How much theology do you have to get right to be a Christian? How much of your doctrine has to be correct for you to be “in the Kingdom”? That’s a question I’ve spent a great deal of time chewing on.
When news first broke about how ISIS (or ISIL) militants were rounding up and beheading or otherwise killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Christians, many Christian leaders (myself included) proclaimed their solidarity with these martyred brothers and sisters in the faith.
To be clear, this was the right thing to do.
It raises a question for me though: Would we be calling them “brothers and sisters in the faith” if they hadn’t just been martyred? ISIS operates mostly in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the surrounding regions. The tribe of Christian that is mostly found in those areas believe very different things than the North American Evangelicals who proclaimed their fellowship with them. Most of them are Eastern, Syrian or Greek Orthodox (among many others). For the uninitiated, what that stream of Christianity believes and what ‘we’ believe are in many ways, very different. Conversations I’ve been a part of have not hesitated to use the words “heretical” and “anathema“. Those are serious accusations. Christians in the West are very, very good at eating our own. Whether it’s The Gospel Coalition and Tullian Tchividjian having a very public break up or thousands of Christians behaving horribly and forcing World Vision to reverse a decision to hire members of the LGBT community. We’re good at getting mad at each other, we’re great at making pronouncements about who’s in and who’s out.
How dare we call them brothers now that they are dead.Click To Tweet
This brings me back to my original question: How much do we need to be right? What’s the “threshold of orthodoxy”? It sounds silly when I say it like that doesn’t it? I hope it sounds downright ridiculous to you. “How much theology do you need right to be saved?” That’s works righteousness not Good News.Of course, I think I’m right in all of my theology. I think I believe the right things. I’d be a bit naive if I intentionally believed things I thought were wrong, that would…well, that would be dumb.
Both Acts 16:30-31 and Mark 16:16 tell us that all you need to do is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” That’s a mercifully low bar to clear. Dare I say it’s a bar anyone and everyone can clear. And so all of these things swirl in my mind together. The martyrs of ISIS, overreaction to World Vision, Tullian and TGC, and western attitudes toward doctrinal accuracy and our love of criticism unless someone is dying. It all makes me wonder: Would I call them “brother” if they were alive?
The great reformer, Martin Luther is believed to have said: “Here I stand, I can do no other!” when he was being pressed to recant his writings or be excommunicated. We consider Luther a great reformer, and a bosom brother, but he was mostly Catholic, and I expect he and I would find ourselves “standing” in very different places, but I still call him brother. Pope Francis (The evangelical pope) and I stand in very different places, but I still call him brother. Even Joel Osteen, the poster boy for the horrifically misguided “prosperity gospel” movement. He’s the black sheep of the family, and I have to hold my nose while I do it, but I still call him brother.
My hope is they’d do the same to me.
Am I oversimplifying this issue? Yes. Are there many (many) verses that deal with false teaching and its consequences? Yes. But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of being too open and let the Judge do His job rather than try and do it for Him.
Maybe I’m wrong there too…How much theology do you have to get right to be a Christian? Click To Tweet