Friday, August 26, 2005

By This Will All Know

I am a Lutheran (LCMS to be exact, not the ones who get in the news all the time). I have been a Lutheran for 4 months and 16 days. I did spend a lot of time in the Lutheran church before I changed from my previous state of non-denominational to my current, more liturgical one.

I purpose to organize some thoughts by writing this out on my blog. First off, I do not think denominations matter all that much. I am a political scientist of sorts, and being a political scientist of the United States I strongly believe in freedom of religion. Thus, I do not have problems with differences of opinion and all that kind of thing. I am not going to sit here and tell anyone what denomination they should join, or what non-denomination. I am not going to say that any one denomination is more right than any other. I think that is silly.

Sometimes, though, people do talk about their own denomination as if it is somehow better than the others around it. I completely respect people's opinions. I also respect the natural human desire to like best that which we choose to like best. There is nothing wrong with preferring one denomination of Christianity above another. That's how we got all these different types in the first place. Personally, I think that denominations allow us to see Christian principles from slightly different perspectives. No one person can have a complete picture of what God intended with the body of Christ. But many different ideas can come together and weed out the terribly wrong ideas by working through the truth that is in God's word. Evenutally something resembling a more complete picture can come of this. Without freedom of religion and the liberty to debate different ideas this cannot happen. That is my political notion of the church. Then again, that is me, that is how I think. I am only a humble wannabe politician and what I know best is politics. I do not pretend to know more. Frankly, when it comes to issues of the church I am the most ordinary layperson you could find. In fact, one might say that my views are hampered by my political ideas. You can forgive me, I am sure, we are all human after all, and that's why we need God.

Ealier today, I listened to some music by my favorite artist eLi. I decided to go read up on his website since I had not checked it in a while. I would not mind another eLi concert, dontcha know. eLi's writings reminded me of a verse in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

It does not matter what denomination you are a part of. People are not going to recognize you for being a Lutheran or a Catholic or a Baptist or a non-denominational or anything else. They are going to recognize that you are a disciple of Christ by whether or not you love other disciples of Christ and whether you show that love. The fact is, we can sit and say as much as we want that our particular denomination is better. That may not show any love for other disciples of Christ. But most of all, it is not the way people will recognize whether or not we are followers of Christ.

As a disclaimer of sorts I would like to add a note on the subject of truth. I believe that if a person confesses that Jesus Christ is their risen savior, that he died and took the punishment for their sins, then rose again so that said person could have eternal life then they are a Christian. Yes, there are other important beliefs, for an outline you might read the Apostles or the Nicene Creed. I am not arguing about denominations that do not confess at least that which I wrote above (meaning that Jesus died for their sins and rose again portion). I make no point about things that are completely outside of God's word (i.e. the Pope, or the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Minor differences of doctrine, so long as they do not affect the main point, do not matter in this argument. In fact, that's the point of the whole thing.

And that's all this embarrassed, little layperson with no understanding has to say on that matter.


MaxiSmeg said...

I agree with what you're saying with one exception.

Jesus died on the cross in order for us to get closer to the Father. That is the reason that the veil was torn.

Your status as a 'lay person' does not diminish your two cents nor should it stop you from taking action. It doesn't detract from your opinion either. It may not be as well informed as a theologist with a PhD but you know the love of the Father.

I do not believe that someone's beliefs on minor aspects of doctrine will stop them getting into heaven. And at the end of the day, that is what will count.

Esther said...

Yes to that last point about minor aspects of doctrine! I totally agree (as should be clear from the entire post).

Closer to the Father is right also. I think I just worded it differently. :o) Like, more impersonable . . .

little-cicero said...

I'm a Catholic, and like you I beleive in moral absolutes to some degree. There is a right and a wrong way to carry Gods word in the example of Peter, and I believe it to be the Catholic Church. You are showing your tolerance in this post, but remember that what the life of God and the life of the mind have in common is that they facilitate the search for truth. Denominational practice, like political partisanship, seeks to find not only the best, but the only way to achieve the greater good. Tolerance never got us anywhere in the search for truth. You are courageous to speak on the subject, and I appreciate your bringing it up!

MaxiSmeg said...

At the end of the day there is only one question that you need to ask yourself: What belief is going to stop someone getting into heaven?

Relationship with the Father is what it is all about. If someone's beliefs are so out of whack (in your opinion) pray to God for them. He can sort out his own flock.

Esther said...

I ammended the second to last paragraph to make it a little more clear. I was reminded by Maxismeg that I had left out something very important. Thanks. :o)

Also, I'm not really talking about tolerance. I'm talking about liberty. Tolerance means that we put up with something we do not like. Liberty means that we are free to worship God as we prefer and free to discuss that subject.

Bill said...

Well-said, Esther, very well said.


little-cicero said...

Tolerance means that we yield that which we know is right to that which we know is wrong. Everyone has convictions, and to allow the convictions of others to stifle our own convictions does a diservice to truth.
Of course minor doctrinal differences may seem silly at times, but when we interpret God's word, we must keep in mind the way that he ultimately prefers to have his word preached. Denominations seek to clarify unto the masses the instructions of his word. They make the interpretation of His word palatable to the masses, so that theologians are not the only people capable of finding truth in God's word. Thanks again! (I'll be using this subject soon)

JB said...

GO LUTHERANISM!!! Hey good to hear that you are Lutheran. I agree that denominations really don't matter in the long run. The trinity is what's important along with the number one thing...Jesus is the son of God and died for our sins on the cross, and rose on the third day and defeated death. And to cicero's reply; Christian tolerance of one another in the Christian world is definitely ok. Lutherans are basically the same as Catholics in a sense that we both believe in Christ and what he did and does today. The interpretations might differ slightly, but the worship is almost the same. Tolerance among Christians is ok because there is such a small difference within one another. And remember it was the Catholics who kicked out Luther ;).

little-cicero said...

It would have been ideal for Luther to have been, as he'd wished to be, a reformer within the Church. He would have been a great Catholic, and so would you guys.
Minute interpretations of ritual may not be of such consequence, but one should be careful not to understate the importance of theological interpretation in the search for truth. We are not capable of studying the bible for truth all day, thus we need denominational interpreters to guide us in the search. The interpretation of His word is all that stands between truth and emptiness of truth.

Andy said...

I was educated Lutheran, but switched over to Episcopalian in college because, for whatever reason, I just felt more at home there.

I like to think that what matters most to God is humility and sincerity; I think he's less interested in what we say and do in Church than in what we say and do the rest of the time. As long as our actions and beliefs are motivated by the hope, rather than the conviction, that we are doing God's will, I think we're on the right path.

EarthMonk said...

Keep in mind that "nondenominational" means "not restricted to or associated with a religious denomination."
So, it's not correct to assume that someone who claims to be nondenominational is still a "disciple of Christ." They may hold no Christian beliefs whatsoever. The word "denomination" includes those who choose to be outside the realm of Christianity as well.