David Mann, who I do not know and have nothing against, asks in his letter to the editor, published Dec. 1, "Which of Dr. Bill Cummings' words show that he is not a Christian?" This question is nonsensical since it assumes something there is neither evidence nor reason to conclude, i.e., that Cummings is not a Christian.
What beliefs are required by Jesus in order for one to be a Christian anyway?
Mann shows by verbiage of his letter than he uses a bogus test (at least a test different from the one Jesus used to determine his followers) for determining who is Christian and who is not. Jesus said we will know them by their fruit. Mann has made up his own test of discipleship (is that in fact all we are all arguing about) by referring to conversations that took place long after Jesus died. Mann refers to the Council of Nicaea called by the emperor to set dogma in order to quell dissent among Jesus' followers. It had little or no mission to decide who was a Christian or not. Jesus was dead when this event took place in any event.
The ones who called this council were not Jesus followers. They were government leaders trying to hold down dissent that created trouble for the civil authorities. The doctrines from this group were not informed by religion and have no say today in deciding who was or is a true follower of Jesus.
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Is Cummings a Christian? I know Cummings well, and he certainly is a celebrated, widely known and highly respected Christian and a great teacher about Jesus and a follower, student and admirer of Jesus. I have been in Cummings' classes conducted in church buildings with highly educated people in attendance. He has charged not a dime though he came from Monroe County to teach. He loves biblical literature and the teachings of Jesus. Why else would he have devoted his life to it?
He began at age 12 or so, as I recall, and is in his 80s now. Few people ever dedicate such a huge portion of their lives to anything. Maybe some sports stars or musicians do, but it is rare. Cummings can virtually quote the entire New Testament, chapter and verse. One does not gain that intimate knowledge of New Testament biblical literature without being a devoted Christian.
Our attendees at his sessions spent long weeks and months with him teaching. We got to know him well, and we certainly all thought he was a model Christian. What special knowledge does Mann have to say, think or to pontificate that Cummings is not a Christian?
Mann states Cummings stops short of believing Jesus was divine. Who has set belief in Jesus' divinity as a test for being a Christian? Jesus did not, so far as I know since Jesus never ever claimed to be divine. That's right. Jesus never claimed to be divine. So how is Cummings a non-Christian for not believing Jesus was divine when Jesus never claimed to be divine?
Dictionary.com defines a Christian as: Relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings. Note: Bill Cummings has followed Jesus teachings with more intensity and discipleship than anyone in the history of Bibb or Monroe counties, perhaps more than anyone in the history of Georgia, except maybe Richard Keil. Why does Mann say Cumming is not Christian, since Jesus said we will know them by their fruit. Does anyone that any reader know have more Jesus fruit in their history than does Bill Cummings or Richard Keil?
Churches needs more, not less good people who base their lives on the evidence they intelligently and in good faith think derives from this man Jesus. A small bit of practical background to why this matters.
It is widely discussed that Pew Research, the most ardent pollster on religious matters, says Christianity is taking a big hit in its membership and attendance numbers. I am no scholar of Christianity but having lived my life in the American South, I have witnessed much that Christianity has done or influenced that is very admirable
Pew Research finds in its polling that there is a dangerous trend afoot. The numbers of older church members are the ones who are staying with the church. It is the young who are leaving. This bodes ill for the future of the church. If the young leave and the old die off, then in short order no one will be in attendance. Who then will guard the hen house and train our young in decent morals and music and wise council on how to lead good lives? Who will offer sports and music training and instill them with clean fun and supervised good living? Who will run the church programs that keep youngsters off the street when school is not in session? Who will teach stories and literature that has beneficial impact on all of us? Who would want to get involved with church as a genuinely dedicated devotee if we publish such ill-conceived attacks on the attendees' character as does Mann regarding Cummings?
What could one say that is an informed or fair attack on Cummings? I see nothing, and it makes me sad. Who would chose to spend a life promoting Jesus only to be hammered by public letters of criticism — not for bad morals — but for failing to declare certain beliefs that no one even asked for an opinion about.
Mann just took it on himself to interpret a pause in sound from Cummings' mouth as a disbelief of something that was a non-issue for Jesus and that should have been for Mann.
Phil Brown is a resident of Macon.