Why So Many Versions of Christianity?

This post is more or less a follow up of the previous post discussing the differences between Christian sects. I have been thinking lately about why there are so many versions of God and in particular Jesus’ Church. The more I study theology the more versions of Jesus I seem to come across. There are more than 35,000 different Christian sects out there now and each one thinks their version of Jesus is the “real” one and all the others have it to varying degrees wrong. I think that almost everyone wants a version of Jesus that they feel the most comfortable with. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Jesus did not come to the earth to make us comfortable. He said as much when he told us that we must all bear our crosses. I don’t know how to discern who the real Jesus is? Everyone says their Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible but they can’t all be right. How can we tell if our version of God is the real one? -We really can’t for sure. Some say “study the Bible” but that is what they all say they do? I believe almost all versions of God are man made and it has become too difficult for the average person to discern which one is real. I am currently perplexed by this issue.  

Here are some tabbed thoughts on how I think we might pick our personal version of God:

  • We migrate to the version of God that we need to validate our individual worldview.
    • If we are humble we migrate to a god that appreciates humility.
    • If we are prone to arrogance we migrate to a all powerful god who chooses us over many others.
    • If we feel guilty about how we live our lives we migrate to a god who will forgive us no matter what we have done.
    • If we are poor we migrate to a god who will make us rich in the next life.
    • If we have deep compassion for others we migrate to a god who tells us to serve others.
    • If we are greedy we latch onto a god who minimizes giving to others and maximizes individual accountability.
    • If we change our worldview due to personal experiences we look for another version of god to validate our new worldview. 
  • We migrate to a version of God who we need to mentor us in this life. Some say they need no mentors; some need very strong mentors.
  • We migrate to a version of God given to us by our ancestry. We don’t often change our version of God except when our current worldview is seriously disrupted. 
  • There are some people who need to have a close friendship with their God and there are others who want a God that is less details and more of a high level God. 
  • We seem to constantly re-invent our God to fit our changing worldview. 

This problem of different versions of God exploded exponentially after Luther and the Reformation. But maybe I have also fallen into this trap with my belief that we should all seek to know God on a personal level. Maybe I am inventing a God to fit my own worldview? Sometimes I think we should just go back to the original version and forget the rest. They had disagreements in the early church, for instance the Corinth church, but they worked them out instead of splitting. But then again, who is the original version of the church?

Doing church vs. Doing Discipleship

This is a continuation of my personal reflections on the world and where I might fit into it.

 Is doing “church” separate from doing discipleship? Let’s investigate that question. I have always assumed that the two were actually the same but recently I have come across a couple of definitions of church that seem to separate the two practices.

Here is a definition of “church” from Greg Ogden in his book Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ: ” The church is a caring community, a serving, studying, praying, healing community. But what is the fundamental purpose of the church? If it is true that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then fundamentally the church is a worshiping community”.

Is it possible that doing church and doing discipleship are indeed be two different things? Do we have one group of Christians who form our worshipping community and another, for those of us who are so inclined, to reach beyond our door out into the world. My church is certainly strong in worshipping God and they do it very well!

I don’t know if that is common to most Christians or not. I may certainly perceive this wrong and I hope this doesn’t come off as judging, but it seems that my church mainly wants to do the usual things: worship service, Bible studies, church dinners and of course a full menu of committee meetings. But many members just don’t seem to have as strong an interest in the poor and down trodden that I do.

Don’t get me wrong, we do have outreach but never enough for my satisfaction. This year we have done or will do several projects in our community. We are perhaps more engaged than many churches in our area but never enough for me . It is usually only a small core of members actually participate in these activities and they are almost always one-time events, not an on-going thing that requires day-to-day commitments.

My discipleship work takes me around the community and, at least monetarily, around the world. I give my time and financial support to a local homeless shelter, a regional food bank, the Salvation army and a couple of international “feed the poor” organizations and even a Christian organization focused primarily on political issues. In the past it has bothered me that my “church” members don’t seem to share the same commitment in the things that I have passions for.

 I used to get upset about this but I am now learning to chill out somewhat now. That is just the way it is I guess. My pastor keeps telling me that I may not be aware of what others are doing and spending their time on. Maybe they are committed to a day-to-day discipleship activity but I am not aware of it? I know that I am a retired old white guy who now has the time to spend on discipleship things. Maybe, actually probably, I am being too harsh on others who do not share my enthusiasm for such things. I also have more time to read the Bible and as a result I hear Jesus “screaming” that loving your neighbor is where he wants us to be. No one, including me, ever seems to be able to do enough! At least the need never seems to be even remotely quenched.

 In summary, is doing church and doing discipleship the same thing. In a perfect world they would be but given the reality of our times they are not the same today. Christians today are just not that homogeneous anymore (if they ever were). We seem to concentrate on only our personal limited versions of both these topics.

Being a political “Social Conservative” and a Christian??

I am going to keep this post very short but I would like to hear anyone’s views on whether being a Christian and a social conservative are compatible. I am only talking about social conservatives not fiscal or conservatism in general. If Jesus were here today would He be labeled a social conservative? I personally can’t begin to imagine that but would like to hear from anyone who thinks it is a possibility.