10 Things Christianity Must Do

james

church of the beatitudes

This list represents where I’d like to see Christianity go in the future. This list is not necessarily meant to be comprehensive, it is no particular order, and is solely meant to spark discussion and debate about the future of Christianity. Some of my views may be seen as controversial if not completely over the top. Please keep in mind that I’m not trying to be exclusively polemical toward a certain denomination or group, and whenever I mention the mistakes and downfalls of the Church or Christianity I fully include myself as a participant in those mistakes and downfalls.

Christianity must…

1. Re-affirm creedal orthodoxy. Restore the Resurrection to centrality of belief. We must root out heresies about the Resurrection which abound in today’s church. Some renowned evangelical leaders do not actually believe in the bodily Resurrection. Anyone who’s read N.T. Wright knows this is a big problem for a lot of reasons. Here’s my pet reason (a la Bishop Wright): The bodily Resurrection is God’s ultimate answer to the problem of evil. Without it, we don’t have much to offer the world.

2. Unite or die. We harp on the Pauline passages dealing with grace, we tread the great Roman road over and over again, and forget that Paul’s central message, the one that appears in practically all his letters (depending on how you count those) is the unity of the Church. We do not love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore the world does not know who Jesus really is, and what it means to follow him. It’s that simple. Evangelism without unity is hypocrisy.

3. Renounce all violence, war and oppression and actively stand against it wherever and whenever it is found. In all things overcome evil with good. 2000 years later, don’t you think its finally time to listen to Jesus’ injunction to put down our sword. Jesus clearly taught that violence was something his followers would not participate in. Every time a Christian or a person claiming to be a Christian perpetrates violence our collective witness is diminished.

4. Forge a common bond and goal with Islam. Christians and Muslims do not agree on the nature and mission of Jesus. What we can and do agree on is many points of ethics and morals. Why not work together with Muslims to further these points of agreement and make a better world?

5. Re-align the mission of the church and the purpose of evangelism from “saving souls” to participating in the reconciling of all Creation to God. So much of the ideology and terminology of modern evangelism is a result of the uninformed theologies, and personal neuroses of the “great” 19th century tent evangelists. It’s time to abandon it, and return to the Church’s original mission of reconciling all things to Christ. This certainly involves people making an earnest commitment to be a follower of Christ, but it is much more comprehensive than modern evangelism wants to admit. It also involves taking care of natural resources God gave us, being stewards of the plants and animals God told humans to be in charge of. It means standing against and eliminating evil and injustice in the world.

6. Come out of the whore of nationalism (I borrow the imagery from Revelation). America is not and never was a Christian nation. It’s a great place to live, and I like it here (especially New Mexico), but damn it, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God first and all other citizenship and obligations are a very, very distant second. Christians need to stop being a tool of American politicians so we can get on doing what it is Jesus told us to do.

7. Avoid strict Biblical literalism. Spend less resources “proving” that the Bible is true, and more following the ethic of Jesus. We need to get over the idea that in order to be a Christian you must swear on your life (under penalty of death) that every little detail of the Old Testament actually happened and is historically, archeologically and in other ways objectively verifiable. As all Creation groans for redemption are we really going to put that off while we argue about the seven literal days of creation?  The idea that if you “disprove” one story or detail in the Bible then the whole thing is unreliable is so much modernist, Enlightenment BS. Let’s move on.

8. Stand against science & technology where they have stepped over the bounds of common sense. Our society is one blinded of its own idiocy by shiny and flashy trinkets (i.e. I-phones, and internets). We think scientific and technological progress must intrinsically be morally good. Some of it is, much of it is not. Nuclear technology is insanity, genetic engineering is madness (just to give 2 examples)! Do we Christians really think that God isn’t totally pissed about this Tower of Babel we’ve built?

9. Work with our hands; live simple lives. Try to get along with everyone. Us Christians have by and large been caught up in the “progress” of the world, in its industry, in its economy. At very least these things provide endless distraction from our work of building the Kingdom of God. However, many aspects of the world’s economy are downright wrong according to the upside ethics of Jesus. Paul’s advice to us rings so true: keep it simple. Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the world.

10. Abandon fundamentalist eschatologies with vigor. I can (and in a future post, will) go on and on about this, but I’ll give just a few points to consider about the predominant pre-millennial-pre-tribulation-rapture eschatology of American Christians. 1) It was made up in the 19th century. 2) There are thousands of ways to interpret the book of Revelation, this eschatology is very presumptuous about there being one and only one way of looking at a very complex and confusing book. 3) The idea expounded by this eschatology that the world is going to end is not supported by the rest of Scripture. 4) This eschatology is a lousy excuse to let the modern state of Israel perpetrate all sorts of injustices on Palestinians (thousands of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ), and it is a shame that Christianity has mixed itself up with it.

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49 Comments

  1. Well, I must categorically disagree with point 8.

    There are positive and negative aspects of most of the morally ‘hot-button’ scientific endeavors. To use one of your examples, nuclear power is a positive thing with many applications, whereas nuclear weapons are a negative thing. Some would say, a necessary evil.

    Genetic engineering, however, is much more nuanced. Genetically modified crops have a great potential to head off hunger issues in the foreseeable future. Growing human ‘replacement parts’ could keep thousands from dying while waiting on a list for matching donors. Both of these alone could greatly improve the quality of life for millions of people.

    A similar notion about science and genetics, were it actually acted out twenty-odd years ago, might have stopped or greatly slowed the development of the drug that keeps me and thousands of other leukemia patients alive. I have to oppose that out of necessity, and I think a comprehensive consideration of genetic research must conclude that the possible goods greatly outweigh any perceived evils.

    In short, genetic engineering is only evil until you need it to stay alive. Then it’s a God send.

    But the main reason I see a problem with that point is that it’s never been the church’s purpose or mission (or great commission?) to mandate or legislate a moral view through government. The church is to make disciples. There is no infiltrate, destroy, rebuild initiative or anything like it anywhere in the bible.

    The rest of your list seems to point to changing the world by Christians living differently as examples and drawing people to God that wat.. But this point seems to say it would be right to insist science stop when it becomes offensive. This split, which started with Galileo’s theory’s about the natural world, is, in my mind, counterintuitive.

    ADJ

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  2. I agree and disagree with Mr Jacques.

    Christianity is more than just converting people to christianity.

    “But the main reason I see a problem with that point is that it’s never been the church’s purpose or mission (or great commission?) to mandate or legislate a moral view through government.”

    In Australia at-least our constitution and laws are based on christianity. Sure now this bases has moved on to the secular version known as ‘human rights’, but historically it is rooted in the revival of England. A revival which prevented a similar revolution as France had.

    All the good aspects of western society are rooted in christianity.

    Secondly, why would any one want to be converted to a religion which does not care about what is going on in the world. This is more than “christians living differently as examples and drawing people to God that wat.. ” This is christians doing something positive for the world as opposed to just converting and converting and converting. By being a positive influence on the world, not just living a good example, more people will be converted.

    But nuclear power is not evil. How many hundreds of thousands of Chinese die each year through the mining of fossil fuels? Allot more than the deaths due to nuclear power. Nuclear power is efficient, and of no threat to climate change. Sure solar power is a better option, but at the moment it just isn’t good enough.

    Also nuclear ‘technology’ occurred several billions of years ago naturally underground.

    Of course however, christianity would be much better off politically to oppose nuclear power than to oppose homosexuality…

    But politically, opposing nuclear power is a much better strategy than the current method of homophobia.

    thanks for the excellent post.

    sam,

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  3. James,

    #3- What do you mean by violence? Don’t you think self-defense is taught in scripture? Note that St. Peter was a Fisherman, and he was directed by Christ to stand watch in the garden. When your on night watch doesn’t one guard someone or something? Christ directs St. Peter to Put up the sword into the sheath, not throw it away.

    #4 I agree on.

    #6 – while I agree with you on no loyalty to political parties, I think there’s some merit in nationalism, under some constraints.

    #9 Can you expand on that one a bit?

    In the USA I believe we have the highest level of urbanization for our population in the world at 82%. The striking thing about such lives is the total dependence on others for our survival. Yet because of this dependence most of us don’t realize it because services are almost always there for us. Example you don’t know how badly you need the A/C in Texas until it goes out. 104 degree everyday for the high and 80 for the low along with losing one frig and that food makes you recognize that your Yertle the Turtle mindset that you are the king of all that you see is all vapor. It creates the idea that we are independent of not just others but many times of God.

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  4. @sam,

    “All the good aspects of western society are rooted in christianity.”

    I disagree. I hear it all the time that America was founded on good, Christian, moral values, but in my opinion, it’s taken years of liberal politics to establish basic human rights for most people. And I say most, not all, since we’re still denying it to a select for of the church’s pet sinner’s.

    Stealing land from the Indians then killing them off or leaving them with the crappiest pieces of real estate, importing slaves, burning witches, child labor (to a lesser extent), keeping women in the home without the right to vote; these are the good morals that the liberals fought the church on tooth and nail to reverse.

    When the ‘liberals’ won on these topics, there were always a minority of progressive churches saying that they’d always opposed this or that law on moral grounds, but we must be honest about our ‘good, Christian moral foundation.’ It was the church we often fought to give women or blacks rights, to finally show some humanity to the Indians whose land we stole in the first place.

    I love to see these ‘good Christian’ values erode, because it makes for a better place to everyone to live together, IMO.

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  5. Sam, Thanks for reading and responding! I completely agree that we Christians have millions of better things to do than going around being afraid of/hating homosexuals. You may find that I responded to several of your other points below.

    ADJ,

    Thanks for calling me out. My statements about genetic engineering and nuclear technology were incongruous in that I first made a well qualified statement, that Christianity should stand against science and technology where they have stepped over the bounds of common sense, and THEN I made gross generalizations about genetic engineering. I was wrong to do that, and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the medical science which makes your life possibly is somehow evil. I am a big believer in the appropriate use of science and technology. I simply think there needs to be outside accountability to science and technology: just because we are scientifically able to do something doesn’t mean we should from a moral standpoint. I think the application you described (medicine) is appropriate in most cases, but I see enormous danger in genetic engineering, especially of crops. Yes, genetically engineered corn might be more readily available to those in hunger in the world, but there are at least two other possibilities which I believe are far, far more likely. One, genetically engineered crop, first cross-pollinate with non-engineered crops (this is already happening with corn), eventually homogenizing and destroying all non-engineered crops, and putting all capacity to grow food into the hands of huge agri-businesses that “own” the genetically modified corn seed (which cannot be reseeded). Soon you have Corn (TM), and Wheat (TM), and the entire world’s food supply is owned by big business, there would be no private gardens, no growing of your own food, no small time farmers. The other very real possibility is that scientists accidentally F%#$ up the entire food cycle, sterilizing plants, making entire food staples extinct, destroying entire ecosystems, making the world into a fallow dust-bowl.

    As far as nuclear power goes, sure its great for the clean efficient power plant in Minnesota, but waste from nuclear power plants is toxic to everything for 500 years. What do you do with that waste? The answer so far is that you ship it down to New Mexico and bury it in my backyard (ok technically they bury it in Southern New Mexico, and I live in Central NM, but you get the point). Nuclear science is one of the banes of the human race, period.

    In any event I do not think Christians should try to regulate science & technology (or anything else) by use of the governments and politics as you assumed I thought. Rather, we should be the prophetic voice of the outsiders standing against injustice and evil. An example of this is John Dear SJ, a catholic priest who routinely demonstrates against nuclear weapons and is routinely arrested for it. Through his simple witness of the non-violent Kingdom of God, he has inspired thousands if not millions to do the same (look him up, he’s kind of a big deal).

    The other assumption you seem to make (correct me if I am wrong) is that the only purpose for doing any of the things on the list is to convert people (I may be reading your comments to that effect through the eyes of our Australian friend, Sam). I am not interested in converting people, per se, I am interested in building the Kingdom of God. In part that means making disciples of whoever wants to be and baptizing them into the Church, but it also means working for justice for all people, being good stewards of the earth, being a peacemaker, etc. Ultimately, I believe God will reconcile all things to Himself, but my job in all of that is far more simple: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly before God. That’s my great commission.

    Quickbeam,

    If it were simply matter of an obscure passage at the end of the gospels where Jesus may or may not imply non-violence, your argument would be convincing, but then there’s the Sermon on the Mount, and Romans 12 (which really changes how you look at Romans 13), and then there’s the Triumphal entry, and the crucifixion, and I Corithians 1 (God uses the weak to overcome the strong), and on and on. We may have to agree to disagree but I believe that the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount calls Christians to a different ethic, one of non-violent, self-sacrificing love for all people, especially enemies, or those who are supposed to be our enemies.

    This is getting really long, but I will try to expand on #9 in a future response/post.

    Peace of Christ,

    James

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  6. Nuclear waste is bad for 500 years. Allot shorter than the recovery needed as a consequence of fossil fuel burning. Allot better for the economy than solar power. And allot better for my hot shower than solar power.

    Seriously, i live in a mud brick house run on only solar. No mains connections due to my dad’s belief in ‘living simplistically’ and the fact that it just costs to dig the holes for new electricity poles.

    Also, my dad is a farmer. GM is wack. They haven’t even done multi generational trials. When a scientist/journalist asked monsanto about this they said it costs too much. The cost was insignificant to what monsanto would loose if they did not get their product legalized in Australia.

    I fully dig the ‘Re-align the mission of the church and the purpose of evangelism from “saving souls” to participating in the reconciling of all Creation to God.’

    but….

    “I am not interested in converting people, per se, I am interested in building the Kingdom of God. ”

    Tautologous.

    The purpose of the kingdom of god is to save souls. Right?

    I mean do you actually care if I go to hell or not? Many interpretations would tell you that I am.

    Seriously though, ADJ, you don’t reckon that the church should stay clear of science and technology do you?

    here is the catch. The church should be aimed at converting people, but like james says – i think – without having a positive influence on the world who will be converted? I know I wont.

    “But the main reason I see a problem with that point is that it’s never been the church’s purpose or mission (or great commission?) to mandate or legislate a moral view through government. The church is to make disciples. There is no infiltrate, destroy, rebuild initiative or anything like it anywhere in the bible.”

    Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu WTF?

    There is also nothing in the bible that says ‘If the government makes a bill which legalizes rape please church do nothing about it, because the great commission is only interested in conversion’.

    Sure its never been the churches purpose OR mission to to mandate or legislate a moral view through government, but will it succeed in its purose of mission without haveing a positive influence on legislation? I doubt it. The church should do everything it can to do right.

    Or like James says ‘It also involves taking care of natural resources God gave us, being stewards of the plants and animals God told humans to be in charge of. It means standing against and eliminating evil and injustice in the world.’

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  7. Toldandretold,

    Don’t get me wrong. Fossil fuels are horrible. We’ve got to find clean ways of creating energy, ways that don’t produce tons of toxic waste, that don’t pollute or have the potential to pollute our water and our soil. Neither fossil fuels, nor nuclear energy is the way to go here.

    As far as the idea that building the Kingdom of God is equal to saving souls, I don’t exactly agree. First of all, since I believe in the Resurrection of the body on Judgment Day, I believe that Jesus is in the business of saving bodies as well as souls (whatever those are anyway). I believe that on Resurrection day, Jesus will ultimately consummate his reign over the New Heavens and the New Earth and that those places are real, tangible places which we will inhabit. The Kingdom of God is and will be a real place, not an ethereal heaven inhabited by “souls,” but the New Garden of Eden, a Creation reconciled to God, inhabited by plants, animals and people reconciled to Him. I believe that by doing acts of Love, Mercy, Justice and Peace we are participating in, living in, and building that future Kingdom now. This concept is much broader than simply the salvation of a “soul.”

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  8. By the way, thanks for reading and commenting, Toldandretold! I admire the farming/simplistical lifestyle even if it is inconvenient.

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  9. “the Sermon on the Mount, and Romans 12 (which really changes how you look at Romans 13), and then there’s the Triumphal entry, and the crucifixion, and I Corithians 1 (God uses the weak to overcome the strong), and on and on. We may have to agree to disagree but I believe that the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount calls Christians to a different ethic, one of non-violent, self-sacrificing love for all people, especially enemies, or those who are supposed to be our enemies.”

    James, I agree with you with respect to oneself, but not in the defence of the innocence of others. The blessed are the peacemakers deals with reconciliation and persecution is directed towards those who attack you, but not with those that attack others. I think has to read Romans 12 in that way as well. After all the premise is that we are all one body yet many parts. Repaying the enemy is to be withheld because its revenge. If I understand you correctly in your reading of Romans 13 that one should resist (non-violently) the funding of police forces and military defence? Do you recognize any validity in St. Thomas Aquinas double effect?

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  10. Coming as I do from a non-creedal church, I must say that you lost me with #1. But, if you must reimpose creedal orthodoxy, which creed are we talking about — Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian, Westminster Confession, etc.? And who is to judge one’s orthodoxy? Can we confess the creed, with our fingers crossed — lots of people do that?

    You speak of rejecting a strict biblical literalism, how literal is your creedalism?

    Just a question to be raised — by us non-creedal types, who come from a tradition that suggested that creeds weren’t the solution for Christian unity, but the cause of Christian disunity!

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  11. @toldandretold

    Why does it always come down to rape?

    “There is also nothing in the bible that says ‘If the government makes a bill which legalizes rape please church do nothing about it, because the great commission is only interested in conversion’.”

    Well, of course you and I know that rape is awful and evil. That’s ridiculous and absurd and a completely unfair comparison.

    To level the field, the OT has more support for rape than I ever will. I won’t speak for you. Consider the near genocide of the Midianites.

    Numbers 31:17-18
    “17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

    It doesn’t take much research to figure out what these virgins were kept around for, since that was a typical practice for most warring nations in that time.

    Truth be told, we have made rape illegal regardless of how God feels about it, and that is a step forward. The government has consistently had to reverse good Christian laws when the absurdity became unbearable in a modern, enlightened, civilized world, and I hope it continues to do so.

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  12. Bob,

    When I speak of the creedal orthodoxy I speak of the orthodoxy put down in the documents (creeds) which resulted from the first 7 ecumenical councils of the church. All the creeds you mentioned with the exception of the Westminster Confession (which if I’m not mistaken didn’t want to be creed anyway) came directly or indirectly from these great councils. They all present a fairly homogeneous picture of who the Church believes Jesus is, what the Church can know of the Trinity, and what the Church believes about the Resurrection. These are the types of issues that I am saying we need to return to, especially a proper understanding of the Resurrection as the cornerstone of Christianity. Concerning your claim that creeds cause disunity let’s put the record straight. One word in one creed was the official cause of a huge church split, yes (but the real causes had very little to do with creeds and more to do with politics and power). How many church splits were caused by the reformers and their idea that the Bible can and should be interpreted by anybody in anyway they please? Before you could be done counting them all, a handful more church splits will have taken place. I have never felt more unified with the Body of Christ as when I say the Nicene Creed on Sunday mornings.

    Peace of Christ,

    James

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  13. Rape was an example to prove a point. A point that the church should be involved in making decisions in legislature.

    If you don’t get that then you years of biblical study are in vain.

    If you think that the morals of christianity are stuffed up then look at it a secular way.

    We are part of a democracy. Everyone has a right to express their beliefs, moral positions etc.

    Why should id be any different for christians.

    Also, i think you may be putting me in the box of people who are against homosexuals, abortions etc.

    In Australia ‘christians’ aren’t assumed to be backing George W, or John McCain. Christians fit in with both left and right. Even though in Australia our right is called liberal… so the ‘liberals’ are really like the McCain and Bush. Any way i don’t really know what I’m talking about at the moment anyway.

    The old ‘old testament’ thing is a cheap copout. Christianity is following christ.

    I really couldn’t care whether god killed a whole city of homosexuals, or whether he had women and children killed. That is history for me. Jesus didn’t rape people, jesus didn’t murder the children of the enemy, jesus talked of the good samaritan.

    So as absurd as my ‘rape scenario’ was, it at-least was just a scenario. What you argue with the god raping women thing is wack. Do you think then that God approves of rape? Do you think that God approves of murder? I doubt it. So why then use it to back up some weird fantasy that christians shouldn’t have any democratic power?

    Its funny though because that is the same line of argument I use all the time with my conservative father. ‘Yeah but dad, God is a psychopath, have you even read the old testament?’

    Actually does theophiliacs talk about this issue? Because I know little.

    Sorry if you are still reading this, the comment has well and truly entered the state of embarrassment.

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  14. The history of God, if you trust the bible, which I no longer do, puts God at the helm of a great many awful things. If you believe the bible, you have an awful lot of explaining to get out of the moral hole God digs in Jewish history contained in the OT. That is not a cop out. Shrugging it off or ignoring it is a cop out.

    But what about Jesus? To make this simple, allow me to introduce you to the law of non-contradiction

    A = A

    God = Killed millions in the old testament, allowed rape and the stoning of homosexuals

    Jesus = God

    Jesus = Killed millions in the old testament, allowed rape and the stoning of homosexuals

    Now I don’t know where you stand on the trinity, but I’d suggest most Christians believe Jesus was fully God and fully man, and that he is one and the same as God in much the same way the Holy Ghost is as well. If that’s the case, there’s an awful lot of explaining to do, indeed.

    Personally, I don’t think the OT defines anymore than Jewish history in which they projected their wins or losses, their ups or downs as God’s doing where in reality it is just Jewish history and little more. That clears up an awful lot of problems when it comes to evil in the OT.

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  15. “And to be clear, I separate Jesus and the God of the OT so as to avoid this entire moral mess. If God is God, he must be better than how the OT makes him look.”

    Yeah that was what I was trying to get at. I am actually not a christian, so don’t try and say that I am making cop outs. Well maybe I am, but in a very different sense than what you imply.

    So why then did you go on about Christianity supporting rape if you don’t actually believe that?

    Do you really think the church has no role in legislative changes?

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  16. Well, I didn’t say Christianity supports rape. I said the OT does. That’s why I think the distinction is so important.

    Afterwards I did use hyperbole about ‘good Christian moral laws’ and all, by which I meant distinctly ‘not’ moral laws, but those are two different debates altogether.

    It seems we might actually agree on this, even though we came at it from different angles.

    😛

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  17. Wow, tony and “told”, you guys are treading in waters that smack of marcionism. I know that things have been a bit controversial around here at times, but out and out heresy? Really?

    oh, and btw Quickbeam,I know its heresy because the creed says so. (please, don’t take that as anything but a friendly jab)

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  18. Well, a heretic is simply one who ‘decides for himself’ or some such idea, as opposed to orthodox, which means ‘to align.’

    Orthodox shares its root meaning with the term orthodontics, which the alignment of the teeth. If your belief lines up with mine, you are orthodox in my eyes.

    A heretic is actually a very broad term classically, which refers to anyone who strays from ‘right belief’ in the eye of the beholder.

    So yeah, I’ve been a heretic for all my life, depending on who you ask.

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  19. Actually ADJ I don’t know if this would make you feel better or not, but your not a heretic. You were never formally a member of the Catholic or Orthodox churches so you were never cut off from the church. You may hold to some heresies but this does not exclude you from salvation. And if I held those same positions as a Catholic I would be a heretic.

    Shawn no worries.

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  20. James,

    The question that the creeds raise — and I really have no problem affirming them — is there philosophical basis. The Trinity as defined in the creeds is rooted in Greek philosophical constructs — do those still hold?

    The Campbells saw creeds as helpful markers of where the church was, but they wanted to go back to the source. We’ve learned over the years that the gift of tradition is an interpretive one.

    But here’s my point — what do you do in the church at a practical level — if one should disagree with one or another of the points of the creeds. And remember they get more and more complex as they go on. And some have nasty anathemas too!

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    1. Pastor Bob,

      I wonder if we were to compare the number of Christians united by the Nicene Creed (both now and throughout history) and compare it to those united by non-creedal congregationalism the number would reveal how very unifying the Creeds can be.

      I have no problem with the Creeds containing “Greek” philosophical elements any more than I do the Scriptures containing them – or even those “Hebrew” elements. Being historically situated is simply a human reality.

      As I see it, if one “crosses their fingers” during the Creeds they have a couple options. They could a) continue to be honest with where they are at, but not choose (the root, after all, of ‘heresy’) to put-down-roots in their current theological position – all the while discerning the difference between normal spiritual growth individually in faith, and the traditional teaching of the Church proper. Or b) become a member of a non-creedal church – which could in the end be healthier for them

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  21. ADJ,

    You did some fancy footwork to make sure your characterization of the use of “orthodox” best benefited your argument without straying too far from demonstrable practices throughout history, no matter how obscure they might be (Oh, and I enjoyed the red herring about the dentists). However, subtract your spin, and the term heresy as used in the Christian church (which is the context of the conversation at hand) has been about applying a standard of faith to the proclamations and behaviors of Christians, typically according to the creeds (though that ideal has certainly been breeched, just as your explanation implies). If something is right or correct, then when something contradicts it, the contradictory has to be wrong, not just a different perspective.

    Now that we have both completely oversimplified the problem, we can probably get into some heavy polemics, rhetoric; maybe even a civil war or two. Game?

    Shawn

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  22. Shawn,

    The word orthodox, from Greek orthodoxos “having the right opinion.” It’s made up of the Greek “orthos”; straight or proper, and “doxa”; opinion or praise; which is related to “dokein”; to think.

    Literally, To think or praise properly.

    Similarly, Orthodontics comes from the Greek words “orthos” and “odons,” which simply means tooth. In this way, it means to align the teeth or make the teeth proper or straight.

    No red herring there.

    The word “heresy” comes from the Greek, “hairesis” (related to the Greek “haireomai,” or choose), which means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of believers who have chosen to believe differently.

    Thus, any nonconformist view within any field, but especially religion, may be perceived as “heretical” by others within that field who are convinced that their personal view is “orthodox.”

    That’s not spin. That’s etymology.

    So now that we’re back to the original meaning of the words and how they were used in the first and second century, you can tell me whatever the church has decided they mean. Sort of like scripture. Sure it meant something back then, but what we think it means now is all that matters. Right?

    😛

    Reply

  23. ADJ,

    You know, I just read your post on not caring anymore, so I doubt this matters. But I grew up listening to preachers that had a decent background in biblical languages, etc. dismantle word origins and apply archaic readings in order to manipulate conversations or sermons. You’re response falls a little flat because of my background with those individuals. In other words, who cares? You did not address the point of my response, which was to point out that people unfortunately have used “heresy” or “heretic” to discourage dissent, but I doubt you can make a strong case proving that those defending the creeds were merely squashing an opposing perspective, as you seem to imply. But whatever (to quote George).

    Shawn

    Reply

  24. I don’t know if I could show that or not, but I don’t know if that’s what is really pressing.

    We now have what we consider ‘orthodox’ specifically because somebody’s idea somewhere along the line won out over someone else’s idea, even if they were sure it was God inspiring them. Maybe it was through a vote, schism, thesis, war or even a papacy; these ideas are ever changing. History can show us that. Orthodoxy in any tradition does not look today like it looked at point X in history, no matter how large or small that difference may be, it’s different. (But I would probably defend that this is ok, since I think culture is moving, slowly but surely, in a good direction on the whole.)

    So in a way, haven’t we all been adjusting and, well, choosing what fits all along? Aren’t we all the product of heresy, large or small, at one point or another? Even Jesus was a heretic, depending on who you asked.

    Reply

  25. ADJ,

    I appreciate your continued discussion:

    You wrote:

    “So in a way, haven’t we all been adjusting and, well, choosing what fits all along? Aren’t we all the product of heresy, large or small, at one point or another? Even Jesus was a heretic, depending on who you asked.”

    I think this language is where I still keep getting hung up. I agreed with everything you said in your last post (and many others) until you tried to broaden the scope of the conversation beyond its initial context in order to prove a point that is tenuous at best to begin with. Whether Jesus was considered a heretic by the Jews (clearly he was) has little to do (imo) with whether or not Marcionism was soundly rejected as heresy by the early church or whether or not they were justified in saying so. Additionally, I am still not comfortable conceding that the “heresy” of dissent regarding let’s say church polity in the sixteenth century is even worthy of the same terminology when compared to denying ubiquitous Christian doctrine like let’s say the divinity of Christ. When I read that Luther declared the Anabaptists heretics and had anything to do with the way they were murdered, I absolutely shudder (with rage, contempt, sorrow). When I read that Arius was declared a heretic I see that one of the pillars of our faith was upheld. Now, I know that you are presenting what amounts to an observation about the history of the words and their use. I cannot, as such, refute your offering. But do you understand the line of differentiation I am trying to draw here?

    Blessings,
    Shawn

    Reply

  26. Shawn,

    I think I get the distinction you’re going for, and it’s not easy to know exactly how to apply it in the every day workings of discussion, IMO.

    I was talking to Jeremy last night and he said something very profound.

    To roughly quote his sentiment regarding theological discussion: “We’ve all agreed on a vernacular without agreeing on definitions.”

    I mean, Galileo was a heretic until ‘we’ finally realized he was right, gosh darn it!

    🙂

    Reply

  27. PS

    I’m really not avoiding your points here. They’re good points. I’ll be honest and admit that I just don’t know about this one and there are so many directions the discussion could take. That might help clear the air.

    Reply

  28. ADJ,

    Here, again, is the one distinction that brings me back to posting on this site over and over again.

    You said:

    “I’ll be honest and admit that I just don’t know about this one and there are so many directions the discussion could take.”

    Thanks for not trying to reduce the points I articulate down to the veracity of my written (typed) word. I want to talk about concepts, and not just sharpen my rhetorical claws. I really appreciate your quote from Jeremy, and I agree. In fact, James and I have often lamented that most of a theological education as amounted to learning 1600 years of rhetoric, and not much else. In fact, I would narrow all of the theological disputes I have EVER had with other Christians as a refusal to bend on our preferred vernacular, and not as some kind of qualitative difference in doctrinal outlook.

    For what it is worth, Galileo’s stint as a heretic is precisely the kind of thing that irritates me, and exactly the kind of thing that lends credence to your opposition. The Reformation should have been a place where we scrapped all of our theological jargon and started again. oh well.

    Blessings,

    Shawn

    Reply

  29. 1. Re-affirm creedal orthodoxy.
    RESPONSE: I agree

    2. Unite or die. We harp on the Pauline passages dealing with grace, we tread the great Roman road over and over again…
    RESPONSE: It is a mistake to tell the preacher what to preach. Perhaps the spirit led him to “harp” on something?

    3. Renounce all violence, war and oppression and actively stand against it wherever and whenever it is found.
    RESPONSE: How violently are you willing to stand against violence? Shields of flesh do not stop bullets.

    4. Forge a common bond and goal with Islam.
    RESPONSE: I agree that we should pursue freedom of religion with proper respect for and from Muslims and all others.

    5. Re-align the mission of the church and the purpose of evangelism from “saving souls” to participating in the reconciling of all Creation to God.
    RESPONSE: I don’t believe plants and birds are in danger of going to hell. An greater emphasis on “saving souls” seems to be in order.

    6. Come out of the whore of nationalism (I borrow the imagery from Revelation). …Christians need to stop being a tool of American politicians so we can get on doing what it is Jesus told us to do.
    RESPONSE: I have problems with the title of this point, but I definitely agree with your closing sentence on this point.

    7. Avoid strict Biblical literalism.
    RESPONSE: I would recommend considering the genre of the passage to determine whether or not it was meant to be taken literally. 🙂

    8. Stand against science & technology where they have stepped over the bounds of common sense.
    RESPONSE: Perhaps we should just take the nuclear technology away from Iran. (j/k)

    9. Work with our hands; live simple lives.
    RESPONSE: Hmm… I picture someone sitting at a computer typing this…

    10. Abandon fundamentalist eschatologies with vigor.
    RESPONSE: I totally disagree with this one because I find it interesting and entertaining.

    Reply

  30. Thanks, Reed!

    Yes I meant to come back to the #9 thing. I believe there is virtue in working hard and working with your hands (manual labor). I believe that the Epistles are full of comments that support this (I & II Thess., Paul’s speech to the Ephesians in Acts 20). I believe that an over-consumptive lifestyle is detrimental to one’s allegiance to the Kingdom of God. Therefore living simply is avoiding things that too easily become idolotrous road blocks to the purposes of God on earth.

    Before any fingers are pointed, let me say, that I am not willing to necessarily dictate exaclty what an over-consumptive lifestyle is for each individual Christian. I merely contend that it is a very serious problem that Christians should consider on a regular basis.

    I will tell you that my own project to begin to live a more simple life is a) to do manual labor b) eat better c) cut out as many activities and products as I can that directly or indirectly cause harm to another human being d) have a greater concern for Creation. Again, Romans 8 seems to suggest that all Creation groans for redemption and that we are to be a part of that. I also believe that God has left us stewards of Creation, and Jesus has a few choice things to say about those who are poor stewards of the things that God has given them.

    Reply

  31. Roger, Thanks for reading this post! I would like to address some of your responses, others will be too tedious to discuss in this post and/or I’ve written about them in other posts in this thread and/or I am planning on writing further posts about specific items.

    Under #2: Unite or die.

    Your RESPONSE was : “It is a mistake to tell the preacher what to preach. Perhaps the spirit led him to “harp” on something?”

    Despite the use of my colloquial language, I was not talking about preachers at all, but rather about how many Christians have focused in on one aspect of Paul’s theology and particularly one interpretation of one aspect of Paul’s theology (namely the standard evangelical interpretation which is essentially Luther’s interpretation), and are missing one of (if not THE) most pervasive, important and timely aspects of Paul’s theology which is that there must be unity in the body of Christ. Unity is not an obscure question in an obscure branch of theology, it is one of the central questions of Christian identity.

    Concerning #4: Forging a common bond with Islam, your response was: “I agree that we should pursue freedom of religion with proper respect for and from Muslims and all others.” I was vague in the original post, but what I had in mind was the fact that Christianity and Islam share many of the same moral and ethical concerns (such as a concern for the poor and suffering) and we should therefore strive to work with Muslims to achieve goals that fit in with our respective moral visions.

    As for #5: re-aligning the church’s mission away from “evangelism.” I think all that can be said at this time is that we disagree on Eschatology. I guess that covers #10 as well.

    Where your comments were meant in jest I take them as such. I remember Joe Dove too well to get too worked up!

    Reply

  32. QUICK LESSON IN ESCHATOLOGY FROM THE ECF

    Preface: The fact that something was taught by the Early Church Fathers does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth century does not make it wrong (unless it is lacking from the canonical Scriptures).

    13. THE BLESSED HOPE
    Clement of Rome – Clement (96 A.D.) “Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, ‘speedily will He come, and will not tarry.'” (The First Epistle of Clement, 23)
    The Didache (ch.16, section 1) “Be vigilant over your life; let your lamps not be extinguished, or your loins ungirded, but be prepared, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”

    Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, Romans 8:23, Titus 2:13, 1 Corinthians 15:51,52

    14. THE MILLENIAL REIGN OF CHRIST
    The earliest fathers of the church (before 300 AD) believed in a literal millennial reign of Christ.
    Papias – (Papias was a disciples of the Apostle John) According to Eusebius, Papias said there would be a literal corporeal millennial reign of Christ on this very earth after the Resurrection. Papias held that this belief was authorized by the apostles. (Eusebius Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.13; trans. Christian Frederick Cruse p.126)

    Justin Martyr – Justin in his Dialogue with Trypho (written cir. 155) described the belief in a literal corporeal millennial reign of Christ as the orthodox doctrine. (Justin Dialogue 80; op. cit. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 1, 239)

    Irenaeus – Irenaeus believed in the literal corporeal millennial reign of Christ after the resurrection. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.33.2, op. cit. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 562)

    Scriptures: Zechariah 14:5, Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7, Revelation 19:11-14, Revelation 20:1-6 Ezekiel 37:21,22, Zephaniah 3:19,20, Romans 11:26,27

    15. THE FINAL JUDGMENT
    I don’t know that this doctrine is under debate since it is almost universally agreed upon.
    Scriptures: Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43-48, Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:11-15, Revelation 21:8

    16. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH
    Augustine switched from a premillenial view (which was the prevailing view of the ECF of his day) to an amillenial view after Rome was sacked in 410 AD. But he still seemed to believe in the antichrist and the end of the world (City of God 18:52-53; 20:7, 19, 30). He declared, “Obviously, then it is a waste of effort for us to attempt counting the precise number of years which this world has yet to go, since we know from the mouth of Truth that it is none of our business” (18:53).

    Scripture: 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21-22

    Reply

  33. Oops, I just noted that I did op.cit. to a reference that had edited out. The reference is:

    Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, The Apostolic Fathers With Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997).

    Reply

  34. Roger,

    Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe that Jesus is coming back, I believe in the millennial reign of Christ (though as we both know in the early church the millennial reign of Christ meant a lot of things to a lot of people, and I don’t take the word millennium to mean 1000 literal years), I believe in the last judgment (the judgment of the quick and dead, as the creed puts it), and in the doctrine of the new heavens and the new earth (as explicated in NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope).

    I don’t believe in dispensationalism. I don’t believe in the tribulation (something conspicuously missing from your list of doctrines taught by the early church fathers), I don’t believe that there is one specific Anti-Christ (but many), I especially don’t believe that the Anti-Christ is the pope (like essentially every evangelical prophesy pundit worth his salt has speculated at one point), I especially don’t believe that the Anti-Christ is a certain African American president (like an article from Liberty University’s Magazine seemed to imply), and I especially don’t believe that the Anti-Christ is a homosexual robot (like Bob Jones used to teach). I don’t believe that modern Israeli state is special, or that 99% of current events looked to by prophesy pundits are “signs of the times.” I don’t think the government of the US will play any positive role in the End Times. I don’t believe we’re going anywhere but here in the “rapture”, I don’t believe that the millennial reign of Christ will ever end. I don’t believe that the majority of Revelation has anything to do with anything except things going on in the Church and the Roman Empire at the end of the 1st century (though the end of Revelation is clearly talking about the Final Hope of the Church then as it is now), and most of all I do not believe that eschatology is an excuse for the Church not to care about the environment, poverty, torture, the Israeli terrorism toward Palestine, and a whole slew of other things. And that barely scratches the surface of things I don’t believe that are taught by people like Tim LaHaye, Jack van Impe, John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, J. Dwight Pentecost, Pat Robertson, Yisrael Hawkins, et al.

    In short, I believe Christ will return to consummate and complete the Kingdom that He began 2000 years ago. I believe in the literal corporeal Resurrection. I believe that justice and peace shall reign on the Earth forever and Heaven and Earth will be the same thing. I believe that all Creation will be reconciled to Him, and that all nations will stream to his Throne where they will renounce war, where we will turn our weapons into garden tools, lions will lie down with lambs, little kids will play with cobras, and we will live out eternity in the world as God meant it to be. I believe that Christ is calling his Church to live paradoxically in His future Kingdom now. That’s why I believe we should be eminently concerned with Justice and Peace and Creation. That’s why I earnestly pray that God’s kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. Amen. I love you Roger, and I don’t mean any disrespect with any of my comments.

    Reply

  35. Reed, I am going out of town until Sunday night. If you want you can repost it, otherwise I’ll do it then.

    Reply

  36. The fact is, the Church Fathers are not a monolith. They do not agree on everything. If they did, then you could condense them all into one volume. As it is, it requires a whole bookshelf simply to hold the books that represent the most noted Church Fathers.

    This is why I stated earlier: “The fact that something was taught by the Early Church Fathers does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth century does not make it wrong (unless it is lacking from the canonical Scriptures).”

    Here you go, some writings among the Church Fathers that support the pre tribulation rapture of the church.

    How about this quote from the Pastor of Hermas:

    …say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it…

    Source:
    Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. II : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 18.

    This one from Pseudo-Ephraem is even more interesting:

    All the saints and elect of God are gath­ered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord,in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which over­whelms the world because of our sins. -Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627)

    Source:
    Paul J. Alexander, The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 2.10.

    Reply

  37. James wrote:
    This eschatology is a lousy excuse to let the modern state of Israel perpetrate all sorts of injustices on Palestinians (thousands of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ), and it is a shame that Christianity has mixed itself up with it.

    RESPONSE
    I had been meaning to get back to this post and discuss the nation of Israel. It seems to me that I agree with you more than I disagree concerning Israel.

    Concerning the people of Israel (not necessarily the modern day nation of Israel) I believe the following. They are God’s chosen people as the ones through which God would reveal Himself to the world. God promised the land of Canaan to them from the days of Abraham. They can be saved if they turn to Jesus as their Messiah. Those who bless Abraham (and his descendants) will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed. (Genesis 12:3) I believe that in the last days the armies of the nations will come against Israel and be destroyed by God (Ezekiel 38-39). Things will not go well for the coalition of nations that opposes Israel in the final days (but I think this takes place after the rapture of the church).

    By now you are probably saying, “I don’t agree with any of that… so why did you say you agree with me?”
    🙂

    I am getting to that now… I disagree with many of the policy decisions of the Knesset (Israel’s legislature) and the political government of the nation of Israel. They are no better than the political government of any other nation. The political systems of our world are mostly corrupt and often led by corrupt politicians. The Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day was corrupt. The political system of modern day Israel is not much better. The Knesset seems to have courted some Evangelical celebrities when it was to their own political advantage. Otherwise, they have nothing to do with us. This is much the same in the United States. I certainly cannot justify Israel’s brutal methods in dealing with the Palestinian population. As you have stated, there are Christians among those Palestinians and they are our brothers. They need our prayers and our respect.

    Reply

  38. Several Google articles should be required reading. They are “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” and “Deceiving and Being Deceived” – all by the same evangelical historian. If you are still shockproof, by all means read “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site. For fairness and balance, Sarah

    Reply

  39. Sarah, thank you for your list of post trib articles. I hope that we can agree that Jesus is coming back. You are post-trib, I am pre-trib, and most Christians are simply pro-pan. They are “pro” because they are all for it, and they are “pan” because they beleive it will all pan out in the end since God is in control. God bless you in your service for our Lord!

    Reply

  40. James,

    I’m glad comments aren’t closed on this post…because I agree with all but #4.

    Islam, though monotheistic, does not share moral and ethical concerns with Christianity. Islamic law, in contrast to Hebrew law, is more concerned with retribution to criminals than justice to victims. Is it not Islamic law that turns thieves into beggars, rather than hard-working servants paying back their victims?

    Is it not Islam’s deity that calls for the murder of infidels (specifically, Jews and Christians)?

    The bloodthirsty god of Islam is a demonic perversion of the Creator, and as Christians who renounce violence, we must denounce Allah’s violence as well, and call for Yahweh’s justice, rather than Allah’s retribution. Any sense of morality or ethics that does not recognize the humanity of offenders and the need for restitution over retribution is immoral and unethical, and we can have no common cause with it.

    Any system of morality and ethics that treats rape victims as criminals is neither moral nor ethical. We have no common cause with Islam, nor shall we. Jesus is Lord, Allah is not.

    Other than that, I’m in full agreement with you.

    Reply

  41. Thank you for your comments Don! A few years ago I was fortunate enough to have several devout Muslim co-workers with whom I was able to dialogue concerning religion. What I found was that we agreed on things like concern for the well-being of the poor, the sanctity of life, the need for self-control and spiritual discipline in one’s own life, and the need for understanding and toleration of other religions. I understand that there are Muslims in the world who preach and act out very different values, and that there are verses in the Qu’ran that endorse very different values, but I still believe my co-workers are sincere, and that there are commonalitiies. The fact is that our Scripture has many bloody and violent passages in it, and that Christian history is full of wars fought in the name of God, and yet there are and have always been those Christians who have been witnesses to the non-violent, self-sacrificing love of Jesus, and the merciful Justice of God the Father. Are there not Muslims who witness to similar qualities of Allah?

    In any event thank you for your kind words, and for reading our site! I hope to continue thinking through difficult subjects with the likes of you.

    Peace of Christ,

    James

    Reply

  42. […] Frankly, I’m a little skeptical of posting this last entry on Islam.  I’m not even sure why, really.  It’s long, it’s probably out of the range of interests for a lot of our readers, and some of our readers seem to be annoyed at my recent foray into Islamic studies.  Nonetheless, I think Christians must strive to better understand Islam (I am, at this point, at least echoing the feelings of other theophilicas: see this post, #4). […]

    Reply

  43. Kick-ass list. I’d add to the part about creedal Orthodoxy and put in the word “generous” as in a “generous orthodoxy.” I’m not as big of a fan of Wright’s reading–though I agree with the thrust of his argument, I find his reading slips into a modernistic interpretation in some ways. I prefer Herbert McCabe:

    To say that Jesus rose from the dead is, among other things, to say that in spite of the fact that his love for us in obedience to his mission led to his death — or in fact because his love led to his death — he is still present to us, really present to us and loving us in his full bodily reality. It is not just that we remember him or imitate him, or that he lives on in a religious tradition. The good news is that he rose from the dead, that he went through real death to a new kind of bodily life with us. So that when we encounter someone who needs us, when we find the hungry and the imprisoned and the homeless, we can really say that here we encounter Christ, not in some metaphorical way, but literally. He personally is with us. The difference between having faith in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus and not having such faith is, at one level, the difference between really discovering Jesus in the needy and oppressed, and simply thinking that it is a rather beautiful idea. It is the difference between really believing, like Abraham, that God asks the impossible of us, to find life through death, creation through destruction, that God makes the impossible possible for us, and not believing in God — thereby making him just some part of the machinery of our world.

    found here:
    http://www.inhabitatiodei.com/2010/06/14/he-personally-is-with-us/

    Reply

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