Choosing from a Smorgasbord of Beliefs

Smorgasbord of Beliefs- InsideOne of the belief systems that is becoming popular in some Christian circles and some churches attempting to be inclusive and relevant is the concept of Cafeteria Christianity. This suggests that one is free to pick and choose which of the essential Christian doctrines to believe, as one chooses the food he or she likes from the smorgasbord line at the local cafeteria on a Sunday morning.

While some may choose to reject the Virgin birth of Christ as essential to their Christianity or discount the stories of miracles or reject the accounts of Creation and a worldwide flood as myths or legends, others err in the direction of legalism or licentiousness and thus are in danger of adopting heresy in place of the scriptural truths found in the Bible. According to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, his protégé in the gospel, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).


On cafeteria faith

Cal Thomas, a syndicated conservative Christian columnist, wrote the following:

“Some people call it ‘cafeteria faith.’ It means choosing what makes you feel good, rather than pursuing objective truth and a holy God. A new Pew Survey on Religion and Public Life finds that 65 percent of American adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics, have adopted elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking. One in five find ‘spiritual energy’ in mountains or trees and one in six believe in the ‘evil eye,’ that certain people can cast curses with a look. Syncretism also appears on the rise. That means a blending of contradictory beliefs.

“This demonstrates a depth of biblical ignorance and is a major reason why the church – the real church – lacks power in contemporary society. I don’t mean political power, which is not power at all. I mean a compelling power that is rooted in Jesus Christ, the redeemer of all those who come to him, repent of their sins and receive him as Savior.”


Another gospel

The Bible makes unique claims. Anything added to its message is another gospel. Paul said in Galatians, a letter written to combat an early church heresy that combined legalism with a need to observe elements of the Jewish ceremonial law to continue with Christianity after salvation by faith: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV).

In fact most of Paul’s letters to churches were written to combat various heresies that had crept in to the early Church after the initial outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and the spread of Christianity throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and outlying regions. There is nothing new under the sun regarding heresy and doctrinal errors. They appear in different forms as they have for over 2000 years. Paul wrote to Timothy concerning this, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV).


More Pew Research Center findings

The Pew Research Center’s report on religion in America shows some interesting findings regarding the LGBT community, according to “More LGBT Americans consider themselves Christian than ever before. In a new Pew Research Center report, 48 percent of LGBT Americans identify as Christian, up from 42 percent in 2013. The statistic contrasts the study’s finding of overall decline of Christianity, from 78.4 percent of Americans identifying as Christian, down to 70.6 percent.”

In commentary by Candace Chellew-Hodge, USC Annenberg’s Religion Dispatches takes a look at the half that is rejecting traditional Christianity and organized religion: “As for the LGBT community, Pew researchers found that at least 41 percent could give a rip if the evangelical church welcomes them in their pews because they’ve given up on religion anyway — at least that type of religion…”

“The reason so many LGBT people have fled the church tracks closely with why Millennials in general have abandoned sanctuaries across the country — a perception that churches are filled with judgmental and hypocritical people.”

A survey last year by Pew found that 73 percent of LGBT people perceived evangelical churches to be unfriendly and 79 percent said they felt unwelcome in Catholic churches. As for non-evangelical mainstream churches, the survey found that only 10 percent of LGBT folk viewed such churches as friendly while 44 percent perceived them as unfriendly. One-third of religious LGBT people, however, say “there was a conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity,” and many are opting for evangelical churches that maintain a more conservative approach to liturgy while being inclusive.

What does this all mean? It means that we need to maintain a balance of non-judgmental grace and saving truth. Either extreme can lead to doctrinal error and lack of effective evangelism. There is a lost and dying world that desperately needs to hear the unchanging truth that we believe, shared with grace and love.

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Bob Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and WGI, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].

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