There is an old, rather long, joke. Two baptists ran into each other at a memorial service. They got to talking afterwards and discovered they had some friends in common. Next they decided to explore what they had in common as Baptists.
” I believe God created the earth and the universe.” “Me too”.said the other. “Jesus is my personal savior”. His new aquaintance smiled and nodded agreement. Now four or five other theological and practical piety matters followed with complete agreement. Finally, the first mentioned that in their new building, they had proudly placed the Christian flog and the US flag on each side of the platform. Startled, the other paled. “No sir, they go on the church floor!. Heretic!”
What do we have to agree upon that we may see each other before the throne of the Lamb? When does disagreement become heresy? The answer to these questions are probably what has caused the most conflict and sinful behavior among Christians. This is because the answer is not definitely answered. Or rather, that it is definitely answered in many contrary ways.
There is a general agreement that Christians must have certain basic truths in common in order to be Christian. Argument begins when we try to pin these commonalities down. Here again, we are thrown back on what the church has decided in council was the right understanding.
Obviously, a number of church bodies have disagreement as to which councils, if any, and what truths apply (Human nature has always lent itself to disagreement. In a group of ten church members, one may find twelve answers proclaimed as the only right one.} There is always our predilection to believe that our “modern” wisdom is superior to anything from the past. Hubris and pride ride high.
So, what is the minimum necessary to reach heaven? One place we find a simple statement is in Romans 10:9.”that 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 passage covers both the intellectual affirmation as to who Jesus is, and our believing that which we cannot see, and what we must trust through faith, our heart., that God raised Him from the dead.
It is the clearest statement in Scripture we can find as to what is needed to be saved. The arguments and disagreements usually start at this point. When we have enough time after this affirmation and commitment, we enter the realm of sin and the necessity for repentance.
When I pastored in Northern Indiana I was a firm and convinced member of AA, having recognized my alcoholism in seminary. A regular and preferred AA group was only about 15 minutes down the road. As you might expect, I became close friends with most of the regulars of this closed meeting group. One thing about AA is that it concerns itself with nothing but problem drinking. We do talk about practicing the 12 steps and the problems we encounter staying clean and sober. We never expect anything theological except for the “higher power”, however the individual defines it.
Being a clergyman, others would talk to me outside the meeting proper. Many times it dealt with moral or religious items. One friend from the group was Carl. He had survived hard time in the joint at Joliet prison in Illinois. He also was about the hardest headed and argumentative person I have ever known. (I wondered if his personality affected material things about him as he had the hardest water in his trailer I have ever seen.) He was fond of saying that if he fell into a river, he would float upstream. This accurately summarized his approach to life, and we believed him. His only spiritual belief had come to be in his higher power. It was an unconvential higher power, and I do not remember exactly what it was, but it worked for Carl.
Carl was very curious as to how his AA friend, me, came to be a pastor. Soon this extended as to how this Christianity thing worked. One thing simply led to another, and one day he surprised me and asked to baptized and become a Christian. Very soon afterwards, in the presence of his friends, Carl joined the body of Christ with his confession of Jesus as Lord, and his belief God raised Him from the dead. Carl joined the body of Christ, though not yet a particular church. His initial part of the body of Christ was within the AA group and a few other Christian friends.
One thing I mused over was how long would it take Carl to stubbornly begin to chew up his new belief. God apparently had that in control, as within a week, Carl went home to be with the Lord before he could mess it up.
Another Christian AA friend who was at the baptism eventually had a slip. He called and we met at his restaurant and talked. He chose suicide with a gun a few days later. Two Christian friends, two vastly different results.
What is required of the Christian is his affirmation of Jesus, and belief God raised him from the dead. Christian moral living, sin, and daily choices are the challenges we all face. Different churches teach various understandings as to how we survive as Christians living in the world.This is a discussion we may explore later. Rest assured that when you reach Heaven you will be surprised as to who you see there, and who you do not.
Father Orthohippo November 1, 2011