#18 One Doesn’t Have to be a Fundamentalist to be a Good Christian

ANNE RICE IS AN interesting person. She achieved fame (at least in some circles) as the writer of vampire novels.[1] Then after many years as an atheist, estranged for some thirty years from the Roman Catholic Church in which she grew up, Rice (b. 1941) returned to the Church in 1998 and in 2004 announced in a Newsweek article that from then on she would “write only for the Lord.” Her next book was Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and that was followed by Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.[2]

As one who has read Rice’s stimulating books about the life of Jesus, finding them to be insightful and reverent, I was somewhat dismayed in July 2010 to learn that she had (on Facebook of all places!) publically renounced Christianity. She makes it clear that she has not renounced her faith in Jesus Christ, just her identification with the Christian religion.

Here is what she posted on Facebook on July 28, 2010:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Five minutes later, she wrote this on her Facebook wall (as it was called then):

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

And then the next day Rice wrote,

My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

The above quotes are given in their entirety to indicate how one public person has embraced Christ and Christianity and then rejected the latter because of her faith in Christ. But it seems mainly to be the fundamentalist form of the Christian faith, and the traditional form of Catholicism, that she has rejected. That is why I wrote on my Facebook page that I wish Rice had read my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism, for I firmly believe that it is possible for a Christian to be for most of the things Rice is for, or at least not against all of the things that Rice thinks Christianity is against. It is not necessary for one to be a fundamentalist, or a traditional Roman Catholic, in order to be a Christian, and a good one at that. And, certainly, not all Christians are “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious,” although, unfortunately, some (or many) are.

 Fundamentalists Then and Now

Between 1910 and 1915, sixty-four conservative Christian authors wrote ninety essays that were published in twelve small paperback books under the general title The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. Financed by two wealthy Christian laymen, all or some of those booklets were sent free of charge to some 300,000 ministers, missionaries, and other Christian workers in the United States and in different parts of the world.

In 1920, Curtis Lee Laws, the editor of The Watchman-Examiner, a Baptist publication, coined the word Fundamentalists. The publication of The Fundamentals, the conference on “The Fundamentals of Our Baptist Faith” about which Laws wrote, and the subsequent use of the term Fundamentalists were all part of what I call “a sincere movement to preserve or to restore the true faith.”[3]

Through the years, though, the fundamentalist movement changed from being primarily an irenic theological movement that dealt with core Christian doctrines to becoming a militant movement led mostly by fiery preachers, such as J. Frank Norris, Bob Jones, and John R. Rice in the early decades of the movement and by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson and the like in recent decades. It is preachers like those—and there are certainly many others—that Anne Rice could be referring to when she writes about “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous” Christians.

Another major shift in Christian fundamentalism is seen in the change from the emphasis on doctrines to an emphasis on ethical issues. Thus, in recent years Christian fundamentalists, often called the Religious Right in the U.S., have been primarily known for what they adamantly oppose: abortion, and homosexual practices, women in ministry, among several other issues. It is because of their strong opposition to such practices that Rice could write about refusing to be anti-gay or anti-feminist.

Fundamentalism is primarily a Protestant movement, but there are many similarities with traditional Roman Catholicism, which throughout Anne Rice’s lifetime has also been staunchly against abortion, homosexual practices, and women clergy. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently opposed contraception, so it was because of being a Roman Catholic that Rice could also write about leaving Christianity because of refusing to be anti-artificial birth control.

Of course, there are some common characteristics seen in the fundamentalists in the 1920s as well as in the 2010s, the main one being the insistence on biblical inerrancy and the literal interpretation of the Bible. It is also because of that emphasis that Anne Rice rejects Christianity; she refuses to be anti-science. It has been a literal reading of what is believed to be an inerrant Bible that has caused many Christians from the eighteenth century to the present day to reject evolution and to profess belief in the creation of the earth some six thousand years ago—in spite of the preponderance of scientific evidence to the contrary.

Even though there are some similarities between fundamentalism “then” and now, it is particularly present-day fundamentalism, as well as some traditional Roman Catholic ideas, that makes Christianity a problem for many contemporary people, both in and out of the church.

 Rejecting the Religious Right

Anne Rice said she also rejected Christianity because she refuses to be “anti-Democratic.” That statement was likely prompted by the fact that during the decade she was back in the Catholic Church the Religious Right, made up primarily of fundamentalist Christians, was almost completely aligned with the Republican Party in the United States.

After retiring as missionaries to Japan for thirty-eight years, June and I lived in south Missouri our first year back in the States, beginning in August 2004. As you remember, there was an important presidential election that fall, and in that connection we visited the Democratic headquarters in the town where we lived that year. The volunteer on duty that day expressed some surprise when she learned that we had been Christian missionaries, for she said that there was a widespread perception in that area that one could not be a Christian and a Democrat. There had been several who had expressed that opinion to her.

There are those, of course, who have been actively engaged in combating that kind of mistaken or misguided thinking. Jim Wallis, the founding editor of Sojourners magazine and leader of the Sojourners Christian community in Washington, D.C. is one such person. One of his bestselling books is God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.[4]

In the Introduction of his book, Wallis writes, “Of course, God is not partisan; God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities for their political agendas, they make a terrible mistake.” For what they consider legitimate reasons, though, those who are Republicans think that being so is consistent with their deepest understanding of the Christian faith. (And although it may not be so common, the same for at least some Democrats.)

It is the sense of certainty, or maybe I should say arrogance, that I see as one of the most distressing aspects of fundamentalism. So many fundamentalists seem to think that on every major issue there is one and only one Christian position and that they know exactly what that position is. That sense of certainty keeps them from being willing, or even able, to dialogue with those who have an opposing viewpoint. Quite often, those who hold opposing viewpoints are considered not only wrong but even non-Christian.

There are some people who are fundamentalist-like on the opposite side of the theological or social-issues spectrum, of course. Thus in the same Introduction mentioned above, and in several places later in his book, Wallis refers to secular fundamentalists. And Alister E. McGrath, one of the leading contemporary theologians in the English-speaking world, writes about “atheist fundamentalism.”[5]

Still, many of the most strident voices in American society are those of Christian fundamentalists who have been the main force behind the Religious Right. So I am sympathetic to the rejection of Christianity by Anne Rice, and by many others who are not public figures such as she is. Fundamentalism and the Religious Right have caused many to jettison Christianity. But it is not necessary to give up on Christianity or the church as a whole because of the excesses of some, even a sizeable “some,” within the church.

There are all kinds of hate groups who not only are U.S. citizens but who flaunt their “freedoms” in their outrageous tirades on the basis of being Americans. But such hotheads haven’t caused Rice or most other sensitive persons to renounce their U.S. citizenship. If people of goodwill can remain U.S. citizens in spite of the “nuts” that besmirch the best that this country stands for, why can’t Christians remain church members and Christians even though there are those—fundamentalists, members of the Religious Right, and others—whose ideas and attitudes need to be rejected?

Affirming the Faith of and the Faith about Jesus Christ

Some fundamentalists declare that people either believe the Bible in the same way they do (as the inerrant Word of God to be interpreted literally) or else they are not (true) Christians. In recent decades, some devout Christian seminary professors and others have been opposed and their faith impugned because they interpreted some biblical passages as symbolic or metaphorical and suggested that some passages were relative to the times in which they were written but not universally applicable and not authoritative for the present.

But in the beginning, Christianity was not based upon faith in what was recorded in a book. Faith was commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, and the Christian life was lived by allegiance to the teachings of Jesus and to the teachings about Christ. The Bible as we know it today was not universally accepted by Christianity until the fourth century.

There were, to be sure, key writings in the first century that guided and undergirded the young church, writings that later became a part of the Christian Bible. But the Bible was not the basis of the church. Rather, churches as communities of faith were the matrix in which the biblical books were written and in which they were read and found to be helpful. But the basis of the faith was commitment to Jesus Christ and the determination to live not only by his teachings but to follow “in his steps.”

For that reason, it should be clear that one does not have to be a fundamentalist in order to be a good Christian. On the contrary, as I argue in my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism, shucking off the excesses of that form of the faith ought to help one to be a better Christian, that is, one more faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. As Jim Wallis says in God’s Politics, the best response to “bad religion” (such as fundamentalism) is “better religion.” Thus, “The best response to fundamentalism is to take faith more seriously than fundamentalism usually does. . . . It is faith that leads us to assert the vital religious commitments that fundamentalists often leave out, namely compassion, social justice, peacemaking, humility, tolerance, and even democracy as a religious commitment” (p. 67). Those words are well worth heeding.

I am happy that Anne Rice did not reject Christ when she rejected Christianity, for it is faith in Christ, not religion, that is essential. In spite of the positive references to religion in the preceding paragraph, I still contend that faith is more important than religion. So Rice has kept what is important, maintaining faith but rejecting the Christian religion. She was wise, I believe, to recognize the faults and failings of some forms of Christianity, and I can’t fault her for giving up on that type of religion. Still, it is a shame that she had to give up on Christianity as a whole.

So, not only do I insist that one doesn’t have to be a fundamentalist to be a good Christian, neither should anyone have to give up on Christianity as a whole because of the excesses and the faults of fundamentalism, which is only one form of the Christian religion. I wish that Anne Rice, and the many others who have jettisoned Christianity because of fundamentalism, could experience the type of non-fundamentalist Christianity that is taught by many churches and Christian communities and that is practiced by many Christians across the land. Although they may be a minority, there are many churches and Christians whose values are consistent with those held by Rice and others who follow Christ but have, for good reason, rejected fundamentalist Christianity.

[1] Rice (b. 1941), whose birth name was Howard [sic] Allen Frances O’Brien, wrote eighteen books about vampires and witches between 1976 and 2003. Under a penname she also authored three erotic novels (1983~85).

[2] The former was published by Ballantine Books in 2005 and the latter by Anchor Books in 2008.

[3] Pp. 3~17 of Fed Up with Fundamentalism: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism (4-L Publications, 2007).

[4] (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). Wallis (b. 1948) is often referred to as a progressive evangelical; perhaps he is best thought of as an evangelical Christian who is a progressive (or liberal) with regard to social and political issues.

[5] McGrath (b. 1953) is the author of The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP Books, 2007).


#17  Both/And is Generally Better and More Nearly True than Either/Or

IT WAS IN TRUEBLOOD’S chapter “Faith and Reason” that I first learned about philosophers and ideas that would be highly influential upon my thinking for the rest of my life—at least up to this point. It was by reading that chapter in his Philosophy of Religion that I first learned about the Danish philosopher/theologian Søren Kierkegaard and his “Christian existentialism” as well as about the French mathematician/ physicist/philosopher Blaise Pascal and the idea of paradox as a serious philosophical concept.[1]

The use of paradox as a literary device is widely recognized as a legitimate, and often helpful, means of enlarging one’s perspective and consideration of complex issues. In 1936, Ralph W. Sockman, a prominent New York City pastor, wrote a book published under the title The Paradoxes of Jesus.[2] Four years later, Gerald Kennedy, who became a Methodist bishop, published The Lion and the Lamb: Paradoxes of the Christian Faith.[3] Still, in the English speaking world, it was not until the 1950s that paradox became the subject of serious theological consideration.

Of course, the idea of paradox as a way to comprehend reality goes back far earlier than to the last century or to the centuries in which Kierkegaard and Pascal lived. The concept of yin and yang, for example, is an ancient Chinese concept. Taken together, yin and yang describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent. So, according to that perspective, reality is not just unitary (one) but neither is it dual. It is, as is sometimes expressed in East Asia, “not-two.” It is the combination or unity of opposites. That is the philosophical or theological idea behind the concept of paradox and the reason I assert that in most cases both/and is better than and more nearly true than either/or.

In the 1960s I became so interested in the concept of paradox that I ended up writing my doctoral dissertation on that topic, titling it The Meaning of Paradox.[4] And in all the years since, I have tried to maintain a paradoxical view of reality, for I think that that is the way we are most likely to come the closest to finding truth. This perspective sees paradox as more than a literary device, although it can be used effectively in that way. Paradox is a key that helps us toward grasping the truth about reality. Consequently, both/and thinking is almost always better than either/or thinking.

Where Do We Find Truth?

The quest for truth (or perhaps we should say Truth) is the never-ending search of those creatures (us) known as homo sapiens. That quest has usually resulted in only partial understanding. That is often mainly because only one side of complex issues is seen, whereas both sides need to be seriously considered for a more nearly adequate comprehension of the truth. (Of course, some complex issues may have more than two sides.)

My previous two books are titled Fed Up with Fundamentalism and The Limits of Liberalism.[5] The last chapter of the second book is about seeking the “radiant center” between fundamentalism and liberalism. And I truly believe that in many theological matters, as in many others, truth is somewhere between the extremes rather than on one side or the other. But often truth is more likely found in a combination of the extremes, in affirming opposing positions at the same time. That calls for holding the extremes in tension or in balance. Truth is not always just in the center alone, except as that center is broadened so as to take in the partial truths found on both sides.

Just a few years ago I came across a significant statement by Charles Simeon, who emphasized that “truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes.”[6] That idea, which I think is an accurate one, can be traced back in Christian circles at least to Nicholas of Cusa in the fifteenth century.[7] Nicholas wrote about the “coincidence of the opposites,” the idea that truth is usually found by holding opposing ideas together. In many cases, the truth is not on one side or the other—or even in the middle between the opposites. The truth is in both extremes held simultaneously.

This seems to have been the position of Kierkegaard, who referred to Jesus Christ as the Absolute Paradox. What he meant by that is that Jesus is not only wholly God and wholly human but also wholly unexpected and wholly incomprehensible to normal rational thought. Kierkegaard and those who accepted his way of thinking were often called irrationalists, and their emphasis on paradox was dismissed as being illogical. But, as I contend in my doctoral dissertation, it is more accurate to speak of them as superrationalists, that is, those who believe that Truth cannot be grasped by human reason alone.

In the history of Christianity, Jesus has often been understood primarily as divine or primarily as human, or sometimes as some sort of being who was in between, neither fully human nor fully divine. But the paradox that Kierkegaard emphasized is in keeping with the ancient creeds of the church: “Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.”[8]

The nature of Jesus Christ is just one of many Christian doctrines that have a paradoxical nature, at least the way that I and many others understand the matter. But there are also many from olden times until the present day who do not like the idea of paradox, at least the idea of unresolved paradox.

Criticism of Paradox

In the previous chapter, I had good things to say about Professor Roger E. Olson and his book Questions to All Your Answers. In that book he asserts that “paradox is always a task for further thought.” But he goes ahead to warn against jumping too quickly to embrace paradox. Rather, he writes, we should “think long and hard about . . . whether paradox is really necessary (or the result of some misunderstanding), and whether there might be a way to relieve it that is both faithful and reasonable.”[9] Fair enough; I have no problem with those assertions.

Olson concludes the chapter on mystery and paradox with these words: “Reflective Christianity will always sit uncomfortably with paradox and seek ways to relieve the apparent contradiction without doing violence to Scripture.” Well, that may be true, too. But that is in a section of his book titled “Relieving Paradoxes of Faith,” and he seems to think that all paradoxes can be resolved. I am not so sure about that.

During the heyday of neo-orthodox theology, which was perhaps the predominant theological “school” in the so-called mainline Christian denominations from about 1920 to 1970, some people had problems with that school’s proclivity to accept paradoxical thinking. L. Harold DeWolf, a leading liberal theologian wrote a book called The Religious Revolt against Reason (1949), in which he criticized the thinking of Kierkegaard and leading twentieth-century theologians such as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Reinhold Niebuhr.[10] Those leading theologians were all considered by DeWolf to be irrationalists.

A couple of years earlier, James Bissett Pratt, another liberal religious thinker, accused neo-orthodox theologians of glorying “in the thought that contradictory opposites may both be true in the same sense at the same time.” He also asserted that the paradoxes of the neo-orthodox theologians “are the firecrackers with which they celebrate their Declaration of Independence from the restrictions of reason.”[11]

But Pratt, DeWolf, and many others who have followed in their wake don’t seem to realize adequately the transcendent nature of God, the realm of Mystery, and the limitations of human rationality. Nor do they sufficiently realize that the theologians they criticize don’t accept or advocate superrationality in place of rationality. Not at all. The neo-orthodox thinkers who were influenced by Kierkegaard are proponents of both superrationality and rationality. And this is the very point I am seeking to make in this chapter: both/and is better and more nearly true than either/or.

Recognizing the Importance of Paradox

The same week I was reading Olson’s book, I was also reading Frank Schaeffer’s Patience with God.[12] In that captivating book, Schaeffer writes about “the paradox” of human existence, contending that “paradox is the way things are.”[13] And, in contrast to Olson, he declares, “Paradoxes should not be resolved but celebrated.” And, “Grace, mystery, love, and (above all) embracing paradox are what count.” 14] 

[Scott Peck is a name most readers will recognize, as he is the author of the bestselling book The Road Less Traveled. His second book is People of the Lie was also highly regarded.[15] Peck received his M.D. in 1963 and went on to become a psychiatrist. As one who had earned a degree from a first-rate medical school (Case Western Reserve University), one would find it difficult to suggest that Peck could be an irrationalist. Yet he writes about positively about paradox.

“Toward a Psychology of Evil” is the second chapter in Peck’s People of the Lie, and near the end of that chapter he asserts that in his view, “the issue of free will, like so many great truths, is a paradox.” He writes about paradox again near the end of the book, and then he explains: “The path of love is a dynamic balance of opposites, a painful creative tension of uncertainties, a difficult tightrope between extreme but easier courses of action.”[16]

These two examples, a Christian who has repudiated fundamentalist Christianity (Schaeffer) and a psychiatrist whose reflections led him to the Christian faith (Peck), are only two of many people who might be cited as being advocates of paradox, and in agreement with my point in this chapter: both/and is generally better and more nearly true than either/or. But not always.

The Limits of Both/And Thinking

While generally, or in most instances, both/and thinking is better than either/or, that is not always true. It is especially not true when it comes to ultimate commitments. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24, NRSV). Here is a case of either/or; both/and doesn’t work.

The same is true in other situations where commitment is called for. A man with two close women friends cannot legally marry them both at the same time, at least not in the United States. Here is another case where both/and doesn’t work. It has to be either/or. And after the marriage when the new couple seeks to start a family, the wife is either pregnant or not. She can’t be both “with child” and “not with child” at the same time. Some things are clearly either/or.

So, this section turns out to be an illustration of the point of the chapter. Rather than say we should always use both/and thinking or always use either/or thinking, it is far better to realize that both “both/and” and “either/or” thinking should be used at times and that neither can nor should be used exclusively. Both/and is generally better and nearer to the truth than either/or.

[1] Pascal (1623-62) is best known through the posthumous publication of Pensées (Thoughts). Kierkegaard (1813-55) was a prolific writer; one of his most significant philosophical/theological books was Philosophical Fragments, first published in 1844.

[2] (Abingdon Press, 1936). Sockman (1889-1970) was pastor of Christ Church, New York, from 1916 to 1961. He was also the featured speaker on the weekly NBC radio program, National Radio Pulpit, which aired from 1928 to 1962.

[3] (Abingdon Press, 1940). Kennedy (1907-1980) appeared on the cover of the May 8, 1964, issue of Time magazine.

[4] That dissertation was submitted to the faculty of the graduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in August 1966; the subtitle is A Study of the Use of the Word “Paradox” in Contemporary Theological and Philosophical Writings with Special Reference to Søren Kierkegaard. In the first chapter I have a section called “The Polaric Meaning of ‘Paradox,” and there I briefly introduce the concept of yin and yang (p. 47).

[5] Both books were published by 4-L Publications and are, unfortunately, no longer in print. The sub-titles of the books are the same: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism/Liberalism.

[6] Simeon (1759-1836) was an English evangelical clergyman introduced by Philip Yancey in his July 16 entry in Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim (Zondervan, 2009).

[7] Nicholas (1401-64), also known as Cusanus, was a Roman Catholic Cardinal. He developed the idea of the coincidentia oppositorum (coincidence of opposites) in his philosophical masterpiece De Docta Ignorantia (Of Learned Ignorance, 1440).

[8] From the Chalcedonian Creed of 451.

[9] Pp. 30-31. This is in the first chapter, “It’s a Mystery, Just Accept It”; one section of that chapter (pp. 36-41) is called “Bad Paradox.”

[10] (Harper, 1949). DeWolf (1905-86) was a professor at Boston University School of Theology from 1943 to 1965. He was also the author of The Case for Theology in Liberal Perspective (Westminster Press, 1959).

[11] James Bissett Pratt, “The New Supernaturalism: Peril to 20th Century Christianity,” in Religious Liberals Reply (The Beacon Press, 1947), p. 113. Pratt (1875-1944) was a professor at Williams College from 1905 to 1943.

[12] (Da Capo Press, 2009). Schaeffer (b. 1952) is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, the well-known Religious Right leader who also rather strongly criticized some of Kierkegaard’s core ideas. The subtitle of the younger Schaeffer’s book is Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism).

[13] P. 151, italics in the original.

[14] Pp. 163 and 169. Other important statements about paradox are made on pages 180 and 194. It is interesting, especially in light of his father’s dislike for Kierkegaard, Frank Schaeffer has a quote by Kierkegaard at the beginning of each chapter in his book.

[15] People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil was first published by Simon & Schuster in 1983. Peck (1936-2005) became a Christian in 1980 partly as a result of the research he did for writing of The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, which was first published by Simon & Schuster in 1978.

[16] Pp. 83 and 267. The latter statement is in “A Methodology of Love,” a section in which he contends that only love can overcome evil.

#16 Unexamined Faith is Not Worth Having

THIS CHAPTER IS THE FIRST of the second half of the book. The first fifteen chapters have been about various “true things” mostly related to theological concerns. We turn now to matters of a more personal nature. What we think about theological matters affects our actions, so it was important for us to look at the fifteen “true things” we have considered up to this point. But now let’s look at some more personal, “close-to-home” issues.

In May 1957 I graduated from Southwest Baptist College, a junior college then but a university now, and that fall I transferred to William Jewell College. One of my courses that first semester was Philosophy of Religion and the textbook was a new work by the Quaker scholar David Elton Trueblood.[1] In the first chapter of his book, Trueblood declares, “Unexamined faith is not worth having.”[2] My professor, for good reason, emphasized that statement repeatedly, and I gradually came to realize that it was, indeed, not only an important statement but also expressed something that I badly needed to do.

That autumn was an uncomfortable time for me. My junior college sweetheart and I were married in the same month we had graduated. During the fall of that year, I was not only taking a full college course load, I was also working from 6:00 to 10:00 each evening in downtown Kansas City as well as serving as pastor of a small “mission” church ninety miles away. But all of that was not particularly a problem for me; having to examine or question my faith was.

Nevertheless, going through that period of doubt, reflection, and examination was an extremely valuable experience. As a result of that process, I came to embrace what seemed then, and still seems to me now, an examined faith very much worth having. And, of course, it has been necessary at various times through the decades since then, to re-examine various aspects of my faith.

How Could Faith Be Not Worth Having?

If faith is always good, as asserted in the previous chapter, how could any faith ever not be worth having? Well, faith is always good, but it is not always stable. Sometimes it is weak, easily shaken, and even so fragile it is sometimes broken by adversity. In that sense alone it is not worth having. If it cannot withstand challenges, both those from within and those from without, how can it be of great value?

Sometimes our faith is challenged by difficult personal experiences. Serious illness, tragic accidents, or the untimely death of a loved one are all reasons many people suddenly, or even gradually, question the reality of their faith and sometimes end up jettisoning it. But if faith is the result of an encounter with God and such faith is always good, why would people ever question such faith? Well, faith in God is, truly, always good, but people often have insufficient or an erroneous understanding of God. Lack of an understanding the true nature of God can produce a flawed faith.

If God is considered to be a supernatural power that always protects the believer from harm and unhappiness, then what does that person do at the time of a catastrophic accident or, say, when the loss of a friendship causes great mental pain? If God is thought of as the Almighty who can prevent tragedies in the natural world or the world of human relationships, what do those people do when a tornado destroys their home or when they are betrayed by their best friend? If God is touted to be the answer to all of life’s questions, what does one do, for example, when new scientific discoveries or societal changes brings to light new issues that most Christians hadn’t even thought about and for which there is no accepted or acceptable answer?

An unexamined faith is likely not to withstand the sorts of problems or issues just mentioned. Thus, such a faith is “not worth having,” for it is too unstable to withstand the challenges that come from an inadequate understanding of the God in whom one has placed his or her faith.

A Jesuit priest writes in a recent book about how he grew up with the idea of God as “the Great Problem Solver.” As he grew older, that view of God collapsed when he realized that “God didn’t seem interested” in solving all his problems. So, he writes, “My adolescent narcissism led to some serious doubts, which led me to consider the possibility that God didn’t exist.” And then after one of his closest friends was killed in an automobile accident he decided not to believe in God.[3]

Considering the same matter from another angle, there are many challenges to faith hurled at believers by aggressive atheist or anti-theistic writers. Far more than at the time that Trueblood (or Adams) wrote about unexamined faith not being worth having, in recent years there have been several popular, widely-known authors who strenuously attack faith in God and tout an unabashed atheism. The four most widely known of these “New Atheists,” as they are often called, are Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.[4] And although he is not an author, perhaps the popular TV personality Bill Maher should be added to this list.[5]

These New Atheists represent a belief system which actively opposes faith in God. In writing about them, Chris Hedges titles his book When Atheism Becomes Religion and he refers to them as “America’s new fundamentalists.”[6] And Frank Schaeffer explains that what makes these atheists new is that they are “especially aggressive, political, and evangelistic.”[7]

This is my point: if a person of unexamined faith is confronted by people like the New Atheists, and there are certainly a sizeable number of people who are their ardent supporters or who agree with their militant atheism, will that faith be strong enough to withstand the attack? Possibly not. So, again, that is part of what I mean by emphasizing that unexamined faith is not worth having.

How Does One Examine One’s Faith?

The process of examining one’s faith is not easy, though. Objects in the physical world can usually be examined by direct observation and checking hypotheses by experimentation. The physical world can be examined in the laboratory, often by microscopes, or the world of space by telescopes. That sort of thing is often referred to as the empirical method, generally taken to mean the collection of data on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion in science. But faith can’t be examined in that way. Philosophical thinking rather than the empirical or scientific method must be used.

It has often been said that philosophy is about questioning answers rather than answering questions, so it was natural that my Philosophy of Religion course with Trueblood’s Philosophy of Religion as the text was a valuable place to begin questioning a lot of the “answers” I had accepted by my religious upbringing. When I was in high school, I used to wear a pin clipped on my shirt pocket as an attempt to witness to my faith. The pin said, “Jesus is the Answer.” And I still believe that—or maybe I should say I believe that again. But in spite of my bold claim back then, I certainly didn’t know yet what all of the questions were (and maybe still don’t). And I also wouldn’t have known back then how Jesus was the answer to many perplexing questions.

Studying Trueblood’s book in which the early chapters dealt with issues such as the necessity of philosophy, faith and reason, the possibility of truth, the mystery of knowledge, and the nature of evidence helped me to examine my very sincere, but also very unexamined, faith. That study, and that process of faith-examination, was a most valuable experience for me, so much so that my main academic interest in seminary and then in graduate school was Christian philosophy and apologetics.

Roger E. Olson is a seminary professor at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary and is also a prolific writer. One of his recent books is Questions for All Your Answers: A Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith.[8] That book is on the very subject of this chapter, and the title of his third chapter is even “Jesus is the Answer: So What’s the Question?” (Actually, I hadn’t even seen a copy of Olson’s book until after I had written about the pin I wore in high school proclaiming Jesus to be the answer.)

Just as Trueblood wrote about the importance of both faith and reason, so Olson emphasizes that people of faith should not be “gullible, credulous, irrational, or uncritical. God gave us minds and expects us to use them.” So he calls for an “examined, reflective faith” and goes on to aver that reflective Christianity “knows that many of the simplistic answers often touted by folk Christianity are too shallow to do justice to the great mysteries and depths of the faith.” [9]

One of the best explanations about the meaning of theology is that it is “faith seeking understanding.”[10] Thus, there is considerable overlap between Christian theology and Christian philosophy, and people of faith need to study theology to some degree as well as to engage in philosophical thinking. It is sad, though, that so many people who would never be content with their childhood knowledge of, say, politics, economics, or psychology, never go much beyond their earlier years of religious education in often rather “hit or miss” Sunday School classes. Serious theological (and philosophical) study is important for every person of faith, not just for those going into the Christian ministry.

Further, serious doubting is also a necessary part of the process. In examining one’s faith, then, one could profit from In Praise of Doubt, a rather recent book by the eminent religious sociologist Peter Berger.[11] Actually, decades before, Trueblood had declared that “we should never, in pursuing the philosophy of religion, stifle doubt, because doubt, as Galileo taught, is the father of discovery.”[12] And Berger avers that doubt and uncertainty “pave the road to knowledge and indubitable truth.”[13]

So, questioning and doubting are necessary components for examining one’s faith. These components lead to serious thinking, reflecting, analyzing, studying, and, yes, praying. The main danger is that one quits the process too soon. But for those who persevere, the time comes when one can exclaim, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Faith Examined in Community

Examining one’s faith is not something one can do alone. Just as it is sometimes said that one cannot be a Christian by oneself, neither can people adequately examine their faith by themselves. It takes a community for faith to be thoroughly examined. Serious dialogue with other believers, thoughtful discussions with those who have already been through the process, joint worship, hearing testimonies about faith that proved fruitful: these and other communal activities are a necessary part of examining one’s faith.

Too often there has been an over-abundance of individualism in Christianity, especially as practiced in American society. Faith has generally been understood as a private matter. Of course, it is the individual person who has, or who does not have, faith. But that faith is not something that can sprout, bud, and blossom in isolation from a community of faith.

So if you come to recognize that unexamined faith is not worth having, I hope you will also recognize that in addition to the personal efforts you must make to examine your faith by your own study, thought, and prayer you need also to be a part of a faith community, which may be large or small but which can give you invaluable help in the examination process.

Moreover, while what has been written in this chapter is mostly for those in a Christian context, the same sort of thing is true for adherents of any religion—or for those who profess the worldview/faith known as atheism.

[1] Philosophy of Religion (Harper, 1957). Trueblood (1900-94) was for decades a professor at Earlham College and was the founder of the Earlham School of Theology.

[2] P. 14. The Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams (1901-94) also is often quoted as saying, “An unexamined faith is not worth having,” and I can find no evidence that Trueblood or Adams either cited each other. (And I can’t find that statement in print under Adams’ name, although it is attributed to him at the beginning of the Introduction, by George K. Beach, in An Examined Faith: Social Context and Religious Commitment, Beacon Press, 1991). Also, even though not acknowledged, these words hark back to those well-known words spoken by Socrates in Plato’s Apology: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

[3] James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (HarperOne, 2010), p. 37. Martin (b. 1960) is now a widely known advocate for the Christian faith.

[4] Dawkins (b. 1941) is the author of The God Delusion, Dennett (b. 1942) of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon , Harris (b. 1967) of The End of Faith (2004), and Hitchens (1949-2011) of God Is Not Great (2007).

[5] Maher (b. 1956) was the writer, producer and star of the movie “Religulous” (2008), a documentary which examines and mocks organized religion and religious belief. The title is derived from the words religion and ridiculous.

[6] (Free Press, 2008). Hedges (b. 1956) uses America’s New Fundamentalists for the subtitle of his book and “The New Fundamentalism” is the title of the fourth chapter.

[7] Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism) (Da Capo Press, 2009), p. 9. Schaeffer (b. 1952) is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, the widely-known leader of the Christian Right. The younger Schaeffer is also the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back (Da Capo Press, 2007).

[8] (Zondervan, 2007). Olson (b.1952) is Professor of Theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. In the Introduction, Olson declares that “the unexamined faith is not worth believing,” but I think Trueblood’s statement is better: faith is something one has, holds, or lives by, not just something one believes.

[9] The first quote is on p. 13, the short quote is the title of the subsection on pp. 18-23, and the last quote is on p. 23. In the part on “Examined, Reflective Faith,” Olson emphasizes that reflective Christianity is the opposite of what he calls folk religion, which is what most people grow up with.

[10] That was the motto of the scholastic theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). In recent years, a major theology textbook is Daniel L. Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 1980; second ed., 2004). Migliore (b. 1935) retired as Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2009.

[11] (HarperOne, 2009). Berger (1929-2017) was not only a sociologist but also a Lutheran theologian, and he is best known for The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966), which he co-authored with Thomas Luckmann. In Praise of Doubt was co-authored by Aton Zijderveld, and the subtitle is How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic.

[12] P. 20. Later on Trueblood contends that doubt “shows an overriding concern for the truth. Those who do not care tremendously about the truth do not bother to doubt, for doubt entails work” (p. 45).

[13] P. 101. Berger’s assertion is made with reference to Sebastian Castellio, author of a treatise on “The Art of Doubt, Faith, Ignorance and Knowledge” (1563).

#15  Faith and Religion are Not the Same, and Faith Is Far More Important

FOR MANY LEGITIMATE REASONS, religion is often seen in bad light by contemporary people. Partly for that reason, in this chapter I contend that faith and religion are not the same and that faith is far more important than religion. Faith (in God, by whatever name God is known) is always good, but religion has been and continues to be infiltrated by much that is not good and sometimes by that which is just plain bad. This is another “true thing” that everyone needs to know now.  Continue reading “#15  Faith and Religion are Not the Same, and Faith Is Far More Important”

#14  The Goal of Missions is the Kingdom of God

HAVING CONSIDERED IN THE previous chapter some legitimate reasons for Christians to engage in, and to support, global evangelistic missionary activity today, it is fitting that we now think seriously about what the real goal of missions is. I wrote that one of my goals was to lead individuals to faith in Christ, baptism, and church membership. But that was not my only goal; in fact, through the years on the “mission field,” I came more and more to see the goal of missions to be much more than simply encouraging individuals to accept Jesus as their personal Savior, although the latter was never completely discarded. Continue reading “#14  The Goal of Missions is the Kingdom of God”

#13  Missionary Activity is Still Legitimate and Important

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER CLOSED with a section on the Holy Spirit and mission, and in this new chapter I invite readers to think more about the missionary activity of the past, present, and future. Here I am thinking particularly of what previously was usually called foreign missions but which is now more commonly dubbed international or global missions.

Continue reading “#13  Missionary Activity is Still Legitimate and Important”

#12  God’s Spirit is Aways with Us Whether We Realize It or Not

THE PREVIOUS THREE CHAPTERS have been about Jesus, especially about the lordship of Jesus. But more needs to be said about the Holy Spirit. In the long history of Christianity, there has been the tendency for far more to be thought and said about the Creator God and about Jesus Christ than about the Holy Spirit. Yet, in the creeds of the Church from A.D. 381 to the present, the divinity of the Spirit has been duly acknowledged.

Continue reading “#12  God’s Spirit is Aways with Us Whether We Realize It or Not”

#11 For Christians, Jesus Must Be Lord Of All If He Is Lord At All

THE PREVIOUS TWO CHAPTERS have been about the lordship of Jesus, and there is one more important thing that everyone needs to know about the significance of that lordship: For Christians, Jesus must be Lord of all, or he is not Lord at all. That is, to be sure, an assertion that has been around for a long time, but I don’t get the impression many Christians think in those terms much anymore.

It was probably during my freshman year of college that I first heard the assertion that Jesus must be Lord of all if he is Lord at all. And, if I remember correctly, I wrote those words inside the front cover of the pocket New Testament that I regularly carried then. I certainly can’t claim that I have completely, or even mostly, lived by the meaning of those words—but I have been challenged by those words often.

So that there will be no misunderstanding, in light of what I wrote in the ninth chapter, the affirmation I am making here is not about Jesus being Lord over all the world. It is about Jesus being Lord over the totality of an individual believer’s life. These are two completely separate issues.

The previous chapter dealt some with the problem of compartmentalization, making religious faith just one of several different parts of a person’s life rather than the foundation of all the other aspects of his or her existence. The idea of Jesus being Lord of all is a closely related concept.

If Jesus is Lord of all, then for the individual Christian believer every area of their life —their personal life, their family relationships, their financial decisions, their recreational activities, and every other sphere of their existence—must be subject to Jesus, their Lord.

Some people, no doubt, have serious questions regarding the total lordship of Jesus. Let’s consider a couple of those.

Is Confessing Jesus as Lord an Enslaving Act?

Talk about total lordship is met with resistance by some, especially in this country, because of the great emphasis on an individual being freed from all external constraints. “Give me liberty or give me death!” were not just the famous words of Patrick Henry in 1775, that exclamation has been a recurrent theme in U.S. history and culture ever since.

This chapter was initially written just a few months after the release of the movie “Invictus,” the stirring film about Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The title of that movie comes from a poem by the same name, a poem ending with these words: “I am the master of my fate: / I am the captain of my soul.”[1] To a large extent, this now seems to be the prevailing attitude of multitudes of people around the world.

So, what is the reaction of Christians who are expected to acknowledge Jesus as Lord—or of those who are not Christians but who encounter the Christian message? For some of the former, it often means compartmentalization, about which I wrote in the previous chapter. “Jesus is Lord,” some seem to think, is a statement that applies only to one’s religious life, not to every aspect of one’s thoughts and actions. The desire for personal freedom causes some to reject, usually in an unconscious manner, the total lordship of Jesus over every area of life.

For some those who are not Christians, talk about the lordship of Jesus is off-putting. Those who pride themselves on their independence, their self-reliance, and, above all, their freedom as one who is captain of their own soul, why would they possibly want to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? That sort of response may not often be expressed, but, whether recognized or not, it is likely one of the most basic reasons for some people not wanting to become a follower of Jesus.

But can people ever have complete freedom? Jesus once declared: “. . . you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Some of his listeners demurred, stating that they had never been slaves to anyone, and they asked Jesus, “What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free?’” Jesus reply was straightforward: “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:32-34).

So, as many evangelical preachers have often explained, everyone is either a “slave” of Jesus or a slave of someone or something else that is far inferior to Jesus. If the choice is to be either a “slave” of Jesus or a slave to sin, it seems obvious that allowing Jesus to be Lord is the far wiser position.

Although it may seem like a conundrum, real human freedom is possible only for those who allow Jesus to be Lord. True freedom is possible through Jesus, the one who saves us from our sins. I have long linked salvation to liberation, for I am convinced that confessing Jesus as Lord is liberating rather than enslaving. Submission to Christ makes it possible for us to be what God created us to be, to be what some call “fully human.”

But there is another problem which much be addressed.

Is Confessing Jesus as Lord an “Ensmalling” Act?

I get the impression that some Christians now think that we need a much broader view of the world than is possible through Christianity or through Jesus Christ. Talk about the lordship of Jesus is for them, it seems, an outmoded idea that we need to move beyond. But I strongly disagree that commitment to the lordship of Jesus is an “ensmalling” act. Rightly understood, it is an enlarging one.

Without question, Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish man who grew up in a small town in a small nation around two thousand years ago. Jesus traveled little, wrote nothing (so far as we know), and died a criminal’s death at an early age. That doesn’t sound like much of a résumé for one who would be considered Lord.

The credentials of Jesus, though,  are based not just on his humanity but also upon his divinity, and we looked at that important matter some in the second chapter. The same New Testament that tells of Jesus’ humble birth and lowly life—with nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58)—also says that Jesus was

the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:15-17, 19).

If this is a correct description of the true nature of Jesus as the Christ, and that has been a central affirmation of Christians through the centuries, how could allegiance to Jesus possibly make one’s understanding of the world narrower or more limited? If the fullness of God dwells in Jesus, then the more we grasp the true nature of Jesus, the more we grasp the true nature of God and the world in its totality.

In spite of the tragic misunderstanding of Jesus and his teachings by so many professing Christians through the centuries, even coming close to comprehending the nature of Jesus and his teaching helps one gain a much greater understanding of the world than most people have. Just as I emphasized in the first chapter that God is greater than we think, or even can think, perhaps the same can be said about Jesus Christ.

Thus, far from causing people to have a narrower, more parochial, smaller view of the world, commitment to Jesus as Lord actually expands one’s vision, enlarges their viewpoint, and stretches their capacity to understand the world that Jesus came to redeem.

The Idea of Jesus’ Total Lordship is Not New, Just Neglected

In a previous chapter I wrote how my boyhood faith was mainly due to the desire for salvation after death and had little to do with the idea of Jesus’ lordship or the significance of the Kingdom of God in this present world. But that does not mean I never heard about the need for commitment to Christ. In fact, during my early teen years, I made a rededication of my life to Christ on more than one occasion, usually in response to powerful preaching in what were then called “revival meetings.”

In those formative adolescent years, my home church often sang such Gospel songs as “Take My Life, and Let It Be,” which, unfortunately, the Broadman Hymnal gave as the title that can be read with the nuance of “let it be as it is” or even “let it alone.” But the words of that old hymn are quite good:

Take my life, and let it be / Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move / At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let it be / Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice, and let me sing, / Always, only, for my King.
Take my silver and my gold, / Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my moments and my days, / Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my will, and make it Thine, / It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own, / It shall be Thy royal throne.[2]

There is not room here to introduce in detail other old hymns of the church with a similar theme, but let me just mention two or three others. These are all hymns that I sang regularly in my home church as a boy: “I Surrender All,” which begins, “All to Jesus I surrender; / All to Him I freely give”;[3] “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” with the words “Hold o’er my being / Absolute sway”; [4] and “Living for Jesus,” which begins with the words, “Living for Jesus a life that is true, / Striving to please Him in all that I do.”[5]

Perhaps I was later able to realize the truth of the statement “Jesus must be Lord of all if he is to be Lord at all” because of singing hymns like those during my boyhood. But, sadly, I am afraid that I often have not lived up to the ideals I sang about, and the same seems true for perhaps the majority of Christians in this country. Confessing Jesus as Lord has implications that are not often recognized, and all who claim to be Christians need to think through what it really means for Jesus to be Lord.

So, What are the Implications?

If Jesus is Lord, then one’s life must be lived with the desire to follow Jesus and his will for their life rather than to follow their own selfish desires. For so many people, their human existence centers on the thought, “I want . . . .” But if Jesus is Lord, one’s life is not primarily about them. That is an important point made by Rick Warren, author of the extremely popular book The Purpose Driven Life.[6] He begins the chapter for the first day of his forty-day plan with these words:

It’s not about you.

The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions.

Warren wasn’t writing about the lordship of Jesus as such, but his words apply to that also. God’s purpose is about a society characterized by shalom, as I emphasized in an earlier chapter. Thus, when Jesus is truly Lord of one’s life, that person’s purpose for living is focused on the kingdom of God, on the whole human society, and even upon the world of nature. Instead of thinking primarily about what one wants, a person living under the lordship of Jesus must think about what the needs of the whole human family are and what is necessary for the natural order to be sustained.

The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and the same words are quoted exactly in two later New Testament passages. Similar words are found in three other places.[7] Those who live with Jesus as Lord of all, therefore, means that in every aspect of their lives they must seek to practice neighbor-love. For that reason, their purpose for living can’t be just about themselves and their personal desires.

How people spend their time, how they spend their money, the type of work they do, the type of recreation they engage in, the way they relate to family, the way they relate to others—all of these things must be under the Lordship of Jesus. It is not enough that they give a tenth of their income (a tithe) or a seventh of their time (the “Sabbath”) to God. If Jesus is Lord, 100% of their money rather than 10% and 100% of their time rather than 1/7 comes under his control.

As we saw earlier in this chapter, this kind of thinking seems to some, or perhaps to many, to be highly oppressive. It seems to fly in the face of the kind of freedom and independence that most of us prize.

But this is about the lordship of one who is perfect and who loves everyone perfectly. This is about the one who died to redeem everyone. This is about the Savior who seeks to reconcile everyone to God and to one another. Thus, the lordship of Jesus is not about some earthly potentate who lords it over his subjects for his own selfish enjoyment. No, it is about one whose main characteristic is love, one who seeks to transform this world into a realm of peace and justice for all.

Yes, Christians must seek to allow Jesus be Lord of all if he is to be Lord at all. And looking at this matter from the standpoint of Christian faith, what more fulfilling, what more thrilling, what more meaningful life could one possibly have than that lived under the lordship of Jesus Christ!

[1] William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), a British poet, wrote this poem in 1875 and it was first published in 1888. Mandela, who was a political prisoner for twenty-seven years, is said to have had “Invictus” on a piece of paper in his cell.

[2] This hymn was written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79) in 1874. The original poem seems to have been slightly different from the hymn published in The Broadman Hymnal and subsequent hymnbooks.

[3] Judson W. Van DeVenter (1855-1939) wrote this hymn in 1896.

[4] Adelaide Addison Pollard (1862-1937) wrote over a hundred hymns and Gospel songs; her best-known work is “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” written in 1907.

[5] This hymn was written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960) in 1917.

[6] (Zondervan, 2002). By 2007 it had sold over 30,000,000 copies and according to Publisher’s Weekly, it is the bestselling hardback book in American history.

[7] In the New Revised Standard Version, the words “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” are found in Matthew 19:19 and 22:39, Mark 12:31, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8. The passages with the same meaning but different wording are Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, and Romans 13:9.

#10 For Christians, Jesus Must be Lord as Well as Savior

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, I emphasized that Christians need to be careful when they call Jesus “Lord,” but this chapter emphasizes what seems to be just the opposite: Christians must be careful to call Jesus “Lord” and to mean it. In other words, if people are to be true Christians, Jesus must be their Lord as well as their Savior.

[The entire chapter can be accessed by clicking this link.]


#9  Christians Must Be Careful When They Call Jesus “Lord”

“JESUS IS LORD’ IS the first and oldest confession of faith for Christians. In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote, “. . . if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9). And then in his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul declared that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (12:3).

[Please click here to read the remainder of this chapter.]