I have been following a discussion this week on one of the message boards I frequent with great interest. It started with a member sharing her frustration over a VBS her children attended last week, because they were taught that if they didn’t believe in Jesus, they wouldn’t go to heaven, and then were encouraged to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” Now, as a Lutheran, I don’t subscribe to the whole “sinner’s prayer” theology, but I am confused as to what she expected her children to learn about at VBS, if not the need for a Savior. I was equally flummoxed by how many people agreed with her, and stated that they would be anything from offended to very angry if anyone told their children at VBS that only believers go to heaven (guess they wouldn’t have wanted their children in my VBS class!). This is a great example of why we shouldn’t ship our children out to churches that we are not in agreement with, no matter how fun their programs look, or how much free childcare we can get out of it! But I digress.
Anyway, the conversation took an interesting turn when various members of the message board started debating different points of theology, and why they would or would not send their children to different churches. This particular statement really stood out tome, annoyed me, and got me thinking about hypocrisy in the church:
You asked about Church of Christer’s belief about whether Catholics are Christians. I’ll answer that by explaining our definition of a Christian… In the Bible, we see multiple examples of people becoming Christians, and the common pattern is that they believe, repent of their sins, confess that Jesus is the Son of God, are baptized (fully immersed) for the remission of their sins, and then they live faithfully. I used to be Lutheran, and I had a Lutheran “baptism” as a baby. When I started studying the Bible as an adult, I realized that the “baptism” I had had as a baby was not what was described in the Bible. I had not believed (I was too young!), I was not immersed (as the Greek word means), I was not “buried in Christ”. I had water sprinkled on my head as a baby, and when I was in 5th grade I was “confirmed” (not found in the Bible). So no, I do not believe I was a Christian when I was Lutheran because I had not met the criteria for becoming a Christian (as I read in the Bible examples of how it happened). That’s why I chose to be baptized (fully immersed) about 11.5 years ago, at which point I believe I was “saved”. So yes, I consider myself to have been a Christian for 11.5 years, because I use a different definition than the general public (who usually defines it as someone who believes in Jesus – I have no doubt that Catholics believe in Jesus.)
There are so many things wrong with this quote that I don’t even know where to start.
OK, yes I do. How about the fact that when she talks about her real “conversion” experience, she keeps using the pronoun “I.” This whole conversion experience is all about her, which shouldn’t really surprise me in this self-centered society, but is still contradictory to basic Christian beliefs.
Second, and the true ironic problem with this theology, is the opinion on works. These are the same people who will criticize Catholics for works righteousness, saying that they’re too focused on what they have to do to get into heaven, and saying that while they may believe in Jesus, they’re not really Christians. And yet, these particular fundamentalists don’t seem to realize that they, too, are basing their salvation on works. Look at what she says here…”I realized, I read in the Bible, I chose to be baptized, I was immersed, I was saved…” These are all statements about what the believer has done to secure her salvation–not a single mention of Christ’s saving work in her life!
Now, I realize that part of the issue I take with this mentality is the fact that this particular person used to be Lutheran…and then goes on to explain why Lutherans can’t possibly be Christians, according to her new, “correct” theology (and I will admit that her use of quotes around the word Baptism in regards to her first, Lutheran Baptism really angers me). But I also hate hypocrisy, and it annoys me to no end that Christians who hold these kind of beliefs can’t see how disingenuous they’re being. Sure, Catholics, (and Lutherans, by extension), aren’t “real Christians,” but the reason they’re not is because they haven’t done things the right way. Sounds like works righteousness to me.
I wish fundamental Christians could realize just how much they have in common with Catholics, after all…maybe it would take their self-righteous attitudes about baptism and conversion down a peg.