I promised I would post some more from Matthew Gallatin's new book, "Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells." Gallatin describes (pgs 29-39) his initial search for truth and how he attempted to reconcile the apparent contradictions within his Protestant experience. I think his thoughts may add a new twist to the discussion on what the Church is, the nature of truth, etc. I'll leave my comments for another post. Here is what he has to say:
"It seemed to me that I could avoid this problem [ecclesiastical relativism] if I could convince myself that either 1) it is not important that our beliefs about God are actually true or 2) God wants his children to have different views of truth, or 3) all of these distinctive, contrary versions of truth are somehow equally true.
The first option was appealing. It was easy to chuckle and say to myself, "You're just playing theological games here. These issues aren't important. To be a Christian, all you have to do is love Jesus and live a good, moral, Christian life. God's not going to judge you on your theology."
[But] what does it matter if I live a good Christian life and call my Savior Jesus? If the God I love and worship is not real, I am no different from all the fervent, kind hearted heathen, or the pious, morally upright pagan....[maybe] one can always fall back on the failsafe position, "Hey, even if I'm wrong when it comes to everything else about God, I trust that His Love is deep enough that He will overlook my errors in thinking and save me anyway."
...When one envisions the broken and bleeding Lamb of God sacrificing Himself on the Cross, it seems like compelling evidence for such an all-encompassing, unqualified acceptance....[but] different schools of Protestant thought have contrary ideas about what Jesus accomplished on that Cross....Obviously, my assumptions about God's designs for His human creatures affect even my definition of His Love and what His Love will lead Him to do....
The crux of [the second] argument is that the current situation, in which different Christian groups have divergent views about the truth of God, is exactly the state of affairs that God wants. These teachers suggest God intends to bring all His children to a full knowledge of the truth at some point in the future. But for now, He has decided to scatter the truth like puzzle pieces throughout the various denominations...when Christ returns...a beautiful mosaic of truth will be revealed....[However], if each group of denomination has only a piece of the truth, then the rest of what each group believes must contain falsehood. ...
Still desperate to find a way to view all believers as real Christians despite their contradictory concepts of truth, I turned to an oft-invoked axiom [the third argument]. It seems to be the defense most Protestants raise when asked to account for the legitimacy of their particular beliefs in the face of the wide variety of Protestant beliefs and practices. The maxim goes: 'You don't have to be concerned that other people have a different understanding of the truth. You just have to be true to your own convictions. One's relationship with God is an entirely personal thing. Just live up to "the light that you have," to what you believe the truth to be. That's what God expects.'
Of course, if this is the way things work, it means every person's version of the truth is correct--or at least correct enough to establish him in a saving relationship with God....[but] such thinking makes sincerity of conviction the key to salvation. But this idea presents enormous problems. For instance believing that sincerity is all it takes to make my faith a saving Christian faith necessarily implies I can believe absolutely anything about God and still confidently call myself a Christian." *END QUOTE*