Hortmage wrote:I've asked this at another forum in my home community, and have never received a usable answer... How is someone supposed to know when rhetoric is part of overall Christian doctrine, and not just the mouthings of a fringe fanatic? How do I know when to attribute an attack as coming from a fringe lunatic, or has the "blessing" of Christians everywhere? Especially when there is rarely universal condemnation about something controversial, such as Phelps' cult?
Let me try to help you with that. I'd call a Christian "any person who believes Christ is the only way to salvation, by grace and not works." This is fairly broad - I use the term to encompass Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox as well as a hatful of the smaller alignments. On the other hand, being part of those groups does not make you a Christian. Most Christians tend to limit their number to people who believe the following:
1. The omnipotence and goodness of God
2. The sonship of Christ
3. The atonement of the Cross
4. The resurrection of Christ
5. The futility of any way outside Christ
6. The inerrancy of Scripture
7. The need for human salvation
8. The grace of salvation
9. The priesthood of believers
10. The finality of revelation (all prophecies are fulfilled in Christ, and there's no further revelations afterwards).
These are the "core doctrines" of Christianity, upon which the vast majority of Christians agree, and if necessary would be martyred rather than resign them. (I'm going to catch flak for including inerrancy of scripture, as I have before, because it's the one thing in this list that is most debated in present times.) The current denominations have more to do with "secondary doctrines" as I call them such as predestination, double-predestination, the ability to lose salvation, the hierarchy of the Church, etc. These are important issues which must be decided, but they ought to be decided within the bounds of the church. FWIW I don't particularly think our denominations are entirely Biblical, but it will be nearly impossible to knit them back together at this point.
Like I said, these are the big issues which divide Christianity from all other religions. Islam disputes with us 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, and probably 8 and 9 as well; the same thing applies for Mormons (particularly on point 10). Having hit those basics, there is an expectation within Christianity of a proper way to act among other Christians and non-Christians. First is the expectation that Christians act in peace and goodwill towards all men, as an example for nonbelievers. This is where Jack Chick and the Phelps cult fails. Do they have their doctrine correct? Maybe they do - and I stress MAYBE - but saying the right things does not make a man a Christian. Christians must demonstrate love while speaking the truth, and sometimes the best way to do that is to shut the heck up and NOT say anything verbally. (Preach the gospel at all times: if necessary use words.)
So, when Phelps gets up and blasts homosexuals as sinners and declares we're all going to hell for tolerating them, that is NOT Christian, because he is not acting in a manner worthy of the message he is trying to say. If Phelps was truly concerned about homosexuality in the US, he would do as REAL Christians have done, and reach out to them to convince them that they're sinners in need of a savior. I feel personally that Phelps is tearing down the work of Christ and true Christians by his hatred, for which I believe he will receive a most terrible reckoning. (If you should ask if I think Phelps is going to heaven, I'll say - Maybe. He's certainly not acting like he will, though.)
Phelps et al are fringe fanatics because they do not speak the truth in love, nor do they act in a manner befitting ambassadors of Christ. The hatred they preach is the antithesis to true Christianity. That's how you can tell the difference.
It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men. - attributed to Samuel Adams
“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.” - Richard Henry Lee