Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Is the LayMAN anti-Bunny?


I should say "Hi" to my LayMAN friends.




The LayMAN posted a letter this morning referencing me.






Here is a portion of it:

For me, the literal, physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bottom line. If you believe that it is true, you may be a Christian; if you don't, you're not. Belief in a "spiritual" resurrection won't do. "Resurrection" by definition is physical, and a "spiritual" resurrection falls short of the apostolic kerygma.

To say, "Anyhow, even though we can't take the Resurrection story as literal truth, Jesus lives in my heart," is equally inadequate. You may as well say the Easter Bunny lives in your heart. Without the power of the Resurrection, the church lies helpless before a resurgent Islam. Without Resurrection power, secularism tightens its grip on culture.

I've been reading blogs by Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors. On one end, there's "Classical Presbyterian" by Toby Brown; on the other, there's "Shuck and Jive" by John Shuck. What this shows is the incredible vastness of the theological range within the PCUSA. Diversity can be a source of strength, but the diversity within this denomination is of such enormous proportions that it loses cohesion, meaning and purpose. It is unable to answer the question, "Who are we?" If it cannot answer that question, then logically the next one is, "Why continue as a denomination?" Inability to answer the all-important "Who-are-we" question, or to ignore it, must surely be a leading cause of the PCUSA's 40-year decline.

Ho hum.

Hey LayMANites, here is my Easter sermon. See if you can sniff out any heresies.



Long live the Easter Bunny! He is risen indeed!




41 comments:

  1. For me, the literal, physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bottom line. If you believe that it is true, you may be a Christian; if you don't, you're not. Belief in a "spiritual" resurrection won't do.

    Paul taught a "spiritual" resurrection. Imagine that, the primary founder of much of the theology of Christianity was not a Christian ;-) How is that for an oxy-moron?

    John, do you equate the idea of "Spiritual" resurrection as equally as silly as physical resurrection? Or do you distinguish between the two, and if so, how?

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  2. I am not exactly sure what spiritual resurrection is. I understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a narrative that points to the way we are to live in the world. This is the way of non-violence. That to me is the central claim of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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  3. "If you believe that it is true, you may be a Christian; "

    Both God and John Calvin will be surprised to hear that.

    Stupid me, here I had the idiotic notion that being saved was God's decision, not mine.

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  4. Rob,

    Paul talked about spiritual bodies. A body that cannot die, but a body nevertheless.

    I don't think he signed on the the Greek dualism of physical versus spiritual. More like a "new and improved" physical.

    But at the same time I think his writings on the subject show he was struggling and stretching beyond his own comprehension. In that we can all feel comfort. Whatever he was trying to say, one thing is clear. Death is not the end.

    John,

    I think Larry is bored. And while I completely agree that "the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a narrative that points to the way we are to live in the world", there are times and places in history where that would not have been nor is it now, enough.

    When we are rich and powerful absolutely yes, but when we are persecuted and oppressed, there is something else - something that transcends even a meaningless life that ends in death by torture. And even though you and I may not need such a gospel to sit in front of us day in and day out, it is there. Some of us are called to live it. Others merely to keep it alive and pass it on.

    Both aspects, that is.

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  5. I guess it's understandable that someone involved with the EPC at a Bible College in Malawi would have limited access to the goings-on in the PC(USA), particularly at Presbytery levels, I think it's kind of obvious that determining the need for schism based purely on comparing two blogs is a bit short-sighted.

    There are those precious few moments when the various sides do some together and answer Larry's question about the unity of the church. I think about the way that the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta--which represents all extremes of the debate--came together in response to the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Atlanta earlier this month (we still need help; please visit either PDA for more information). I think about the awesome worship services held during General Assemblies. I think about what my pastor said about how when the committee that wrote the Brief Statement of Faith finally finished after months of wrangling and tug-of-war, the entire General Assembly joined hands and read it aloud--liberal, conservative, evangelical, moderate, male, female, white, black, Asian, Latino--in what she describes as one of the most moving moments she experienced as a Presbyterian.

    The PUP was an obvious attempt at maintaining that unity. It's a shame that it got shot down so quickly, but here we are. I dread the possibility of schism in the near future, but if it becomes necessary to take a moral stand, it may be inevitable. In the meantime, and even afterwards, the thing that really binds us together is the confession that "Jesus is Lord."

    If the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta can meet every two months without breaking into fistfights, there's hope for us all, believe me.

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  6. Abundant Easter blessings to you and welcome as a new member to the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus! - Jay

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  7. Fly,

    I think there are tons of issues that folks can disagree about, and still find a unity in the gospel.

    But, I have a sense that there is a dispute in the church around the center of our faith, the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ.

    To me, this truly is a church dividing issue because I think it goes to the heart of the gospel, everything we're about.

    For me, there is no sense in skirting the issue. I can't see a benefit in everyone just using the same Biblically sounding terminology if in reality we're all investing these terms with far different meaning. I want us to be real together.

    What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord? I don't think it possible to affirm Jesus as Lord, while rejecting the reality of the incarnation, and the atonement of Christ at the sametime.

    The truth of the gospel, the work of the cross mean everything to me.

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  8. I think is incredibly telling that, to the Layman, the reason we need to iron out our theology is so we can fight "resurgent Islam". Holy war anyone?

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  9. Grace wrote (again):

    "But, I have a sense that there is a dispute in the church around the center of our faith, the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ."

    So what is it you want, Grace? Everyone to define the Christian faith on your terms? And what if they don't? What will you do then?

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  10. Thanks Jayv! And thanks for moderating that!

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  11. John,

    If I thought that I was just sharing my personal opinion then I wouldn't feel so very strongly. But, to me, this is more a matter of the entire historic witness of the church relating to Jesus, and the content of the gospel.

    To my mind, we risk losing entire segments of our mainline churches to the Christian faith. I'm not seeing this as a light issue such as a differing opinion relating to the interpretation of Genesis, or some political or social difference.

    I'm feeling heartbroken by the whole thing, but think there is nothing to be done but to continue to be honest, share concerns, and pray together. What would Jesus do?

    He would not be about a power grab, trying to gain control or exclude folks from the church.

    For me, the only thing to do is radically believe God, and trust that no matter what happens Jesus Christ will continue to build and sustain His church. I think that God's spirit is faithful to work in all our lives, and He can bring renewal to the church as well.

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  12. Grace,

    "If I thought that I was just sharing my personal opinion then I wouldn't feel so very strongly. But, to me, this is more a matter of the entire historic witness of the church relating to Jesus, and the content of the gospel."

    It is your opinion of what "the entire historic witness of the church" is. Not everyone agrees with you.

    "To my mind, we risk losing entire segments of our mainline churches to the Christian faith."

    Again, your interpretation of the Christian faith. We also lose large segments of people who don't think they can be Christian because of your exclusive definition of what a Christian is.

    Back to your earlier comment:

    "But, I have a sense that there is a dispute in the church around the center of our faith, the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ."

    By the way, who is disputing all of these things? Can you name someone, is this simply a generalized statement of the whole church is going to hell?

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  13. **We also lose large segments of people who don't think they can be Christian because of your exclusive definition of what a Christian is.**

    This is true. There are a lot of people I seem to come across who would've had to go the agnostic/atheist route, if it weren't for people who had a more inclusive idea of Christianity. I'm thinking of people like Marcus Borg, but authors like him have really helped people re-connect to a faith in God, and a different view of the Bible.

    If there is an insistence to doctrine above all else, even at the exclusion of looking for the fruit of the Spirit, then it will only end up driving away a lot of people.

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  14. Another thing is I've never understood why it's so important that the resurrection be a physical thing, and the whole faith idea becomes useless if it's not. Isn't the overarching idea of the Resurrection is that death -- the last enemy -- is no longer the victor? Why does it become death is no longer the victor so long as there's a physical body that came back? Why couldn't it be a different type of body? Why not a vision of someone's soul? Wouldn't both of those also prove that death is no a victor/end?

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  15. Re: onesmallstep

    As I understand it,there must be a physical resurrection, if one is to claim that Christ overcame physical death. Without going into a long theological discussion; if the New Heaven/New Earth/New Jerusalem that John speaks of in Revelation is a physical recreation, then it would need to be popuated by people with physical bodies. If not then "heaven" could be populated by spiritual beings. The belief is essentially that Christs physical resurection is a promise of future physical resurrection.

    DISCLAIMER This is only an attempt to answer oss's question as to what some people might possibly believe, it is not in any way an attempt to advocate for or set forth as true the above scenario. Although, the above has been considered as an orthodox doctrine throughout a significant portion of church history. If I offended anyone I apologize

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  16. Not Christian?! Go for it Layman. Play God!

    From 1 Corinthians 15:49-50,

    "49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

    50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"

    Take that, you Pharisees!

    Doug Hagler is on to the Laymanite prelude to a call for war, a holy war.

    I cannot think of better evidence than this Laymanite venom as a clear reason that so many see atheism as morally superior to Christianity. Nice job Layman. You're really helping fill the ranks.

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  17. John,

    Of course, I don't think the whole church is heading to Hell. I would never just start naming people publically. That's just wrong, like starting a witchunt.

    But, to tie into One's statement. What is Marcus Borg saying? He's documented this new paradigm in the churches in his books. Does Borg affirm that the historical Jesus is the unique Son of God. No!

    Of course, there is truth in realizing that our faith is about trust, who we give our heart to, and relationship. It's not just about intellectual assent to a bunch of propositional statements.

    But, the object of our trust is also important. It feels like I'm beating a dead horse here, but if the historical Jesus is a mere man, however good or godly, He doesn't have the capacity to "save" anyone in the Biblical sense.

    The incarnation, that our God cared enough to fully enter into human life, and suffering shows the depth of His love for us. It matters if the historic apostolic witness is actually true, as opposed to an existential leap into the dark.

    We have a situation in the churches where folks can all use the same terminology while investing familar expressions such as "incarnation," with vastly different meaning. It's like this semantic word game.

    But, for someone who has not just been culturally assimilated into the institutional church, but has truly come to a deep conviction of the truth of the gospel, and faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, all this really matters.

    To me, there is no point in having form without substance, like serving chalk for cheese.

    Oh, One, you don't understand. People can easily be sitting in the pews of the church physically while they have already left spiritually. What matters the most is to be found in Christ, not membership in the ELCA or the PCUSA.

    John, I think I've said enough here. But, I hope you can sense my heart, and are able to understand.

    The peace of the Lord to you always.

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  18. Grace,

    Bless your heart, I see the sweetness and love in your heart, but you are also frustrating! I am reminded of a verse from a Talking Heads song:
    "You start a conversation - you can't even finish it.
    You talk a lot, but you aren't saying anything."

    Through all the fluff and chaffe all I can hear is you saying basically the same thing each time: we all need to feel the same thing about God in the same way. Fortunately (ha!) faith and love of God is not like diabetes - one can't prick a finger and get a reading.

    Forgive me if I'm wrong. I am, after all, a heathen. And I don't mind!

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  19. It is your opinion of what "the entire historic witness of the church" is. Not everyone agrees with you.

    That is the key point here. Grace is giving her own opinion of what she wants the church to believe, and then tries to pawn it off as not really being her opinion. But of course it is her opinion! It is the opinion she has signed onto. All this talk about the "historic witness of the church" is a way of absolving herself of responsibility for her own opinions.

    We also lose large segments of people who don't think they can be Christian because of your exclusive definition of what a Christian is.

    It's already happened. It is what John Shuck calls the church alumni society. A lot of people with a great deal of interest in Christianity and its traditions have nevertheless been shut out of Christianity because they think they have to believe things that they simply cannot accept--because they have let the Graces of the world decide what is and isn't "Christianity". They've been forced into a binary corner--either you believe these things, or else you are not and cannot be one of us.

    This inability to tolerate "heresy" within their midsts is religious totalitarianism at its worst.

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  20. I love ya, Grace. Hang in there with us...

    "What is Marcus Borg saying? He's documented this new paradigm in the churches in his books. Does Borg affirm that the historical Jesus is the unique Son of God. No!"

    What is a unique Son of God? What does that mean to you? What might that have meant in the 1st century and how might that phrase have evolved in meaning?

    What scholars of Christian origins (like Borg and NT Wright and others) do is try to determine what the authors of the New Testament meant when they used phrases like that.

    As far as Marcus Borg's faith is concerned, he is pretty orthodox as far as I can tell. He believes he is doing his work for the church. I for one am thankful for him. But, he is not to everyone's liking.

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  21. Our new Associate mentioned something in our recent men's group meeting on Christians and War. The group had a number of things to disagree with itself on, but the atmosphere was perfect--we didn't have to agree with each other, and could in fact disagree pretty strongly, but at the end of the evening we were all still friends.

    AP acknowledged this and pointed out that it is often the case and indeed sometimes useful for brothers and sisters in Christ to have disagreements, but that the essential glue that holds us together is very simple: the confession that "Jesus is Lord". It's as old as the church itself.

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  22. Craig,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Grace,

    You seem to be saying that Christian churches cannot have substance unless they identify God in the same manner as you do. Unless their faith is the same as yours.

    **but if the historical Jesus is a mere man, however good or godly, He doesn't have the capacity to "save" anyone in the Biblical sense. **

    Based on your opinion. Adam was a mere man, and he was enough to doom all his descendents. If you see them as more of archtypes, and that the old man died on the cross with Jesus, that God used the cross to destroy all opposing powers, including death, then Jesus does have the capability to save, based on what God accomplished through him. After all, all authority on heaven and earth is given to Jesus. Even the comparison between Jesus and Adam is focused on the humanity.

    **It's not just about intellectual assent to a bunch of propositional statements.**

    The problem is that I see this immediatly contracted by the idea that one must confess Jesus as God in order to be saved, and that's really all that matters. It dosen't matter about a Hindus encounter with God, or the grace we'd see in a Mormon's life -- what matters is their assent to a creed. It identifies who is "with" God based on a set of beliefs, and not the measure of a person's faith or life.

    **People can easily be sitting in the pews of the church physically while they have already left spiritually.**

    I don't think you understood what I'm saying. I'm talking about the people who simply don't go to church, because they can't stand the labeling and the exclusiveness. People who say that without a correct view of Jesus, one is not a Christian. Yet there are people out there who are drawn to Christianity, in huge ways, and find ways of re-connecting to it through people like Marcus Borg, because it gives them a new way to view God and the Bible.

    If not for Progressive Christianity, there'd be a lot of people who'd have no choice but to take on the agnostic/atheist label, even if they didn't want to. As I said, if one focuses on doctrine rather than the fruit of the Spirit, it only serves to drive many away.

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  23. Fly,

    If we could only agree on who/what Jesus was, and what Lord means we'd be in business.

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  24. ((Snad)) just bless you, too. j

    Hey, I love you too, John. :)

    Mystical, do you think I'm not telling the truth, here? Even apart from the overall witness of Scripture, just read the early church fathers, and later on the witness of the Augsburg Confession, or the Westminster Confession of faith.

    For that matter, every week Christians in all our mainline denominations confirm our faith together by worshipping and praising God in the affirmation of the Apostles or Nicene Creed of the church.

    You may not agree with all this, or in what I'm sharing, but I'm no extreme, esoteric fundamentalist, just a "bog standard" Christian.

    I really am telling the truth concerning the historic witness of the Christian church.

    Mystical, is it ok to ask concerning your denominational background? Maybe this would help me to better understand where you're coming from in all this.

    One and John, I'm kinda rushed right now, so I have to come back later to some of your sharing.

    God bless!

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  25. I really am telling the truth concerning the historic witness of the Christian church.

    Two points. First, this business of the "historic witness" is in my view a cop out because you aren't assuming responsibility for what you believe. You seem to be saying, "oh, this isn't my little old belief, it is the belief of the Christian church." Well, actually, it is your belief. You need to own up to it. Either you agree with this so-called "historic witness" or you don't. If you do agree with it, then argue for it on its own terms, instead of slapping a label onto it whose sole purpose is to grant it immunity from criticism.

    Second, I think you are describing what you think is this alleged "historic witness" of the church. I have argued in the past that this "historic witness" is the result of the suppression of dissenting views, that early Christianity was marked by diversity, and that taking a winning side in a drawn out and multifaceted period of disputes and slapping a label onto it as if it were the inevitable and final word on the subject is simply a way of delegitimizing dissent. As such, it is also a cop out.

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  26. Mystical,

    Well, ok, I agree with the witness of the church. It's my conviction, also. No excuses. :)

    I guess we're looking at all this differently, Myst. I don't look at the early church fathers, or the orthodox faction, as arbitrarily trying to suppress dissent as nothing more than a "power grab."

    I thing they were genuinely concerned to be faithful to the apostolic witness,and for the testimony of the early church.

    If you compare these gnostic writings, for instance, from the 2nd. century to the canonical gospels, and the rest of the letters of the N.T., they bear a very different and contradictory testimony relating to Jesus, and salvation.( Among other things the gnostics believed that the material world was evil. )

    All opinions can't be equally true and valid, here.

    I truly feel that over time God's spirit guided, and continues to guide the Christian church into truth.

    In part, I think this really is a question of faith. It involves what we think concerning the nature of God, and His desire to reveal Himself truly, and to have a relationship with us.

    John, when I refer to Jesus as the unique Son of God, among other things, I'm thinking of the testimony of the gospel of John, or the writings of the early church fathers.

    I'm affirming the apostolic witness of Jesus as Lord found in Phil. 2:5-ll. This is thought to be among the earliest confessions of faith of the church dating to as early as 20-30AD.

    One, I've know wonderful people, dear friends, who have been Mormon. Their families are outstanding, out of the ballpark.

    I certainly don't feel that it is in my place to judge what God is doing in anyone's life, or who in the end God "saves."

    I'm a Christian because I've come to trust that God saves in Christ, apart from any human work or good intention. I think salvation is all by the grace and mery of the Lord. And, we're all invited into relationship with Him.

    One, do you really think that people are atheists because of the testimony of orthodox Christians? I'm very skeptical, I admit it, when people claim they are atheists because of those narrow-minded, and hypocritial Christians.

    Personally, I don't care if every person in the church has "whacked out" beliefs, or is living like the Devil. I'm a Christian because I think the gospel is actually true, and because of what Jesus Christ means in my life.

    How can we allow the actions, even the hypocrisy or beliefs of others, to define our faith? It makes little sense to me, I can tell ya!

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  27. I don't look at the early church fathers, or the orthodox faction, as arbitrarily trying to suppress dissent as nothing more than a "power grab."

    I thing they were genuinely concerned to be faithful to the apostolic witness,and for the testimony of the early church.


    People who suppress dissent, as the Christian church did, often sincerely think they are doing what's right. That doesn't change the fact that one point of view prevailed over others and suppressed opinions that differed from those in power. The motives of the people involved isn't really the point. The point is that diversity in Christianity was there from the beginning, and out of that diversity only one set of views prevailed, and other viewpoints were suppressed. The winners then got to call themselves the "apostolic" point of view, as if they were the only legitimate heirs of the original diversity.

    The term "apostolic witness" is a canard, a cheap propaganda ploy designed to give legitimacy to one's own theology and to discredit other theologies that derive from the same original set of traditions.

    And, by the way, the Gnostics were hardly the only dissenters in early Christianity.

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  28. Grace,

    Did you see the results of the very unscientific, yet I think revealing , poll? These are people who did not self-identify as Christian but might consider it.

    29 of the 46 checked they might consider Christianity if..."Christian myths and legends could be appreciated symbolically. 29 (63%)"

    You wrote:

    "One, do you really think that people are atheists because of the testimony of orthodox Christians? I'm very skeptical, I admit it, when people claim they are atheists because of those narrow-minded, and hypocritial Christians."

    That is not the issue. Many if not most people--Christian and non-Christian--do not realize that one can be a Christian and understand its stories symbolically. You don't have to, but yes you can!!!

    The reason people don't know is that most of the time Easter preaching is apologetic as a lame attempt to prove the historicity of the resurrection. One who doesn't believe that is not a Christian. Yadda yadda.

    The fact is that people are in various places along the spectrum of how they evaluate Christian texts and are in a state of change.


    Poll Number 6:
    I might consider Christianity if
    1. Christians behaved better. 15 (32%)
    2. Christians valued the contributions of science. 28 (60%)
    3. Christians valued the contributions of other faiths. 28 (60%)
    4. Christian myths and legends could be appreciated symbolically. 29 (63%)
    5. Christianity made the world a better place rather than a worse one. 27 (58%)
    6. Christians were inclusive to gays, reproductive choice, against war, etc. 32 (69%)
    7. I could find a community that respected my freedom to think and to grow. 31 (67%)
    8. I am just not interested. 8 (17%)

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  29. John,

    I can't help, but love you, and sense your sincerity, and caring for people. The church can't lose you. :( N..oo!!

    Plus, believe it or not, despite some of my strong views here, I'm actually this golden retriever personality who is huggy, and doesn't want to cause offense or hurt to anyone.

    I'm willing to agree that someone can be a Christian, and not interpret the virgin birth or even the resurrection of the Lord literally. I don't see it in this way of course, but I'm able to understand this.

    But, John, the divinity of Christ, the reality of the incarnation is at the center of our faith. That Jesus Christ by His dying and rising again brings us to God is the heart of the gospel.

    I think most of these folks such as our dear friend, Mystical , are not in the church because they are simply and truly not Christian believers, and have not come to faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

    For one reason or another, they have not seen the truth of the gospel, the depth of the incarnation. It's just that basic. It's all foolishness to them.

    I feel as if I almost don't have a choice but to be a Christian. It's not like choosing to try on a coat. Do you know what I'm saying?

    Or am I as clear as mud, barking up the wrong tree?

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  30. Grace,

    **I certainly don't feel that it is in my place to judge what God is doing in anyone's life, or who in the end God "saves."**

    Herein lies the problem. When we have you telling us our status with God, which is how we see the comments such as we aren't truly CHristians because of [fill in the blank], or haven't come to see the truth of the gospel, then you are making a judgement call. That is how we see it. You are judging our spiritual status, and our encounters with God. By praying that we come to see the truth as you do, you are making a judgement call again, and are making it your place to determine how we should think. I can't speak for Mystical, but that's what keeps "setting me off," so to speak, with many of the comments I read from you. You know very little about me, and yet because I don't hold Jesus to be God, or the Trinity, you suddenly know exactly where I stand with God, and how to interpret my God encounters. If you told me that you wore red shoes and meet the President, and I told you that you didn't mean the President because people with red shoes can't, I trust you'd find that dismissive. Especially if you told me details as to how you met the President, or the details that lead you to believe it was the President, and I kept telling you you didn't, all because of the red shoes, would I truly be listening to you at all? Or making a judgement call on your entire experience, based on my "knowledge?"

    **One, do you really think that people are atheists because of the testimony of orthodox Christians?**

    I still don't think you're understanding why people find histortians such as Marcus Borg appealing, because it's a combination of factors. It's how they see certain Christians act, yes. It's the doctrines that certain creeds espouse. It's asking to believe certain things about the BIble, certain literal things, that they can no longer do. It's asking them to accept that God can only forgive through a blood sacrifice, that God truly did order some heinous things in the Tanakh, that God will cast all non-believers into eternal torment simply because they don't have the right "facts."

    People like Marcus Borg give others a way of reading the Bible in a much more metaphorical light, and then re-connecting with God. These people can't find God in an exclusive sect of Christianity -- but they can through progressive Christianity. They can take the Bible seriously without being told they can only have faith if they take it literally.

    **For one reason or another, they have not seen the truth of the gospel, the depth of the incarnation. It's just that basic. It's all foolishness to them.**

    Not if you hold the gospel to be as Paul defined, which is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected. He didn't include as part of his message there that Christ was God. Or even hold to the gospel as Jesus defined, which is very vague. You do have to ask yourself, what "gospel" did he preach for those years leading up to the resurrection? He did say he came to give the gospel, but how did he define it to the people? To those who said were saved prior to his crucifixion -- what gospel were they believing in?

    Second ... no. No, no, no. That is a huge judgement call right there, for starters. That is not at all why I'm not in the church. Even if I did believe that Jesus was God, I still wouldn't be in the church, because I find most churches I go to water down the Bible, or God, or even Jesus. (Although, in a shout-out to John, I would very much give his church a try or two). :) I find that the Americanized Christianity waters down those elements as well.

    You have no choice but to see Jesus as God. Based on reading the Bible, I have no choice but to see him as not-God. The son of God, yes. The Messiah, yes.

    For instance, Phil 2: 5-11. I don't see that as considering Jesus to be God. I see that as contrasting Jesus with Adam. The divine nature was also Adam's from the first, yet unlike Jesus, he did try to be equal with God. Jesus did not try to seize the equality but rather emptied himself, and because of that, God bestwoed upon him the name above all names (because rather than seizing, he was humble), and thus people will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.

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  31. That is not the issue. Many if not most people--Christian and non-Christian--do not realize that one can be a Christian and understand its stories symbolically.

    I think that's an important point. It isn't that Christian hypocrites are driving people away from Christianity, which is what Grace thought you were implying. The problem is that people have a limited view of what Christianity means, and thus they think that they can't be part of the Christian faith. People like Grace try to define the limits of what is and isn't Christianity, and people who are spiritually inclined and who are interested in Christianity but who don't conform to Grace's definition of the faith just assume that they therefore have nothing to gain from the faith. Until I discovered people like Marcus Borg and John Spong, I thought so too. Lots of people just don't know. They've been conned by religious conservatives, who have set it upon themselves to define the faith. It is really a shame, but that's what has happened.

    But, John, the divinity of Christ, the reality of the incarnation is at the center of our faith. That Jesus Christ by His dying and rising again brings us to God is the heart of the gospel.

    Interesting theory, because the Christian faith spent the first 350 or so years of its existence developing its theological dogmss without before it got around to having "settled" the question of Jesus's divinity. So according to your own reasoning, a big chunk of the first three centuries of early Christianity wasn't even Christian!

    I think most of these folks such as our dear friend, Mystical , are not in the church because they are simply and truly not Christian believers, and have not come to faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

    I came to the faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord when I was 10 years old, and was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later, I came to have a different point of view.

    Frankly, it isn't up to you to decide who is and isn't a Christian, although you do set yourself up in that role.

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  32. You know very little about me, and yet because I don't hold Jesus to be God, or the Trinity, you suddenly know exactly where I stand with God, and how to interpret my God encounters.

    Well said, One Small Step. This summarizes the problem that I see as well.

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  33. Craig wrote:

    "If we could only agree on who/what Jesus was, and what Lord means we'd be in business."

    We already are in business. We don't have to agree. We work it out for ourselves within the guidelines of our confessions. Reformed and always being reformed.

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  34. Grace, my huggy golden retriever :)

    I trust your sincerity as well. I just really don't see a problem. We learn, study, grow, and change. I can't speak for other traditions (although I would guess there are similarities), but the PC(USA) has confessions, ordination vows, membership requirements. None of this is being challenged. When the need arises we make a new confession.

    We are always in a process of hearing God's Word anew while seeking to understand our history and the language of faith.

    What we mostly see on the blogs and in current books are the ideas of those on the edges. Some of these ideas will not make an impact while others will.

    But if you don't have the edge people, or if you try to ban them from leadership in the church (I am not saying you do that, but others do) you lose the creative energy that is needed to move forward.

    Who knows what the study of Christian origins will offer us 20 years from now?

    The point is that we must have the freedom to be wrong. Otherwise being right means nothing more than parroting what someone else said.

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  35. Mystical,

    This explains alot. I didn't realize that you made a profession of faith in Christ, and were baptized as a child in the name of the trinity. Praise the Lord! God is faithful in our lives through everything.

    Surely, your seeking, and discontent, the way you feel strongly drawn to the Christian church is the work of God's spirit in your life, through baptism.

    Otherwise, you would feel perfectly content, and happy as a clam hanging out with the Unitarian-Universalist Association, I feel sure.

    Mystical and One, I say go for it. If you want to hang out in the church, share ideas, check things out, I'm all for it. (Rolls out the red carpet..) Welcome!!

    I'm willing to sit down, and hash all this over together for the next twenty years. How bout you??

    Guys, have you ever studied also the early church fathers? I think it's a popular idea out there right now that the church just somehow arbitrarily came up with the idea of the divinity of Christ at the council of Nicea. It's not true.

    I realize that we could be talkin a long time. So, I'll give you the last word for now. Hope we can still be friends even though I know you are "put off," and irritated with me at times.

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  36. This explains alot. I didn't realize that you made a profession of faith in Christ, and were baptized as a child in the name of the trinity.

    And then I realized that conservative Christianity of my youth was intellectually and morally untenable. But like a lot of other people who leave behind orthodoxy Christianity, I assumed that there was no alternative to the faith I had rejected, so I became an atheist. I had just changed teams without really understanding that there were other ways of understanding God (and Christianity) than I had been taught. This is the problem that a lot of people who leave conservative religion behind suffer from. I know this from firsthand experience. What rescued me was my discovery of people like Marcus Borg, who showed that there are other kinds of Christian faith besides the one I rejected.

    In other words, my rediscovery of religious faith was only possible once I realized that there were other paradigms out there besides Christian orthodoxy. I went through the stages that Borg outlines from his own life--from precritical naivite, to critical thinking, to post-critical naivite.

    Surely, your seeking, and discontent, the way you feel strongly drawn to the Christian church is the work of God's spirit in your life, through baptism.

    My discontent is with the Christian orthodoxy that you advocate, so what you say makes no sense. You interpret everything through your proselytizing lens, which is why having a serious religious conversation with you is so difficult and frustrating.

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  37. ((Mystical)) thanks to you and One for hanging in there with me. I'm sure we'll talk again.

    Hey, I started out more as an agnostic, and came to orthodox Christianity through honest searching, and the whole critical process, a real C.S. Lewis kind of thing. Our experiences are certainly different.

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  38. As I've noted elsewhere, my best friend in high school is a Unitarian, and he (like an awful lot of Unitarians I know) is one of the most Christ-like people I know.

    In many regards, as someone who grew up in a denomination that (when it's being truest to itself) prizes scholarship, I actually tend to find myself more comfortable around Unitarians than around fundamentalists. At least I can have an honest exchange of ideas with a UU. With a fundamentalist, I'm either 100% there-with-ya-brother-praise-Baby-Jesus! or I'm 100% whore-of-Babylon-damned-to-perdition.

    I think of my friend, and then of two girls in my class who harassed a Presbyterian girl in my class, telling her that her infant baptism didn't count, and that if she didn't go to an Assemblies of God church and undergo a "real" baptism, she'd go to Hell.

    As Gandhi put it (and I paraphrase), "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

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  39. Grace,

    **Guys, have you ever studied also the early church fathers? **

    The problem I have with using the early church fathers as justification is that I'm relying on what other people say about the Bible, rather than what I see in the Bible itself. Not only that, but I don't know of any church father who wasn't Greek, and thus interpreting Hebrew thought from a Greek mindset. Hebrew thought was much more fluid.

    If the church fathers had been Hebrew, I'm not so sure we would've had the concept of the Trinity, or even the idea of Jesus as God.

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