Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mere Christian Movement?

Maybe it's just me, but I seem to be noticing what seems to be perhaps the beginning of a movement.  I just keep running across books, sermons, media of various types that all seem to have a common thread.  The thread is a non-denominational, Biblically based, Christianity without dogma and very little doctrine.  For example; I came across Martin Thielen's book, "What is the Least I can Believe and Still Be a Christian?"  I have not read the book, just a blog post by Mr. Thielen and I looked over the study guide provided.  Another example is the documentary, "Lord, save us from your followers."  The documentary examines non-believer's perception of Christians and shows examples of people actually living out Christian principles. The book is as it's title says, it's about stripping out all of the unnecessary dogma and doctrine and focusing on the core of belief that is necessary for one to be a Christian.

Now, obviously two examples do not a movement make.  Hearing Chris Tomlin songs being sung at a Catholic church service, books like The Shack, or Crazy Love are other examples.  Now, some of these are better than others, more substantive than others.  I've also seen various sermons online from different churches that have followed this direction as well.

I may be missing something, that wouldn't be unusual.  But, I really think this is a much more effective way of reaching people than insisting on one denominations idiosyncratic dogma being correct.  Why add extra doctrine that is not necessary for salvation into the mix up front?  It's not a zero sum game (ie. if the Methodists convert someone they win, and the Baptists lose).  It's a positive sum game (ie. if anyone is brought to salvation the Church wins).

Keep it simple.  We have the rest of our lives to disagree about 6 day/Day Age/Old Earth -Creation, Predestination/Free Will, Pre/Mid/Post-Tribulation, and a hundred other doctrines which don't effect our salvation.

Just my thoughts.  I'd like to hear your thoughts.


  1. My fear would be that any movement that's trying to cut out doctrine to appeal more broadly to unbelievers is going to cut out essentials- because, let's face it, the gospel is an offense to an unbeliever, and the truth of the doctrine of sin, for example, is not what he wants to hear.
    that being said, I absolutely agree that we are foolish to focus on non-essentials when it comes to sharing our faith- a certain view of eschatology or baptism, music, etc. when we focus on those things and fight amongst ourselves about them, we tend to hinder the gospel presentation.

  2. I agree, there is a core of doctrine that is the basis for Christianity that cannot be compromised. And I know there are a lot of Christian-like messages out there that ignore the hard truth's contained in scripture. I guess it just seems to me that there are more people teaching the core message of Christianity and fewer teaching on the dividing issues we have between denominations than there were 20 years ago.

    Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate and respect your input.

  3. In today's climate, I find the question itself troubling, Mark (that is, what is the least I can believe and still be a Christian). Answer: anything Jesus said, whether you like it or not. Today, what is regarded as essential and non-essential is becoming more and more blurry. Books like the shack, in which there are no goats - only sheep, is a case in point.
    Seems to me that whenever people wanted to follow Jesus, or thought they did, He gave them the toughest pill they had to swallow. And when they couldn't swallow it, he moved on. Rich young ruler, for example.

  4. The Church is an oak tree, you can't stuff it back in the acorn, it will do damage to the tree.

  5. @ Geof - I agree with you. I was thinking more about denominational differences under the Protestant umbrella, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, eschatological differences... things upon which we can disagree yet still agree that each other is a Christian. I think "Anything that Jesus said..." is a great place to start with a definition of a minimum set of doctrines that must be believed to be a Christian. I would add the statements of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds (with the understanding that catholic means universal), the 5 Solas of the Reformation... probably a few more.

    @ Michael - I wouldn't suggest trying to stuff it back into the acorn. More I think that it is good that we realize that we are a part of the same tree and not different trees and that we all rely on the same root structure and trunk for support. Our similarities far outweigh our differences.

  6. Excellent post. The movement you describe has been growing for a while and its seeds can probably be traced to C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" if not sooner. It definitely was an issue for Lewis. There must be a core set of beliefs for the term "Christian" to even have meaning. But beyond that core, there is room for plenty of discussion about how things work. After all, God is infinite, we are finite. We will never truly be able to fully understand His ways. If we could, He would not be infinite, because all truth about Him would have fit into a finite mind! So we naturally should expect the types of differences in opinion that we see in the Church today. But we must not allow these differences to divide us.

    "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."
    1 Corinthians 1:10-17

    As Ravi Zacharias has said, unity does not need to mean uniformity. God bless.

  7. I would agree that finding unity is certainly biblical, but there is a certain level of concern with some of the "Christian" movements that are becoming popular. There are many heresies that have not only survived from the early church era, but have also adapted to our post modern society. Gnosticism and the Kenosis heresy can be found in a lot of predominant "seeker-sensitive" churches, along with other heresies that have been condemned in the past. It is all the more important to compare EVERYTHING against the Scriptures. I say this as a caution from my own experience with false teachings and I do not advocate a critical spirit. As Christians, it is imperative that we be unified in our beliefs, and it is as equally important to be able to discern a true Christian message or movement from one that is false. The false teachers will sound like Christians, and could say many things that are true. But just like getting a dog to swallow a pill by covering it in peanut butter, to get a person to swallow a lie, all you have to do is wrap the truth around it.

    Having said that, I appreciate the heart in this post as seeking unity with believers. We are all one in Christ and this is a message I have not often heard preached among certain denominations. I fear that our total unity as the body of Christ may not be realized until the return of our Lord (for we are still in a fallen state), but this, by no means, obfuscates our responsibility to each other as Christians.