Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A theological mutt

I've been thinking about what Christian tradition I would find myself most closely associated. I don't know how to answer this.

I've been in congregations from Nazarine, EV Free, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Calvary Chapel and Vineyard. I've also found beauty in Episcopelian churches, kindred spirits in Mennonite and Anabaptist traditions, and some Restoration Movement churches. And then I find beauty in the mystery of Open Theim.

I don't know if I can answer which tradition I am in unless I studied the ins and outs of all of them. I don't "follow" any tradition.

It's easy for me to say Reformed traditions are along my lines because I've studied so much of that considering their writing is so prevalent and the major authors of today are from Reformed traditions.

So where do I stand? On most issues I've resigned myself to not take a strong stand because it's not important to the Gospel and salvation.

Things I believe:

I believe in one universal Church, the Bride of Christ, and of one baptism into Christ, the hope of glory. In this I agree with most established Ecclesiastical doctrines, but I can only think of one that expressly states this as a goal, the Stone-Campbell Movement, known as Restoration Movement who reject these labels for this purpose. They go by "Church of God" or "Church of Christ" to indicate exactly that there is only one Church, and denomination names divide the Church.

I believe in predestination, along the lines of the Calvinists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed Baptist and other reformed Protestant traditions. I am accepting of varying explanations within the confines of this overriding concept. I'm not sure how one would read the Gospel of John and argue against predestination.

I believe in the separation of Church and state. This is not the same phrase we use in American politics and justice, it is along the lines of how the Amish are without our government functions. I don't believe time stopped int he 16th Century as the Amish, I was using them as an example. They are from the Anabaptist tradition including such leaders as Menno Simms, for whom the Mennonites are named. The Christian is called to live without the normal patterns of the world.

I believe in nonviolence as taught by Christ and his Apostles - Paul, John, Peter, James - and their disciples, Polycarp, Origen, and the remainder of the ante-Nicene Fathers. I do not know what tradition the Apostles labeled themselves, I imagine they were called "Christian." Nonviolence has been carried through by Thomas Aquinas, the Anabaptist reformers, much of the Catholic church, some Presbyterian synods, and a varied bunch of theologians in Lutheran, Episcopalian, Calvinist, Stone-Campbell, Methodist, etc. Even Jehovah's Witnesses support the last two points (I am not entirely sure the points orthodoxy disagrees with JW's really cause them to not be considered Christian as well, but I haven't studied them enough).

I believe in water baptism as a mandate on par with any other Christian duty. I agree with Anabaptists that adult baptism is important, but I don't disagree with paedobaptism. I'm not going to stick to my guns, but I think an adult who was baptized as a child should consider being baptized as an adult as an active member in the communion of saints. I believe the "pour" method is the most biblical way of baptism, but this is a point of so much contention between factions when it's obviously trivial (even though one non-denom church I went to had few solid stances on doctrine except for full-immersion, but they would sprinkle if were in a wheelchair or otherwise couldn't dunk).

I believe Scripture is sufficiently clear on the divinity of Christ (specifically in Colossians and 1 John, amongst others) and of the Trinity as a result. I have to study further to find out if these are necessary to Christian faith and salvation however.

I believe in a resurrection of the dead and then of judgment. Christ will return only one time (sorry, pre-trib) to judge the living and the dead. I tend to be amillennial
but I'm to postmillennialism and post-trib premillennialism as long as there is one second coming and one judgment. In this I am again with the early Church fathers, and most orthodox traditions including Catholicism and the reformed traditions. I'm not sure why Eschatology is used as a proxy for the Gospel of Christ, the Lamb that was Slaughtered.

I believe God created the world through Christ, but I'm open to how He managed construction. In this I'm with Catholicism.

I believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave and of his ascension. While it is becoming popular amongst post-modernist to say this isn't an important aspect of the Gospel, I defy them to prove it. Christ's victory over death is a central issue in the Epistles.

I believe in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the spirit, including speaking in tongues, healing the sick, prophecy, hospitality, and the rest. I believe these gifts have been abused, especially the gift of tongues and of healing. I believe the gifts of hospitality and prophecy have been neglected in the States. Some reformed and orthodox teachers believe the gifts were for the Apostles to showcase their authority, but I do not find a point where they were supposed to have stopped - especially when Paul was writing to non-Apostles about their gifts.

I believe in the "communion of saints," as the Apostles' Creed puts it; of coming together regularly to share our lives, abilities, encouragement, and possessions. I believe this is the true Eucharist, the Body of Christ. The communion of bread and wine is a symbol of the Body of Christ, not the literal flesh and blood. It is our communal suffrage of the saints that is the literal Body of Christ acting in this world for the salvation of sinners and reconciliation of the Earth. Our continued persecution is sharing in the sacrifice of Christ. In this point I know who I don't align with, but I don't know whom I join.

I believe in everlasting life in the New Jerusalem established here on Earth. I do not know if we rest in our graves until the resurrection or if our souls are transported to a temporary place of comfort (Abraham's Bosom?) until judgment and the New Jerusalem is established. I don't think it is important to the Gospel or to salvation and sanctification what Heaven is like.

I'm also entirely open to being wrong about specifics. Maybe predetermination is different. Scripture is vague on it and we fill in the details, as with many issues. At this point I'm familiar with Open Theism, of which I disagree consistently except in the mystery of multiple possibilities and humility.

Conclusion:

As you can see, I'm all over the place. I haven't found any inconsistencies in my belief, but there are also no inconsistencies in other ways of belief either. So maybe I should not fret over my title and hold no debt to anyone except the debt of love.

2 comments:

His Name Extoled said...

im scared you see anything less than heresy in open theism...

now that ive commented after reading the intro ill read the rest

Destroy:Ideas said...

Even Paul found commonality with Roman gods to make a point about faith.