Friday, February 29, 2008
I believe in infallibility, but I don't believe it is all to be taken literally. This isn't an extreme belief as every church doctrine choses some passages literally and some figurative, some poetic and others metaphoric. And then some are hyperbolic. Even dispensationalists, who claim to take scripture literally, do not do this.
We also can't take a passage and apply it to every situation. We can apply universal commissions and find the spirit of specific commissions. We must seek the intent of the author/speaker and how they intended the hearer/reader to understand it at the time it was proclaimed. If we do not do this, we pervert the scriptures and discombobulate its meaning.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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.
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.
Monday, February 25, 2008
This is explained in The Ethics of Martin Luther (Paul Althaus; pages 75-76) thus:
Luther replaces the distinction between matters that affect our own person and matters that affect our office with a distinction between matters that concern the Second Table of the Law and matters that concern the First Table. This is a distinction between matters which affect us as citizens of this world and matters which affect our faith and confession. . . . This means that whenever a Christian is threatened and attacked as a Christian (that is, for the sake of the Gospel and thus for the sake of Christ), he does not defend himself; rather, he is ready to suffer injustice and violence without resisting and to abandon joyfully all that he has -- even his body and his life. But in secular matters, when his suffering is not for the sake of the Gospel, he may turn to the authorities for help and demand justice and protection. If his request is not granted, then he must suffer in the secular matter too.
This corresponds to Luther's opinion of self-defense. If the authorities persecute the Christian because of his faith (that is, in matters related to the First Table of the Law), he does not resist but instead suffers everything, including death. If a thief or robbers uses violence against him, however, the Christian as a "citizen of this world" ought to defend himself.
Luther thus establishes my right to defend myself when my life is under attack by asserting that it is no longer a private action for my own personal benefit but an official action of the authorities which I perform in an extraordinary way, that is, as a substitute for the official authority.
You see, Martin Luther splits the human's being into two parts, one secular and one sacred. I don't see how this fits with scripture. For example visit Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him," and to a lesser extent 4:5, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." Also see 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
We are also told in Romans 6 and 8 that we are dead to our old nature and given a new nature. If the old, secular nature is dead there is no secular reaction coming from the Christian, only the sacred action coming from the live that is lived in the Spirit of God.
The point here is that we are always to act as God's representative, so if we are attacked, it is not a pagan who is responding, it is a Christian. When Jesus said to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39) he is addressing the original law given ("eye for an eye") which is a "Second Table" act. It is an act committed to a person not in the role of Christian but in the role of human. And Jesus never makes a distinction that this "evil person" (same verse) is assaulting you because of your faith.
Jesus says to "love your enemy" (Matthew 5:43-48) because even the pagan loves those who love him, so as a disciple of the Risen One we are to also love our enemies. He concludes by saying, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." For God loves his enemies: Romans 5:10, "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Colossians 1:21, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
In conclusion, Martin Luther and other theologians are correct in their reading of Scriptures as it calls us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek, but I question their designation of this to only martyrdom.
I will close with a passage from 1 Peter 2:21-23 where we are told Christ is an example and we should follow in his steps. It is the example Christ gave us that is difficult to accept:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Friday, February 22, 2008
I want to draw attention to this passage in a way we can apply to our own lives. I was thinking about it last night because two years ago I was so hyped on this very passage that I dropped several activities and those that I began were founded directly in glorifying God. So what happened? Complacency. I'm too comfortable with the world to truly live dead set for God.
I could do a whole series on this one topic and apply it to every minute facet of our lives, but I don't want to get too caught up in the religiosity the Pharasies found themselves in. Instead, I want to open our minds to think of God through every action we do, and one way it to give an example to think about which challenges our very identity. I know people identify themselves differently, and place higher importance on one identity over another, but the one I find that runs through everyone is vocation. When you meet someone, you don't ask what their political ideologies are, you don't ask where they are spiritually, you ask what they do for a living.
Does my job give glory to God? This is the question I want to ask. It is what I spend most of my time doing after all, so if most of my time is going into this task I should evaluate whether or not it is glorifying to God. It's a challenging question to ask for sure. Paul himself, the author of this passage, built tents on the side. Was he hypocritical or did that serve a greater purpose? Paul said he worked to not be a burden on the Church he was serving.
Later, in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Paul urges to, "lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands ... so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." A quiet life. Physical labor. These are things we can do to glorify God. Paul again notes to work so you're not a burden on anybody, as he worked for the same.
We can conclude here that perhaps our vocation is glorifying to God because we are told to labor and to not be dependent on anyone. But certainly some vocations do not glorify God. I have a hard time working where I do as we service the ultra-rich, we sell them products they don't need so they can tower over other people in their decadence. Does my product glorify God? I struggle with this daily.
Some other occupations are questionable to me as well. A pornographer certainly. An insurance broker might be akin to a tax collector in Jesus' time, keeping people from their coverage. A salesman who lies about a product or service to get a sale. A soldier who is asked to kill another. A CEO who does not give his laborers a fair wage. A taxi driver who speeds through traffic. Not all of these are questionable simply because of the job title, they could be carried out in a manner pleasing to the Lord, but others require you to be deceitful, callous, murder, etc.
There is certainly place for liberty through grace, but we should at least strive to follow the one in whom we profess our faith.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.And when he is asked about the Army he says, "I can't work for that corporation."
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I was thinking a bit more about this. I think it's a difficult challenge for children to distinguish between devotion to the nation and devotion to God. This is especially hard when Christians say it is a "good Christian duty" to vote or "protect" the country. When churches display the flag and sing patriotic songs. We teach our children to be devoted to the country and to God, and I don't know if they can separate the two - and our nation is a real thing we deal with every day in the physical as adults when we complain about the government, talk about the President, vote, etc. It seems devotion for country has overwhelmed devotion to God and the two are inseparable.
And then these kids grow up and they are Americans, not Christians. Christianity is just a part of the American identity, it is a secondary title, a lower allegiance.
I cannot kill for this country, and I won't die for it. As a Christian I am a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom which is not of this world. It has no borders to protect, it has to economy of goods, no voting booths, no military. My first identity is found in Jesus, the Christ, Savior of the world. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight" (John 18:36). If I will not fight to defend this Kingdom of eternal importance - if I will not invade to expand the borders of this Kingdom of Peace - how can I fight for an empire that is worth nothing to God?
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I'm not trying to defend the emerging church at all. What I'm trying to get at is community. This generation is yearning for something new. We want real community, real worship, real service. We're sick of the "Christian" subculture that is marketed for sale.
But the modern church structure is battling against these needs, trying to stick with the old structure - the structure that is modeled after secular businesses, not first-century communities. I remember when one local college/career group set up non-traditional worship stations encouraging attendees to worship through expressive means such as art, prayer and meditation. The church-parent stopped that practice within a month.
But the "church" we have now is not traditional itself, it was created in the 70s when the last generation rebelled from the previous generation's worship structure. They played guitars, they didn't wear ties - they even created something called "pre-tribulation" eschatology.
This next generation doesn't have a strong devotion to any denomination. Right now I could go to any denomination congregation and have no idea what set them apart, they're all focused on families, moralism, and don't teach doctrine and have a soft-focus on the gospel. But our generation loves orthodoxy, and orthopraxis. We appreciate the traditional methods of fellowship and worship. We want doctrine and mystery, somewhat of a paradox but also in the tradition of the monastics of the past.
But what do we do? I'm personally sick of the spirit of schism which broke the catholic church in two and then later caused the protestant schism which itself brought dozens of smaller schisms. Now we have several churches in this valley who broke off from other churches, and the process continues. I don't want to break off, that's contrary to the community I so want.
Monday, February 11, 2008
But this isn't the point I"m trying to make. When I go places, musicians have a unique relationship. We encourage each other, share our talents, abilities, techniques. We teach each other how to do things, different chords, beats, etc. We talk about new artists and products to influence each other to better our musical abilities.
This is something I think the Church shares in a way. At least it should. When we get together we might have nothing else in common with one another, but we have something greater than anything else to bring us together. We should encourage each other, share our struggles, ambitions. We should help each other through things we've gone through ourselves. Point out Scriptures, songs and hymns to each other to help further our collective Spiritual development.
Christianity isn't just a personal decision or a label we attach to our regular secular lives, it is a new way of living. Christ called us out of the world's normal categories, divisions and battles and into a new life of peace, solidarity, community and love. We ought to develop this community, and as musicians we already have a feeling for how transcendent this community can be.
We should commit to one another, as Christian siblings, to encourage one another, love, share, support and otherwise grow together.
Jesus used vine as a metaphor for the Church. We are all branches of this vine. We all have this one thing in common, the vine - Jesus - in which we all are sustained. We are one.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
This is in response to comments made about Loaded Language:
I've got an idea though, instead of being insulted because a statement might include your family, how about we think in the abstract for a while.
Just because someone you love and respect is doing something they feel is honorable, does it automatically mean it can't be put under a critical microscope? Can we not address this issue and tease out certain moral issues?
First we should define fascism, and then we can see how it applies to the USA: Fascism, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (1983) is "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile's entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana read: Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. No less an authority on fascism than Mussolini was so pleased with that definition that he later claimed credit for it.
Paxton defines Fascism as "a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."
- Overwhelming crisis: Communism, terrorism
- Playing the victim: "Attacking our way of life" "attacking freedom"
- Natural leader: Bush has a "unitary" legal outlook placing himself above the law, and he's frequently talked about how his judgment should be trusted as he is the decider
- Dominate others: Nation-building in South America and Asia, et al
- Foreign contamination: Currently the big thing in politics is the immigration issue.
Now that we have defined Fascism and started to place it into our context of the modern USA, let's further explore this:
The US leaders - who have placed dictators in power in Chile, Velezuela, Columbia, El Salvador, Vietnam, and all the other places we have crushed public, democratic movements in other countries to sustain our "way of life" in America - will tell you that our nation-building efforts were to maintain US industry and US dominance over world markets. Our military has been used all over the world to support US corporate expansion in the global market. This is nothing our government hides from us, they tell us it is good to have military in place in certain places as it benefits our economy. This is a merger of government and corporations: corporatism, also known as fascism.
Corporations can't use military force to push their goals, so they have a relationship with the government to do this for them.If your family is in the military it doesn't mean they're bad people. They can have pure motives, but when you look at the macro situation, the US has been using military force for the last 60 years to promote US business in the global economy to "preserve the US way of life." This means we need to have cheap coffee because the American way of life is to drink coffee, so we go into countries and set up unjust wage systems so the foreigners can't succeed against our business and we can have cheap coffee at the expense of their wellbeing.