Lately, I have been witness to a lot of debates between Christians who seem all to willing to condemn other Christians for adhering to a different system of theology.  Folks like Ed Stetzer have observed this trend of bitterness among the New Calvinists (aka young, angry and reformed).  I do not imagine I will resolve the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate on my blog, but I thought my friend George Somsel had an interesting perspective so I asked him to share some of his thoughts.

Read what George has to say and let me know what you think of his approach.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ …

The message of the earliest church which we find in the gospels and in the rest of the New Testament is a call to “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Throughout the history of the Church there has been continual controversy regarding doctrine with the question being “What must be believed.” Those who can muster the greatest number of adherents then anathematize those with whom they disagree and exclude them from the church. Those who know me know that I would be one of the last to say that there is no correct view of God and his relationship to his creation, but the question is “Is mental assent to certain theological views what it means to ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’”?

 

One of the earliest controversies in the Church was regarding a view which had arisen in both Judaism and Christianity known as Gnosticism. The gnostic party maintained that what was necessary was for man to have a right conception of cosmology and man’s place in it. The gnostic view of salvation is that of remembrance of what one truly is. Notice some excerpts from the Hymn of the Pearl.

 

When, a quite little child, I was dwelling

In the House of my Father’s Kingdom,



And in the wealth and the glories
Of my Up-bringers I was delighting,

From the East, our Home, my Parents
Forth-sent me with journey-provision.



Indeed from the wealth of our Treasure,
They bound up for me a load.

Large was it, yet was it so light
That all alone I could bear it.

….

Straightway I went to the Serpent;
Near to his lodging I settled,

To take away my Pearl
While he should sleep and should slumber.

….

I forgot that I was a King’s son,
And became a slave to their king.

I forgot all concerning the Pearl
For which my Parents had sent me;

And from the weight of their victuals
I sank down into a deep sleep.

….

And for me they wrote out a Letter;
And to it each Noble his Name set:

“Remember that thou art a King’s son;
See whom thou hast served in thy slavedom.

Bethink thyself of the Pearl
For which thou didst journey to Egypt.

….

I remembered that I was a King’s son,
And my rank did long for its nature.

I bethought me again of the Pearl,
For which I was sent down to Egypt.

The Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle
in the country of the Indians
Translated by G.R.S. Mead

 

There were many forms of Gnosticism, but all had in common that one’s intellectual conception was the determining factor. While Gnosticism as a system died out, much of the Church can yet today be considered gnostic. When we separate ourselves from others who profess to place their trust in Jesus Christ because of disagreement over some particular doctrine, we reveal gnostic tendencies. The question arises as to which view of reality is correct (or conforms most completely to the scriptures).

  • How much conformity to True Doctrine is to be considered sufficient or are there certain points which are sine qua non?
  • If one is a follower of Arminius, are Calvinists correct to anathematize him?
  • If one adopts higher critical views of scripture, are those who accept “verbal plenary inspiration” correct to anathematize him?
  • Does one’s relationship to God depend upon having the right thoughts? Is that what was meant by the call to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”?

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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