Recently I changed my religion on facebook to:”Radical Reformer? or just a heretic”

Needless to say, it has sparked an interesting exchange of mail between my mother-in-law [MIL] and myself [ME]. So I thought I’d post the correspondence here.

MIL: “or just a heretic? What does this mean”

ME: “I don’t toe the evangelical/charismatic line.

The old answers are not necessarily the right ones for the current set of questions. So, for instance, I lean more towards eastern orthodox in my thinking of original sin and the atonement than the idea of a legal consequence in need of a substitutionary atonement.”

MIL: “I have no idea what this means you scare me, eastern orthodox,”

ME: The evangelical/charismatic doctrine is that Jesus had to die in my place to pay the price to appease the wrath of God. He had to so this because the fall resulted in the guilt of mankind do to the moral/spiritual stain upon our soul.

My belief (resembling eastern orthodox) is that the result of the fall is not a prescription of punishment but a description of the severance of communion with God. God’s wrath is not directed on us due to our despicable state, but God’s cleansing wrath is directed at the sin that causes the shame that keeps us hiding from God.

The evangelical/charismatic doctrine has God saying to us: “Do as I say not as I do! I expect you to love your enemies … but I get to dish out the punishment on my enemies that they rightly deserve.” We do not respect the person that portrays the characteristics that we admire when we see it in God. This vengeful God is not the image that Jesus portrays to us, nor is it a God that I could call dada.

Anyway this is just one of the many ~heretical~ beliefs that I hold. (I am also an Evolutionary Creationist- Genesis 1 – 11 does not describe our origins but rather it describes our condition. So the fall is not an actual event but a mythological image that explains our current state.)

So, did I ease your concern or amplify it?

ME: Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

“Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism have a substantively different soteriology [the branch of theology that deals with salvation]; this is sometimes cited as the core difference between Eastern and Western Christianity. In contrast to other forms of Christianity, the Orthodox tend to use the word “expiation” with regard to what is accomplished in the sacrificial act. In Orthodox the ology, expiation is an act of offering that seeks to change the one making the offering. The Greek word that is translated both into propitiation and expiation is “hilasmos” which means “to make acceptable and enable one to draw close to God”. Thus the Orthodox emphasis would be that Christ died, not to appease an angry and vindictive Father, or to avert the wrath of God, but to change people so that they may become more like God.”

MIL: I don’t know, I have to study this and pray about it.

I just feel very uneasy in my spirit about this. I love and respect you as a scholar of the Word but…….

I don’t see how you can be both an Evolutionary & a Creationist I don’t understand.

What difference does it make why Jesus came He came.

His heart was broken mine was mended,
He became sin now I am clean,
The Cross He carried bore my burden
The nails that held Him set me free

His scars of suffering brought me healing,
He spilled His blood to fill my soul,
His crown of thorns made me royalty,
His sorrow gave me joy untold.

He was despised and rejected
Stripped of His garment and oppressed
I am loved and accepted
And I wear a robe of righteousness

His Life for Mine,
His Life for Mine,
How could it ever be?
That He would die,
God’s Son would die,
To save a wretch like me,
What love divine,
He gave His life for Mine

You will find this song emotional and very simple, probably corny but that is what Jesus did for me when He came, Isn’t that what really matters.

ME: “What difference does it make why Jesus came, He came.”

The difference is that the traditional doctrines of an appeasing of an angry and vindictive Father is not who I believe daddy is and we live out what we really believe. If we believe that God is a God of love but that love is conditional, then even as believers we struggle to stay on the good side of His favour. If something in our life goes wrong we try to figure out what it is that ticked God off. Now I realize we would never say this, however, when you look at so much of our actions you see us looking to get into or say in God’s good favour.

We become slaves to our belief of who we think God is.

Regarding an evolutionary creation, the way I see it is that God impregnated the natural world with a spiritual DNA that led the process of evolution much like the natural DNA in the single cell egg can evolve into a fully functional being.

The issue for me is that most of the people that leave the christian faith or who never enter it to begin with, do so for a handful of reasons. These issues are not dealt with in our traditional doctrines.

The issues:
1) A resistance to inelegance. The overwhelming weight of science proves that the earth is not flat, but Christians are resisting this because the bible – at least how we interpret it says that the earth is indeed flat.

2) The God that is portrayed to outsiders is an immoral God who should be held culpable. What kind of God is he who creates humanity with freewill, limited knowledge and understanding and place before them a fruit that was good for food and delightful to the eyes and then tells them that it is off limits and if they do ‘fall’ they will die – neglecting to show them the eternal torment in the flames of hell.

3) Which brings us to the Flames of Hell. (see #2)

Doug Pagitt in ‘A Christianity Worth Believing‘ says it this way:

‘Christianity is a stagnant, exclusive club for those who are satisfied with ill fitting answers meant for issues of a different age..’

Our current theology is from another age where they were wrestling with issues we no longer deal with and questions we no longer are asking.

The theses of his book is that Christianity for the first ten years was strictly Jewish. Then entered the gentiles [Greeks] and for the next 300 years there was a balancing act between the two groups. The Jewish believers Looked to  Joshua the Messiah who was the fulfillment of the promises given to their ancestors. They believed in a God who was close and mingled in their lives even if sin got in the way. Their God was not distant up in Heaven – He lived in the temple right in their midst.

The Greeks, on the other hand, held to a belief in the gods up in the heavens who related to humanity at a distance and required appeasements in order for their good favour on their followers. It is in this context that the gospel was translated that Jesus Christ is the ultimate appeasement for the one true God.

Then came Constantine and his institutionalization of the things of God. He all but crushed the eastern and Jewish flavours of our one faith. Today we are still riding on the coattails of the theologians who struggled with the issues and questions of their day.

We need to start listening to the questions being ask today and come up with new answers that address them.

Anyway, I’m glad I only gave you the ‘safe’ heretical thoughts that I am wrestling with.