about when we started making judgements on whether someone is or is not a Christian based-on a test of theology? I’ve been thinking about this off and on. Evangelical Christians tend to have somewhat stringent requirements for belief. While we will proclaim ’til the day we die that it is by grace that we are saved and not by works, we turn the very concept of grace into a marker of faith that keeps many who would call themselves Christians on the “outside.” We doubt the faith of entire churches because we disagree with part of their theology.
“True Christians” believe the following:
1. Salvation is a gift, not based-on your works. So, if you’re not totally clear on that, and you still wonder if justification is based-on your actions, you probably aren’t a real believer.
2. Jesus was the Son of God, a member of the Trinity, fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, without sin. Perfect Christology.
While I would agree with that theology, I’ve noticed a tendency in some to let good theology be a checklist that helps us determine if someone is really a believer. Others will add many more requirements to this list like believing in a literal 7-day creation, belief in the Trinity, etc… Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see anything in the words of Jesus that point to a requirement of having perfect theology in order to follow Him.
I notice in the Gospels that Jesus calls people in a very simple way: “Come follow me.” He asks that they leave everything behind, count the cost, and follow Him as a disciple. A disciple is a learner, one who sits at the feet of a teacher. These people left behind their old lives, gave-up everything for love of Jesus, and oriented their life around following His teachings. The good theology came later, I imagine.
What if it’s really that simple today? What if someone can belong to a church that we think teaches heresy, have an unclear understanding of how salvation actually works, be confused about the nature of God and the Trinity—and still love and follow Christ with a wholehearted devotion? What if it’s more about the person of Christ than about what He represents….more about knowing and following Him than learning about Him. Maybe we should judge the fruit of a person’s life rather than his theology.
Of course, believing and understanding what is true about God can lead to greater intimacy with Him, just like the more I learn about who Clay is, the more I love him. And we should always be pursuing truth about God, staying open to learn from others and for Him to reveal Himself. But should we cast doubt upon someone’s eternal soul based-on imperfect belief? Jesus said to judge a tree by its fruit: a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, a bad tree will not produce good fruit. If someone truly knows Christ and the Spirit has transformed their hearts and made them one with Him….the fruit will come.
What do you think? Am I missing something here?