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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I am beginning to envision a horrific picture of the body of Christ. I DO NOT like what this vision shows me. The Body of Christ more resembles the Bride of Frankenstein.

In order to have a heavenly image of Christ’s body, we need to look at the whole body. The problem is that there are cancerous portions to the body feedings on itself. When pushed, they may say the others outside of their sect, are part of the body, but in their minds and in their doctrines they see the others as outsiders.  “Those who do not believe [insert doctrine here] like us are deceived!” is their battle cry.

“The liberals are deceived,” cry the conservatives.

“The conservatives are deceived,” cry out the progressives.

Do I think some are deceived? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, I am confident that I am deceived – I just don’t know where yet.

As I started to get a grand image of the Body of Christ, I started falling away from the congregation that I was apart of. And I believe that this was of God. As a [post-]Charismatic [not anti nor non, but post], I would say that this part of the Body is hemorrhaging. And not only I, but many ex-leaders and even current leaders of this movement are calling for its wake-up call.

For example, one of the sore point of what I came out of was the idea of “God’s Authority” and “God’s Government”.  Not that all charismatic’s have the same idea or model of what this looks like, but the particular portion that I came out of very much had a papal/apostolic authoritative headship model. We all had authorities that we needed to submit to.

I believe that this model is a deception! I believe that this model is derived more from the Old Covenant and from the ruling of Rome then it does from Christ’s upside-down teachings of a non-authoritative, influencing, servant leadership. There is still accountability, there is still God’s order and governing, it’s just that these do not look like the world’s equivalent.

However, this debate is neither here nor there. The fact is that the poison of the cancer is not in these differing views but in the total rejection of the rest of the Body’s input. Truly the extreme of the apostolic/papal governance model is but one of many models used throughout the rest of the body. And all these other views have their biblical scholars that will argue for their positions. I firmly believe my position is the most sound biblical, christocentric position, and I will stick up for it. However, the deception greater than me being wrong in my position, would be my believing that my position is God’s position. The deception most dangerous to the Body of Christ is any teaching given in such an authoritative spirit (spoken from a pulpit as fact, as biblical and as non disputable) that it trumps all other opposing teachings in the Body and is seen as God’s Teaching. Such an arrogant, self-righteous authority is the fruit that reveals its source.

 There are countless other beliefs and doctrines that we need to get over. Discuss them, dialogue over them and debate them? Sure; To take a stand in one position as though it were God’s?  God forbid.  Once we stop fighting for these positions as though they were our own, then and only then can God himself lead the whole Body into the truth.  And I would not be surprised to find out that many of these opposing views are all part of the Truth.

If  I were to be honest, I do not hold out much hope for a better picture of the Body of Christ any time soon. One that includes Orthodox, Catholic, Protestants, Anabaptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Emergents, pre-modernists, modernists, post-modernists, …. I do not hold out much hope because this Body is made up of humanity; specifically, a breed of humanity that is, and historically has been, divisive and hateful towards one another in the name of God, rather than loving one another out of the heart of God.

I can only hope that some would read this and take comfort and loosen their strongholds. However, I know that the reality is that for some this will be heard as the rant of a deceived liberal apostate.

The funny thing about growing in Christ is that you don’t start from a blank slate; you start from erroneously held beliefs about the way it all works. And erroneously held beliefs don’t vanish the second someone says, “Jesus, I put my faith in you alone.”
more

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky
more

If I am not a little embarrassed by what I said yesterday, I probably didn’t learn anything today.
Spencer Burke on the Drew Marshall Show

and

The sphincter is still a part of the body of Christ
Drew from the same interview.

[see part one]

  1. God’s redemptive love extends to all. It is His will that all come into a redemptive relationship.
  2. Because of who he is God will accomplish his will. All that He desires to be redeemed will be.
  3. Some will never be redeemed. They will be separated from God, they will perish, or they will suffer conscious eternal torment.

Recall that Ultimate Reconciliation chooses to believe 1 & 2 in our list. And just as Calvinism and Arminianism views weigh the verses that support their position and use those verses to interpret those verses that oppose their view, why couldn’t the univeralist verses be used to interpret the others? And which view would you say has the better image of God? The Calvinist, which states that God chooses some for salvation and some for damnation? The Arminian in which God is either powerless to save all or lets finite/ fallible people make an infinitely important choice of their eternal destination? Or the univeralist, who believes that God desires reconciliation of ALL and will see to it that ALL are reconciled?

As part of this idea of Ultimate Reconciliation, lets look at just how radical the gospel may be. For most of our modern Christianity, we have come to adhere to a theory of justification that is laid out in the so called “Roman Road to Salvation”. In a nutshell, this is summed up in the idea that we all fall short of God’s requirements (both gentile and Jew). We all have sinned and deserve judgment and death. God’s grace provides us a way through faith in Jesus. This faith in Jesus brings us into a state where we are no longer under condemnation. AMEN.

The modern reading of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s has Paul laying out the Gospel in Rom 1-4. Could this be a wrong reading? Could this reading be the result of Luther’s self condemnation? Through Augustine’s idea of original sin? Could it be possible that we are missing something in translation?

There has been much debate in recent times in Pauline scholarship. Out of this controversy comes a book that lays out a possible alternative understanding of the early chapters of Romans: The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul.

In this book, Douglas A. Campbell puts forth a theory that the early chapters of Romans should be read in a rhetorical manner. Where we read the outline of the gospel in Romans 1-4, Douglas suggests that Paul is actually arguing against the false gospel that has plagued his ministry. It is the gospel he wrote against in Galatians and that is written about in Acts 15. This false gospel says that though salvation comes through Christ, we still need to obey God’s laws; therefore circumcision is a requirement. So Paul is countering the arguments of a hypothetical teacher of the false gospel in the opening pages of this letter.

Apparently, the original Greek has distinct language changes that reveal when the false teacher is speaking and when Paul is responding. The teacher condemns the gentiles, Paul comes back with “for that with which  you judge another, you condemn yourself.” This rhetorical style goes back and forth to where the false teacher calls upon father Abraham and God’s covenant of circumcision and Paul counters that Abraham was credited with righteousness before circumcision.

For a good review of Douglas’ extensive book, see Richard Beck’s blog: (Notes on The Deliverance of God:Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII) Note: part xii provide the alternative rhetorical reading of Romans 1-4 with comments. See my copy without the comments.

So, where we read Romans 1-4 as the presentation of Paul’s gospel, Douglas puts forth that Paul is really arguing against the false gospel. If this is true, then maybe, just maybe, the gospel that we put forth today is a bastardize gospel that has much more in common with the Judaizer gospel Paul fought so hard against. Though this reading does not necessitate a Universalistic understanding, and the Universalistic understanding does not depend on this reading, the two do fit nicely together.

As one who is sympathetic to Christian Universalism, this theory is very intriguing. I look forward to hearing a rebuttal from the NT scholars that reject it.

In relation to redemption, who do you say that God is?

There are three different conclusions that are equally biblical:

  1. God’s redemptive love extends to all. It is His will that all come into a redemptive relationship.
  2. Because of who he is God will accomplish his will. All that He desires to be redeemed will be.
  3. Some will never be redeemed. They will be separated from God, they will perish, or they will suffer conscious eternal torment.

Each of these statements can be backed up in the scriptures. But at any time, only two will ever be true.

Calvinism: God wills that only some will be redeemed. All of these will be redeemed while the rest of humanity will suffer whatever awaits them after this life – they will perish, become totally separated from God or they will suffer eternally in a tormented state. God is God and He will accomplish this! (2 & 3) God’s redemptive love does not extend to all.

Arminianism: God loves and wills for all to be redeemed; however, many will not be in the end. (1 & 3) God’s will that all be redeemed will not be realized.

Most of today’s believers would have no problem picking a side in this historical debate between Calvinists and Arminians. Most would also generously call the other view sufficiently orthodox. But who is the God of these options? If these are my only choices, I am left with a choice between an unjust and unloving God, on the one hand, and a defeated God, on the other.

No matter how you spin it, the Calvinist’s God is a cruel monster who creates many to be cast aside at the end of times. Don’t get me wrong, this may be who God is. But if this is God, I will take the high road and rise up in rebellion against him even though I spend eternity in hell. As Richard Beck say’s, “God is not worthy of my praise just because He is God; He is only worthy of my praise if He is Good.” And to be completely honest, much of the imagery of God in the Bible is not worthy to be praised. A God that calls for human sacrifice(Genesis 22:1-18; Joshua 7:15; 1 Kings 13:1-2; ), the slaughter of innocent babies(Hosea 13:16; Psalms 137:9) and the genocide(Joshua 1:18; 6:21; 10:40-41) is not a God that I will follow.

On the other hand, the Arminian’s God is a) unloving or b) impotent. If God has the power to give eternal life to all but chooses to let unknowledgeable men to choose death, He is like a parent that lets her infant child to run into the midst of a busy freeway in order to not override that child’s free will. I know of no one who would say that such a parent was not guilty of horrendous evil. That leaves us with a God who would save all if he could, but he can’t. He does not have the power to challenge man’s freewill. This is the closest God in the Calvin and Arminian camps that I could follow. The only thing that would keep me from this is if this God created the universe. Because if he created the universe, he did it in a way that condemns many, if not most, of humanity that ever lived.

Am I left with any other option?

How about a God who desires all to be saved and will accomplish His desires! (1 & 2) This is a God worthy of my praise. The sad thing is that though Christian Universalism/ Ultimate Reconciliation is a) no less biblical and b) the most Good image of God, it is the one that the majority of Christians reject as a damnable heresy.

That being said, I am completely satisfied to be called a heretic!

[to be continued]

For some reason, this time of year is when we are all reflecting on the past year and anticipating the one to come.

However, rather than dissecting the past 12 months – in which my life and faith has been whipped around on a roller coaster ride that only came to rest a little over a month ago; rather than try and figure out where this new life will lead me in the coming months; I figured that I would take stalk of where I am today.

This list of core convictions is modified from the Anabaptist Network UK set of Core Convictions.

  1. Jesus is my example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of  my life, the central reference point for my faith and lifestyle.
  2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. I am committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which I read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
  3. I am committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of the whole body such as Anabaptists, Orthodox, Catholics, Emergents – especially those that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursue alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
  4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force has been inappropriate for followers of Jesus and has damaged our witness. I am committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted; and of living out the good news as the poor, powerless and persecuted as required.
  5. Community is called to be the catalyst of discipleship as well as to be missional. I am committed to nurturing and developing any such expression of community as it crosses my path.
  6. In this individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, I am committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously and working for justice.
  7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As a follower of Jesus in a divided and violent world I am committed to non-violence and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among communities, in society and between nations, and with the natural world.

I believe in God. Daddy and Creator.
I believe in Jesus. Lord, and the ultimate revelation of God.
I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the continuing work of the Messiah;

in issuing in the Kingdom of God,
in bringing all creation into reconciliation,
in giving us the ministry of reconciliation.