I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this in response to the critiqing of some other churches on the way they handle the message of the gospel…
“You shouldn’t judge others! Who are you to say if they are Christians or not?”
Well, I want to make this pefectly clear to those of you that feel this way whenever I might be critical of the another church’s doctrine or church practices. I cannot possibly know (therefore I would not attempt to know) the eternal disposition of that person, or persons, with respect to God. Jesus said, “don’t judge” (another’s salvation), so we don’t judge…”lest we be judged.” I do not judge them.
I do, however, have a perfect right to criticize persons or churches that are mishandling the gospel and teaching things that are not in scripture with respect to Christianity. In fact, if I didn’t take the time to try and correct or point out their errors I would be part of the problem.
For example, there are certain churches (and loads of individuals) that believe that becoming a Christian (having faith in Jesus) is a choice. It is a decision that we make. Scripture tells us the opposite is true. So why why would we want to let them get away with teaching people the wrong doctrine without letting them know the truth?
Basic dishonesty is another problem that plagues many churches that claim to be “non-denominational”. They have no point of view? That’s ridiculous! Of course they do. In fact, their point of view is Baptist. Their theology is basically Southern Baptist and almost all of their churches started out as Baptist churches (if you trace back their origins). They became “non-denominational” as part of a marketing strategy to bring more people in. Is there anything wrong with that? Well, that is debatable, but my point is that they should at least be honest about it. They are ‘anti-traditional’ churches with a Baptist theology.
“Non-denominational” churches are a denomination. But they say they are not. Not only is it dishonest but it shows a real ignorance of the meaning of the word, ‘denomination’.
The mishandling of the gospel message itself is another area that deserves harsh criticism. To lead people on a path of performance with respect to their Christian lives just places them back under the law and relegates ‘the gospel’ to a meaningless, religious term. All over the place in this day and age people are being fed the law and are being told it’s the gospel. That is flat out wrong, and dangerous! If you think I am overstating the problem than read the book of Galatians. St. paul uses his strongest language to warn those that are engaged in such teachings and practice.
The mainline churches don’t get a pass here either.
What the mainline churches have done to the Church over the last few decades is enough to make a grown man cry. They have turned strong Christian churches with real traditions of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sins into social clubs and do-gooder organizations where the name of Jesus Christ to an outside world is something to be ashamed of and kept quiet. The greater church body that my own congregation is a part of (the ELCA) is engaged in this stuff as well. It makes me sick.
The Roman and Eastern churches are also guilty to a large extent as well with their stubborness to see that it is Christ and His work alone for us that makes us worthy to enter the kingdom of God.
The message is in “earthen vessels”. We will make mistakes. I know I make more than my share of them. I am not a better Christian than anyone I criticize.
Let’s use our criticisims as an opportunity to examine scripture that we might all be better informed about, and grounded to the One who makes His Church and holds it together.
– Steve Martin
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