Christianity


I must say that I operate out of a very similar paradigm as Brian. The paradigm shift I went through to get here has been as drastic as the ‘born-again’ paradigm shift I experienced two decades ago. As a matter of fact, you could say that I have been ‘born-again’ … again!
Like Anne Rice, I could easily say that, in the name of Christ, I am no longer a Christian, if by christian you mean Protestant/Evangelical orthodox; the orthodoxy that flows from a ‘Constantinian Shift’ Theology. [Constantinian Shift: Hebrew/ Early Christian faith’s marriage with Greek philosophy/thinking and Roman’s power/politics].
In one generation, what it meant to be a Jesus follower did a 180°. For example:

Pre-Constantine, to be christian meant you were anti-violence/ pacifist – persecuted, in part, for a refusal to pick up arms.
Post-Constantine, one could not be part of the Empirical army if they were not ‘a christian’.

To top that off, at this point in history, we have Christians starting to kill other Christians for their differing beliefs. Creedal Christianity gave birth to death and violence within Christianity that results from the us vs them mentality it produces; from crusades and heretic hunts to God hates fags!

The way I see it, it is out of this Constantinian Shift that most if not all our modern theology/understanding of God is birthed. This is the prime filter through which we understand God, interpret the scriptures and interpret our spiritual experiences.

In the above video, Scott is operating more out of a paradigm that is the result of this Constantinian shift. Brian [and myself] are trying to operate fro somewhere else.

The protest-ants have no problem saying that the catholic “institutional church” had been traveling down a wrong path; but God forbid if the question of whether they are and have been on the wrong track is put forth to them. That is when they pull out the ‘H’ word. The image of a fork in the wrong road is a great metaphor for the issues that just don’t make sense to me any more: heaven/hell; universalism/ exclusivism; Calvinism/Arminianism; liberal/ conservative. Call me a heretic, but these issues and many more of the fundamental stuff, are, in my mind, obsolete and irrelevant. They deal with questions and issues that are only relevant on the  road modern Christianity finds it self on. I have repented (done an about face) and am looking for the fork in the road that our modern Christianity missed in the distant past. My goal is to take the ancient, pre-Constantine faith and bring it in to the modern/ post-modern era. And I don’t expect it will look very churchy to many.

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Reggie McNeal: “The church doesn’t have a mission; the mission has a church.” via

The various “new perspective” scholars bother some people because for all their differences, they generally agree that Luther and Calvin grappled with Paul as if Paul was like them – a 16th Century Reformer whose primary antagonist was a religious institution very much like the medieval papacy.

I think we’re at a real renaissance period in biblical studies. Yes, some will fight new perspectives on old texts tooth and nail, just as they did in the 1st and 16th centuries … declaring that the old wine is good enough, thank you very much. But new wine keeps showing up in old vessels … and so this is a wonderful time to be alive and enjoy the flavor.
McLaren

I think the conversation is more important than the conclusion. Not everyone believes this. To many (and I think this is a fundamentalist value), knowledge of the truth is valued more highly than the search for it.
The Naked Pastor

Some of the nuttiest American religious leaders today (and in the past) have latched on to one form or another of Christian Zionism.
Frank Schaeffer

The Anabaptists (and those who affiliate with them, ecclesially or theologically) have been profoundly shaped by the work of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, in particular his epic book The Politics of Jesus. A central tenet of Anabaptist theology is the Constantinian heresy, also called Christendom. According to the Anabaptists, Christianity became corrupted when the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Empire. Up to that point, Christians, as a marginal and powerless group, were able to faithfully live out the Sermon on the Mount, a life and witness very much in contrast with the violence of Empire. But in the wake of Constantine and the establishment of a “Christian Empire”–called Christendom–Christians, now holding power, had to make critical concessions. No longer could the Sermon on the Mount be followed literally. Thus, Constantinian theologians stepped in to reconcile the teachings of the radical, peasant rabbi with the gilded halls of power and affluence. The two, you might expect, didn’t fit well together. So Christianity became diluted and corrupted. More, Christianity became an instrument of the state. Being a good Christian meant being a good citizen and a flag waving patriot. Jesus and the Empire were now one and the same.
Experimental Theology

“For too long we have read scripture with nineteenth-century eyes and sixteenth-century questions. It’s time to get back to reading with first-century eyes and twenty-first century questions.” – N.T. Wright VIA

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the exotic unfamiliarity of Buddhism in contrast to the assumed familiarity of Christianity, or the fact that Buddhists are less numerous and politically significant in the West, or something else entirely. But when the Dalai Lama speaks of ahimsa, people lap it up. But when a Christian speaks of nonviolence, people call it irresponsible.
Matt Stone

It is a tragedy that, among those who uphold the banner of redemptive violence (especially at a global level), the voices of Christians are often the loudest.  What Sharon Baker sets out to do in Razing Hell is remind those who follow Jesus that the way to peace is through restoration and reconciliation, not retribution.
Razing Hell

Here is excerpts from a blog post of  Richard Beck at Experimental Theology. Richard is looking at George MacDonald’s sermon Justice. It is a great read:


MacDonald wants to push back on that notion [of equivalence between the “punishment” of sin and God’s “justice”], to suggest that justice is a far richer concept than punishment. And if this is so, no amount of punishment in hell gets God closer to achieving justice. To illustrate this MacDonald has us consider someone stealing our watch:

Suppose my watch has been taken from my pocket; I lay hold of the thief; he is dragged before the magistrate, proved guilty, and sentenced to a just imprisonment: must I walk home satisfied with the result? Have I had justice done me? The thief may have had justice done him—but where is my watch?

The point here, obviously, is that a “just” result can’t be found through punishment alone.

The doctrine of substitutionary atonement feels right to us because, as victims, we want wrong-doers to be punished. It’s emotionally satisfying. We want people to go to hell.

In short, the appeal and logic at work behind subsituionary atonement is really just a symptom of an evil impulse within our own hearts. But this evil impulse doesn’t describe God’s justice. God only punishes as a means, not as an end in itself:

It is no pleasure to God, as it so often is to us, to see the wicked suffer. To regard any suffering with satisfaction, save it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil, is inhuman because undivine, is a thing God is incapable of. His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes.

A further problem with the allure of substitutionary atonement–to have Jesus suffer the consequences of my sin rather than me getting into the hard work of repentance and reconciliation–is that it is selfish, a theological product of my sin.

Substitutionary atonement is an attempt to cling to my sin ever more tightly! Let Christ suffer the consequences of my sin so I don’t have to make amends and restitution. I’m off the hook as it were.

If I hate the sin in my heart how is substitutionary atonement good news? It’s only good news for people who love their sin but want off the hook.

Our business is not to think correctly, but to live truly. One chief cause of the amount of unbelief in the world is, that those who have seen something of the glory of Christ, set themselves to theorize concerning him rather than to obey him.

But the question is still out there, how does MacDonald see Christ as our atonement? Toward the end of the sermon he offers his positive view:

I believe in Jesus Christ. Nowhere am I requested to believe in any thing, or in any statement, but everywhere to believe in God and in Jesus Christ…
Jesus, our propitiation, our atonement. He is the head and leader, the prince of the atonement. He could not do it without us, but he leads us up to the Father’s knee: he makes us make atonement. Learning Christ, we are not only sorry for what we have done wrong, we not only turn from it and hate it, but we become able to serve both God and man with an infinitely high and true service, a soulservice. We are able to offer our whole being to God to whom by deepest right it belongs. Have I injured anyone? With him to aid my justice, new risen with him from the dead, shall I not make good amends? Have I failed in love to my neighbour? Shall I not now love him with an infinitely better love than was possible to me before? That I will and can make atonement, thanks be to him who is my atonement, making me at one with God and my fellows! He is my life, my joy, my lord, my owner, the perfecter of my being by the perfection of his own. I dare not say with Paul that I am the slave of Christ; but my highest aspiration and desire is to be the slave of Christ.

Thanks to all who keep the Middle East in your thoughts and prayers. Let’s keep praying for an outcome that is pro-peace, pro-justice, pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian…
AMEN

The ancient Jews believed that justice itself was judgment, that rather than pointing the finger or commercializing someone else’s sins all over the tabloids, we should promote justice. Let me explain. If we don’t like war then our role isn’t to be anti-war, rather it’s to be pro-peace. If we want to change the minds of others then we intentionally live out the very things we believe in rather than judging the things we don’t.
George Elerick

first we humbly seek for God. Then we humbly speak with God. Soon, though, we may proudly speak for God … and then we arrogantly speak as if we were God!
Friend of Brian’s

I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but every major heresy that has inflicted God’s people for the last 2,000 years has come from organized groups with “leaders” who thought they knew God’s mind better than anyone around them. Conversely, virtually every move of God among people hungering for Him was rejected by the “church” of that day, and the people that were part of that move were excluded, excommunicated or executed for following God.
Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore

An authority structure such as the church is the perfect culture for codependence. I see how complicit I was in its vivacity. I know people depended on me to make decisions for them in every sphere of their lives, from financial, to relational, to spiritual and everything else. And even though I resented it, I did allow it to some extent
the naked pastor

These quotes go hand in hand. The danger of heresy comes not from whether someone is a part of a local congregation or not, but from pride and arrogance. This pride and arrogance can be seen in an attitude that I/we [a congregation, denomination or religion] know God fully enough; that we have God’s authority or are operating under God’s authority – so of course we have the responsibility to impose our beliefs on another.

On the other hand, I have come to believe that Christianity is NOT God’s approved religion! Christianity is man’s attempt at compiling doctrines and practices into a neat and organized box. That God does not move exclusively or even primarily within this christian religion box, rather, God’s spirit hovers over the whole of the sea of humanity and is at work within all nations, people groups and religions. I am NOT saying that ALL religious roads lead to God; like a statement found in The Shack, I believe that God is on all roads and will meet humanity on whatever road its on. Do we, in the Christian Box, have something to offer others? Of course we do. But so might Buddhists, Muslims and atheists!

Finally, our beliefs, practices and actions ARE important. These things help to model us and the society we are apart of. As such, values judgments can be made on different worldviews and religious doctrines and dogmas. These affect how we  react to:

  • violence (9/11, the war on terror, …)
  • economics (our recession, the poverty of the majority of humanity, …)
  • power struggles (the struggle of protesters against political policies and actions, …)
  • ecology(global warming, oil spills, …)

So, for instance, I’ll reject and make value judgments on worldview boxes which  believes that:

  • the world will come a violent end as a means to a peaceful reign of their God
  • God will bless or curse certain people or groups of people based on their relationship to said God
  • believes that we need to make our culture adhere to our beliefs and practices
  • believes that the earth is destined to be renewed by their God so global warming is either not important or is not factual.

Rather I believe, base on my faith and the understanding of Jesus’ life and teachings that:

  • Peace is the means and the end. The reign of Christ, the era of the Messiah, has already been inaugurated in the life and death of Jesus.  (If there  is a second coming, it will follow this model of peace being the means and the end.)
  • Blessings and Curses from a deity is archaic. We who are living in the Kingdom of God must realize that any blessings we have, should be used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, release those in captivity …
  • Citizenship is not to any nation. As such, the policies of the  nation in which I live are not up to me to change.
  • The earth is God’s and it is our responsibility to care for her.

A little background is needed.

  • Stage 1: Criminal/ Self centered.
    Best served by two institutions – jail and the boardroom.
  • Stage 2: Rules-based/ Black and White/ Certainty
    Two institutions might best serve stage 2 – the military and the church – conservatism.
  • Stage 3: Rebellious/Questioning
    The institution that seems best to support stage 3 is the university – liberalism.
  • Stage 4: Mystery-based/ Doubt and Uncertainty
    They seem to be saying the same stuff as those in stage 2, but every word out of their mouths is slippery.

(Read the background article to get a fuller understanding of these stages.)

As I read this article on the four stages, I asked myself, “self, where are you in relation to these stages?”

Like the author, I did not come into faith from a solid stage one position, I started from a mixture of stages one and three. Likewise, when I came to faith I did not go into any single stage. Although I was solidly birthed into stage two faith, there was always a bit of stages three and four there. (Just ask my wife and mother-in-law who had to live with me shaking up their faiths with my questioning.)

Recently, though, I made a departure from this mixture. I entered into a stage three faith that was shaken to the core. As I went through this phase of my faith walk, I kept the questioning mostly to myself. A year or so ago, I walked out of the wilderness of stage three and entered a phase that combined stages three and four. Today I think I am solidly in stage four but I do have some stage three left in me.

So where are you in relation to these stages?

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