One of the biggest challenges in wrestling this alligator (fellowship) is the potential for inconsistency. Let me first say that names are hardly relevant. The denominational name a person wears has nothing to do with that person’s salvation. That’s like me putting on a lab coat and thinking that makes me a doctor. Or thinking that just because I call myself a Christian makes me one. What does matter is how you define Christianity; or how you believe a person becomes a Christian.
I suppose this applies primarily to folks who are closely acquainted with, or are a part of, the Churches of Christ heritage. For us, baptism is the most fundamental of all sacraments. It is an absolute requirement for salvation. It is a non-negotiable that isn’t up for debate and is as sacred as any doctrine out there. I have met people who thought the Five Steps were bunk. But I have yet to hear of someone who was faithful to the Churches of Christ deny the absolute necessity of baptism.
So here’s the rub. If we want to say that we should embrace other followers of Christ as our brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s fine. Perhaps we should; and I’ve yet to fully determine that for myself. But it seems that we ought to at least be consistent with how we define Christianity. How can a person who believes that baptism is necessary for admission into the family of Christ conclude that someone who hasn’t been baptized a part of the family? That I can not answer; and that’s the first inconsistency problem.
The second is just as difficult. First consider this question . . . how can good, God-fearing people possibly be denied heaven on a “technicality.” When you unroll that question and take a step back it starts to look differently. I understand, I’ve looked at it from every angle I can think of, and I haven’t found a good answer. Would God, who has defined himself as love, send someone (that devoted their lives to his service) to hell because they didn’t complete step five in a five-step plan that has isn’t actually ever spelled out in the Scriptures? I don’t know. I suppose we’ll find out eventually. The difficulty and lack of clarity with those questions leads to another inconsistency–changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game. In other words, change our theology and doctrine so that a wider net is cast and our friends and these God-fearing people can be covered.
For all the questions that I have yet to answer. One thing I’m sure of is that being inconsistent is not one of them.