myhrt said...

MD,

Labels are annoying, at times. But look at the good a label brings out here. Lutherans believe that God saves us apart from our own good works. Evangelicals, as Dobson put it so well, believe that an individual's actions save him. In this case, a person's definition of Christianity results in completely different ideas of who God is and what He has done.

MD said...

TKls2myhrt

Thank you for the comment. Your use of labels remind me of those of the Jews of Christs time. Read Luke 10.30-37 and see if I have a point.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I'm afraid I don't really follow your point, MD. I, and tkls2myhrt, are not the ones saying that she and Scottius and I are not Christian. And I don't see what that has to do with the Good Samaritan anyway. Would I help James Dobson if he were lying beat up on the side of the road? Yeah. He'd likely to the same for me. But he still wouldn't think I was a Christian. So what's your point?

Scottius Maximus said...

Barb!

This has been fascinating stuff to "watch". Thanks for posting it.

Scott said...

MD Said:
As far as I am concerned the belief in the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ is all that is required for eternal life.


The devil and his hordes believe in these things.

MD said...

Barb Your inital post centred upon the beliefs of James Dobson and how they differed from your own and from those who believe in Justification by faith. However comments on Dobson quickly shifted from the specific to a general discussion of Lutheran faith compared with evangelicals. I don't believe in generalising and placing all evangelicals and lutherans in a little box hence my critique of using labels.

My reference to the Good Samaritan has nothing to do with whether you or Dobson would help each other if bashed. What it does indicate is that Jesus also did not judge people in accordance with labels based upon religous beliefs. He mentions a priest, levite and samaritan and shows that despite the poor standing of the samaritans an individual from this group is credited as being just. Your assertion that even if you helped Dobson if he was in need he still wouldn't think you were a christian has nothing to do with the parable, the samaritan was never going to be a Jew either. What does matter was the love the samaritan showed to his neighbour.

There are shades of grey. I believe in justification by faith but according to the book of James - faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I guess I still consider that some labels have meaning, and that the problem is not with the labels, but with those who want to hold different beliefs but still call themselves by a certain name. Like people who want abortions and women priests but still want to call themselves Catholic.

I'm a confessional Lutheran. That title holds meaning, especially to other confessional Lutherans. If you consider yourself an evangelical and do not hold to everything Bates described in his post, I'm sorry if you feel attacked.