Basic Christianity

May 6th, 2013 Post by

NOTE: The piece below was recently written for my local paper, The Huntington Beach Wave. In the true spirit of Christian thinking and writing, I have done nothing original here. Although the words are mine, the idea was taken (and unashamedly so) from my good friend and professor, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of Concordia Irvine. After all, all theology is plagiarism.  The piece that I have titled “Basic Christianity” was originally a lecture given by Dr. Rosenbladt at Concordia Irvine under the name “Christianity in Five Verses.” (Basic Christianity also happens to be the title of another wonderful little booklet by John R.W. Stott). It is often seen as the sequel to his well-loved lecture titled, “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church”. You can listen to both lectures for free at New Reformation Press in the freebie section.


What is Christianity? There are as many answers to this question as there are people who ask. For some, Christianity is about behavior: “Oh, that wasn’t a very Christian thing of me to say, was it?”Still for others it’s tied to tradition or emotion: “I grew up in a Christian home but I still feel like I’m a spiritual person.” Finally, many people view Christianity either as an intellectual force for good or a juvenile way of viewing the world.

To be sure, morals, emotions, and the intellect are important in Christianity. However, Christianity isn’t primarily about behavior, feelings, or the mind, but the God who suffered, bled, and died upon the cross for my sins and the sins of the whole world. This is what the Christian author C.S. Lewis famously called “mere Christianity.”

It’s like when people ask you what a recent movie you saw or book you read is about. You could likely sum up your thoughts for them in a few sentences. And though the Bible may seem like a large collection of books, its main point and overall theme can be summarized the same way.

1. I’m a sinner.

2. Sin results in death.

3. Jesus paid the penalty for my sin by his death on the cross and destroyed the power of death by his resurrection.

4. Jesus gives me salvation as a pure gift, promising that by his death and resurrection he also has power over my death.

5. I can be certain that I’m forgiven all sins – past, present, and future – because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on my behalf.

What is basic Christianity? I wouldn’t consult public opinion polls or Christianity for Dummies. Go to the source, the Bible, which can be summarized in the five following verses.

1.Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

2. Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death.”

3.Romans 5:8 – “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

4.Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

5.1 John 5:12-13 – “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

 

 


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  1. helen
    May 6th, 2013 at 13:30 | #1

    After all, all theology is plagiarism.

    Plagiarism with appropriate citation is “research”. :)

  2. May 6th, 2013 at 20:17 | #2

    “And though the Bible may seem like a large collection of books”

    Do you really contend that the Bible is not a collection of books? It clearly is. That is why each different book is noted as a separate book. “The book of Genesis”, for example, is just one book in a collection of books that make up the bible.

    No proper sentence ever started with, “and”.

    I will pray for you!

  3. Pastor Sam Schuldheisz
    May 7th, 2013 at 00:04 | #3

    First of all, thank you for reading. Secondly, this article was written for a large lay audience that is for the most part (if not entirely) unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Biblical canon; they also happen to be Biblically illiterate. Admittedly, the sentence would’ve been clearer had I also included the words “nothing more than” before “a large collection”. Or, said something like, “The Bible is not simply a collection of separate books, but one that conveys a reverberating theme across the Biblical narrative,” or something to that effect. That was my intent, not to cast doubt upon the canon but to point to its lucid and abundant Christological unity. That point could’ve been made more clearly, however, there is a tight word limit and I thought the sentence accomplished what I set out to do. And lastly, I can use the prayers. But apparently so can you. (All in good fun of course!)

    “And now for something completely different” (Monty Python’s Flying Circus). ”

    “And [waw] God said let there be light and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

    “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4)

    “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5)

    “And [kai] the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14)

  4. May 7th, 2013 at 09:33 | #4

    Gents,
    I’m probably too sensitive about this. I’m not criticizing Pr. Schuldheisz.

    This is a comment about why Lutherans miss the boat when it comes to “Basic Christianity.” We fall into a trap of lowest common denominator theology. There is something blatantly missing in this view of “basic Christianity.” The means by which any of the five point summary is even possible.

    It seems to me that this “basic Christianity” is only a generic explanation of Christianity, but it leaves out the real practice and comfort of Christianity.

    I consistently preach against this view of basic Christianity because it will lead believers to anything but the Word and Sacramental life. It remains personal. It remains myopic. It remains individualistic. It misses the point. As a matter of fact, this “basic Christianity” is one of the main arguments of the Mormons. Just listen to Glenn Beck. However, it is very American.

    The proposed basics will not lead someone to where God is present for these 5 points. There are no believers w/o the church and no church without the believers. The way to belief is the preaching of the Word and the properly given gifts of salvation distributed in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    The basics of Christianity is the Gospel. Baptism and Lord’s Supper are the gospel. Located, concrete, an earthly place to receive earthly people. The provided generic list still leads to, at best, American protestantism. Not Lutheranism. God’s Holy Bride and the Groom must include where they consumate this holy marriage at the altar. Justification is the means by which we enter into the resurrected Temple and enjoy the life of the Christian.

    IOW, sola fide, etc. comes in the word centered sacramental life. Or, Baptism and Lord’s Supper are the basics.

    Thus,

    5. I can be certain that I’m forgiven all sins – past, present, and future – because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on my behalf that he gives to me in His words and because I’m baptized, and/or I just received the Lord’s body and blood.

    Thanks for your patience with my rambling.

    marksell@charter.net

  5. Diane
    May 7th, 2013 at 09:50 | #5

    @Mark Sell #4
    This is most certainly true! How do I talk to my peers at work about ‘what God has done for me in my life’ without mentioning Baptism and the Lord’s Supper? I have to talk about the Sacraments. I’ve been gently chastised by Christian friends for going into too much detail!

  6. Nicholas
    May 7th, 2013 at 10:44 | #6

    professorLogic :“And though the Bible may seem like a large collection of books”
    Do you really contend that the Bible is not a collection of books? It clearly is. That is why each different book is noted as a separate book. “The book of Genesis”, for example, is just one book in a collection of books that make up the bible.
    No proper sentence ever started with, “and”.
    I will pray for you!

    This is clearly an atheist troll. They use these kinds of pseudonyms all the time. Also see his URL name.

    No logical personal would infer from this article that Pr. Schuldheisz is denying that the Bible is composed of many separate books.

  7. May 7th, 2013 at 18:30 | #7

    @Mark Sell #4 If there was a like button for your posting, I would have used it.
    At the risk of over-theologizing the task that Pr. Schuldheisz accomplished in briefly summarizing Christianity (and I think he probably got some folks thinking about the Faith which is good!), I think there is a distinction between Christianity and the Church. “Christianity” can be construed as an abstraction but the Church is quite concrete, preaching, teaching, confessing, Sacramental, means of grace. I thought of Luther’s 7 marks of the Church which also sums up Christian/Lutheran doctrine and practice as a summary of Christianity:

    1. The Possession of the holy Word of God

    2. The holy Sacrament of Baptism

    3. The holy Sacrament of the Altar

    4. The Office of the Keys

    5. The Public Ministry

    6. Prayer, Public Praise, and Thanksgiving to God

    7. The Possession of the sacred Cross

  8. May 7th, 2013 at 19:22 | #8

    @Diane #5
    I tend to witness or bring up the gospel simply by saying something like, “God’s forgiveness is a hoot, go to communion and get it with the angels.” IOW, I tend to think that people are starving for the presence of God and we have it. Instead of helping them become spiritual, bring God to them where He said He dwells for forgiveness, which is better than just being in His presence spiritually.

    I hope people reading this don’t interpret it as though I’m against witnessing or our members explaining what Pastor Schuldheisz wrote.

    Under the same topic, I wonder if we cut our own throat by not bringing up the church, the sacraments, and pastors. If it is only about believing in Jesus, why invest my time and money in a church? Ok, I’m done riding my hobby horse. :) On to Ascension prep.

  9. helen
    May 9th, 2013 at 20:14 | #9

    @Pastor Sam Schuldheisz #3

    Pr. Schuldheisz:
    I regularly read 300 word articles in another newspaper by another Pastor.
    Getting a Lutheran message into 300 (or 500) words for a largely non Lutheran audience is an interesting exercise!

    As I see it, you’ve been given material for several more articles here (which does not detract, IMO, from what you’ve written in this one). Carry on, and let us read more of these!

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