Who are the bad guys?

We were learning about Islam in Christian History class today. I had no idea that muslim tradition believes that on two separate occasions Christians prophesied over Muhammad, saying that he would be a prophet. And another Christian leader even asked to meet with Muhammad early on and they determined that their beliefs were in harmony. But when Muhammad went to Medina and met some Jews they realized their views on the Old Testament were a little too different. That’s when the fissure happened and violence ensued. Since then there has been a lot of violence between these three religions.

But, knowing that before their doctrinal differences divided them they were peaceful, it made me start to wonder. Can’t we all just overlook our doctrinal differences and live in peace?

If there is a muslim who ultimately just wants peace and love for all beings, and if I, a Christian also ultimately just want peace and love for all beings– and someone from any other religion wants the same– aren’t we on the same team?

What about a Hindu? Or a New Age believer? What about a Wiccan? Someone who practices Voodoo? How far away can we draw the line? If our end goal is ultimately to foster health and love for all the earth and all beings, can’t we just all be on the same team?!!

I think the difference is the word “Ultimately.”

We may all want peace and love as an end goal, but ultimately do we serve a cardboard set of ethics? Or do we serve a real God that tells us how to instate them? Do we serve the rules to rule a kingdom by, or are we serving a king who rules by them.

bird-8If we say, “Well, every god IS really the same god, each of us calling him/her by the name by which he/she came to us,” how would we know he/she is the same god? I mean, if we believe there is a God existing in a spiritual realm, it’s possible that there are other beings that exist in that realm (like angels, pagan gods, maybe even demons perhaps). And then how would we know whether or not those other spiritual beings are posing as the ultimate creator God to us, or certain people groups? (Which might be the explanation of ancient greeks serving gods like Zeus, or Hindus serving many gods, or current pagans worshipping gods by other names, or even present day mediums that communicate with spiritual beings.)

And even if we do conclude that ‘we do serve different gods, but it’s okay because they all happen to have the same end goal in common,’ what happens when one spiritual being’s view of human prosperity conflicts with another’s?

I mean we trust that both Democrats and Republicans want to make this into a thriving peaceful country (or just imagine that they did), but they have very different views of how to do it.

So my question that I’d like your opinions on is this:

Where do we draw the line? Who is on our team? I know God probably has a good idea of who is really doing their best to serve Him, even if they know him by another name, but how can we know? Should I look at someone who is healing people through voodoo, for example (which I’ve heard about at least in Haiti and Ethiopia) and say, I’m glad that you’re serving God in the way that you know how. Carry on.

Where are we called to draw the line.

Help me please.

Raw Spoon, 11-3-15

13 Responses to Who are the bad guys?

  1. Ryan says:

    I think that rather than draw the line ourselves, perhaps we should submit to the line that has been drawn by the Apostles and their successors, who Christ endowed with spiritual authority, promising that He would lead His Church into all Truth. Saint Anthony, a very holy and wise saint of the Egyptian desert in the 4th Century once said, if you follow your own self in the spiritual life, you are following a blind man and a fool. When we draw the line ourselves we are left open to great spiritual danger and delusion. This is the witness of the saints, at least.

    • raw spoon says:

      Yesss. Wise words, Ryan. Trust the ones wiser and closer to the source than we!
      It’s a little hard to know when the lines get a little blurred with nuance and time and subtlety of doctrine, like with Mormonism?? I mean what would the church fathers have thought of Mormonism? Is that too far out? What about PCUSA? I think Orthodox churches have a real good thing going- trusting the tradition of those closest to the truth. That’s the safe answer.

      • Ryan David says:

        Sorry for the delay, my friend. “What would the Church Fathers have thought of Mormonism?” Here I think it would be beneficial to look at the Ecumenical Councils, seeking to understand not only their pronouncements but also the reasons why they were assembled in the first place. For time’s sake, let’s just look at the first one. The Church received the Apostolic Faith and worshiped for over 300 years under the guidance of Her bishops. Eventually the Church was confronted with a strange and unfamiliar doctrine – that Christ was a created being (the first and highest among creation!) but not God. This forced to fathers to gather and better understand Arius’s doctrine, as well as to better articulate what had always been believed. In the end, anyone who did not confess Christ as God was outside the boundaries of the Church. Mormonism not only does not confess the divinity of Christ, but also denies that God is One in Three Persons. While very nice and kind people, they by no means hold Christian beliefs, but very skewed doctrines that prevent someone from communing with Christ as He truly is.

        As for the PCUSA, in addition to being historically Calvinistic, in recent years they have also become very deeply liberal. Sadly, they have departed very far from the Universal Faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church who holds the truth about Jesus Christ, and have been faithful stewards, preserving what Christ has entrusted to them. Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. And indeed it hasn’t.

        Forgive me if I sound to harsh and stern, but one can sincerely be struck with deep wonder and awe, without succumbing to deep spiritual confusion.

        The line has been drawn for us; I submit we humbly need to submit in love.

        • raw spoon says:

          Yes. Tradition of the church could be the answer. Who else was closer to Jesus? How do we convince our modern culture that what they said could still be relevant?! This is my struggle on this blog. I am looking for a way to give my self and my culture a logic that leads us to this conclusion, even while it just intrinsically doesn’t seem right to say some people who are doing their dangdest to serve God are wrong. It just feels so wrong, to so many of us. This is my struggle in these writings. Thanks Ryan. Love ya brother.

          • Ryan David says:

            You know, I’m not sure it’s our job to convince modern culture (even though I regularly fall into this trap). We are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ, yes. But if we would only deny ourselves and become radiant with the Holy Spirit, be humble and love others with sacrificial love, and live a life steeped in piety and reverence – this will naturally compel people because we will have manifested the Kingdom of Heaven to the World which has transformed us.

            If you don’t mind me asking, you reference “Tradition” and mention that it is your goal to lead people to it. I’m curious, do you feel that a person can submit to and embrace Tradition while remaining in whatever confession they happen to currently reside in? You say in the article, “can’t we all just overlook doctrinal differences…” But what is Tradition if not the act of receiving the Faith whole and in tact, as it has been passed down from generation to generation? If Apostolic Tradition says “Christ is God,” and a random denomination happens to say, “no, I don’t believe that he is.” How can it be overlooked? Is Christ so subjective, and Truth so pluralistic?

  2. Wes Young says:

    Some questions we just don’t have answers to. But I have always believed that God was not a jerk, and thus would not tell us conflicting things. Jesus says “No man comes to the Farher except through me.” Without a long theological breakdown, I can say that no other faith, even traditional Judaism, believes that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God, and God.

    I don’t believe that God would tell us this, and then tell everyone else something different.

    Scripture certainly doesn’t tell us to go be jerks to everyone else and make them believe as we do, but it also tells us to go share the good news. It seems that Jesus is all or nothing. Either He is all the things He claims to be, or He’s a lunatic and you should be leery of endorsing any part of His message.

    Strictly personally, I don’t believe there is a middle way where we all have compatible beliefs and can get along. Belief is profound, and if you are willing to bet your salvation, and your right exercise of life in this world on it, why would you, or should you, accept that another way is just as good. Regardless of your perspective, it seems like the sort of thing you’d want to get right. If everyone else’s “right” is just as good, it sure takes the value and legitimacy out of any sort of faith, which by its nature is rooted in an understanding of truth.

    It doesn’t mean we can’t civilly coexist, but it seems unlikely to me given the fallen nature of men not in relationship with God.

    But that’s another debate.

    • raw spoon says:

      Yeah, I like that, Wes. Thanks, brother. What are your thoughts on the idea that some people may be following the ‘way’ of Jesus and not even know it? I wonder sometimes if Jesus is the “way” but just like following someone down a path who we may not be able to see their face or know their name, we feel called to that lifestyle of living, or that path even though Jesus is not the name we know him by? Or the idea that jesus is the way to get in (like he’s more like a door) but folks might not even realize they are walking through him, but by the way they are living their life, they are? We use that one verse as the crux of it all, and I’m not even sure if I know what it means to be the way, ya know? i mean I trust the traditional belief of calling on the name of Jesus, but I wonder how far it can be stretched that can be stretched? Do we have to know his name, for example? peace to you, brother! thanks for the response!

      • Ben M. says:

        I can’t say that I think there is any such thing as an accidental Christian. If Jesus is The Door, He says you have to knock. Christianity is NOT living by certain rules and then reaping your heavenly reward for goodness. It is declaring inability to live righteously on our own and falling on the mercy of Christ, and Christ alone. It is declaring belief in Jesus and loyalty to Him.

        So no, one can’t follow Christ without knowing that they have done so.

        Can one do good works while following some other god? Sure, absolutely. But good works do not save, and ‘lifestyle’ cannot undo the evil in our hearts.

        FYI, Mormonism is not a subtle distinction from real Christianity. It’s an entirely different religion, just as Islam is.

        • raw spoon says:

          One side of me is in this camp too ben. But the other part of me wonders what do we tell those people who ask what about those people who lived before Jesus? Or never heard of him? Did they ever have a chance to be saved? Even the righteous ones? Here is the struggle between both sides in myself. Thanks for describing so well that one side in me!

          • Ben M. says:

            It is indeed tempting to start inventing ways for the blood of Christ to apply to people who are not believers, no matter how they remained in non-belief (ignorance, lack of opportunity, or rejection). It’s extremely tempting to invent righteous people to whom God must extend grace, or fail to be fair.

            But these people do not exist. There is no one righteous, not even one. If people outside of Christ can be saved through righteousness, then what is the point of being in Christ? What was the point of the Cross?

            Can we really say, “If only God had revealed himself to this person before Christ, they would have been saved!” Well… says who? Do we 21st century american Christians know the hearts and minds of people better than God? We don’t even know ourselves as well as God.

            There are only two ways to understand it: When Christ says that He’s the Only Way, He’s either Right, or he’s Wrong. If He’s wrong, then there are other ways, and we need not pay him any more attention.

            I’m not saying this is easy. I also have that second side. But if I make the choice to believe Christ, I have to believe that He’s God, and He knows what he’s doing, and He doesn’t need me to guide him in matters of fairness. How fair was His execution?

            Check out this illustration from R.C. Sproul:


          • raw spoon says:

            Wow. That illustration is totally stellar. I think I’ll share than on facebook. wow. Thanks Ben!

  3. Wes Young says:

    Ross, there’s nothing in scripture to support the idea, but I do believe that others who have not heard of, or been exposed to, Jesus can follow him. The idea was popular among 2nd century Apologists.

    For me it comes back to the idea that God is not a jerk, and would seem likely to make a way for others to find Him. However, I am always cautious to say that there is absolutely nothing in scripture to support that idea. I’ll never claim that it is truth, only my belief.

    Personally, I have seen the written works of people who were never exposed to Jesus, who seem to be experiencing and responding to the Holy Spirit, that is my evidence. For good or ill.

    • raw spoon says:

      Cool I like that idea too (the idea that others are following him and just don’t know his name) but it seems the people I have interviewed who are working amazing miracles think the news of the Bible and Name of Jesus is the whole point and the plumb line it all comes back to.
      As evangelists, perhaps I will help the people who think the Bible is unfair for requiring people to know the name of Jesus to be saved by saying it’s possible, but my goal should be to spread the name to everybody that I can. Man, I already see I have much to learn from your faith, Wes! Thanks brother. Good hearing from you.