This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drawing Circles (Exclusivism and Ecumenicism) Part 4

Discussing who's a Christian and who's not will always be full of competing motives for just about anyone. i think making any progress in these matters requires a lot of self-examination and prayer to keep our motives and aims pure in the matter.

We may try to favor certain boundary-markers because it works in our favor--certain boundary-markers leave us feeling sure of our salvation and the salvation of some or all dear to us. The other side of that coin: i think we'll have a natural tendency to resist strongly certain boundary-markers because they exclude us or those we love and we don't want to accept that insecurity. "Well, that just can't be right because that'd mean my dear sweet grandfather is in hell." Does the fact that my grandfather was dear and sweet to me obligate God to keep him out of hell?

Just as tempting can be the motivation to keep certain people out of the circle. Maybe there's someone we perceive as having done something unforgiveable or unacceptable or having wronged us so horrifically that we thirst for justice in the matter. Thus, we strongly resist any boundary-markers that might seem to include them or make it easy for them to get inside the circle. "Well, that just can't be right, because that'd mean so-n-so who wrong my family so many years ago is just fine now." Does my disdain and unwillingness to forgive someone obligate God to bear a grudge against that person as well?

i must be honest with myself about what i'm after--what i want? or what God wants? What if God leaves people out whom i want in? What if God allows in people whom i want out? Will i fault Him? Do i know better than God who should be on which side of the line? The truth is, if God leaves out someone i wish were in, God must know better than me about that person or about why certain boundary-markers are necessary. The truth is, if God allows in someone i wish were out, God must know better than me about that person or about why certain boundary-markers are where they are. Thus, at base, i ought to strive to wish for God to prevail in each case even when it conflicts with my personal wishes.

Most recently in my experiences, i'm feeling more obligation to resist the worldly pull toward relativism and the line that goes something like: "well, we're all fallible so we could all be wrong, thus no one has any right or place to insist on standing up for anything." It would be very easy to go along with these notions that are fairly common among Christians my age, and i could fit in far more easily with them if i did go along. And sometimes it's tempting. But i must, instead, listen to my conscience and aim to side with God even if that isolates me or upsets others.


Dusty Chris said...

Why would we want anyone to be left out? Are we supposed to have compassion and interest in everyone following Jesus...whether they do it our way or not? I hope everyone finds their way to Jesus...and if we, as a denomination, are not going to bring people to Christ...I think God will find others who will.

reborn1995 said...


i'm not sure i understand where exactly your question is coming from, so if my response reflects a misunderstanding, then please clarify.

Why would we want anyone to be left out? i gave some possibilities in the post; maybe we're motivated by resentment or anger or prejudice or pride. Of course these are evil and un-Christ-like motives, but they're real and powerful motives that can effect our judgment in these questions nonetheless.

But regarding your "whether they do it our way or not" comment: Are atheists people who are 'inside the circle' but who simply didn't get there "our way"? Are Satanists? Muslims? Mormons? Hindus? Buddhists? Wiccans? Are these all people who are 'inside the circle' (i.e., they are right with God just as they are and are a part of the group of people He will ultimately grant eternal life) but they just aren't doing things "our way"?

If you'd say yes, then you're either an inclusivist/universalist or close to. i, however, have been arguing for religious exclusivism in this series of posts. If you'd say "no," then you agree there are definite lines God has drawn which exclude some people from eternal life for various reasons.

What are those lines and how should Christian practice manifest a recognition of those lines?

Is a Christian somehow immoral or irrational for insisting that there are such lines?

It's mainly this latter question i'm dealing with in this series.

Why would i want anyone to be left out? Well, because if God says that certain people are left out, then God knows better than me on which side of the circle-lines those people belong. i'd want those people to be "left out" because God knows best. But i want them to get into the circle His way, just as He wishes the same for them as well.

Dusty Chris said...

I guess I am referring more to Christian/Catholic (those who believe in Jesus). I don't believe that everyone should be included nor do I think God does that...Scripture is clear about that.

I just don't focus (or think of) those lines. I am more interested in doing right, following Jesus, doing what God wants me to do and "let God sort the bodies." I have good friends who are Mormon, Catholic, etc. I try to be a witness to all who come around me of the grace of God.

Is it immoral to think about the lines? hmmm...I don't know. It may be fleshly but not necessarily sinful...how's that for a cop out answer? Irrational...no...I think it is very rational to think about the lines. But thinking is of the flesh as well...but not necessarily sinful.

I honestly don't think about lines....or I am in denial...but I don't think I am.

I don't look down on you or judge you if you do draw lines...I just think it is interesting that you do...different from me but not necessarily wrong.

You're making me think....

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