First of all, I’m all for thinking that you are “free to choose.” As long as Bonnie is a genuine Christian, all of this talk is a talk about wisdom. Some choices that are lawful are not wise. Others that are lawful are wise. This discussion, therefore, at least from my perspective, falls into those two areas. Is she a Christian? And is this wise?
I may be incredibly provincial in this, but perhaps I just don’t understand the terminology. What does the ‘spirituality’ part of “Methodist spirituality” mean? When I read my Bible and the vast majority of Christian history, I see a Christian as someone who is someone who loves God with every fiber of their being. And that love is measured by how it causes the lover to adhere to the Biblical revelation of God. When I was a new Christian I found myself in charismatic circles, seeking to exercise the gifts of the Spirit and enjoying the life of the Spirit. As I loved the Lord and sought to work out my salvation by loving those around me, I struggled with the way life and what Scripture said collided, and I ended up leaving the Charismatic movement. I moved into a church that didn’t exercise the “gifts.” Through it all I still focused on loving God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
I believe I matured out of that tradition, but what was consistent was my love and focus on God as the center of life. I changed how I thought about how to love God, but it was always based on the Bible, and God was always at the core. I’m a Reformed Christian now, but again, my shift was not outside of or independent of my love of God, rather it was motivated, impacted, and driven my love for God and it was tightly tied to the Bible.
When I hear comments about someone having a strong “spirituality” of any kind, it has always seems come from someone who is in a more theologically liberal tradition. This theologically liberal tradition seems to pride itself in how glorious it is to raise human understanding above Scripture (men wrote the Bible and we’re much more progressive and knowledgeable than they were). They say things like, “yes the Bible says, but…” The but always leads to a reason why the Bible does not apply in this case, is not an authority in this instance, is irrelevant to our day, or something else. The Bible is not the center, and thus, God is not the center.
Of course, they would not usually say that God is not the center. They would more likely say that God is at the center, but we need to understand X. The “X” usually means something like “God as he should be understood.”
When you say, “I really appreciate the way those guys worship God,” I’m happy about that as long as you mean they read their Bible and in an effort to apply it consistently and in keeping with the context, they apply them this way. My way of applying the Bible might be different from their way of applying the Bible, but that’s okay with me because they love God and I love God. I believe I can learn something from them about how I should apply the text.
But if someone comes to me and tells me that their tradition tells them that the text is simply wrong and therefore does not need to be applied or even waved at, I have all sorts of troubles. That, in itself, does not make that person a non-Christian, but it does raise questions about what they believe about the Gospel, and that leads me to question their salvation.
If, for example, the person I’m talking with says they don’t believe that God sends people to Hell because he is a loving God, I wonder what they believe they are saved from? What is salvation about? If a person doesn’t understand that a holy God cannot dwell with anything unclean, sinful, and wretched, what do they believe about their state before God? Can a person be saved if he doesn’t believe God? Or if they believe something about God that is not true?
There is a spectrum of belief and unbelief that ranges from correct thinking about God to nothing correct in our thinking about God. It goes from strong and deep maturity to total paganism. I don’t know where the line is between right belief in God and the wrong belief that illustrates false belief and thus lack of salvation. But I do know that God given faith, salvific faith, will produce a love for Jesus that reflects the biblical view of Jesus. People who are saved, who have saving faith, love God and are striving to become more like him. And this comes only through a high view of the Bible and careful Bible study. But at the end of the day, I would be happy to fellowship with someone who was totally sold out to God even if we disagreed with how we ought to apply various passages of Scripture. We might disagree over whether we pad our pews, or whether we should sit on chairs or stand in worship, but it wouldn’t really matter because I would know that he loved me and I loved him, and we could overcome our differences. But if the person doesn’t really love God, because they love their own light, or the light of their church or organization more, we cannot really fellowship together because there isn’t a core agreement on the most important thing. Jesus is Lord and God is God.
And would you want to marry someone you can’t fellowship with?