Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #11) IT’S OKAY FOR CHRISTIANS TO BE JUDGMENTAL AND OBNOXIOUS!

We are continuing our review of the book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? We’ve already seen a number of areas where he rejects such doctrines as the sovereignty of God, the accuracy of the Bible, the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to God, and the reality of eternal suffering for those who die without the Lord Jesus.

In this last section of “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe,” he subtitles this chapter True Christians leave judgment to God.

[Again, before I read his chapter, let me point out that he himself has been quite judgmental toward Christians who hold to a “literal” method of interpretation, who  believe homosexual behavior is sinful, who believe in inspiration, etc. He will most likely bring up Matthew 7 where Jesus says “Judge not lest ye be judged,” a passage many misunderstand.  We’ll see.]

Well, I guessed right! Thielen begins this chapter by quoting Matthew 7:1- “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” He then tells several very sad stories of people being kicked out of churches for a variety of reasons (singing in a bar, being addicted to drugs or alcohol, unwed mothers, evolutionists, homosexuals, etc.).

MY RESPONSE: Of course judgmentalism is sinful.  Of course there is no excuse for obnoxious Christians! But Thielen’s “bottom line” is: True Christians leave judgment to God.  Talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water (pun intended).

What about passages like Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5? What about proper, biblical, compassionate church discipline? What about the Apostle Paul’s command in I Corinthians 5 regarding an unrepentant believer who will not cooperate with the church’s process of restoring him to the Lord and the Lord’s people: “Expel the wicked person from among you”? In fact, Paul asks the Corinthians “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (vv. 12-13). 

And Thielen doesn’t deal with the Matthew 7 (“Judge not lest ye be judged”) reference. A careful look at that text shows that Jesus isn’t saying don’t judge. He is saying don’t judge hypocritically! Here’s the passage:
So, I am first to get the plank out of my eye so I can “then see clearly to remove the speck from [my] brother’s eye.”

I wonder — is the concept of church discipline completely anathema to Thielen? Of course, discipline out of anger and rage is never right. When church discipline is exercised biblically, there should be many tears and prayers.

The second half of the book concerns “Ten Things Christians Need to Believe.” With all that he has rejected, it will be interesting to see what Thielen affirms.










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Posted by on February 21, 2019 in judging


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Favorite Misspelled Words! Don’t Live with REGERTS!

I don’t know about you — But I don’t want to live my life with REGERTS!  Having spent many years in SHCOOL, I know that illegally parked cars will not be FINE!  I’m certain that Mrs. Edwards doesn’t do METH with her students and I don’t want that candle anywhere in my house!  But I do believe and I want to ACHIVE!  How ’bout you?

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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in misspelled words


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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #10) GOD LOVES STRAIGHT PEOPLE BUT NOT GAY PEOPLE!

I am grateful for this book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? He looks at a number of beliefs he thinks Christians should give up — and this book challenges my fundamental beliefs as a Jesus-follower. In this next chapter he tackles the issue of homosexuality. He subtitles this chapter: “All persons, including homosexual persons, are welcome in God’s church. Beyond that, however, mainline and moderate churches are not of one mind on this issue. For now, ‘welcoming but not affirming’ best describes most mainline churches, and the discussion goes on.”

[A comment before I’ve even read his chapter: What if God has spoken with absolute clarity on this issue, like He did with murder, or blasphemy, or adultery? And what would qualify, in Thielen’s mind, as “absolute clarity,” I wonder?]

Thielen lays out three views among Christians about homosexuals. He describes the views as “the Christian Right,” “the Christian Left,” and “the Christian Center.” The Christian Right condemns homosexuals in no uncertain terms (Thielen even cites the anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps who proclaimed “God Hates Fags” to introduce this chapter). The Christian Right is criticized for singling out homosexuality as a far-worse sin than any other sins.  Second, this view deeply wounds homosexuals and their loved ones. He concludes, “a nonwelcoming position on homosexuality is not an authentic Christian option” (55). The Christian Left welcomes homosexuals and affirms their relationships. It claims homosexuals do not choose their orientation — that’s the way God created them. Further, the Bible “knows nothing of loving, monogamous gay relationships.” Lastly, biblical passages about homosexuality need to be understood in their historical context. Like the church’s position on women and on slavery, we need to make the same changes with our view of homosexuality. The Christian Center is welcoming but not affirming of homosexual behavior. Thielen’s own denomination (United Methodist) “does not affirm homosexual behavior, will not ordain practicing homosexual clergy, and will not celebrate homosexual unions” (56). Thielen argues that this debate will continue.

[I was surprised that Thielen did not recommend Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships which seeks to reinterpret the primary passages condemning homosexual behavior (Gen. 19, Lev. 18-20, Rom. 1, and I Cor. 6).]  [Please email me if you wish a copy of my review of Vines’ book].

MY RESPONSE: Thielen likes to tell stories. Let me tell one. Tom was a missionary to Germany with me in the 1970’s. I did not know about his homosexual orientation until after he left the two-year team. Ten years’ later my wife and I visited him in Ohio and learned of his commitment to the homosexual lifestyle.  At that time he told us he had seen 100 of his gay friends die of AIDS.

At a ten-year reunion of our team in Canada, my wife and Sue and I pleaded with Tom until 2 AM to give up his homosexual behavior. To no avail. Tom died of AIDS about a year later.

So this “issue” of homosexuality is no mere academic topic to me. But like other controversial issues, Thielen doesn’t allow the Bible to have full authority. He simply divides viewpoints into three categories and says, essentially, “let the debate continue!”

My critique of this chapter will overlook Thielen’s beginning with the most egregious example (Fred Phelps) as a hater of gays. I’ll also restrain my frustration at his categories of Christian “right,” “left,” and “center.”

Here are some points to keep in mind in discussing this critical issue:

1. What does the Bible say about homosexual behavior? Thielen gave no serious attention to the primary passages on this topic. (I Corinthians 7 puts sexual sins in a more-serious category than other sins). Doesn’t the Lord Jesus affirm traditional marriage in Matthew 19?
2. Does the Bible use the term “abomination” with other sins (other than homosexual behavior)?
3. In quoting a pastor who said “Homosexuals will not be allowed in heaven,” why does Thielen not refer to I Corinthians 6:9 which specifically lists homosexual behavior as excluding people from heaven?
4. The concept that “what is . . is right” must be challenged! For someone to say, “I was born gay, made this way by God!”, seems to justify a homosexual lifestyle. What if a “straight” person said, “I was born promiscuous! I’m just practicing how the good Lord made me!”?
5. We all come into the world broken! Same-sex orientation is a kind of brokenness. And Christ is the answer to that brokenness.
6. The church has failed miserably to love and welcome those with same-sex attraction, but it should not affirm any practice of sin.

Please comment below: We must have gay friends that we want to see come to Christ and find freedom in Him. Can any of my readers give a word of testimony here?











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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in homosexuality


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Time to Analyze! Two Prominent Quotes on Personal Salvation! MY RESPONSE …

In a recent post, I gave the following two quotes and asked for your response:What do you think of these two quotes? A.W. Tozer, well-known Christian Missionary Alliance pastor, and Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, seem to agree here.
1. With what parts of their quotes do you agree? Why?
2. With what parts of their quotes do you disagree? Why?

Here’s my response:
I’ve used the Tozer quote many times, especially his emphasis that we need to continually seek the Lord. The Michael Horton quote was new to me.

Just a few thoughts:
1. I certainly agree with Horton that everyone already has a personal relationship with the Lord, either as a condemned criminal awaiting final judgment or as a justified coheir with Christ. But when Christians invite their unsaved friends to confess their sins, repent, and trust in Jesus, aren’t they saying in effect that they will move from the category of an enemy of God to a friend of God? True, the Bible never uses the expression “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” but isn’t that one way, perhaps the simplest way, to express the gospel?
2. I don’t like to criticize Tozer, but he challenges the idea of “accepting” Christ. But isn’t conversion affirming as true the giving of Himself for our sins, the acknowledgement that we were sinners under God’s judgment, that we needed to believe certain truths that we had not believed (“received”) prior to asking Jesus to forgive us? Doesn’t Scripture say, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” (Col. 2:6)? We read in John 1 that the world and its inhabitants did not recognize the Lord Jesus, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v. 12).

There is a believing and a receiving that take place when one hears the gospel. The gospel is that which Paul preached to the Corinthians, “which [they] received and on which [they] have taken [their] stand” ( Cor. 15:1). Hebrews warns us against living the same lives we did before conversion: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,” (Heb. 10:26). Peter writes to those “who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (2 Pe. 1:1).



Posted by on February 18, 2019 in personal salvation


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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #9) EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE SHOULD BE TAKEN LITERALLY!

This book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? examines beliefs he thinks should be given up. His next chapter is entitled “Everything in the Bible Should Be Taken Literally” and his subtitle is: “Although we must always take the Bible seriously, we don’t always have to take it literally.”

[Just a few comments before I’ve even read his chapter! This is a common ploy of those who don’t like what the Bible teaches.  Attack it on a hermeneutical level! We’ve already seen that his method of interpretation allows him to see a clear statement like Acts 4:12’s “There is salvation in no one else” as poetic and devotional.  Let’s dive into this chapter and see what Thielen has to say.]

Thielen says there are three possible views of the Bible’s inspiration: (1) the Bible is all human; (2) the Bible is all divine; and (3) the Bible is human and divine.

He rejects the second view, for he says the Bible teaches such abominable things as: the earth is flat, slavery is approved by God, God killed all Job’s children to win a bet with the devil, creation took place six thousand years ago, etc. “The above examples are just a few of the massive problems that come with biblical inerrancy.” (47).

He can’t hold to inerrancy because of the apparent contradiction in the story of Judas’ death, the horrific story of Noah’s flood with God annihilating almost all living creatures, and the exaggerated accounts of David’s military victories.

Because the Bible has a human element, Thielen says, “they wrote it according to the worldview of their time, which was a prescientific world” (49).

So it is up to us what we accept as “literal” and to be affirmed as true.

MY RESPONSE: I searched in vain to find the hermeneutical principles that guide Thielen in his study of the Bible. He says nothing about context. He assumes that the “human” element of inspiration must mean that the Bible contains errors. It appears that whatever offends his sense of morality can easily be regarded as “poetic” or mythic.

And yet he can say, “I love the Bible. I believe that the Bible is true and trustworthy and reliable. I affirm the great truths of the Bible.” (50).

As we continue our study of this book, we will see if he “affirms the great truths of the Bible.” I’m not real optimistic.








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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in inspiration


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Time to Analyze! Two Prominent Quotes on Personal Salvation!

What do you think of these two quotes? A.W. Tozer, well-known Christian Missionary Alliance pastor, and Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, seem to agree here.
1. With what parts of their quotes do you agree? Why?
2. With what parts of their quotes do you disagree? Why?

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Posted by on February 16, 2019 in personal salvation


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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #8) JEWS WON’T MAKE IT TO HEAVEN!

We are continuing our review of the book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? His next chapter is entitled “Jews Won’t Make It to Heaven” and he subtitles this chapter “The ultimate destiny of non-Christians is in God’s hands, and God can be trusted to do what is right.” [By the way, this expression “God can be expected to do what is right” is used by Thielen several times in his book. One suspects this is his go-to conviction when he faces some uncomfortable dogmatic statements of Scripture]

Thielen surveys three views of other religions: (1) “All religions are the same” [which they aren’t, of course], (2) “Other religions are false” [a view he strongly rejects], and (3) “Other religions are to be respected” [which he advocates].

MY RESPONSE:  Thielen rejects the view that only Christianity is true, that Christ is the only way, and that other religions are false and lead people away from God. He even quotes the liberal Jesus Seminar leader Marcus Borg who says that a text like “There is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12) is to be understood as poetic and devotional.  Borg writes: “To say, ‘Jesus is the only way’ is also the language of devotion.  It is the language of gratitude and love. It is like language used by lovers, as when we say to our beloved, ‘You’re the most beautiful person in the world.’ Literally? Most beautiful? Really? Such language is the poetry of devotion and the hyperbole of the heart. Poetry can express the truth of the heart, but it is not doctrine. . . . [He concludes,] We can sing our love songs to Jesus with wild abandon without needing to demean other religions.” (from Borg’s The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, pp. 221-222).

This quote by Borg did not surprise me. He’s the one who said in a seminar at the University of South Carolina in 1998: “The notion that God’s only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that God could not forgive us without that having happened, and that we are saved by believing this story is simply incredible.  Taken metaphorically, this story can be very powerful.  But taken literally, it is a profound obstacle to accepting the Christian message.” He has also written: “I think the resurrection of Jesus really happened, but I have no idea if it involves anything happening to his corpse, and, therefore, I have no idea whether it involves an empty tomb, and for me, that doesn’t matter because the central meaning of the Easter experience or the resurrection of Jesus is that His followers continue to experience Him as a living reality, a living presence after His death. So I would have no problem whatsoever with archaeologists finding the corpse of Jesus. For me that would not be a discrediting of the Christian faith or the Christian tradition.”

There is a massive difference between respecting other religions and denying the exclusivity of the Christian gospel.  Fascinating that Thielen made no mention of Jesus’ statement “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me!” (Jn. 14:6). Perhaps he has a low view of the gospel of John (as do the “Jesus Seminar” scholars like Markus Borg).

Why bother with evangelism and missions if there is salvation in other religions other than biblical Christianity? Thielen has sadly abandoned the gospel in this chapter. Enough said.







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Posted by on February 15, 2019 in religions


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