A few days ago, a friend sent me an article titled, “10 Beliefs Christians Have That Really Mess Us Up.” I read through the article and then clicked over the the author\’s “About Me” page, curious about his background and credentials. As it turns out, the author, Phil Drysdale, claims no formal training in theology or Scripture; he says he\’s just a regular guy who\’s not afraid to ask tough questions. He says, “If what I’m standing on is a solid foundation then it will stand. If not – then I’m glad to be shot of it!”
I\’m glad to hear Mr. Drysdale has this philosophy, because I found that most of his article contained inaccurate and flimsy reasoning. I have written this rebuttal in hopes that he will continue testing his beliefs and asking tough questions on his path toward Truth.
Belief #1 – I\’m just a sinner saved by grace.
Drysdale says: I grew up hearing frequently in church that we are sinners saved by grace. In one sense this is true… but the problem is we still identify with the past rather than the logical conclusion. A sinner saved by grace is by very definition no longer a sinner. We are saints. We have been made righteous. We must identify with the new nature, not keep dragging around the old.
My response: The only way you can say that someone is “no longer a sinner” is if that person once committed sin but no longer does. To my knowledge, no single person alive or dead fits that description, Jesus Christ and his mother Mary included.
We are all sinners, because we all commit sin. Accepting Christ as our savior doesn\’t mean we stop committing sin or stop being sinners. It just means that we are no longer condemned to death due to our sin, and that we are better equipped to fight against our sinful natures.
Perhaps Drysdale means that we shouldn\’t allow our past sins to define our present selves, and we can agree on that, but it\’s not how his belief comes across. He seems to be saying that we shouldn\’t acknowledge our past sins at all, but I think that is a dangerous road to go down. Look at Abby Johnson, for example – she\’s very open and honest about the sins of her past, but she\’s used that experience for good in helping other employees leave the abortion industry. Should she have moved across the country, changed her name, and pretended that her old self never existed? I think she\’s done a lot more good by choosing to learn from her past sins and warn others from going down the same path she did.
Belief #2 – God created us to worship Him.
Drysdale says: We are often told that we were created to worship God. But that’s not all that accurate really. Believing that creates a very warped image of God. Is God so insecure that He needed to create us to worship Him. God did not create man to have more beings worshiping Him… He is all sufficient in and of Himself. In fact, even if we didn’t worship Him the rocks would cry out. Rather, God created us to enjoy relationship with Him! It is in that place we will worship Him. We were made to be in relationship with God. Worship is a byproduct of that.
My response: Drysdale is falling into a typical Protestant paradigm – he\’s framing the answer is EITHER God created us to worship him OR God created us to enjoy a relationship with him. For Catholics, it\’s not either/or, but both/and. The very first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC 1).
Does God NEED us to love him? No, but that doesn\’t change the fact that we were created to love him. I don\’t NEED my children to love me, but by husband and I created them with the expectation that they would return the love we gave to them (which is different than creating them because we needed the love we gave to them reciprocated). And just like God, we will never stop loving them even if they cease to love us.
Belief #3 – I have to try hard to love God
Drysdale says: Have you ever read the “greatest commandment” and felt good about yourself? I’ve not. Reading “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” rarely makes me feel encouraged about the degree to which I love God! The truth of course is that Jesus was not giving us a rule to follow. No, He was summing up the law and showing us that we couldn’t love God in our own strength. It is because God loved us that we can love Him. Our job is not to love God more but to receive His love more. As we focus on God’s love for us our love for Him will in turn grow.
My response: If this isn\’t a rule to follow, why is it a commandment? Jesus was pretty clear that we had to keep the commandments. Again, Drysdale espouses a common Protestant misconception here – he seems to believe that love is nothing more than a feeling, and we don\’t get warm fuzzy butterflies in our stomachs every time we think of God, that means we don\’t love Him. The Catholic stand is that love is a decision, an action – love is a verb, not a noun. We show our love by our actions and our decisions. If we strive to follow God\’s will in every action of our daily lives, then we are loving him even if we don\’t have an accompanying emotional response.
Furthermore, like any relationship, it will flourish in direct proportion to the time you spend cultivating it. A garden won\’t grow if you only allow the sun and rain to fall upon it but don\’t spend time pulling out weeds and fertilizing the soil.
Belief #4 – I have to become more holy.
Drysdale says: What a funny notion it is to “become more holy”. Holiness by very definition is an either/or thing. You are either holy or you are unholy. So where do we get the idea that we can become more holy? Of course, as we study the scriptures we discover that we are holy! God has made us holy in Christ. Sure there is an outworking of that as we discover it. But we don’t become more holy rather we discover our holiness! In that place God will transform our lives and bring forth more good fruit.
My response: It\’s interesting to note that Drysdale says, “Holiness, but very definition is an either/or thing”… but he doesn\’t define holiness. I\’d like to know what his definition is and where he got it, because it seems a far cry from the traditional Christian understanding of holiness. We are holy people, yes, but we are constantly fighting a spiritual battle in which our sinful human natures want to quash and trample our holiness. As the Catechism says:
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam\’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence\”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ\’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (CCC 405)
Belief #5 – It’s my job to change people’s actions.
Drysdale says: This might be really disappointing news to you… We can’t change people. God changes people. Not only that but it’s not our job to change people. Discipling people is not a process of getting them to clean up their act and stop sinning. Discipling is the process of helping people connect with God and renew their minds to the truth about who God is and who they are in Him. In that place, sure, they’ll stop sinning, but it is God who does the work… not you.
My response: I think that far too many Christians take this as a cop-out to avoid challenging others on tough subjects (for example: same-sex “marriage,” or abortion), instead claiming that “it\’s not my place to judge” (which is not true, because we are called to judge acts and behavior) or, as Drysdale says, “Only God can change people.”
Despite the fact that “Only God can change people,” we\’re still called to judge the acts and behaviors of other Christians and call them to repentance. God may use one of us as the instrument of His change. For example, during my conversion process to Catholicism, I was convicted by many of the testimonies I read online. Those people may not have written their stories with the intention of changing my actions, but God certainly used them to do so.
[I\’d hoped to address all ten of his beliefs in this post, but due to length I\’m going to stop here, and will address the last five in my next Catholic Stand post.]
© 2014. JoAnna Wahlund. All rights reserved.