Sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to jump through enough hoops to prove that I’m a Christian. Everywhere I turn, somebody is saying: “You must believe this or that in order for me to accept you as a genuine believer.” It’s like it’s not enough to believe in Jesus anymore. There are all of these -isms to describe different sets of beliefs and some of them are contradictory: pre-millennial, post-millennial, or a-millennial, for example. You generally see people fall in one category. As soon as you identify which one you hold, you make one set of friends – the people who agree with you, and everyone else makes it their mission to win you over to their side.
So when the statistic that only 8% of Americans are genuine believers right now – that means that a whole of Christians just don’t match up to whatever qualifications separate them from whatever it takes to be considered genuine. One of the things that bothers me these days is that people increasingly narrow down the definition of a true believer is. It’s not enough that they believe in Jesus, but they have to believe in Jesus according to the correct denomination, the statement of faith provided by that denomination, the pet doctrines of that denomination, and be willing to sign a member covenant to that effect.
That means that most American Christians are in the wrong denomination, have agreed to believe in the wrong statement of faith, believe in the wrong pet doctrines, and have signed up in membership to the wrong churches because there can only be one right church and theirs isn’t it. That’s why I tend to find it difficult to be handed a set of beliefs and be told that they are sound, biblical, and true and to just believe them. It’s one reason why reformed theology never struck a chord with me – it too, was presented as a list of beliefs that I was not to question but to accept wholeheartedly.
So what does it take to be a genuine believer? “Believing Jesus is the only way to Heaven, attending church regularly, and believing in the authority of the Scriptures.” I’m two for three, so I guess I don’t make the cut. Here’s a prime example of what my problem is: ‘authority of the Scriptures’. That’s a vague statement – something like ‘complete obedience to the commands of the Bible’ could be what’s implied and that’s something that’s pretty debatable – what parts of it are commands? What does obedience to it look like? What about the authority of the God himself? Or are the Scriptures the highest point of authority in a Christian’s life? Just what is authority?
Something tells me that what we’re seeing – people leaving churches, is the unfortunate result of making the ‘straight and narrow’ into a small passageway where no one is thin enough or short enough or small enough or believes enough to enter – like one of the doors in Alice in Wonderland, all we can do is put our faces to the door and look at the garden on the other side because unless we can shrink down to size, there’s no way in.