Archives For Things Spiritual

The Nature of God

I am pulling up another past post form Red Letter Living that I wrote almost three years ago. At that time in my spiritual journey I was trying to decide where church doctrine and its creeds belonged in my faith. Needless to say this book by Harvey Cox did a lot to show me a different path on this topic and many others. When I came to realize just how much man had a hand in formalizing current Christian doctrine it convinced me that Christianity is an ever evolving process and is not to be paralyzed by some of the now outdated fourth and fifth century man-made worldviews.

I am going to start this post with an alarming story of Constantine’s involvement in the Council of Nicaea. It is from a book by Harvey Cox entitle The Future of Faith.   If this doesn’t cast out any doubt of man’s involvement in the change from faith to rigid belief nothing will:

2015-02-22_10-55-08Constantine, not Jesus, was the dominant figure at Nicaea, and it is hardly surprising that almost all the bishops, to the emperor’s satisfaction, arrived at a nearly unanimous decision in his favor. Only Arius himself and three other stubbornly independent bishops withheld their approval. Constantine promptly exiled Arius to the remote province of Illyricum. Then, in a statement that suggests he had forgotten his previous view both that this was all a matter of small significance and that all the parties should show forbearance to one another, he decreed: If any treatise composed by Arius be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames…and if anyone shall be caught concealing a book by Arius, and does not instantly bring it out and burn it, the penalty shall be death; the criminal shall suffer punishment immediately after conviction.

But the emperor’s draconian measures did not succeed. The historic Council of Nicaea, as an effort to unify the church and the empire by imposing a creed, proved a dismal failure. Within months arguments flared up again. One of the bishops who had attended the Nicaea council and had not supported the final decision, Hilary of Poitiers (d. ca. 367), found himself banished to Asia. No doubt his experience tinctured his opinion of councils and creeds, but a letter he wrote from his place of exile at the time pinpoints how little the Council of Nicaea had accomplished and what a debacle it had been. Hilary says: It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain their inclinations…arbitrarily…every year, nay every moon we make a new creed and describe invisible mysteries. We repent what we have done. We defend those who repent. We anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.

Arius definitely caught the ire of Constantine and his brutality. Not only did he banish this noble bishop who dared to disagree with him on church matters he made even having anything written by Arius a penalty of death!! Sadly these types of stories are somewhat frequent in the years following Constantine’s mandating Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

We will be studying some more about this period in future posts but for now it is important that you realize that Christianity’s history is messy indeed. I am not saying that there are no good parts to what became the Church of Jesus Christ but only that we must be aware that much of the simple teachings of Jesus were later polluted by men seeking to consolidate personal power in earthly focused empires. Power corrupts, even inside the Christian church!

Too Much Bad Evangelism…

February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

I find myself yet again using words from Stehpen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians as a source for one of my Sunday posts.  He just seems to say what needs to be said.  This time it is about how we Christians are becoming so tainted by bad evangelism. We let the crazies among us control the chicken house so to speak.

Crazed LunaticThe problem with many modern Christians is that we’ve seen and experienced too much bad evangelism: the crazy street preachers shouting at strangers, the late-night televangelists peddling for money, The Westboro Baptists picketing funerals, the corrupt pastors who eventually make the news for all the wrong reasons.

Christians are so tired of the harassment, manipulation, hidden agendas, lies, abuse, hate, bigotry, and downright sin that’s been associated with “spreading the gospel of Christ” that they’ve simply abandoned talking about Jesus altogether….

Telling anyone about Christ, the Bible, or even carefully inviting someone to church is a social faux pas. It’s becoming less culturally acceptable to evangelize. It’s understandable why many believers don’t want to. You don’t want to be seen as that person: The crazed lunatic who believes in a supernatural deity, the anti-science, anti-environment, homophobic, religious fundamentalist who believes in the existence of an afterlife.

SOURCE:  Christianity Is More Than Just Being A Good Person | Stephen Mattson.

Lets face it modern-day Christianity is too often seen by most outside the faith as being associated with hate, bigotry, and hidden political agendas instead of love, forgiveness, and mercy as our founder tried to teach us. Christians are seen as being anti-science and extremists in the political realm.  A big part of the problem is because most of the leaders of today’s churches are not courageous enough to distance themselves from this relatively recent toxic view.  They let others define how the world perceives what Christianity is. I might say one glaring exception to this seems to be the Catholic church and their latest pope. He gives me reason to be optimistic about the future of Christianity.

The little startup church that I joined more than a dozen years ago, and was asked to leave because of “doctrinal issues” more than four years ago, continues to struggle to increase its membership above a critical mass. They just can’t seem to get people in any numbers to even consider membership there.  A big part of that is probably that they are one of those who reject so much of what most of the world takes for granted in favor of a narrow biblical view.  They just can’t seem to see that the bible, which they even fail to accept was put together under a Roman king trying to shore up his failing kingdom, was not the last words God gave us or even all the words he gave us then. God continues to give us the knowledge to more fully love each other as each day passes. He did not leave us to stagnate with a fourth century mentality of the world. They just don’t seem to fathom that concept.

I am hopeful that the post-evangelical Christianity or whatever you want to call it which will surely follow these times will return to the basic teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am hopeful that someday being a Christian will not automatically label me as a radical-right, non-caring, crazed lunatic but instead as a person who lives out Christ’s command to love him and to love each other.

I Celebrate Post-Evanglism…

February 15, 2015

But by the time I was in grade school, my parents [who were both pastors] were becoming increasingly convinced that Sunday-morning Evangelicalism just wasn’t enough. No matter how nice the community was, they yearned to be part of a radical fellowship of Christ-followers, learning how to be disciples in their everyday lives. They wanted to live in solidarity with those who are most marginalized in our society. With increasing urgency, they felt that God was calling them to be in relationship with those whom the mainstream culture had taught them to fear….

We’re in the midst of a tidal wave of change that is fundamentally re-shaping the character of the North American church. Millions of us are discovering the ideas of the radical discipleship movement, and a surprising number are embracing the call to abandon all – our comfort, our wealth, and even the Evangelical subculture – in order to follow Jesus.

I share my story in part because I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a coherent life, community, and shared theology that is available when we come through the ferment of the great Evangelical break-up. The post-Evangelical experience isn’t simply about rejecting the unhealthy aspects of the Evangelical church; it can be a gateway into a much deeper engagement with the profoundly counter-cultural way of Jesus. 

SOURCE:  Dear Post-Evangelicals | Micah Bales | Red Letter Christians.

Micah Bales is one of my favorite bloggers over at Red Letter Christians and now that I know his life story he moved up yet another notch. As the middle bolded quote says I too celebrate the Post-Evangelical movement that is re-shaping the North American church. Being an impatient person I wish the tidal wave would happen even faster. We need to get Jesus’ church back to doing what he intended it to be.

The source article is a fairly long one but worth a read if you are interested in this topic and I can’t see that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should not be interested in this topic. I hope all those like me who have grown away from traditional evangelical congregation sees that there is light at the end of the tunnel for followers of Jesus. Some of this trend is actually happening  within traditional evangelical circles. There are those brave clergy who are covertly leading their flock back to the messages of Jesus.  Some of these brave souls are being discovered and deemed heretics and thrown out but there are some who are simply under the radar or maybe being ignored by the denominational leadership in hopes that they will soon see the light come back to their narrow vision of faith.

For many simply hunkering down in a pew on Sunday lamenting evil in the world and being told they can do nothing about it is not enough.  They know in their hearts there is another path for their faith journey. I celebrate the Post-Evangelical age and pray that more of my previous friends in evangelical circles will eventually come to celebrate it too.

 

2015-02-01_11-52-53We spent the last two posts reviewing an article entitled “The Six Worst Things About American Christianity” from RedLetterChristians by Steven Mattson. Now that I have had a few days to digest these words I want to turn the article’s six points around to imagine them as lessons we U.S. Christians should learn. Here they are:

1) We must realize that no one has an exclusive connection with God  —  Much of what we know about early Christianity is the result of  a scribe writing down Christian stories that had been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and even those original manuscripts have been lost to us. What we have now are copies of copies. Men throughout the ages have been penning their interpretations of what those original messages might have been.  This almost infinite list of opinions spreads from King Constantine and his council and Augustine in the fourth century to Luther and the other reformers in the 16th century all the way down to thousands of theologians at work today.

We must realize that none of these various man-made beliefs about God are without error. They might have been inspired by God but they were without question, even to the literalist, penned by men. The best thing that could happen to U.S. Christianity is that we would finally quit our “us” vs. “them” mentality of the various opinions of Christianity. We need to go back to kindergarten and learn to play nice with others. We need a little less bravado and a lot more humility.

2) We must not confuse our dedications to Jesus’ teachings and our political affiliations. – Neither U.S. political party at its roots are Christian. They are both mainly power based organizations currently just wanting to force their worldviews on each other. The early Christians were very aware that God’s kingdom is not of this world. We need to re-learn those lessons. Don’t allow your Christianity to be hijacked for political purposes.

3) Christianity is counter-cultural — Christianity is not like the latest fad that is determined by our current cultural trends. We in the U.S. mostly live in very shallow lifestyles. The teachings of Jesus are often very counter to what we endear in this country.

4) We don’t hold a “special” status with God — We in the U.S. have got to get it out of our minds that somehow God loves us more than he does others. God has agape love for all of his creation and by definition that is an infinite amount for each of us. How can some of us have more than an infinite amount of God’s love?  We may be at least currently biggest military and industrial force in the world and therefore have more than our say in what goes on in the world but that does NOT infer special status with God.

5) Remember, we Christians are meant to “march to the beat of a different drummer”.  — Jesus clearly told us again and again “don’t cling to your stuff”.  We in the U.S. are totally obsessed with consumerism. That is clearly not where Jesus wants us to be.

6) There is no such thing as a “power-hungry” Christian. — Jesus told us to have a servant mentality, not a master; that is very different from the U.S. culture teaches us. For us Christians it should never be about control or influence but instead about loving and caring.

 

<<<Originally Posted on June 3, 2013 by me at RedLetterLiving.net>>>