“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
This is a very familiar expression which comes from the inductive reasoning Duck Test. The test supports the idea that our inductive reasoning can determine a person’s identity through the observation of his habits, practices, behaviors, etc. Many Christians love this form of inductive reasoning because it provides little categories that they can lump theologically loaded concepts neatly. They like to quote the Biblical expression, “you shall know them by their fruits,” … as their very own “Duck Test.”
Most Christians are very comfortable living and speaking in categories. You know what I mean…I’m sure. We talk about us versus them, outsiders versus insiders, lost versus found, in versus out, heretics (them) versus the theologically sound (us). One category that we dwell in most often is the safety of the categorical distinction between believers and unbelievers.
Maybe you haven’t paused long enough to consider how pregnant and pre-loaded those categories really are.
When many Christians use the term believer, the pregnant assumption is that they are talking about a person who has believed in Jesus, who has been given eternal life, who has been forgiven of all of his sins (past, present and future), who is saved for all eternity, who has been justified by God, and has been regenerated by the Spirit of God (or born again), and who has the Spirit of God dwelling in them. That is triplet-sized pregnancy!
Likewise, when many Christians use the term unbeliever, the pregnant assumption is that they are talking about a person who has not believed in Jesus, who is spiritually lost, who remains in his sins, and is doomed to spend an eternity in hell. Of course, there are many other negative things that are included in the term unbeliever. I’m not trying to avoid any of them. If you want, you can re-read the first paragraph and simply say to each one of those descriptions that the unbeliever is not like that.
These are the concepts that are included when these categories are used, right?
Is it possible that these categories, these terms specifically, have been grossly misunderstood?
Join the conversation…but first a little quiz to see where you stand.
This is a simple true/false quiz I recently gave to a group of men. The quiz can gage how entrenched in preconceived ideas or how well a person is progressing in re-thinking and affirming for himself the real message of the Bible.
Here is the true/false test: Which of the following are an accurate description of ALL believers in the Bible?
1. They are spiritually redeemed.
2. They are justified by faith.
3. They are saved by grace through faith.
4. They are kingdom bound.
5. They are persevering in their faith.
6. They are born again.
7. They believe in Jesus.
8. They have eternal life.
9. They have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
10. They are members of the Body of Christ universal.
11. They will be resurrected in the resurrection of the righteous.
12. They will be glorified according to Rom. 8:30.
13. They have been forgiven so that they can become sons of God.
14. They have been reconciled once for all to God.
15. They have received Christ's propitiation for their sins, past, present, and future, to pay for their pre-Christian sins as well as for their future sins.
16. They have believed in God's revelation to them.
That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? I hope it was.
Now for the answers: are you ready? All of the statements are false except for one, the last one. You read that correctly. All statements, except the last, are false.
How did you do? Did you make a hundred?
If you are like those in my Bible studies, even after sitting under my teaching since the Great Flood (or maybe it just seems that way!), you probably didn’t do too well. Now is the time to work on re-studying God’s Word to discover exactly what it says. We have believed what others have taught us because it seemed to explain God’s Word adequately. But the more we lay aside what we’ve been taught and delve into the text on our own, we may begin to uncover the assumptions that have been made and that have led to conclusions that don’t actually explain what the message of the Bible.
I have recently taken pause and reconsidered the many instances in the Scriptures relating to these categories. I was delighted with what I found.
Christians, myself included, have made the terms believer and unbeliever refer to categories of people, rather than to kinds of action! The Bible doesn’t really group people into two categories, believers and unbelievers in the way that we have supposed. The Bible does speak of people believing or not believing; it describes people who are responding to God and those who aren’t. But the key is this: the same people can be responding in one instance, but not be responding in the next one. The same person can be a believer one moment and an unbeliever the next without any of the theological baggage (and that is just what it is: baggage. May it be forever lost in transit!) that has been attached to those terms.
Many Christians apply their inductive reasoning and surmise that if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck then it must be an unbeliever. And when they say this and make this deduction, they are saying that they are confident of where a person stands with God or what their eternal destiny will involve.
Rather than seeing these terms in the sense of a lost group of people and a saved group of people, we ought to be seeing all people as one group some of whom are believing while others are not believing. Then they can change into the very opposite from what they are presently: those who had been believing may stop believing and become unbelieving persons while those who were not believing may start believing. Instead of designating two different groups of people, the terms believers and unbelievers actually designate two different kinds of responses at any given moment. These are very fluid and changeable. But the terms, at least how the Bible uses them, do not refer to a person’s eternal destiny at all. The terms refer to how they are responding to the spiritual warfare in which they are presently engaged.
All of God’s creatures are struggling in the spiritual warfare that they are fighting. Some are doing a better job than others; but all are struggling. They need our help, not our judgment. We must began to see everyone through this lens rather than through the distorted lens we have manufactured by the errant synthesis we’ve used to understand the Bible’s message. When we begin to understand people in this light, it makes us begin to wonder about a lot of other things. We have begun an awesome journey into the contemplation of the love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy of God.
If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. But if it is lame or sickly, many of its distinguishing characteristics may be missing. A lame or sickly duck is one that is weak, falls behind in ability and achievement, and may not even be able to quack! But it is still a duck!
Our job is not to polarize by casting judgments that may be missing what God is doing in another’s life, but to “strengthen the hands that are weak and knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Heb. 12:12-13)
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