I recently published a post about Satan; it was a post about an experience that I took as quite profound, specifically because sometimes I forget that evil is all around us, hiding out of sight. Genesis 4:7 says that evil/sin “is crouching at the door”. Such baseness takes many different forms, some of them quite bright and attractive, yet they are no less destructive. At the same time, however, I'm not sure I want to say that “Satan” is a person in the same way God is a person. Satan (or evil: literally “the adversary”) just seems to have personality, desire, motivation and will because of random chance occurrences and there being so much evil around us. We connect things that happen near the same time and say it was Satan if it was bad, God if it was good. The more we believe in Satan as a person and can think of ourselves as being tricked or manipulated into doing something (“Satan made me do it”) the less we take personal responsibility for the greed, arrogance, jealousy and laziness (the sin) in our own lives.
So anyway, during the discussion that ensued, I was accused of being in an “obviously lost spiritual condition” and “dilut[ing] Christ's Gospel” (among other things), just because I believe some things differently from others. Such questions about my (or anyone's) salvation are not only mean-spirited and inappropriate in a public context such as gather (a “civil” discussion) but reveal a misunderstanding of exactly what the gospel means. I don't mean to turn this in to a sermon, but I believe it is something that cries out to be addressed. My testimony is in question. Attacking someone's beliefs because they don't agree with yours and telling them forcefully that they are “foolish” and “on the wrong path” and therefore “lack... forgiveness and eternal salvation through Jesus Christ” and are destined for hell is, well, fundamentally wrong.
I take such attacks rather personally: I became a Christian in 1983 and it was (is) the most important thing in my life. I chose to leave my home and my country to go Chicago to study Bible and Theology for 3 years at Moody Bible Institute, graduating in 1987 with a diploma in Pastoral Studies and a BA in 1993. (Talk about a personal exodus...!) I've worked with several church denominations over the last 25 years, in several states, preaching in several (Baptist, Evangelical Free, United, Independent, Christian & Missionary Alliance, and now Metropolitan Community). I have taught Bible Studies and led discussions about individuals' personal interpretations of different passages.
My relationship with God is based on a couple of Scriptural passages: Romans 3:23 ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast") and Galatians 5:6 ("For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.") Faith is the action, love is the expression: together they build connections from the individual to God and to the rest of humanity. As for the object of that faith, I believe wholeheartedly in the earliest of the Christian Creeds: the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed as examples. To add anything on top of faith alone as the energizing agent (sola fide in Latin) is to darken and deny the Good News of the gospel. We don't have to perform tricks or follow rules to be saved, or believe certain things regarding politics, sexuality, abortion, church, evangelism, end times, marriage or anything else. God does not want us to be slaves or live in fear of punishment. He wants to have sons, daughters and friends.