July 12, 2005

Are There No True Christians Left?

Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of...
Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky., 09/15/1946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What is a true Christian, and how might we spot one? We can't simply ask Christians because they don't seem able to agree on this important question.

A true Christian is anti-gay because the Christian bible condemns homosexuality. A true Christian opposes scientific theories (e.g., evolution) or actual discoveries (e.g., geological findings concerning the fossil record) because these theories and facts contradict the biblical account of creation. When reality contradicts their bible, one must distort or even deny reality in order to preserve the "truth" of their bible.

Maybe this is admirable. After all, only a person of true faith could endure in the face of such overwhelming evidence that his/her beliefs were inaccurate. Isn't such a person an impressive example of exactly what the bible says believers should be? Isn't this person's commitment and dedication to their bible as the inerrant word of god praiseworthy? Despite persecution from all sides, the true Christian stands tall.

In turning to Mark 16:16-18, we read:
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
In studying these words carefully, two things are clear. First, the statement that Christians "shall take up serpents" does not appear to be a suggestion but a command. In the United States, there are serpent handling sects. However, members of these sects are typically looked down upon by mainstream Christians. This is the Bible. If you want to call yourself a Christian, you "shall" take up serpents. Pretty clear, huh? Second, this passage clearly states that a true Christian can drink a lethal dose of poison and not be harmed. Christians, if you'd like to convert me, this is one of the things I will need to witness. These things are in your bible so they must be true, right?

Unless you cast out devils, speak in tongues, handle serpents, survive poison, and heal the sick, it is not clear that you believe. And if you do not believe, it is not clear that you should be calling yourself a Christian.