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.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Manhattan Declaration

Although I have yet to read the complete document, what I have heard seems positive. I have seen the typical reactions: conservative right labeling it as anti-christian and the liberal left, well basically ignoring it. The majority in the center – Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians – at least seem to be entering into a dialogue over this. That can only be a good thing.

Here are a few posts that I found interesting:

The ultra-conservatives booed it down, mainly because of the presence of the Catholics and Orthodox or assuming it was a statement about the gospel. Steve Camp called it the “New Downgrade and John MacArthur rejected it as he did the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document. The liberals tended to shy away from it also.

I read it through with my American wife. The reason we didn’t sign it … has more to do with not knowing how our vote will be used in the long tail of American politics.
Andrew Jones

“The church is being redefined before our very eyes. Soon it will be just a faint memory of what God had truly designed it to be; like an old faded picture on a wall.” -Author Unknown
SJ Camp

In his response to the declaration, Jonathan Merritt, a younger evangelical in age as well as spirit, wrote in The Washington Post, “Older evangelicals have been largely silent on these issues and in similar fashion this declaration has relegated them to little more than a footnote.”
Brian McLaren

Finally, because of the above points and because this is from a widespread group of Christian leaders, because I respect those who have signed it and those who drafted it, because it is ecumenical both on the basis of the great tradition and on the basis of shared moral values, because they have overtly claimed this is not just a partisan statement — and there are folks from both sides of the political spectrum on their list — and because they are not claiming these moral statements about abortion and marriage are the only central moral issues of our day, I hereby publicly endorse The Manhattan Declaration.
I hope you will join me or at least join us in a conversation.
Scot McKnight

“In theology there is a term called “adiaphora.” It is a term used to refer to things which, theologically speaking, we are indifferent to.” (Richard Beck)

Things I care more about:

  1. Justice
  2. Community/ ‘Organic Ecclesia’
  3. Unity in Diversity
  4. Dialogue
  5. Kingdom of God

Things I  care less about:

  1. Doctrine for doctrine’s sake
  2. Meetings/Programs/’Institutional Church’
  3. Orthodoxy
  4. Debate
  5. Eternity

What is on your lists?

You Scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

  • Emergent/Postmodern                         82%
  • Neo orthodox                                          61%
  • Modern Liberal                                       57%
  • Classical Liberal                                     54%
  • Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan        46%
  • Roman Catholic                                     39%
  • Reformed Evangelical                          32%
  • Charismatic/Pentecostal                     25%
  • Fundamentalist                                        4%

Interesting results from taking a short and completely anonymous quiz titled What’s your theological worldview?. I guess the big surprise for me is that I answered more for Roman Catholic then for Evangelical. The descriptive paragraph is completely accurate.

Today’s rant is not brought to you by yours truely. I have two rants to share with you: one from a well respected blogger and the second comes from an even more respected mother, wife and children’s minister. The first is rant is an the Annual Halloween Rant by the Internet Monk. Please take your time reading his post. I wait for you.

Done? Good wasn’t it.

Here is another rant that was part of the children’s program at my church from a few years back.

It’s funny, everyone seemed to like this presentation that was given to the whole church, but just this week I was having coffee with someone from my church who said that maybe we need to take a stand on Halloween. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking above getting inline with these rants either!

This is a touchy subject and Paul dealt with it in 1 Corinthians 8:

Now concerning [Halloween], we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning [Halloween], we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, [considers Halloween evil]; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But [Halloween] will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we [abstain from Halloween], nor the better if we [participate]. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple [attending a pagan Halloween service], will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to [participate in Halloween]? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if [Halloween] causes my brother to stumble, I will never [participate in Halloween] again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

Elsewhere he says in Romans 14:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may [participate in Halloween], but he who is weak [thinks it is evil]. The one who [participates] is not to regard with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not [participates] is not to judge the one who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who [participates in Halloween], does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who does not, for the Lord he does not [participate], and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
“AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME,
AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

Both these letters were written to communities where people held opposing views and therefore the one thing that we can conclude is that discussing these issues is not what could be classified as causing a weaker brother to stumble. Paul called them weaker brothers. He makes it pretty clear where maturity and strong faith lays and were weak faith lays. He was also not afraid to enter into dialogue with the whole body [not just the clergy]. I will come out and say that those that fear Halloween or think that it is evil have the weaker faith and I will not let them speak evil of what is for me a good thing.

That said, we must be careful to not judge or condemn our brothers. These verses make it clear to me that I can participate and voice my opinions and not be guilty of judgment or condemnation. Paul is talking about eating meat in  1 Corinthians 8 but doesn’t say: “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, eating meat, will not his conscience…” rather it says: “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience…”. This to me talks about provoking the weak, not just living out our faith by eating meat.

So, there is a place for the rants. There is a place for speaking out for what is good and not letting that good be spoken as evil. There is a place to speak out and bring into light the fear that is in the weak. Paul had no problem with this. Finally, we are also not to stop eating meat or participating in Halloween, however, we do not want to do any of this in a provoking manner, puffed up in our knowledge. We need to tread these waters lightly, walking in love.

Here is ten practical things for celebrating Halloween.

Finally, let’s listen to the Great Pumpkin as he gives his Halloween toast.

I just finished reading a post by the IMonk that has touched me deeply. As I read the article, I found myself in the shoes of both Michael Spencer and in his friend Greg’s.

Greg is a former student and good friend. I learned today that he has left the faith.”

I am hungering for more than some religious faith that will hold me over until I reach the other side. Blind faith that is not based in the facts will no longer hold me. Evolution, an archeology that disproves the exodus and contradictions that are rampant throughout the bible are what I know to be true! But the paradox is that coming to these conclusions has only strengthen my faith. I no longer have to try and hide behind the pseudo-science of creationism, or worry that someone will dethrone my bibliolatry.

“Perhaps an inauthentic and empty posture toward God has been replaced with something genuine. I much prefer genuine unbelief to the pretense of faith. It is more healthy on the human level and more useful in God’s economy.”

I can no longer sit back and watch as the christian culture around me becomes Cameronized! As the congregation that was once young and health slides into old age, I have watched as the younger members move on and the congregation shrinks in half. I still hear people say how our congregation is so young, but I look around and realize that these people are fooling themselves. The group that has left or are leaving are between 18 and 35. And they are not necessarily leaving the city or even their faith, though some are. They are leaving an evangelical fundamentalism that requires leaving their intelligence behind in order to have “faith like a child“, so that if they stay, their faith would become “an inauthentic and empty posture toward God”. I am ready to rouse the Pharisees! And the one Pharisee that I am starting with is me.

“I’m afraid to describe the evangelical fundamentalism that I know, but instead choose to flatter the entire business so I won’t rouse the Pharisees.

“I treat my classroom as a place to shadow box rather than as a place to speak plainly. I run like a frightened girl at one irritated fundamentalist, and look away from students I know will soon turn away altogether because people like myself keep our answers to ourselves.

“It is too late for Greg. He is on to another place in his journey and I am not part of it. I have lessons to learn.

“I have more students. More opportunities.

“I have a place to repent and a place to risk telling the truth another day.”

It may be too late for Greg, but there is a whole generation that can be saved from this evangelical fundamentalism. I am much closer to MWPeak and tildeb. I just may be on the verge of joining that legion exploring new territories of my faith off the map of evangelicalism.

One day after this post was published there were 103 comments (make that 104). You cannot tell me that this is not an issue! We are in a time of amplified societal change not seen since the Enlightenment/ Reformation. We can sit back and watch the world around us go to hell in a hand basket, digging our foundational heals in against the tide, or we can step out of our theological comfort zones and help define our faith for the changing times we are in and for the new age we are heading towards.

I must now go and read some of the comments. I’ll leave you with the first two that I read before I had to breakaway and write this:

MWPeak says:

I made the decision to walk away from the faith just about a week ago. It had nothing to do with science or doubt or some other controversy. It had to do with the fact each church, each denomination, each group, has its expectations, what it believes it own should believe and how they should behave. After being pulled in a thousand directions, I soon discovered that I did not know what to believe.

So I quit. I put my bibles back on the shelf and washed my hands of the “Christian” label and the expectations that come with it.

Now, I find myself in a wilderness where there is only God and me and my search for who I am, devoid of the ideas of others. Perhaps when I find my own way, my own identity, I can return to the church, to the faith.

I will always keep with me the love of God, love for my neighbor, and the name of Jesus.

tildeb says:

Very courageous, MWPeak. You may think you are alone but we are legion. That first step is a doozy! Follow your heart but don’t forget to listen to your mind, too. It’s a fantastic combination.

For a slight change of pace, may I suggest reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, a long interview with Bill Moyers that may offer you a bit of guidance on where to go from here.

Very best wishes.

I have been following a few different blog discussions and I came to realize once again the importance of online communities. I have mentioned this before:

A perfect reason to keep blogs like this going to try and provide an avenue for information and discussion in a denominational landscape where there are very few forums for people to interact. For some reason, engagement is shunned, almost as if it is too risky to get people talking freely about things.

People say to me that they would rather sit down for a face to face discussion, and though I would not mind that (please, come and talk with me) I think the laity would miss out. For the most part, in the past, we were only privy to one point of view. Its only natural that in any given congregation we would gather around us speakers that tickle our ears. Sure someone may be brought in that would challenge us and encourage us to expand our thinking, but truthfully this would only happen in a similar direction in which we are already tracking. Rare indeed would be the congregation that would get to hear an opposing view to  their theological frame of reference.

The globalization of ideas that we now have at our finger tips will only increase the gap between those that are hunkering down in the belief trenches of their perceived fundamentals and those that realize that there may only be two fundamentals:

  1. Jesus is Lord (whatever that means), and
  2. Jesus lived, died and rose again so that reconciliation between papa and all of creation is possible.

To be fair, many (read most) of  us who are navigating outside of our tribe’s bunkers have at least three more fundamentals, but we tend to hold onto our understandings with a loose grip.  Our interpretations of core doctrines tend not be as rigid as others, for example, what does inspiration of scriptures really mean? .

So, what are some of you beliefs that you think are fundamental to faith in Christ?