Friday, December 14, 2007

Not a Christian?

Because someone recommended them to me, I listened yesterday to a few Theology Unplugged podcasts. (I didn't think they were that great and won't be listening to any more of them. I found them too biased towards Reformed theology) A few things they said made me laugh somewhat though, here's one:

A series of two podcasts was about the definition of 'Christian', and what a person needs to believe before it is accurate to apply the label of 'Christian' to them, as compared to those who call themselves a 'Christian' for no good reason. I was intrigued to hear one of speakers give a fairly succinct summary of my view of the New Testament's theology: That Jesus lived a life that pleased God, and therefore if we imitate Jesus' life we too will similarly be able to be called please God and be called righteous. (See, for example, Paul on the Cross: Reconstructing the Apostle's Story of Redemption by David Brondos for a detailed scholarly analysis of why this is Paul's soteriological view) Anyway, they all agreed that such a view is by definition not 'Christian', and apparently anyone who holds such a view and gives themselves the label Christian is simply kidding themselves. So, sorry, St Paul... it's decided: You don't qualify as a "Christian".

By the same token these guys decided that most Catholics could not be called Christians since they don't hold to Salvation by Faith Alone. Apparently you need to actually believe in salvation by faith alone to be saved, rather than merely have faith. (Because I personally would argue, that if you believe in salvation by faith alone, therefore anyone who has both faith and works [as the Catholics think you should] must by definition be saved because they have faith.)

Another of the podcasts touched on atonement doctrine. They were agreeing that penal substitution was new in the 11th century and that the Ransom from Satan view had been taught prior to that. But despite this, they were decided that the Ransom from Satan view was definitely heretical, and seemed to think it that holding it rather than penal substitution could have adverse effects on the salvation of the believer. (I often seem to get the impression from those of Reformed persuasions, rightly or wrongly, that very few people prior to the Reformation are going to heaven.)

But then, what would I know, since apparently I am by definition not a Christian. Oh well, at least I'm in good company, along with most Catholics, most people who thought they were 'Christians' prior to the 11th century, St Paul, and apparently the Calvinist scholar Michael Bird.


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