You Cannot Be a Christian if You…

Many Christians inadvertently add requirements to the gospel message when they assume Christians must agree with them on certain beliefs.

Fill in the blank. “You can’t be a Christian if you ______.” Judge people? Use drugs? Drink alcohol? Believe in evolution? Believe in billions of years? Believe in a young earth? Oppose gay marriage? Support gay marriage? Vote Democrat? Vote Republican? Support abortion? Oppose abortion? Reject Calvinism? Accept Calvinism? Attend a Catholic Church? Attend a Protestant Church? Use the NIV Bible? Don’t believe in eternal punishment?

The list could go on and on, and I believe I’ve heard or read every single one of these—that so and so cannot be a Christian because he or she believes or says _____. Think carefully before answering the next question. If you filled in the blank with any of the options listed above, would the statement be true? Let me ask it another way. Which one (or more) of the above beliefs is required to be a Christian?

Obviously, some of those positions are contradictory, but before you jump to conclusions about my point, let me hasten to add that many of these issues are very important, so this article is not a watered-down message calling for unity at the expense of truth. And it isn’t about how two contradictory views can both be true—they cannot. Instead, this article is about helping Christians think carefully about what we truly believe and how we communicate those beliefs to those who disagree with us, whether fellow believers or unbelievers.

Wrong Answers

Would any of the above options make the statement true? I don’t think so. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the issues are unimportant or that Christians should not hold some of those views because quite a few of them are incompatible with Scripture. For example, I believe the Bible clearly teaches that the unredeemed will suffer eternal punishment, so I think this is what a Christian should believe. But if someone interprets these passages in a different way, does that mean they cannot be a Christian? If you believe that to be the case, then you have just added to the simplicity of the gospel message by claiming that one must also have a proper understanding of the eternal fate of non-believers.

Let’s try another one. I believe the Bible is extremely clear that God created everything in six normal-length days just thousands of years ago—not millions or billions. I’ve written a whole book about this (Old-Earth Creationism on Trial). But if someone believes that Jesus Christ died for their sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3–4), and they also happen to believe that God created over the course of billions of years, would that disqualify them from the faith? Is it impossible for them to trust in Christ if they reject and reinterpret the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the timing of creation? If you think so, then you have added the age of the earth to the gospel message.

For the record, I work at Answers in Genesis, and the ministry and its founder, Ken Ham, are frequently accused of doing this, but we have consistently rejected such a view. We have never taught that one must believe in a young earth to be saved. It’s true that some of our followers have done this—I’ve seen plenty of comments making such a claim in response to old-earth creationists on the ministry’s Facebook page. In some cases, the ministry’s emphasis on and passion for this issue is probably misunderstood as teaching its essentiality. But we do not teach one must believe in a young earth to be a Christian.

The Correct Answer

Let’s look at what Scripture teaches about becoming a Christian. After telling Nicodemus that he “must be born again” (John 3:7), Jesus told him the most famous words in Scripture.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

When the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31).

Near the end of his Gospel, the Apostle John stated the following was his purpose in writing the book.

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30–31)

So Jesus, Paul, and John all stated that to be a Christian one must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they must put their faith in Him to be saved. God’s gracious gift of salvation has been provided by Christ alone and has always been, and will always be received by faith alone.

Notice that these passages do not add requirements to faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not say that to be saved you must vote a certain way, use a certain Bible, be on the correct side of a social issue, and have all your theological ducks in a row.

How Did We Get Here?

So why do so many people make such strong statements about what is required if one is to be a Christian? There are surely many reasons, so let’s explore a few of them.

In many cases, Christians study the Bible and believe what it seems to plainly teach about a given topic (say, eternal punishment), and they assume that all true believers will naturally accept it.  So, if a person rejects this teaching (let’s call him Bob), then he is demonstrating that he does not really believe God’s Word (at least about this matter). And since Christians should believe the Bible, Bob’s rejection of eternal punishment means that he must not be a Christian, right?

While I wholeheartedly agree that Christians should believe every word of the Bible, I also recognize that all Christians make mistakes, and some Christians make the mistake of not believing all of Scripture, and we are all guilty of improperly interpreting parts of it at times. The same thing is true when it comes to matters of practice. There are some things Christians should do and others that they should not do. However, even Christians make terrible mistakes, and it is possible that a genuine believer does not always live consistently with the beliefs they profess.

Another reason some believers conclude that someone cannot be a Christian is that they assume that all Christians have thought through the logical implications of a certain belief. If Bob, the hypothetical character mentioned earlier, does not accept all of those implications then he must not be a genuine believer. For example, when we speak of being saved, it’s natural to ask what Jesus saves us from. The Bible teaches that He saves us from our sin and the consequences of that sin, including eternal separation from God in the lake of fire, which is called the second death (Revelation 20:14). So if Jesus saves us from eternal punishment then how can Bob truly believe the gospel message if he does not understand what he is being saved from?

This seems like a natural question to ask, and I think it’s good to consider it. But think about the alternative. If Bob places his faith in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, but he has not learned about eternal punishment yet, can we really say that he cannot be a Christian? Does God give a theology exam before granting eternal life? Or what if Bob started out believing in eternal punishment, but over the years, someone came along and confused him about the proper interpretation of those passages, leading Bob to conclude that the punishment of the wicked is only temporary. Would Bob suddenly lose his salvation?

Yet another reason I think some Christians condemn others is because we all struggle with pride, and this is just one way in which that manifests. We hold our own views with complete confidence, and some believers think that all good Christians should agree with them. So when they see someone who disagrees with them they conclude that that person must not really be saved. Can you see how ugly our pride can be and how it can blind us to the truth?

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial provides a respectful critique of the arguments used by Christians who believe in billions of years.

Let’s look at one more before wrapping things up. Some views may directly or indirectly impact the gospel. Earlier, I mentioned that some young-earth creationists have accused old-earth creationists of not being Christians because they reject the Bible’s teaching on these matters (for the record, I’ve heard old-earthers say similar things about young-earthers). Besides the fact that we believe the Bible plainly teaches the young-earth position, we also point out that old-earth creationists (to be consistent) must also reject the worldwide nature of the Genesis Flood (which some do). Even more dangerous, their belief inevitably places death, suffering, disease, and thorns prior to Adam’s sin, and yet the Bible teaches that these things are a result of Adam’s sin.

Here’s why this is so dangerous. If Adam’s sin did not bring death into this world (that is, if sin and death have no connection), then why is the only solution for sin the physical death of the Son of God on the Cross and His subsequent physical, bodily resurrection? If there is no connection between sin and death, then the gospel message itself is undermined. However, it is possible that old-earth creationists are simply being inconsistent in the way they read and understand Scripture here, and we need not automatically accuse them of rejecting the good news, even if their beliefs undermine the foundation for that good news.

A Call for Charity and Clarity

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (Hebrews 5:12–13)

The author of Hebrews admonished his readers for failing to progress in their walk with the Lord. By the time he wrote his letter, they should have grown in their faith to the point that they were ready to teach others. Instead, they were still babes and needed milk instead of solid food.

Unfortunately, the same thing is far too common today. Those of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to read and study Scripture regularly should be eating the “solid food” of the Word instead of relying on milk (just the basic teachings). But for many decades, the church, by and large, has been intellectually lazy. We thrive on devotions rather than Bible study (not that devotions don’t have their place). We desire milk instead of meat, and when that happens, those who are nourished only by milk can be easily led into all sorts of erroneous beliefs. This does not mean that they turn back into unbelievers.

In these situations, we need to encourage the milk-drinker to move on to solid food, to mature in their faith, and to carefully and prayerfully study Scripture. Yes, we are told in the Bible to correct those who are in error, so do not shy away if you hear the common “don’t judge me” refrain. Do not be hypercritical and harsh in your correction, but act in a spirit of gentleness as Galatians 6:1 instructs.

Finally, while it is not wrong to call out error when we see it among our fellow believers, we need to remember that true Christians can believe some bad ideas. We should not, but unfortunately we do at times. So if you plan to correct them, do not say, “You cannot be a Christian if you ____,” because you may be guilty of adding certain theological beliefs or Christian practices to the gospel message. Instead, lovingly point them to Scripture to show them what a Christian should do and think if they are going to be consistent with the faith they profess.

Noah: Man of God

Noah: Man of God delivers an exciting conclusion to the Remnant Trilogy.

I am very pleased to announce that the final installment of the Remnant Trilogy is now available. Although it has absorbed much of my free time over the past 2.5 years, this series has been a lot of fun to develop, and I’m thrilled that readers can now enjoy the entire story.

The final volume, Noah: Man of God, picks up right where the second novel ended and ties together all the story lines and loose ends from the first two books. As I started writing this one, I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t be as strong as the second book, which I anticipated would be my favorite because of all the action in the second half. I knew the third book would have plenty of action and adventure in the beginning and at the end, but I feared that the middle chapters would bog down a little. However, I was pleasantly surprised that these chapters turned out to be far stronger than I anticipated. There are numerous payoffs from the first two books, and I’ve already had a few readers tell me how much they enjoyed the middle section. We also added a few exciting chapters of an adventure-filled subplot and some special surprises in the final third of the book. Certainly, my opinion is rather biased, but at this point, I would have to say that the latest book is my favorite one in the series.

What is this one about?

The third book starts immediately after the close of the second book. Noah must find a way to escape the impending battle over Iri Geshem between the Nodites and Havilites before reuniting with Emzara. He’ll also need to gather a crew to help him build the Ark that the Lord first mentioned to him near the end of the second book. As public enemy number one (in the minds of Havilah’s rulers), he must also find a safe location to the build the Ark. Plenty of surprises await Noah and the reader in this story that spans Noah’s last century before the Flood.

How much of this story comes from Scripture?

Since the Bible gives very few details about Noah’s life prior to the Flood, we used artistic license while fleshing out his story. However, the third volume has the least amount of artistic license in the series since it covers a time period the Bible tells us more about. Obviously, Noah and his family working on the Ark and taking care of the animals come right from Scripture. And just like we did in the first two books, we included a nonfiction section to address questions about the pre-Flood world.

Also, since this series is essentially the official backstory for Noah’s family at the Ark Encounter and since it covers the years immediately before the Flood, there are plenty of items and events from the series depicted in the Ark. The “Encounter This” section is more than twice as long in this book than it is in the others.

Why would anyone read a novel about Noah when you can just read the Bible?

Perhaps it is not surprising that I’ve heard comments similar to this on a number of occasions. I see the same types of comments directed toward people who make films about biblical people and events. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from faithfully studying the Bible. If they do that regularly and don’t see a need to read or watch someone else’s portrayal of biblical people and events, then I have no problem with that. However, it can be quite helpful to see a biblical event portrayed (in print or on film) because it can help us detect areas where we haven’t paid close enough attention to the biblical text. Perhaps the book or film will depict a certain person or event differently than we have thought about it while reading the Bible. And sometimes, when we go back to study it, we realize that the reason it was different is because we automatically filled in details that weren’t found in the text. Thus, if we compare all that we read or watch with Scripture, a novel or movie can help us become more acquainted with the biblical text.

The Remnant Trilogy gives readers an imaginative and immersive journey through the pre-Flood world to discover what people and events may have shaped Noah into the faithful Ark-builder.

Another benefit can come from learning about the insights that others have discovered as they study the Bible. For example, it has been my job for over five years now to focus on and write about Noah, his family, the Ark, the Flood, and the world before the Flood. Who else gets to do this? There may be a few insights I can share that most folks have never considered. We often trust our pastors to teach us about the Bible. While authors are not necessarily pastors (some are, and I have been), they often study a particular topic in great detail, so there may be much to learn.

Finally, some people enjoy reading stories, so why not give them the option to read something that can help them grow in their understanding of who God is and what His Word teaches? That really was the goal of this series. Through the use of nonfiction sections and by challenging many of the stereotypical views of Noah that aren’t found in Scripture, we encourage our readers to dig into the Bible to see what it truly says.

What is your favorite scene in this book? The series?

It’s difficult to decide on a favorite scene in Noah: Man of God. There are two specific scenes that a couple of people have talked to me about already that are clearly in the running for my favorite. Without giving away spoilers, I will just say that both scenes have to do with dangerous creatures—one has to do with our hero and the other with his enemy. There are two other scenes that rank right up there for me. One has to do with Noah discovering something special about the place where he will eventually build the Ark, and the other one involves an action sequence with one of the women who will be on the Ark.

Picking a favorite scene from the series should be easy for me. Before writing the series, I knew I was going to include the arena scene shown on the cover of the second book. I figured it would be my favorite since it has so many things that interest me, and it is full of action. So I think I would probably pick this scene as the one I enjoyed the most. But the chapter that impacted me the most is found earlier in the second book. Writing a heart-wrenching scene where Noah’s life is rocked by tragedy was hard enough to write, but it was so much harder seeing Noah deal with his wife’s torment as well as his own grief. Because I try to put myself in the character’s shoes as I write each scene, it was extremely difficult to imagine what it would have been like to go through such tragedy. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used quite a few tissues that night and had some scratchy eyes the next day.

Why didn’t you take the story further into Noah’s life?

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT!] A couple of people have already asked me why we ended the story where we did, and someone told me that he really hoped we would cover the next year in Noah’s life. We decided to close the story at the start of the Flood with Noah and his family safely aboard the Ark. I think it’s natural for readers to want to see what we think life on the Ark might have been like, but frankly, I think a few chapters of that would get rather boring and would be anticlimactic. It’s amazing to walk through the Ark Encounter and observe what life may have been like and to see what the Ark’s systems may have been like. But reading about such things at the tail end of an adventure series would get old quick. The natural place to end the story was at the moment Noah’s faith in God was vindicated.

Are there any plans to add to the Remnant Trilogy?

Not at this time. Actually, we did leave some wiggle room for adding to it at some point down the road, but we certainly have no plans to do this at the moment. If we did do something, it would probably involve an adventure briefly hinted at in the second book that took place during the 450-year jump from Noah’s younger years to his 500th year.

Are you working on any other novels?

I’m currently finishing up a nonfiction book that I hope will be the most thorough study of an intriguing and controversial topic from the early chapters of Genesis. I’ve been working on it for several years, but the Remnant Trilogy forced me to put it on hold a number of times. I’m over 80% of the way through it, so I hope to finish by the end of the summer.

As for fiction, I have a few ideas in mind. Fans of my Truth Chronicles series have been asking for books 7–9, but I’ve been reluctant to work on that. I’m not completely satisfied with a potential story line, and the sixth book ended so perfectly that I don’t know if it would be wise to go beyond that. But I haven’t ruled it out, and it would be fun to hang out with Jax, Izzy, JT, and Micky again.

I’ve been kicking around doing a similar series with teenagers and using manga art again, but the books would probably be significantly longer and geared for a slightly older audience. Finally, I’ve been compiling notes over the past several years for a sci-fi series that I would love to publish someday, but it would be quite different than anything I’ve done so far, particularly since it would be from an unbeliever’s point of view.

I’ll keep readers posted on these projects as they are developed further.

Where can I get a copy of the Remnant Trilogy?

The books are available just about any place books are sold. They can be found online at my web store, Answers in Genesis, Master Books, Amazon, and