My Conclusion - What's yours?
“What are the essential, core Christian beliefs?” - or -
“Who is a Christian?” – or - “How do you become a Christian?”
(I believe everything in the Bible is meant to be interpreted within the context of what Jesus said about Love, i.e., I believe in a "Love First Theology.")
"Of all the
commandments, which is the most important?”
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind and with all your strength.”
second is this:”
your neighbor as yourself.”
“There is no
commandment greater than these.” (NIV)
And among Christians Paul wrote: Galatians 3:28 "There is neither
Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you
are all one in Christ Jesus."
(That is, neither group membership, position, gender, nor any other perceived,
worldly difference is important with
respect to being a Christian, since all Christians are equal in Christ Jesus.)
Mark 1:15 - Jesus said “The kingdom of God is near.
The author of Belief Matters (Charles Yrigoyen) says that repentance is “a complete turning to God and
the reorientation of our lives around God’s presence and will.”
Sin means the departure of an individual from God’s will.
Apostles’ Creed, the Korean Creed, and the Nicene Creed as summary
expressions of Biblical truth.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” NIV
(See creeds below.)
d) DO the will of God as an expression of, and within the context of, faith
(recognizing that works outside of faith have no spiritual value or
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of
heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was
conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and
sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he
shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy
Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the
forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life
We believe in one God,
Controversial opinions as to who is a “true Christian."
Are some of the controversies given below unnecessary divisions within the
Acknowledging a set of essential, core Christian beliefs implies that there may be other beliefs that are less important - at least are not important enough to be in the core and not important ENOUGH to automatically exclude someone from being a Christian. This is where John Wesley says we should “Think and let think.” This means that we should acknowledge that another person who also believes in the essential, core Christian beliefs, but disagrees on one of these other relatively minor points, is also entitled to be called a Christian. Below is a set of paired beliefs and opinions. For each of the paired beliefs and opinions below consider the following questions. The purpose of this is to encourage all of us to think more clearly about our own beliefs and how they relate to the beliefs of others.
a) Does one of the pair actually belong in the core and should be stated as such? - That is, a Christian must believe one of these – and a belief in the other automatically excludes the person as a member of the Christian church, even though the person does believe in the rest of the essential, core beliefs. What do you think the response of Jesus would be to your opinion and judgment of excluding such a person?
b) If we believe one of the pair belongs in the core, is it possible that it is our own personal arrogance to even try to judge another person’s heart and commitment as a true Christian based on the essential, core set of beliefs?
c) Regardless of your own strong personal views on the subject and specific agreement and disagreement for the opinions expressed in the pairs, do you acknowledge that a person with the opposite opinion could also be a Christian? (i.e., back to the idea that one view actually belongs in the core.)
d) Does the concept of being “less of a Christian” or a “bad Christian,” rather than not being a Christian at all apply here? That is, instead of having to choose only between a person either being a Christian or not a Christian based on this one issue, is a third category of “less of a Christian” or “bad Christian,” appropriate?
e) What do you think the response of Jesus would be for each opinion?
f) If you consider one of the pair a sin, the departure of an individual from God’s will, does sinning exclude a person from being a Christian? (RLW: Your answer has enormous implications!)
g) What other pairs of points are controversial and tend to divide the Christian church (unnecessarily?).
1) smokes cigarettes / does not smoke
2) drinks alcohol occasionally / drinks no alcohol
3) traditional church music / contemporary church music
4) traditional church format / contemporary church format
5) Democrat / Republican
6) for capital punishment / against capital punishment
7) for abortion “pro choice” / against abortion “pro life”
8) interpret the Bible literally (which version? Details are just as important as the point of the message.) / interpret the Bible seriously (What’s the point of the passage?)
9) believes it is OK for women to be pastors / not OK for women to be pastors
10) Catholic / not a Catholic (or some other denominational dichotomy)
11) creationism (God created all species instantaneously) / evolution (God created different species using evolution as the process.)
12) heterosexual / homosexual
13) speaking in tongues / not speaking in tongues
14) Jesus is God / Jesus is not God (RLW: I believe "Jesus is God" is part of the essential, Christian core, but I hear that this is controversial in some churches.)
The Sun Revolves Around the Earth ...and that's all there is to it.
(The following article is from http://www.entrypoints.com/LogicPage/Galileo'sRebuttal.html and I believe is analogous to the current, creationism / evolution controversy. You can see my own editorial about this topic below and at http://thisibelieve.org/essay/41512/ )
The bare assertion fallacy is, to put it simply, a fallacy of reasoning in which the user gives no reasons at all for his position other than the fact that he says so. It is the treasured fallacy of every parent who has ever told his child, "You want to know why you're not going? I'll tell you why: Because I said so."
This reasoning is spotted by almost everyone as illogical but it remains powerful because it relies on a power difference between the two arguers. Imagine a child using the same strategy on his parent: "Now you listen to me: you'll buy me that go-kart right now...BECAUSE I'M THE KID AND YOU'LL DO AS I SAY." Bold, to be sure, but laughable.
So status is the key. Now here's a question: who has the greatest status in the universe? No, not Michael Jordan. Nor is it Larry King. The answer I'm seeking is GOD. Surely a God who calls Himself "I am that I am" is one who has ultimate status. (Modern response: You da God.")
So when God says, "That's the way it is simply because I said so," there isn't a whole lot a God-fearing world can do except say, "Okay."
And that was the basic scene back in 1600 when a scientist named Galileo was advancing his theories that the earth revolved around the sun. He was not the originator of these theories: Copernicus had been advancing them for several years and some thinkers a millennium prior had speculated as much. But Galileo was the man who put his theories into an argument against the church of his day. And the Catholic church, still stinging from Luther's revolt, was in no mind to have further erosion come from the fledgling scientific community.
The church's position was as follows:
The Bible was the inerrant word of God.
It contained verses which showed that the earth was anchored while the sun moved.
It was also the general consensus that the earth was the center of God's plan.
Therefore, the sun couldn't revolve around the earth.
And the natural response is: Why not?
To which the answer would have to be: Because God said so.
To which a serious arguer would've followed up with: show me the money (verses).
To which a papal commission would've said: "Try these on for size."
Ecclesiastes 1:4 and 5: One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth.
Psalms 92: "He has made the world firm, not to be moved."
Psalms 103: "You fixed the earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever."
And how about in Joshua 10:12: "Then spake Joshua to Jehovah in the day when Jehovah delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon."
To which any God-fearing person would've likely responded, "Touche."
But not Galileo. He had a new telescope he had invented and he had seen proof, lots of proof. And he was bound and determined to overthrow this logical fallacy. Some historians say he went out of his way to pick a fight with the church over this issue.
Well, it came to a head first in 1616. Pope Paul V had a group of experts consider the basic tenets of this "Copernican doctrine" and determined it was "foolish and absurd philosophically and formally heretical inasmuch as it expressly contradicts the doctrine of Holy Scripture in many passages."
In other words, God said so. Forget science. Forget evidence. It went against what God said directly in the scriptures. End of argument.
Galileo was publicly chastised by the church and warned "to abstain altogether from teaching or defending this opinion and doctrine, and even from discussing it."
Well, Galileo was not one for bare assertions. Actually, there are two layers of bare assertions here: one from God, the other from the church. The one from God Galileo had no trouble dealing with. He too believed in the inerrancy of the scriptures. The problem, he asserted, was with the way the church interpreted the Bible. Their idea of inerrancy was absolute literalness. He was quick to point out many figurative passages in the Bible which even they accepted as figurative. He also reminded them that the Bible needed to be understood in its historical context.
No, Galileo wasn't refuting God's fallacy for he saw none there; he was refuting the fallacy of the church being able to state categorically something as true based on their interpretation, something which was obviously (to him, anyway) not true.
So Galileo pressed on, arguing his case. In 1633 with a new pope (Urban) at the helm, Galileo's taunts could be tolerated no longer. The church inquisitioned him again and this time censured him. He was finally condemned by the Holy Office as "vehemently suspected of heresy" and forced to live out his life (which was diminishing rapidly) in a kind of house arrest. It wasn't really all that bad; he continued writing and lived in modest comfort. But the church had the last word, the party of superior status got its way.
Many people mark this as the beginning of the strife between science and religion, between reason and faith. But that isn't altogether fair. Before we all jump on the bandwagon (another kind of fallacy) and start cursing the church too loudly, we should keep in mind that many others of Galileo's day, including Luther and much of academia, also disagreed with his views.
But there is a difference. These others didn't have the power to put an end to the argument and thus they weren't able to make use of one of the grandest of logical fallacies, the Bare Assertion.
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as we present an evolutionary understanding of God's creation.
Francis Collins Presentation
Francis Collins - The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence of Belief
(Long but worthwhile)
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