What do you mean ‘required?’

Yes, another post concerning abolitionism and local church membership. But this will be a quick one – hopefully.

Here is a quick assessment:

Most on the side of abolitionism feel that they are being told that in order to be a Christian they must be an active member of a local congregation (on the church rolls, under lawful ecclesiastical governance, gathering regularly, etc.).

Non-abolitionists feel that they are being told that in order to be a Christian they must be an abolitionist (supporting abolitionist legislation, agitating the culture of death, providing assistance to those in need, exhorting others to do the same, etc.)

Now, it is my humble opinion that a few  folks on both sides are guilty of promoting this type of thinking – that, in order to be a Christian, we must do x or y. This sort of thinking is, obviously, entirely contrary to their doctrine of justification and salvation – that these are accomplished by faith alone (justification) and grace alone (salvation), all being a work of God.  None of these individuals would ever explicitly deny these doctrines, but often what we do not deny explicitly we may deny implicitly.

We need to be clear about what we are saying. We also need to be patient, gracious, and charitable with one another.

In order to be a Christian, am I required to be actively involved in the institutional church? Am I required to be an active abolitionist? The answer is no. In order to be a Christian I must repent and receive Christ’s righteousness by faith. Having been united to Christ, am I now required to submit to biblical leadership and seek justice for my neighbor? Depends on what you mean by ‘required’- and this is what makes this conversation so tricky.

We have to be clear with our words, and we must be patient and charitable with our brothers and sisters. Am I required to do these things in order to stay a Christian? Or am I required to do this things because I am a Christian? It is my suspicion that there are few, if any, that would affirm the former rather than the latter. The problem is that we, not so surprisingly, are not consistent in applying our affirmations to our lives, speech, and interactions.


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