We are reviewing this book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? He has pointed out 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.
We now move to the second section of his book entitled “Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe.” And he begins with the person of Christ. Sadly, he starts the chapter with a blasphemous story from the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in which the main character says grace and refers to Jesus as “dear Baby God” and “Dear Lord Baby Jesus.” He gives this illustration to point out that there are a variety of views of Jesus — which there are.
In this chapter Thielen affirms the Messiahship and the deity of the Lord Jesus. He says that “Jesus is worthy of our highest praise and ultimate loyalty” (71). He tells how as a teenager he affirmed his faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized the next Sunday. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done — or ever will do — in my entire life.” He then says, “My faith in Jesus Christ is the most important part of my life.”
MY RESPONSE: I am glad for Thielen’s testimony. The Bible teaches that conversion involves both repentance and faith in Christ, so I believe that when he says as a teenager that he knew “that I desperately needed him in my life,” this sounds like repentance to me. From what I can see in this chapter Thielen is a brother in Christ (with a number of theological issues). He affirms that the Person of Christ is “the heart of Christianity.” A couple of questions occur to me:
1. If Jesus is the heart of Christianity, then why does he quote people like Marcus Borg who clearly rejects the deity of Christ?
2. If his relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in his life, then why does God’s Word (the Bible) not function as his final authority for his other beliefs?
I’m sure I’ll have a lot more questions as we continue our review. But I am glad that he appears to be a brother in Christ. And yet, sometimes those who profess to be in the family of God produce the most dangerous beliefs about God.