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Almost all of the wars that have been fought over religion have been fought by fundamentalists.The fundamentals usually have a connection with something supernatural or miraculous. They may be quite true in themselves. But the fact that they are used as the ultimate criteria for dividing the good guys from the bad means that a lot of innocent people are hurt, and a lot of people who have no real faith in God are never questioned.

Take one "Christian" fundamental for example: The Trinity, or the teaching that God is three different people and one at the same time. No one really understands it. It defies logic. You can claim to believe it without it having a scrap of influence on how you live your life. And you can have absolute faith in God without a clue as to what the Trinity is all about. Yet people have been executed for not believing in it. Fundamentals are often listed in tidy little 'creeds' that people recite or read in public gatherings to verify that they are orthodox. But they don't change anyone. They represent theoretical faith a-lone--not real faith.Fundamentalists overlook the fact that real people grow in their understanding of God. Conclusions reached by some experts may never be grasped by others in an entire lifetime. And the conclusions themselves may fall far short of ultimate truth.

A catechism that teaches all the "right" answers in the eyes of church authorities does little to change our actual beliefs. As the saying goes, "Anyone convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still."Beliefs do not spring fully grown from a piece of paper. True beliefs, by their very nature, must grow from true experience. Beliefs about spiritual things form gradually in each of us as a result of our personal experiences with God. And the order in which we arrive at various conclusions will differ considerably from person to person.Peter could not say that Jesus was the Messiah, much less the Son of God, when he first met him. He followed Je-sus the Teach-er for more than a year before realising that he was the Son of God.And even then he had little concept of a resurrection or of the virgin birth. So at what point would we say that he "converted" to Christianity? Obviously, his "conversion" went through many steps. Like conception, growth in the womb, and birth, it was a gradual process.

So why can't we accept into our fellowship people who recognise Jesus as a teacher first, without necessarily demanding that they swallow our whole creed in one bite? If our creeds are really right, then as sincere people come to know Christ better, they should come to the same conclusions that we ourselves have reached ­providing, of course, that our beliefs have grown naturally out of a personal relationship with Christ (if not, we may be the ones who will need to adjust our conclusions).In the meantime (i.e. while each of us is still growing toward perfection), their underlying faith in God should be what mattersŠ not their ability to recite creeds. The real fundamentals of the Christian faith are Christ... and faith. Everything else should grow from these two.
Toward this end, we need to work on ways to recognise genuine faith, as well as working on ways to nurture it.

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