Christian vs. Christian
This is my introduction to a series of posts that I have been thinking about writing for a long time. Over the last few years I have ran into a lot of Christians who I don’t believe are following Biblical mandates regarding how we, fellow Christians, are supposed to treat each other. What I am going to do with today’s post is give background on what happened to me early in my experience with other Christians on the internet. Then in following posts I am going to highlight a passage, or passages, dealing with how Christians are supposed to treat each other. What I am trying to accomplish here is to get a better understanding of the “dos and don’ts” of Christian on Christian behavior.
In 2006 I began searching the internet for other Christians to interact with. I had grown up listening to taped Bible studies by R.B. Thieme, Jr. (aka Colonel Thieme) who was pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, TX. I think I can say with confidence that growing up in a situation like that puts barriers between Christians like me and other Christians. Colonel Thieme had come up with his own technical vocabulary that no one else used. It was a very precise language but it did have the effect of making it impossible to discuss anything “Christian” with other believers who were not part of that ministry.
As I would discover, barriers are not always a bad thing but sometimes it is nice to be able to interact with other faithful Christians. There came a point where I began searching the internet for websites ran by other Christians in general and dispensationalists in particular. It was hard making any progress for me. I would search almost daily trying different key words in my Google searches (actually I think they were Yahoo! searches). Finally I stumbled upon a group of blogs ran by some friends who were dispensational in their theology and posting regularly. That was exciting!
I believe that there were a total of four friends who had two individual blogs and a group blog. When I found them they were in a major debate with other Christians who were of a Reformed, or Calvinist, bent. I had heard of Calvinism but I couldn’t have told you a lot about their theology (Note: I have learned that is no single Calvinist theology and it is frustrating to try and find a definition of Calvinism that would satisfy all self identified Calvinists.)
These friends were aligned with the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) which I hadn’t heard of before. They were arguing that anyone of their own free will could receive eternal salvation if that person believed in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). The particular Calvinists who they were arguing with strongly believed that no one could truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without God regenerating them (saving them) first. The Calvinist position was that no one could believe of their own free will and that it is a blaspheme against God’s sovereignty to say otherwise.
This sounded very interesting and I was gung ho to jump into the fray. I began interacting with a young Calvinist who, by his avatar, looked to be maybe 21 years old. In my naivety I thought we would have a cool theological discussion and I would show him that God had indeed given us free will (yes, I was that stupid). Well, before long this guy had managed to really insult me. I have noticed a tendency among Christians to be very unkind to any believer that disagrees with them. They will always be kind to an unbeliever in the hope of giving them the Gospel but believers are never given any quarter.
The young Calvinist (let’s call him YC for short) said that for God to wait for any human to make up his or her mind was to turn God into a bellhop waiting to do our bidding. In fact he called my stance “bellhopianism” and invited me over to his blog where he was having a discussion on the topic with his friends. I did go over to his blog where he and his friends were making fun of me.
Let’s just say that I didn’t take this whole “bellhopianism” thing too well. I reacted to him and was very rude to him on a couple of occasions. Is this how brothers in Christ are supposed to treat each other? No.
Just in case YC, or someone who holds to the same theology, stumbles upon this post I just want to say that Christ was indeed a servant and you should be on your knees every day thanking Him for that.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life —a ransom for many.”
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
This kind of behavior went on for a long time. In fact it went on until some other Christians came along who also held to a “free grace” view of salvation but who disagreed with the four friends on several points. It turns out that the followers of the Grace Evangelical Society believe that all one has to do is “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” and that person will be saved. They denied that anyone had to believe that Jesus was the Messiah or that he died as our substitute. To teach that a person must believe that Christ died as a substitute for our sins was branded “legalism.” The fight that ensued was worse than the first one.
Of course while the two faces of “free grace” were fighting the Calvinists were egging them on. We really had Christians inciting others Christians to anger against each other! This has bothered me ever since.
I don’t have a desire to recount the meanness that I witnessed between the various sides in the “free grace wars.” I witnessed more nastiness than you can shake a stick at. If you really want to read what both sides have to say then here are links to two Google searches that will allow you to read some of the arguing:
- The Grace Evangelical Society side called their theology “refined free grace” and you can find references to that term by following this link.
- Those opposed to the GES position called it the “crossless gospel” and you can find web pages using that term by following this link.
Of course most Christians are not aware of the fight I witnessed but stuff like this is going on all over the internet. I have thought about listing at least another half dozen examples I have seen in other corners of the blogosphere. The problem is that I don’t want to malign other Christians in the process. The reason that I have mentioned my own experiences in this post is that I can talk about myself without committing a sin (at least I think I can).
I truly believe that Christendom’s living witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is being seriously hampered by all of this pettiness. Our witness to the world is not based on how mean we can be to those we consider to be apostate. Christ said:
34 “I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So, the question is: How are we allowed to treat other Christians even when we believe they are completely off base? Are we allowed to bad mouth them? Are we supposed to look the other way and ignore “the craziness?” Is there a way to fight the bad doctrine without maligning (a sin) the other believer?
These are the answers I am looking for and I really hope to find some answers.