July 22, 2018

What Hill Are You Willing To Die On?


Thanks for a good discussion. Comments now closed.

Since I wrote last week about the World Vision decisions on their hiring policy, a number of writers have contributed their thoughts to the issue. One post by Tony Campolo generated an interesting bit of discussion on facebook among a couple of my friends. Tony wrote:

I am a Baptist and, as such, I believe I can make a strong Biblical case for believer’s baptism by immersion. However, I do not consider this to be a defining doctrine. I do not for a moment consider those who interpret differently than I do what scripture teaches concerning baptism to be any less Christian. Beliefs about baptism for most Evangelicals are not a defining issue. I must remember, however, that there was a time when they were. Wars were fought and persons were willing to be martyred because of differences on how and when people should be baptized.

So I would like to take this discussion in a different direction than it went last week. My friends and I got thinking about what we considered to be essentials. What issues would cause us to stop going to a church or not go to it in the first place? Is there a different list that would cause us to “break fellowship” with Christians that we interact with outside church?

I would like to offer up a few short observations of my own and then open up the floor to your own thoughts.

In the 1930s my Grandmother was a member of the Brethren in Christ, a Mennonite offshoot with Holiness (Wesleyan) influences. She was shunned (excommunicated) when she married my Grandfather. Why? Because the men is his church wore ties! I kid you not. In her church ties were considered to be a worldly trapping, and marrying someone who was so obviously entwined in the world was grounds for excommunication. We might laugh at such a concept now, but remember this happened just 80 years ago. I wonder what things that we are willing to break fellowship over today people will be laughing at 80 years from now. By the way, I should mention that my Grandfather spent most of his career as a Bible translator, and translated the Bible into Bemba, the most widely used tribal language in Zambia.

As for myself, I consider myself to be a creedal Christian. I hold to the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. I believe that they hold the key elements of what Christians everywhere have believed. They would be my “no go zones”, that is, if a Pastor started teaching contrary to the creeds, I would be in a “fight or flight” situation.

I am not a big fan of “Statements of Faith” as a result. Statements of Faith are popular in Evangelical churches, and typically list the distinctive points of doctrine held by a particular church or denomination that go beyond the creeds. While they are useful to defining what a church stands for, I find them very exclusionary. If I am honest with myself, I cannot affirm the Statements of Faith for most denominations, and so cannot in good faith become a member of their churches.

A number of years back my wife and I were looking for a church, and she suggested one that was very popular in our area. When we looked at their statement of faith we realized that the church believed in: Inerrancy, Cessationism, Dispensationalism, Complementarianism, and Calvinism. None of which I held to. Other churches had other statements that conflicted with my own personal beliefs. We eventually settled on what that only a couple things with which I took issue. To put some of our readers’ minds at ease. I don’t have to agree with everything in a statement of faith to attend a church, but it the thing that I have an issue with gets hammered over and over again from the pulpit, then I won’t last long.

A few years ago, my parents moved into a new town. They started attending a church and all seemed to go well for a while. Then the pastor started preaching on his two favorite topics: The Rapture, and Young Earth Creationism. These just happened to coincide with two topics on which my father had very different opinions to the Pastor. It wasn’t long before they were looking for a new church.

There have been times when a significant difference hasn’t been the biggest factor for us. About 15 years ago we helped start a Pentecostal church. Why a Pentecostal church? There was no other church in our area that came close to fitting our beliefs. So when we heard that a Church Planter was starting a Pentecostal Church in our town we decided to help out. I do not believe in the Pentecostal doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence for being filled with the Spirit. But… having an Evangelical presence in my home town was more important to me than the differences I had with the Pentecostal doctrine. I knew that I would have to put up with sermons that I didn’t like once or twice a year, and I was okay with that. It was a choice I made. We helped the church make the transition from the Church Planter to the second Pastor, and when we felt that God was calling us to another Church in another town, the Pentecostal Church had a time of prayer for us as we were “sent out.”

Other than the basics of the Christian faith as expressed in the creeds, I probably have only one hill that I would die on. I am an egalitarian. I believe that God gifts men and women for service as he chooses, and for me to restrict someone’s service because of their gender could be restricting what God wants to do. I also believe this is a gospel issue, as the church’s attitudes towards women have turned many away from the faith.

But enough about me. What about you? What is your hill? What is essential for you? Please keep the discussion civil as we are likely to find and express disagreement.

Remember, the most important hill is the one Jesus died on, and that ties all believers together.


  1. You must be born again.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      OK. Sounds good to me.

      But, what does “born again” look like, exactly?

      Is it having a particular conversion experience, involving dates and times?
      Is it simply knowing Jesus?
      Is it adhering to doctrines about being born again?

      Many, many questions here. Still, though, a good point.

      • Born of water and the Spirit, my friend. Not amniotic fluid, but real, actual water.

        • Interesting interpretation Miguel. Not one that I have typically heard.

          My understanding has always been two equate the water and the spirit with the two births. A birth in water (amniotic fluid) is not enough, you also need a spiritual birth.

          You should be careful of those new fangled interpretations. 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Inappropriate comment deleted.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Interesting hill to die on, as it is only mentioned in Scripture three times, and only in two instances.

      • And…the meaning is probably not the one that has been most often used in the last 30 years.

        In fact, the phrase means absolutely nothing, in my opinion, to someone who hasn’t heard fundamental parts of the Bible, particularly Judaism’s concept of the Kingdom membership.

        • Nah, I think the meaning can be quite easily inferred from its immediate context. Unfortunately, that is hardly the way it gets used in Evangelicalism.

  2. Outside of the ecumenical creeds, I would have to say egalitarianism is a hill I’d be willing to “die on.” The other area is the Rapture, it would be nigh impossible for me to regularly attend a church that taught this and believed it for a number of reasons; the main being the escapist mentality so often found tied up with it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The other area is the Rapture, it would be nigh impossible for me to regularly attend a church that taught this and believed it for a number of reasons; the main being the escapist mentality so often found tied up with it.

      Were you around for the “Christians For Nuclear War” attitude when Late Great Planet Earth was the 67th book of the Bible, superseding the other 66? Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War (It’s All Gonna Burn, It’s All Over but the Screaming, It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied) with the Rapture going down as the Russian ICBM warheads cut atmosphere over your hometown and the thermonuclear detonation sequences began.

      When The World Ends Tomorrow (at the latest) and It’s All Gonna Burn, don’t expect anyone to think ahead, make plans, or dare to accomplish anything except Selling That Fire Insurance. Especially when you expect to get beamed up to Fluffy Cloud Heaven for a catered box seat before anything bad can personally happen to you.

      One of my writing partners (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America.” Ten years of his life, ten years of mine, and the damage is still there — who will restore those years the Rapture Locusts have eaten?

    • Derek does that mean that Christians who don’t hold your views on this issue are not Chrisitans? I think that was thrust in Tony’s quote that Mike spring boarded from…wasn’t it?

  3. randommentality says:

    Interestingly, it has been this World Vision controversy that has solidified my “hills.” I realized that I have well and truly broken with evangelism over this issue. In fact, I am so convinced of the injustice of their position that I do believe if Christ himself were to appear and tell me that they are right, I would argue the point to hades and back. If it weren’t so cruel and hateful I could agree to disagree. But it is injustice and something inside me won’t let that lie in the name of harmony.

    • RandomM,

      I gotta admit that the image of you arguing with the returning and victorious Christ just strikes me as funny.

      It would be even funnier if you were raptured and started arguing with him about The Rapture (TM).

      “NO Jesus! Go back!”


    • You are not alone in this assessment:


      I wonder if there will be equivalent criticism from all corners of those who disassociate with WV because of its stance on gay marriage ahead of helping the poor now that the shoe is on the other foot. Somehow I doubt it.

      If this issue is not the hill to die on, then it should be so for those approaching the hill from all directions.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        To paraphrase Malcolm X, Homosexuality is THE Bright Red Murder Flag for American Christians.

      • Dr. Neurobrain says:

        So resigning from their board deprived poor children how again?

        False equivalencies are just another way for weak people to avoid confronting their hate.

        • This issue has been nothing but propaganda for both left/right. WV is surprised that there are donor evangelicals who would have a problem with their new policy? Is their board that ignorant? That is a hot button issue for the right.

          So the right sees a wonderful propaganda opportunity that gives the left their wonderful propaganda opportunity in return. Funny how it brings corruption from both sides to light if one pays attention. The WV CEO makes around 370k per year. He could easily cut that in half and make up the difference in lost donations. That is if kids are really his concern. And why would the CEO for feeding starving kids think his non profit/donor sustained very high salary is ok? He cannot live off say, less than 100k, per year? Many do who give to his non profit and pay his salary.

      • Should of piped up sooner, but this is really going off topic.

    • Strange. I just uninstalled Firefox on all my machines because of the McCarthyite treatment of their CEO who made a contribution to an organization that supported Proposition 8 in California,

      Its kind of hard to find a replacement for Firefox in Linux. Chrome doesn’t work very well.

      As a society, we no longer have an algorithm in place to resolve religious questions. That doesn’t mean they went away.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Welcome to “inclusive”, everyone one is welcome, well… except you, as you are not as inclusive as me.

        But I continue to use Firefox, it is developed by a community, and a community is going to have some jerks. Better that then professional full-time jerks. If Freedom is a concern that Chrome is certainly not a viable choice.

        I did like some of the quotes from the debacle
        – “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech” and thus endeth Free Speech, it shall be moderated by the Equity police.
        – “And you need free speech to fight for equality”… except that this is clearly, historically, not true. Most groups fighting for equity have done so against the headwinds of squelched expression.

        • Radagast says:

          Since I also develop code, I have to make sure it works on the majority of browsers… I guess that means I have to be inclusive and include Firefox as well….

          – “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech” and thus endeth Free Speech, it shall be moderated by the Equity police.”….

          …which is why I write under a pseudonym lest someone come and evaluate my position on my comments….in the fight for equity.

        • Daniel Jepsen says:

          Even strong advocates of gay marriage find what happened appalling. Or, at least, the more thoughtful ones:


          • Final Anonymous says:

            I am an advocate of gay marriage who found the Mozilla episode appalling.

            Then again, I eat at Chick-Fil-A, visit Disney, and am known to darken the doorstep of a Hobby Lobby if needs dictate.

            Perhaps I am just a person without principles.

      • Well said Mule.

      • Robert F says:

        “As a society, we no longer have an algorithm in place to resolve religious questions.”

        We never have had that algorithm; we just thought we did at times, but only because certain answers had the hegemonic ability to silence those who wouldn’t accept them.

    • I kind of have the opposite attitude.

      I don’t even so much care about the homosexuality issue itself but that some Christians and Non Christians are trying to cram homosexuality – forced acceptance of it – down other people’s throats and will punish you if you do not go along with it.

      The pro-homosexual side refuses to abide by a “live and let live” or “let’s agree to disagree” philosophy.

      Nope, they will harass you, bully you online, call you names, and try to get you run out of business.

      If you are a cake baker who refuses to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding, or a photographer, or a bed and breakfast owner who do not want to cater to homosexual weddings – or they tried to get you fried from your job (like the teacher who merely said he “disagrees with” homosexual marriage on his personal time on his home computer on a weekend on his Facebook page – someone reported him to his school over that, and the school wanted to fire him.

      • Dr. Neurobrain says:

        Daisy: what if you own a bakery and don’t want to bake cakes for a wedding between a mixed race couple?

        I am so, so tired of poor persecuted Christians whine about how bad they are being persecuted by those evil gays.

        Their problem is that they lack the conviction to admit their hate.

        • Well sir, My guess is you have not had your company visted by the Gay Lobby demanding a sponsorship to their parade/event OR you will be targeted as a hater and anti gay. Which I am not at all. In fact, I am for civl marriage. I just don’t like their tactics. Yep, happens all the time. It is the new “civil rights” movement that makes some old timer civil rights heros very angry. The gay lobby knows what they are doing and are represented by big money.

          When I was a kid, the Klan showed up at my mom’s business and said she had to put a “stop busing” sign in her window. She refused. She replaced 4 huge windows in a month due to bricks. The gay lobby uses the same tactics. Strong arm or you are targeted.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Daisy, let’s consider a view being “crammed down the throats of the faithful” in the thousands upon thousands of sermons preached in evangelical/fundamentalist churches. You know which one, the one warning of the evils of homosexuality and homosexuals and how they are destroying America, marriage, families, the church, et al. And, thank God the civiil rights leaders in our not so distant past “demanded our acceptance” of equality for all.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I don’t even so much care about the homosexuality issue itself but that some Christians and Non Christians are trying to cram homosexuality – forced acceptance of it – down other people’s throats and will punish you if you do not go along with it.

        When you and your tribe are the one on top calling the shots, you cram your One True Way down everybody’s throats. This holds no matter who’s on top or what their One True Way is.

  4. dumb ox says:

    The gospel. That probably sounds trite, like in Sunday school, when “Jesus” was the likely answer to whatever question the teacher was asking.

    I had always been on the side of young earth creationism. I even traded a few comments here with Michael Spencer in defense of literal six day creation. It was never a scientific matter for me, rather, the Bible told me so, in a presuppositional way. Then, it happened. A pastor of the Lutheran church my family was attending stood at the pulpit and quoted from Ken Ham’s “Already Gone”, that a rejection of young earth creationism is a rejection of the gospel. I watched in disbelief as a hedge, or a condition, was placed around the gospel by someone I would have expected to defend it at all costs. At that point, I knew if young earth creationism was being raised above the gospel, then something was fatally wrong with it. It was at that point I was no longer sympathetic to the young earth view.

    My view of homosexuality changed in a similar way. Once the gospel was at stake if one rejected the anti-gay viewpoint, I knew something was wrong. Another hedge was being placed around the gospel.

    Typically, an argument containing “the gospel is at stake” is promoting some form of legalism or self-righteousness by using the gospel merely as a pawn or prop.

    So, if I had to choose, the gospel would be the last thing I would surrender. But I say that with caution, because most people who claim to be defending the gospel are its biggest enemies. The old Adam strikes again.

    • Loved your comment, especially the insight about “creating a hedge around the gospel.” I think the follow-up question would be, “but whose gospel? the gospel according to whom?” I think the creeds beg a similar question: who gets to interpret the creeds and their implications? Interesting questions.

      • Christiane says:

        Hi JOEL,

        thank you for writing about ‘but whose gospel’? . . .

        the term ‘the gospel’ is used a lot by evangelical people, but without clarification about what they are talking about and sometimes came a sharp rebuke if I asked or probed for more details . . . I was sometimes told I am being ‘ingenious’ instead of sincere in my questions . . . I have taken this reaction for a form of frustration not so much against the questions, but against a confusion about how to answer those specific questions . . .

        I started out to explore the evangelical denomination of a loved grandmother of blessed memory. My own Christian formation is Catholic, so I don’t have the ‘lingo’ of that denomination, and it was hard for me to inquire in ways that were familiar to the culture of that denomination and its way of speaking about ‘the gospel’.

        I suppose that is why I appreciate IMONK so much. It offers an opportunity to learn in a place where people don’t take offense at questions, but try to bring some light from their own traditions to share with me.

        • Radagast says:

          I suppose that is why I appreciate IMONK so much. It offers an opportunity to learn in a place where people don’t take offense at questions, but try to bring some light from their own traditions to share with me….

          Same here – from another Catholic…

    • petrushka1611 says:

      An evangelical, conservative friend of mine posted something about World Vision right after they made their decision, and one of his friends commented about how it was so sad that WV had rejected the gospel. I wondered if she could even read her own words. The Bible does NOT say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, as long as thou despisest homosexuality.”

      The fact that she conflated morality (whether being against homosexuality is right or wrong) with the gospel was SO disheartening.

      • Jacques Ellul argued forcefully that one of the earliest turns for the worse in Christianity (well before Constantine) was precisely the conflation of morality and the gospel message.

        • Trevis –

          I would very much like documentary evidence of this. Maybe there is some in the Didache</I., but I'm just not seeing it.

          People don't ordinarily die for morality.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Dumb Ox, I love your comment and very much agree with it, and it fits with my own take on the topic (see my own comment down further). Whenever I see people propping things up above the Good News of the gospel, warning alarms blare. I keep going back to Jesus’ “woe to you”-s in Matthew 23. What are the things we Christians have become “Pharisitical” about that might keep someone from experiencing God’s kingdom? Too many…way too many. Peace and blessings to you.

    • Great, wise comment.

    • You said,
      “A pastor of the Lutheran church my family was attending stood at the pulpit and quoted from Ken Ham’s “Already Gone”, that a rejection of young earth creationism is a rejection of the gospel”

      Really? Because I’ve never heard Ham phrase it like that, or equate YEC to the Gospel, or say that it is necessary for salvation.

      I have heard Ham make the point that rejecting YEC can cause a person to begin having doubts on the rest of the Bible’s content, which I think is a fair point to make.

      That is not the same thing as saying “You must believe in YEC plus Jesus to be saved.”

      • Final Anonymous says:

        Unfortunately I no longer have the materials, but I can vouch that Answer In Genesis does indeed equate a belief in YEC to salvation. We discovered it long before the bloggers, when my son’s elementary school used the curriculum.

      • Perhaps dumb ox was mostly relating a gloss the pastor was giving of Ham’s extended “Already Gone” speech, which I actually watched in its entirety at the time. I certainly agree that Ham doesn’t, to my knowledge, ever actually equate a denial of YEC with abandonment of the Gospel, which is reassuring. However, the thrust of Ham’s overall idiosyncratic YEC apologetic does tend to lay the blame for much of the ills of modern society at the feet of Darwinism. Indeed, the bare fact that Ham’s nominal topic was the way young people are voting with their feet reflects this hammer-nail tendency of his. For what it’s worth, I recall gay marriage somehow showing up in the same talk too.

        By no means are all YEC proponents (including yourself, from what I’ve gathered over time!) of the sons of Ken Ham. Still, I’m not surprised dumb ox got a negative vibe at the time from that particular speech.

  5. Michael, the ties thing is probably an issue in some of the Swiss/German Anabaptist churches where I live, right now. (And I’m *not* talking about the Amish or Old Order Mennonites, either.)

    It’s always something, as Gilda Radner used to say.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      The way these things work is that the sect rejects frippery in clothing, in favor of simple attire. What “simple attire” constitutes depends on the time and place and its fashions in frippery. If buttons are being made big, ornate objects made from precious metals, while simple clothing uses tie strings, then the sect will adopt tie strings en masse. This then becomes a marker of the sect. Worldly fashions might change and buttons no longer are objects of conspicuous consumption, but rather merely clothing fasteners. In the meantime tie strings might grow increasingly quaint, if not ridiculous. But this often doesn’t matter to the sect. They have forgotten that the point was to dress simply. The point now is tribal marking. Buttons are bad and tie strings are good, and don’t question authority by asking why! Eventually the once-simple attire becomes a prideful costume used to flaunt ones superiority over outsiders. feh

      The Quakers handled this much better. They were going down the usual road, dressing like the guy on the oatmeal box, but a century or so back they collectively recalled the reason for the whole clothing thing and came to their senses. Nowadays they still tend to dress simply, but with “simply” meaning like a 21st century person who is eschewing frippery; not like a historical re-enactor.

  6. Beyond the creeds I’d insist upon taking the scriptures, particularly Jesus’s teachings, seriously. No, I’m not an inerrantist. No, I’m not insisting upon any one particular interpretation. Likely I’ll disagree with a lot of Christians’ interpretations, same as I do now. But I will insist we engage and wrestle with the scriptures.

    ‘Cause I grew up in churches which either dismissed huge swaths of bible in the name of Dispensationalism, and churches which dismissed obedience to God in the name of [cheap] grace. They’re exactly the sort Jesus spoke of when he said, “Why do you call me Lord yet do nothing I tell you?” No fruit, no growth, no love, no different from the rest of the world except for the thin veneer of Christianity. But I don’t want to stay in a house built on sand.

  7. I affirm the Apostle’ Creed. I sometimes get goosebumps when I recite it. But no matter what good fellowship UK have with likeminded Christians and no matter how faithful our church and pastor are to the scriptures, I would have to leave over blatant racism and politicizing of our gospel message. Fortunately I have been blessed with some wonderful pastors thru the years who show love for all and keep politics out of the pulpit.

  8. T.S.Gay says:

    “Remember, the most important hill is the one Jesus died on, and that ties all believers together”.

    I was most impressed with the A.B.Simpson post on Internet Monk recently. I really don’t want anything but Jesus. Simpson put it much better than I can. And as dumb ox says it sounds trite. But that is it. He is Lord, God, the way, the truth, the life.
    A long time ago a fellow I worked with told me I follow a different Jesus. I realize there is a depth, a breadth to a spiritual life. Isn’t being a mile wide and an inch deep part of the current evangelical problem? I’m sensitive to thin veneer. There is always in this life the heart and the practical application.
    I think the ending quote by Mike Bell has a very ecumenical spirit. We do need that today. And one way it comes is by people who have opened to the influence of many different streams. That spirit was very evident in the prayer that was part of what is called Jesus’ farewell discourse.

  9. Other than the Nicene Creed as held by the Orthodox, it would be presenting Christianity as a self or cultural improvement project. Certainly, Christianity will improve the individual and culture when properly presented and taught, and as it’s influence grows, but this is not the point of our faith. Every self claiming Evangelical, “Non” denominational, or Bible based church I have been in over the last 10 plus years have reeked of it in some way. For this reason, I have not darkened the door of a church of any kind for almost 3 years until recently when I began visiting an Antiochian church. For this reason, I am about 99.9 percent sure I will spend the rest of my days as an Orthodox Christian.

    • Which is an occasion for me to say “Memory Eternal!” for Metropolitan Philip, who recently fell asleep after many, many years at the helm of the Antiochian Church in North America.

      Peace for your journey, Tim.

  10. This is such an important question. Thank you for raising it.

    As one newly called into the pastorate, this question has fresh resonance for me. My decisions will influence many (OK, not THAT many really…but several anyway). Several commenters have already picked up on my thought that we need to be very careful about raising any issue to the level of gospel — i.e. if you don’t hold to X then you have abandoned the gospel.

    I am currently recreating our church website, and it seems that some kind of belief statement is needed. I’m pretty much sticking with the historic creeds and then inviting people who have questions about other areas to ask. Your point about how the hills change with the times and the place seems to me to be a red flag. If it is what the church has ALWAYS believed, then that’s something we must be willing to die on. If it’s something that comes in and out of fashion, then perhaps we should think twice about it.

    I think there is a sermon illustration in here somewhere if we can connect this idea of choosing a hill to die on with the hill that Jesus chose to die on. That might be a good place to start.

  11. Michael Z says:

    In terms of fellowship with other believers outside my own church, I wonder if the diversity of denominations is actually part of God’s way of making sure the church becomes all things to all people. Even churches that I would never want to attend (of which, actually, there are very few around where I live) are reaching people with the Gospel. Their doctrine may not be perfect… but neither is mine. If we had to have perfect doctrine before preaching, we’d all just have to be silent.

    I think the creeds are a good starting point for Christian unity, but note that there are several points that many Christians in this country don’t believe in. Like, many evangelicals don’t believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” – not because they disagree with the doctrine of a physical resurrection, but because they’ve never even heard of it. All their church preaches is what our prevailing culture believes in: disembodied souls floating around for all eternity. But would I refuse to have fellowship with someone on account of that belief? Probably not.

    Similarly, the creeds are very explicitly Trinitarian, and I’d bet your average church-goer couldn’t come up with a definition of the Trinity that would satisfy a theologian. But do I use that as a “gotcha” to prove I’ve got better theology than they do? I think the Trinity and the resurrection of the dead are both essential Christian doctrines, and I wouldn’t go to a church that doesn’t preach them, but it’s probably not worth “breaking fellowship” with someone else just because they’ve never been exposed to traditional Christian theology.

    • “Like, many evangelicals don’t believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” – not because they disagree with the doctrine of a physical resurrection, but because they’ve never even heard of it. All their church preaches is what our prevailing culture believes in: disembodied souls floating around for all eternity.”


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “All their church preaches is what our prevailing culture believes in: disembodied souls floating around for all eternity.”

        Shades in Hades.

        Has anyone done a historical trace as to how Fluffy Cloud Heaven (AKA Shades in Hades/Elysium) replaced Resurrection of the Body as the Christian afterlife? I suspect Victorian Sentimental Romanticism had a lot to do with it.

        • I suspect that at least part of it is a reaction to the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.

        • NT Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” certainly notes Victorian sentimentalism as a major force. I don’t know that he used the term “Fluffy Cloud Heaven,” though it would be fun to hear him say it.

          Anyway, let’s not get too negative about this: most evangelicals just need reminded that they “believe this already” in some hard-to-articulate way. It’s “biblical,” after all, so there you go.

  12. Egalitarianism is a Gospel issue? Sad to think the church had the Gospel wrong for the first 90% of its life.

    • Hey Miguel,

      I was thinking of putting Organ music in my original post, just to get a reaction from you. But apparantly I didn’t need it.

      But back to your original Item. Issues that are stumbling blocks to the faith become Gospel issues. Hanni mentioned racism. Discriminating against others in its various forms may not have been an issue for the first 90% percent of the church life, and hence not been a Gospel issue then, but it is a Gospel issue now.

      Over a hundered years ago, A.B. Simpson the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance wrote that the role of women is: “a little side issue of a purely speculative character, which God has already settled, not only in His word, but in His providence, by the seal which He is placing in this very day, in every part of the world, upon the public work of consecrated Christian women. Dear brother, let the Lord manage the women. He can do it better than you, and you turn your batteries [of guns] against the common enemy.”

      • Oh, you’re gonna get more than one reaction from me today, but organ music just isn’t one of them. It isn’t remotely essential. However, aside from the fact that my vocational interests will not permit me to serve a church without one, churches that use the organ are much more likely, statistically speaking, to have other things that are important to me, even if they could be found in some churches without organs.

        “Issues that are stumbling blocks to the faith” do not become Gospel issues, they are sin issues. Our sin mars our witness, and racism is a sin, not a bad theology. Unless you will go as far as to say that to not ordain women is a sin on par with racism (which is a very hefty accusation to lob at the vast majority of Christendom, both current and historically), then your analogy breaks down pretty fast there. You could just as easily say rejection of gay marriage is a gospel issue. These are doctrinal issues, but not all doctrine is Gospel. Unless, of course, you’re Ken Ham.

        This is aside from the fact that “discrimination wasn’t an issue then but it is now” is highly relativistic, and fails to address the main questions of whether it actually is discriminatory, and if it is, how has it not been wrong the entire time?

    • SottoVoce says:

      Miguel, where exactly do you get the idea that the antiquity of a practice is somehow a measure of its moral correctness? You keep espousing this whenever egalitarianism comes up and I can’t help but find it somewhat baffling.

      • I remember a anecdote that Bishop Kallistos Ware gave about women’s ordination in the Orthodox Church. He said it was similar to buying an old Tudor cottage and discovering that you are constantly bumping your head against a particular beam. People have grown since Tudor times, and the people who built the cottage were probably not inconvenienced by the beam. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be prudent to go and take a power saw to the beam without understanding why the original builders put it there in the first place.

        Respecting the antiquity of a practice means that you credit your ancestors with some brains, and not reflexively tossing them on the trash-heap because duh science, which is always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

        • Deference to tradition is laudable, in my opinion, but it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, indeed, particular beams are simply obsolete. Like the mother who would always cut off a big chunk of the fish’s tail end before throwing it in the pan. When the daughter asked why she did that, she told her that it’s simply the way her mother had always done it. She called her mother and asked her why. Her mother said that her mother, in turn, had always done it that way. She then called her own very old and frail mother. She had done it because the frying pan was too small. Point being, of course, sometimes what was a good reason then may cease being a good reason now.

          • But she checked, right?

          • SottoVoce says:

            Yes, she checked. And she found that:

            A) Her great-grandmother needed to buy a bigger frying pan
            B) The condition underlying the original tradition was no longer a problem for her

            So why should she continue to let all that yummy fish go to waste?

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Twice a year, a rabbi would visit a small village and speak in the village square. The men, women and children would gather around and listen. But whenever they gathered, a brown cat would wander amongst them and cause the children to lose focus and distract the Rabbi, so they tied the cat to a nearby tree until he was done speaking. It didn’t take more than a couple of visits for the villagers to automatically tie the cat to the tree the moment they saw the rabbi enter the village.

            Several years later, the rabbi died and a new, younger rabbi visited the village. When they saw him coming, the villagers grabbed the brown cat and tied it to the tree, then gathered to listen to the rabbi talk.

            Several years later, the cat died, and when the young rabbi came to the village, the villagers had to scramble to find a brown cat to tie to the tree before he could begin speaking.

      • There is a validity in Miguel’s comment. What the church has historically believed certainly tends to get discounted among evangelicals. Instead I hear thoughts like “We are a New Testament Church” and promoting the idea that everything got corrupted and messed up starting with Constantine.

        If the Church has always held to something we do need to exercise extreme caution when deciding that it no longer holds for today.

        • “Instead I hear thoughts like ‘We are a New Testament Church’ and promoting the idea that everything got corrupted and messed up starting with Constantine.”

          Michael, you are correct that much in the Church became corrupt with Constantine, not least of which was fusing Church and State, which I would argue was the catalyst of corruption in the Church.

          • If you hold to a Nicene Orthodoxy yet blame the formers of the council of Nicaea for what you consider to be the doctrinal ills of the faith, you might be a Calvinist. 😛

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Instead I hear thoughts like ‘We are a New Testament Church’ and promoting the idea that everything got corrupted and messed up starting with Constantine.”

            We’re not alone in having a faction like that. The Salafi movement in Islam is similar, claiming Islam was corrupted from its Original Pure Form over the centuries and We Must Return To The Way It Was In The Days of The Prophet.

            However, nobody is around who remembers the Original Pure Form and original evidence is fragmentary, so we have to reconstruct it (with or without claims of Divine Inspiration). This can easily lead to something akin to Victorian “Reconstructed Speculative History” and Neo-paganism (a modern reconstruction of a fragmentary original Paganism, with wishful thinking and Victorian romanticism in the reconstruction).

          • Just because the Council of Nicea got the theology right doesn’t mean they got other things right. Surely Lutherans would agree with this?

          • But HUG, we do know a little about what the original church was like, based on what we find in the NT. And what do we find? Well, nothing pure! Good lord, if what was happening at Corinth was happening at a church these days they would probably be featured on iMonk regularly! All to say, I am hugely skeptical of the “pure NT church” myth.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Good lord, if what was happening at Corinth was happening at a church these days they would probably be featured on iMonk regularly! All to say, I am hugely skeptical of the “pure NT church” myth.

            Same pattern as “The 1950s as The Godly Golden Age (of Family Values)”, just going back a LOT farther. The Mythical Golden Age of the Past, when Everything Was Perfect(TM). Complete with unicorns farting rainbows and free ice cream for the Elect.

            And that Mythically Perfect Past can go very sour; all you need is to add “And then THEY came and took it away from us!” (whoever THEY might be) and vows to re-establish that Mythically Perfect Past no matter what and you have a Revenge Culture.

        • SottoVoce says:

          There is a world of difference between “My ancestors weren’t stupid,” and “It’s old, therefore it’s right.” I would appreciate Miguel’s thoughts on the distinction.

      • Sotto, Mule and Mike have answered well for me already, but I’ll throw out this:

        It’s not about a measuring stick for moral correctness. It’s about forming our theology from the Scriptures, which is how the church does her moral reasoning. Now, the idea is, never in history has the church said, “well, the scriptures say this, but let’s believe something else instead because we don’t like that.” She has always based and justified her doctrine from the texts. So the issue is, if we are overturning a doctrinal position the church has held, and doing so because we believe our new view is what the Bible teaches, we must recognize that our fathers in the faith understood the Bible to teach otherwise, and so we are not necessarily “returning to the Bible” on this issue, we are asserting a new interpretation of the Bible. Now, when we do so, we should be cautions to assert that we are infallible in our hermeneutical wisdom and those before us were merely deceived by the spirit of the age. Especially if they have on their side great consensus from multiple cultures and generations. In such case, it is at least statistically more likely that we are misunderstanding the Biblical texts and have our thinking clouded by contemporary philosophical trends. We need the humility to recognize that we are not the crowning pinnacle of church history, we owe a great debt to those who came before us, and for our own sake ought to continue listening to them. This is what G. K. Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead.”

        • It is nice to be agreeing with Miguel once in a while. 😀

        • Miguel, that is possibly the most complete and yet concise comments I could possibly conceive to this thread. Thank you. Solid work that.

        • SottoVoce says:

          There is a world of difference between “Sometimes new ideas get ahead of themselves” and “It’s new, therefore it’s wrong.” What does it look like to honor the past when you are forced to break with a destructive legacy?

          • Robert F says:

            ” What does it look like to honor the past when you are forced to break with a destructive legacy?”

            Many of those who were raised in homes where severe abuse occurred wrestle with this question all their lives and never come to a satisfactory answer, but it is a question that can’t be avoided without dishonesty or denial of the past.

            The history of the Church(es) also carry such destructive legacies. Some of them, I’m afraid, are embedded in Scripture, and reflect the human dimension of the composition of Scripture.

            Scripture, for instance, ethically tolerates, and sanctions by regulating, the existence of the institution of slavery, and nowhere prohibits it to Christians (or Jews for that matter). But the practice of chattel slavery is a horrible sin against the image of God in humanity, and so the passive permission, and the normalization, that Scripture gives the institution of slavery amounts to sins of both omission and commission. For me, there is just no honest way of avoiding acknowledging this ethical deficiency in Scripture (to my thinking there are others, including the Old Testament war of herem, which we would now call genocide).

            The prohibition of the ordination of women is one such ethical deficiency in Christian tradition, and in the Scriptures to the degree that they can correctly be said to prohibit the ordination of women.

    • I don’t think egalitarianism is a gospel issue – there is only one Gospel – but, if I ever return to a church again, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable attending a complementarian one.

      I might consider going to one if they don’t try to cram the compism down my throat, and if the preacher does not make every other sermon about how women should graciously submit to their menfolk, *BARF*

    • Goes back further than that, Miquel. The fall. Patriarchy is sin sold as a virtue. And comp is patriarchy with a nice sounding name coined by John Piper who was raised in Bob Jones land.

  13. The pure gospel.

    For the ungodly.

    That’s my hill.

    As far as gender issues. The Word of God is NOT dependent upon a certain gender…or even if certain hands have been laid upon someone (or not).

    The Word of makes it’s own way. Thank you very much.

    • Steve, this is a very interesting subject to me (a person struggling with the faith): the pure gospel according to whom? and how do we know that so-and-so’s recovery of the gospel is the pure, unadulterated interpretation? For example, I’m sure that most Baptists would also appeal to the pure gospel, but once you begin to probe just what that gospel is and what it entails, it most often looks very different than the pure gospel of a Lutheran or the pure gospel of an anabaptist. More than 30k denominations claim to have understood the pure gospel, and they understand it differently, however slightly (sometimes radically). Even if we try to hang on to “simply Jesus,” I find that Jesus will often look very different according to different churches… These are some honest questions I have and am trying to sort through.

      • Try to find a common thread throughout church history. Churches claiming “everybody has gotten it wrong the whole time, and thank God we finally came along and got it right” are very likely full of hubris. Those who can demonstrate solidarity with the church’s past, to the time of the apostles, make a much stronger case for authenticity. They are trusting the tradition handed to them, not revising it by the spirit of the age.

        There. I just eliminated 29,990 of those denomination for you. 😛

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Leaving your own denom, of course. Landmark Baptists are NOT the only ones who KNOW they and they alone Got It Right.

        • I like that answer. It’s just that so many of them, in my experience, will then claim: “we’ve come along and fixed it precisely because of our solidarity with the apostles! We are recovering a pure apostolic christianity!” And even among the “ten or so” groups left, I’m sure each will present a case for the purest interpretation, or the purest deference to Christian tradition, or the purest continuity with Christian history, etc… It seems that in your view the best church would be the one which simply trusts the tradition (which strands of it, though?) and revises none of it, or as little as possible. My doubts have to do exactly with who has that claim and why.

          • Well, this is true, but there are those who claim a historically consistent teaching (10 or so groups), and those who basically claim the church went off the rails until we came along to set it right. If you are truly in solidarity with the Apostles, you really shouldn’t be the first ones in the last 400 years.

            It’s not that tradition should always be trusted as the final word. We weigh tradition with scripture and reason, through the lens of our experience. But churches who give no consideration to tradition or play too fast and loose with it will receive no consideration from me. Chronological snobbery and generational narcissism are often the root of the ecclesial circus.

            The best practice, imo, is to trust the tradition you are in (find out what roots you already have and make good use of them) while entering into the conversation with other traditions to see where yours may come up short. It’s not like we’re going to figure out in one lifetime what is the one true church that gets everything right. I think it would be fairly reasonable to conclude that such a church does not exist. But there must be churches who manage to get a whole lot less wrong, and they are worth seeking out.

          • “…those who basically claim the church went off the rails until we came along to set it right.”

            Great cartoon about that:

            Punch line: “Jesus is so lucky to have us.”

        • Miquel, You have a problem. Church history is a long time bloody evil mess. That is the “tradition” you speak of? So, they had their doctrine right—- they (leaders who used force) were just reprobate?

      • Joel,

        Many know it, many believe it, of many different stripes.

        That Christ died for us, the ungodly. Nothing else required.

        That’s the pure gospel. There are Baptists who know it. Lutherans who know it. Catholics who know it. Etc.

        But most want to add something. A decision. A Pope. Your seriousness. Etc. That…is NOT the pure gospel.

        And we contend for this pure gospel against all comers who would have us add anything. No matter how small.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Sounds good to me!

    • and what is the pure gospel exactly ? …………. my understanding is that it was all put together by a group of sexist old men in a musty old room !

      • ‘Christ died for sinners.’

        That’s it. Nothing left for you ‘to do’.

        Simple. But we just can’t have that. We just gotta kick-in something. And that is where most of Christianity is…if only you have to kick-in a ‘little bit’ (as Forde said)

        • So, are you a universalist then? “Christ died for sinners. That”s it. Nothing left for you to do.”

          • No…I’m not a universalist.

            We are saved by grace through faith. But faith (according to the Bible) is a gift.

            God saves whom He will through the hearing of the gospel. Some hear it…and some don’t.

            But there is nothing we can do to become a Christian.

  14. There is a difference between a hill I would die on and the hill on which I am willing to let you die.

    Actually, there is Life on the hill, and less life the farther you get from. “A hill to die on” means someone coming to forcibly extract me from the hill. I remember the Old Believers who decided that making the sign of the Cross with two fingers was a hill they didn’t want to be dragged off of. Now, most places, it isn’t a big deal. The iconoclasts killed a lot of people too, as did the iconodules when they regained power. The Covenanters not only laid down their lives in the fight against prelacy, but were willing to kill for it. I might lament a lot of heresies on this board, but I think I’d draw the line at murder.

    Orthodox Christians, and Catholic Christians, if I am not mistaken, die on the Deposit of the Faith. There are numerous concentric circles of relative hill-death surrounding the Deposit. My own idiosyncratic view is that there is plenty of Orthodoxy extant in a lot of communions, esp Alexandria, Rome, Wittenberg, the Continuum. Pentecostals seem to have a lot of Orthodox instincts, but they are so weighed down by all the garbage in their DNA. It gets harder to discern Orthodoxy as you get closer to mainline Protestantism, which historically was the chaplaincy of the Enlightenment project.

    • Radagast says:

      Catholic – Deposit of Faith – yes

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There is a difference between a hill I would die on and the hill on which I am willing to let you die.

      Don’t forget “the hill on which I am going to MAKE you die.”

    • “…chaplaincy of the enlightenment project.”

      Nice. I’m writing that down in my book to use later.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      “chaplaincy of the Enlightenment project” – please elaborate.

  15. The anti-catholicism in my current church has made me reach the tipping point of leaving. The pastor was telling a story about witnessing to someone who was “entrenched in Catholic theology” and I realized he meant that as a bad thing. I love Catholic theologians and writing–I claim Henri Nouwen as my spiritual mentor.

    In one of the first sermons we heard a few years ago, that same pastor also mentioned that our church is the only Bible-believing church on the block (which has Presbyterian and Lutheran, plus two others that I can’t recall). That was a warning sign.

    So I guess my breaking point is the idea that a church or a person has reached perfect revelation and understanding and everyone else is wrong. It’s so arrogant and myopic and hateful and destroys the unity of the church.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “In the Devil’s theology, the most important thing is to be Absolutely Right, and to prove everyone else to be Absolutely Wrong. This does not lead to peace among men.”
      — Thomas Merton, “Moral Theology of the Devil”

      • That’s an interesting quote. I like it. It seems to follow that the opposite theology would claim nothing to be absolutely right? Or at least to not place much importance on being absolutely right – which implies an openness to being wrong? So the best theology would be necessarily relativistic, in a way… I like the quote because it reflects kind of where I am. 🙂

  16. Cedric Klein says:

    For Church fellowship:

    The Triune God Yahweh;
    Jesus as Incarnate God, Atoning Sacrifice, Bodily Risen Lord, Reigning & Returning King;
    The Bible, Older & Newer Testaments, as the Written Word of God- our guide for faith & conduct;
    monogamous heterosexual marriage & family as God’s first covenantal system for us- with other arrangements being less than ideal & some totally out (you can guess which ones);
    a government restrained by law with the primary duty to punish force or fraud & to give space to free minds in free markets.

    For informal fellowship among other Christians:
    Yahweh God as Father & Jesus as Lord
    Respect for the Bible as Their Word to guide us
    Relationships of fidelity & responsibility
    Respect for rule of law & resistance to tyranny

    • “a government restrained by law with the primary duty to punish force or fraud & to give space to free minds in free markets.”

      Could you elaborate on how this particular criterion exhibits itself at your church? From the pulpit, general conversation, mission statement? Would you view the absence of such assertions at a church as being equivalent to defaulting to the opposite, statist ideology? Id est, would you be at home in a church which simply refrained from political talk more or less entirely?

      [Disclaimer: I know some of the pastoral staff at Cedric’s church, so I’m mostly promoting general discussion with these questions.]

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Hmm…that’s an interesting mix of stuff to die for! Thanks for sharing your list!

    • What’s interesting about this comment is that you establish a kind of concentric circle of hills. An outer ring of “informal fellowship” and then an inner ring of interior “church fellowship.”

      If my picture is accurate, I would suppose that the outer ring isn’t really a hill to die on. Rather an initial “defensive position” from which you fall back when pressed. You wouldn’t “die” on that hill although you might be willing to wrestle on it. “Go to the mat” if I may extend my metaphor perhaps one hill too far. 😉

  17. Reminds me of Keith Drury’s article/post that described writing some beliefs in pencil, some in pen, and some in blood.

  18. Beyond the creeds, I would bring up the general hospitality of the church – it is isn’t safe place to let your guard down, I’m gone. And I don’t mean affirmation of sin, I mean a place where you can confess your sin and not become a pariah.

    To borrow a political term, one thing I’ve noticed about holding specific theologies in super high regard is that the people involved often have a deep insecurity about being seen as a squish.

  19. Thanks for your post today. I venture to say that these issues are often the enemy of our soul’s “playground” to distract Christ-followers from the truth of God. Nothing is more powerful than to spiritual understand Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. For we shouldn’t, but often fight against “flesh and blood” (others) instead of strength and power of God. I still visit the A . B. Simpson quote of “Himself” to refocus and love Simpson’s quote of ‘leaving the woman-issue to God.” I, we, often have “tunnel-vision.” Help us Lord to be spiritual wise. Be bridge builders instead of wall builders.

  20. Interesting and though provoking post! I grew up in the Anabaptist tradition, our denomination being a Mennonite splinter group of another splinter group. Check how many times Anabaptists have fractured over minor issues of doctrine and practice. Examples include the holy kiss, how often we practice communion, and even facial hair, among other things. As such I now have an aversion to things that divide Christ’s Body unnecessarily. That would be one of my reasons not to attend a certain church. However, I do think that more than the Apostle’s/Nicene Creeds are needed today primarily because the creeds were a product of their times and only reflecting the major issues of those times and not our issues today.

    One hill I am willing to die on is the hill of those who seek to redefine sin in a way other than revealed in the Bible (Isaiah 5:20). I fully acknowledge that Jesus was a friend of sinners and we should be too. I fully acknowledge that “acceptable” sins like gluttony and selfishness are as bad as Homosexuality and other sins of sexual perversion. I fully acknowledge that I am as great a sinner (worse even) than others. BUT we can’t go so far as to say sin is OK because without acknowledging the sin, there can be no forgiveness of it. In fact, we doom people to remain guilty of their sins when we try to make them feel better about themselves by redefining sin. Christians actually thwart the work of the Gospel because they are trying to be nice.

    • “though” should read “thought”

    • fix the elevator says:

      Yes, I can second everything in that post. I also grew up conservative Mennonite, and it’s all the same: ties, beards, styles of head coverings for the women. You name the issue, and there was probably a church that split over it.

      Your second paragraph nails it too.

    • “Examples include the holy kiss, how often we practice communion, and even facial hair, among other things. As such I now have an aversion to things that divide Christ’s Body unnecessarily. That would be one of my reasons not to attend a certain church.”

      Of course there is a wonderful recursive irony here. You are willing to separate over willingness to separate. Not picking on you. I think that’s a bag we all find ourselves in. That’s why this question of hills is such a difficult one to nail down. I’m in the same boat.

      • I guess you can file that under “We tend to become the very thing we disapprove of” 😉

  21. Many years back I was receiving much Christian input from all directions – Kingdom Now, Sojourners, Lutheran and Episcopal beliefs, Charismatic preaching, Social Gospel, everything from monastery to well-digging – and it was causing confusion. I finally decided on the irreducible minimum, that which was central to life. All the rest were ad dons, as the Lutherans would say, adiaphora. The five essentials were Jesus Son of God, fully Man, Crucified for me, Rose from death to life, Ascended and coming back one day.

    • I like that, Carol. Simple propositions. I find it interesting you went with Son of God, which is more ambiguous, and not “fully God.” Was that intentional? Would ascribing full divinity to Jesus be part of the essentials for you? Anyways, I find it really helpful to try and articulate irreducible minimums, as you’ve done.

  22. “Remember, the most important hill is the one Jesus died on, and that ties all believers together.” Excellent! No argument from me there. And in this regard I would argue, as some have already mentioned, that the Gospel is the only hill I would die on. But saying that necessitates further explanation.

    The Gospel of the Cross is the heart of the Gospel. It is God’s power of salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1.16), and to believe the Gospel, as I did for the first time nearly 40 years ago, necessitates repentance (Mark 1.15) and confession, not just of sins but also of Jesus as Lord (Romans 10.9-10). And in that latter note I would say that the Nicene Creed embodies our confession of faith. Therefore, believing the Gospel as I just stated would be a hill worth dying on.

    But there are other hills I’m willing to die on as well. the next hill of tremendous importance to me are the five solas of the Protestant Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone and the glory of God alone. Although I do not believe that it is essential that one believe these to be a Christian, they are of paramount importance, IMO, to the purity of the Christian faith and clarity of the Gospel.

    The third and final hill I’m willing to die on is the broader Gospel of the Kingdom, by which I include all that Christ taught and did in the four Gospel accounts. This hill includes some doctrines but also many issues related to morality, ethics and the culture in general. Whereas they are too numerous to enumerate, I would list social justice (includes our obligation to meet the needs of the poor, uneducated, destitute, etc.), the family, sanctity of Christian marriage, the rights of the unborn, and so on.

    All else are non-essentials of the Christian faith, matters of preference, things for which we need to extend grace and charity to one another and certainly not issues we should divide over.

    By the way, Michael, I wholeheartedly agree with Miguel that egalitarianism is not the Gospel, and neither is complementarianism, nor church polity, nor particular eschatological perspectives, nor even the doctrines of grace whether they be Calvinist, Armininian or Lutheran.


  23. I don’t understand the minimalism involved in this exercise. I want a maximum of Jesus.

    As far as what I would consider as a ‘minimal’ grounds for fellowship, I have the bishops to guard the cup. That is their job. I cannot put anyone outside the pale of God’s mercy. Even my political adversaries are more likely to be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven on their own merits and myself excluded.

    • Oh, you beat me to it. Jesus is the hill I want to die on. Any church committed to intentional, tenacious Christ-centricity is worthy of consideration. Any church that thinks this is not enough is a waste of time.

  24. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    I don’t die on hills. I conquer them… 🙂

    Seriously though, the only hill I’d consider dying on is the principle of the freedom to search for, to discuss, to debate the truth, reality, facts, meaning etc etc.

    • Back to the primacy of the “Jesus hill” thing, you mention “the principle of the freedom to search for, to discuss, to debate the truth, reality, facts, meaning etc etc.” Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18.38) Jesus earlier said,“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)

      I take all this to mean that the “Jesus hill” is the only one worth dying on, after all.

  25. cermak_rd says:

    Hmm, I suppose as a former Christian I actually did have a hill I died on! For me it came down to the fact that I reject fixed gender roles in all ways. Clearly Paul had a different view and so the Pauline epistles became huge stumbling blocks to me. Could I have found a Church that rejected them, I probably would have stayed Christian.

    Another issue to me was politics. There was so much during the Kerry-Bush race of you can’t be Catholic and vote for Kerry that I decided fine, then I won’t be Catholic. Now that I’m in a better place, I’m actually grateful to the folks who espoused that position as they caused me to reread my Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and to see with clarity that I didn’t belong there.

    Now as a Jew are there things that would cause me to leave my shul? I suppose any attempt to change the Divine from being one (such as if the Rabbi started pushing a Trinitarian understanding), I would leave over that. I can’t imagine anything else and even that is unlikely. Remember the Rabbi is under contract so is unlikely to get too flakey!

    • Thank you for commenting cermak_rd.

      I was thinking after posting that I didn’t want to exclude people like yourself from commenting. So glad that you felt that you still could. I was also thinking that I would do another post to specfically ask those who don’t currently consider themselves Christian to comment like you have here. This is very much of interest to me.

      You first comment reinforces my idea that gender roles is what I call a gospel issue. If this is an issue that causes people to reject Christianity in our age then we certainly need to carefully reexamine what we believe about the issue. I cringe inwardly when I step into a church and see only men on the platform, because I know for many of my non-christian friends it is going to be a barrier to them considering Jesus.

      • “You first comment reinforces my idea that gender roles is what I call a gospel issue. If this is an issue that causes people to reject Christianity in our age then we certainly need to carefully reexamine what we believe about the issue. I cringe inwardly when I step into a church and see only men on the platform, because I know for many of my non-christian friends it is going to be a barrier to them considering Jesus.”

        From what I can tell in my research, it is a big issue for many nones and even cuts across age groups to some degrees. I have been quite surprised to speak with old saints in their 80’s who are appalled at the strict focus on gender “roles” in the church today. It seems they think the younger pastors, especially in the YRR category in my neck of the woods, have gone too far with it. Many of them have quit giving and they are the ones who tithe!

    • I spend much time at my nearby synagogue with my Jewish friends. My study of Torah has added to my understanding of my faith.

      I can and do worship at different churches listening to other’s ideas and beliefs. In listening to sermons I wonder if the different ministers read the same Gospel story I do. I have learned to keep my head down and my mind engaged while at church. I have yet to find a church family I agree with 100 percent. I try to live my beliefs and be there for other seekers. I would all myself a sojourner in the OT tradition that I follow their rules but am not really part of the tribe.

      I see my allegiance to God more important that

      • I see my allegiance to God more important than stating a creed that draws a line in the sand that divides me from others who don’t agree with everything I say.

  26. Joseph (the original) says:

    first things first: the ‘people’ of any so-called faith fellowship that are lip-service only Christians that do hold fast to the lines-drawn-in-the-sand of those they consider ‘in’ vs. those that are definitely ‘out’…

    these unspoken expectations can usually be discerned (felt) as soon as you pass the threshold of the church or meeting place…

    I would avoid any place that wears its religiosity as an add-on. people become, well, like religious zombies when they are in church or at service vs. simply being a genuine person. there cannot be any fakeness or mask wearing or game playing or power plays/posturing or culture war emphasis or defensive, hunker-in-the-bunker mentality…

    then I would look at what the heck the leadership/pastor/preacher/priest is proclaiming from the pulpit, “in the name of God”. traditional faith expressions or denominational nuances, etc. can be tolerated as part of the historical ‘personality’ of any faith fellowship, but if the people (congregation+church leadership) do not, or cannot be genuine human beings collectively pursuing spiritual journeys with encouragement & love & acceptance & patience & living out the gospel-in-action, then I do not wish to waste my time being part of such an insular religious club…

    I do consider myself an orthodox Christian, but how these tenets of faith get translated into human interaction would be the litmus test used to determine if it is worth my while to also invest my time, energy, emotional reservoir, etc. in as well…

  27. I find it somewhat humorous, Mike, that you express appreciation for the creeds and discomfort with “statements of faith.” The creeds ARE statements of faith. The difference is that where the creeds are not confessed, (i.e., not just acknowledged in the introductory material to theology textbooks, but actually used by the people in worship), they are replaced with those of modern inventions. Most evangelical statements of faith come out of the the ethos that 1. The church’s creeds are not enough, we need to add to them, because all those Catholic-y christians hold to them and our religion is so much better than theirs, and 2. They’re so old and outdated, yeah, we accept that stuff, but that isn’t what is really important. These modern, contemporary, divisive issues about which we really must take a stand right now are the essential, defining substance of our religion.

    You see, there are good creeds, and there are bad creeds. A “statement of faith” is basically a creed that confesses that the historical recourses of the church to express orthodoxy just aren’t good enough anymore. And when this happens, little hobby horse doctrines begin to creep in. This is why a historically rooted perspective is so important, it helps to guard against the trend driven theological circus.

    I don’t want a creed that my own pastor made up when he planted the church 3 years ago because he thinks he’s getting it so much more right than the rest of church history. I want a creed that has survived a few hundred years and has a track record of passing the faith to successive generations. “Statements of faith” generally don’t outlive the individual congregation, despite the fact that they all look remarkably similar and differ very little from the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith.

    In other words, “statements of faith” are just bad, trend driven, disposable creeds. Choose your creed wisely.

    • cermak_rd says:

      When I used to say the Credo (Nicean and Athanasian depending on the denom whose Mass I was at), I could almost see in my mind the drafters, OK, that sentence divides out the Arians, and that one the Manichaens, that one ought to do it for the Gnostics…. They seem to have been essentially theological treaties.

      • That’s a good point, cermak. I get the feeling that for many these human-drafted statements are as infallible as whatever they conceive of as the Word of God (“they are simply correct explanations of the word of God, etc…”). Another issue that I see is, if these documents and the tradition that led to them are held in such high regard, then why reject other aspects of that tradition (such as Mary, the saints, etc…). If you don’t mind my asking, what is it about Judaism that persuaded you?

        • cermak_rd says:

          The fact that each Jew is allowed the autonomy to live their lives as they please while being expected to extend to others the same courtesy. Plus Spinoza’s understanding of the Almighty is pretty close to my own understanding.

          No communion of saints is a big positive of Judaism. That fact that I am not mystically linked to Jews around the world so don’t have to care if a Rabbi is promoting something goshawful in another nation. That was my main problem with the Episcopal church is that I had to be in communion with someone like Bishop Akinola in Nigeria. Even within the US, if every church in the Epscopal Church had rejected the Pauline epistles as being anything other than historical writings, I probably could have accepted having the Pauline epistles in my Scriptures. But there were parishes within TEC where they were viewed as authoritative and I did not want to be in union with that.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        When I used to say the Credo (Nicean and Athanasian depending on the denom whose Mass I was at), I could almost see in my mind the drafters, OK, that sentence divides out the Arians, and that one the Manichaens, that one ought to do it for the Gnostics….

        As I understand it, a lot of the Creeds and Dogmas were NOT so much arbitrary Ex Cathedra decrees as decisions hashing out some big dispute in the churches. Kind of like a Supreme Court decision.

        So the Fundie/Landmarkist anti-Catholic checklist of “such and such a doctrine decreed in such and such a year” — that was just the year the “court fight” and appeals over such and such doctrine came up and got settled by a binding decision.

      • And the fact that it divides out the Arians, Manichaens, and Gnostics is a good thing. Buddhism is not Christianity, and Christianity is not Islam. Religious ought to self-define in order for them to mean anything. Even Jesus draw lines, he’ not the all-inclusive all-welcoming hippie that many would paint him as today. He is the judge of the earth (we believe), and not everybody will be judged favorably. He even took sides in the theological debates of his day. I think he would have something to say about those who would deny his divinity.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And the fact that it divides out the Arians, Manichaens, and Gnostics is a good thing. Buddhism is not Christianity, and Christianity is not Islam. Religious ought to self-define in order for them to mean anything.

          Otherwise, everything merges into one big Shirley Mac Laine-y blob singing “Kumbayah.”

    • I agree with you completely Miguel. (My goodness, it is happening again. :D) That is why I was trying to distinguish between the historical creeds, and the johnny come latelys.

    • Radagast says:

      Yay…. +1

      “I don’t want a creed that my own pastor made up when he planted the church 3 years ago because he thinks he’s getting it so much more right than the rest of church history…..”

      … which really just feeds either a narcissistic personality or someone ignorant of a universal body of people who took centuries working these things out…

  28. Danielle says:

    First, I ought to distinguish between “hills I’m ready to die on” and issues that would prevent me from joining a church. These are very different thresholds.

    The only hill I’ll die on are Nicene and Apostle’s creed-level doctrine. God exists; God is triune; Jesus Christ was both God and man; Christ died and was resurrected; God is reconciling the world to God’s self. There are a handful of others, but you get the idea. Let me clarify that I think individual people can doubt or even in some cases deny a foundational doctrine, and be within grace. But if I a church denied these doctrines, then I would say it had left Christian orthodoxy.

    Outside this, there are issues that would affect my willingness to join a church. These are issues that rise to the level of strong preferences; they do not mark the boundaries of my understanding of who is a Christian. Also, the items I place on this list are mainly pragmatic. They are issues that make it hard for me “take off my boots” and feel comfortable. More importantly, I am a parent, and there are some issues I had as a youth that I’d just assume my children avoid.

    Devotionally, liturgy and the sacraments have become lifelines for me in sustaining faith, so I tend to limit long-term church attendance to churches that are liturgical and have a more sacramental theology. I also view these elements as rooted in Christian tradition, as theologically important, and useful corrections to the highly emotive and individualistic undercurrents in American piety.

    I avoid communities that spend a lot of energy trying to conflate tertiary issues (even if they are important issues) with “the gospel.” The more litmus tests I see, and the more scripts there are from which one cannot deviate without inviting concern/anxiety/intervention/argument/censure/interventionary prayer, the more concerned I become. Communities that have a reflexive habit of boundary policing do not allow a lot of safe space for people to be honest about thoughts, questions, and feelings; don’t value the principle of Christian liberty/conscience as much as I’d like; and sometimes confuse control of people with discipleship. There is a certain centeredness or peace that I think ought to attend spiritual maturity that allows room for another person to be someone else; love is more of a dance than a stranglehold. What I see beneath mouth-frothing boundary policing is something much closer to fear and untempered passion. So I tend to listen carefully at the kinds of arguments communities like to make, and the kind of tone they adopt. This is especially important to me since I had a toddler, and he’s going to develop inherent assumptions about faith in the next several years.

    For the same reason, I’m careful about the communities that expect people to be happy/elated/victorious/healed/complete, and that do not create space and a language for real people experience ordinary life’s messiness. If you tell my child that people get cancer because they didn’t pray hard enough, I will not be happy with you.

    I seek out communities that tend toward egalitarianism or at least are not trying to die on the complementarian hill. In fact, one of the reasons I avoid large portions of evangelicalism is because in my experience the tone and content and intensity of the discussion over “Godly manhood/womanhood” makes the issue of gender difficult to avoid. I’m dissident to that conversation, and I don’t mind discussing it, but I’m done fighting that battle in my own home. More importantly, I am a parent, and I see no reason to place my children in an environment where the “Official” Script over Gender Roles is going to shape their views and self-perceptions. If possible, I prefer not have to undo the effect of Driscoll-style comments about “what it means to be a real man” or the message of book jackets on womanhood with titles like “Lady in Waiting.” Sometimes you waste your youth fighting silly battles, so that your kids don’t have to. I paid my time.

    I prefer it if a community doesn’t think there’s a giant war being fought between science and religion. I missed my opportunity to become a paleontologist. My son should put this occupation on his list of cool things adults do, right next to Firefighting and Flying Airplanes.

    On a humorous (but semi-serious) note: Since I’m a parent, I try to avoid places with a lot of “crazy talk.” This is an example of crazy talk: As a child, my husband was told by a teacher that there were demons in He-Man action figures, and that if you melted them in the oven, you would be able to hear the demons come out. At one point, someone told me that My Little Ponies came in multiple colors because someone was trying imbed a secret New Age messages in toy products. I really don’t care if an adult wants to make these assertions to other adults. But I don’t really need my children to worry about strange, pointless things, or to get the impression that religious people are raving mad.

    • Good thoughts Danielle,

      Where or not a church is sacramental and liturgical are not deal breakers for me. I have a preference for non liturgical churches, but I could be a member in either.

      The rest of your points resonate well with me.

    • cermak_rd says:

      All right now you have me curious. At what temperature does one need to set one’s oven to melt a He-man action figure? And who on earth did this to discover it? That kind of thing will keep me up at night. It’s the kind of question like who first discovered that cow’s milk was actually tasty to drink, and how did they do it?

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      “First, I ought to distinguish between “hills I’m ready to die on” and issues that would prevent me from joining a church. These are very different thresholds.”

      Yeah, good analysis. There are a lot of churches I would never join, but would not make my differences with them something fundamental.

    • Radagast says:

      Kind of like the Halloween crazy talk?

      • You missed the Pokémon lecture, obviously

        • Radagast says:

          That and Tele-tubbies (and SpongeBob)

        • Is it bad that my context filter messed up what you said the first time I read it? I saw who the poster was, scanned the message, and it came out, “You missed the prokeimenon leture, obviously.”

          • In the other direction, many a time had I thought I heard the deacon intone prior to the reading of the Epistle, “The Pokémon! Let us attend!”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Prokeiminon” has to be some sort of EO Greek technical term.

    • dumb ox says:

      I think the resurrection is essential doctrine, it is one line of the creed through which some cross their fingers.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is an example of crazy talk: As a child, my husband was told by a teacher that there were demons in He-Man action figures, and that if you melted them in the oven, you would be able to hear the demons come out.

      That’s just a rehash of the Christian Urban Legend about D&D miniatures. “When You Melt Them Down, You Can Hear The DEMONS Screaming!!!!!”

      (Actually, any sounds you get when melting down lead or plastic miniatures is caused by gas bubbles in the metal or steam explosions in the melting plastic. But that’s too mundane for the Witchfinders-General.)

      At one point, someone told me that My Little Ponies came in multiple colors because someone was trying imbed a secret New Age messages in toy products.

      I’ve heard of this one before, too. Not since G4 came out. The Satanic Panic of the Eighties drove a wedge between Christians and gamers that continues to this day; do they want to do the same with Christians and Bronies?

      • Danielle says:

        Yeah, I think all these things went through multiple incarnations. Kind of like how It was fashionable for a while to accuse various business leaders of being satanists.

  29. Marcus Johnson says:

    Recognizing the Bible as both an ancient document and a revelation of God–that’s my hill. The assumption that we can read the Bible as though it was written yesterday for an American Evangelical audience has caused me to leave many a church. Before we can understand who God is and how that impacts who we are, I maintain that the source for that understanding comes through a document that has been sorely abused by the Church, primarily because of the belief that if the Bible was written for us, it was written to us. I have been known to be tolerant of this oversight, but only for so long, then I get cranky, then I get gone.

  30. Danielle says:

    So, that was kind of long. Let me this down to its essence:

    The church should be about proclaiming the gospel: Christ is risen. The creeds are a good guide to what one should affirm in order to proclaim to gospel. If pressed, I would add that the sacraments and liturgy are great sources of comfort, a means of grace, and an aid in gospel proclamation.

    Other issues are important, but only insofar as they relate back to Easter.

    There are a host of small issues that would make me or less likely to join a specific church, because I have personally found those issues distract from Easter. I’m eager to be more … focused … during the upcoming years of my journey. And I hope that when my children think of Christianity, they’re thinking about Easter, and not about some other matter.

  31. Christiane says:

    I love the part of my own Church’s teachings that tell how Christ’s sacrifice not only has the power to reconcile mankind to God, but also to one another . . . the hill Our Lord died on was a place of reconcilation . . . I hold on to that, in the midst of all the divisions and separations that have torn at the unity He prayed for, because it offers me hope for eventual healing in the Body of Christ through our unity in the Holy Spirit

    “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . ” (Vaclav Havel)

  32. The creeds.

    Also, to a lesser extent but still pretty important to me, whenever a group majors in the minors by making hills to die on that aren’t in the creeds, especially when this includes an us-versus-them mentality and constant battle stance. Beyond my own personal distaste for such an approach, I really believe it hinders (maybe even smothers) the proclamation of the gospel message in word and deed.

  33. Hi Michael, I agree with you, the battle lines are drawn at the Nicene creed for me. Other issues are non-essential, the body of Christ is so torn up that if I went by statements of belief then I could not attend any church. Lewis idea of mere Christianity taught me this. As for egalitarian vs complementarian, I think personally that it’s how you implement your beliefs that makes this such a painful issue. I have to say that my reading of the Bible convinces me that men and women have different missions, but I personally love hearing from women pastors and teachers. I think the Lord Jesus raised the status of women to such a high degree: the Gospels show women as being much more loyal and faithful than the 12 apostles were at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection. I don’t think we should be putting limits on what women can and can’t do. In my own life I know that God gives me a special responsibility for my family, I am to take care of my wife and daughter and this is something that God designed and it is good.

  34. PastorM says:

    Here’s a different answer: the inability to experience joy and laughter.

    • Christiane says:

      wow, good answer . . . the presence of ‘joy’ is signature sign of the Holy Spirit

  35. Final Anonymous says:

    Inclusion. Of women, LGBT, the disabled, the depressed, the difficult, the homeless, the poor, the elderly, and everyone in between.

    If everyone is not welcome and celebrated as a child of God, it’s usually a sign that church has missed the point the point of the gospel in a big way.

    On a pragmatic note; if the church is comfortable excluding Bob today, they’ll be okay excluding someone else tomorrow. Might be you. Exclusionary attitudes are funny that way.

    • Republicans? People who move a factory to Bangladesh to avoid environmental regulations? Union busters? Overweight white guys who drive RVs and use the n-word freely when “no one ” is watching, and who leave a place when it “starts getting too dark”? People who don’t like thinking about what “fags” do in bed and resist any efforts to explain it to them? People who use the modicum of power that they ave to oppress and belittle others?

      You know, at first I was going to ask if they had a right to be included as well, without changing or without having to put up with any exhortations to change, when I realized it was a pretty good description of most of the churches I’ve ever attended.

      • Radagast says:

        C’mon Mule… the same kind of bad analogies could be made of any major or minor political party. Instead lets leave the political parties out, because the closer one get’s to their theology of power, the farther away we get from the Kingdom of God……

        • It’s a fair point even if the examples he chose are more intentionally provocative than what I might have chosen to illustrate it.

          I have become allergic to the word “inclusive” because in my experience it is a big self-flattering lie. Or worse, a euphemism. It means the “inclusive” church in question is interested in going out of its way to “include” a couple three specific demographics at best, and will bend over backwards to do this, but in order to keep up some kind of tribal-sense-of-belonging homeostasis, it will expel those it deems to be outsiders with all the more force.

          In all the searching I have done as a religious “outsider” most of my life, it was only in the office of an “inclusive” pastor in an “inclusive” church that I was told point blank that my privately held views, which I had vowed, even, to keep to myself outside the confidentiality of pastoral counseling, made me unacceptable in the church, unwelcome, “problematic,” not belonging there. We’re not talking heresy, either, but a view held by thousands of others in that same denomination and endorsed as acceptable by the leadership.

          In the “inclusive” church they kept loopholes to “inclusivity” big enough to not only drive out people who secretly dissented from this or that view, but people who were simply not cool enough to merit “inclusion.” I mean, for instance, lonely old ladies who are a little annoying, widows who are needy and emotional; people whose ethnicity differed from the rest of the community, who had mannerisms and customs that were different; poor folks who had no money to give to the cause or project du jour…you get the idea.

          I found that the people who were not “included” in “inclusivity” seemed similar to ones Jesus would minister to most carefully. How could this happen?

          Meanwhile, on the inside, they smugly pat themselves on the back for not being “uninclusive” like those Catholics and those Missouri Synod people and whatever.

          “Inclusive” was said so much in meetings. It was clearly displacing Jesus at the center. I wanted to paraphrase Paul sarcastically, did inclusive die on the cross, were you baptized in the name of inclusive? And it turned out that being more inclusive actually could make you less inclusive, somehow! Someone said that creating a program for young families (of which there were very, very few) was “uninclusive” because it made her feel “less included.”

          Inclusive is a lie. It’s an idol, a false god.

          • I think that these comments here state fairly well that tribal, exclusive mindsets are more-or-less human nature; very difficult to eradicate.

            Often, I find myself bristling whenever someone with whom I could hold a theological disagreement begins to say something. Anything. The content of the words is, for me, tainted by the fact that I know that they’re not part of the right tribe.

            I suppose it’s only through Jesus (somehow – however the sanctifiction thing works) that this mindset can be changed.

          • The problem is, it’s more difficult to engage constructively with someone who is in denial about that than it is to engage with someone who may disagree and “exclude” others but at least is honest and firm about what their boundaries and limits are. It ends up feeling almost like gaslighting trying to discuss this kind of thing with someone who is adamant that they and their church are “inclusive.” You point out their tribal boundaries and they say “we have no boundaries, you are imagining things!”

      • “People who move a factory to Bangladesh to avoid environmental regulations? Union busters? Overweight white guys who drive RVs and use the n-word freely when “no one ” is watching, and who leave a place when it “starts getting too dark”? People who don’t like thinking about what “fags” do in bed and resist any efforts to explain it to them? People who use the modicum of power that they ave to oppress and belittle others?”

        I’m certain that is what was meant by “everyone in between.” After all, we are talking about inclusion where everyone is celebrated as a child of God.

        • Final Anonymous says:

          Thank you, TPD, that is exactly what I meant.

          I don’t think inclusivity is easily achieved, and the Church will constantly be challenged in that regard. Of course that’s where the gospel comes in.

          Interesting how angry it makes people, that God loves and wants us all.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      On a pragmatic note; if the church is comfortable excluding Bob today, they’ll be okay excluding someone else tomorrow. Might be you. Exclusionary attitudes are funny that way.

      Don’t forget the 80% critical mass of Groupthink. Once a group of people reach 80% agreement or commonality on something — anything — they close ranks and drive out the Heretics.

      • Final Anonymous says:

        Hadn’t heard of that but certainly bears out in many cases I can think of.

  36. Rick Ro. says:

    I look at the question “what hill am I willing to die on” in terms of this: if someone held a gun to my head and demanded I recant a certain belief, would I be unwilling to recant it? My opinion is that there are very few things God asks me to “die” for. Creation vs. evolution…no. Young earth vs. ancient earth…nope. Free will vs. predeterminism…naw. Full water immersion vs. sprinkling vs. baby baptism…no. The inerrant Bible vs. God-inspired Bible. Any and all those are things (and SO MANY MORE) I don’t feel God is asking me to stand fast on and die for.

    About the only hill I’d die on is this one: Jesus saves.

    It may sound clichéd and trite, maybe even oversimplified, but if pressed, I think that’s about the only belief/truth I’d die for. Jesus saves. I’m not sure how he saves, when he saves, if he saves only those who call him Savior or saves some other way…all I know for sure is that He saves.

    A second hill I’d die on (or maybe it’s part of the first hill) would be: In Christ alone.

    There are no qualifiers, no additional conditions to what Christ has done and what we need. I’d probably fight on that hill to the death, too. In fact, I tend to find myself battling against other Christians on THEIR hills when I see them fighting for “qualifiers” and “additional conditions.” (I think the iMonk community in general does this too, battling other Christians on their hills of “qualifiers and conditions.”)

    • Hi Rick,

      My original intent was intended a little more metaphorically, but your points are valid.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I understand, and I’ve certainly addressed the metaphorical hill idea in the past. I decided to approach it from a different (more “real”?) angle this time. My shift might’ve come because I hear so many Christians these days spouting how we need to draw metaphorical lines in the sand and circle the wagons and dig our trenches and plant the flag of Truth, thus becoming more “anti-world” and more “anti-culture.”

        When I think about it, the hill Jesus died on was one he was basically dragged to. If he’d died the traditional way (fighting for truth), he would’ve died swinging a sword in the garden and gone down in a blaze of glory and blood along his disciples. But Jesus’ life and death offers a different way to approach “letting truth be known.”

        • Rick, I think you have hit something important here. To mark a hill as a place to die fighting, and to mark a hill as a place to die sacrificially are two very different things.

          Perhaps the question should not be simply “what hill are you willing to die on,” but we must also be asking “how are you willing to die on that hill.” In the end, that answer could be just as important. Possible even more important. Worth meditating on that.

  37. Radagast says:

    So I take the intent of this being that for those who church hop, especially to different denominations these are doctrines you would not compromise on. Being Catholic there are a number of doctrines I would not compromise on, especially since I am not a cafeteria Catholic, but naming them specifically would only cause debate. And since all Catholic churches hold to the same doctrine well….

    Now if I was to jump over to EO… the next favorite tradition closest to my heart, then it would have to be the sign of the cross using the left hand… kidding of course.

    The Church is a big tent though, and there might be some practices I would not want to participate in. If I was to jump to the Protestant side then it would be the real presence in the Eucharist.

    • The Real Presence is it. That’s capital-B Big.

      I’m with your concommunicant Flannery O’Connor. If the Eucharist is symbolic, then to hell with it.

      That has nothing to do with racism or sexism or liberal or conservative or women or Negroes or who you sleep with or who you feel comfortable around or bishops or holy-rollers or tongues-talking.

      It isn’t even an opinion. It’s either Him or it isn’t Him.

      {just for your information, I routinely cross myself – right to left – when I pass in front of a Catholic church. Just in case}

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’m Catholic, and I cross myself left-to-right, Eastern-style. In my case, it’s because I’m very strongly left-handed and tend to mirror-image gestures in general.

    • Actually, it’s still the right hand for the EO too — but it is back’erds! (Right shoulder, then left.)

  38. “as the church’s attitudes towards women have turned many away from the faith.”

    Is that our standard though? If it turns people away? If that was the case, Jesus would have never had to ask Peter if he wanted to leave too?

    Egalitarianism may be the right thing, but base your stance on it because it is true, not because the other position turns some away.

    • Good point.

    • +1

    • “Egalitarianism may be the right thing, but base your stance on it because it is true, not because the other position turns some away.”

      It can’t be both?

      • No, it can’t be both. Logically speaking, if you really want to do what is right and good, you will do it even if it is unpopular, even if it brings persecution. Really, this has to be spelled out?

        • “Logically speaking”? I raise a Spockian eyebrow in your direction.

          Remember this is a post on what hill are you willing to die on. There are many things that I believe to be true that I don’t think are deal breakers. I mentioned in my post that I am not a Calvinist. Many of friends are. I have attended Calvinistic churches. The rightness or goodness of Calvinism or lack thereof is not a huge concern for me because I don’t think it is a gospel issue (unless you get into extreme Calvinism).

          For me, something has to be both true and consequential for me to take a stand.

  39. T.S.Gay says:

    When I brought up ecumenicalism early on in this post, I was talking about the same thing as Christiane( not only reconciling us to God, but also each other). And I definitely agree with Final Anonymous about being inclusive in every area he expressed. These points lead to ideas about rebuilding Christian societies. It is related to people being in a wilderness. I definitely believe Michael Spencer was always dancing around ideas that related to restructuring. And so have many here, changing church from a lecture hall to fellowship modeled after our Lord’s wedding supper.
    Why?…….because getting down to brass tacks, you need an schools, intellectual and cultural activities that engage people, gainful employment, and a williness to fight for your churches values in your culture. You are building a city on a hill, a colony of heaven on earth, a group that can be committed to each other, a Benedictine option, a family not about genetics, the kingdom of God. Why is it important to rebuild Christian society. Because the cultures of this world are continuing to deteriorate in regard to education, intellectual and cultural life, gainful employment, and alienation to Christian values.
    Why? “because our cultures are swimming in a darkness so readily visible it takes a work of supererogation to describe it. Whether we think of far flung conflicts, or the concentration of wealth, or the disparity between ability to increasingly produce and decreasing purchasing power, opposition between classes, two world wars and so many others in 100 years, the inability of capitalism to create employment except for when having periods of war, the thingification of man as a working power subject to the laws of the market, or the thingification of nature to be conquered and used, the prostitution of education to utilitarian ends, the corruption of politics through special interests, the irresponsible and vulgarization of the idea industries , of propaganda methods for influencing public opinion, of the decline of unitind symbols in both democracies and churches…….all these disruptions have caused a lack of depth and dignity in people, in which societal sadism and insensitivity to suffering and injustice are taken for granted, many are lost and lonely, fear and insecurity and lack of spiritual roots cause neurosis and cynicism, mental hygiene and psychiatric counseling become major institutions, a sense of personal insignificance is compensated in egregious group behavior in sports, clubs, and gangs, a spirit of self sufficient finitude prevails in churches and society, and a yearning for meaning because of man’s blunted relatedness to the creative depths”…..written by Paul Tillich in 1949.

  40. Deb4kids says:

    SNAKE HANDLING *shudders*


    88 comments and no one has mentioned this???

    You people clearly have no eccentric old Appalachian preacher-kin do you? 😉

  41. Sometimes, it might not be a specific issue, but more of a general mindset, a way of seeing the world, or perhaps, a way of thinking about God and what God is like. The church of my worst nightmare, and oldest prejudices, would be some kind of ultra-conservative/fundamentalist church, whose pastor speaks often of the damnation of Hell, in extensive, minute detail, and of the vast swathes of humanity who will burn there. (It’s not just the doctrine itself that abhors me, but the pernicious, obsessive delight with which my imaginary pastor proselytize on it, most Sundays, from his untouchable pulpit. Add to this, the church would exhibit a distrust of pleasure, and of art (a vicious, entrenched distrust of art), a skepticism about climate change, and a pre-millennialist eschatology that views creation as essentially rotten, and growing steadily more rotten until Christ’s return, and its oblivion.

    But as I think about this, my imaginary church becomes less frightening, and more hopeless, miserable, and saddening. If there is no joy, and no life, it seems to become less threatening – like chaff that the wind blows away. Its members are to be pitied, not feared. It dwindles in size, influence, goodness, grace, until all that is left are a few core members, clinging to something tightly, wearing each other down, until at last even they break apart and disappear.

    It may be that the kind of church that scares me most is not the barren place of my imagination, but one far closer to home, where some of these beliefs (all united by a rejection of the real, physical world in favour of something abstract and non-physical) are espoused by churches I know, and have felt affinity with in the past. Something is far scarier, and a betrayal is far worse, if it comes from closer to home, from one’s own people, not from the dehumanized other. If someone I thought was like me can preach and teach what I desperately hope is not the truth, who’s to say who the ‘right’ Christians are, any more?

    Recently, I have had some difficulty with a church that, in general, I have always liked. The Pastor has introduced a focus on hearing and interracting with the Holy Spirit, and on following his prompting. Most services , he encourages those who would like to, to come to the front for ministry. I DO NOT like getting out of my seat during a worship service, or sticking my head above the battlements in any significant way. Yet I will, almost without fail, feel a compulsion, a sense of duty, to go forward, and receive prayer. Is it the Holy Spirit guiding me? is it simply my own guilt, anxiety, and general neurotic personality? I haven’t asked the pastor about this question, but there’s a chance he might say it’s the HS. I really don’t want that to be true. So this whole issue has led to me to more-or-less leave this church. I have always frowned on other’s for leaving Church, without a good reason.

    The point of all this (I think), was to consider how it’s the issues that are closer to home, and the people we thought were like us, that might sometimes become hills that we’re willing to die upon. The Love Wins situation might have been a case of this; a respected, adored evangelical leader, who was for a time ‘in the fold’,so to speak, releases a book in which he seems questions one of our most tightly held beliefs. If he is capable of ‘heterodoxy’, then who can we trust?

    Hell, same-sex marriage, and biblical innerancy – these are three issues that, the evangelical church often seems to defend, whatever the cost.

  42. Ok, I’m not trying to be a party pooper here, but I am not comfortable using “hill on which to die” language when many of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are dying for their faith. And the fact alone seems to solidify this question in my mind. I would die for the Deposit of the Faith. But talking about American politico-theology on an un-monitored (we think), free American blog about hill dying just seems trivial. Ok, I’ll shut up and go back to sucking my lemon.

    • br. thomas says:


      It reminds of those in sports using phrases like “going to war” with another team, etc. – it’s just a game!

  43. Dana Ames says:

    This belongs more with a train of thought near the top, but I didn’t want it to get lost. I apologize ahead of time for the length.

    I’ve never really thought much about what hill to die on. Christians have killed one another for very trivial things, and I know I dodn’t want to be like *that*. In reading some of the stories of those we call Saints, it seems that some of them were killed simply because Jesus Is – and He has manifested himself in their lives, and that manifestation was evident to those around them, some of whom confessed Jesus on the spot because of them (the 40th martyr of the Theban Legion, for example). It’s a mystery to me, and makes me wonder at times if I could affirm that simple reality unto death.

    I agree with Miguel that things that are not “gospel issues” are “sin issues.” I say again that the question I asked some time around 1998, which led me on a very interesting journey and ultimately into the Orthodox Church, was “What does JESUS say is The Gospel, in the Gospels?” With that background, and the answer I found and further findings along my journey, I have come to regard the word “gospel” used as an adjective with suspicion. It’s becoming like the word “biblical” has become – in many, many instances, a cudgel with which to browbeat people. Most of the time I pay no attention, because tracing back what someone means when they use the term (if they give enough clues to even make that possible) inevitably leads to something that is not actually The Gospel.

    But what provoked a reply to the thread above was the idea, if I understand correctly, that “egalitarianism” is something new. Please remember that egalitarianism is NOT about “erasing differences.” It is true that many of the first Christian interpreters of scripture wrote and believed some things about women that could be labeled as a “patriarchal” view. However – and this is REALLY IMPORTANT – nowhere in the expressed liturgy or dogma of the Orthodox Church (this is **different** than simply “things those guys wrote”) are women seen as anything less than or other than Human Beings. And no Orthodox theologian has ever claimed, contrary to those today who give this argument as the ground for “complementarianism,” that the Son is subordinate to the Father in any way, shape or form, even during his time as a human on earth; this is Arianism, and it was long ago condemned as heresy. Therefore, none of the “things those guys wrote” (which can also be quoted out of context) counts as the official teaching of the Orthodox Church regarding the status of women. The only Official Teaching is what shows up in the Liturgy, and what from *that* has been defined as dogma. Believe me, I researched this quite a bit. It was the biggest potential stumbling block I had to work through on my way into Orthodoxy. I simply could not have entered if I had not found this to be the case. God knew that, and helped me find the heart of the matter, where I could actually rest.

    It is true that women are not ordained as priests or bishops, and nowadays as deacons (they were early on). The reason for this is not that women are sub-human or unworthy, or deceived, or whatever. The reason for this is that we have a Deposit of Faith, which includes scripture and also includes the teaching that was passed down from the apostles. What was passed down – and what was a continuation of Jewish practice, which holds a lot of weight with me – is that priests and bishops are particular males who have been called to and confirmed in that ministry. The vast majority of men aren’t priests and bishops. And women in the eastern church have done EVERYTHING else (both good and bad), on equal human and spiritual footing with men. Laypeople, nuns, and monks who are not priests have been spiritual fathers and mothers, sometimes better ones than priests and bishops (in the western church, too). There have been plenty of women martyrs, and women who announced the good news in such a way that they are called “equal to the Apostles.” To my knowledge, there is no codifying of “masculine” and “feminine” traits in the history of the Orthodox Church. (I have not found that in scripture, either, btw..) Everyone is called to follow Christ in Baptism and in the sacramental life of the Church, in continual repentance and askesis, with the ultimate end of being able to love like the Father loves, which was shown forth in the Son giving up his life for all.

    There are Orthodox who live in patriarchal cultures, especially in the “old country,” and have patriarchal attitudes. But those attitudes do not reflect what those people hear in Liturgy every Sunday (if they go to church). And good priests and bishops will deal with such wrong attitudes as they have the opportunity. Same for any other “sin issue” – including in our own culture.

    I’m a “big picture” kind of person, concerned with Meaning (but y’all didn’t know that, did you?….). The “complementarian” view to me focuses on the loose ends, with no integration and no meaning except to uphold a particular view of what scripture is for. What the Church Fathers wrote about is actually not the same thing. C’ism misses entirely the larger meaning involved in the questions of who God is and what God is up to with humans. To me, it is theologically deficient, it does not comport with how Jesus comported himself with women, and one has to do all kinds of mental contortions to believe all that nit-pickiness about roles, etc. (especially throughout all eternity!!!) is what God is really up to with humans. I affirm that sincere, Jesus-loving Christians can believe c’ism is correct; they are my brothers and sisters, and plenty are better Christians than I am.

    Simply put, the creational reason for the sexes (apart from reproductive capacity) is that **immediately** there is someone who is The Same And Yet Different Enough (but NOT in any way Less Than) whom we have to engage in Love and move toward in Union (mutatis mutandis, kind of like the Trinity). In the Orthodox Church, the worship-related reason is that everything in the church building, down to the architecture itself, is an icon of the Incarnation, the Union of the Visible with the Invisible, the non-material with the material, God with his creation – it all points to Jesus Christ as the ground and telos of everything. This is the basis of the peace and love in which men and women are called to live with one another. The Orthodox wedding service is the same for everyone – no “personalizing.” And there are no vows – the Sacrament of Marriage is the church enfolding and blessing and filling the ordinary human relationship, and we really do believe that love will keep the couple together. The epistle reading is Eph 5.21-33, and in the rest of the ceremony there is NO comment on it – the couple works this out however they work it out, in love.

    In terms of service in the church and home, if you are part of a church that does not have priests, there is plenty of scriptural justification 😉 for women and men being equally human and serving in any capacity for which the Holy Spirit has gifted a person. A hermeneutical case can be made for C’ism as well; again, it all comes down to interpretation. If your church has priests, but you don’t have a Deposit of Faith that includes the unbroken passing down of the teaching of the apostles, you have to wrestle with the ordination issue. For some Catholics, the ordination issue is a justice issue, and I understand why they see it that way. For Orthodox, it is not an issue; it has nothing to do with some value intrinsic to men that women somehow don’t have. In the Orthodox Church, the intrinsic value of all people as Human Beings is upheld theologically. “Egalitarianism” really is as old as Christianity.

    Finally, a quote from St Gregory of Nazianzus:
    “If there is a difference between the sexes, it is visible only in that men have a stronger, more vigorous body. As for the rest, the cultivation of virtue is the same; they march together on the road leading to life eternal, and in this no one has anything more than the other except the difference of his merit and his toil…” (Carminum LIber I, sec. II)


    • Sounds like you and Kh. Fredrica Matthews-Green (did I spell any of those names correctly?) have a lot in common as far as this subject goes.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Trevis, you got Green right 🙂

        Yes, except that Kh. Frederica actually describes “masculine traits” and “feminine traits” in a way that I think is more culturally understood than theological – thinks men are attracted to Orthodoxy because it’s more challenging, disciplined and rigorous than other paths, and that women don’t cotton to the theology as much. She might disagree with me on that, but I haven’t talked to her personally; I only have her writings and podcasts to go by. I find it interesting that she herself was drawn by the challenge, discipline, rigor and theology. For me, though I was raised Catholic and “spoke the language” re smells & bells and an ascetical way of looking at things, I had been Protestant for 30 years, and it was a theological journey to Orthodoxy all the way for me. My husband wants no part of it, at least so far. So we both are exceptions to her “rule.”


    • Excellently written, nuanced, informative comment. I’m an egalitarian, and the justification for why the priesthood is a male occupation seems fair and wise to me.

      The idea of ‘the deposit of faith’, and its uses and instructions, is one I shall hope to consider more, especially in matters of authority, tradition, and the meaning and use of the bible


    • I don’t see any answers here from the female side. That is disappointing. It is to be expected that most men will find the view that the priesthood is a male (only) occupation to be reasonable — not because men are smug or arrogant, but because tradition naturally makes us accept things “the way they’ve always been done,” until we have a very strong and usually personal reason to do otherwise.

      When I was young, I accepted that only men could be ministers, doctors, judges, pilots, and so forth: that’s just the way things were. I remember still what a shock the women’s movement was to me: the thought that a woman *could* do such things was beyond “liberating.”

      Now women are doctors, judges, and yes, some of us are even ministers. But the men-only attitude which medical schools and law schools and so forth no longer try to justify on logical grounds, still remains justified on theological grounds in some areas of Christianity (and Judaism and let’s not even talk about Islam!)

      If I had a magic wand and could make all branches of Christianity egalitarian, I would not wave that wand. It’s clear that the Orthodox and Catholics and Protestant fundamentalist women like things the way they are. If they don’t like it; they leave, because Western Christian women now have choices. For that, I rejoice.

      • Dana Ames says:

        H. Lee,

        I am a woman. I went to great lengths above to show how Orthodoxy is different than Protestant fundamentalism in this matter, and actually is egalitarian in theology.


  44. Lets see here. At 18, I left the church I was born into because they weren’t very accepting of my newer evangelical beliefs. It was the Jesus freak era and I was sure they were all hypocrites. At 23 I left a church because they preached against all those Spirit filled, tongues speaking folks. As someone who also participated in the charismatic renewal, I was obviously unwelcome. A few years later I left another church, because they made it abundantly clear that they really were not interested in anyone except the “young marrieds.” I was single and tired of having my Sunday school teachers yanked to start yet another young married class.

    A few years later, I returned to the church where I started, figuring at least in a UMC it should be safe to think for myself, and even speak my mind, even though I am a woman. It was good for a long time, but recently it seems like our open minded, accepting and loving church is being hijacked by those who would turn it into an evangelical powerhouse, if only all these old free thinking types would get with the program. Yes, in the meantime I’ve become a post-evangelical. I understand what they are saying, I just don’t want to go back to something the Lord has led me out of.

    I honestly believe we would all be better off if we concentrated on whatever Jesus has called us to be and do, instead of trying to convince others of the rightness of our beliefs. I try to love all those who call Jesus their Lord and Savior. It’s a very tall order when they want to exclude you. I’d rather be a lover than a fighter, especially over theology and doctrine. That said, when you are being attacked over little things you say, to the point where you no longer feel you can open your mouth, it becomes hard to feel you are part of a loving community. At this point I am fighting for the remnants of my loving community.

  45. Vega Magnus says:

    Off-topic, but reportedly, World Vision has lost support for 10,000 kids. But at least the progressives won their little theopolitical slap fight. This whole debacle is an utter embarrassment for all involved. Neither side of the Christio-political spectrum really “won” anything.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      What I mean by the progs winning is that they successfully showed those gay-haters how angry they are. By removing financial support from starving kids. I usually don’t get upset by all of the crap I read about on places like here and WW, but this is just infuriating.

    • I have seen that number thrown around today, but it mostly seems to be progressives claiming that it was ten thousand conservatives who pulled the support, and I haven’t seen a source for it. It seems like you’re saying it was the progressives who pulled support, or some of both? I would love to see a link that spells this out with some clarity, as it’s a serious allegation either way.

      • Vega Magnus says:

        That was an overreaction on my part. Logically, it is a mix of both progs and cons who pulled their support, although I have seen nothing saying specifically either way. That is why I said both sides look bad from this. Both sides likely pulled support for a charity because of political bickering, thereby hurting disadvantaged people in poor nations as a direct result of the Kulture Wars, Komrade.

    • Yes, you are right, it is off topic.

  46. Let’s see, the only reason I have ever left a church is….

    Jesus-the-drifting-invisible-cloud theology.

    Actually not really any mention of Jesus at all to speak of. When pressed, no one really acknowledged that Jesus was an actual human being with significance for the current life of the Church. It was all fuzzy bunny spirituality of God-in-my-heart.

    I foamed at the mouth for awhile, then peaced out. There are other hills I would die on, but I haven’t been put to the for them yet.

    • “put to the test…yet.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Jesus-the-drifting-invisible-cloud theology.

      Actually not really any mention of Jesus at all to speak of. When pressed, no one really acknowledged that Jesus was an actual human being with significance for the current life of the Church. It was all fuzzy bunny spirituality of God-in-my-heart.

      Fluffy Cloud Gnosticism. Like the George Carlin “WELLLLCOME TO LIIIIIMBOOOOO…”

  47. Josh in FW says:

    Mike, I’m not sure what all your definition of egalitarianism includes. I get the feeling that many commenters here consider complementarianism as a synonym for misogyny. Despite growing up in Traditions that would be considered complementarian, I don’t ever recall witnessing the abuses so often quoted as the norm on this blog. I grew up thinking that the word complementarian was an adjective for the middle of the road balanced folks, unlike the fundamentalists that considered men superior to women. I’ve since learned that this is a very loaded term, but I’ve been unable to find a useful vocabulary for this discussion. Does being an egalitarian mean that there should be no gender roles at all? Do the Catholic and Orthodox Traditions fall into the complementarian description because they do not have female Priests or Bishops even though they do have Nuns? Is there an overlap between the egalitarian and complementarian spectrums?

    One of the very important lessons I’ve learned on this blog is how limited my knowledge and experience of the variety in Christianity actually is. These are honest questions from a guy in his late 30s that often feels like a teenager at the adult table when reading the comments here.

    • I think “complementarianism” is one of the many polysyllabic evangelical jargon words (dispensationalist bla bla bla) that has very little meaning outside that subculture even though the dictionary definition would suggest it should be meaningful across the board. I think it carries baggage, in other words, beyond the definition of the word. It also has “guilt by association” with various personalities.

      Technically what the Catholic Church teaches about sex and gender could be considered “complimentarian” but because it doesn’t have the same subcultural baggage, it seems outside the “comps vs egals” debate somehow.

      • Josh in FW says:

        This makes sense.

      • And let us consider the (probably) snarky question of John Donne: “Why hath the Common Opinion afforded Women soules?”

        He talks in this short essay about why “we” men are so generous as to allow the possibility that women have souls, and concludes, “wee have given women soules only to make them capable of Damnation?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think “complementarianism” is one of the many polysyllabic evangelical jargon words (dispensationalist bla bla bla) that has very little meaning outside that subculture…

        It also has the long impressive-sounding-but-meaningless rhythm of Psychobabble and Marxspeak. Lotsa Big Words to make the eyes glaze over. Except for the fire in the eyes of the Party Commissar completely wrapped up in Ideology.

    • “I get the feeling that many commenters here consider complementarianism as a synonym for misogyny.”

      I wouldn’t agree with this at all. There are a number of complementarians on here. While I may disagree I think that most commenters on here say the the complementarians on this site have sincerely held beliefs that have no component of hate at all.

    • Dana Ames says:


      when you were growing up, the issue had not yet been made into “a hill to die on” by certain complementarians. Since then, some who, I think, are afraid of loss of a particular view of “scriptural authority,” have added to the tenets one must believe to be a Christian. In addition, c’ism still fit into the broad cultural paradigm for what was regarded “male” and “female,” even on this side of the ’60s.

      Roles are for actors. The only activities particular to each sex have to do with reproduction, and hormonal influences, but we are not our hormones, and there are some caveats. Only women can bear children, but some women are not good mothers. Only men can contribute the germ cell needed to get life started in the woman, but some men are not good fathers. Traits are culturally defined and are fluid within each sex. The reason there is not useful vocabulary is that people tend to totalize, for whatever reasons, and don’t deal with reality as it actually is.

      There is an overlap between c’ism and e’ism. It’s called living in Kindness toward one another. Among c’ians, it is usually manifested as living as functional e’ians (which hard-core gender essentialists c’ians decry).

      Thank you for wrestling with this.


  48. The Hill worth dying on?

    Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture as a result of this
    Virgin birth of Jesus
    Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin
    Bodily resurrection of Jesus
    Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

  49. I hope I would be willing to die for Jesus’ words recorded in the four gospels. I hope.

  50. dumb ox says:

    If World Vision had rejected the tennants of the Nicean Creed, what then? Would that be grounds to withhold donations to feed hungry children?

    Where I’m going with that is this: to what extent has the means become the end for evangelicals? How many churches, organizations or universities started out as gospel-focused missions to eventually become merely philanthropic service organizations? This has happened far more often than parachurch organizations abandoning the cultural war. I whole-heartedly believe proclaiming the gospel is more than speaking words, but where is the line crossed where a ministry goes from proclaiming Christ to merely doing nice things?

    • For myself, I gave up World Vision after “my” latest kid in Ghana aged out of the program. They sent me another picture of a young boy in Africa, but I told them I was resigning. (This was months before the same-sex kerfluffle.)

      I didn’t immediately say why I was resigning, but someone from WV called me and asked about it, and I admitted that part of my reason was/is that the CEO of WV makes $320,000 a year, according to Charity Navigator. Now, if the CEO of a for-profit international organization made that much, I wouldn’t be surprised, but for the CEO of a charity? I couldn’t swallow it.

      The CEO of the Salvation Army, another international non-profit, makes about $70,000 a year. That seems reasonable and moderate to me; it’s reputedly what Billy Graham accepted from his ministry.

      • See this is where the “but kids are going to lose out because you pulled funding!” argument falls apart for me. If we’re going there JUST because of the kids, and not because of the gay issue, then it’s not acceptable to pull funding for ANY reason. And, by the same measure, the overpaid CEO is taking away $250,000 from needy kids every year, making him a worse offender against the needy than all those who pulled funding over this gay thing combined!

        I don’t buy that the righteous outrage over the pulled funding is “about the kids” at ALL, because of exactly this.

        (FWIW I completely agree with your decision, and my choice of which charities to support is very much based on efficiency ratings and the executives not being overpaid. It is good stewardship.)

    • I believe this is straying off topic as well.