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How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?551

    How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

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    tmorrill

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    How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  tmorrill on August 11th 2013, 11:50 pm

    So, I've been mulling this over a bit recently and today after church when I was grabbing lunch with some friends he also brought up the same basic question.

    How much theology can you get wrong before it starts to become a salvation issue? A few examples we talked about was the different Creation theories, speaking in tongues, and predestination/Election.

    So, I guess the best way to phrase it is, how much stuff can we get wrong (or be ignorant of) before we're worshipping a false image of God instead of God himself?

    Nathan James Norman
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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 12th 2013, 8:04 am

    Great question! You really are a theologian!

    From a salvation standpoint there are a few necessary beliefs. I would think the following would all be necessary for salvation:
    1. The Trinity (One God eternally existing in three persons)
    2. That Jesus was fully God and fully man (Theanthropic)

    3. Humanity's sin/need for divine forgiveness.
    4. That Jesus (the second person of the Trinity who added human flesh to his divine self) was actually crucified in the body, died and was resurrected from the dead.

    Those would be what I (and many other) theologians would categorize as primary doctrinal issues for salvation. I put a space between the two sets because the first two are universally agreed upon by every Christian denomination from Roman Catholics to Evangelicals to Greek Orthodox. The second set is also agreed up, although there might be minor squabbles with some of the language I chose.

    I tend to use the first two doctrinal issues as my litmus test for evaluating groups, because if you reject the Trinity... you're not a Christian. Likewise if you think Jesus is less than fully God (i.e. Jehovah's Witnesses) or didn't come fully in human flesh (i.e. Gnosticism) than you're not a Christian.

    Now, let me pause here and say that there is a difference between FORMAL heresy and INCIDENTAL heresy. Formal heresy occurs when a person makes a statement about the nature of God that is in error. They are confronted about that error, but instead of repenting, they stand against Scripture (or twist it) and refuse to change. On the other hand, incidental heresy occurs when a well-meaning Christian is trying to understand a difficult doctrine (like the Trinity) and they make a statement or hold a belief that isn't accurate. (For example... "The Trinity is like water, which has three states." This is called "Modalism" it is a heresy because in this illustration the three persons of the Trinity are not simultaneously existing.)
    Incidental heresy isn't a damnable one (though it can be damaging) because it wasn't made in rebellion, but in ignorance. Once pointed out, the believer then adopts a correct and more robust view.

    Your second question is a bit different.

    I think the primary theologies are very important. There is certainly grace with those who hold some incidental misunderstandings. (i.e. the believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man, but their understanding of what that looked like might be off.) But a flat rejection of the primary doctrines means a person has rejected the One True God and is now following a fantasy of man's invention.

    In your examples of theological issues: "Creation theories, speaking in tongues, and predestination/Election" I would personally categorize those as secondary issues. Now, they are still VERY important. And having the right or wrong beliefs about these things will have MASSIVE effects on your walk with Jesus in this life. But, I don't think they're salvation issues.

    We need to step back and ask, "What is required to have salvation?"

    I'm with doctor William Lane Craig when he says that he wants to make it as easy as possible for people to come to faith in Christ. I want to set the bar as low as possible. So what is required? Not all that much.

    Belief in God.
    Repentance and acknowledgment of personal sin
    Trusting that Jesus died and was resurrected for the forgiveness of sins
    Submission to Jesus (God in the flesh) as master

    Those are my thoughts.

    It is a great, fabulous and wonderful question! Thank you for giving my brain a work-out

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  WhiteBoy on August 12th 2013, 10:22 am

    +1 Nathan. Very good answer! A similar thing I have considered is that I believe it is faith in Christ alone that saves. But what about those who believe you also have to be baptized, or speak in tongues? Because they are adding to "Christ alone" is that true salvation? I decided (at least so far) that yes they likely are, as long as they do have faith in Christ.

    I have a strong suspicion that all of us are going to get to Heaven and say "OOOOHH!!! So THAT's how it really is." I think we will be surprised about different things. Minor things, but we all will have some. Or several. Smile


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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Paeter on August 12th 2013, 1:42 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    I'm with doctor William Lane Craig when he says that he wants to make it as easy as possible for people to come to faith in Christ. I want to set the bar as low as possible. So what is required? Not all that much.

    Belief in God.
    Repentance and acknowledgment of personal sin
    Trusting that Jesus died and was resurrected for the forgiveness of sins
    Submission to Jesus (God in the flesh) as master
    Awesome responses here. I hesitate to add anything myself, since so much has been stated so well.

    I'd offer the suggestion of dropping the bar even a bit lower than Craig does. I've been listening to his podcast teaching on Salvation (in-depth, fantastic stuff) and comparing it to Norman Geisler's systematic theology. I'm of the belief that neither of these men have quite dropped the bar for Salvation (to clarify, meaning here "Justification/Heaven Instead of Hell") low enough.

    I'd remove the last line: "Submission to Jesus (God in the flesh) as master" or at least make it a topic all its own to determine how it ought to be worded. There is potential for this to support what is often called the "Lordship Salvation" view, which I have not been convinced scripture teaches.

    That said, there are massive, eternal consequences for choosing not to submit your life to Christ, even if you rely on him for your justification. I believe something comparable to regret (though without sadness or despair) will be experienced in eternity by those who are rescued from hell but otherwise reject the role of Jesus as Lord in this life.

    I put "submission to Jesus" in the realm of "sanctification" (ongoing, increasing rescue from our sinful tendencies). Massively important, but not a determining factor in the question of "heaven or hell".


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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 12th 2013, 3:05 pm

    WhiteBoy wrote:+1 Nathan.  Very good answer!  A similar thing I have considered is that I believe it is faith in Christ alone that saves.  But what about those who believe you also have to be baptized, or speak in tongues?  Because they are adding to "Christ alone" is that true salvation?  I decided (at least so far) that yes they likely are, as long as they do have faith in Christ.
    I think I would agree with you. They have added a disability to their spiritual walk that has hindered the freedom in Christ we experience, but I think we'll see them in eternity.

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 12th 2013, 3:31 pm

    Paeter wrote:

    Awesome responses here. I hesitate to add anything myself, since so much has been stated so well.

    I'd offer the suggestion of dropping the bar even a bit lower than Craig does. I've been listening to his podcast teaching on Salvation (in-depth, fantastic stuff) and comparing it to Norman Geisler's systematic theology. I'm of the belief that neither of these men have quite dropped the bar for Salvation (to clarify, meaning here "Justification/Heaven Instead of Hell") low enough.

    I'd remove the last line: "Submission to Jesus (God in the flesh) as master" or at least make it a topic all its own to determine how it ought to be worded. There is potential for this to support what is often called the "Lordship Salvation" view, which I have not been convinced scripture teaches.

    That said, there are massive, eternal consequences for choosing not to submit your life to Christ, even if you rely on him for your justification. I believe something comparable to regret (though without sadness or despair) will be experienced in eternity by those who are rescued from hell but otherwise reject the role of Jesus as Lord in this life.

    I put "submission to Jesus" in the realm of "sanctification" (ongoing, increasing rescue from our sinful tendencies). Massively important, but not a determining factor in the question of "heaven or hell".
    I wasn't trying to represent Craig's "low-bar" on salvation. I was just agreeing with his philosophy of lowering the bar. (i don't recall all his essential points). So I want to state that I'm not representing his points here.

    Also, I know this is another conversation, but I tend to think that there is no difference between Jesus as Saviour and Lord. The smoking gun for me is Romans 10:9 "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

    As way of analogy, when I married my wife I promised to love her unconditionally. When I promised to do so, I meant it. When I promised to do so, I thought I understood what it meant . . . and in a way I did. But once inside of marriage I actually experienced what it meant to unconditionally love her... (I also experienced what it was like to miserably fail at doing so).

    I think Jesus being our Lord/master is very similar. We trust in him, and we think we know what it means to follow him... and we genuinely want to, but we don't know what it really means once we're in the thick of things. Then we understand what it means to submit to him... and we understand what it is to completely fail.

    At any rate... this isn't a deal-breaker in theology and we're now discussing a VERY SUPER MEGA important secondary issue! I think we agree

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  DNArington on August 12th 2013, 6:54 pm

    I think if we truly trust in Jesus and put our faith in Him and understand who He is in relation to us, we will naturally try to serve and bless Him, because that is where our hearts will be set. I'm not saying it is easy to get there nesasarily, we are all messed up sinners and we will stumble and fall, but what is in the heart of a man will overflow out of him, so if we put Jesus at the center of our heart us serving Him and telling others about Him will overflow.
    But, yeah, this is an extremely important secondary issue.

    I was just wondering where you got that you have to believe in the Trinity to be saved. I don't know anyone personally, but there are people who believe that God is one and shows Himself in three ways (Father, Son, Spirit.) I believe that's wrong and is extremely important, but where do you get that that is a damming factor?

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 12th 2013, 8:05 pm

    DNArington wrote:I think if we truly trust in Jesus and put our faith in Him and understand who He is in relation to us, we will naturally try to serve and bless Him, because that is where our hearts will be set. I'm not saying it is easy to get there nesasarily, we are all messed up sinners and we will stumble and fall, but what is in the heart of a man will overflow out of him, so if we put Jesus at the center of our heart us serving Him and telling others about Him will overflow.
    But, yeah, this is an extremely important secondary issue.
    Amen and Amen!

    DNArington wrote: I was just wondering where you got that you have to believe in the Trinity to be saved. I don't know anyone personally, but there are people who believe that God is one and shows Himself in three ways (Father, Son, Spirit.) I believe that's wrong and is extremely important, but where do you get that that is a damming factor?
    This is a very good question.

    I don't think we necessarily need to go into the depths of the doctrine of the Trinity with people before they can come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ (although it is helpful). And I think young Christians may experience that sort of incidental heresy I talked about above as they begin their deeper walk with Jesus.

    However, formally denying the Trinity has been considered heresy from the very beginning. Once the church was able "to take a breather" from persecution they formalized this early belief in the Nicene Creed in 325/381 AD. (I can provide the text if you'd like, although a simple search will uncover it.)

    Athanasius (one of my personal heroes of the Faith) was instrumental in the Nicene Creed and also was behind the so-called "Athanasian Creed". It begins: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence."

    Simply put, to deny the Trinity is to deny who God is. It is to worship a false god. A false idea. A god who has been watered down so that we can better understand The One who cannot be fully understood.

    Here is a great graphical illustration of an orthodox view of the Trinity. Of God.


    To deny who God has revealed himself to be in Scriptures (There are 1. Texts that say that there is one God. 2. Texts that show the three persons of the Trinity as distinct persons from each other. 3. Texts that show each person being fully divine.), is to chose to believe in something that doesn't exist.

    I can choose to exist that my best friend is a superhero, possesses a power ring and can fly . . . but it is simply not true. Even if I sincerely believe my friend possesses such ability. I am wrong. Furthermore, when I tell others about him, I am not telling them about anyone who exists, but a fantasy. Yes, my friend is aware of my existence. But I am no real friend of his (in his eyes) because 1. I do not know who he really is. 2. Despite his insistence that he is not the man I describe, I ignore him and chose to make him something he is not. 3. I misrepresent who he is to others.

    The Trinity is fundamental to Christian belief. It has been so from the very beginning. A person is well within his or her rights to deny the doctrine... but they cannot be a Christian. It is a fundamental, non-negotiable belief.

    Here's a humorous look at deficient views of the Trinity:



    And for a more robust look at the Trinity here's a good video from the college that housed my seminary. (Undergrad level, and he uses a few imprecise words/technical terms . . . but he gets the job done!)

    Watch Here.

    I also want to note that, yes, I am pretty hard-nosed on this doctrine. But we have to be. We need to worship the God Who Is... not the god our minds invent. I take no delight in condemning the views of people who hold to non-Christian beliefs about God. My hope and prayer is for them to come into repentance, submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit and experience what a transformed life led by God Almighty is really like.


    I'm sure I missed something.

    tmorrill

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  tmorrill on August 13th 2013, 7:53 am

    Nathan, thanks for bringing up incidental versus deliberate heresy, especially in relation to the Trinity. Without realizing it I was a modalist growing up, and then when I became a Christian in my adult life. I was told it was wrong, but no one explained WHY it was wrong, so I think that's part of the reason I'm as specific with theological discussions, especially the Trinity.


    This is a tangent, I think, but it's also a fun one of incredible importance.

    I'm also in favor of a low bar of salvation/justification, but from what I can see you must submission to Christ as King is implied at the time of salvation. Much like how we worship the Trinity the Three in One even when just mentioning a specific person of the Trinity, I don't see how it's possible to come to salvation without at least an unconscious acknowledgment of Christ's roles of Prophet, Priest, and King in our lives.

    That being said, obviously you don't need to be perfect at it since that's a part of sanctification, but at least an acknowledgement is necessary.



    I have a strong suspicion that all of us are going to get to Heaven and say "OOOOHH!!! So THAT's how it really is." I think we will be surprised about different things. Minor things, but we all will have some. Or several.
    My pastor likes to quote someone (I think its CS Lewis but I can't verify the quote) that the first words in heaven will be, "Of course!".

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Paeter on August 13th 2013, 3:53 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    Also, I know this is another conversation, but I tend to think that there is no difference between Jesus as Saviour and Lord. The smoking gun for me is Romans 10:9 "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
    This is one of several compelling verses for the Lordship Salvation view. (I don't know if you take that view or not, Nathan, but this is one of several used to support the view, I believe.) I took something of a Lordship Salvation view for awhile (without labeling it as such), but in the last year or so have begun leaning toward what might be identifiable as the "free grace" position.

    Verses like these are compelling, but require a number of questions to be answered for each of them before making the Lordship Salvation view air-tight:

    1.What is meant by "saved" here? Justification, Sanctification, Glorification, all three?
    2.The very next verse reads "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." Is Paul restating the same idea in two different ways or differentiating here, saying that belief (heart) justifies and confession ("Jesus is Lord") "saves" in another sense of "salvation"?
    3. Does Paul mean that both elements are required for "salvation", or does he mean that one can be especially assured of his salvation if he's done both, despite only one being required?

    I won't share my thoughts on those questions here, since I don't want to hijack this topic, but in order to come to a logically consistent position, regardless of where you land on it, I think these are questions that should be thought through.

    Nothing to be divided over, but if anyone is interested in this topic, feel free to launch a new thread and I'm sure it will see some activity. I wouldn't mind taking some time to re-evaluate my own position anyway.


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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 13th 2013, 7:09 pm

    tmorrill wrote:Nathan, thanks for bringing up incidental versus deliberate heresy, especially in relation to the Trinity. Without realizing it I was a modalist growing up, and then when I became a Christian in my adult life. I was told it was wrong, but no one explained WHY it was wrong, so I think that's part of the reason I'm as specific with theological discussions, especially the Trinity.
    Thank you for sharing this! I think this is a perfect example of what I was describing.

    Your thinking and understanding were clouded, but not rebellious. You merely misunderstood the fullness of the nature of God, you did not reject him. Certainly you were a believer who was saved by grace in Jesus Christ. But as you have come to a more robust understanding of who God is and how he has revealed himself, your walk has become deeper.

    Again, thank you!

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  DNArington on August 13th 2013, 7:15 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    Simply put, to deny the Trinity is to deny who God is. It is to worship a false god. A false idea. A god who has been watered down so that we can better understand The One who cannot be fully understood.
    So basically what your saying is if you believe that God is not a trinity (despite the Bible stating that He is), then you are worshiping a god so far removed from who God really is that you are worshiping a false god built up in your mind.

    Just trying to make sure we're on the same page. Smile

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  Nathan James Norman on August 13th 2013, 7:34 pm

    DNArington wrote:
    So basically what your saying is if you believe that God is not a trinity (despite the Bible stating that He is), then you are worshiping a god so far removed from who God really is that you are worshiping a false god built up in your mind.

    Just trying to make sure we're on the same page. Smile
    Yes. And thank you for putting it in simple terms. (One of my preaching profs says "Any idiot can be complicated... it takes true genius to be simple.) So thank you for your genius.

    There are very real consequences for not believing in the Trinity.
    -If Jesus is not fully God, then he sacrifice would not have been sufficient to atone for the sin of humanity.
    -If Jesus is not fully God, he committed blasphemy when he pronounced forgiveness for sins.
    -If the Holy Spirit is not God, then God is not really with his people.
    -If the Holy Spirit is not God, then he cannot be blasphemed, and therefore his testimony and conviction of sin and righteousness can be ignored.

    -If there is not One God, then the New Testament is a radical departure from the Hebrew Bible.
    -If there is not One God, then God misrepresenting himself in the Hebrew Bible.
    -(And numerous others)

    [Let me also pause here and mention that the Old Testament saints/believers were, of course, under no requirement to believe in the Trinity. Because of the doctrine of Progressive Revelation (God revealing more and more of himself over the course of time through the Scriptures), the ancient world was only required to respond to the level of revelation they had been given.]

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  DNArington on August 13th 2013, 7:53 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    So thank you for your genius.
    It comes naturally! Wink JK


    OK Cool! I would agree with that. This whole tread has been some great stuff! (edit: not that this is the end of the thread, I just wanted to say it has been very insightful.)

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    Re: How wrong can you be before it becomes critical?

    Post  tmorrill on August 14th 2013, 12:45 am

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    tmorrill wrote:Nathan, thanks for bringing up incidental versus deliberate heresy, especially in relation to the Trinity. Without realizing it I was a modalist growing up, and then when I became a Christian in my adult life. I was told it was wrong, but no one explained WHY it was wrong, so I think that's part of the reason I'm as specific with theological discussions, especially the Trinity.
    Thank you for sharing this! I think this is a perfect example of what I was describing.

    Your thinking and understanding were clouded, but not rebellious. You merely misunderstood the fullness of the nature of God, you did not reject him. Certainly you were a believer who was saved by grace in Jesus Christ. But as you have come to a more robust understanding of who God is and how he has revealed himself, your walk has become deeper.

    Again, thank you!
    No problem! I like talking about my testimony, it combines my two favorite topics. Jesus then me.

    However, I've thought about my salvation for a while, and I don't think I was saved growing up. When I get to my computer (I'm in my phone), I'll expand on it a bit.

    Either way, I rejoice at being called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Very Happy 

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