Common Faith Questions
(thread begun by RandyP)
For those of you unfamiliar with or unsettled by the Christian faith, here are some commonly asked questions you might have along with some general answers and study links for you considerations.
What are the core essentials of what Christians believe?
While Protestant denominations tend to extend from the core in various (typically minor) directions, the most agreed to essentials are found in the Apostles Creed (see: ApostlesCreed ) or Nicene Creed (see: NiceneCreed ). The broader range of reformist beliefs for instance can be observed and studied in such collections as the Westminister Confession of Faith (see: WestministerConfession ) or Heidelberg Catechism (see: HeidelbergCatechismAll ).
What is the source of these beliefs? Can it be trusted?
The Bible as we now call it or Holy Scriptures (see: BibleFacts ). Note that Protestants embrace a strict collection of Old Testament books closer to the original Hebrew cannons, where the Catholics and others hold to a collection adding texts first appearing in the early Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew; these known as the "Apocrypha" (see: index:APOCRYPHA ).
Yes! We believe the scriptures to represent the inspired and infallible Word of God (with proper explanation). The effort to prove infallibility is not without challenges of course, any belief this broad and all encompassing would no doubt be found such; which here is part of our consuming excitement. Much of the criticism raised against the Bible can be and has been competently answered already; somethings will only be proven by God's hand Himself (see: media: pdf/WhenCriticsAsk.pdf ).
Note that most reformed Protestants also hold to the doctrine of "SolaScriptura " scripture only, hopefully minimizing the influences and possible fallibility of oral or written church tradition such as plagued and hardened the Pharisees of Christ's time. That is not to say that we are not subject to problematic interpretation ourselves, it is to surmise that only the scriptures themselves will one day be proven by direct revelation as having been quite infallible.
Is Jesus really the only way to Heaven?
Yes, we believe so (SolusChristus ), but not just for our loyal and desirous insistence. The greater reasoning has to do with a an iniquitous state we believe that present mankind is under from which escape cannot manufactured on our own. Man can barely ascertain any immediate extent/implications of this condition, though the symptoms of it are frightfully evident, let alone conclude as to it's cause and thus escape. Further we believe this present state not to be of any accident, but that we were subjected to this vanity with a divine preordained hope ( kjv@Romans:8:20-21 ) causing in us a eternally acceptable transformation (see: consecration).
To this regard Jesus Christ, unlike any other prophet or holy man, has laid forth a clear and easily accessible means of deliverance and redemptive transformation which the present state is working against that we might become firmly established spiritually in this "new life". This access is based upon His grace rather than our manufacturing (SolaGratia ). (see: Redemption Salvation Christ)
What is sin?
Sin can be thought of most readily as the state of being without, being detached or separated from or dead to one's better part. It is not the state of being without religion for even Cain had religion (but that lead him to murder); it is the being rather without God's Holy Spirit. It is not the state of not having good intentions and good works, it is the state of substituting such as an answer for the true present condition. Think of it as the present state of all man for which he has been temporarily quarantined from the remainder of the eternal kingdom in order to fully immunize. It is manifest in symptoms such as anger/pride/lust/covetousness/deceit/etc... It can inflame into major eruptions such as those legislated against by commandments idolatry/murder/adultery/greed/theft/etc... As an action it is essentially anything desired/thought or done under the influence of being without the Spirit as opposed to anything being in accord with the Spirit's transformational influence. The penalty of sin is death which by mercy has been withheld for this time in order to establish and secure the redemption of fallen man. (see: dict:easton Sin+ )
Transgression, also spoken a great length of in the bible, can be thought of as stepping over a line known to be drawn. It is knowing what should not be done and doing it anyway. Where sin is more towards the present state all men are under with knowledge or without, transgression is particularly insightful into the frequent intension of the heart to over rule what is known to be right.
What then is the evil / "corruption of this world"?
To me, it is the difference between answers to this spiritless state as we are best able to manufacture them and the answer as God Himself would give it. From either of those two influences we proceed forward with actions based upon that image/faith. The image that we are able to manufacture likely has little or no resemblance to the image God is offering to hand to us; it is like guess work, half answers or a purely mathematical equation being attempted to be solved by a less than correct formulation. The world (and therefore the self) is largely at enmity ( kjv@Romans:8:7 ) with the very premise of what Christ stands for and offers. Corruption then for us at our immediate place is anything other than Jesus Christ and his influence upon our diligence/faith/valor/knowledge/temperance/patience/godliness/brotherly kindness/agape forms of love and benevolence ( kjv@2Peter:1 ). (see: evil corruption wickedness iniquity)
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the cancellation of the entire debt owed because of one's sin. Jesus is legally able to forgive such debt because He paid the amount of that debt for us on our behalf. Debt cannot be paid from out of what one doesn't have. If they had it they wouldn't be in debt. Debt such as this cannot be worked off in payments for at the same time more debt is being generated; it would be like us offering to pay him what is already His to begin with. This forgiveness of Jesus is not something what we owe being wiped off the books, it is Him paying the full amount. (see: dict:easton Forgiveness )
How can there be such a thing as hell?
The answer is best explained by all that God's grace currently gives to us and what would happen to us if the flow of that providence was suddenly cut off. So much of what God does daily is for all of us universally and goes quite unnoticed including reasonable management of pain, the resemblance of sanity, the appearance of satisfaction and fulfillment and lawfulness. Step outside of that and there is nothing and no one not even Satan that can reproduce out of nothing anything resembling that. Those expecting hell to be a party of sinners will have to somehow manufacture from nothing all that His grace currently bestows upon them currently even as sinners. We have made our judgment of God, He will execute His own should we choose to hold tight to it.
The question is why would God cut off the flow? The better question is why would He continue to unconditionally support this present state? Recall our belief that not any of this presently is by accident or without lasting transformative purpose. For that we must then consider the probability of His final judgment and the consequences of not being in a position to move on into to His preordained hope, our calling to glory and virtue in Christ Jesus.
Isn't being Christian minded being narrow minded?
The open mind is a noble modern notion that as most frequently deployed nowadays is closer in definition to being utterly uncommitted else open to all but particular distastes. Open mindedness was never meant to be a final destination, it is meant as a means to pursue the outcome of substantial truths that can be committed to and lived by more than just one's self. While Christendom at times has been notoriously narrow minded, it has been no more so than any other body or institution of similar power and attendance. This suggests the gravitation of present and historical human nature to this fault as much as any moral fault with the scriptural teachings themselves. In fact it can be suggested that the western cultures on which scripture has had greatest influence can also be found until recently the most open minded intellectual class as a whole. Again it must be restated that it means little or nothing to be open minded if it does not lead more than just you alone to a point of being able to discern and maintain precious and transformative truths. Otherwise open mindedness is nothing more than self justification and or avoidance.
How can you say Christian belief is open minded when it forbids/excludes XXYYZZ?
It should go without saying that if the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ have had their influence upon us that there would be an observable and continuing transformation of adherents in the many areas of sin in our lives. Remember that the objective of the Church is not to be more world like, but to be more Christ like. That being said, there are certain evidences that we are not fully Christ like at this present stage. And further to that regard, being Christ like (contrary to secular notion) does not always mean for us to be more likable and ethereally pleasant, it often results in being perceived and condemned as offensive as it did with Him.
Christ certainly had a way about Him that engaged fruitfully with sinners without compromising His mission and truth that many Christians today lack. That is why we should look to Jesus all the more to influence that just the same upon us. In that we are being open minded to the effect that He Himself seeks upon us!