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Do not create unnecessary stumbling blocks to Christian faith

Do not create unnecessary stumbling blocks to Christian faith

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

In my opinion, one of the absolute biggest mistakes that Christians make occurs when, in the midst of sharing their faith, they include an unnecessary stumbling block as part of the essential package.

To be sure, mere Christianity has its share of genuine and non-negotiable stumbling blocks. Among them, I would suggest, are doctrines of sin, judgment, incarnation, atonement, general resurrection, and so on. The mistake comes when we present additional doctrinal demands into our presentation of mere Christianity, additional demands which constitute wholly unnecessary stumbling blocks for entry into Christian faith. Here is a partial list:

  • Hell as eternal conscious torment
  • The unconditional election of a subset of the population to salvation (i.e. Calvinism)
  • Historical readings of particularly troublesome biblical violence passages (e.g. 1 Samuel 15)
  • Theories of a young earth, global flood, and/or the non-evolutionary origin of life
  • Dispensational readings of Revelation with a special attention to the modern nation-state of Israel
  • Inerrantist/literalist readings of the Bible

Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445) famously referred to his Christian commitment as a “faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” While clearly hyperbolic, that mantra does provide an excellent starting point for keeping the main thing the main thing.

So which stumbling blocks are truly essential and which are not? To be sure, there is no universal agreement on precisely where that line is to be drawn. And you may ultimately disagree with my assessment by concluding that one or more of 1-6 do indeed belong within its confines.

Fair enough, I would simply ask you to consider carefully what your list of stumbling blocks is. And always be sure not to include more stumbling blocks than is necessary

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta, where he has taught since 2003. He blogs at randalrauser.com and lectures widely on issues of theology, Christian worldview, and apologetics. Randal is the author of many books including his latest, What's So Confusing About Grace?

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