Several weeks ago Lonnie, from the NatureSpirit group posted a comment on my blog, offering a "friendly challenge." Here is the last paragraph of that post:
Okay... so we disagree. That's not exactly unexpected. Where do we go from here? Or do we simply abandon dialogue altogether? You've suggested some books, and I might have some suggested books as well, that I'd wish you to read. Knowing how busy I suspect both of us are, I sincerely doubt we have the time to get through each other’s reading lists. I did however go back and reread the Bible verses that you referenced (and I concede that the "rocky ground" metaphor might possibly apply, since I was but a youth when exposed to Christianity). So... instead I offer a friendly challenge. I would ask that you write an entire blog entry about only the points we seem to agree upon. I will then do the same (although I don't currently have a blog, I can make one, or find an appropriate community forum). If this is successful, then maybe we can take things a step further. I have little power over our group (being non-hierarchical and all) but I am willing to take this dialogue further if that's of interest to you. If not, then I wish you well.
Lonnie, I do appreciate and respect the tone in which you have entered this dialogue. I also very much appreciate the fact that you were willing to read the Biblical texts I suggested to you for interpreting your previous spiritual experiences.
So, the challenge is for me to post "the points we seem to agree upon."
From a worldview perspective, I think it will be hard to find things we agree upon. I am a conservative, evangelical Christian who believes in the full authority (inerrancy) of Scripture. You are a self-described Neo-pagan. We do not agree on epistemology (how do we know what is true), theology (who God is), anthropology (who man is), Christology (who Christ is), soteriology (salvation), or ethics (what is just, right, and good).
I would sum up our agreement, however, in this: We both believe that no one should force another person to engage in a religious practice or belief against his or her conscience. I would not, for example, attempt to make you a "Christian" at the point of a sword and hope that you would not attempt to make me a neo-pagan by the same means.
Now, I do believe there is much that we have in common (though perhaps we would not agree about this). Here are the things I believe we have in common:
1. We are both human beings made in the image of God and, therefore, have a God-given dignity and value, merely by virtue of our humanity (see Genesis 1:27).
2. We are both sinners. As Paul put it: "All sin and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have sinned against a holy and righteous God. We inherited our sin nature from our first parents, Adam and Eve. We are sinners from the moment of conception, even before we commit actual transgressions (see Genesis 3; Psalm 51;3; Psalms 58:3). "We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners."
3. Sin has badly tarnished or wounded the image of God in us. On the spiritual level our ability to seek God has been deeply damaged to the point that aside from the grace of God we will not seek the God of the Bible. As Paul put it: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:11-12). This is not to say that men are irreligious. We love to create gods and religions that meet our needs. When the Apostle Paul went into ancient Athens, he told the inhabitants, "I perceive that in all things you are very religious" (Acts 17:22). Paul even noted that the Athenians had an idol to "the unknown God," and then declared, "the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you" (v. 23).
4. Despite the impact of sin, all human beings are still capable of doing some good things and some things that are pleasing to God. Christians call this "common grace."
5. No matter how "good" we are in this life, we will both receive the just wrath of God for our sin for all eternity, until and unless, God, by his sovereign grace, saves us and brings us to believe in Jesus alone: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).
Lonnie, please understand that Christians do not feel that we are superior spiritually or ethically to other people (including people who are neo-pagan). Faith in Christ, rightly understood, should fill one with awe and humility at the grace of God.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. First Paul describes all those who will not be able to enter into the kingdom of God because of their sin in vv. 9-10:
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
He then adds this final note to the Christians at Corinth in v. 11:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Christians know we deserve God’s wrath as much as anyone else. We are not inherently more spiritual than other men, or more kind, or more good. Any good we do we must attribute to God’s grace and given Him glory for all things.
This is my response to your challenge. Sorry it took so long to post. I hope you will find time to reply.