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The Need to Define Our Terms

 “What do you mean by that?” “How do you define the term *insert theological term that was just used*?” Those are two questions that I find myself asking more and more. While I have undoubtedly annoyed many by constantly asking them what they mean by the words that they use, it is a practice that I am finding to be more and more necessary. The reason is simple: with many terms, but especially with theological terms, there is a wide array of definitions that may be attached to the same word.

For example, consider this statement: “The Bible says that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved.” Is that a true statement? Certainly. The problem, however, is that it is a statement that many people can agree with including Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, as well as countless other groups in-between. Now many would rejoice over this reality and declare it an ecumenical victory, but the reality is that any “agreement” is only because the terms have not been properly defined.

For example, what does one mean when they use the word Bible? The Protestant Bible? The Catholic Bible? Is the Book of Mormon included? The Bible as interpreted by the Watchtower Society? Is the Quran included in one’s understanding of the Bible?

What does one mean when they use the word believe? What does it actually look like to believe? Muslims argue that one must believe that Jesus Christ existed in order to be a faithful Muslim so they could get on board with this statement.

 What does one mean when they refer to Jesus Christ? Is Christ fully God and fully man as Christianity has historically taught? Is he only a man as the Jehovah’s Witnesses say? Is he the spirit brother of Lucifer as the Mormons say? Is he the second to last prophet who pointed to the prophet Muhammad who was to come? What did Jesus actually say? What did Jesus actually do?

What does one mean when they use the word saved? What are we saved from? What does salvation entail? Even among those who profess to be Christians, you will find many different ways in which the word salvation is used. Many individuals who hold to Liberation Theology will use terms like “salvation” and “saved” but their understanding of those words is drastically different from historic Christianity.

Consider again the statement: “The Bible says that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved.” A true statement, but it is meaningless until we define our terms.

With this understanding in mind, we must define our own terms and ask others to do the same for three reasons.

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Going to Church this Sunday? Why Not Just Have a BBQ Instead?

Is there anything distinctly Christian about your typical church experience? Now, I don’t doubt that Christian language and symbolism are used, and the Bible is most likely referenced and read from. But when you really start to think about where the emphasis is placed, and where the focus is located, and where the energy goes, is it all directed toward anything that is distinctively and undeniably Christian?

Growing numbers of church-going men and women are beginning to realize that after they peel off the surface layer, many of their Christian churches offer little that is uniquely Christian at all! All of the things that receive emphasis, focus, and energy in their churches are things that could be found at any social gathering, or are widely available in higher quality forms on TV and the internet.

Their churches feature pleasing, catchy music – but so does American Idol and Glee. Their churches offer humorous entertainment – but sit-coms and movies are far funnier. Their churches provide helpful advice and strategies for living well – but there are thousands of books, TV programs, podcasts, and conferences dedicated to self-help, and with these you can go straight to a particular issue without having to wait for the preacher to maybe cover it. Their churches give them an opportunity to enjoy friendship and community- but you could find this in the context of any organized religion, country club, support group, community center, service club, hobby association, or even your ordinary weekend BBQ!

What’s going on here? The reality is that in a pragmatic effort to attract greater and greater numbers, many evangelical churches have retained the outward trappings of Christianity, while hollowing out the vital core. If we are to call ourselves Christian in any meaningful sense, then we must make central to our church life that which the Bible makes central. What does the Bible make central? The glory and holiness of the Triune God, the reality of sin and divine wrath, and the wonder of Christ’s death and grace to those who don’t deserve it.

So the question becomes, where does your church place its emphasis?

At Flint River Bible Fellowship, our highest goal is to glorify and honor God, and to find our greatest joy in him. We aim for biblical, doctrinally rich preaching and teaching, and corporate worship that places the focus on God and not on ourselves. We believe that the church is not just another social club or social interest group, but it is instead a body of people called by God’s grace through faith in Christ to glorify God and edify one another.

To learn more about our church, browse our website or feel free to contact us.

Lessons the Church Can Learn from the “Deconversion” of Bart Campolo

The news recently came to light that prominent Christian speaker Bart Campolo had abandoned Christianity and is now a “Secular Humanist Chaplain” at the University of Southern California. Bart Campolo, as you might have guessed, is the son of the prominent progressive pastor and former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton, Tony Campolo.

In response to the news, several news organizations have run a story on Bart Campolo including the Huffington Post and Christianity Today. In the latter piece, Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today refers to Campolo’s descent from Christianity to secular humanism as a “deconversion.” Campolo recently spoke to the “Secular Student Alliance” at USC and taught how they could integrate the community building aspects of Christianity into the Secular Student Alliance without, according to Campolo, “the unnecessary dogma.” That video can be seen here.

I first became aware of Bart Campolo in 2010. At the time, I was working as a youth pastor for a Methodist Church. The big event every year for this youth group was an event known as Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage was a weekend run by the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church directed towards youth groups. Each year, several thousand youth from various churches all across the state would descend on Fayetteville, North Carolina for Pilgrimage. That particular year, though, there was some controversy as the keynote speaker for the event was Bart Campolo. While Mr. Campolo still considered himself a Christian at that time, (it was not until the next year when Mr. Campolo says that he completely abandoned the faith) he had already denied that God was sovereign over the world, the inspiration of the scriptures, and the possibility of any supernatural events in the Bible including Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Campolo also became a Universalist, meaning that he believed that everyone would go to heaven regardless of what they actually believed. Campolo himself stated, “I passed just about every stage of heresy on my way to apostasy.” In 2011, though, Campolo had abandoned so many aspects of Christianity that it no longer made sense for him to view himself as a Christian. He sums it up well by saying, “My Christianity had died the death of a thousand nicks and cuts. ”

Instead of merely shaking our heads or perhaps rolling our eyes, I believe that there are two main lessons that the church can learn from this account of Bart Campolo.

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