Abstract: We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ has a mission to build bridges of grace to the religious. Instead of being knowledge-focused, we must be love-focused and grace-focused. God gives us the faith and the knowledge to break through the judgemental attitudes of the legalist.
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Grace-focused vs. knowledge-focused
by Aramus Crane, 2003
In Romania there is a great battle being waged between knowledge-focused and love-focused Christianity like it was in America in our generation. I think it coincided in the US with the 60's civil rights and the 70's love generation--not that we want to resurrect the violence or "free-sex"!!!
On one side, you have those who believe that what is most important is what you know. If you know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, then you will get to Heaven. It doesn't matter if that is the Way you follow as long as you mentally assent to the idea. You will here these people say, "The other denominations are not Christian because they don't think like we do." (One pastor friend responded (and I agree) that their "knowledge" is not Bible-based.)
On the other side are the love-focused. They believe that all who love the Lord above all else are saved. You are in the family of God based on whom you are following. They accept believers of all denominations. They love their knowledge-focused brothers but often don't accept their ideas. Since this is most important for the knowledge-focused brother, the love is not reciprocated.
I will take a stab at apologetics and hope to explain why the knowledge-focused theology is unscriptural, harmful, and repeatedly a failure in society after society.
Why is there a need for this
discussion? From the seat of a middle-to-upper class
American white female, one probably wouldn't even have considered the
question relevant until 9/11. The churches in the USA have
basicly rediscovered their biblical roots with some notable
exceptions--pockets of legalistic prejudism. The time of change
coincided with the civil rights movements of the 60's and the love
generation of the 70's. Christians born in that era grew in a
culture very different from the World War years of their parents.
The racist, sexist, religious churches died
The Campus Crusade's (CCC) "4 Spiritual Laws" represents our theology well when it says, "Accepting Jesus means to turn from self to God... It is not enough to agree, from an intelectual point of view, with the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for our sins and neither is it to have a special emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, through an act of our will." (translated from page 9, emphasis mine) I commend CCC for their faithfulness to the Scriptures. Would you agree?
However, America is a mission sending country and that makes
all the difference in the religious climate. The missionaries
that are sent from any country more religious than their home country
as a whole. Sociological studies give us the etiology of this
phenomenon: the more religious and legalistic a group is, the
more money and resources go to mission works--the Mormons, Jehovah's
Witnesses, and the Brethren (people I had never met in
America). Their beliefs may be vastly different as
these three will argue they are, but their degree of religious fervor
The love-focused revolution is more visible in the countries where these religious zealots are now being presented with the Gospel of God's grace. People are leaving the knowledge-focused legalistic groups en masse, and this has drawn the retribution of those faithful to their cause towards me and AoG and Evangelical Free missionaries.
God prefers a love-focus.
Jesus's first commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30) The second is to "love your neighbor as yourself."(v. 31) I just noticed that a scribe affirms the truth of Jesus's words. A knowledge-focused person would consider Nicodemus saved for agreeing to Jesus' theology, but does Jesus? No. He says, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Deciding to actually follow Jesus in these commandments is how one enters the Kingdom for the blood of Jesus covers the times he strayed. (I John 1:7) And we all stray. (Romans 3:23, I John 1:7-10) No works could ever earn you a place in the Kingdom.(Ephesians 2:8-9) Other Scripture confirms that salvation comes by a change of "heart", the Greek symbol for "will".(I John 1:6; 2:3; 3:24; 5:1-5, 11-12, 18; Luke 9:23-24; Matthew 7:21-23 19:16-26; Mark 8:34-35; II Timothy 2:11-12 ) There is no place in the Holy Scriptures where it is stated that you are saved by correct thinking, in fact we saw that Jesus refutes this.
The knowledge one needs is that you come to saving faith by loving the Lord above all else and accepting His blood sacrifice for your sins. The results are knowledge and works as love motivates you to read His Word and obey. If not, your faith is dead. (James 2)
Society prefers love to knowledge.
Because knowledge-focused theology is not supported in Scripture, it is harmful. First, the more man becomes religious, the harder it is to humbly admit his error and turn back. Someone who thinks he is saved does not want to listen to the Gospel. It is much easier to bring an agnostic to Christ than a Moslem, Mormon, or legalist. Misleading them with knowledge-focused doctrine hardens the heart. Secondly, making peoples believe that they can follow any path they want as long as they know Jesus is the right path, makes someone believe and confess that they are Christian while they indulge in sin. This offends God, ruins the witness, does no good for the individual, and harms the economy, society, family, and self. Thus, this belief-system is a stumbling block that should be corrected from the pulpit.
A person is not generally attracted to others because they are intelligent. However, one is attracted to people who love him. Take marriage, for example--a timely subject for one like me, about to approach the altar. Few women marry a man because he is smart but because he pays attention to her and makes her feel loved. Men are even less attracted to smart women because of the male ego. (In fact, statistics show that marriages where the woman has more education are more likely to end in divorce.) Knowing this, God commands a wife to love with her works and, likewise, the man to love his wife (Ephesians 5:22,25), not to increase in knowledge. Knowing each other comes with time and loving care. Consider the workplace, too. Studies show that intelligence is less likely to please a supervisor than good interpersonal skills. (Emotional Intelligence. Goleman D.) As I experienced in my master's programs, even success in academia (the sacred halls of knowledge) is more dependent on making your advisors feel important and loved than on how much you learn. So, you see, in all of the secular world love is much more attractive than knowing the right thinks. Even in Christian life, degreed pastors with poor interpersonal skills are not as successfull in building a following than are loving yet misled ones. This largely explains the phenominal success of the Mormons.
Church growth prefers love to knowledgeAs the pharisees did not gather the following that Jesus's love did (which caused jealousy on their part), as the Reformist drew the faithful away from the Catholic church by preferring serving the poor over building expensive cathedrals (which caused the Catholic church to respond jealously with the Inquisition), as Mormons attract the outcast and as the Western church has matured from legalistic assemblies to loving ones, so loving groups that reach out and serve will grow while legalistic groups must resort to threats, terrorism, and giving money donated by compassionate foreign churches (note Romania) or die out (note Italy).
What this means to our
ministries: Some missionaries and missions that are still doing
things as they did in prior generations will oppose us even though they
might be from a church that carries an evangelical or Protestant
name. This is why I must go underground in Italy. They will
resist the return to the Gospel of grace. I have already suffered
slander and lies as the maffia has tried to strangle the Kingdom
growth. We must not get
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