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Friday, January 11, 2013

Baby Christians and Other Irritating Stuff

A few years ago I decided to start attending a different church...it was presented as a wonderful, vibrant place that was afire with the Holy Spirit.

And so it was. The sermons were smart and funny, the music was professional, and the congregation was outgoing and seemed happy.

One day I was talking with some of these folks, and one of them referred to me as a "baby Christian". I'd evidently said something they considered naive - I don't remember what.

For some reason, it really got under my skin - to the point where I ended up looking for reasons not to attend. And if you look for a reason long enough, you'll find one.

It took years to realize what the problem was. It wasn't that I was a misidentified novice - I'd been attending Catholic churches for years, but this was my first real foray into evangelical Protestantism.. I could have overlooked that.

What I subconsciously didn't want to overlook was that the remark, and the term, fly in the face of at least two of Jesus' teachings. First, and obviously, we're supposed to enter the Kingdom of God as children.

Second, it seems to contradict the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The last are paid the same for a day's work as the first to arrive, even though they may have been out in the sun for a quarter of the time. The usual interpretation is that it doesn't matter when you turn to God - he'll take you at the same rank, early or late. But it's not a leap to say that all Christians have something to say, and deserve respect.

I know that the "baby Christian" concept comes from St. Paul, and that it was probably a necessary administrative distinction in the establishment of the early church.

But my concern, even though I didn't know it as such at the time, was that evangelical Protestantism seemed to be more of a Pauline faith rather than a Christocentric one. And that's dangerous.

(Another issue is that of "sufficiency of faith"; Christ's Olivet discourse fairly clearly says that those who do as He would have them do, even without "knowing" him, are closer to God than those who claim faith but do little to exercise it. James' epistle also takes this line, and James is traditionally identified as Jesus' half-brother. No less than Martin Luther didn't like James' epistle, and wrote of how inconvenient it was!)

I'm not trying to disrespect evangelicals, or the evangelical movement; please don't misunderstand. But for me, personally, these were deal-breakers. The whole point behind Christianity is Jesus Christ, and what He said and did.

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