John Charmley Wrote:We in the west have something of a problem on this one because we do have a genuine choice in a way which is not historically common.
I wonder if we may just pretend that we are completely open minded here. What if for the sake of this post we just pretend that the individual Christian labels that we wear really do not matter to God.
What if just for this one post, we may consider, that it does not matter to God if a Roman Catholic priest prepares the bread and wine, or if an Orthodox priest prepares the bread and wine, or even in an old lady in the kitchen of a Holiness Pentecostal Church kitchen pours the grape juice into the little cups and pours the little pieces of cracker into the bowl before her church gets going upstairs.
Can we even allow this? Are we able to picture the little Greek boys and girls playing outside during their vacation church school, and then picture the little American boys and girls playing outside during their vacation bible school in some way as God may see these children?
And, there are other word pictures that we could draw here. But, as God looks at the old and the young as described above. Does He see in one group members of the One True Church of God, and in another group heretics manifesting prelest of the first degree? Do any of the labels above make any difference to God? Is one serving of the Lord's Supper the only one that is acceptable to Him whereby he considers the others to be unworthy offerings and foul smelling sacrifices?
For this post, I wonder if we could allow room for the possibility that God views all of his children, regardless of age, the same--He views them from the inside out, not the outside in (beginning with which group they find themselves a part of).
As I think about your quote above, I think of the Italian children who are born Roman Catholic, and I think about the Greek Children who are born Greek Orthodox, and I even think about some of the 'country kids' in West Middletown who are born Pentecostal. And, I wonder if God sees one of these groups of kids as being Christian kids, and the other groups of kids as deluded.
But, if we are to pretend that we are open minded here, and that we accept all of these groups of kids the same, as churches of the Church of God, as individual parts (viz. hands, arms, feet) of the Body of Christ, then would we not say that all of these kids have 'grown up a Christian, and never knew himself or herself to be otherwise,' just as Horace Bushnell has said? And, in this sense, regardless of which country these kids were born, their culture and geography, there was no choice, it was a non-issue. The Italians in their Italian clothes go to RCC. The Greeks in their Greek clothes go to the GOC. The Pentecostal women in their blue jean skirts which touch the floor and with their hair rolled up very high on top of their heads go to the Pentecostal Church. As, far as I can tell, from this point most either continue where they began, or stop going to 'church' while sharing the fact that they are whatever they are but do not attend a local visible church.
And, I realize that this post is not very on track, but I want to keep going with it by asking again, how does God view these children as they are now grown up, an as possibly some of them have become old and died? Is there on particular group here which he views as cradle to grave members of his church because of the 'name' and doctrines of the one particular church? Is there one group of individuals that is safe, that is saved here in the end, whereby the other groups of individuals have no hope possibly because they did not understand the minutia of Christology or never read the saints and fathers? Are these things criteria for being a member of the One True Church? I hope not, because I am not aware of any church which teaches their members about the Christoloigcal (or Trinitarian) controversies.
But, if we could pretend that labels do not matter to God, or that what is on the outside does not matter to God, then where would this leave us as we attempt to discern God's criteria? For those of us who do seek to genuinely know and be found in the Body of Christ, based on the criteria of the Father, if labels do not matter then where does this leave us? Could it be that we are left to follow the Holy Spirit for ourselves? And, in this sense if we are a Baptist pastor, and this is where God would have us at this point in time and history, then where He is we are? And, in this sense we are right in the middle of God's will, we are living and serving and worshipping in full obedience and with a true heart? Or, if we are a Roman Catholic priest, the same? Or, if we are a Greek Orthodox priest, the same?
And, in this sense, no other person can answer the question(s) that I have asked for me, or for you, or for your son, or for whoever . . . because either we have a personal relationship the Father through His Son and His Spirit for ourselves, or we don't. Either we walk by faith or we don't. In this sense where we worship, where we serve, where we receive the Lord's Supper, where, when, and how we are baptized, or whatever is either done in faith or it is not. Even at this basic level we know that without faith we cannot please God.
So, in this sense we see at a glance that without faith, nothing matters.
But, in conclusion I am wondering if it is possible that for the individual in his or her direct responsible relationship with God, there is no answer to the question(s) that I have asked other than one must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. From the days of the first ones who had to struggle with whether to "Follow Me!" as Christ said, or not, who could answer that question for those fisherman?