By Rev. S. M. Williams………….
I was intrigued the other day by a statement by someone on one of the local radio stations ordering listeners to ‘go nar any mosque or church en gi you life to Christ. It spoke volumes of those who are misleading the Christian flock. Unedited talk is free on many radio stations. Therefore anything goes. It is clear that the two religions of Christianity and Islam are two separate religious albeit arising from the same Abrahamic roots. Any knowledgeable person would not advise people to be ambivalent in matters of religion. Small wonder the Bible states: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6.
The multiplicity of religious denominations and sects is testimony to the fact that there are varying interpretations of the Bible and some have veered so much from the original doctrines of the church as to be scarcely recognized as Christian. By the same taken one religion cannot be like the other. We can appeal or persuade but who are we to dictate a person’s belief; the cause of so much senseless strife in the world today. Isn’t it natural to find ourselves in a vortex of indecisions arising from all sorts of appeals?
It is worthy of note that Jesus Christ in his magnanimity said, among other things, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son the whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.
He was saying in effect that salvation is predicated on belief in him by anyone of any religion or no religion. The fact is that according to the doctrine above some Muslims may go to heaven while some Christians may not. The problem with some Muslims is that they profess to believe in Jesus Christ only as a prophet of God as enjoined by their religion but not as the son of God. According to the Bible God himself declared Jesus to be his son and one glaring instance of such a declaration is during the Baptism of Jesus when he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him and to a voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved son with who I am well pleased” John 3:17. In other instances in the Bible Jesus called himself the son of God. This is a fundamental doctrine and anyone not believing in the sonship of Jesus Christ is not a believer in him and should therefore regard himself/herself as being outside the ambit of salvation.
Our churches are naturally preoccupied with theological problems of original sin, origin of sin, predestination, grace etc. They are scarcely concerned with other Christian issues like loving their neighbours as themselves as espoused by Jesus Christ, adherence to which could cure most of the ills of society by example.
What does the scripture say? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’ II Timothy 3:10. The scriptures of God whether belonging to Christian or Jew or Islam are much more ancient than any secular literature. Unfortunately they have been subjected to private interpretation by pseudo –theologians.
Christ is the master and the scriptures are only the servant. The only objection against the Bible is a bad life. You would do well to read the Bible through in the course of every year even if you are tagged as a Bible-bigot. Devote the first hour after you rise to that practice and you will not regret it.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church then known as the Roman Catholic Church because of its origin in Rome is obviously the original church from which has been springing up unlimited number of denominations. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mathew. 16:18. This is the self-same Peter who Jesus rebuked and said “get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” Mark 8:33. Forgiveness? That is the theological quintessence for you.
This is the eunuch –like religion of which former Roman Catholic Priest Martin Luther said “the ungodly papists prefer the authority of the church far above God’s word: a blasphemy abominable and not to be endured: wherewith, void of all shame and piety, they spit in God’s face”.
Otherwise known as Orthodox Churches, the mainstream churches are those we had known since colonial days and in contrast they have been known as Protestant Churches such as the Anglican Church, the Methodist and Baptist Churches etc. These have been the churches of the older generation reflected in their membership. It is a pity that these churches seem to be dwindling in membership owing to their forms of worship and lack of spiritual satisfaction.
Bible Believing Churches
The Pentecostal Churches code-named Born-Again Churches have added yet another description of themselves as Bible-Believing churches. Mainstream churches would certainly be wondering whether they too should be re-defining themselves as non-Bible believing churches.
In this self-righteous exercise the so-called Bible-believing churches anathemize the belief of the faithful (sensus fidelium) according to a medieval Latin phrase. The curiousity is that they carp at other Christians in spite of the biblical injunction by Jesus Christ himself to: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matt:7: 1-3. Another bizarre observation is that those Christians described as non-Bible believing use the same bible as the so-called bible-believing the difference being only in versions.
If churches other than those tagged born-again do not believe in the same Holy Scriptures which contains all things necessary for salvation may they let the curious public know what they believe in? The Quran? It may be that in their modern phariseeism they are judging the mainstream churches on the grounds of drunkenness, adultery and fornication and their lack of spectacular miracles. But they lose sight of the fact that in their judgment they could even sin in their thoughts. It is indeed desirable for mainstream and non-mainstream Christians to work together without a show of doctrinal cynicism. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”. Ps 133:`1.