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.

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2) Jesus’ birth narrative

Matthew’s Account

Jesus is unremarkably born a house in Bethlehem – in a plain reading of Matthew, this seems to be where Joseph and Mary are from. No remarkable journey; no census.

The magi come to pay their respect and in there search for the King of the Jews, they tip off Herod who then seeks to destroy this threat. Joseph and Mary flee Israel into Egypt until they hear of Herod’s death. They then return to Israel. Only then, when they heard that Archelaus was now ruling the Bethlehem region do they decide to flee to Galilee and settle in Nazareth.

Luke’s Account

Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth due to a census that is being taken. There they find no room for them and end up staying in a barn. After 8 days Jesus is circumcised and after they ‘perform everything according to the law’, they return to Galilee. We are told that every year the family traveled to Jerusalem for passover and on his twelfth year he gets left behind. This seems to preclude Matthew’s exodus to Egypt.

Conclusions

Though these two accounts have been [successfully] merged together by conservative theologians. This is done as a need of the doctrine of inerrancy rather then because the two are a natural fit. A plain reading using the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings comes to very different conclusions. It seems that Matthew and Luke come up with two completely different versions of the birth narrative in order to further agendas that show Jesus fulfilling certain prophetic utterances.

These two narratives do not nicely fit together. Matthew’s account implies us that the young family only moves and settles in Galilee after they return from exile. Luke’s account tells us they originate from Galilee and that they return there after the birth and circumcision is completed. Obviously these two stories have been mashed together in a way that suits inerrant/literal believers’ needs, but I argue that by doing so we no longer have the stories that the authors’ intended. We now have a non-biblical(not found in the scriptures), hybrid story created for the sole purpose to make the scriptures inerrant.

There is also the problems with the Massacre of the Innocents and the census. The date of Jesus’ birth according to the account in Matthew would be around 4 BCE – calculated by reign of Herod, Archelaus and Herod Antipas. The birth of Jesus is a decade later around 6 CE  according to Luke’s account – calculated by the census (Quirinius did not even get into office until 4-5 CE). Of course, conservative, inerrant scholars have had to fix this, so they now claim that Quirinius was in office twice and that there were two censuses. Again, this does not come from a plain reading of scripture  or a plain reading of history but is required by the doctrine of inerrancy.

Here is a video that is worth the watch as it relates to the Gospel of the Kingdom vs the gospel of life after death: Brian McLaren: The Gospel Question

First, let me start by saying that I think that the gospel is not “you’re a sinner, damned to hell unless you ‘say the sinners prayer’, let Jesus in your heart and follow him” (whatever ‘follow him’ means). I do not think Jesus will return again riding on a white horse ready to smite all who oppose him – after all, this would subvert the very message he left us with.

I believe that the gospel is that Jesus ushered in the new kingdom of peace that the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures looked forward to and that we are now able to participate in this new kingdom!

See, when the Caesar would enter into an area, he would be preceded by messengers (or apostles – same word) who would proclaim whatever ‘good news’ Caesar was bringing. The gospel of Jesus is ‘ Repent (become pensive again or have a change of mind and heart), the Kingdom of God is at hand (God’s new benevolent society is already among us).’ This message is very much in contrast to the message of the empire about the kingdom of Rome. (It could also be considered very different from the message of the christian empire – Christendom.)

I believe that the gospel is not about what we believe (this is what became of our faith in the 300’s with creedal religion – though there has always been disputes about beliefs and truth). This is not to say right belief is not important, just that is not important in order to be in/out or christian/non-christian. Belief, rather, affects who we become.

So what do I believe it mean to further the gospel?

I believe furthering the gospel is manifesting God’s kingdom here on earth. Bringing peace, justice and mercy. I believe it has to do with
a) relieving poverty (this is the real prosperity message),
b) bringing equality(to slaves, women, minorities, human sexuality, …),
c) bringing true security to humanity through passivity and respecting others and creation (resist the fear mongering, doubt/resist power, not vilifying the other, education of the other/enemy, environmental issues, and living in harmony with the rest of the world’s religions)

I believe that Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom IS a social gospel. Ah, but you say, “Jesus urged us to go into the highways and byways and compel people to come in to the banquet.”

Story Time

Jesus was attending a feast at a pharisee’s house and told the host he shouldn’t invite others with the expectation of being repaid; rather he should invite the poor and those who cannot repay. On hearing Jesus, someone proclaimed “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!” Jesus then gives this parable:

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time for the banquet he sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’ So the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’ So the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled. For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!”

So often this is understood as teaching us ‘who will go to heaven’. Is this so?

More important, I think, is the emphasis that those who were invited did not get to attend. Rather it was the poor and lowly that ended up feasting at the banquet. The very people Jesus just finished telling the host whom he should be inviting; which turns out to be the very comment that started the ball rolling for this parable to be told in the first place.

And who is invited to the Banquet table in the Kingdom of God? In this context, I cannot help but think that Jesus was referring to the very people he was feasting with, the Pharisees, the religious people of his day. So who should take warning from this parable? I find it amazing that we the religious people of today are so good at putting these warnings aside. We put ourselves in the shoes of the poor (in spirit) or the slave rather than the invited.

So I see this parable as a warning about blessed assurance. Just because we are members of God’s family, even leaders of this family as were the pharisees, does not mean that we are walking in God’s will. Not only this, but Jesus threw in social justice. Or more accurately, Jesus’ lesson on social justice is interrupted and he takes this opportunity to expand his lesson on justice to jolt the children of God into a reality where yet again he proclaims that those who are first will be last and those who are last will be first. I can’t help but think that so often the point that Jesus proclaimed to the privileged, people of God was contrary to the promise of being the head and not the tail. Jesus was saying that the tail will be the head and the head will be the tail.

The idea of going out into the highways and byways is not the point of this parable. Do I think there is a place to call people to follow Jesus? To become his disciples? To enter into the ‘Kingdom of God’? Absolutely! But I’d be the first to admit that though I am a believer in Jesus, I have faith as it were, I do little following. I understand all too well that the gate and road is narrow, that I spend way too much time on the wide road that leads to destruction. I don’t think that this narrow/wide road has anything to do with life after death, but life and destruction here and now.

Advancing the kingdom has precious little to do with praying, fasting, giving money to an institution or any other religious practice, including, dare I say, evangelism. The prophets of old continually proclaimed God’s discuss with ‘his people’ following all the rules and practices he himself laid out for them to do. Rather blessings results from doing social justice. That is what pleases God. Jesus taught us that praying for God to forgive us is ineffective; God forgives us as we forgive others. So too, though praying for relief in Haiti may change my heart towards action, to often it just satisfies a guilty conscience and allows me to feel off the hook to really help by getting my hands dirty or at the very least funding someone else to get their hands dirty.

We need to stop interpreting Jesus’ message, his gospel, with our interpretation of Paul’s gospel. Instead we need to start interpreting Paul through Jesus. What we tend to see in Paul’s gospel – a personal relationship being restored to God – is not core in Jesus’ gospel. Sure Jesus emphasizes relationship with Daddy, but this is not his message of the Kingdom of God. If anything it is a side effect, or maybe it’s a requirement. Either way, Jesus’ message is for us to turn our back (repent) on earthly Kingdoms, Rome and Religion, and to reach out our hands and grasp the Kingdom of God. By doing so we enter into the New Creation. We begin to live out the poetic prophesies we love to read about. The ones about lions and sheep lying down together. Jesus’ Kingdom of God gospel was never meant to be the message of life after death. It is a message we are to enter into now, while there is time to be a blessing, to make a difference.

I am currently listening to a podcast titled: Can we trust the doctrine of the Trinity? at the Unbelievable? podcast. I cut away from my listening in order to post this comment:

The doctrine of the trinity is complicated!

See, as I was listening, James White, the trinitarian, and Anthony Buzzard the Unitarian discuses what the bible has to say about this topic – exegeting  the same verses differently. James argued that the Jews would have understood what was said or written was meant to show the divinity of Jesus.

The problem I see is that for the first 300 years this doctrine was not definitive. There were many and varied views as to the exact nature of Jesus and his relationship to God his father. It was only when the church got in bed with the empire that orthodox was birthed. And this birth literally killed off the opposing views.
(Not that the other beliefs ever went completely away, after all, Jesus said “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”   [Matthew 7:13-14].*)

Now I am not saying that I am non-trinitarian. What I am saying that I believe this view of orthodox trinitarianism has become an idol. I truly believe that there is much more to gain in a conversation of diverse and often paradoxical opinions and beliefs.

Only then can we begin to glimpse the infinitely complex being we call God.

And now, back to my podcast.


A little humorous something that show the complexity of the trinity doctrine.


* This wide gate/narrow gate/road has nothing to do with what we believe but rather how we live. Its as we treat people the same way we want to be treated and do the will of father. So in our discussions, as we listen and serve the other that we are walking the narrow path that leads to life; and as we ignore, put down and otherwise demean the 0ther, even if we are right in our belief, we are walking on the wide path leading to destruction.
Matthew 7:13,14, 21-23 are not salvation passages, they are life in the Kingdom passages. I can be ‘born-again’, ‘saved’ and ‘going to heaven’ and yet be walking on the wide path of destruction, not following the ‘way, truth and the life’.

Here is a podcast on Everyday Theology that ties in with my recent posts on heresy and 0rthodoxy.

We challenge the status quo but with the optimistic question of what can be and beg of it to supply us with what we need in the days that we find ourselves.

The advantage to the post-modern approach is that it acknowledges a multiplicity of possibilities. There is more than one way to approach an issue and how you start often impacts where you end.  This asks us to see where we might start, how we might go and where we can end up.  New days, new questions, new possibilities, new tools and new conclusions are just part of picture.
Everyday Theology

This is a warning: it is inevitable that when you finally stand in your own freedom, you are going to become the bad guy. You are the one who’s going to be blamed for ruining everything. So buckle up!
nakedpastor

I have been hearing over and over that people realize there are great problems and issues that need to be dealt with in our current manifestation of Christendom. The problem is that we (and I do include myself) tend to wait on God or others to do something about it. I have heard, and voiced, criticisms of how Western Christendom in general, different denominations or flavours of said religion in particular, and even local congregations or city churches have failed or are failing. This point of view has come across in a number of conversations I have had with others over the last few months, through listening to podcasts, and in reading blogs.

Now, it is easier for me to complain that “if the pastors and elders are not motivated or can’t seem to motivate a change in the course of this ocean-liner called the local congregation/ or a given denomination, how am I expected to have any effect?” This allows me to just sit back and look at – and complain about – the issues that I see. And this blog, facebook and other venues have been my media of choice in voicing my critiques.

People have been telling me that these New Medias are inferior to face-to-face dialogue. Though I see their point, these media are no different than the  publishing of books, which is acceptable to almost every one. The big difference is that with these new media outlets, the people can have a voice, not just big name authors. So, though I do not apologize for voicing my critiques, I do apologize for not taking action, and for any hint that I think my opinions are better or more right than those who hold other ones. I have a passion for Christ’s Body and am tremendously excited to be living in a time of great change within our culture and thus the Faith. This passion and excitement may come across sounding stronger then is meant. And this is were media in general is lacking. However, in order to bring the conversation to the masses/laity, sometimes the nuances of personal communication needs to be scarified.

The time has come for me to take responsibility for the burden God has laid on my heart. Though I do not know how this will manifest, now is the time. As I start this new journey, I realize that what lays directly ahead is a wilderness, and this excites me. For the scriptures show that God seems more near us as we step out into the wildernesses of life. In the exodus out of Egypt, God was ever present with his people as a column of smoke by day and a column of fire by night. He also directly supplied their every need.

This post started as a quick comment on the video below. In  my opinion, this is one of the greatest defects of the church in the west.


Out of Ur

We need to stop talking and complaining about the problems we see, and start doing something about them. Every little step counts!