I'd describe this blog as a place for the purposeful ramblings of Ruth and others. You get to read my thoughts. Will you please share yours, too?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Christian Definition

"When someone is driven by love in any way, he or she is driven by Christ. Whoever has love, has the love of God, even if he or she does not confess Christ in words. There is a hidden Christ; he is much too great to be confined by human thought."
-Eberhard Arnold

The quote above was used with an article, written semi-anonymously by a Christian, on his views of Muslims. Here's a part of what he said.
Whenever I share my idea that Muslims are Christians who don't know it yet, I get shocked looks from my conservative evangelical friends, who say that without professing Jesus as one's savior, one is doomed to hell for eternity. But their arguments remind me of those medieval stained-glass windows of demons with pitchforks dragging people into fires, while above them, angels are carrying saints into heaven.

Rather than worrying about whether someone has been saved, my feeling is, “You have been saved, whether you admit it or not—by Christ's precious blood at Calvary.”

What advantage is there in being a Christian if all are saved? Well, I think we have an intimacy with God that others may lack. And certainly Christ’s spirit in us makes us want to obey him willingly and joyfully—not as drudgery. No one else but Jesus could make me love everybody I meet,...even though I’m sure I don’t express this love as I ought.
What are your thoughts about this concept? In his article, the author openly admits it's pretty controversial and I will state that as well. That certainly shouldn't keep us from conversing about it, though.

Here is the link to the article from which I took this excerpt.

I can't improve on the thought-provoking questions he includes at the end of his article, so I'll just leave you with them, to ponder and (I hope) to answer.
To the reader of this piece: Are you offended? If so, why? And if not, do you know of any others who may be thinking this way?


Anonymous Becky said...

Although I'm not offended by nor do I necessarily disagree with this article, I do want to point out where it conflicts with the analogies I was raised with, namely, that you can't make use of a gift until you receive/accept/open it--also expressed in the ever-popular soda machine anecdote: that Todd can offer to buy you a pop, but you still have to go get it.

I was always taught that Jesus died for everyone, but, like the friends of the author of this article say, that you have to profess some kind of belief and acceptance of this gift.

Of course, I'm learning more now than ever that "what I was always taught" needn't (and in fact mustn't) be the final understanding I have of...anything.

August 23, 2005 10:21 AM

Blogger LK said...

hmm... while i don't completely agree it is reminiscent of the "redeemed and in need of redemption" philosophy that strives to look at Christians and others not as an us and them type of worldview...

August 23, 2005 11:02 AM

Blogger Ruth said...

I agree with both of you that while there are some very true ideas in this, it's not exactly what I believe.

Lauran, I think I remember hearing that worldview communicated to me as, "those who are redeemed and those who are in the process of being redeemed." I don't mention it to be nitpicky, but because I think it's a pretty distinct difference and I'd like to know what others think.
The idea that "they" "need" redemption still communicates that they lack it and are seen as being on the outside.
When people are seen as being "in the process" of being redeemed, it takes down that divisive us-them wall even more, in my opinion.
I think it lessens the view of our role being to "change" them. Instead, we get to join with them on the journey they've already begun in some way or another, helping them identify areas where God has already been at work in their lives so they can claim that and move toward a better understanding of commiting their lives to Him.

August 23, 2005 1:52 PM

Blogger Kelsey said...

I definitely don't think the article was offensive. it's just someone talking about what they believe. But I was really surprised by the lack of scripture in the article. This made me wonder if the author couldn't find scripture to back up his beliefs?

August 24, 2005 8:31 AM

Anonymous Becky said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 24, 2005 10:07 AM

Anonymous Becky said...

[I just realized I didn't preview my other comment and it's, like, not in English. I just had to fix it, so I posted twice. I'm sorry--I'm a deliberate double-poster!]

I don't know this author's view on the Bible but what I'm learning more and more is that many theologians--including some who consider themselves Christians--
think of the Bible not as a record of what God says and thinks and does but as a record of a particular people's experience with, reaction to, and interpretation of God.

It's possible that he doesn't consider the Bible the final law of his life and therefore might not use scripture as evidence, per se, for his belief.

August 24, 2005 10:11 AM

Anonymous ziebro said...

The question that comes to my mind is what does it mean to know Christ? I have met people who claim Christ with their lips, but their actions indicate an absence of Christ.

I believe the flipside can also be true, where people have accepted Christ with their hearts, but do not have the capability to claim with words what they have discovered.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

God is inherent in nature, whether man has examined his word or not.

On a somewhat related note, what then of those who came before Christ? Remember how Abraham had faith, which was reckoned to him as righteousness? We know that righteousness only exists in relation to God. So how was he able to have this relationship with God prior to Christ? Faith perhaps that God would redeem him somehow, that God would reach to save him. And he did through Christ, even though that event happened far after Abraham passed.

Saying that people could possibly know Christ w/o professing him does not negate our need as believers to make him known at all times...but our paradigms could use a healthy shift from time to time...


August 24, 2005 1:59 PM

Blogger Tmproff said...

The author says that "You have been saved whether you admit it or not" This needs to be clarified a little in my opinion. The price has been paid for our sins, but it's our decision to accept it. If we do not, we are still bound to the cost of our sin which is death.

Christ says that the only way to the Father is through me. I wonder if Muslims will agree with this.

August 25, 2005 1:48 AM

Blogger Ruth said...

I agree with you, Troy. We are given the opportunity to accept the free gift of salvation by making a conscious recognition of it.

I also have to wonder if God's sovereign love is capable of extending that gift and that grace, calling us to Him and claiming us as His children, even before we're aware of it enough to make a stated claim of our own. Whose decision is more important? Our decision to claim Christ or His decision to claim us?

Yes, we access our relationship with the Father through Jesus. So, kind of like the question Travis was asking, what does "through Jesus" mean? Are there ways of knowing Jesus and being united with His Spirit that go beyond our current understanding of what that looks like in our experience of it?

I don't know the answers. I'm just raising the questions.

One thing I do know is that living a life of faith is not a "whatever-you-feel-like" kind of thing, nor is it a formula. Being a Christ-follower demands a lot of us--one of the hardest things being the suspension of our personal logic for Someone whose ways transcend our understanding.

August 25, 2005 2:42 PM

Blogger Tmproff said...

I think if we believe that the only way to the Father is through Jesus, we must accept that he is our only Saviour and that he died for our sins. There is no other way that we can be forgiven of our sins. Not by good works, not by praying to God 24/7. We must also believe that he is the one and only son of the Father. I might be way off but I think that was the point of Jesus saying this in the first place. There is no grey area.

BTW, this is an excellent topic and please dont think I'm being critical of you in any way :)

August 25, 2005 3:34 PM

Blogger Ruth said...

I 100% agree that because Jesus died, our sins are forgiven. It is through him that our relationship with God is made whole. No offense taken at all, since I believe the exact same thing! :)

My question wasn't about Jesus' role as savior.

My question was about the role that public profession plays in determining one's relationship with Christ. Is it me saying the words, "I am saved" that redeems me or is it Christ's work on the cross that saves me from the grip of sin? My understanding is that Christ has done, and continues to do the work of redemption. Anything I do or choose or say is simply a response to and a reflection of what has already been done by Jesus.

When I personally realized the beauty of that love, I couldn't help but respond in a way that would make my belief known. But what if others intrinsically grasp that very love with the same fullness, are transformed by it, model it to others, but don't express it with the same words as me? Does Christ not have the power to still work in them and through them?

Don't hear me say that all religions are the same. Jesus' role in redemption is SO unique and pivotal! It just makes me nervous when people (of any religious group, really) say they have the formula down. I'm saying I trust, I belive, and I have been transformed because I surrendered to something I don't fully understand. I am following Jesus (stumbling sometimes) and I am going to view other people as travelers who are figuring it out with me, too, hoping that we can work together to point out where we see clear glimpses of his love so we can better understand who he is.

When we can do that with anyone and everyone, I think that is what the kingdom of heaven is going to look like. Rather than focusing on the differences between ourselves, we'll be pointing toward the one who has our full attention. Isn't it kind of fun that we could do that very thing through this dialogue? :) After all, each one of these comments helped me focus more on Jesus...

I LOVE hearing what other people think...keep sharing...

August 25, 2005 9:46 PM

Anonymous Becky said...

Ruth said: "I have been transformed because I surrendered to something I don't fully understand. "

This has been the issue that I've been struggling with most lately,especially since reading "Atlas Shrugged" (Which was a great book, by the way.) I guess the problem that I have is that, if God created man with a unique capacity for rational thought and reason, an ability not given to any other species on the planet or in the world as we know it, then how could making the most of what He's given us involve surrendering to something that we don't understand?

It's never been something I questioned before, and in fact it's something I always loved--knowing that there was someone greater and wiser than me had a bigger and better plan than I could imagine comforted me.

Now, to turn off or let go of or otherwise not put to full use the very brains he created for us seems wasteful.

more explanation coming...

August 25, 2005 10:20 PM

Anonymous Becky said...

Not that I don't think faith allows for testing, questioning, doubting and learning--I know that it can and does.

But it still requires that leap, which in itself requires a surrender of logic.

Then again, the other side of this argument could be that not only are humans the only species capable of rational thought, they are also the only species with souls and that it is the soul that is from God and allows for a confident faith that KNOWS God is real even when logic can't PROVE it.

August 25, 2005 10:22 PM

Blogger Tmproff said...

I am so thankfull that we do not know the limits of God. Just imagine if we did. Just like every sports record, someone is devoting their entire life to breaking it. With the advent of a omnipresent ever powerful God, we can be assured in that mystery (just as Becky said) Just as a child can be perfectly comfortable in a new place if they are holding on to Mom's hand.

Now back to the subject. I was reminded of Romans 10:9 that says:

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

It doesnt say that if we confess with our mouth our god or some unknown name, or some feeling, it actually says Jesus.

You put a huge smile on my face when you said that you believed that these blogs can help to communicate our thoughts and help understand each other. I TOTALLY AGREE!

Thank you for sharing...you are awesome!

August 26, 2005 8:32 AM

Anonymous Laura said...

I wonder if Muslim people would be offended to be called Christians who just don't know it yet. While Christ is most certainly present in love and God's love is all encompassing, I doubt that any person of a different faith would want to be called an unknowing Christian. My guess is that they would find that position to be insulting, condescending, and patronizing. It does seem a bit imperialist to say that any good deed is Christian and belongs to Christians/Christianity and not the faith of the person doing it.

October 12, 2005 6:25 PM

Blogger Ruth said...

Very good point, Laura. Christianity doesn't have an exclusive hold on goodness.

October 13, 2005 10:44 AM


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