Before getting off the Internet, I re-checked a favourite news blog of mine. For the past day or so, this blog has been abuzz with theological controversy. It started with a naive comment by one frequent writer, that Glenn Beck must be a Christian because of his passion for his faith - despite the fact that he was a practicing Mormon. Like meat draws flies, the post drew comments, which in their turn drew more comments, until the controversy came down to this: Is it worthwhile for believers to debate theology so fiercely, so viciously; to call a fellow believer out for the theological mistake of blurring the line between the Mormon cult and the Christian church, or should believers let God 'judge' an individual's salvation, and concentrate on love and social issues instead?
As I read, and now as I write this, the very existence of the controversy is troubling to me. Although I appreciate the need for social engagement, and the preference for Christian love instead of judgmental behaviour, the increasing tolerance of Mormonism as simply another denomination, another branch of the Christian faith - and, in turn, the religious pluralism that this evinces - goes against the grain of what Christianity is meant to be, biblically.
C.S. Lewis writes that there are 3 kind of human beings: those who live for pleasure, and those who live for responsibility and duty - among those duties, a duty to the will of God. Many religious people, he implies, belong to the second category, and indeed, which of us does not find ourselves in that category all too often? It is the third kind where the heart of Christianity is to be found: the human being who has a will neither for pleasure nor duty, the human being whose will, Lewis says, is Christ's. Here is the secret of our Faith: that we have (or are trying to) surrender our will wholly, daily to Christ's - to live, in every relationship, every responsibility, every action, not as if we must do that which is commanded, but (quite simply) because we want to do these things - an entire, supernatural altering of our very selves. A convicting thought, indeed. How many times recently have we behaved in a "Christian" way simply because we ought, not because we wanted to?
At this point, the argument ties back to Beck and to the role of theology in the Christian life. Based on Lewis's observations, Christianity is not simply a matter of behaviour: we are not Christians because we are Republicans, because we support a crisis pregnancy ministry or go on a summer missions trip during college, or because we have elected to study for the pastorate rather than business. We are Christians because, deep down, we have elected (or, perhaps more accurately, have been elected) not only to accept Christ intellectually but to daily accept His will as our own, and to accept His mind as our own.
Matthew records in his Gospel Christ's reminder to His followers: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (7:21-22).
Mormonism can do its wonders, among them the cultural change that Glenn Beck is currently spearheading. Christianity can do its wonders as well, including the numerous social developments and improvements of the past two millenia, tied as so much development is to the Christian faith. However much these "wonders" benefit us, however, they are no sure guarantee that a Mormon - or even a Christian - is saved. At the heart of the matter is not the ministry that someone is involved in, but the merging of their mind and heart and will with Christ's - a moment which requires at once theology and action. Theology matters. Action matters. And, in the end, the crux of salvation is much plainer (and much more difficult) than any of us could have imagined: "Enter by the narrow gate", Christ commands His followers, and He then asks them to "do the will of My Father in heaven." As C.S. Lewis said, "Back or on we must go." There is no middle ground.
UPDATE: At this point, I have raised a little over $1000 / month for my ministry in Prague - about half of what I would need to be there full-time. However, added to the one-time gifts I have received, this totals (so the missions board informs me) nearly 4/5 of what I will need to go from January to June of 2011. Although a half-year is not what I had originally intended, it is very important that I leave soon, and the school there has written to urge my departure as much as possible.
How can you help? Please continue to pray that others will be led to support me, either as a one-time gift or as a monthly supporter (either will help me get to Prague in a timely fashion). Let me know (via email is fine) if you know someone who may be interested in hearing about my trip or possibly supporting me. I will be sending out information in the near future with more details about my plans, so keep an eye out for that. Most important of all, remember that "to live is Christ".