I met a brand-new Episcopal priestess today at church. What a delightful woman! I therefore felt some hesitation about confronting her with my provocative and often unsettling questions. Fortunately, Anita and I prayed before that the God would give us grace in speaking, in order to honor God and to love others. I trusted that the prayer would carry me through on this mission, but had my doubts based upon my past performances.
She informed me that she had graduated from seminary with more questions than she had had before. Perhaps I could exploit that vulnerability?
“Do you still have those questions?” I probed.
“No, I resolved them.” Hm? I was going to follow up in this manner: “Do you feel that your lack of answers will make ministry difficult?” I wanted to bring the conversation around to the centrality of Christ and His Word. I’d now have to probe in a different location.
After apologizing for asking such invasive questions, I asked, “What is it that you feel you have to offer others?”
“Well, I see my role as helping people answer the questions that are important to them.” This was a people-centered answer not a God-centered one. She seemed to assume that it is most important to help people find a spirituality that works for them.
With another apology, I probed further: “Don’t you think that there are essential, objective principles or truths that pertain to everyone – truths that we Christians must all minister?”
“What do you mean?” I could tell she was becoming a bit uncomfortable, so I decided to back off a bit and personalize my response.
“Well, I come from a Jewish background and identified intensely with my roots. However, I had a problem. I had suffered from intense depression for decades. I had seen five highly recommended psychologists, and each left me worse off than I had been before. I therefore saw no other answer on the horizon apart from God, but I wanted Him my own way. He had to be a Jewish God, not a Christian one. Consequently, I wasn’t finding God. I found out later that I am in no position to set the terms of the relationship. I had to come to Him according to His specification, acknowledging what He wanted me to understand about Himself – His Cross and my utter sinfulness.”
However, in many churches, this is now a revolutionary, if not idiotic, idea. According to them, a relationship with our Creator should not depend upon believing certain truths. An Episcopal daily devotional for August 5 reads:
- There is a confusion today about the word “believe”…Another interpretation is “trust.” Belief has nothing to do with trying to talk ourselves into ideas just because others like them…A big part of defining, what we believe is noticing how we are building up the body of Christ.
Well, there certainly is a strong connection between what we believe and what we do to build up Christians. However, believing is not the same thing as doing. For one thing, we come to the Savior, not by earning our way through our good deeds, but by simply humbling ourselves to acknowledge His truth. The Apostle Paul associates this building process with the use of the right material – the Word of God:
- Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth [of Scripture] in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephes. 4:14-16)
Only when Christians are established in the Word do they find peace and stability. Therefore, growth is a matter of “speaking truth in love.” However, according to the Episcopal devotional, belief is not about truths or doctrines. It’s about simply trusting! But trusting in what? Well, it’s trusting in something other than “ideas.” However, this devotional is using their erroneous ideas to denigrate ideas. Somewhat of a contradiction!
Perhaps instead, it’s a matter of trusting in a person – Jesus. However, what about Him do we trust? That He was a good role model? A moral human being? Someone who offered one way of salvation among many? The Bible makes it overwhelmingly clear that salvation is a matter of accepting certain truths – “ideas” - about Jesus. Paul warned that:
- If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:9)
The priestess who stood before me seemed to be an incredibly gentle, sensitive and caring person. I felt like an insensitive brute by causing her discomfort. I wanted, above all else to be winsome, but the true Gospel is offensive. It informs us that God’s ways aren’t ours and that our human sentiments are often misguided. I had to remind myself that there is more than what the eye sees – including eternal consequences. Besides, God sees the inner person, while we are limited to what we see superficially.
Sometimes less is actually best, so I drew back from the battle lines and introduced the priestess to my wife.