Archive for Saturday, August 28, 2010

Faith Forum: Do you believe religion is ever ‘one size fits all’?

August 28, 2010


The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:

One response: It depends what one means. But let’s start there, with one.

“Hear, O Israel (those with whom God chooses to wrestle), the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” But the continuing message of the one book that is 66 books is that God is three … in such a way that he remains one. God made man (singular) male and female (plural), then promised to bless all nations (plural) through the one “seed” of Abraham. “Seed” itself is a singular/plural word, so is the world to be blessed through the children of Israel (plural) or the eternal son of God (singular)? Yes! One must press on.

We know we are individuals, with unique thoughts and needs. But the primary need of man continues to be having a way to be safely and blessedly connected with the holy God. That common need is magnified by our common problem of sin. God paid much to make this clear: “There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all.”

This one Lord of Ephesians 4:5, Paul tells us in 1:2, is the Lord Jesus Christ. That one famously claimed: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father, except through me.”

Logic demands if the Lord is not communicating precise truth there, he is a liar or lunatic, not to be minded for anything. If Jesus is wrong, such that there are actually many ways/faiths to have eternal life with God, then Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a waste.

Few are ready to say that out loud, yet few are eager to “bend the knee and kiss the son.” But, one wonders, is that defiant non-faith fitting?

— Send e-mail to John McFarland at

The Rev. Matt Cox, pastor, EastLake Community Church, 2734 La. (South Junior High):

While God has a specific design when it comes to the essentials of trusting in and following Jesus, there must be liberty when it comes to nonessential style issues and understanding of a person’s unique abilities and personality. Even the books of the Bible reflect different styles and personalities of the inspired authors.

God wired every human to worship him and has given us specific purposes for life (generosity, community, sharing, serving), but additionally there are things that make us tick on an individual level. The way I express and use my abilities for God may look different than the next guy.

The danger is when we Christians “take a stand” on nonessential issues, turning personal conviction or a style preference into some dogmatic belief as if it were the right choice to be found “spiritual.” This not only harms unity within the church, but it alienates us from those disconnected from God — the ones Christians are specifically commanded by Jesus to love.

Here are some alienating (and some just wrong) personal conviction-as-dogma beliefs:

  • The Republican party is the “Christian” party.
  • Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol.
  • Using the general term “liberal” synonymously with “bad.”
  • Equating spiritual depth with academically complex knowledge.
  • Standing “against” Harry Potter (yet somehow giving “The Hobbit’s” Gandalf approval.)
  • God only accepts you in business-casual attire (or better.)

Each of these are unnecessary roadblocks (by us, not God) in the way for people to learn about Jesus. Instead of loving like Jesus, we remove the bottom rungs of the ladder with our artificial requirements and, sometimes without meaning to, communicate something to the effect of, “Well, you have to look and talk like I do before God will accept you.”

When it comes to the nonessentials, God loves watching you be you — for him.

— Send e-mail to Matt Cox at


Nathan Anderson 7 years, 3 months ago

"But the primary need of man continues to be having a way to be safely and blessedly connected with the holy God."

I'll bypass the hocus pocus and settle for water.

Nathan Anderson 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm fine w/ saying "I don't know" when I don't know.

Nathan Anderson 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't know any full-on atheists. Most I know are agnostic atheists. Yes, you can be both.

tantrazoid 7 years, 3 months ago

Pastor McFarland. With all due respect, you cannot possibly KNOW any of that stuff.

Richard Smith 7 years, 3 months ago

Interesting comment, but it is far more dogmatic and impossible than anything Pastor McFarland said. Tantrazoid said that "you cannot possibly KNOW any of that stuff. To make that statement with truth and knowledge would require tantrazoid to know the following things: 1) That either it is impossible for anyone to know any one thing that Pastor McFarland said to be true of that it is not possible for anyone to possibly know one thing that he said is true. 2) That it is impossible for God to have revealed any one thing to Pastor McFarland. 3) What Pastor McFarland said was impossible for him to know is true.

As I read tantrazoid I think it is impossible for tantrazoid to possibly know that Pastor McFarland cannot know any of the stuff he wrote about. Tantrazoid thinks it is impossible for Pastor McFarland to know and I think it is impossible for tantrazoind to know that it is impossible for Pastor McFarland to know. However, Jesus said He came to reveal the Father and that He was and is Truth itself. Maybe He can reveal things to those who know Him that seem impossible to know for those who don't know Him. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

mr_right_wing 7 years, 3 months ago

I suppose if we could find a "one size fits all" there wouldn't be so many different versions/translations of the Bible, or the countless denominations.

The amusing thing is though; as much as 'science' tries to distance itself from 'religion' both are a reflection of each other; same types fractures in ideas, same subtle differences that bring personalities together. Different groups with different ideas standing behind different personalities.

When it gets down to it, the bedrock of science and religion is the same: FAITH.

Richard Smith 7 years, 3 months ago

It may depend on what one means by faith. On the other hand, one might also claim that there is no faith apart from a true and solid object of faith. So if one has faith in an object that cannot sustain the faith, then one does not have true faith in truth. On the other hand, if Christianity is true, then the bedrock of science and Christianity is simply the same God. No one can know anything apart from God though many professing atheists use the truth of God to deny Him.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 7 years, 3 months ago

What did Christ sacrifice? Christ supposedly sits at the right hand of his father and remains a hero to sycophants for as long as idiots live. He intimated that death is nothing and that is well worth believing. I call his "sacrifice" and raise him eternal damnation. Crucify me, you sycophants and idiots. Death is nothing. Life beyond death it is a dream beyond ignorance or no dream in the mechanics of matter, space, time and belief in what might be. Pray for the arrival of death if you believe in everlasting life as you know it.

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 3 months ago

To JJE007...may I suggest reading C.S. Lewis? He is probably the most well-known "atheist to become a Christian" in our "era"...I would suggest his "Mere Christianity" as a start.

When you say Christ intimated that death is nothing, you may be referring to Scripture that states, "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (King James Version)

The New Testament is full of chapters and verses indicating the death of a believer in Christ is not to be feared...St. Paul gets into this quite a would have to be a believer in Christ to know these words as reality. And yes, JJE007, it is indeed reality. I hope and pray C.S. Lewis' writings will touch your life in a profound and dynamic way. It happened for me...I was agnostic for years...I am now so in love with my Jesus and have been for many, many years...He is the love of my life!! Blessings to you, JJE007!!!

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 3 months ago

Rev. McFarland and Rev. Cox...both great answers! I do have to comment on two of your bulleted remarks, Rev. Cox. The first and third remarks, I have been slammed with so many times I can't count them. Thank you for reminding readers the fallacy of these ridiculous statements!!

Paul Hahn 7 years, 3 months ago

Great responses from both men. "One size fits all" means that there is one answer that meets the needs of all mankind. Any "one" answer that cannot speak to the heart of any/every person, regardless of race and culture, is not a good enough answer to be called the "one" answer. This morning I worshipped in a room full of mostly white, grossly over-educated believers. I remember a worship experience I had in inner-city Memphis: a church that met near the projects in an old grocery store, the membership was 99% African-American and with a very low literacy rate. Both worship experiences were wonderful, although quite different in many respects. The common theme in both places: the presence of our Lord Jesus was felt. One size was able to fit all.

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