RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES

 

CHRISTIANITY vs. OTHER RELIGIONS

Is one religion more incorrect than another (such as a religion that follows a different god versus one that outright blasphemes against God)?

                Yeah, I would say so. To start: any religion that follows the Bible properly is the correct one, and the rest are incorrect. But Judaism still holds to some of the Bible (the Old Testament). I'd think it's proper to say that they have at least some very important truths, such as the understanding of God and the beginning of His plan for His people. They understand the standard of holiness, the sin of idolatry and false worship, the presence and power of temptation.

                Catholicism also is very close to biblical truth. It makes enough major errors to be a false gospel, but if a Catholic comes to salvation by way of the true gospel, there is less to have to correct in terms of that person's understanding of origins, morality, and eternity.  But after that it starts to really get into a mess of "Who has more errors than who?" and really it's just not worth trying to figure out.  "More incorrect" has no significance in the end, because incorrect is incorrect. On a math test, if the answer is "5" and you put "4", you might have been close to the answer, but you're actually just as incorrect as if you put "jello."

 

What do you think about the idea that all religions that are monotheistic are, in essence, worshiping the same God (our God) and that someone who is fully devout in his/her religion has the same idea and understanding of faith as Christians. What gives Christians the right to tell someone to desert their religion when the firmly believe it as true (just as Christians do their own faith)?
                The idea that all religions point to the same god is a beautiful, romantic, and seemingly-peaceful notion, but logically it's a nightmare and a larger problem than the solution it pretends to be. If we only say that monotheistic religions point to the same god, what evidence do we have? How do we know there are not multiple gods? What if someone created a new religion a decade ago--does that religion also count as pointing to the same god? What if one of the religions says that the one god is good, while the other religion says that the one god is bad? Are they pointing to the same god?
                Every human being should compel as many people as they can to know the truth and to live right. I am not pushing my religious beliefs on someone if I am telling them not to sacrifice their children in a fire. I am doing my best to call a person to truth and right living.
 

                If we really believed that religion should be freely practiced without one impinging on another, that would then disrupt the moral fiber of our society, since morals are spiritual in nature. Why should we put people in jail and call them criminals? What if they truly believe that their actions are not wrong?
                If we were to assume that everyone religion can be practiced EXCEPT if it negatively affects another person, then the problem is that this very assumption is a moral philosophy. To say, "I just think it's wrong for religious people to ask me to change religions" is a religious opinion. So logically, why should Christians have to operate under someone's "don't ask me to change religions" rule? Doesn't that mean that the person who doesn't want to be changed has pushed his religious opinion upon a Christian?  See the nightmare that unfolds from all this?
                It gets even more twisted if we really do pretend that all religions point to the same god, because all religions have completely different, distinct, and contradicting accounts of who he is, what he is, how he is, and why he is. If we say that all that stuff is negligible, you're left only with moral principles, and even then not all of them agree. Some religions are racist. How do they point to the same god as the religions that are not? Some religions are strongly disposed for or against one gender. How could that point to the same god as one that is not?
                To say all religions point to the same god is really just a fancy cover for intellectual dismissal. It's the fastest, easiest way to not have to sort through the different worldviews and really determine which one is credible and which is not.

 

Didn't other ancient religions have prophecies about a virgin birth?

                Yeah, virgin birth was not an original idea. Neither was living a perfect life, being the son of a god, performing miracles, or dying to save someone else. Religion, by nature, abounds with supernatural events. We should not be surprised that there are imitations of truth. Everything good has a cheap imitation. If I were Satan, I wouldn't try to convince you that the truth is false--that's very hard to do to anyone; instead, I'd confuse you with all sorts of similar other options that seem so close that you'd just stop trying to figure out which one is real.

 

What do you think about this: www.ted.com/talks/a_j_jacobs_year_of_living_biblically.html

                [Rolling my eyes.]

                He spent a year "living biblically" except he had no faith, no trust in God, no love for holiness or righteousness, no concept of the reason behind God's instructions, no regard of historical or precedental context, no notion of christological typology, no distinction between personal action and societal law, no understanding of literary genre interpretation, and no care for the goal of God's Word which was to bring a person to salvation by the transformation of their lives which is permanent and sincere.

                He was acting out the laws but living out none of the righteousness. That, I think we all can notice, is exactly why Jesus vehemently called the pharisees hypocrites and blind and called down woes upon them (Matthew 23).

 

Did the Mormons misinterpret 1 Corinthians 15:29 about baptizing the dead?  I really don't understand why some Mormons baptize the dead.

                Mormons have misinterpreted plenty of biblical passages, mostly because their handling of Koine Greek is so inconsistent. As far as 1 Corinthians 15:29, their practice is incorrect because a person's eternal destiny is determined in this life, and nothing after his/her death can relocate him/her (Luke 16:26).

                Baptism for the dead is something that only took place in Corinth. It's a mysterious act that the apostle Paul doesn't really endorse. He refers to it as a practice that "they" do (not "we"), and his point is not for anyone to do it, but that Corinth was doing it because they rightly understood that dead Christians were still alive in heaven and would eventually be resurrected. The practice of baptism for the dead was very likely just a custom of a living person going through the baptism event on behalf of a deceased believer who never had the chance to do it him/herself. It was not understood to somehow save a dead unbeliever, especially since salvation is not by works. It was probably a celebration of the salvation of a deceased person who never got to publicly profess his faith.

 

How should I defend my faith against Mormonism? How is it false?

                For a brief synopsis of some of the major points where they depart from Christian doctrine, you can check a document on my website (http://www.randcho.com/biblestudy/biblestudy.htm). See "Cults and Counterfeits." The information there is meant not to supply you with ammunition to start arguments/debates with Mormons.  Rather, it’s meant to give you clear understanding on why you yourself are not a Mormon.  Never should our knowledge spur us on to pick intellectual fights.  You can’t argue someone into repentance.

                I don't know if you'd need to defend your faith against Mormonism, since they don't really come at you with much hostility. The largest threat they pose is two men on bicycles knocking on your front door. If you don't want to talk to them, tell them you don't want to talk to them and you should be fine.

 

How should I respond to this?  http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/22/does-god-exist-ricky-gervais-takes-your-questions/

                I wouldn't sweat over it too much. Gervais says in his first response that there is no scientific evidence of God, and he's totally correct in that.  Here's why: Science operates by empirical evidence by means of controlled experimentation or observation. It can only measure and perceive what exists and is contained in our known universe. That's why science can't measure morals, opinions, beauty, or delight--but all of these things exist.
                God is Spirit (John 4:24). He can't be scientifically perceived and measured, so the whole argument against God via science is null and void. It takes a whole different manner of investigation to see whether or not God is real.
  The very essence of science has nothing to do with any spiritual; it is only physical.  But simply because Gervais does not have a means to detect, identify, measure, or manipulate anything spiritual doesn't mean such things don't exist.  Science cannot measure curiosity, but our experiences are sufficient to assure us of its reality.

 

How about infant baptism?  What do you think of churches that practice this?

                Baptism was meant as a profession of true faith. There's a valid argument that because babies are not able to exercise such faith, they should not be baptized until they come to the appropriate understanding and exhibit true repentance and belief.  I don't think any church would disagree with that idea, but infant baptism is a tradition that many churches practice to profess the parents' commitment and intent to raise the child in the instruction of the Lord in a godly household. That child, when he comes to faith, is then confirmed instead of baptized again.
                Personally, I don't think this tradition is one that comes from the Bible, but I also don't think it's a serious heresy. The intention behind baptism was to publicly profess one's faith. That is accomplished by confirmation or by baptism. And no one actually mistakes a baby baptism as the baby is confessing Christ, but it's pretty obvious that this is a statement being made by the parents, not the child.
 
Churches that actually do try to say that baptizing a child aids him spiritually (for instance, Catholicism teaches this) have completely misunderstood the meaning altogether. Only in such a case would I think it important to break fellowship, as it tampers with and contaminates the true and biblical gospel that proclaims our salvation by grace, through faith, which is uninfluenced by any works on our part.

 

Any recommendations with different religions within the family?

                Are you asking if I recommend different religions in your family? No, I do not. I recommend the truth!
                I'm guessing you're asking what to do if your family has members of different religions within it. If that's the case, and in every case of evangelism, it's ALWAYS the conduct of the believer that will prove the message. Show a life of fellowship, prayer, service, worship, and discipleship and they'll see fruit in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That's going to be your best witness. Peter actually straight out says this especially to wives who come to faith in Jesus. If they want to evangelize their husbands, it's done by their conduct (1 Peter 3:1-4).

 

CATHOLICISM

Is Catholicism merely just one branch of the Christian faith?

                "Christian" is a really flexible term these days, unfortunately. People think it applies it anyone who holds Jesus as a significant religious figure in their faith. Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses...all of these get thrown into the same "Christian" label when it's used carelessly.  "Christian" is most typically used to refer to the Protestant faith which distinguished itself from Catholicism, back in the days of Martin Luther, and returned back to the original, historic faith of the apostles and the early church. 

                Catholicism, to be clear, is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GOSPEL. It is not the same message of faith. It is not even the same source of truth. Catholicism does not hold to the Bible alone as the perfect Word of God. Instead, it employs 14 additional rogue writings (known as the Apocrypha) which are pseudepigraphal and contradictory. They also consider the word of the Pope and of church tradition to be on equal authority as the Bible, though also with the power to reinterpret Scripture (which, logically, sets them above the Bible in authority). The Pope is regarded as the vicar of God when speaking 'ex cathedra' (speaking out from his chair in an official church declaration), and is therefore the leader of all the believers of Christ.  That is in no way the same thing as the Christian faith that the apostles led by the teaching of Jesus Christ. It's aberrant and heretical to the ecclesiology (church doctrine) that is taught in the Scriptures.

 

Why do you believe that Catholicism is not a form of Christianity when Catholics were the first Christians?

                Catholics were not the first Christians. I'm not sure where you got that idea, since Catholicism doesn't even really claim that. Acts 11:26 is pretty clear. The first Christians were called Christians, not Catholics. Catholic just means "universal" which was the term that was adopted early on because it was the largest demographic of people who claimed faith in Jesus. Catholicism is an off-shoot that developed in contrast to the orthodox branches of faith (such as Greek Orthodox, Coptic, or even Armenian) a few hundred years after Jesus and the apostles. The Protestant Reformation that fought against Catholicism wasn't the start of a new theology, but a RE-forming of the original teaching of the apostles--to move away from additive ecclesiology like the Papacy, Mariology, and sacramentalism; and to return to the foundation of the Word of God as the only source of divine authority.
                The evidence is pretty plain: the Bible doesn't teach about Popes or instruct the veneration of the virgin Mary. The Bible doesn't teach the hierarchical structure of Catholic church leadership, and the Bible doesn't include the Apocrypha. Those didn't come about in the beginning of Christianity. If you read the works of the early church fathers like Irenaeus (the disciple of John who was the disciple of Jesus), he was not Catholic. Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius...none of these guys were Catholic. That teaching came much later, and as history went on, it developed into more and more of a tangent and false theology.

Is Catholicism historically older than Christianity? 

                Christianity is the general category of people who follow Jesus Christ. Catholicism has distinguished itself from that label as its doctrine includes submission to papal authority, church tradition, and sacramental practices. Because Christianity started with Jesus and his disciples, Catholicism (which came much later) did not come before Christianity.

Why do people say Catholicism is the traditional and original religion?

                Catholic means "universal." Originally, when people were referring to ALL churches, they would say, "the catholic church" (or "the universal church"). So in that sense, the term has been around since the beginning.  To be more precise, though, Catholic theology that involved the papacy and sacraments and church tradition was something that developed over many centuries and had its most flagrant abuses in the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformation was not a protest to start something new, but was a protest to RE-form (that is, form AGAIN) what the original faith was. It stepped away from the Catholic heresies that were occluding God's authority (in the Bible) with man's authority (in the Pope and church tradition), and embraced our anthemic cry of SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture alone), SOLA FIDE (Faith alone), SOLA GRATIA (Grace alone). The more you read the Old and New Testaments, the more you'll see that THAT is the heart of God's gospel and plan for His people.

 

If Catholicism is a false religion, why does everyone say Christians and Catholics are the same?

                Catholicism teaches a different gospel than the one that's given solely from the pages of the Bible. Theirs is mixed with two other authoritative sources: tradition of clergy and teaching by the Pope. The Catholic church understands those two sources of instruction to be judicial over the interpretation of Scripture, such to the point of editing, updating, or reinterpreting altogether. That's why some of their teaching has changed over the course of history.

                People in America don't see a distinction between Catholicism and Christianity because by all appearances they look the same: nice people going to church to listen to someone talk about Jesus on the cross. Sadly, they don't understand the HUGE differences: Papal authority, praying to a human woman (Mary), obtaining grace by performing the work of sacraments, etc.

                You'll understand why Catholicism is a false religion the more you study the biblical gospel and then learn about their tradition of teaching. You'll also begin to see how common it is for churchgoers to have no idea what the gospel really is, which is why they cannot distinguish it from false teaching. They don't even know that it's different! Fortunately, this is easily curable for anyone who is willing to seriously learn the Bible.

 

How come Catholicism is so expansive?  Why are there so many Catholic schools but no Christian schools?

                Catholicism is expansive, but so is Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam which is the largest religion in the world. Why it is so expansive can be answered in a lot of different ways, but to take it from a purely historical and non-theological perspective, it is because Catholicism piggy-backed off of much of the colonialism and imperialism of the Western world throughout history. 
                I'm not sure why you think there are no Christian schools. There are actually more Christian schools than Catholic schools.

 

What is your opinion about the Apocrypha? Also, can Catholics be saved?

                The Apocrypha is a collection of 14 rogue writings that are pseudepigraphal (written by authors that are not the ones for which the books are named) from sources who are neither prophets, apostles, nor their close associates.  That's more than enough already to put the Apocrypha well outside the canon of the Bible. While those books have some helpful historical insights at times, they can't really be treated as anything more than educational research--not divine inspired Scripture.

Why is it wrong to worship Mary?

                Mary should not be worshiped because she is not God. She is a normal woman. She is a regular, down-to-earth, non-divine person like you and me. She knows she's a sinner--that's why she calls God "my Savior" in Luke 1:47. She, too, needed to be saved. Why worship a human being, who is a sinner, who is not perfect, who is not divine, who is not eternal, who is not able to save you, who is not able to love you perfectly, and who is approximately the age of 13 when she gives birth to Jesus? It's literally like worshiping one of the junior high girls at church, at the same level you worship God. That's really weird. She's just a normal person.

                God's choice in using Mary to bear His Son is one of His incredible acts of grace, and she knew it. She didn't earn it, and she wasn't good enough for it. That's why she was greatly troubled and afraid when the angel announced to her that she would give birth to the Savior (Luke 1:29). 

 

What does it mean when a Catholic is confirmed?  Is it the same as when Christians are?

                They aren't the same at all.   For starters, Catholicism is a false religion.  Catholic confirmation is one of sacraments, meaning it is one of the means by which the grace of God is imparted to the human soul. What's logically erred about that is that it takes human action to obtain/achieve God's grace. There are popular Catholic responses to that, but ultimately the objection stands rather strong.

                Christian confirmation is traditional, not sacramental. It's performed only in churches that baptize babies (which is not indicative of faith since the baby is not yet a Christian!). Usually that baptism is performed as a symbol of the parents' promise to raise the child in a believing home. Of course, that's not really what baptism is, but at least we know that the gesture is well-intentioned, though theologically incorrect. In such cases, if that baby grows up to finally be old enough to profess faith, then instead of baptizing him/her again, the church just confirms that the baptism that was performed when he/she was a baby was not...a misfire. The confirmation basically says, "Okay, so we were right about baptizing that kid when he was young, because now he/she really is a Christian."

 

Why do Catholics believe anyone can go to heaven while Baptists believe only ones who accept Christ can go?  What's the difference between Catholics and Baptists?

                Catholics aren't the only ones who have made that claim. Some very well-known Christians have tried to voice the same thing--among them are popular preachers such as Billy Graham.  Some Catholic figures who believe non-Christians can be saved include Pope John Paul III and Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, in fact, possessed Hindu gods in her worship room. When asked about their presence, she replied that Hindu people who earnestly seek salvation by way of Hinduism are also saved.

                Sadly, this kind of idea flies in the face of the true gospel. Acts 4:12 tells us that there is no other name by which men are saved, but the name of Jesus the Christ. To place faith in anything BESIDES the cross and the resurrection, the saving work by God Himself for the substitution of man and the atonement of sin and the forgiveness of sinners to the eternal fulfillment of God's pre-creation Sovereign plan is to follow a different gospel altogether.  The apostle Paul declares damnation upon any who would preach a gospel other than that which was taught by Peter, the rest of the 12, and himself (Galatians 1:6-9).

                Baptists aren't the only ones that believe that Jesus is the only Savior. All of God's people (who are truly God's people by faith and trust, not by name or in error) hold to the inerrant, historic gospel.

                The Catholic doctrine on salvation is consequent to Catholicism's alleged sources of authority. While the Bible is the only true source of God's instruction in its direct revelatory form, the Catholic church believes that the Pope and the Catholic Tradition are equally authoritative.  This a damning heresy.

                The Bible is God's perfect Word, without equal, certainly not vested in any man or tradition.  Jesus vehemently rebuked the Pharisees for believing their traditions were equal to (or greater than) the Scriptures (Matthew 15:2,3,6).  Jesus also did not believe in any Pope. The Catholic church believes Simon Peter was the first Pope, incorrectly inferred from the statement Jesus makes in Matthew 16:17-19. As the Pope, Peter is given infallibility in his proclamatory office when he speaks *ex cathedra*. To the contrary, Peter (in this same chapter) opposes Jesus' mission to suffer and die for the sins of the world, and is immediately called "Satan" by Christ Himself. No infallibility for him. 

                There is only one God. The Bible is His perfect Word (and no other!). Man is inherently sinful from the moment of conception. Jesus is the only Savior (and no other!). We are saved by grace (through faith in the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord).   Hold to those very basic statements above and you'll have a solid biblical foundation to remember everything else that is part of the essential gospel of saving faith.

 

 

ISLAM

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

                First, let's identify elements of Muslim faith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet, but not God.  The Bible teaches that Jesus was the Son of God, and was God in the flesh (John 1:1-14).  If Islam says Jesus is not God, and the Bible says Jesus IS God, then Islam does not believe in the same God that the Bible speaks of.

                That point is really all you need to identify that Muslims and Christians do not share the same faith--starting from the very foundations--and should be loved and offered salvation that comes through faith in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, by the grace of God.

  

I saw a video where Muslims were worshipping in a church because their mosque burned down.  Is that.. okay?

                No. It's not wrong because of the building they used, because that building is just stone and wood. There's nothing more holy about that location than any other.  What's wrong is that they are worshiping the wrong god, and those own the church have enabled it instead of addressed it.

Have you ever entertained the idea that Allah may be the same God you worship, just with the wrong teachings?

                Yes, I've definitely entertained that idea. Anyone who takes his faith seriously has had to wrestle with that--especially if someone teaches as extensively and frequently as I do.  The problem is in the logic of the thought. If Allah is the same as God, except just taught wrongly, then there is no clear boundary as to how far we can be wrong. For instance, one can simply say they are the same but only have different names. But the more you look into Scripture, you find that God makes some very important claims that challenge that notion--like in Exodus 3 when God says His Name is "I AM" (or "Yahweh"). What if one says they're the same, except Allah has no son? That now presents irreconcilable dissonance with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is Allah triune? Did God originate in lore as a moon god? Is Jesus the exact representation of God or Allah?
                All of these problems arise precisely because the teachings don't agree. All that we know of God (or of Allah) is from what is taught. If the teachings are different in their core and essential doctrines, they are not teaching the same things at all.
 

 

DENOMINATIONS

How do you know which branch of Christianity is true?

                You have 3 major divisions of "Christianity" and a fourth cultic one. All of them differ mainly on the issue of AUTHORITY--who or what should we listen to and obey?

1) ORTHODOXY.  The orthodox faith (such as the Greek Orthodox or the Coptic Orthodox) has placed authority in tradition, meaning that following the church's customs is primary. Their religious customs dictate instruction.

2) CATHOLICISM. The Catholic faith holds three major positions of authority: The Pope (a man who speaks directly as God to the people), the Bible (including the Apocrypha, which are 14 rogue writings that are pseudepigraphal and at times erroneous), and Tradition (religious customs or sacraments). However, the Catholic church maintains that the Pope and the church's Tradition are able to re-interpret Scripture over time, such that the meaning of Scripture is subordinate to the other two authorities. This, logically, really says that there are only two authorities for the Catholic church: the Pope and Tradition.

3) EVANGELICAL.  The evangelical faith holds that God's authority is disclosed in Scripture alone, the Bible alone. No man speaks with God's authority anymore (the days of those prophets and apostles are ended), and no tradition or custom obligates God or God's people to act any certain way. Rather, traditions and customs are obligated to act like God.

Denominations and categories within the evangelical faith are differentiated more by minor traditions (not as authorities!). Some churches like rock music, some like hymnals, some like gospel choirs. These kinds of differentiations are sometimes doctrinal, but the essential doctrine of the core gospel is shared among evangelicals alike. They are correct on the major issue of salvation which is what calls God's people to unity. We are to embrace every follower of Christ who correctly understands and obeys the call to repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, who by the power of the Holy Spirit authored the 66 books of the Bible through approximately 40 human agents.

These are the three major branches of "Christianity," but only one is actually true. The question necessarily comes down to whether or not you believe the Scripture is truly God's Word. If it is, then the inspection of its own self-claims would rule out religious tradition as any kind of authority and would rule out any religious leader (like the Pope) as an authority (Matthew 15:1-7). Religious leaders (like pastors) are only qualified and authoritative in their leadership insofar as they are communicating the instruction from God's Word. No church leader can edit Scripture or add to it in any way (Revelation 22:18-19). The Scripture alone is sufficient for all faith and practice (1 Timothy 3:16-17).

4) A fourth option that is often mistaken for Christianity is cultic faith which holds to authority in additional scriptures than the Bible or replaces the historic Bible with a re-translated or re-interpreted paradigm which can only be understood or derived from within that religious group. Examples of these include Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Scientology, Christian Science, and Oprah Winfrey (this last one, upon inspection, is not a joke at all).  Catholicism's use of the Apocrypha could arguably qualify the religion as cultic, but even in Catholic doctrine, the Apocrypha is held with less authority than the historic Bible. It is regarded more as a venerated history book than a doctrinal sourcebook.

 

What is the difference between Christian denominations?

                Each denomination is usually named for its most prominent feature, which is often a tradition or an aspect of theology with which they identify.  Baptists insist on the immersion baptism of believers only (no children who are too young to confess faith for themselves).  Presbyterians are governed by a council of elders (presbyters) who select pastors and deacons to help lead the church. The council of elders is executive and administrative, localizing the pastor to more spiritual and visionary tasks.  This stuff can usually be found on Google. If you're curious about other denominations, you can ask, because I don't really want to take the time to guess which ones you're curious about, since there are literally thousands to choose from.

                The important thing to know is that most denominations fall under the "evangelical" faith, which is the Protestant Christian faith that holds to true, historic, orthodox essential doctrine. Excluded from that category, then, would be other Protestant groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, which is categorized as a cult.

 

What is the difference between Methodists and Baptists?  Is it okay to go to a Methodist church?

                Both are part of the Christian faith. Their differences are in how they run their churches in terms of things like sacraments and placement of pastors.  For instance, Baptists only baptize by immersion, and only to confessing Christians. They do not baptize infants or individuals who do not have the mental maturity to confess their salvation in Christ. Methodists baptize by sprinkling or immersion, or even pouring, and do so to infants as well who are raised by believing parents.  Methodist churches are connected to one another, and often times they have bishops who decide where to place a pastor. Baptist churches have their congregations pick their own pastors.   Those differences are more traditional than theological.  It is more like a stylistic difference than a doctrinal one.  There's no problem with going to a Methodist church as long as that church teaches and obeys the Word of God.

 

What's the difference between a Baptist church and all the other denominations?

                The most distinguishing feature of the Baptist denomination is its theological stance on...you guessed it...baptism.  According to the denomination, baptism is the expression of conversion to Jesus Christ for those who have sincerely come to true and saving faith.
For this reason, the Baptist denomination does not recognize the baptism of infants or of newcomers to church who have not expressed and demonstrated spiritual conversion by their lives.  This would stand in contrast to some other denominations that actually do baptize infants, often as an expression of the parents' intention to raise the child as a believer. The Presbyterian church is an example of such practice.

                For the record: even the Baptist denomination recognizes that its stance on baptism is not a dividing line between true and false gospel. It is a non-essential, in terms of core theology, though still very important (since it's one out of two sacraments that the Lord Jesus instituted for His church). Baptists still fellowship with and alongside other evangelical believers. The denominational label only clarifies their position on that point. It does not spiritually separate them from anyone who affirms and believes the core essential gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

What is a Seventh Day Adventist?

                At the very least, a Seventh-Day Adventist is a person who believes the Sabbath law still applies to New Testament believers, and observes the Sabbath (Saturday) as the day of corporate worship rather than Sunday.

                Most Seventh-Day Adventists, though, have more distinctives than that, often times including a heavier emphasis on sacramentalism, religious dietary laws, and even a belief that Ellen White (the founder) is a true prophet, despite the multiple so-called prophecies of hers that were not correct. Moreover, many churches in this category also espouse an annihilation theology: they don't believe in eternal punishment in hell, but rather that unbelievers are instantaneously destroyed from existence upon death.

                In its pure teaching, the Seventh-Day Adventist church does not agree with the essential doctrine of the Bible--namely, that the Word of God is the only authoritative source of divine instruction and that hell is a real eternal destiny of just punishment for the sinner. This identifies the Seventh-Day Adventist church to be a cult.

                There are, of course, plenty of people who will react to that statement defensively, saying that they're Seventh-Day Adventists but they don't believe Ellen White was a prophet and they do affirm the reality of the orthodox teaching on hell. Those people who attend one of these churches but don't hold to those aberrant teachings aren't really Seventh-Day Adventists (since they don't follow the teaching!). They're just confused about their denominational label and are attending the wrong church.

 

What are your thoughts on the Azusa Street Revival?

                That was the event that sparked the birth of the Assemblies of God sub-denomination.  See the question, "What are your thoughts and views on the Assemblies of God?"

 

What are your thoughts and views on the Assemblies of God.

                The Assemblies of God sub-denomination is really the largest portion of the Pentecostal churches. That group holds that speaking in tongues is necessary evidence for salvation, as well as divine healing. They also believe that Christians can lose their salvation. Benny Hinn and Jimmy Swaggart and several other heretics have received their ministry credentials through the Assemblies of God. The Toronto Blessing ("laughing revival") and the Brownsville (Pensacola) Revival were also led by Assemblies of God churches--note that I'm not entirely familiar with exactly what went on with these so-called revivals except that the fallout of them has been disastrous, leaving the evangelical church to clean up the mess left behind by masses who were placing their hope in extreme and unusual mystical experiences. Despite thousands claiming to be healed through the hallmark healing campaigns of the these churches, there is no documented case of restored limbs or reversed diseases.

                I never recommend a person to attend a church under the Assemblies of God, and I always recommend that they leave such a church. This is because their emphasis on supernatural experience characteristically occludes any real dependence on Scripture and patient and wise discernment as the means by which God's will is revealed. The Bible is God's perfect Word, and its canon is closed; there is nothing that can nor should be held in equal or greater authority with it. Such a view of things like speaking in tongues (as a necessary sign of spiritual activity), prophecy, or special revelation are tantamount to serious damning heresy, and has been proven enough times to be nothing but a dangerous element to the Church.

                With all of that to weigh heavily against any favorable disposition toward the Assemblies of God, I don't necessarily think that they're so far vested in heresy that they're outside the kingdom of God. I tend to approach the Pentecostal church and all its sub-denominations as true brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering from serious misunderstandings of important doctrine. I don't question the basic position of the Assemblies of God on the issue of Christ as the one and only Savior whose benefits are received and applied toward a believer through repentance of sin. But that's basically as far as I'd go to say that they're okay.

 

What is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism?  Should we ever fully lean towards one side or the other?

                The major difference between the two is the issue of salvation in regards to its permanency.

                Calvinism points at the issue of election/predestination, stating that God chooses those who are to be saved. That much so far is true. They also then say that if God chooses someone to be saved, it must be a permanent fixture of their lives--that is, one can't be saved on Tuesday and then on Friday reconsider and lose his salvation. After all, if God chose to save someone, He would have done so with perspective to the person's ultimate/overall outcome; not a temporary phase in his life.

                Arminianism emphasizes the human responsibility in salvation, stating that every man is accountable to choose to repent or be judged for his own sin. That is true. They also then say that if a man can choose to be saved by repenting, he can also choose to be 'unsaved' in that he can choose to no longer live in repentance and obedience but can choose to turn to a life of sin. After all, Adam and Eve were in obedience and were able to choose to move toward sin.

                A theological group should never be your reason to think something is true. If someone says "this is Calvinist" or "this is Arminian," that ought to give you some basic expectation of what the argument might be, but you should only be inclined to believe or disbelieve it based on what you know of Scripture--not which theological group you prefer.

                One very important point to note about Calvinism and Arminianism: Calvinism approaches the idea of salvation from God's perspective. Arminianism approaches salvation from man's perspective. When it really comes down to it, only one of those perspectives is the one that's going to matter. Not only did God write the Bible which informs us about salvation, but He did so from His own point of view, but communicated it to us in ways that we would understand.

 

How do I prevent my Calvinist theology from coloring everything I read in the Bible? Not to say that I think it's wrong but I want to know the truth of the Bible without bias.

                The most important thing to do is to read the Bible with the intent to understand it the way the original audience must have understood it. The original audience is not going to make Trinitarian arguments out of verses in Genesis, or Christological typologies in any of the Old Testament books. That's not to say that these things aren't in there, but it is to say that your first priority is to understand its primary meaning which was from the original author to the original readers. If you cover that base, then you can throw whatever theological framework you want on top of that, but you'll at least be able to distinguish when and why you're doing that.

 

Say you live your life as say a Calvinist and then you stop following the Calvinist way and live life another way, but still retaining faith in God. Would you have to renounce yourself as that other sect to get into heaven since you wouldn't get in as a Calvinist?

                There's really not a way to "life your life as a Calvinist" that would be any different from living your life as a genuine Christian. Calvinism is a systematic theological perspective on concepts like God's sovereignty, grace, election, and atonement. That's an angle of understanding, not a set of instructions on how to live. So if you stopped being a Calvinist and instead were convinced that some other theological rubric was more accurate (say, Arminianism), then you might have different explanations on how to describe God's activity in the present and future age, but you'd still be under the same call to holiness and righteous living. You wouldn't have to renounce Calvinism or any other group. Jesus wasn't a Calvinist, and neither were any of the apostles. They didn't have to adopt or renounce such labels. The idea is to get to know God, understand the gospel, repent and believe, and live according to the instruction in the Bible--that's how you get into heaven. The rest of the stuff (like Calvinism or Arminianism or whatever else) is helpful simply to organize the information categorically for deeper and more consistent understanding.

 

Why is there so much religious conflict between the sects of Christianity? isn't everyone going to end up in heaven if they all believe in God?

                Christianity is a broad term that's often applied to religious groups that differ from one another in pretty significant ways: Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Mormonism, and cults. There's a lot of cause for there to exist theological disagreement between these groups, especially because they hold to different understandings on the sources of divine authority and inspiration, means of salvation, and eternal destiny. Simply because our educational systems categorize those groups together under broad labels like "Christianity" doesn't mean everyone in that category is necessarily going to heaven--even if they believe in God (note James 2:19!).

 

In Christianity, why do certain denominations claim that other denominations are false religions?  I heard of a Presbyterian doctrine that said no other denomination is true except theirs.

                The term "Christianity" is a category of religious positions that happen to stem from using the Bible. It's not a term that the Church made up. It's a term that textbooks use to simplify the multitude of religions into more systematic organization. Some of the denominations and theological positions within that category of "Christianity" are true, some are not. 
                To be realistic, nobody thinks he's wrong about anything. A Baptist will be Baptist because he believes that the Baptist denomination is true. A Presbyterian will be Presbyterian because he believes that Presbyterian doctrine is true. And while I also believe that what I teach is true, it becomes pretty clear that there is HUGE overlap between what a Baptist, Presbyterian, and I believe. We all regard the Bible as God's Word. We all know God is Triune, holy, loving, and gracious. We know Jesus is the only source of salvation for mankind who is inherently sinful. Where a Presbyterian disagrees with a Baptist will be on much smaller ideas, like who runs the church. The Presbyterian will have a council of elders ("presbyters") alongside the pastors, while the Baptist will have the pastors run the church but the congregation is able to vote for particular decisions. The Presbyterian believes he's doing it right. Fine. So does the Baptist. Fine. But that doesn't actually cause any real division among us. It just defines how we like to run our churches as best as we think it fits the biblical model.
                If a group does not believe in the essential doctrines of the Bible, then even if they call themselves Christian, they are not part of God's kingdom. I list the essential doctrines in the first 7 articles of my doctrinal statement on my website (http://www.randcho.com/doctrinalstatement.htm). Even though a textbook might classify them as part of the same religious category and call it "Christian," we know that the definition of God's kingdom doesn't come from a textbook. God's people are those that believe correctly in Him and worship Him above all other things.

 

Do you still treat Christians from other denominations like brothers and sisters in Christ?

                I treat everyone who claims to be Christian as my brother or sister as long as I believe that is true. Until they disqualify themselves from such a description, I hold them to be what they call themselves to be. This is done because Jesus prescribes the same approach in Matthew 18:15-20, where everyone who claims to be a believer is treated as a believer until their unrepentance or unbelief would reveal them as otherwise.

  

Are you against the charismatic type of worship?

                I'm against unbiblical worship. I don't think it matters what denomination it comes from.  I have no problem with singing, dancing, speaking in tongues, and fervent prayer. I do have a problem with worship that is chaotic (1 Corinthians 14:33), impossible to understand for newcomers (1 Corinthians 14:23, 27-28), or attempts to redefine the purpose of gifts (1 Corinthians 14:22). 
                Worship should not have to be frantic to be meaningful. Quite the opposite, actually. And true worship should breed in us the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.). 
                Being charismatic doesn't necessarily make someone unbiblical. I look at pastor Johnny Tsai, a good friend whom I deeply respect, and I see a very biblical, very sincere, very passionate charismatic worshiper. He knows how worship is meant to direct every person toward conviction, repentance, and belief. He knows how the purpose and emphasis is not on the experience during the service, but on the transformed life that follows. He also knows how easy it for so many churches (of all denominations!) to try to look for mystical or emotional highs as a substitute for true spiritual growth. 
                Proper worship is the worship that reveals God's grace and mercy in order to move a person toward living like Christ in mind and body (Romans 12:1-2). That's what I'm for. And anything even close to, but not identical to that, is what I'm against.

EVANGELISM

How do I explain Christianity to my friend without offending him?

                He first has to see Christianity in your life. He has to see how you live, what you love, why you pray, and when you forgive. All of that stuff will say more to him than a monologued explanation. He'll listen to your stories and descriptions only if he knows that it explains what he's seeing in your life.
                It won't matter if he's Buddhist or Hindu or Roman Catholic or atheist. If he sees Christ in you, you can explain what's absolutely true of the gospel, and it'll be enough to confront whatever errors anyone else might have. I wouldn't concern myself too much with trying to debate his own religious perspective. That's a decision he needs to make, to repent and believe in the true gospel. If anything, get a basic understanding of what he believes so you know what kinds of conversations to expect, but if he's not really serious about his faith, you'd be wasting your time researching it. Just remember that's way more important to show him what's true rather than to point out what's false.

 

If you ask someone to come to church and they decline, should you keep trying?

                Sure. Just don't be a nuisance in how you ask. Being persistent is good only when it lends itself to effectiveness. Ask out of love, ask in ways that don't irritate, ask as frequently as your level of intimacy deems appropriate. Don't guilt trip people into coming with you. 
                For someone who doesn't go to church, it's pretty scary to go for the first time. They don't know anyone, they don't know the routine, they don't know the songs, they don't know how long they're supposed to sit quietly and wait for the sermon to end, they don't know if they look like a jerk for not putting money into the basket, they don't know where any of the books of the Bible are so they don't know what pages to turn to, they don't know the basic Bible stories, and they don't know who they're supposed to talk to when you're busy doing something else. 
                My advice: if your friend is afraid to come to service, invite him to one of those activities where there is no service, like a church picnic or sporting event or whatever. Let him meet some church people in non-church settings so that you can at least remove some of the obstacles that scare him. I think knowing people at the church is the most comforting thing, and so let him meet people so he's not afraid of sitting alone for a while. They'll be plenty of people to explain things to him or just show him that it's a loving environment--not a scary one.

 

My Catholic friend focuses on the gospel, not the apocrypha. She believes the same gospel as what you teach at our church. The only difference is that her religion has lots of traditions. But aside from traditions, our gospels are the same. She believes that Jesus came down and died to save us.
According to your report, the following seems to be true:
                1) She does not hold the Apocrypha to be authoritative. Either that, or she has an extremely unhealthy view of God's Word (which Catholics believe includes the Apocrypha) if she thinks she can ignore one part and pay attention to another.  If she focuses on the gospel, what does she do with epistles, prophecies, law, and wisdom literature?  All of those were meant to be held in balance.  What made her dismiss the Apocrypha from her Catholic faith?  Remember though: simply because she doesn't focus on it doesn't mean she doesn't believe in it. 
                2) She has an incomplete view of the gospel, since she does not think it involves ALL of God's Word. This, however, is an inference, not a conclusion. After all, you have not stated in any terms what the gospel actually is, according to you or her.  Even saying that it's the same as what I teach demonstrates no proven understanding.  It only tells me that you can't tell the difference (if there is any) between what you've heard from your friend and what you've heard from me.
                3) She considers the sacraments as ONLY traditions? Or are they still sacramental? It sounds like you're saying she does not hold them to be authoritative, nor spiritual means of infused grace.
                4) Her belief on Jesus saving us is a common, basic pillar of faith, but it is not the whole of the gospel at all. What about his divine essence? What about his propitiatory work? What about his exclusive salvation? What about his elective will?
                All of this adds to simply to tell me she is not Catholic. That doesn't mean she is Christian or Protestant or anything else. It just means she doesn't seem to think the Apocrypha is authoritative, the gospel is replete, or that the traditions are sacramental. This doesn't even begin to hit the issue of the Pope, Mary, bishops and cardinals, baptism and confirmation, and other major dividing issues between the Catholic church and sola scriptura doctrine.

 

How do you go to be among the spiritually sick (like prostitutes and outcasts) but also cut off anything that causes you to sin?  What do you do when these conflict?

                If I understand your question correctly (which I'm really not sure I do), I think you're asking what to do when you want to reach out to a sinner/outcast but making such an effort will expose you to temptation to sin.
                If that's the case, avoid it. Reaching out is not ever to be done at the risk of holiness, but as the result of holiness. If you struggle with alcohol, do not reach out to people in a bar. If you struggle with lust, do not reach out to prostitutes. That is, do not reach out to them in situations where your weakness can be exploited by the Enemy.
 
                Jesus was able to engage people of all walks of life because He was able to resist temptation. But Paul warns us of how easy it is to make a brother stumble and he instructs us not to bring temptation to a weaker brother's presence (such as eating meat that was sacrificed to idols and then sold in the marketplace).
 
                We're called to the same level of discernment. Reach out with your holiness, with the example that you can set in word and deed. If the situation challenges your godly attitude and behavior by introducing temptations with which you struggle, avoid that situation and protect yourself from falling into sin. Seeing one Christian mess up is all it takes to convince an unbeliever for the rest of his life that God is a fake or a lie.

 

What's the best way to encourage homosexuals to come to church?  

            Inviting a homosexual to church should be done pretty normally: "Hey, my church is having a special event. Wanna come? Check it out and see what you think, and if you want, come out for a few more weeks and you'll get to see what I'm involved in."
                What you don't want to do is apologize for calling homosexuality a sin. Don't dilute the gospel or omit the parts that might challenge him. That doesn't mean you have to start off with a message against homosexuality, but it does mean being firm on the convictions of God. 
                Remember, of course, that everyone in the room was once a sinner. And keep in mind that those are the people Jesus wants to save! So if you keep that in mind, you won't abandon the homosexual who visits your church, and you won't try to alienate him because of his sin. You'll work to give him the truth, supplied fully with your love, and gently call him to repentance to now understand and experience the glorious riches of God's design and instruction for his life.

 

What should I do about my friend who turned away from Christianity?  She hates when we talk about it.

                Your duty is to live as Christ in front of her. HER duty is to come back. You are not a success if she does, and you are not a failure if she doesn't. You are responsible to be a clear and visible message of the transforming power of the gospel in every way that you think, speak, and act. When you have opportunity to invite her out to church and stuff, do it. If she is resistant, that's something to be patient through, without giving up. 
                I'd introduce her to some of your other church friends who would also care to join you in praying for her and reaching out. The more familiar she is with a group of people at church, the more she'll be willing to check it out.

 

How should I respond when someone corners me with controversial questions just for him to say, "See, you're wrong!"?

                Anytime a person is asking a question with the intent to criticize your answer, the question itself is not a question at all--it's bait. Don't take it. Let him know that he's a smart guy and he can figure it out. Tell him you're concerned that you'd explain it wrong and leave that conversation alone. Of course, don't do it with a tone that would insult him; be sincere and respectful. 
                If you decide to challenge him, either in your response or just the general attitude with which you speak to him, you're only going to entrench him further in his determination to tear you down. This is where those lessons about responding to evil with good and turning the other cheek will have to come into play. Trust in that wisdom and you'll find yourself in far less hopeless arguments.

 

I'm afraid to bring my friend to church because he might feel left out.  Should I be worried about this or just bring him?

                You should definitely feel afraid that he would feel left out. So bring him, and make sure he's not left out. That's something that you and your friends at church can and should intentionally prevent.  All it takes to make someone feel welcome is for others to want to know who he is. There are normal questions that people ask--name, school, work, etc. Those are courtesy questions that are necessary to get a grounding. If conversations end there, that's not welcoming. Ask why he came to church, what he hopes to learn, what his favorite hobbies are, etc. Ask open-ended questions that only he knows the answers to. Everyone wants to be heard. That's why they use Facebook statuses, twitter tweets, away messages, etc. If you want to welcome someone to church, let him know that you want to hear about him.

 

How do you approach someone who believes in God but is not interested in the Bible and is too lazy to go to church?

                It's good that this person accepts the reality of God, but it's clear that the issue isn't taken with much consideration or as seriously at it should. For instance, if you believed the earth would end tomorrow, it would affect how you live today. If you believe in God, that (by definition) includes an absolute ontological, moral, and epistemological design and direction to every aspect of the universe.
Anyone who really believes in God would then (by deduction) believe in the absolute reality of man's origin, obligation, and calling to worship and obey his Creator.

                Anyone who says they believe in God but don't muster up the will to go to church or read the Bible to figure Him out is probably just open to the idea of a supreme being that created the universe, but is not really interested in or aware of that supreme being's character and/or intentions.  Such a person is an unbeliever--though it is at least helpful that the person is not outright atheist or anti-religion. But the reality is, that person does not know the true God at all.

                Your approach should be one of honest explanation through the gospel. If a God exists, then His holiness and justice can be explained. If the person understands God's holiness and justice, then sin can be explained. If the person understands God's holiness and justice in light of his or her own sin, then wrath and condemnation can be explained.  If the person understands wrath and condemnation to be holy and just acts of God, then at that point there is no logical opposition to the doomed destiny of every man or woman that has sought life apart from God's Lordship.  That's where you explain the gospel of Jesus Christ--His divine nature, intent to save, perfect life, undeserved death, victorious resurrection, triumphant ascension, and imminent return for the forgiveness and redemption of people who once were sinners but are now restored back to living as God's people the way they were originally designed by their Creator.

 

How should I respond to a Mormon girl declaring her love for Jesus?

                If she's truly Mormon by faith (not just by title), then she doesn't believe in the same Jesus as revealed in the Bible.  If you plan on responding to her, you should get familiar with basic Mormon doctrine, or at least some of the points where it strays from the essential doctrine of saving faith.

                As with any kind of outreach, your job is not to stuff correction into the face of a person who disagrees. It's not even your job to have all the answers if a debate comes up. It's the example of love and righteousness that is your best witness--that ought to guide the way you speak, and it will certainly add credibility to what you say. Then exercise what you know, biblically, to answer the questions that you're able to answer fully and correctly. If you don't know an answer, be frank about it. It's not a crime to not know everything, and it doesn't make your position any less true. If you encounter a question you don't know, tell her you'll find out. Then find out. :)

 

What should I do about my friend who is not open to God?

                Your job is to display salvation in your living and communicate it to your friend. Your job is NOT to convert her. That's a decision that's really taken care of between her and the Holy Spirit. You will serve as the proof of whether or not the decision to choose Christ is worth it.

                My suggestion to you is to remain prayerful about your friend, continue to gently invite her to church or to discuss the reality of God. Express to her the joy of salvation--what it has saved you from, what it has saved you for--and be prepared to do this for many years if you have to, before seeing even the slightest result. A person's worldview doesn't change simply because of a single conversation her best friend had with her. It takes time and evidence. With enough patience and love, you'll get the message through.  The response is between her and God.

 

When meeting new people, how do you tell them you're Christian? 

                When I meet new people, I don't really have to say, "I'm Christian." It usually just comes out when I start talking about people I know at church, or where I hang out, or what music I listen to, or (this is the dead giveaway) when they ask what my job is. You don't have to wear a sign or anything. If you're living a Christian life, that starts to show up when you do things like carry a Bible with you, pray before your meals, or just plain talk about what sins you're struggling to overcome.

 

What would you tell someone who was once Christian but then lost interest and claims he is happier without God?

                I don't really know what I would tell them. I think a lot of that matters on the closeness of our relationship, the frequency with which I see the person, etc.  I think our job is to deliver the message of salvation by how we think, speak, and act. Whether or not the watching world responds positively or negatively is really up to each of them, but our part is simply to offer the message in love.

                For anyone who responds positively, we have the awesome privilege of making them disciples of Jesus Christ by getting them baptized, learning the Scriptures, and obeying the instruction (Matthew 29:19-20).  For anyone who responds negatively, we grieve over their own choice to remain unrepentant despite all that they've come to know about the gospel truth and salvation offer. Their fate is a worse one, and it's by their own choosing (Hebrews 6:4-6). I'd hope that they reconsider quickly, but this is very rarely the case.  Jesus instructs us to treat the unrepentant as unbelievers, because that's what they are (Matthew 18:15-17).

                I'm sure I'd say different things to such a person, based on if we're good friends or just passing acquaintances, but in either and any case, I'd definitely be willing to welcome them back if they chose to repent and believe. Some people (such as myself) have difficulty accepting biblical truth and wallow in skepticism for a really long time before finally surrendering to the call of God. While I would never welcome anyone into the family of God who isn't repentant, I would hope to always welcome anyone who recognizes the error of his/her past ways and seeks forgiveness and salvation.

 

If we aren't supposed to be around unbelievers, how are we supposed to talk to them about Christ?

                You ARE supposed to be around unbelievers. It's a natural part of your daily routine that you'll have people at your work or school or maybe even your home that haven't known or surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ to receive his gift of eternal fulfillment.

                You are NOT supposed to draw your real fellowship and strength from them. Your strength in relationship needs to be drawn from people who share the same love for God and Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:14-18 is a good demonstration of God's expectation that the Church would be separate in their living--but that doesn't mean geographically separate. It means you live righteously in their midst, and you draw your community and relationships from God's people.

                You'll see a big difference, most of the time, between people who hang around Christians during the week and people who hang around unbelievers during the week. And by "Christian" I don't mean just people who go to church. I mean people who relentlessly pursue holiness. The drive to strive together is a God-ordained method of staying sharp and strong and preventing burn-out or discouragement.

                Stay in daily connection with believers, communicating with them and talking about what you're reading and praying about and what struggles you go through and definitely what you're thankful for. It'll keep perspective. Then, amidst the world that doesn't believe, just live your life above reproach, and tell people why when they ask or when you have the opportunity to share.

 

Why does it seem evangelism often leads to conflict and suffering (like missionaries that forced labor or spread epidemics)?

                "Evangelism" means the spreading of good news. Missionaries are believers who evangelize inter-culturally.  If missionaries are forcing people into labor and spreading epidemic, they are not missionaries and they are not evangelizing. That right there is a false believer--a wolf in sheep's clothing--and you'll know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-23).

 

How should I deal with Christians who hate people (such as homosexuals) based on their lifestyles?  Wouldn't Jesus be reaching out to these people?

                People who lead sinful lifestyles (let's say, from your example, homosexuals) are people who need to repent. As you've noted, Jesus would reach out to such people.  Christians who hate people based on their lifestyles are leading hateful lifestyles themselves. This too is something that those supposed Christians need to repent of. And, just as with homosexuals, Jesus would reach out to them too.  So should you.
                Don't ignore them, don't argue with them. Show them a life that displays God's hatred of sin and love for sinners. For you, that means don't engage in the wrong activities of either of those groups mentioned above, but lovingly call them to the relationships and attitudes that God has intended for people to enjoy.

 

Do you agree with the Christians who insist on pushing their beliefs onto other people by threatening them as long as they spread what they believe to be the word of God?

                No, of course not.  It doesn't matter what people believe--it matters what is true.  If someone sincerely believes God loves money, that doesn't make him right.  Our belief doesn't define moral value.  Threatening someone to believe in God, therefore, can never be right.  That's simply not the way God has chosen to dispense the gospel of salvation.  Whether someone believes me or not on that is irrelevant, since it won't change what is true about God.  So how do we know which "truth" is really true?  I think that if there is a God of the universe, He would have revealed Himself to people, and if He's done so, it would stand the test of scrutiny and contain an infinite depth of wisdom.  That's why I know the Bible the true.

 

Is it ever wrong to try to bring someone to Christ?  For example, there's someone I have a crush on.  Is it wrong for me to want him to meet Christ more than everyone else?

                Bring everyone you can to Christ. And want that to happen for everyone. If that desire is stronger for one person than another, just hope that it can increase for those that are missing out.
                Be careful not to confuse your feelings though. Some people want to make their friends Christian simply "because I'm Christian," which is basically saying, "we'll have more in common." That's not necessarily bad, but the desire to see someone come to Christ needs to really be rooted in the fact that Christ is King and deserves the obedience of men and women everyone, and obedience to Him is the most joyful and fulfilling eternal destiny that could ever be offered. Basically, make sure you want someone to be saved because of God's glory and their joy, and your satisfaction would only be a side order to that.

What is a good book that tells the Gospel in a simple way to my friend who’s never heard of it?

            My very honest answer: the Bible. Start with the gospel of John and Mark. Recommending a different book to explain the gospel is like telling you which movie critic to listen to in order to formulate an opinion about a movie. The best and purest way to do it is to watch the movie yourself. The critic will give you plenty of additional insights and understanding, but it will either be completely irrelevant if you haven't seen the movie, or it'll totally substitute the critic's opinion over your own. That's the same thing that'll happen if you read a book about the gospel without reading the gospel.

                After reading John and Mark, go for James and 1 John. Then you'll have a good grasp of what the gospel is and what it looks like in your life.

 

My friend told me she doesn't want to believe (in any religion), but she's just a little bit curious about the gospel. She won't read the bible though.

                If she won't read the Bible, she's not really curious. After all, she doesn't have to read the whole thing. James can be read in less than 10 minutes. Even John doesn't take long to read. It's a ridiculously simple task to pick it up and check it out, it takes no time at all, it's free online or can be borrowed by anyone who goes to church (since they almost always have several), and is the most direct source to see what Christianity is all about. To look for another source is just kind of stupid, really. There's no real way around that.

At best, try to direct your friend to a good sermon. That'll get the Word into her head and it'll come with plenty of explanation and application too. She won't even have to read. She just listen to it.

 

DEBATING WITH UNBELIEVERS

1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we should be prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have. What if we don't exactly know how to explain this reason without using some sort of Christian cliché?

                The idea behind Peter's statement is that we should know why we believe. It doesn't mean everyone needs to have ironclad philosophical defenses for every atheist accusation. It means you should have an understanding of why you trust Jesus, and that reason needs to be something more than "because I go to church" or "because my parents said so."
                If the best way you can explain it is with one-liners and Christian slogans, that's not a huge problem, but the more you understand something, the more you're able to explain it in different ways.
                When I ask my friends why their favorite basketball team is the good, they are able to give me multiple reasons and examples to demonstrate the truth of why they love their team. You'll be able to do that more with Christ the more you get to know him in his Word, and experience the wisdom of his instruction, and feel the love of his people.

 

There are people at my school who are Christ haters.  They don't get into fights with Christians but into VERY heated debates.  Am I supposed to fight back?

                That will happen everywhere you go (John 15:18-21). Don't bother arguing people into faith. That doesn't happen. Even if they ask you questions (which are really just bait for you so they can hurl insults or accusations), don't fall for it. Your silence will demonstrate wisdom, even when they call it cowardice.

I saw people holding signs that said, "No Jesus = Hell."  Are they part of a cult?

                People holding signs that say, "No Jesus = Hell" could mean a lot of different types of people. Have I heard of them? Yes, I've even seen some. Do I think they're all part of of a cult? No. They don't even all go to the same kinds of churches. These kinds of people are everywhere, and sign-holding doesn't mean you're in a cult--especially because their signs are actually correct!  Whether cult or not, let's just hope that whatever provocative message is written on their sign is only supplemented with a sincere heart to love the sinner and save the lost. But, on a cautionary note, I don't recommend going to their churches.

How should we handle atheists and liberals who attack our beliefs?

                First, know if they're right or wrong. Not all their accusations are invalid; sometimes the Church misrepresents God and godliness.  Second, respond only in the cases where they actually want to seek an answer instead of defeat your position. Definitely take to heart every single phrase that the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:15-17.

Do you ever go on atheist or ex-Christian websites and post things there? Have you ever had discussion with people on websites like that?

                No. I never seek to debate or argue. If someone wants to learn more about Christ, they come to church or call me up. But I've never been in the mood to learn more about atheism. And I certainly am not feeling like I need to go bash people with how wrong they are. If that's ever the motive behind anything I do, I've already forfeited what it means to be a light in this world that so desperately needs it.

 

 

CULTS AND FALSE TEACHERS

Is Joel Osteen a false prophet?

                Short answer: yes. Osteen preaches a "prosperity gospel" that teaches that health and wealth and prosperity are rewards in this life for faithfulness. He neglects teaching on sin despite the fact that it is the critical first step in understanding the need for a Savior and the grace of salvation.

 

Do you think the Joel Osteen devotion books are good? Would you recommend it?

                I would personally NEVER recommend anything from Joel Osteen, since he is one of the best known proponents of a false gospel often called "The Prosperity Gospel." That would be like thinking devotion books written by Tom Cruise about Scientology are good.

I think the best devotions are done when you read from the Bible, not from a book about the Bible, and then share with friends who went through the same passage as you did on the same days. Read either the narrative stories (ie. Genesis, Acts, John, etc.) or the New Testament letters (Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc.) and ask the following questions:

                1) What is the point of the story or section? (Make sure you're reading the entire story/section, not just a part of it. Don't just stick with a chapter-a-day routine; that's the dumb way to do it. Read from the beginning of a story until the plot is resolved (which usually in the Bible is the entire story of a single character, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc.).

                2) What do I learn about God--especially regarding what He loves and what He hates?

                3) How should I respond? Should I give praise/thanks for something? Should I confess/repent of something? Should I ask for help for someone/something?

 

Is Jaeson Ma a false prophet?

                I doubt it.  I don't know much about Jaeson Ma, though I am aware of some differences between our ministries--some important, some not--but I don't think I'd go so far as to say he is a false prophet. 
                Jaeson speaks at churches or conferences, and then he leaves and lets the youth decide what to do in response to what he's said. He doesn't gather up followers that see him as the leader of their movement, but he seems to assert himself as any other pastor does: he's a servant among many servants who is helping to point people toward Christ.

 

What is your opinion on the Westboro Baptist Church?

                Westboro is, from what I know of them, neither Baptist nor part of the Church that is the body of Jesus Christ. They've departed from clear gospel prerogatives, masquerading as God's people much like Satan would have his agents do (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
                Our action should be to clearly communicate the whole counsel of God--not only God's hatred for sin, but also His invitation for repentance and salvation. The world will point at groups like Westboro and expect the Church to provide an explanation for their behavior. Your job would be to clarify that, whether they are a church or not, they are clearly misled in some very important aspects of following Jesus. 
                Be careful though. In explaining your disagreements with Westboro, it's easy to begin to apologize for their actions as if Jesus had done something wrong. Point out their sin, but don't apologize for the truth. Some of the core issues that Westboro huddles around includes God's stance against homosexuality and the erred teaching in Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, etc. It's clear that Westboro handles the confrontation poorly--being an agent of agitation, not evangelism, to the lost. They do this knowingly and intentionally. But simply because their approach is over-aggressive, that doesn't mean there is no truth to the issues their addressing. 
                Know your theology, know your great commission, and never compromise on either. And finally, don't take it too personally when people throw you into the same category as Westboro. If they're reasonable, they'll hear you out on the truth. If not, just try to understand that it takes time for someone outside church to understand that there are such things as false churches, false teaching, and other counterfeits that come and muddy the truth of the gospel. That's Satan's most effective weapon, and if you're mentally prepared for it, you won't let it discourage you.

 

Is the Shinchonji Church of Jesus a cult?

The Shinchonji Church of Jesus really doesn't like being called a cult. But, yes, it is a cult.  They get called that so much that they devoted a whole page on their website to refute the idea (http://healingallnations.shinchonji.kr/content/shinchonji-church-jesus-really-cult-0). Sadly, even the URL makes it sound like the page is confirming them as such.  [Update: the page I’m referring to here was taken down shortly after this response was posted.  There is no reason to believe its removal is connected to this response.]

                "Cult" is a fuzzy term sometimes. It doesn't always refer to some Satan-worshiping clan, but is often much more subtle and innocent-looking than that. A cult is really any group that claims orthodoxy (to be part of the official faith) but differs on at least one of the essential doctrines. I guess the simpler way to put it is: a religious sect is a cult if its doctrine is incompatible with the true saving gospel. Typically cults will differ on either the point of the deity of Jesus or the idea that salvation is by faith alone apart from any works. See, if you call yourself part of the Christian faith but don't believe Jesus is God, then you don't believe in one of the major points of the gospel, so you're in a cult, not Christianity.

                Not all false doctrine is cultic. For instance, you can think that Adam and Eve were Korean. That doesn't make you a cult; that makes you an idiot. But you can genuinely believe that and still be saved if you have the major pillars of the gospel correct. But if you think that salvation has to be achieved by religious merit, then you're not believing what the Bible says is integral, paramount, critical, and necessary for true saving faith.

                The Shinchonji Church of Jesus is a cult for many reasons, some of which I'll list below. I felt like it'd be best to just go ahead and examine the stuff that they say themselves, so you can evaluate their own biblical interpretation and teaching. To accomplish this, I've listed several quotes from their own website below, mostly from the URL listed above. After all, if they devoted a page to defend themselves and say, "We're not a cult," then that should be where we examine first to see whether or not their defense is reasonable.

                1) "Shinchonji Church of Jesus is the only truly orthodox group in the world."  Now, this statement by itself is enough to close the matter with an affirmative on concluding that Shinchonji is a cult. To say that they are the only truly orthodox group in the world--meaning, that they are the only ones with true saving theology--means that any group that doesn't sponsor their major tenets of the faith are unsaved. This means (if they are right) that EVERY Bible-teaching religious group in history is unsaved, since Shinchonji has a new teaching on the Bible that has never been taught before. That's a pretty huge red flag to ignore. Whenever a religious sect says, "We're the only ones who have the knowledge of salvation," then they've just placed all of salvation in their own teaching. If that teaching is not part of the historic, orthodox, biblical faith that's been passed down from the 12 apostles and their disciples (from whom we have plenty of documented doctrine), then that teaching is aberrant, false, and dangerous. It certainly is cultic, which means it is downright heresy.

                2) "Shinchonji became New Spiritual Israel by overcoming and creating the 12 tribes."  Well, this part just doesn't really make any sense. I think this is mostly due to something getting lost in translation from Korean to English, but it still leaves plenty of questions. For instance, what is the "New Spiritual Israel?" That's not a biblical term, so where did it come from? Nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Israel would turn into Korea, so how did this understanding come out? Also, what does it mean to overcome the 12 tribes of Israel? Since when were they against Shinchonji? Israel already has enough problems to deal with: they have religious tension with Muslims and Christians and Armenians right in their own city of Jerusalem; they have lost their family genealogical records so no Jew can accurately prove his descent from any single tribe; and they are still waiting for a messiah to come (since they fail to realize that Jesus IS their Messiah). So with all that going with Israel, I don't think they have the time nor energy nor concern to muster up conflict with an obscure underground cultic movement in the Korean peninsula. Whatever it means to overcome the 12 tribes is just pompous since the 12 tribes haven't been picking fights with them to begin with. Moreover, Shinchonji certainly didn't CREATE the 12 tribes; nor did the RECREATE the 12 tribes. It's just really sloppy writing to leave a sentence like that unexplained, but I know that even if they did have an explanation, they have some major mileage to cover to get past the heaps questions and objections that arise from just this one statement.

                3) "The people of Shinchonji have mastered the Bible [and] teach Revelation theology..."  To save "we're not a cult because we've mastered the Bible" doesn't actually mean you have mastered the Bible. That's not only a weak claim, it's actually a suspicious one. The depths of God's Word aren't so easily mastered. Everyone who studies Scripture deeply comes to find out only how little He knows of the infinite God. For a religious sect to say they have mastered God's Word is to say they have God all figured out. That's just not the God of the Bible. He's not so small that we'd have Him all squared away in our heads. But even if we were to be charitable enough to understand that part of the statement as "We have sound doctrine" instead of "We're Bible masters," we still have to deal with the really unusual disjunction of "Revelation theology" from the rest of the Bible's theology. Since when was Revelation theology different from what the rest of God's Word said? Revelation is made of 404 verses, and in those verses there are over 500 references to the Old Testament. Revelation is not a new, distinct theology; it's a sum-up of all that the Scriptures have taught concerning the Messiah--primarily on His eventual Second Advent to the world, this time in power and glory and judgment to finally put an end to evil and lead His people to eternal blessing on a new earth.

                4) "Shinchonji members know God, Jesus, and the Bible because we have received the revelation of heaven."  Here is a direct claim to what's theologically termed "secret knowledge." What that means is that we all have access to the same theological resources--namely, the Bible--but Shinchonji claims that they understand the Bible correctly because of an exclusive, additional ingredient that only they have, which is necessary for proper understanding. That, right there, is precisely what defines a cult. Usually this type is called "mystical" or categorized as "secret knowledge" cults. But it claims no less than this: the Bible is NOT understandable; only their leaders can understand it because of some special privileges they get that no one else in the world gets.

                5) "Shinchonji Church of Jesus—Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (Rv 15:2-5)—is the only place that has been created according to the will of God, which is done on earth as it is in heaven."  See what they did there? They strung together a whole lot of different Bible words to come out with a sentence that makes no sense. The "temple" in the Bible is a man-made structure in Jerusalem where God has His dwelling made into a permanent location. Before the temple was built, God dwelt in a tent called the Tabernacle (which really just means "tent") that was carried around by the nation of Israel before they settled in the Promised Land. The "Testimony" is the written law of Moses that God told him to give to the people of Israel. The reference of Revelation 15:2-5 has NOTHING to do with the Temple, the Tabernacle, nor the Testimony, and certainly not Shinchonji. The fact that they just threw that Bible reference in there makes it look like they know what they're talking about to a lazy reader, but to anyone who just takes the 5 seconds to look it up, it exposes that they have no idea how to read the Bible intelligently.

                6) "Shinchonji is the only place where people are living their lives of faith according to God’s will."  It's just weird to hear a Bible-believer saying that. Jesus doesn't say things like that. In Mark 9:38-41, one of Jesus' disciples tells Jesus that he saw a stranger casting out demons in Jesus' name. The disciple told that man to stop because he wasn't part of Jesus' group. Now, that right there seems like a very legitimate opinion. If you know Jesus is the Lord and you see a stranger that's not part of his crew trying to do what the Lord does, you'd probably want to stop him too. But Jesus tells his disciple not to stop him. Jesus acknowledges that there are people outside of his group that believe the right things. Shinchonji does not believe there are people outside their group that believe the right things. Matthew 13:24-30 gives us a very clear parable that only God really knows the difference between who is saved and who is faking. It's not so clear as "everyone who goes to Shinchonji is saved, and everyone else is not." The parable talks about how the seed (God's Word) is to be distributed everywhere, and wheat (believers) will rise up in all sorts of places, and they'll be surrounded by weeds (counterfeits) too. Shinchonji believe that only wheat comes from their group, and there is no wheat anywhere else.

                Shinchonji's website even lists 5 reasons why all their opponents are unsaved heretics for calling Shinchonji a cult. In all five of their reasons, EVERY SINGLE biblical reference is used in a manner that is incompatible with the original author's intent toward his original audience, except for Revelation 22:18-19 which says not to add or subtract to the Bible. Unfortunately, Shinchonji add the Bible flagrantly, since they claim that they receive a "special revelation of heaven" to provide them with true theology.

I ended up laughing at some of the stuff they said. They claimed that their opponents were heretics because they added to the Lord's Prayer. That's funny to me, since nowhere in the Bible does anyone claim to venerate the Lord's Prayer beyond its intended use to be an example for how people are to pray. It's not meant to be memorized and recited like a magical chant (though memorizing it and reciting it is fine for purposes of remembering what it teaches). But the most unexpected part is that when Shinchonji cite the reference for the Lord's Prayer, they use Matthew 6:9-13. Well the Lord's Prayer is also found in Luke 11:2-4, and it's a shorter version. Shinchonji calls everyone heretics for adding to the Lord's Prayer, and then they point to the longer version of the Lord's Prayer in the Bible--that is, they point to Matthew's version which seems to add things to what Luke said in his version. This is like a giant theological facepalm. If Matthew and Luke didn't feel like they needed to have perfectly identical duplicate recitations of the Lord's Prayer, why should we? What's more important is to know what the Lord was trying to teach us in showing us this model of prayer, and to pray in that manner.

                The last thing that I could say is in response to their third reason that they use to say that all their opponents are heretics. They say that all their opponents judge them with the laws of Calvin. Come on, man! Calvin didn't have any laws! Even Calvinism doesn't have laws. They have 5 explanatory points that are made in response to Arminian theology. Nowhere in there are there laws. And Calvin wasn't even alive when the 5 points of Calvinism were articulated. To so grossly mis-identify their opposition is a pretty stark demonstration of their lack of understanding--not their special revelation of heaven. Not all their opponents are Calvinists, and not all their opponents rely on Calvinist or Reformed theology to refute Shinchonji's doctrine. All it takes is good sense, intelligent reading, and the effort to understand the Bible's original meaning from it's human author to his intended audience. If you do that, you don't need Calvinism or any other theological framework to base your opinions off of. You'll see clearly that Shinchonji just throws in a bunch of verses and theological terms that sound like they fit very religiously together, but upon inspection are discovered to have no credible truth to them at all.

 

In Los Angeles there's this group called the Local Church, and they deeply believe in the teachings of this guy named Witness Lee.  Are they a cult?

            Here is a brief answer.

                Yes, the teaching of the Local Church and Witness Lee (who is the successor to Watchman Nee) are cultic if you understand their extreme statements without context to their thought. But on closer scrutiny, you find that they actually have a habit of overstatement for effect, and immediately follow up such statements with dampening correctors that land you back in orthodox evangelicalism. Some would argue that this removes them from the cult category.

                Here are a couple examples from the "Living Stream Movement" which is their publishing arm.

                1) Man = God "We are born of God; hence, in this sense, we are God” (p.53 of "A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing").  "God's economy and plan is to make Himself man, and to make us, His created beings, God" (p.54).  WHAT?! They're saying we're God? That's heresy! But then they immediately follow that up with, "Nevertheless, we must know that we do not share God’s Person and cannot be worshiped by others.” So he said we ARE God, and then followed up with, BUT NOT REALLY. That's not really cultic. It's just bad teaching. This probably would have made better sense in the Chinese rhetoric from which it originated, but directly translating this manner of communication without proper adjustment to Western doctrinal sensitivities really just makes it a recipe for disaster.

                2) Lee says the doctrine of the Trinity is "grossly inadequate" though he later turns out to affirm the truth of it. He's kind of right in saying this, because the Trinity is something that can't fully be explained by any practical examples in our universe, but the way it's phrased makes it irresponsibly sound like he disagrees with the doctrine, which would be nothing less than damning heresy.

                3) Church = Babylon.  Lee says, “We do not care for Christianity, we do not care for Christendom, we do not care for the Roman Catholic Church, and we do not care for all the denominations, because in the Bible it says that the great Babylon is fallen. This is a declaration. Christianity is fallen, Christendom is fallen, Catholicism is fallen, and all the denominations are fallen. Hallelujah!”  Later, one of the leader's of Living Stream Movement said that Lee was not meaning to equate Christianity or denominations with Babylon, but Lee's above statement actually does seem to contradict that.

                In any case, if a group is so frequently confusing the major doctrines of the Bible and teaching them incorrectly with an intentional mindset to do so for extra flare or to hook attention, it's just not a practical idea to learn under them. Why should there be yet another obstacle between God's Word and you? Learn under a teacher who makes the Word clear, without you having to dig him out of a hole all the time.

                Personally, I don't know enough about Witness Lee and the Local Church to point at them and call them either a cult or evangelical, but I know that teaching God's Word needs to be done carefully and clearly, above reproach and free from accusation, especially from God's own people! I wouldn't go to the Local Church, nor would I recommend anyone else going there who isn't already doctrinally secure. If their muddled manner of teaching is forming the foundation of someone's grasp of the gospel, I would expect serious misunderstanding and tragic error to ensue.

 

What do you think about the Gospel of Wealth?

                The Gospel of Wealth basically says that if you're living properly in godliness, then God will bless you with wealth and prosperity in terms of health, money & property, and circumstance.  Poverty, according to this teaching, is a sin, incurred by one's own failure to live up to God's instruction.  This is a tragic heresy.

                Our best and clearest examples from the Bible are men who were full of the Spirit and yet were neither wealthy, nor prosperous. 
Jeremiah (often called the "weeping prophet") was never successful in his ministry. The nation Israel ignored him altogether. He was a poor and failed man from beginning to end, despite his enduring commitment to God.  Joseph spent many years as a slave and a prisoner. His success in those difficult circumstances were not ever attributed to his own faithfulness, but to God's plan of salvation (Genesis 50:20).  Jesus (who is God Himself!) lived a perfect, sinless life, and was fraught with poverty, homelessness, ridicule, accusation, and abuse. He even states outright that He has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).  The apostles, whom Jesus left to lead the Church, were all martyred (except John) because of the persecution that constantly came their way. Jesus warned them that they wouldn't be successful or prosperous, but rather that the world would hate anyone who follows Him (John 15:18-20).

                Jesus taught on money more than anything else in all his teaching. If you count up all the lessons he gives in the gospels, about half of his ministry addresses the issue of wealth and prosperity--and ALMOST EVERY SINGLE ONE of them puts money in a negative light, often times referred to as a false god.

1) Note how Jesus says to store up treasure in HEAVEN, and NOT on earth. (Matthew 6:19-21)

2) Jesus indicates that rich people are less likely to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:23). 

3) Jesus exalts the poor man Lazarus in his story about him and the rich man. Lazarus, though poor and unhealthy, is saved while the rich man, though wealthy and successful, is condemned (Luke 16:19-31).

                The apostle Paul also gives us good instruction on the issue. 

1) He, too, had experienced richness and poverty, and claimed that faithfulness was being able to be content with either (Philippians 4:12-13). 

2) He is constantly working to bring relief to the poor (Galatians 2:10). Why would he do this if poverty was the result of one's own unfaithfulness and sin?

                James (Jesus' half-brother) forbids any distinction to be made between the rich and poor. 

1) He considers them spiritual equals before God, and speaks strongly against thinking highly of the rich simply because of their riches or thinking low of the poor simply because of their poverty (James 2:1-4).

2) He also says that it is the poor who are chosen and points out that it is the rich who were exploiting them (James 2:5-6).

                Paul makes a very special promise in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. He reminds us that our reward is in heaven, and this life on earth is full of trouble. Faithfulness here won't make the trouble go away, but it will result in an eternal reward that far outweighs what it cost.

 

Can you explain Gnosticism in simple terms?

                Gnosticism believes two major ideas:

                1) Dualism: reality exists in physical and spiritual forms. The physical is bad. The spiritual is good. Ultimately the physical is an illusion and a deception, so nothing done physically actually matters or persists in time. Because of this, gnostics believe that Jesus' resurrection was NOT a physical resurrection, but that he was manifested as a visible spirit. That idea alone is incompatible with the essential doctrine of the gospel.

                2) Higher Knowledge: true knowledge is only attainable by Gnosticism, and true salvation is only attained by this higher knowledge. The cross of Jesus isn't the means of salvation in the gnostic doctrine.

                There are, at times, certain groups that claim to be Christian Gnostics, having fused the two systems of belief. What they came out with is certainly gnostic, and even more certainly NOT Christian. They may claim to follow Christ, but their theology is outside the gospel.

 

Recently, someone knocked on my door and shared with me about "God the Mother". She said that we need to know God the Mother to be saved because she gives eternal life. She quoted Scripture, but I've never heard of this and can you explain this?

                You’ve encountered a member of the World Mission Society Church of God.  That’s a cult.

                God the Mother is not a biblical idea. God the Father is the repeated title of God in both the Old and New Testaments. He is always referred to in the male/masculine form. Man is God's direct image and glory of God, and woman is the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7-9).  Goddesses and mother gods are aberrant teachings that remove the simple and plain reading of Scripture and replace it with convoluted interpretive techniques to muddy what is obvious and clear. If you provide some of the quotes given, I'd be happy to deal with them on a specific basis, rather than responding to what I'd be guessing that person said to you.

 

I watched a documentary about the gospels of Thomas and Mary, but they didn't explain them very well. Can you give some insight?

                Both of them are pseudepigraphal. That means "fake authorship." Neither of those books was written by Thomas or Mary. They were written centuries later, and titled after characters that were in the content of the writings. None of the early church ever used those books (since they didn't exist) and by the time they did arrive, the early church contested them directly. You can find out a ton about them from other internet sources, but the short version of how to understand them is simple: these books were written by non-Christians and are not part of the biblical canon. Rather, they're sources of false teaching if approached as non-fiction.

 

Is being a radical a bad thing?

                A radical what?  "Radical" just means "extreme" usually with the connected to the idea of change from traditional or systematic conditions. 

                You can be radical in preference and that's fine. If you like wearing pink all the time, I suppose there's nothing inherently bad about that.  Being radical in principle is different. It really depends on who's perspective you're speaking from. Does the world think you are radical because you adopt different values and principles than what society teaches? Living for Christ will definitely bring that kind of a label on. But if the church thinks you're radical because you're breaking from sound doctrine and basic theological principles, that's not really a good thing at all.
So being radical isn't inherently bad, it simply depends on what you're radical toward (or against).