Tag Archives: Christianity

“Belief-less” Christianity? Don’t buy it!

John Shuck believes that religion was invented by humans; he believes that faith is a product of evolution; he believes that Jesus might have been a historical figure, but stories about Him are legend; he believes that God isn’t real; and he believes that there is no afterlife. Up until now there was a name for that, “atheist.” But Shuck has made news lately for demanding another name, ”Christian.” 

The reason this is news is because Shuck is a Minister with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), yet he doesn’t believe in God. And while a minister losing faith is nothing new, Shuck has an interesting twist. Losing faith didn’t cause him to leave the ministry. Rather, he glorifies a new gospel that he calls, “Belief-less Christianity!”

Now, at its root, this is just the logical conclusion of what C.S. Lewis bemoaned when he said that the word “Christian” had become meaningless – merely a “good person.” But there is something far more sinister at work here. Can one be a Christian and have no faith in Jesus? No faith in God? No belief in the afterlife?

Most Christians realize that the Bible exclusively teaches a faith-based religion. It always has been and always will be. There is no other way to practice it; and there is certainly no other way to be saved by it.

In the New Testament (ie., Romans 4, Galatians 3:6, Hebrews 11:19, and James 2:23), physical lineage is shown to mean nothing without faith. It is by faith that Israel has always been Israel. It is by faith that Israel was pleasing to God. It is by BELIEF in ACTION.

Christians are believers. Peter spoke among those who believed (Acts 1:15). At Antioch, believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Salvation, belief, and Christianity are intertwined (Acts 15:11, 16:31; Romans 10:9). There simply is no such thing (in scripture) as an acceptable and “belief-less” Christianity.

Yet, Shuck doesn’t appreciate being told that he isn’t a Christian. He doesn’t appreciate that “Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket.” In his congregation, people are encouraged to “bring your own God” or “none at all.” But he insists it is still “Christianity!”

Friends, I hope you see that the two positions are incompatible. The clearest teaching in scripture is that salvation is based on belief in Jesus, joining in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism, and living a life in enduring faith. Shuck claims that “belief-less” Christianity is thriving, but don’t be duped. “Belief-less” Christianity…it is no Christianity at all.

I’ll keep my “eggs in the belief basket” over Shuck’s new gospel any day!

Judge vs James: Faith Without Works is…Legal, But Dead?

flowers-gavAt first glance, it might just seem like the same old news: another florist, another same-sex couple, and another ruling. But what may seem to some as a simple judgment might just be the most important thing that you read today.

It isn’t Barronelle Stutzman’s plea that she is being forced to celebrate same-sex unions against her rights and faith. It isn’t the fact that she was sued. And it certainly isn’t the fact that a judge ruled against her. All of that is par for the course these days.

But what should grab your attention is Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom’s reasoning for ruling against Stutzman: you can believe, but you can’t necessarily practice, religion!

Now on the face of things, that might sound almost reasonable. After all, we live in jihadist times. And we certainly don’t want militant jihadists following the parts of the Koran that tell Muslims to kill all infidels (ie., Quran 2:191-193).

But religious freedom has always carried with it elements of a practiced faith, not just a believing faith.

So if a Christian won’t sell flowers to someone for the purpose of celebrating something that their faith teaches is an abomination, are they to be treated as the jihadist? After all, the same-sex couple had many other flower shops that gladly offered to serve them – some that even offered to give them the flowers for free. Won’t the marketplace take care of this by itself?

But what if the flowers weren’t the goal? What if compliance with the law isn’t even the goal? What if faith without works is the goal – an empty belief? And until the practice of the Christian faith is dead, persecution will continue.

Christians who thought they could “coexist” and practice their faith, in this legal environment, are in for a rude awakening.

You see, Ekstrom’s ruling violates a fundamental principle that has been “on the books” for almost 2,000 years. James, the half-brother of Jesus, explained, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). In fact, James has harsh words for one who would take Ekstrom’s position: “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

Of course, I preach James, not Ekstrom. And I tell a congregation every Sunday that we need to put our faith into action. We need to have a living, working faith to be a church that is pleasing to God. But if we put those words into practice, have we violated the law? And am I inciting others to violate the law?

Perhaps. But that is no surprise. And James still says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

Mind your Matzoh and your Mitzvot

Someone once asked me how to find balance between the law and love of others. Perhaps we can take a lesson from Matzoh and Mitzvah. Matzoh is unleavened bread – that stuff we eat every Sunday in the Lord’s Supper. Mitzvot are good deeds or commandments.

Every Passover, practicing Jews search their houses to ensure they have removed all yeast (leaven). This law is explained in Exodus 12 & 13 when Israel is given the legal aspects of the Passover. “Minding your Matzoh” means, keep the unclean or evil thing from your house. This is what Jesus was doing when he cleansed the Temple of the money changers during Passover. While Israelites were removing yeast from their houses at Passover, Jesus showed them that he would remove the unclean, evil thing from his Father’s house.

According to the traditional Jewish interpretation of scripture, there are 613 Mitzvot or commandments. If you follow or teach others to follow a commandment, it is said you have done a Mitzvah, a good deed. So you might help someone cross the street today, and that would be a Mitzvah, a good deed. Certainly, Jesus taught that we must do good deeds (Luke 6:9).

Finding balance between the two can be difficult. If we do nothing but mind the law, we may lack love toward others. Similarly, if we do nothing other than good deeds, we may lack adherence to the law. It is an effort to follow laws and help our fellow-man.

For the Christian, balance includes doing good deeds and following laws, but if we don’t have God in our hearts, then we’re just people-helpers and rule-followers. Unfortunately, for many people, following God’s Laws and helping others would be a step up. Nevertheless, it doesn’t get us any closer to heaven or salvation. We cannot work our way into heaven. The only way to heaven is through Christ. Once we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit of God in our hearts, then and only then, can we be about our Father’s business of minding matzoh and mitzvah – law and good deeds.