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message 1: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (telemantros) | 48 comments I ask this question with some fear and trembling, but I feel safer asking it here than other places. My question is simply put, but more difficult to think about: What are the defining doctrines of Christianity? For example, picture a series of concentric circles with the inner most circle containing the primary doctrines of Christianity, with the subsequent circles moving out from that center circle containing secondary and tertiary doctrines, what would you put where? I often hear the term, "Mere Christianity" but don't really know what that definition holds.

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments uh-oh

message 3: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments by your phrase "defining doctrines," I'm guessing I'm safe in saying you'll fit in with most of the people here, who subscribe to a creedal version of Christianity. The emphasis is on what you believe, not how you follow.

My own opinion differs. I would call anyone a brother or sister who draws their inspiration from Jesus, and attempts to live the way he taught. "Doctrine" is not a part of my definition at all.

message 4: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) Lee, you are hilarious, because your own liberal hermeneutic is in fact constructing doctrine thereby shaping your understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

message 5: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) If we are using Lewis' doctrine of Mere Christianity, Lee isn't even in the Grand Hall, he is on the opposite side of the continent.

message 6: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Brent wrote: "If we are using Lewis' doctrine of Mere Christianity, Lee isn't even in the Grand Hall, he is on the opposite side of the continent."

Here's a good example of what I mean. It's all about drawing lines ... I think it must be an apologetic thing.

message 7: by Jesse (new)

Jesse (jlgoulet) Lee, Jeffrey was asking about doctrine, not praxis. Jeffrey isn't concerned with one's attitudes towards doctrine.

And of course , the answer to Jeffrey's question depends on your denominational facilitation essentially. But I'd say the Apostle's Creed is a good place to start.

message 8: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments I would not say the Apostle's Creed is a good place to start at all! I need convincing that a creedal form of Christianity is necessary at all. What good are creeds, except to draw lines between Christians?

message 9: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (telemantros) | 48 comments Lee -

Thanks for your thoughts. Of course what you believe is essential to the way you act, that is, your beliefs effect your praxis. Often times we see clearly what we actually believe by our actions. So I guess, while I would affirm a need to look at praxis, I'm looking behind that toward the beliefs that lead to that praxis.

message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Jeffrey - good point about acts mirroring beliefs, however be mindful that Christianity is a great mediator of conflicting beliefs. I might believe that Muslim jihadists are the avowed enemies of Christ. I might believe they'd be better off dead, and I might believe I'm the man for the job. However, vengeance is the Lord's is my overriding belief so I don't follow my instincts. There are, of course, many instances of Religious belief trumping personal expediency that are less dramatic, but the point is the same. When the Lord becomes our Master, we primarily do His bidding and honor His name, not wallow in our own exigencies.

message 11: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) Jeff,

Exactly my point: Leefor example, stresses orthopraxy over dogma, but it is precisely his dogma that rejects orthodox dogma! I mean, Lee, correct me if I'm wrong here, but you flaunt gallantly your ability to be over or above doctrine, but your doctrine is a cookie cutter example of the 20th century liberal Christianity social gospel, core dogmas include denying the divinity of Christ, and denying the inspiration of Scripture. You may not have a confession, but such a view is unequivocally divisive as you claim others within Christianity to be.

message 12: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Brent, you are correct in my emphasis, but I am generally tolerant of opposing views if (1) they do not hinder Christian works, and (2) they are not imposed on others. One thing we know for certain is that many different denominations, and even different religions, enjoy a healthy relationship with God. That seems to imply that doctrine simply is not that terribly important.

So, while I personally cannot share your beliefs, I have no problem with them. They are your place of comfort, your link to God. They don't work for everybody. An example going back to the Apostle's Creed: there is simply no understanding of hell, no matter how creative, that would make it possible for me to believe Christ descended to hell after death. But so what? Is there any point in that line in the creed? How does it edify?

Now, all that said, I do recognize that beliefs influence practice. I have noted, for example, that premillennialists sometimes find a certain glee in uncovering any moral decline they can find, so they can point to a downward spiral of mankind. They want this so that Christ will come back and fix everything. Postmillennialists, on the other hand, actively take a part in making the world better, as they feel it's their Christian duty to prepare the world for Christ's return. I try to be tolerant of both, but guess which one I find it easier to work alongside? Among futurists, we should encourage postmillennialism, merely as a practical matter, as it seems to aid rather than detract from Christian works.

message 13: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Hey this is fun. Great question. I'll fully comment later - but I enjoy stating that the God of the universe is VERY specific.

message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Lee inadvertantly brought up a good point. Somewhere close to the center of our concentric circles, Jeff, needs be the realization that Christians are divorced from the culture. Belief entails we serve eternal Truths, not passing fancies. If we are under the illusion that our times, or future times, or end times require human manipulation and special amendments to make the Word of God applicable, then we simply don't believe in His sovereignty.

message 15: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Lee, is there anything your god is specific about? And how do you know this as a fact?

message 16: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments That's sort of the point, Rod. Since we know so little as truly fact (theology really is sort of like building castles in the air), we should not be so quick to draw lines, separating innies from outies.

message 17: by David (new)

David I'll take a stab at it.

First off, I think it is important to note (though you implied it in specifying "doctrine") that this question is not about what you need to do to be saved. Whatever the core doctrines are, failure to properly believe cannot be a roadblock to salvation.

I think a person is a Christian who chooses to follow the life and teaching of Jesus in the midst of realizing that success or failure in this does not earn or lose God's love for God loves you just the way you are (grace). In other words, you recognize there is a brokenness/sickness deep inside of you (sin). Along with that you realize you can't cleanse yourself but that is okay because God loves you in Jesus. From this, you seek to live by the teaching of Jesus.

I have met hundreds who live by the above and many could not explain much doctrine or theology to you.

That said, I think the "mere Christianity" you ask about is seen in Jesus as the culmination of the story of Israel (i.e., the Bible) and in the creeds. Bible - God created a good world that became broken, God called Abraham/Israel to be the instrument in bringing blessing/salvation to the nations, Israel failed in their vocation, long story short - Jesus is the true Israelite who succeeds. You can phrase it however you want, my point is that Jesus - his life and teachings, his acts, his crucifixion and resurrection - is the center. Along with this, our place as Jesus' followers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is found here.

Along with that, I add the creeds. I think the creeds are good because they come from a time of more unity then we have today, they are used by Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox. They answer specific questions about who Jesus is in relation to God and the Holy Spirit. These are the historic traditional beliefs of the Church. And I am totally okay deferring to tradition.

Everything else - views on hell, universalism/inclusivism/exclusivism, women in ministry, how you baptize, Calvin/Arminian, etc. are secondary.

Since we're harassing Lee, I think it is clear that liberal Christianity holds to doctrines (views? beliefs?) that stand outside the historic Christian view. Lee, this ought not be offensive to you. I think the difference between me and others here is I do not necessarily think this means "liberal Christians" are not really Christians. I have lots of wrong beliefs too, I even disagree with the traditional views on some things, I hope I am still a Christian. I don't think doctrine was meant to be a large wall for us to hide safely in and know who is with us and who the heretics are, I think doctrine was meant to better understand who Jesus us and motivate us to serve and love others.

message 18: by David (new)

David I had a question which I was going to put in a new thread but that fits here.

Glenn Beck spoke at Liberty last week. Beck is a Mormon, which means he stands outside that "historic mere Christianity" stuff we're talking about. In seminary we learned that Mormons are heretics and why.

But him speaking at Liberty has gotten little news. Why is that?

I ask in light of other things.

Rob Bell writes a book suggesting that maybe all people are saved through Jesus. A fringe view, but not unprecedented (see Gregory of Nyssa). Bell affirms the Trinity and other core beliefs, yet was greeted with "farewell Rob Bell" tweets.

World Vision decides to open hiring to gay people in committed relationships and a s***storm ensues. By all accounts such people would still have to hold to the creeds and other historic views. But "farewell world vision" came across my twitter feed.

But a huge evangelical university invites a Mormon to speak and near silence ensues. I did find a few articles ( but not many.

Where are the "farewell Liberty" tweets?

To Jeff's question - it seems that the conservative America Christian cores might be more focused on opposing gay marriage (so a gay person who believes in Jesus and the Trinity is not a Christian) then much else (so welcome Mormons and celestial marriage, pre-existence of souls, we all become Gods one day).

Brett, you go to Liberty, what's up with this?

message 19: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments David - I suspect Glen Beck was asked to speak at Liberty because his political views are in line with their conservative stance. His theology was probably a secondary consideration.

message 20: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) David,

I am embarrassed because everything you said was true. Christendom has certainly let some things slide in favor of other things they should never have. I do think that Rob Bell stands outside historic Christianity, but as you said, even him, albeit I don't know his exact views, is in line with others before him such as Origen and you mentioned Gregory of Nyssa.

Liberty is unabashedly fundamental and premillenialist, and as such, this affects they way they "do politics" which I find utterly terrible. Their idea is a sort of Christian infiltration wherein Christians can change the 'downward moral spiral' and shift culture back to "Christian Moral Ethics."

Beck is a HUGE talking head with the Conservatives, and even Libertarians, which is right in line with Liberty's Capitalistic Jesus approach. More what was looked at was not that Glen Beck is a heretic (which he is, as [probably] is Rob Bell), but his political and ethical stance in might of our cultural dynamic. Moreover, to the natural man, Beck is a solid monogamous ethical limited government guy with a sense of humor, so why not, right?

Of this I am ashamed, and think Christendom has much to learn.

message 21: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) Here is an article my friend shared a few days ago that I thought I would share with you.

message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Brent - did someone hold a gun to your head and force you attend Liberty? Did you not realize that their mission would be to "change the downward spiral and shift the culture back to Christian Moral Ethics"? Did it surprise you this has a political arm to it? Of what are you ashamed? David, along wih Lee, is in the fringe element of Christianity that doesn't believe in sin. It's all about Jesus' love to them and I suspect they're perfectly OK with Rob Bell's heresy. This talk about the Trinity is pure-smoke screen: all that's required to be a Christian to them is say "Jesus is Love" three times. Few of the adherents know anything about the gospels or what Jesus actually intoned. They will point fingers at Glen Beck, then turn around and welcome Ellen Degeneres at their so-called holy temple. Get hard-boiled about your cultural and political beliefs, Brent, or you'll fall for their liberal hypocrisy.

message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments David - that's so very New Age of you that you can't cure yourself of sin. Perhaps not alone, but with belief in Jesus and a whole lot of prayer you sure can - at least of the big ugly types. Why don't you just leave all your constituency in behaviorial limbo?
"Hey, you'll never get over what ails you and brought you to your knees, but don't worry about it, I've got a sideshow for you that will distract you from your pain." That's some credo, David. David Copperfield would be proud.

message 24: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (telemantros) | 48 comments It might be a good idea to sum up where we are so far (as to keep the content of the original question in the fore). The original question is what "Mere" Christianity "is" or how the individuals of this group would see it as. This is about beliefs, and Lee has brought up a caution to the question itself wanting praxis to be a part as well (with Robert correctly cautioning that conflicting beliefs can be held at the same time). These are both important methodological cautions to the question. To the concentric circles so far:

Primary - Sin, Atonement through Christ, offered by Grace and received through faith, (David)

Secondary/Tertiary - Hell, universalism/inclusivism/exclusivism, women in ministry, how you baptize, Calvin/Arminian (David)

Anyone other than David have thoughts on the circles? Here's what I might say, (looking for fine-tuning):

Primary - existence of God, sinfulness of humanity, atonement through Christ, trinity.

Secondary - Baptism, Calvinism/Arminian, the specifics in the attributes of God (e.g. timeless vs. everlasting), etc.

Tertiary - Women in ministry, age of the earth, the activity of spiritual gifts, etc.

message 25: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments It may be helpful (at least for me) to be clear that we are not discussing the simple example Christ left, but rather the current-day religion we call Christianity.

message 26: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) Aww, Lee feels left out because he doesn't even fit the primary category!

message 27: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Well said Brent. Sorry Lee - but you've chosen to have no core foundation for your beliefs.

message 28: by David (new)

David Robert, I know you're a smart guy but it seems you have trouble reading. Or at least, you have trouble reading with charity.

I don't believe in sin? I explicitly defined sin as the problem and Jesus is the only solution. We are all broken, we are forgiven by God in Jesus, we seek to live as disciples of Jesus.

I am not sure what you are ranting about Ellen either. She was good as the voice of Dori in Finding Nemo but I that's about all I know of her.

message 29: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Well, gee, David, I don't personally know Glen Beck either and I'd wager neither do you, but that didn't stop you from ranting about his appearance at Liberty. Ellen is a notable Lesbian personality and I implied a liberal church such as you and Lee favor would gladly have her as guest speaker; merely tit for tat. And you seem to have forgotten a step - yes, we're all broken, but we repent and find relief from our sins. We don't just convert and go on stealing or commiting adultery or whatever offense against God (usually multiple) suits us. You didn't seem to read my post. I read yours, but it's difficult to extend charity/clarity? toward your concern with sin when many of your previous posts have been expressly cavalier about the matter.

message 30: by David (new)

David Did I say anything about people converting and continuing to steal or commit adultery? Again, I think you are the one having trouble reading. I clearly said we live as disciples of Jesus which, unless Jesus advocates adultery and stealing and sin, we seek to no longer do.

And I gave plenty of reasons why Glenn Beck's speaking at Liberty was a problem (which Brent, a Liberty student and conservative Calvinist agreed with). I didn't just rant, I made a point and offered support. Beck gave a speech with theological themes as any summary of the speech will show, it was not a political speech.

It is a matter of consistency - you can't kick out Rob Bell and World Vision while welcoming Beck. That is the problem though, consistency. Your vain attempt to bring Ellen into it (has she spoken at a theological school somewhere?) misses the point but is common among conservative and liberal politics. Instead of just owning up and saying "Hey, I tend to be in the tribe that would support Liberty but they are wrong here" you whine like a toddler by saying "the other side does the same thing!" If a conservative says something racist all I hear is how liberals do it, as if that excuses it (and liberals do the same thing). How about having a higher standard and having the stones to call out those on your side when they are wrong.

If someone I tend to agree with, someone on my side, says something wrong or offensive, I hope I do not defend them. My duty, as a Christian, is to call them out. My duty is not to say, "well the other side does it too".

To bring it back to the point of Jeff's original question, lots of times in American Christian we make politics more central then anything else. So a Christian Republican feels more in common with a atheist Republican and a Christian democrat feels more in common with an atheist democrat.

message 31: by David (new)

David Going back to what Jeff said:
Primary - existence of God, sinfulness of humanity, atonement through Christ, trinity.

Secondary - Baptism, Calvinism/Arminian, the specifics in the attributes of God (e.g. timeless vs. everlasting), etc.

Tertiary - Women in ministry, age of the earth, the activity of spiritual gifts, etc.

I am not sure on the difference between secondary and tertiary, what is the value here? I'd add baptism and Lord's supper to the primary though since all Christians do them - but what exactly they mean, how people are baptized, when, etc. are secondary. Does that make sense? I'd also put the 66 books of the Bible as uniquely inspired in there as primary as adding books (book of mormon) is a dividing line.

message 32: by Jake (new)

Jake Yaniak | 151 comments I believe members of the Salvation Army do not do the Last Supper or Baptism, but I may be mistaken.

message 33: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments David - you have never actually called someone out in your life. That would take stones AND a backbone which is something liberal Christians don't possess. Making halfway house statements like "disciples of Jesus" and then expecting us to infer what you mean by it is the extent of your bravery. Yes, you offered reasons - written by another author so you could eventually contend, if challenged, that you never said or meant that. I don't know if Ellen has spoken at any churches but other gays certainly have and many have been unrepentant. If you really had any stones, you'd renounce their presence at the podium until they'd converted and repented their sin like what is required of any other inspirational church presenter. "Your duty as a Christian", as I see it is to talk with the biggest mouthful of mush you can cram in there and hide behind statements that can be interpreted in many different ways so he can back down easily if somebody actually tough minded does challenge you. SO, tell me about your stance about gays in the church, David, in REAL CLEAR language. (This ought to be good!)

message 34: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Robert, I don't think David would consider himself a liberal Christian. Gays in church is quickly (and properly) becoming acceptable. I think you're only highlighting how extreme you lean to the Right when you call him that.

Now, feel free to call me a liberal anytime you like. It's refreshing to hear a compliment.

message 35: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Well, he sure communicates like a liberal - writing in vague generalities and then whining when no one interprets his posts for the "specifics". Repentant, nonpracticing gays would be welcome in my church. Ok, Lee, you're certainly the real deal with all the liberal bonafides. Just hope you man-up and bear the ignominy when the conservative backlash comes.

message 36: by David (new)

David Sorry if I'm not clear enough in my writing. Though I think it is funny I am in trouble for using the word "disciple".

That said, you don't know what a liberal is, at least theologically speaking. I believe in the virgin birth, the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, that the way to God (salvation) is found in Jesus alone. How many liberals are lining up behind me here?

Politically, I think the liberals and conservatives both have some good ideas. Heck, I was listening to Beck today and agreed with what he was saying. I'm pro-life, so I doubt I'll be welcomed in many democrat rallies. But there are other issues I side with the left on.

I've had to confront people and its not fun. All that said, if it makes you feel better to call me a liberal then go for it, I don't care that much.

message 37: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Sigh. David, you completely avoided Robert's understanding of "liberal." It's mostly about acceptance of gays.

message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments And it's about the inability to take a strong stand. But, I won't be confrontational anymore. An individual has to live with his weenie waffling and I guess that suits certain personalities.

message 39: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (telemantros) | 48 comments This conversational turn about liberal/conservative is not only non germane to the original post but also embarrassing.

message 40: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Oh sorry, Jeffrey; I should have realized that anyone who introduces their simple little post with "fear and trembling" is real timid about heated discussion and embarasses easily.

message 41: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Clear Biblical truth sure is fun!

How does someone tell if their a liberal (useless, watered down) possible Christian??? If Muslims, atheists, homosexuals, Mormons, jw's, and other folks who hate the Word of God actually applaud you - then please stop trying to weasel into the Church. Just be honest.

message 42: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Apparently Glen Beck got a great deal of applause for his pathetic theology and Biblical misunderstandings. Isn't liberty university part of the Falwell foolishness? Or is there actual scholarship going on there? Didn't Benny Hinn have something to do with them? Possibly not.

message 43: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Rod - you are far more likely to be bitten by a Gila Monster than to encounter an honest liberal.

message 44: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Rod - Jerry Falwell was basically a good religious influence; don't believe the negative mob hysteria.

message 45: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Are you getting a feel for the problem, Jeffrey? Creeds and doctrinal discussions have one purpose only: to draw lines as close to the breast as possible so that we can ridicule and slander anybody outside the line. This we do in the name of Christ.

message 46: by Brent (new)

Brent McCulley (brentthewalrus) Lee, you are hilarious!

message 47: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Lee the Bible is filled with the Word of God drawing lines and excluding. Almost every book in the Bible does this same thing...
Why do keep trying to call yourself a Christian Lee? You hate everything God's Word stands for.

message 48: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Robert I seldom hear anything good about Falwell. But I'll have a look.

message 49: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Rod, Brent and me are in - everybody else is out. Ha!

message 50: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Lee is it possible to have Christianity without God's covenants? Why have covenants? Do they exclude? Who? Why?

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