Thursday, November 3, 2016

From the September Focus Newsletter:

Terms and labels

By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church
Terminology. Now during the political campaigns and all the social issues going on today, a lot of terminology is thrown around. There are conservatives, liberals, progressives, extremists, moderates, etc. etc.
Some of these terms have positive, complimentary connotations, and some of them are very derogatory. Do you fit in any of these labels or terms?

Well there is a legitimate use of these descriptive terms. What about Evangelical? What about conservative? What about liberal?

No one really wants to be defined by labels. But I want to briefly discuss a couple of terms and show their context for the past and also for today. They are “evangelical” and “fundamental”.

The term “evangelical” according to the National Association of Evangelicals and Lifeway Research “defines evangelical by theology rather than by self-identity or denominational affiliation.
The NAE, one of several stewards of the term, hopes that the new belief-based research definition will replace older definitions based on race or politics that lead to incomplete results. For example, the report notes that "though the African American Protestant population is overwhelmingly evangelical in theology and orientation, it is often separated out of polls seeking to identify the political preferences of evangelicals." Christianity Today, November 19, 2015.
They continue with four bullet points for specific beliefs:
  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.
Its my sense as a pastor that evangelical is by in large a neutral to positive term. I say positive, because many people generally want to be in that category. I mean, if you deny the Bible, it takes some serious reflection, people think twice about going there—even if they are not living the way they should be. These are by the way what is known as “orthodox” Christian belief, or consistent with our creeds. (If something is consistent with one or all three creeds, it is orthodox. In addition, orthodox also includes historic Lutheran teaching according to the Augsburg Confession, Luther's Catechism and the Book of Concord.) We at Christ Lutheran are by these definitions orthodox Lutherans and evangelicals.
I want to mention another term, “fundamentalist”. This today has a definite derogatory meaning. Almost everyone runs from this term. As it is used today, it is now a label that is slapped on any radical or extremist from any religion. As the saying goes, any movement is defined by its opponents. And that is definitely the case here.
Even Christian leaders like Rick Warren said, speaking at the Pew Forum on Religion in May of 2005, “Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America. The word ‘fundamentalist’ actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity." He's right probably on the first to statements, but is he right in that it is a “very legalistic” document? He goes on to say as quoted in the Philadelphia Enquirer in January 8, 2006 that Christian Fundamentalism will be the enemy of the 21st century: ... 'Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism - they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.'"
Certainly there are extremists in all religions, but lets look at the Five Fundamentals of the Faith in that document:
What are those Five Fundamentals of the Faith?
1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
2. The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
3. The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
4. The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
5. The inerrancy of the scriptures themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20).
I've seen several listings and they vary a little, but this is the basic content. Are these extreme or narrow? Look at number one, or any of them for that matter. Are any one of them non essential? Is one “narrow” who embraces these?
I think based upon this list, that we believe in every one of them. Are we fundamentalist? Well, in this sense yes. Are we extremists, like the suicide murderers of other religions? Absolutely not.

Perhaps we ought to add another “fundamental”--that of loving thy neighbor as our self, and loving one another as Christ commanded us in John 13:34,35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit
Pastor Tom

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