Friday, May 19, 2006

Fakin' It

Back in my school days, I played the trombone. I wasn't a virtuoso or anything, but I was decent. The guy who sat next to me I'll call Roger. Now it could well be that Roger was a decent trombone player too, but I didn't see much evidence of it.

For you non-trombonists, the slide of the trombone has seven positions depending upon how far out it is slid... or slided... or slud. Whatever. Anyway, if you watch a group of trombonists playing the same melody, the slides moved in unison. It is almost like a dance. Or a one-handed macarena.

Roger usually faked playing the trombone. For years he sat beside me with one eye on the position of my slide. Think of a game of "mirror" trying to do what the other person does. Now think of it going on in every band situation for six years. I would place my slide in the third position and Roger would slide his slide somewhere near third position about a half second afterward. Then I would fully extend my slide and see Roger following suit shortly thereafter.

It really got annoying at times. I'll admit there were times I pretended to play and just moved my slide around to watch ol' Roger copy me. There were also times I was more "Christian" and simply urged Roger to stop watching me and to try his best to keep up with the music. Nothing ever worked. Eventually, Roger quit band, ending six years of fakin' it.

I was reminded of Roger last week at my son's music concert. One of the bands had a "Roger" in the trombone section. He wasn't just playing harmony. He was about a half second behind through all three songs. Just fakin' it. And I was reminded of the guy who tried to fake his way through six years of tromboning.

It's kind of obvious that there are people who fake Christianity too. Learn the expressions. Join the cool church. Carry a Bible. Talk about praying. But never actually selling out to Christ.

On Dan Brown's (of DaVinci Code fame) website, Brown answers the question, "Are you a Christian?"
Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.
So let me get this straight, Dan... you're a Christian, but also a student of many religions?

I've heard that kind of talk before from people who are fakin' it. Most of us have met them. They take enough of Jesus to call themselves Christian, but dilute it with gallon after gallon of New Age or Islam or Kaballah or whatever the Spirituality of the Month is today.

But the thing is, most of these fakers have convinced themselves they're for real.

I really wish Roger would have just gone back and studied the trombone and practiced so he didn't have to try to mirror my actions. But more than that, I wish those who are faking a Christian walk and pretending to have a relationship with Jesus would go back to the Book and deal with who Jesus really is.

We hate giving up our own preconceived ideas... our notions of how God should be and how He should do things. But if we blend in enough Christian stuff, maybe no one will notice.

But to God, it's obvious picking out the fakers. It's like seeing the trombonist moving out of sequence. Those folks stick out to me. God notices the spiritual fakes even more easily. And He judges by one standard -- are you trusting Christ to save you or are you trying to trust yourself?

Fakin' it won't get it done.


Not Crunchy said...

This seems awfully judgmental coming from you, Ed (ditto on the post above - you have no idea who that woman was talking to and why she was being rude). Maybe I think you're faking it. Why do you get to decide who is, and who is not faking it? Dan Brown is exactly correct - ask 1000 Christians what Christianity is and you'll get 1000 different answers. Why should your mid-West America answer be the right one? Is the African version wrong? Is the Russian versian wrong? I'm sure there are many Christian churches around the world that don't square with your rigid beliefs. There is no one answer to "What is Christianity?"

rev-ed said...

Interesting take, Alice, but I think you're missing my point. I'm not condemning or judging Brown. I only mention that I've heard his answer from people who know nothing about Christianity.

There aren't different versions of Christianity. There may be different ways to worship, but Christianity is not whatever we want to make it.

Logically, one cannot be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. The two sets of beliefs are mutually exclusive. Many fool themselves into a false belief in Christianity by calling what makes them comfortable "Christian".

The answer to "What is Christianity?" should be consistent. The answer to "How does a Christian live?" is often different.

Christianity is not going to church enough or reading the Bible enough or being nice enough to others so that God will let me into heaven. I've heard that definition many times. But it's wrong. How do I know it's wrong? The Bible is painfully obvious about it. That's my authority.

As to the girl in the post above, it doesn't matter who she was talking to -- she was being rude to the cashier. I make no judgment on her spirituality.

Not Crunchy said...

So you will not admit that there is more than one way to think about Christianity. I find that absurd. Your idea of Christianity is no more similar to what one in the year 50 or the year 200 or the year 1200 thought about it than my idea of Christianity compared to yours (quite different I must say). You have YOUR interpretation and everyone else has theirs. You say that you have your authority, but we all use the same authority and come out with different ideas. That is the very definition of "interpretation."

rev-ed said...

I don't think you're hearing me right, Alice. Or maybe I'm not clear on what you mean by "idea of Christianity".

Yes, there are many different ways to express our faith. Culture, differing spiritual gifts and other factors play into that.

And yes there is room for interpretation on many doctrinal issues. My denomination is one which does not take dogmatic stands on the debateable doctrine -- mode of baptism, eschatology, and the like.

However there are essential doctrines which define Christianity. These are the doctrines which the martyrs have fought and died for. The authority of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the exclusivity of Christianity -- these are what Christianity is.

When Brown says that asking 1000 Christians yields 1000 answers, it does not mean that all of them are right.

If someone ignores the Bible or tries to twist the meaning of the Bible to justify a particular belief, that's not Christianity... it's error. That doesn't mean I'm questioning anyone's salvation. That's not my job. But we are to guard doctrine. That's what the Bible tells us to do.

Chris said...

"However there are essential doctrines which define Christianity. These are the doctrines which the martyrs have fought and died for. The authority of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the exclusivity of Christianity -- these are what Christianity is."

This becomes your belief statement, Rev. However, I do not think to be "christian" means embracing them as follows:
Authority of Scripture: What does this mean? It can mean many things to many people (Dan Brown's right)... In what way is it authoritative? Many churches divide and split over this question, yet they're all "christians" -- they just disagree. Some might say that the Authority of Scripture dictates that the Earth is 6000 years old, based on a literal interpretation of Genesis and the OT, whereas others interpret the "authority" of scripture to be a means of God's communication to God's creation through it, subjectively. Its authority is that it describes a relationship, not that it is wholly "true" or "accurate". So, you see, just the phrase "authority of scripture" is a loaded term.

The Divinity of Christ: I know many Christians who still doubt that Jesus was, indeed, GOD incarnate. But they live the model Jesus taught. Are these people any less Christian? They've rejected certain aspects of biblical interpretation, but they have not rejected the entire doctrine. They have a different approach. If they trust in the teachings of Christ, and follow them as best they can, the only way they fail to meet your criteria is in their belief that Christ is God. I consider these friends to be Christians. You do not.

Exclusivity of Christianity means what? If it means that salvation only comes "through Me" (in Jesus) then, again, one must clearly define what THAT means. It is not obvious, otherwise there would be one Christianity, not thousands. The question of who is saved and who is not varies by denomination, not only based on dogmatic stands on debatable doctrine, but on some of these fundamentals too. Would you say that Unitarians who follow Christ are not christians, because they believe that God also saves Muslims, Jews, native Americans, and Buddhists (among many others), up to God's discretion and character? The only way being through Christ can mean one thing to a Bible believing christian, and another to a native American following their Christ-image. I do not, firmly do not, believe in the "exclusivity" of Christianity if it requires that God only saves those who follow the traditionally defined Christian doctrines.

So, you could say, then that I am not a Christian. I would say that I am. Which of us is right?

I do not twist the Bible to justify a particular belief. I certainly do not do this more or less than a conservative fundamentalist christian who makes fantastic claims about "what the bible says" using snips and anecdotes out of context. I use the Bible to learn, and enlighten myself and others. I want to know what God wants for me, but I make no claims to absolute truth or absolute knowledge, if such things exist, they surely do not exist in a book written on this Earth, even if it is "authoritative."

I enjoyed reading this discussion, but I have to agree with Alice here. True Christianity is not easily defined. A friend recently told me that every Christian should be able to write down, on a napkin in a restaurant, what are their core beliefs that make them a Christian. I replied that when you do this, you should look at the other napkins. It might surprise you. If you are frightened by what you see, that's bad. If you are interested in what you see, you might learn, and that is good.

Jennifer said...

Alice and Chris, you have both made terrific points, which I fully agree with.

Rev, I really can't add anything to what these two have said. Well, I could, but it would be redundant. I still love you though!

rev-ed said...

It's interesting that my post has been taken down a completely different road than where it began.

My point is about the people who are not Christians in any way, shape or form, but they like to call themselves "Christian". From there Alice, Chris and Jen seem to believe that I am speaking of people who simply don't agree with me. That's not what I wrote, nor is it what I meant.

Maybe none of you know people who don't give Christ the time of day -- any day -- yet indignantly proclaim their Christianity to anyone who questions them. I know a whole heap of 'em. They believe heaven is theirs because Mama prayed for them or they were baptised 50 years ago as an infant. They grab on to the term Christian but no nothing of the One who is called Christ. That's what this post is about. The fakers.

As for what Christianity is, that has been defined for a couple of thousand years. Can you be a Christian and not hold to everything included as essential doctrine? Probably. But again, that's not my job to judge. I can judge doctrine, but not people. At least that's what Scripture tells me.

The question of who is saved and who is not varies by denomination, not only based on dogmatic stands on debatable doctrine, but on some of these fundamentals too.

But it's not up to denominations to decide who is saved and who isn't! You can believe whatever you want. God knows the truth. And He has given us the Old and New Testaments to make sure we are following Him and are telling others about Him.

Gnostics taught that to be saved one had to acquire special knowledge, and that the body is evil. The early Christians said that Gnosticism wasn't Christianity.

It's also interesting that only recently has there been a real strong challenge to essential doctrines.

Would you say that Unitarians who follow Christ are not christians, because they believe that God also saves Muslims, Jews, native Americans, and Buddhists (among many others), up to God's discretion and character?

I would say that someone following Unitarian teaching is not following Christian teaching on points which have nothing to do with salvation of Muslims, et. al. I would say that someone following Mormon teaching or Jehovah's Witness teaching is not following Christian teaching.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' -- Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

Again, I'm not condemning anyone, but I am saying that some teaching is not compatible with Christianity. There is a line drawn by God. If anyone would think that any belief can be a part of Christianity, that person's argument is not with me, but with God.

Christianity may mean many things to many people, but that doesn't make them all correct.

Jennifer said...

What troubles me is that you think you know the line.

rev-ed said...

Jen, you can figure out that some doctrine contradicts what the historic Christian church has been teaching for pretty near 2000 years now. The line between Christianity and other beliefs is pretty easy to gauge if you do your studying.

As to me know how God judges, I've already stated I don't know. If you honestly think I'm determining the eternal destiny of people, then you really need to re-read. But by the same token, if you really think that one can be a student of many religions (as in follower of many religions) and still be a Christian, then you really need to research what Christianity has taught for nearly 2000 years.

Again, my point in a nutshell: I cannot or will not judge someone's salvation, but I can and am supposed to judge doctrine. Please don't confuse these two areas, as you're getting close to accusing me incorrectly.

Jennifer said...


I apologize if I've misunderstood. Personally, I believe doctrine will send you straight to hell. What matters is that we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the bridge over the gulf that exists between us and God due to sin. That's the only doctrine that matters, isn't it? Does someone need to believe in the trinity in order to be a Christian? Or believe in the virgin birth? I don't think so. I'm of the belief that what the historic Christian church has been preaching for pretty near 2000 years now is nothing more than uppity rhetoric which obscures the simplicity of the gospel. But, I could be wrong. I'm not God. All I know is, in my own personal efforts to bring people to Christ, I don't want anything to do with doctrine.

rev-ed said...

Personally, I believe doctrine will send you straight to hell.

Well, the Bible contradicts you there.

For that matter, you've contradicted yourself. You've upheld the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ.

That's the thing, Jen. You're not holding a logical position. If what the Church has been teaching for 2000 years is garbage, why do you believe any of it? And how do you know which is right and which is wrong? Do you really trust your own "feelings" more than you trust the faith which the early Christians defined, defended and gave their lives for?

Trust in Christ for salvation, but which Christ? The Christ of the Mormons is nothing more than a created being who ascended to deity. The Christ of Islam is simply a prophet. The Christ of many is a glorified man. (Which begs the question how the death of a mere man can save anybody.)

There is essential doctrine. Believing in the wrong God with the right name certainly can't be glorifying to Him.

That's where I stand, submitted to the Word of God as my final authority.

Jennifer said...

I give up Ed. Can we agree to disagree?

rev-ed said...

You know I still love ya'. :)

worshipnaked said...

Your points make perfect sense to me, rev.

Jennifer said...

Good. I love you too!

Amanda said...

Great post! I'm going to link to it on my site.