I will start off by offering a sample of two Christian leaders talking about this. I selected these two in particular because I think they are illustrative of how differently this subject can be approached. I strongly encourage you to listen entirely through each podcast.
Ed Stetzer on the Nick & Josh Podcast said:
I believe certain things are settled. There are 5 fundamentals to my understanding of Christianity that are not negotiable. When we dialogue about these it is an inter-faith dialogue. How far can you go and still be within orthodox Christianity? How far is it still a church conversation and at what point is it an inter-faith dialogue?
Rob Bell on Catalyst podcast, interviewed by Gabe Lyons said:
When we look at Jesus life we have to radically revisit our notion of what it means to be Christian. In Ephesians 2 Paul talks about how formerly the Jews and gentiles had antagonizing and divisive relationships, but in Christ they have been reconciled. The phrase he is using has been translated: through Christ there is a “new humanity”. Often what religion does is giving people a whole set of criteria for dividing us. When Jesus speaks of loving our neighbor, he is calling us to the primal bonds we have as human beings. So being Christian means to be a good human being. It means recognizing that all human beings are image of God bearers, that they have the divine spark.
So on one hand you have someone who encourages setting parameters to delineate who is in and who is out and on the other hand you have someone who is looking at what unites us, at what we have in common not our differences. One might say one approach is exclusive and the other is inclusive.
The first approach presumes clarity as to who is in and who is out. The second approach simply refuses to think in these terms and concerns itself with a totally different way of looking at people. BTW, wasn’t it Jesus who warned us not to concern ourselves with who is in and who is not (see Matthew 13: 24-29, 36-42)?
Then, what does it mean that certain things are settled? Do you have to accept them “blindly” without careful examination? And if they are true, shouldn’t we expect them to be the logical conclusion of anyone examining the Bible and the available data for themselves? Why the need to lock certain truths? What’s the fear?
Does being a Christian mean adherence to a set of beliefs? Isn’t it interesting that Jesus asked his disciples to follow him without first grilling them on what they believe? When eventually (after years of being together) He asked them about their view of Him (which would be considered a central doctrine) isn’t it notable that only Peter volunteers an answer? What’s up with the rest of them? Jesus doesn’t say: ok, I have heard Peter’s response; now what about the rest of you? Or don’t you find it puzzling that even though not everybody among the 11 believed in his resurrection (see Matthew 28:16-17), another important tenant of the Christian faith, He still commissioned them to go as His representatives?
Doesn’t being a Christian mean to be what God has created us to be? Isn’t it the story of the rehabilitation of people into what they were initially meant to be? Have we given in to our tendency to complicate things? Have we forgotten James warning to not make it difficult for those who are interested in God? (Acts 15:19)
To be continued …