One Faith; Different Vocabularies

Every Christian should be able to state the foundational truth of his or her faith in Jesus Christ and an experiential reality of living as his disciple.

But we will not all use the same vocabulary.

Words close upIn some Christian denominations it is expected that each individual remembers a date, a moment, or an experience of salvation.  Phrases such as, “accepted Christ” or “Invited Jesus to be Lord of my life” are common in these Christian cultures. Other Christians express their stories differently, like “I’ve always known Jesus” or “I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember.” There are theological underpinnings and denominational doctrinal positions that account for these differences, but it is not my purpose to examine or argue doctrine.

Instead, I invite Christians to enjoy each others’ unique stories of faith and discipleship regardless of the vocabulary in which they are expressed.

When my Christian friends in the Catholic tradition passionately express the vital faith that they have known from very young ages, I understand their vocabulary.  Their lives are full of the presence of Christ.

My friends who prefer mainline Protestant denominations use slightly different terms to express the love and faith they have for their Savior.  It’s real.

And many of my Christian friends do identify the moment in which they crossed a line into faith and God changed their lives.  They are beautiful stories.

I’ve come to appreciate these nuances through my work in Community Bible Study.  Each week believers from dozens of churches representing many Christian denominations sit around tables to study God’s word.  We share our impressions, questions and applications of a passage of Scripture from our unique perspectives and using varied vocabularies.  We learn from each other in respectful unity and love.  Unity and Love

It matters very little what words we use to express the magnificent truth that we were once lost and now we are found, whether it was a defined moment or a growing recognition. 

The important truth is that we know Jesus.

Have you noticed differences in Christian faith “vocabularies?”  How do you tell your story?  I’d love to hear it!

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…”  Ephesians 4:3-5

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19 Responses to One Faith; Different Vocabularies

  1. gary says:

    Does the Bible really say that the only way to be saved is by “accepting Jesus into your heart”? Where do Baptists and evangelicals find this concept in the Bible? Is “accepting Jesus” really the means by which God forgives sins and saves sinners? Did you know that this phrase is never used in the Scriptures? So why do these Christian denominations use this terminology? And why do Baptists and evangelicals have so many “problem” Bible passages that if read in their plain, simple rendering, contradict Baptist/evangelical doctrine?

    Lutherans do not need to twist and contort themselves into pretzels to explain “problem Bible verses” that do not agree with our doctrine, as do the Baptists and evangelicals. If the Bible says, “He that believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved”, we believe it. Believing is all that is necessary for salvation. And when the Bible says, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins” or “Baptism now saves us” we believe those passages literally too. God, in very simple, plain language says the he forgives sins and saves in Holy Baptism, so we believe him.

    Baptists and evangelicals claim that infant baptism did not “appear” in the Church until the second or third century. They are wrong. Numerous historical documents demonstrate that infant baptism is of apostolic origin, as several early Church Fathers state in their writings and were willing to die for. If the “heresy” of infant baptism was contrary to apostolic teaching, and developed within the following 100-200 years after the last apostle died, where is evidence of the introduction of this “heresy” and the indignant outrage and uproar among the faithful “baptistic” believers? And… please don’t tell us that the “Catholics” destroyed all such evidence in a wholesale Baptistic-document burning because there is no evidence to support this old wives’ tale either.

    Baptist-like believers did not exist during the time of the Apostles, during the Early Church, nor for the next 800-1500 years!

    There is no evidence of a massive outcry against baptizing infants in the Early Church because no such “heresy” occurred. Infant baptism was taught by the Apostles. That is why there is ZERO evidence of a major controversy over baptizing the infants of believing parents in Christian or non-Christian historical documents from this time period. The practice of including infants and toddlers in “household conversions” continued uninterrupted from the Old Covenant into the New. This is why there is no explicit mention in the NT regarding infants being baptized…everyone in that era correctly assumed that infants are included in their parents’ conversion.

    Baptist/evangelical doctrine is an invention of sixteenth and seventeenth century western Europeans. No Christian in the first 800-1,500 years of Christianity ever heard of such an outrageous false teaching as that of adult-only, symbolic-only baptism. No one!

    When confronted with the overwhelming historical evidence that supports the orthodox Christian position on Baptismal Regeneration and Infant Baptism, most Baptists will fall back on their last line of defense: They will say, “For two thousand years, the Catholics have destroyed and covered up all evidence of these early Baptist-like believers who have existed since the Apostles. Catholics have even purposefully misinterpreted the Holy Bible in ALL translations, including the KJV and ESV, to hide the true (Baptist) doctrines that are so easily found in the original Greek Scriptures.”

    These are unfounded conspiracy theories dreamed up over the centuries to explain away the nagging problem with Baptist/evangelical theology: Why is there ZERO historical evidence that any early Christians believed in a Symbolic Baptism or that the only means of salvation is by an adult “decision for Christ”?

    These unfounded “Catholic” conspiracy theories are sheer ignorance, my friends. Wake up out of the trance that those who taught you these false teachings have placed you under! The Baptist/evangelical doctrine of Symbolic Baptism is NOT Scriptural! It is an assumption based on a false premise that salvation occurs when a sinner chooses to seek righteousness/seek God, referred to in evangelical/Baptist theology as a “decision for Christ”. God says in Romans chapter three that such a “decision” is impossible! Sinners do not choose God. God chooses sinners! That is why Baptists and evangelicals fail to understand how God can save the infants of believers in infant baptism. You demand that the infant make a decision just as you demand that an adult sinner make a decision. THAT is where you go off track! SINNERS CANNOT MAKE A DECISION FOR GOD, REGARDLESS OF THEIR AGE. God makes the decision for salvation, not the sinner.

    There is not a single passage of Scripture that states that sinners can “accept/make a decision for Christ” or that Baptism is OUR public profession of faith. None.

  2. Wendy says:

    Well, I appreciate you liking my recent blog post, because now I have discovered you, and am following you now. I appreciate this post on acceptance of one other’s experience of the mysterious. I so concur that we all have unique stories of faith and our walk with God.

  3. Hi, Judy! I just nominated you for the Liebster Award, with rules found at http://wp.me/p2GxIs-8j. I know you don’t do awards, but maybe answering the questions would be fun. In any case, I have included you because I regularly read your blog, find encouragement and challenge there and want to direct others to your site to experience the same. If you choose to accept the award, just follow the guidelines – or skip the award and just answer random questions!….Blessings! Diane

  4. dtrichards says:

    Great post, Judy! Like you, I’ve encountered a wide variety of Christian expression. (And a wide variety of non-Christian religious expression as well!) I remember when I first started attending a Pentecostal church after a long period of being a “Christian-in-name-only” (a.k.a. a “backslider”), they asked me if I was “saved”. Taking the wide view of my upbringing — born into a Christian household, baptised at birth, made Jesus my personal Lord and Saviour at various times in my youth — I replied that I was. That response got me in big trouble later, because they were using a very concise definition of “saved”!

    It helps to know that, even as Christians use different vocabulary to describe the experience of what you call “crossing the line into faith”, they also use the same terms such as “saved”, “living righteously”, “serving Christ” to mean quite different experiences. As long as we all learn each other’s vocabularies and respect each other’s experiences, we’ll grow in our own faith.

    Yours in Christ,

    “DT Richards”

    P.S. for an example of the wide varieties of experience as it relates to Christian life, take a look at my recent post “Christians at Rest” on my blog.

    • Judy says:

      Thank you for stopping by and for your thoughtful comment. You make an excellent point that many words and concepts in our faith vocabularies mean different things to different people. No wonder we don’t always understand each other! I enjoyed your Christians at Rest post as well:)

  5. Jennifer Grabianski says:

    Amen!

  6. Lori says:

    Terrific post, Judy. Did you hear me say “Amen” when I finished reading?
    Blessings to you! Lori

  7. Pingback: Birds of A Feather don’t Always Like Each Other | Did Jesus have a Facebook Page?

  8. BABU BABU says:

    Dear Judy in JESUS, Thank you so much for this blessed messages and are strengthening me much. Evangelist Babu

  9. Steve says:

    Reblogged this on Words to Love By.

  10. Caddo-Jael says:

    Hi Judy! I used to get nervous because I can’t remember if I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was 12 or 13, maybe 14–all I know is that it was at my school friend’s summer Bible Camp, so maybe it was between 7th and 8th grade… But then it gets even more complicated, because I had another “experience” with the Jesus Freak girls in my college dorm; plus there have been multiple “rededications to the Lord”; and finally, there was the Big Lallapallooza, March 2011. And you know how I talk–it would take a 7-day conference for me to tell my testimony with all those tangential zigs and zags. Did I answer your question–or did I veer off again?? God bless you BIG–much love, sis Caddo

    • Judy says:

      Experiences, zigs and and zags, and the Big Lallapallooza sound like the makings of an excellent story! And you tell it well, Caddo, with your joyful voice and poetic words. Big blessings back to you! Judy

  11. Larry Who says:

    I’ve worshipped with many different Christians and could care less what words they use. Like the Apostle Paul, I just want to see Christ in them, the hope of Glory. Good message.

  12. Sue says:

    I like “Unidad.” Is that another name for our God….our Abba Father? Our “Uni-Dad?” Appreciate this post very much, one of my “multi-siblings.” : )

  13. It tends to come out in small stories of His incredible faithfulness at different times in my life. Rarely is it a retelling of my entire existence with His ongoing evidence… 🙂 As always, great food for thought.
    Blessings to you and your loved ones! ❤ Shannon

    • Judy says:

      Hi Shannon. I like that thought. We don’t have just one story of faith to tell, but daily moments of God’s real presence and faithfulness. Thanks!

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