May 20, 2018

Christian Beefcake, Part 1

When I was growing up in the Nazarene church, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders cautioned us about being "unequally yoked with unbelievers," that is, being friends with "sinners."

All other Christian denominations were wrong to some extent, therefore "sinners.", but some were so close to the truth that you could befriend members without worry, visit their churches, and even, if necessary, attend their colleges.  Some you could be friends with, if you were careful, and some were possessed by the devil, so evil that you couldn't even speak to them. 

I no longer hold those prejudices, of course, but still, when I'm around my Nazarene relatives, I sometimes hear disparaging statements like  "he's a Presbyterian -- you know what that means!" and "He bought a house right next to a Catholic church!"

So I thought it would be interesting to look at those "sinners" to see what all the fuss was about.

 From least to most dangerous:

1. Evangelical Christians, or what we just called "Christians." Literal Bible interpretation, strict rules. informal services with no rituals, the preacher wearing a business suit rather than an "evil" clerical robe, and an emphasis on salvation: getting yourself and others into heaven.  They were just a little off, with mistakes here and there in their theology that might impact their ability to get into heaven.

Nazarene Verdict: Ok to be friends and visit their churches.

Wesleyans.  Like the Nazarenes, Wesleyans taught "holiness" two steps in the salvation process: first God forgives you for the sins you've committed (getting saved); then He sanctifies you, removing your ability to commit future sins.

Not many things to complain about except that they allowed movies and dancing, which Nazarenes strictly prohibited. 

You also had to be careful because some colleges that said "Wesleyan" really weren't, so you might get hoodwinked into going to a secular college, where your faith would be challenged.

The basketball player in the top photo is from Kentucky Wesleyan, a bona fide Wesleyan college.

Pentecostals.  The whole idea of a two-step salvation process started at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, where the Pentecostal Church was formed.  So Pentecostals got most of it right, but they called it "filled with the Spirit" instead of sanctification, and they insisted that it came with "speaking in tongues," speaking in a language you don't know or a language of heaven.

Nazarenes hated the idea of speaking in tongues.  Some preachers claimed that Pentecostals were being filled with the spirit of Satan rather than the spirit of God.  So you could be friends with Pentecostals, but don't set foot in their churches.

A powerful weightlifter from Azusa Pacific University, the most prestigious Pentecostal university in the U.S.

Baptists.  They had most of the same beliefs and prohibitions as the Nazarenes, but no two- step salvation: once you were saved, you could not commit future sins, so sanctification was unnecessary.  So your Baptist friends might be going to hell without even knowing it.   If that was ok with you, friendship was ok.

Also they baptized people.  Nazarenes thought that baptism was a primitive superstition.

Williams Baptist College is not to be confused with the secular Williams College.

Moderate Christians, or what we called "Liberal So-Called Christians."  They had fallen away from a literal interpretation of the Bible, so they were likely to believe that the Creation, the Resurrection, and Heaven and Hell were just fairy tales.  They were more concerned with social justice than salvation, so they were probably going to hell.  Besides, they permitted a lot of sinful activities, like movies, dancing, and drinking, they had big, fancy churches that we called "whitened sepulchers,"  and their services were iffy: the congregation might be asked to recite things, the preacher might wear a sinful clerical robe.

Nazarene verdict:  Ok to be friends, but don't visit their churches.

Methodists.  Nazarenes got their start as a sect of the Methodist church, but they moved on to the doctrine of entire sanctification, leaving Methodists behind to be seduced by the evil doctrines of modernism.

This swimmer is from Southern Methodist University, which is not exactly Methodist anymore.

Presbyterians.  Another group of liberal so-called Christians.  We knew that they were descended from John Calvin, who taught predestination: some of us were predestined to be saved, and others not, no matter how much they tried. We didn't know if they still believed that or not.

I couldn't find a Presbyterian college, but when I searched on "Presbyterian shirtless," this came up.

Church of Christ.  There were like 6,000 denominations called "Church of Christ," some evangelical, but the biggest was the United Church of Christ, aka Congregationalist. They were so liberal that even their preachers drank.  And went swimming.

Next: the...shudder...Catholics and cults.

See also: Sinner Beefcake Part 2

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