In January 2011, comic Louis C.K. helped explain first world problems:
“We have White People Problems in America. That’s what we have. White People Problems. You know what that is? That’s where your life is amazing, so you just make s*** up to be upset about. People in other countries have real problems, like, “They’re cutting off all our heads today.” Things like that. Here, we make things up to be upset about. Like, “How come I have to choose a language on the ATM machine? This is bull****. I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m American.”
Now the FirstWorldProblems meme is pretty much everywhere. It is both funny and sad to watch people show such a complete and utter lack of perspective about life; to complain that their airplane wi-fi is not working properly, or that their power is out for an hour, or that their expensive new rug does not match their expensive new flooring, etc.
In the past few days, I have witnessed a variety of often vitriolic and hateful blogger wars in the Christian nets . (I linked to IM on most of those because they do a pretty decent job of avoiding the majority of the hatred and mean-spiritedness). Not included: an unbelievable Facebook rant, involving even some Christian Bible college professors, arguing politics hatefully to fellow believers.
All I could think of when reading the majority of these posts was, #FirstWorldTheologyProblems. Christian blogging all too often becomes the “white whine” of theology. We privileged, educated, comfortable, born-again Christians simply don’t have the real problems that other Christians have, and so we spend our time narrowly carving out our detailed systematic theologies and damning all of those who disagree as heretics.
Old Earth Creationists call Young Earth Creationists stupid; in return the YEC say that the OEC don’t take the Bible seriously. Calvinists complain that Arminians don’t really understand God’s sovereignty and make Him too small; Arminians say that Calvinists don’t understand God’s love and make us all robots. Complementarians and egalitarians argue about how much authority a woman should have in the church and home. Preterists call the futurists close-minded; futurists call the preterists heretical. Republican Christians call the Democrat Christians socialists; the Democrats say that Republicans have no heart for the poor.
These are First World Theology problems, people. The vast majority of the world does not believe in the basic essentials of Christianity, and we are arguing over every nit we can pick. Read Paul and Peter’s ministries again, and what you will see is a focus on “Christ, and Him crucified”: a focus on teaching basic Gospel unity, of fighting only against the major and destructive heresies which can destroy the entire faith. It is Augustine’s old, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty” statement, yet again being missed by the Church at large.
Do I have opinions on the above-linked items? Of course! Will I discuss them? Sure! Will I get fired up and angry (as some did in the above discussions), or dismissive and mean (as did others)? Nope. Because these are first-world theology problems. I do not say such discussions are unimportant; simply that they are relatively unimportant. Losing your power in your house for an hour is inconvenient, but not nearly as much as failing to have electricity at all in the third world. The same is true of these theologies: disagreements on these issues should be inconvenient or irritating, not divisive. Compared to the massive problems we have in the Church and the unbelieving world, they are unimportant: we need to be focused on the more basic, fundamental, lack of faith in the vast majority of our world.
The house is burning down, and those of us who are safely in the fire truck are arguing whether the truck is red or magenta.
I do not plan on doing so: I hope to go back in and help those who are still in the house out into safety. Will you join me?
Let us save our energy for focusing on the true essentials of the faith. How can we teach the lost these essentials, and help the saved to understand these essentials and grow in their knowledge of them? Let me repeat the twenty-five key doctrines of Christianity, according to the early church (33-450 AD):
1. We believe that all people (Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free) can be followers of Christ.
2. We believe that Gentile converts are not bound by the Mosaic Law.
3. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty.
4. We believe that God created all things that are visible or invisible.
5. We believe Jesus Christ, the Lord, is the only Son of God.
6. We believe Jesus was not made by God but begotten by Him.
7. We believe Jesus Christ is God just as the Father is God.
8. We believe Jesus is made of both the same substance of God and the same substance of Man.
9. We believe Jesus was truly fully man and truly fully God simultaneously, possessing a soul and a physical body.
10. We believe the two natures of Jesus were inseparably combined in the same person, not parted or divided, nor was nature one superior to the other.
11. We believe that all things made by the Father were made through the Christ.
12. We believe that Jesus was made incarnate in human flesh and became a man.
13. We believe that Jesus was born to Mary, a Virgin.
14. We believe that Mary was the Theotokos, and truly bore God in her womb.
15. We believe that Jesus became man in order to bring us our salvation.
16. We believe that Jesus lived a life like us in all ways except that He did so without committing sin.
17. We believe that Jesus suffered and was crucified at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
18. We believe that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day.
19. We believe that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
20. We believe that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead and establish an everlasting kingdom.
21. We believe in the Holy Ghost who speaks through the prophets.
22. We believe that the Holy Ghost is the Lord and is rightly worshipped with the Father and the Son.
23. We believe in a holy, universal Church.
24. We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.
25. We believe in a resurrection of the dead, and eternal life.
These twenty-five doctrines are taught in Scripture and tradition, and are the boundaries within which all of our theologies must remain. If you truly believe in the above, then you are my brother or sister in Christ and I will worship with you for all eternity, regardless of manifold other differences between us. If you do not agree with the above, then you are not a Christian and are not following the teachings of Jesus.
And to all of my fellow bloggers…can we please dial down the outrageous statements and the resulting offendedness? Can we instead all work together on these twenty-five things which actually matter to the eternal population of the Kingdom of God? Then after we get these things settled, we can focus on the other stuff.