MY DEAR WORMWOOD,The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.
(C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXV)
At my husband’s suggestion, I’m going to do a few blog posts that are on more serious topics than dinner recipes and seasonal decorating projects. I’ve decided to do a series on the latter half of John Stott’s book Basic Christianity.
At the risk of getting unto trouble by implicating persons I admire and respect, I’m getting a little tired of the divisiveness I’ve seen growing within the Christian Church. By divisiveness I don’t mean the existence of different denominations; I’m actually okay with that. I mean the current trend of taking sides on a variety of doctrinal issues and then each side lining up to shoot barbs at the other side. And it’s not that the issues they talk about aren’t important – gender roles, sexual morality, the nature of man, theories about the atonement – these are all really big deals, and we should talk about them. But I’m not happy that we’re talking about only these issues, and more specifically, I’m not happy with the way people talk about them. If you’ve been around any of these topics, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to keep it that way.
I opened with a quote from The Screwtape Letters, a fascinating and disturbing novel in which the elder demon Screwtape advises his protégé Wormwood on the proper way to tempt his charge, a human being who has become – much to Screwtape’s horror – a Christian. Screwtape argues that Wormwood can neutralize Christians by separating them into different factions, allowing their faith to become no more than a platform for their true cause. As long as believers are merely Christian – that is, as long as the most central aspect of our faith is Christ Himself, not some other issue (no matter how important or trivial) – the Church remains a force that the very gates of hell cannot overcome. But if anything else takes Christ’s place as the Most Important Thing, our faith ceases to be the gospel that has the power to transform our hearts, our lives, and our world.
So it’s not that other issues are not worth discussing; it’s just that they can’t become the core of our faith – and when they become so important that it leads to the kind of bickering I’ve seen too much of lately, I think we need to take a step back . . . and maybe reexamine what it is that we have in common rather than focusing solely on what divides us.
You probably wonder why I’m not going to go through Mere Christianity since I’ve been referring to Lewis this whole time. That’s a great book, but it’s also very long, and I think most of the people who will read this blog are already familiar with it. Stott’s book is more concise and therefore easier to use for my purposes. It’s a short (about 100 pages) summary of what the Christian faith is at its core and why it’s reasonable to believe it. I’m writing this in an attempt to find and reaffirm the common ground that is shared among all Christians, to give us more to talk about than just what divides us. At the end of the day, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV), and we should remember that.
I admit I’ve participated in a lot of the debates in the past, and I’m sure I will again in the future. But for now, I think I personally need to let that go. I want to get past the “us versus them” mentality and be more merely Christian. This series, like this blog, is largely personal, a way for me to document my own process and growth. If you’re in the same place as me, feel free to follow along and comment.