On Being a Good Christian

churchesAfter they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples…

Acts 14:21a (NASB)

Last Sunday, Pastor Randy preached on Acts 14:21-28 in a sermon he called, “What Makes a Good Missionary (Part 3)?” In many ways, the title could be expressed as “What Makes a Good Christian” since it is Pastor’s opinion that all believers are responsible for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, whether we’re formally called missionaries or not. Pastor spent most of his adult life as a missionary and his parents were missionaries, so it’s completely understandable why his perspective would be as it is.

When he was teaching about what a disciple is, he used several different phrases to describe them/us. I want to focus on one of those phrases:

A good Christian is a person who places himself/herself under a local church authority as a member.

Whoa!

Yeah, I even wrote “whoa” in my notes during the sermon. A member?

Pastor listed a number or reasons for this including giving the person a sense of accountability, opportunities for service, both to the other members of the church and to the larger world, and displaying commitment to the body of believers.

I know what you’re thinking? Aren’t we all as believers, part of the body of Christ anyway, what Pastor called “the universal church?”

Yes, but he used Paul’s model of “planting churches” (I can’t imagine Paul actually used that term) to emphasize how we can’t really function effectively in the body unless we join with a local church and display a commitment to that body as one of the operational parts. The sense of community would also contribute to the individual growing in “Christ-likeness” and, as I said before, providing a platform to allow the individual to minister to God’s people.

I’ve been campaigning to completely redesign the church’s website, which currently looks like a throwback to the ancient web of the 1990s. I’ve gotten some traction, but there’s a bottleneck in the process and until that bottleneck is cleared (which I’m told will be soon), I can’t actively begin my redesign project. Most of the information on the current site is obsolete, however, I did manage to pull this from the “Beliefs” page:

Because the Bible is the complete, true and sufficient Word of God, holding absolute authority for the church and the individual, we believe and teach the following:

  • Jesus Christ as the one and only begotten Son of God, is fully Jehovah God (the second person of the trinity) (John 1:1-14). In Mary’s womb, He joined to His divine nature, a human nature and was virgin born, thus becoming ‘God-man’ (Philippians 2:5-7 / Hebrews 10:5-10).
  • Jesus was tempted by Satan but remained sinless because He was and is God, and it is impossible for God to sin (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). Still, the temptations were both valid and real to the God-man. Oh, how he can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16).
  • Christ was literally crucified on the cross, His blood becoming the sufficient cleansing for our sins. He died and was buried. Then on the third day, He physically arose in victory over sin and death (1st Corinthians 1-5). He who truly believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is rescued from eternity in hell and given eternal life (Salvation – John 20:31).
  • The next prophetic event will be the taking up into heaven of all believers, ‘The Rapture,’ (1st Thessalonians 4:15-17). Then following the tribulation, Christ will return to the earth with us, His glorified saints, to establish His literal rule over all the earth for 1,000 years (The Millennial Kingdom), and we will rule with Him (Jude 14-15). This is our destiny as Sons of God (Romans 8).
  • Saving faith is by grace alone and not by works of merit that we can do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

churchmembershipI object to the use of “Jehovah” as if that were the actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, and I’m not crazy about the “rapture” doctrine. Becoming an actual church member means taking some classes and then signing on the dotted line that you buy all of their doctrine, dogma, and theology hook, line, and sinker.

I’ve had enough conversations with my Pastor to realize our points of disagreement and, if being a member of my church or some other local church is a requirement for being a “good Christian,” then I have a problem.

Sunday afternoon, I had coffee with my good friend Tom. Tom’s been a Christian for over forty years and he and I have both been through the Hebrew Roots “wringer” as well. We have a good many attitudes in common, but he agrees with my Pastor that I will never be truly effective in my community until I formally become a member. Tom’s been a member of his church for about three years now. I asked him what he does about the bits and pieces of church doctrine with which he disagrees. He’s discussed it with his Pastor and his Pastor’s response is, “We’ll work on that.”

I’d interpret that statement to mean that Tom’s Pastor will try to convince Tom of the correctness of whatever Tom currently has issues with. I guess that situation is a work in progress.

But what about me? Frankly, I don’t think any church has their understanding 100% correct. How am I supposed to pretend that the church I attend does? I’m already anticipating a major disagreement next week in Sunday school class over the “symbolic” meaning of the moadim.

By the way, I took a closer look at the study notes for next week’s class and my blood ran cold. I’m actually kind of nervous about this. The notes mainly describe how the primary purpose of all of the Festivals just point to the reality of Jesus Christ. In other words, they had no value of their own to draw the Israelites closer to God (never mind that the word “sacrifice” in Hebrew is “korban” which gives the meaning of “drawing closer to” God). Dispensationalism isn’t supposed to be inherently supersessionistic but this part of it is getting close.

But anyway…

Since Pastor is anachronistically applying the “missionary journeys” of Paul to modern Christian missionary work anyway, let’s apply that process to “church membership.” When Paul “planted churches,” and appointed leaders, how did Gentiles join the community? Besides professing faith in Messiah, was there some additional process of agreeing to the specific conditions and rules of that community in order to join? Maybe, but remember, there weren’t “church denominations” in those days. Yes, there were different streams of Judaism, and “the Way” was the Jewish stream that contained the Jewish and Gentile disciples of Messiah. However, within the Way, were there different and competing variations? Did you have to choose one and forsake all others or could you just be a “generic” Jewish or Gentile disciple of the Jewish Messiah?

Actually, it looks like there were some divisions:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (NASB)

broken-crossOn the other hand, it looks like Paul took a dim view of these divisions and urged unity in Messiah, not in the name of some “leader” or “teacher” (or “denomination”).

I know, I know. I can’t anachronistically apply conditions as they existed in Paul’s day to the modern “church” because after all, the “church” isn’t a unified entity, at least at the level of human organizational meaning. Times have changed significantly in the past twenty centuries or so, and being a “good Christian” now means different things to different streams of Christianity.

I currently attend a small, Baptist church in Southwestern Idaho. They have definite standards and a formal process of baptism and education leading to entry into membership. I suppose I could attend and worship there forever as unaffiliated, but then, I wouldn’t meet the qualifications of a “good Christian.”

It’s not that I object to being committed to a community, having affiliation, accountability, and opportunity for service, but it’s the albatross being hung around my neck of all the specific doctrine and dogma to which I object (and if taking Calvinism on board is a requirement, then it’s an absolute “showstopper”). I can’t lie about believing stuff when I don’t believe it, so how can I ever join any church anywhere? How can I, as Pastor puts it, be a “good Christian?”

Oh, and apparently Pastor isn’t alone in his opinion about joining a church. Another collision between the principals outlined in Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David and the reality of “going to church.”

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29 thoughts on “On Being a Good Christian”

  1. Thanks for bringing up the subject of missionaries every now and then. That is one subject that continues to be on my mind.

    I started reading a book recently that really challenges how mission work is done today. I actually started the book months ago and the ideas in the first chapter made me need to put the book down for awhile because it seemed like there is some truth to it but it totally goes against what I’ve been shown. So, far I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the book.

    So far, in so many words it teaches that we shouldn’t send missionaries to foreign countries, especially if they don’t know the native language. It also gives the idea that rich people should not try to minister to poor people…imagine a rich foreigner living in a house with a lot of luxuries and/or sending their children to nicer schools while they are amongst the poor. The citizens they minister to might often think of foreign missionaries as spies. It also keeps repeating that we shouldn’t keep spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to send missionaries to places where they compete with their local missionaries, and that we shouldn’t go there and create congregations that match our culture in the U.S (creating denominational branches of our congregations). Instead, it suggests that we can spend our money supporting local missionaries in those countries.

    So, I am still trying to have an open mind about what I’m reading but I think I can see some truth to what the author is saying. It has already changed the way I think because I was at work the other day (at a church) where I was surrounded by some mission talk. I realized I am just not at the same place in my thinking as I was when listening to someone talking about a foreign mission trip in the past. So, if I continue to think this way what works for one person is just probably not going to work for me in this area and I can be one of the few or many people that tries to encourage people to reach out to people within their own language group and to support local missionaries.

    Hopefully I haven’t gone off topic here. I know it’s more of a Christian book for churches/denominations but I think the author has picked up on a lot of truth in this area.

    The book I’m referring to is “Reformation in Foreign Missions” by Bob Finley.

  2. Jill said: It also keeps repeating that we shouldn’t keep spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to send missionaries to places where they compete with their local missionaries, and that we shouldn’t go there and create congregations that match our culture in the U.S (creating denominational branches of our congregations).

    I have to agree with a certain amount of that. I’ve heard mention in my own church of the dilemma between preaching the good news of Christ on the missionary field vs. exporting our western culture and values to other nations. We are supposed to be bringing up disciples in Messiah, not teaching people in other countries how to be “American Christians.”

    You also (or rather Bob Finley’s book) raise another good point about how even middle-class American missionaries will appear incredibly wealthy to people in most other countries. It could be very confusing to people if they equate being a “good Christian” to having a certain affluent lifestyle, even if by American standards, the missionaries aren’t really rich.

    The challenge would be for American missionaries to live just like the people they are serving. How many of us could set aside our comforts and conveniences for the sake of the Kingdom. And yet, that’s exactly what I believe we are called to do when we accept a “missions call.” Look at the life of Paul. He set everything aside and suffered great hardships, finally including execution.

    Thanks for commenting, Jill. I know sometimes encountering challenging books or other information can be discouraging, but that’s how we learn and grow.

    Blessings.

  3. James, you don’t need to sign on the dotted line and become a member of a denominational church to be a good Christian. EVERYONE who is a follower of Jesus is ALREADY a member of their local church – the fellowship of true believers across their city/town and beyond denominational boundaries (schisms).
    It doesn’t require allegiance to certain denominational doctrines and a certain leader associated with a single organisation. It requires faith in Jesus – and that will open doors for fellowship with believers beyond the walls of man’s individual (and divided) religious organisations.

    By all means we can have a particular group with whom we fellowship on a regular basis – but when men’s ordinances introduce additional organisational ties of allegiance, then it’s wise to be wary; especailly when that comes to agreeing to doctrinal statements that are often questionable at least in part.

    You say you don’t believe that any church has its doctrine 100% right. I’d agree, and that is a very strong reason against the idea of “church” membership or denominational membership, which effectively requires some kind of agreement to the doctrines of a particular group.

  4. “…because after all, the “church” isn’t a unified entity, at least at the level of human organizational meaning…”

    Maybe the church is more unified than the denominational organisations would suggest. The very fact that the impression of non-unity is created by the existence of denonminational organisations should indicate how those organisations are more part of a problem than part of a Godly answer.

    Unity is found through faith in Jesus and membership of His body, not through membership of religious organisations. Jesus is building His church – denominational organisations aren’t.

  5. In discussions with my Pastor and with a good Christian friend, I get the definite impression that general agreement to doctrine is indeed a requirement, albeit not an absolutely concrete one. In a couple of weeks, I’ll meet with Pastor again and we’ll discuss the different denominations in the church and the concept of denominationalism as well. Of course, in God’s eyes, it is for Him to judge righteousness in a human being.

  6. We have to be careful not to get the cart before the horse and see that doctrinal agreement brings people more into unity.

    It is unity in Christ that will bring people into more agreement in doctrine. Put Him first and the rest will fall into place. Put Him first and we will have more in common with others who put Him first.

    While we try to wrestle with men’s doctrinal ideas we will only become more divided – that is how denominations have come about. A group who agree on most things divide over a disagreement over one thing – and as an ongoing result tend to drift further apart and increase their differences as time goes on and as they remain isolated from each other.

    It seems clear to me that every denominational divide and every doctrinal controversy comes as the result of men trying to protect and promote favoured theological viewpoints – ideas that they have mostly learned from the teaching of other men rather than by personally seeking scripture for themselves.

    One of the most common of these controversies is one you have looked at in previous posts: the never ending arminianism/calvinism issue. Just the names of the disagreeing sides should tell us something: both adopting the name of a man to show their distinction. I believe it is a conflict that could be resolved quite easily if both sides genuinely engaged with ALL of scripture instead of the theologies of their favoured traditions, based on isolated parts of scripture. But history has shown the lack of desire to do that and the names of Calvin and Arminius remain the central identifying factor of the continuing dispute.

  7. Put Him first and we will have more in common with others who put Him first.

    That’s what I think, too. That’s why I’m worried about denominational identification. What’s wrong with being a Christians?

  8. Sometimes I’ve felt the silent pressure to agree on doctrine, political issues, moral issues, etc. in the church setting rather oppressive. For instance, I once led a study group where a registered Democrat was looked down upon in a group of registered Republicans. Such an attitude of superiority gives me the sense of not being able to breathe due to a lack of oxygen. This happens in settings where a strong sense of “spiritual correctness” develops, acting as a depressant. Like the dysfunctional dynamic known as “co-dependence” in personal relationships, the “silent demand” to agree can become stifling in such church settings. I’ve often thought of it, in my more cynical moments, as an unacknowledged, perhaps subconscious, force of control that is tolerated due to its resulting power to create social cohesion within a local fellowship of believers.

    It makes me think back to the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, where the women’s missionary group exhibits a most dangerous attitude of contempt toward the Negro population in Maycomb County: the white Christian in the Jim Crow Deep South who thinks that their keeping the Negro suppressed is the right thing to do, in fact, is God’s willed order of things.

    Perhaps if the Christian contour of thought was more Hebraically inclined, hence, more able to “think with both hands” instead of with just one, there would be less rigidity, less judgment.

  9. James, I don’t know if your pastor is willing to take an honest look at scripture outside his denominational lenses. I don’t know if your friend was required to sign a document indicating agreement with doctrine he didn’t believe in order to become a member. I realize this is the hard sell; everyone needs love and acceptance, and they offer you both if you offer loyalty and conformity. Said love and acceptance will be withdrawn if loyalty and conformity is suspect or errant. So, this bothers me. Is this real love, or did someone say that even the world loves those who them?

    A lot of this sounds very self-serving. You are not obedient to scripture until you “join,” a church, something nowhere in scripture. You must sign that you agree to certain doctrines not clearly found in scripture; with both the signing and the doctrines nowhere in scripture. It seems like they are more about keeping people out, and control, than welcoming people in.

    You probably wouldn’t get away with this, but I would turn it around that the requirements for full acceptance in this local body mean you give up your relationship with God and substitute the pastor’s/denomination’s judgment. Perhaps he has been praying for God to show him the truth, and then God sends you to speak to him. The concept of local fellowship is certainly biblical, but we can survive if it is not possible. I also don’t agree with all my pastor’s theology, but he never requires that anyone does. They only require that one have trusted Jesus for salvation and not be in unrepentant sin in order to take communion.

  10. Jill, what you mention sounds a lot like Gospel for Asia. It makes more sense to raise money to support local missionaries who already know the language and culture, and are used to living at that socio-economic level. I suppose it makes sense to send missionaries to areas that don’t have native workers, or candidates that just need training to minister in their own communities. We do enough God-bundling in our own communities. Please, let’s not export it also.

    Here is a story that I don’t know if it is true or not: Some missionaries in Israel saw some 4 and 5 year old’s playing with a hose on a hot day in their birthday suits. This was back around 40 years ago, when air conditioning was rarely found there. The missionaries were appalled at the naked children, and brought them bathing suits to wear, saying, “This is to cover your shame.” One parent noticed the children were wearing the bathing suits, and asked the children about them. A little boy answered, “Those nice ladies gave us these shorts to cover our shame, whatever that is.”

  11. I really don’t want anybody to be too hard on my Pastor or my church. First of all, Pastor Randy is being honest about his examination of scripture, however everyone, you, me, and the lot of us, all come with biases that color our view on just about everything. Remember, the fact that he’s meeting with me every week when he’s available to discuss these matters indicates his willingness to hear me out and consider my point of view.

    As far as what scripture does and doesn’t say about joining a local church, I think Pastor is inferring that from the latter portion of Acts 14 where we see Paul establishing local “churches” and appointing local leaders of those congregations. In principle, I agree with the model, which is why I’m even going to a church instead of just worshiping and studying privately. I believe that there are opportunities for believers that only exists in corporate settings. On the other hand, beyond a certain set of core theologies, it might not be reasonable to expect that everyone is going to agree to every little detail of some denomination’s doctrine.

    Don’t follow Apollos, Paul, or anyone else, follow Messiah. Of course, the trick is, what does that mean? We all have slightly different ideas as to how “following Christ” works.

  12. “Don’t follow … anyone [but] … Messiah.” And there, dear sir, is the head of the nail upon which you have accurately hit. Thus the only binding statement to which one could honestly subscribe would be agreement to study the scriptures (using the best of whatever tools are available), believe what they say, and pursue the path of discipleship accordingly, regardless of commonly agreed denominational organizational viewpoints. One might sign an agreement to become familiar with denominational viewpoints (possibly in order to examine and challenge them). But I suspect, James, that if you were to sign any commitment for the sake of church membership and eligibility for positions of trust, it could not be a standard form but would need to be tailored to respect your intellectual honesty in a manner similar to what I’ve just described.

    Denominations and organizations can be helpful in the same manner that tribal banners served to indicate locations of common interest. But at the same time, especially where an organization has existed for a long period, rigid habits of thought are likely to form because it requires a special commitment to growth and change and group coordination to maintain the effort required to continue studying and communicating the results to a large body of people. It requires also the humility to admit that the initial positions around which the organization formed were not the Torah from Sinai. Otherwise it becomes difficult to recognize that some notions were formed in a prevailing intellectual climate whose perspective was limited and has been superseded by improved knowledge. We discussed this problem regarding Calvinism, and obviously a paradigm shift such as impelled by modern Jewish messianism cannot occur without such commitment to continuing study.

    In a recent post, Onesimus proposed that one may recognize human doctrinal issues by the fact that they bear the name(s) of their originators, such as Calvinism vs. Arminianism. I thought it might be meaningful to note that both these names are preserved and promoted by Calvinists. I have never heard a presumed “Arminian” identify himself as such to promote some system of doctrines, as Calvinists do. In fact, it is only in the context of self-defense against the accusations of a Calvinist that I have ever heard someone specifically accept the label “Arminian”, and only for the sake of the discussion rather than as a personal doctrinal identity. Non-Calvinists do not formulate their identity around Calvinistic criteria, and Arminianism really only exists in the minds of Calvinists, as a foil for their arguments.

  13. …if you were to sign any commitment for the sake of church membership and eligibility for positions of trust, it could not be a standard form but would need to be tailored to respect your intellectual honesty in a manner similar to what I’ve just described.

    Now that’s an interesting idea. Wonder if they’d go for it?

  14. I’ve not posted before today on this topic, because in some measure I feel that I, as a Jew, shouldn’t be trying to define what makes a good Christian, except perhaps to plead that the definition should include respect for Jews in ways that James has frequently demonstrated in this blog. However, as a diligent student of the Rav-Yeshua messianic writings I do feel it my duty to point out that if the definition of a good Christian is to include diligent adherence to the apostolic writings then perhaps the term “good Christian” is itself an oxymoron. You see, the term Christian appears only three times altogether in the apostolic writings — once to indicate where it was first used, once as a mistaken attempt to label Rav Shaul (which he sidestepped as diplomatically as possible), and once to encourage those who were persecuted because of being thus labelled. Colloquially this Greek term “Chrestianos” means “greasy”, and it was always rather a stretch linguistically to translate the notion of the sacred-oil-anointed messiah by the term “chrestos” or “christos” that described a leather shield smeared with grease to preserve the hide. Hence I assert that it was a mistake for Rav Yeshua’s non-Jewish disciples to adopt this label, that was applied originally by outsiders, and to try to apply it universally. It was a term of persecution rather than a good label, hence a “good Christian” is perhaps well compared with the notion of an “Injun” in the bigoted Old-Wild-West American saying that “a good Injun is a dead Injun.” From this perspective one could be excused for thinking it is time to find a better label.

    In a different topic that James posted, “Finishing Off Shabbat”, I offered some suggested alternatives to the term Christian, in response to his request, because of my prior statement that “those non-Jews who now follow Rav Yeshua with a Jewish perspective are somewhat loathe to say they practice Christianity any longer” (due to its long-standing history of anti-Jewish persecution and antinomianism). James replied that one reason he calls himself a Christian is to try to emphasize it as meaning merely a follower of Christ as a translation of Messiah, to take the “demonization” out of the term. Regrettably, “Christianity” has had nineteen centuries to define itself as a demon-haunted religion that cannot be redeemed, even as the spirit of Amalek that it has embodied cannot be redeemed but must be blotted out. I suppose it remains to be seen whether modern disciples who are truly pursuing the ways and attitudes of Rav Yeshua can successfully adopt and popularize an alternative label that liberates them from responsibilty for Christianity’s history.

  15. Perhaps this has nothing to do with it… but I was once required to accept “the right hand of fellowship” at a Baptist church where I once served on staff…. I’m wondering what exactly is an “oath” in terms of its meaning within a biblical context, e.g. David in Psalm 119: “I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.” And then,as Yeshua teaches: “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:34-37 ESV)

    Simply ignore this if it is off-topic, but I’m wondering at this point if “taking the right hand of fellowship” as the custom goes, is tantamount to an oath, and if so, is it wrong to do so? Doing so came after completing a class on the local church’s doctrine, etc. It was Independent Baptist in terms of association.

  16. PL said: …the term Christian appears only three times altogether in the apostolic writings — once to indicate where it was first used, once as a mistaken attempt to label Rav Shaul (which he sidestepped as diplomatically as possible), and once to encourage those who were persecuted because of being thus labelled.

    True. Specifically in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16

    Colloquially this Greek term “Chrestianos” means “greasy”, and it was always rather a stretch linguistically to translate the notion of the sacred-oil-anointed messiah by the term “chrestos” or “christos” that described a leather shield smeared with grease to preserve the hide. Hence I assert that it was a mistake for Rav Yeshua’s non-Jewish disciples to adopt this label, that was applied originally by outsiders…

    The problem is that the meaning of the term has evolved over the past two-thousand years or so to mean (and I’m saying this as generically as possible) “a follower of Christ.” It’s pretty much taken on a life of its own. Other groups have developed other names in an effort to divorce themselves from all of the historical and cultural baggage that is attached to the term “Christian,” but terms like “One Law,” “Hebrew Roots,” and interestingly enough, “Adonaism” all identify Gentile followers of the Jewish Messiah who have adopted, to one degree or another, Jewish or “Hebraic” practices.

    I just read a set of comments on a Hebrew Roots blog that once again has a fellow saying that his group only observes the “written Torah” and not “man-made traditions.” This statement presumably separates this person’s group from all the branches of Judaism as well as Christianity, but through the false assumption that it’s possible to operationalize a Biblical life without human interpretation and in some cases, human adaptation (just how does one tie tzitzit, anyway?).

    In the end, if I adopted a “label” other than Christian, I would immediately be isolating myself from all of the other non-Jewish disciples of Jesus and at least covertly, I would be declaring myself not only different but better. The other reason from me to maintain the label “Christian” is to illustrate that it’s possible for a Gentile Christian to have a theology and set of doctrines that recognizes the primacy of national Israel in the plan of God, the work of the Jewish Messiah as not just personal salvation, but national redemption of Israel, restorer of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and King of Israel and the nations. If I can show that a “Christian” can believe all that and live a life out of those beliefs, then I can be someone who can help the church progress beyond its historical supersessionism and anti-Jewish, anti-Israel framework into the role I believe God has assigned the people of the nations who are called by His Name.

    There must be a lot of blogs, websites, and other venues out there that self-identify as Hebrew/Jewish Roots, Messianic, Adonaist, or something similar. However, the only people they talk to, for the most part, are those already in their own silos. First Fruits of Zion is a notable exception and they expend great effort, time, and financial resources in reaching out to traditional Christians (the FFOZ TV program is an excellent example of that effort). However, most other groups only speak to their own adherents or in many cases, “fan boys.” What I want to do is to speak across groups and doctrines to Christians, Messianics, Hebrew Roots people, and non-Messianic Jews. I want to communicate what I believe the Bible is saying to us all about who we are as human beings and who we are in God.

    The most straightforward way for me as a non-Jewish disciple Jesus to do that is to call myself “Christian” and to be as open and transparent as possible about what that means to me.

  17. Hi Dan. This is just a guess, but I believe it was possible in the days of the Temple, to take an oath and have it be binding before God. On the other hand, I think Jesus may have been addressing vain oaths from people who took them just to dramatically say they were going to do something or not going to do something. These were probably people who had trouble just keeping up with their usual obligations.

    If we are the sort of person with the integrity to do something when we say we’re going to do it, we don’t have to take an oath. We’ll just do it. On the other hand, if we say we’ll do something and are prevented by some circumstance, we are not as accountable as if we had sworn an oath before God. One of the few oaths we have in Christianity are the wedding vows we take. The horrible divorce rate in our nation, including among Christians, indicates we aren’t taking that oath very seriously. I wonder how many divorced Christians will be held accountable before God for breaking their oaths unjustifiably (Of course, I’m not saying there are no good reasons to divorce. Any woman who has a spouse who is abusive to her or their children is certainly justified in divorcing because the man already broke his oath by failing to protect his family).

  18. “The most straightforward way for me as a non-Jewish disciple Jesus to do that is to call myself “Christian” and to be as open and transparent as possible about what that means to me.”

    Do the good gentile boys in FFOZ do this?

  19. Dan said: Do the good gentile boys in FFOZ do this?

    Ah, my daily dose of snark.

    Hi Dan. How are you?

    To answer your question, what I do on my blog is created entirely by me. Just because I reference FFOZ writers and materials doesn’t mean I represent them or that they direct me. I also quote from and reference Larry Hurtado, Mark Nanos, and Scot McKnight, but I’m not affilated with them, either.

  20. The cry of Babel was, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” And they sure have. But the spats of Christendom: Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Cessationism vs. Continuism, OSAS vs. OSNAS – they aren’t my battle. Its like my husband really gets into sports and is happy when his team wins and upset when it loses, and I not only don’t care who won; I don’t even need to know. Well, if he made or lost money on a sporting bet, then maybe it would interest me 🙂

  21. I’m heard many Christians say, “Let’s give God the glory.” If that’s sincere, then it’s not making a name for ourselves but sanctifying the Name of the Almighty, which is what we’re supposed to be up to.

  22. The Hebrew word, “kavod,” translated, “glory,” means, “to make heavy.” It referred to the idea that everything was sold by weight in those times. So, if I am paying $2.99 for a pound of cherries, I want my pound of cherries; and I wouldn’t mind a bit extra, however, I certainly don’t want to be shorted. Perhaps these people need to be honest about whose bag of cherries they are filling up. Can you sort of make a name for yourself on God’s coat tails? I get the feeling that this, “Let’s give God the glory,” means, “and let’s take some for ourselves too.” That’s why I don’t want to attach myself to labels anymore, as it is helping fill up someone else’s bag.

  23. WHY WERE DENOMINATIONS CREATED?

    Were denominations created so the could teach the apostles doctrine? No they were not.

    Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrineand fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.(NKJV)

    The Roman Catholic denomination was established so it could teach the doctrine of popes, cardinals, the doctrine of the Roman Catholic denomination.

    The Lutheran denomination was formed so they could teach the doctrine of Martin Luther.

    The Baptist denominations were brought into existence so they could teach the doctrine of John Calvin and that of Baptist preachers.

    Denominations were formed so they could teach doctrines contrary the doctrine of the apostles.

    Can you name one denomination that teaches the terms for pardon that the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost?(Acts 2:22-41 ……40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them,)(NKJV)

    Peter did not preach. .1 Salvation by good works. 2. Salvation by Law keeping. 3. Salvation by grace alone. Salvation by faith only. 5. Salvation by saying the Sinner’s Prayer.

    Peter preached. 1. Faith; John 3:16. 2. Confession; Romans 10:9. 3. Repentance; Acts 2:38. 4. Water Baptism; Acts 2:38.
    Peter preached the apostles doctrine.

    Denominations were created to teach and preach the doctrines of men.

    Mark 7:5-13……”making the word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”(NKJV)

    Denominations were created to teach the traditions of men.

    If all believers in Christ taught the apostles doctrine, found in the New Testament Scriptures, there would be no denominations.

    EDITED by blog owner to remove spam.

  24. Proclaim Liberty said:
    “I thought it might be meaningful to note that both these names are preserved and promoted by Calvinists. I have never heard a presumed “Arminian” identify himself as such to promote some system of doctrines, as Calvinists do.”

    Hi Proclaim Liberty
    There are in fact many bloggers that identify themselves as “Arminians” who regular post articles related to Arminius’s teachings and have the term “Arminian” in their blog names. There is also a kind of “umbrella” group “Society of Evangelical Arminians”.

  25. Thanks, Onesimus, for that additional perspective. Understandably, I don’t run into this particularly Christian controversy very often. The perspective I described was formed several decades ago; now you have me wondering how recent is this “blatant Arminian” phenomenon. Obviously blogs are a recent internet artifact, and I can only wonder if the “Society” you cite is also of recent origin. I’m still a tad suspicious that all of this may be somehow arising solely in reaction against the Calvinistic usage of the term that identifies their supposed antagonists. But I must admit, even when I was confronted by Calvinists decades ago and accused of Arminianism, because my messianic Jewish perspectives on the apostolic writings did not agree with Calvinism, I never subsequently performed any research to determine if any “Arminian” associations ever actually existed. I had no reason to seek out Arminians, despite being accused of being one, because I knew that my views had not arisen from any such source and my associations were with Jews rather than some Christian organization or denomination.

  26. Yes, groups such as Pentecostals, AoG, most Baptists, Wesleyan, etc, don’t use the term Arminian. So, I wonder if Calvinists are like Catholics, as every non-Catholic is a Protestant, so every non-Calvinist is an Arminian? Because I don’t consider myself either.

  27. Since you have now piqued my curiosity, I’ve done a little cursory research into Arminianism, Remonstrantism, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism with the help of Wikipedia. Apparently the Arminian viewpoint is found among Methodists, Anabaptists, Waldensians, Universalists, Unitarians, and, I would like to emphasize here particularly, among BAPTISTS.

    I wonder how it is that James finds himself defending against Calvinism in conversations with his Pastor in what he has described as a Baptist church, though Wikipedia does note that both perspectives may be found at times within the same denomination. In fact, it says:

    “Advocates of both Arminianism and Calvinism find a home in many Protestant denominations, and sometimes both exist within the same denomination. Faiths leaning at least in part in the Arminian direction include Methodists, Free Will Baptists, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, General Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Church of the Nazarene, The Salvation Army, Conservative Mennonites, Old Order Mennonites, Amish and Charismatics. Denominations leaning in the Calvinist direction are grouped as the Reformed churches and include Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. The majority of Southern Baptists, including Billy Graham, accept Arminianism with an exception allowing for a doctrine of perseverance of the saints (“eternal security”). Many see Calvinism as growing in acceptance, and some prominent Reformed Baptists, such as Albert Mohler and Mark Dever, have been pushing for the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt a more Calvinistic orientation (it should be noted, however, that no Baptist church is bound by any resolution adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention). Lutherans espouse a view of salvation and election distinct from both the Calvinist and Arminian schools of soteriology.”

    Apparently the “Society of Evangelical Arminians” is a very recently formed organization, judging from info on their website. The Wikipedia summary does outline a well-organized set of doctrinal statements very specifically designed to counter the systematically organized Calvinistic doctrines. However, I think I’ll continue to “stay away from the fray” while promoting independent Jewish views of the apostolic writings. If Arminians happen to appreciate them more than Calvinists, so be it (and, I might add, so what?).

  28. I wonder how it is that James finds himself defending against Calvinism in conversations with his Pastor in what he has described as a Baptist church, though Wikipedia does note that both perspectives may be found at times within the same denomination.

    Baptist seems to be a denomination without a strong central authority, so individual churches can be somewhat variable about their doctrine. As far as my defense, my response is to say that the entire Calvinist/Arminian dichotomy was artificially generated during the reformation, probably out of the belief that all things in the universe should ultimately able to be determined, using different bits and pieces of scripture for support of the argument.

    That doesn’t convince staunch Calvinists, but I don’t have to convince them, just me.

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