Q: Dear Pastor,
If all Christians have the same Bible and the same God, why do they need different doctrines?
A: One person’s liturgy is another person’s ritual. One person’s Messiah is another person’s Savior. One person’s doctrine is another person’s creed. Tomato, tomahto. Much of the time Christians are all saying the same thing using different language. Case in point: Catholics and Protestants, who are equal parts of the Body of Christ, find a way to argue over just about everything. How the sacraments are administered and by whom? Who are the major players in the story of Christian faith? What happens when we pray? When we die? I could go on and on. But we all agree on one thing: Christ died, rose and will come again. We’re brothers and sisters of the same family. It is not the Lord’s will that we condemn or ridicule one another.
The Apostle Paul explains: “The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, CEV.
Like your own family, there are issues raised among the members. Infighting! Disagreements! Problems with in-laws and outlaws! We try to get along, but sometimes we don’t, won’t or can’t. Religious tempers fog the lens with expectations and demands made upon our individual belief systems. Bullies rise up and determine to set things straight by imposing their ideology on others. The spirit of fear likes to arrest Biblical truth and keep things politically correct, tolerant, listlessly compliant and rife with error. We complicate the simple Gospel message of Christ by being human. A sweet, old pastor once told me, “The idea of Church is fantastic. Then you add the people ...”
Catholic Bibles, though translated from the ancient Greek and Hebrew scrolls, also include other religious texts from a compilation of gnostic books known as the Apocrypha. The Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or LDS), while they read the King James Bible and consider themselves to be Christians, also include books written by their “prophets” named Mormon and Joseph Smith. Protestant Bibles, their various versions like NASB, NIV, NRSV all come from the same scrolls as Catholic texts, but include only the messianic-driven books in their Biblical canon; none of the Apocrypha and certainly none of Mormon or Smith.
Arguments arise, as they have for millennia, regarding which Biblical books should be allowed to guide us in our Christian study. Protestants adore making the Bible-translations argument and try to put one version or another in the “authorized” category, which is ridiculous. God wants us to read the thing, not fight over wording! Bottom line: We agree that Christ died, rose, and will come again.
Several church denominations under the Christian umbrella do not celebrate the workings of the Holy Spirit in a contemporary context. They don’t acknowledge his miraculous presence in today’s world — heck, some don’t believe in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit at all. The latter are called “Jesus Only” churches. I’m not sure what they do with all the scriptures where Jesus talked about his Father and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 5:47, 48 & John 14:26, for example), but at least they have the Savior. Bottom line: We agree that Christ died, rose and will come again.
You say that pecan pie is by far, the greatest dessert on earth. I may disagree because, in my opinion, cherry pie is the best. We both agree on pie! Two people sitting in the same pew at any given church will have radically different views on God. This is because our relationship with Christ is as individual as a snowflake. Like a good parent of four children will relate to each child a little differently due to their talents, abilities, limitations and temperaments, God relates to each of us in his own unique way. It is when we insist that our way of worshiping Christ is the only approved way to do it that the trouble starts. Bottom line: We agree that Christ died, rose and will come again. Jesus loves us all equally.
— Adrienne Greene pastors the Rockdale United Methodist Church near Harrison, OH. Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Please send your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030.
Ask Pastor Adrienne: Can we agree on Jesus?
Q: Dear Pastor,