Over at the blog at Atheist Republic, Sean Breen has a post that definitively needs to be addressed, because it, well, just needs an answer.
Titled Christian “Truth”, Sean begins,
All Christian denominations will propagate particular ideas about how to interpret the bible.
Yes. We do, because how one interprets the evidence of Scripture, the difference between eisegesis and exegesis, and the consistency of interpretation is what settles meaningful questions. Many of the greatest issues of Christian history have been settled by dealing with the revelation that we have received. But Sean continues,
Should Mary be venerated? Should baptism be a prerequisite for salvation? Should people participate in active evangelism? The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, traditionally take a no-holds-barred policy against the use of contraception, while other more modern Protestant churches will tell you that contraception is allowed in a heterosexual marriage. Baptists generally believe Baptism in water is fundamental to salvation, while some Methodist denominations may not.
All of which are fundamental questions that we have to go to the text about to determine and demonstrate, but we’re looking for relevance in his argument, so we continue,
Christians, by these contradictions, show a fundamental lack of unity, and for a body who collectively claim to hold in their possession the most important revelation in human history, such a lack of consensus on what “true Christianity” is, fundamentally undermines their claims.
Alright, so we’re beginning to see the problem: that because Christians, and even psuedo-Christians, hold contrary positions on matters, that this somehow undermines what we claim. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: if atheists disagree over fundamental concepts and claims, does that undermine his position? If he were to be consistent, he would have to answer in the affirmative. So we continue,
Supposing a person does believe in God, in the bible, and in Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian truth. How do any such people know which interpretation is the true one? How do they come to the conclusion that they’ve got it right?
Legitimate questions, every one. I’ve been in three different denominations, I started as a Presbyterian, spent time in a Methodist Church, and finally wound up as a Baptist. I could easily be any of the other, but it came down to reading the Bible and doing a little historical and doctrinal leg work to conclude which one had the better, more biblical arguments. I think that the Presbyterians and Methodists are wrong on infant baptism and elements of church government. If I moved somewhere where there wasn’t a Baptist Church, I would look for a solid Presbyterian or Methodist. But, Sean touches on something,
If Christians can’t establish which denomination is actually correct, what does it matter if a person chooses any one denomination over the other?
This is calling for certainty over consistency.
I disagree with my Presbyterian and Methodist brothers and sisters, heck, I disagree with my Baptist ones too, disagreement just makes things interesting. But,to say that it doesn’t matter is to engage in hasty generalization. I would not necessarily throw my Church of Christ and Church of God brothers and sisters under the bus of heresy, but they have doctrines that are, well, definitely concerning, and definitely sub-biblical. The church should be a church that embraces the Reformation and the thoughts that came out of it to get us back to the truth of Scripture, since it is our authority and sole and infallible rule of faith (sola Scriptura), and that is the standard by which the believer is to make judgement. Sean does seem to understand this, as he notes,
For Christians, there are the obvious theological problems with this question, the most obvious one being that, to a Christian, it matters for their salvation whether they’ve “gotten it right” or not. If they believe a heresy, they might not get to heaven. But if they cannot establish any significant agreement on which teachings are heresy and which aren’t, then even if it does in fact matter for a person’s salvation which denominational beliefs they hold, it’s irrelevant, because they can’t establish for certain which denominational beliefs are the right ones.
Just to reiterate, this goes back to the question of standards and consistency and the demonstrably consistent interpretation of Scripture.
Sean makes this point in his closing,
If a singular Christian “truth” exists then every single denomination except for one must be incorrect, yet Christians have no way of logically deducing which one it is. If it is not possible to define which denomination, doctrine, and beliefs are correct, then denominational preference is nothing but a subjective personal choice.
Let me respond to this in reverse: sometimes, denominational choice is subjective. Some people just like the more liturgical churches, and some people just like the more free-spirited churches, this has nothing to do with truth. However, a liturgical church can be a hotbed of heresy just as much as a free-spirited one. The means by which Christians are to test truth is by that which is “God-breathed“, for that is what is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).”
Sean wants to know about truth, then he needs to go to that which is true: the revealed word of God.
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