“Have you been saved” is a common question that Liberty students ask one another along with what their name is and what they are studying. Yes, Liberty students do care about each other’s personal salvation in Christ, a little too much in my opinion. Kevin Roose found this to be a little daunting at first when every Liberty student that he met asked him the “have you been saved” question. Growing up in the deep South I was asked this question quite often and found it to be bothersome, nosey, rude, and encroaching on my personal beliefs that was not meant to be other people’s concern. If you answered, “No, have not been saved”, “I am not an Evangelical Christian”, or “I am not a Christian” that was giving the go ahead to the person that I was talking to try and “save” me and making it there personal mission to do so.
As Kevin quickly learned Evangelical Christians, or the ones at Liberty, have a narrow definition of what a Christian is. According to Evangelicals a Christian is anyone who has been “saved” by Christ, as in born again Christian. If you tell them that you are a Christian but not an Evangelical Christian, then you are simply not a Christian. Many Christian denominations have this belief that if you are not a part of them you are not really a Christian but sort of a Christian and there are those Christians who are simply not Christian due to misguided theology and unanimous decision making by most Christian traditions. This is based off of history (reformations, schisms and Church councils), the acceptance of the Creeds (created by Church councils), and Christological theology (theology on Christ’s nature according to the Creeds). I for one, being a high Church Christian, find it laughable that Evangelicals are so quick to dismiss the Christian authenticity of traditional Protestant, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Churches. Why do I find it laughable? Well, when there is a Christian tradition that is not quite 200 years old declaring that they are the only true Christians (Evangelical Christianity) and that other traditions that are any where from 500-2,000 years old are not Christian, well, there is a problem. When Evangelicals refuse to believe that Orthodox Christians (the Ancient Faith) are not true Christians, they are refusing to believe that early Christians were true Christians, the same goes for their view of the Catholic Church as well. They are also denying the historical teachings on Christ’s nature, the authenticity of the Creeds, their belief in the Creeds, and out right denying the Church Councils that formed Christianity into what it was for hundreds of years until the Great Schism (falling out between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches), Protestant Reformation, and other minor falling outs between the various Orthodox Churches along the way. Regardless, the Creeds and Church Councils have shaped what these churches teach and believe. As far as I am concerned the Evangelical Church basis it’s belief off of the Bible and throws out the historical teachings that are an integral part of many churches and most of Christianity. Why is this important? Because the Councils and the Creeds have developed the criteria of what is a heresy and what isn’t, who is a Christian and who isn’t.
With my rampage about the authenticity of Evangelical Christianity over, I would know like to focus on the Evangelical idea of being “saved”. In Evangelical thought being “saved” is the same as conversion but their idea of conversion is different than in other churches. Conversion is thought of as being “born again” in the experience of finding Christ and receiving salvation. It can also be thought of as spiritual rebirth in that the person who is “born again” previously misunderstood the meaning of Christ’s message and now has acquired full meaning of the Gospel. How I think of this is like this: a person gets baptized in the hope that they are ably to live by Christ’s word but they later realize, after baptism, that they have not been living by Christ’s word and they make a full hearted effort to live by His word. In the case of a Christian coming from outside of the Evangelical Church, being “born again” requires one leaving their former Church, going the Evangelical Church, and realizing the Evangelical Church is the true way in Christ. Being “saved” or “born again” is a requirement in the Evangelical Church to be a Christian.
As for being “saved”, well I have a few questions. Can a person be “saved” more than once? Does being “saved” happen every single time one admits to their sins? I think these are excellent questions to ask. The reason I ask this is because in The Unlikely Disciple the students at Liberty and Liberty University are in the belief that being “saved” only happens once. Or at least that is how being “saved” is described in the book. If being “saved” only happens once, they I have a problem with the teaching. Why do I have a problem with this? Well, if a person is “saved”only once that means that they have been forgiven for all sins that they have commit in the past and future without being forced to reckon with their future sins. To me this is like giving the go-ahead to sin all you want but as long as you have been “saved” then you don’t have to worry about going to hell. Following Christ means that you realize that you are continuously sinning and that you have to reckon with your sins and if you don’t reckon with your sins, then, well, your going to hell. Walking with Christ is a journey in trying to over come sin. One can be baptized and forgiven for past sins but if one keeps sinning they are not forgiven unless they confess their sins or recognize that they continue to sin and ask for forgiveness.
I have many problems with Evangelical Christianity concerning their attitude to other Christians, their theology, and their hold over conservative politics. But, I have to learn how Evangelicals think to understand how they think about and view the world around them. And I also love learning about other Christian traditions, too. So why not?