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Are There Different Types of Christians?

Updated on October 20, 2011

 

The days of codified religious toleration make faith more honest: a person is free to claim any religion or none. The faith they do espouse is that much more meaningful.

C.S. Lewis wrote that there should be two types of marriage: Christian marriage and civil marriage. The first would be administered by the church, and subject to the strict requirements that Jesus and later Paul presented, that one man and one woman should remain together for life, barring a few extreme circumstances like adultery or desertion. The state could administer the civil type of marriage, and make whatever rules society deemed appropriate.

 

I read Lewis’s suggestion first as a teenager, and didn’t like it. I adhered to the  “’Til Death Do You Part” school of thought, and saw giving people choices about their level of devotion cheapening the whole enterprise of marriage. As a middle aged person I’ve changed my mind. I like the idea of different levels of marriage: offering a choice of commitment level would allow those who want to live by Jesus’ admonitions to declare their intent to the world. 

 

These days I favor several levels of partnership, from the covenant marriage available in some states to domestic partnership. A Christian life is not unlike a marriage. Is there more than one type of Christian?  History progresses in that direction. In the centuries of a monolithic Christian church, the entire Western world was “Christendom,” everyone within its borders a “Christian.” With the Protestant Reformation entered the idea that faith made the individual Christian. The days of codified religious toleration make faith more honest: a person is free to claim any religion or none. The faith they do espouse is that much more meaningful.

 

 Are there different sorts of Christians? If Christian at all, His blood washes us from all sin, assures us of salvation. Is there more beyond that?

 

What of divisions within the camp of believing Christians? Does God treat us differently? Is He fair?

 

The summer before my final year of college I lived in SmokyMountainNational Park as a Student Minister. The program I was affiliated with sent volunteer college and seminary students to conduct worship services inside national parks. Late one night I walked back to my cabin, flicked on the light, and saw my cabinmate and a guy mashed together on the couch. I stared at them in consternation, though not for the reason they thought.

 

That night I had been in the chapel praying. I often went there for some privacy after my workday of cabin cleaning, to plan my worship services, or have personal bible and prayer time. That evening as I prayed I sensed God impress on me that He wanted me more devoted to Himself than I was to my church, a little congregation near my college in Massachusetts, a group I particularly missed during this summer in North Carolina.

 

Criticism is hard for me. A correction from God is especially painful.

 

God’s unfairness hit me as I looked at my cabinmate and her boyfriend. She was also a Christian, though I wasn’t aware of her attending any church that summer. While I picked my way through the dark with a heavy heart over being too devoted to my fellow Christians, she snuggled with a guy. God chose me to correct, not her? Why? I didn’t care if she wanted to spend her free time making out – I just felt of the two of us I didn’t deserve the criticism.

 

 God’s corrections are compliments. They just don’t feel like it at the time.

 

 

That summer I found a good friend in Rosemary, the wife of one of the permanent park employees. Next day I shared my dilemma with her. “That means you are a true son,” she smiled, referencing the scripture that God disciplines true born sons. I knew she was right. God’s corrections are compliments. They just don’t feel like it at the time.

 

Are there different sorts of Christians? If Christian at all, His blood washes us from all sin, assures us of salvation. Is there more beyond that? Is there delineation between the “‘Til Death Do You Part” Christian, and the domestic partner Christian?

 

There must be, though only He knows the quality of each person’s devotion. Over twenty years have passed since that summer in North Carolina. I spent much of my time there going for prayer walks, singing with my worship tapes, and talking about God with Rosemary. I still benefit from what I gained in Him that summer. Sometimes I still feel He doesn’t let me get away with anything, but I realize my life with Him is built on that foundation.

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    • profile image

      Pastor Harper, New Jerusalem 

      7 years ago

      Matthew 25:31- 46 (Often Misapplied) – Refers to Saved vs. Unsaved at Judgment rather than the church

      Matt. 13: 24-30 (Refers to the Kingdom of Heaven (The Church); Note: The enemy planted the tares)

      I Tim 2:19-21(Great House (The Church) has many types of vessels; Saints encouraged to purge themselves from other “saints”

      I Cor 8:9; Romans 14:1; I. Cor. 8: 11, 12; I Cor. 9:22; Romans 15:1 – House will consist of strong and weak; Avoid disputes with the weak; Don’t be a stumbling block to the weak;

      I Cor. 3:1-3 – Spiritual vs. Carnal Saints

      Hebrews 5:12-14 – Babes vs. Meats (From Milk to Meat)

      Matt. 7:15, Matt. 10:16; Luke 10:3; Acts 20:29 – Wolves vs. Sheep/Lambs

      John 21:15 – 19 (The Ultimate Goal – Feed & Protect God’s Sheep & Lambs

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      8 years ago

      I think it's very unfortunate that some make political opinions, or doctrinal details, a basis for judging other Christians, or even associating with them. Paul warned about this sort of thing repeatedly. More than one friendship has ended over the question of pre or post tribulation rapture, and in the large scheme of things, these two positions have more in common with each other than they do with 90% of the rest of the church.

      After all, I think Christians ought to have a wide circle of friends - it gives Christ in them the opportunity to touch as many people as possible. I'm for having close friendships with people who aren't Christians at all. I mean real friendships, where you invest yourself in them, not just share the gospel. To get along with people who have no affiliation to christianity, being dogmatic just won't work.

      A personal connection should always be more important than "being right."

    • Disappearinghead profile image

      Disappearinghead 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Yes there are multiple shades and hues of Christian, but many Christians cannot accept this.

      I recently de-friended an old friend on Facebook after an argument that resulted because I wouldn't support a petition of his to the UK prime minister asking him to revoke gay rights legislation. His response to my stand was rudeness and disbelief. In the end the argument was just a symptom of his intolerance of Christians with differing views to his. Casting my mind back to when we were kids, he was always judgemental of Christians that didn't match his inner definition of what a Christian should be. He would call others 'worldly', 'not-going on with God' or not 'keeping to biblical truths' (perhaps biblical truths as he chose to interpret them). To me he hadn't changed in 25 years, and I had moved on.

      So yes, many colours, many hues, many shades, and God treats us as individuals according to our personality types and intimacy with Him.

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      8 years ago

      Wow, that would be great to see a hub in response to one of mine.

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 

      8 years ago

      C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites also, as is G.K. Chesterton. Loved this hub. I may respond to it in depth with one of my own. Thank you for being so brave in your writing!

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      8 years ago

      Glad you liked the hub James. Thanks for reading.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      I never was aware that Clive Staples advocated two types of marriage. He is one of my all time favorite thinkers.

      Your thoughts come to a profound head in your article. Much to think about. Thank you. I love for my mind to provoked to think. :-)

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