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!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who Did Jesus Hang Out With?

Here is the text of the sermon I preached today.

Who Did Jesus Hang Out With?
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
September 28, 2008

What would Jesus do? WWJD. About a decade ago, evangelical youth began sporting WWJD bracelets. They wore these bracelets so they would be reminded in their daily lives to think about their faith and the teachings of Jesus. It is not a bad idea to connect one’s faith to one’s actions.

Of course folks have had a lot fun with that slogan over the years. What would Jesus eat? What would Jesus drive? How would Jesus vote? At a peace rally, I saw a sign that said Who would Jesus bomb? And the latest I heard over the weekend in response to the woes of the housing lenders: Who would Jesus bailout?

What would Jesus do begs the question, what did Jesus do? Before we ask what we think he might do if he were here today, we should ask what he did when he lived in his time.

Scholars of Christian origins have been working on that for a couple of centuries. For some time scholars have tried to distinguish the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. They have tried to strip away the myth from the man. It hasn’t been easy. Some from a more confessional viewpoint think it is a blasphemous thing to do. For them, doing this kind of study is an attack on faith. We know what he did, they say. The Bible and the creeds tell us: he died on the cross to save us from sin. He rose on the third day and sits at the right hand of God the Father from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Any more questions?

The master narrative of Christian origins that we learned in Sunday School says that Jesus knew this about himself even before his birth and was self-conscious about it throughout his ministry. This narrative asserts that Jesus gave this knowledge to the apostles who passed it down faithfully through the orthodox believers to the present time.

There is even a legend in regards to how the Apostle’s Creed was formed. One day after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the apostles were sitting around together. Peter spoke: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” Then Andrew said, "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord," one after another, the other apostles finished the creed, line by line.

Scholars of Christian origins approach things differently. They have shown us that creeds (including the Apostle’s Creed) developed over centuries, long after any apostles would be around. The creeds and the formation of the New Testament canon was a developing process with no small matter of disagreement and politicking.

This brings us back to Jesus and the Gospels. To what degree was he self-conscious of the mission that the creeds have attributed to him? Even the gospels vary in how they portray Jesus thinking about himself. None of them have Jesus say, “I am the second person of the Trinity.” The very notion of Trinity came at least a century after the New Testament.

Behind the gospels, which are theological proclamations about Jesus, what did Jesus think about himself? What did he say? What did he do? Those have been the guiding questions that scholars have asked in trying to find the person behind the creed.

Some scholars think the quest is rather fruitless. There simply isn’t enough evidence. All we know about Jesus is second hand at best and offered in ancient theological narrative. Thomas Thompson author of The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David, has suggested that searching for the historical Jesus is like searching for the historical King Arthur. In both cases, all we have to work with is legend.

Others are a bit more confident that there is a guy lurking there and we can know something about him. The Jesus Seminar, founded by Robert Funk in 1985, set out to isolate sayings and deeds that might have gone back to at least an earlier tradition from which the various Gospels and Paul adopted.

The results of their efforts are found in two books, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? and The Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do? Both books are in our library. Over the several years of deliberations the scholars wrote papers, debated, and ultimately voted on what sayings and then what actions have the highest probability of connected with the historical figure of Jesus.

When these books were published, there was much sensation in the press and in the church. The scholars were accused of trashing the faith of the church and so forth. On the other hand, the scholars were accused of looking into a mirror and seeing themselves in the portrait of Jesus they discovered. Both critiques, in my opinion, are unfair.

The scholars did their best with integrity. Their work has provided a great service to the church, aside from their particular conclusions. They brought to the public the difference between historical critical study and confessional or pietistic study. They risked going public with their conclusions and deliberations and they wrote and published in language that non-professionals can understand.

They made the scholarly quest for Christian origins popular. Today, I go on the web and I find a whole generation of younger scholars of Christian origins with websites and blogs. They promote their ideas, argue back and forth, and write their books in a language that non-professionals can read. They disagree with and challenge the now “old guys” of the Jesus Seminar. That is good. But that legacy of producing critical scholarship in public and for a popular audience I credit to Bob Funk’s vision.

None of the scholars of the Jesus Seminar would say they found Jesus. History is a matter of probabilities and best guesses. They voted with a four color-coded system: red—most probable, pink—probable, gray—possible but unlikely, and black—unlikely. In the bulletin I included a handout of those sayings and deeds these scholars voted most probable. These are the red letter sayings and actions associated with Jesus from all the early literature about him.

With all of that preamble and disclaimer, the red-letter deeds are a good place to start, to ask the question what did Jesus do and perhaps then to ask what would Jesus do? Then, of course, the most important question: what are we to do?

Jesus associated with sinners. He was criticized for doing so. He made friends and hung out with the outcasts. Who were these folks? The Jesus Seminar suggests that they were the ones who were left behind by the empire’s progress. Whether due to poverty, class, or ethnicity, these people did not reap Empire’s rewards. Jesus shared a common table with them, the highest sign of acceptance and hospitality. You are who you invite for dinner.

What did Jesus do? He ministered to, with, and on behalf of those who were sinners. For the Jesus Seminar, ‘sinners’ was a term of social, not moral, status. Sinners were the outcasts, the non-belongers.

That should be enough for a sermon.

In my first congregation, I took the youth to New York City. We explored around a bit and visited some interesting places that you normally don’t visit when you go to New York. We went to the Bowery and spent time a soup kitchen. It was one of the older soup kitchens that had started during the Depression in the 1930s. It had a chapel. It operated under the same system in which it was founded. Before the homeless could get a meal, they needed to go to the chapel and earn their soup by listening to a sermon. It is not right to give out soup for free.

The idea here is that there is something wrong with these folks. Perhaps if they hear the gospel they’ll get a job. They were most certainly, the sinners. We were seated across the aisle, to protect the kids. We listened to the sermon with them. That day the sermon was given by another youth group. They were from New Jersey, I think. Theirs was an evangelical mission to pass out tracts that contained the plan of salvation. You know that plan, right? Jesus died for your sins and will come to judge the quick and the dead.

For the sermon, the kids acted out some kind of morality play. Here were these wealthy white kids offering the good news. In the pews were men—all men—90% African-American, most with obvious mental illness, many old. Many were crippled. They sat mostly with their heads down. Some looked around. Some muttered to themselves. Some gazed intently at the high school girls.

I thought to myself that a sermon is probably good for folks.

But who else might need to hear a sermon before they eat a meal? Maybe it would be a good idea that before every meal our representatives in congress get to hear a sermon. Nothing fancy or elaborate. Just go down the block from the Capitol in Washington D.C. and bring in a homeless guy to share a few words. He could tell them about what he is doing that day and where slept the night before. He could talk about his childhood and his education in the Washington D.C. school system. He could talk about, if he served, his experience in Vietnam or the Gulf, and how well he adapted to society upon his return. Maybe he could talk about his adolescence and the economic opportunities that are available for young men in the city outside of selling drugs.

Who else could use a sermon? Perhaps the executives at Fannie and Freddie could hear a sermon before we give them their/our 700 billion. That is some expensive soup. Before they eat their 700 billion dollar bowl of soup someone who will help pay for this soup could share her or his testimony. Maybe someone who has lost a home or a job--or someone who will lose their bowl of soup because we are paying for this one--could preach to these executives on greed and the lack of wisdom in making bad loans.

I am sure there are many folks who could use a sermon these days.

I wonder what kind of sermon our four-legged friends would preach to us if we could listen? Perhaps before we eat our next chef’s salad that has traveled 3000 miles to our table, we could hear a sermon from a polar bear. Maybe the polar bear could tell us a little bit about what life is like when her habitat breaks away into the Arctic Sea due to the human influence on our climate.

I am sure there are many folks (two-legged and four-legged) from whom we could hear a sermon these days.

James Crossley is a scholar of Christian origins. He is one of those new generation scholars I referred to earlier. He wrote a book, Why Christianity Happened: A Socio-Historical Account of Christian Origins. In his book, he offers another look at who the sinners are in the gospels. He observes the connection between “tax collectors and sinners” and suggests that the sinners were actually those who exploited the poor, like Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector we find in the gospel of Luke. They were the wickedly wealthy who nobody liked. They were the robber barons and the swindlers and the shysters. They worked for evil Rome. Jesus was criticized by his own people because he associated with them.

That puts a spin on things. That actually gives me a place at the table. Jesus ate meals with the wickedly wealthy. By global standards, neither I nor you are one of the dispossessed and poor on this planet. I would venture that most folks here today would not be considered poor or dispossessed in this country. I won’t make that judgment. I will speak for myself. By global standards, I am wealthy. I hope I am not wickedly wealthy, but just in case, I probably could use a sermon before I eat my next meal.

How should we live? What Would Jesus Do?

What did Jesus do? Well, he ate dinner with people. Apparently, he had no standards. He ate with anyone. He ate with sinners. Whether the sinners are the marginalized poor and social outcasts as the Jesus Seminar understands them, or the wickedly wealthy as James Crossley understands them, in either case, Jesus ate with them. He shared a common table with them all.

Rich or poor, sick or well, Jesus would eat with you. Jesus ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, even religious folks. No standards at all. I am sure he shared one of his parables while he was breaking bread with people. My hunch is that the parables were fairly well targeted for his audience. He had a sense of preaching what folks needed to hear whether they thought they needed it or not.

That is what Jesus did. There is nothing really miraculous about it. I don’t know if you can base a religion on it. But it is probably not a bad way to live. Eat with everybody.

One of my favorite preachers is Fred Craddock. He is from East Tennessee. He graduated from Johnston Bible College in Knoxville. He is the emeritus professor of Preaching and New Testament at Candler School of Theology. He is quite a storyteller. You might do yourself a favor and listen to some of his sermons. You can’t read them. You have to listen to them. His voice and inflection is part of the message. He can get a high pitch going. He referred to his own voice as wind whipping through a splinter on an East Tennessee fencepost.

In his sermons he tells stories of his experience as a pastor. This one is from memory on my part. I don’t know if I have all the details correct, but I think I got the point.

Dr. Craddock was invited to a prayer meeting and meal. These were folks who attended his congregation. This group met on a regular basis. Craddock said that they were all of the upwardly mobile crowd. After the meal, they invited him to stay for the prayer meeting. He obliged.

They told him, “We believe that what the Bible says is true. Anything we ask from the Lord in prayer will be given to us.”

They took this seriously. They were an organized group. They had a book that recorded all of the prayer requests they had made for themselves and for each other. They also had a place to record when and how each prayer was answered.

They reviewed the prayer minutes. There were the usual prayers for health and recovery. In addition were other prayers. Some had been answered.
Janie got accepted into Harvard.
Frank closed that successful real estate deal.
The Smith’s had their vacation home remodeled at a price lower than expected.

Some prayers were still awaiting response:
"May the Lord grant Tom wisdom in his stock market investments. Yes, Jesus."
'Help the Jones’s daughter, Susan, find that perfect place for her June wedding reception."
And so on.

When they were finished, they asked Dr. Craddock what he thought about their prayer meeting. It was based on the Bible, wasn’t it?

If it had been me, I would have said, “That’s really cool.” That’s what I would have said.

Dr. Craddock said something else. He said something like this:
  • In the last decade, nearly a billion people have died from malnutrition on Planet Earth.
  • Children lose their limbs and their lives each day stepping on land mines left from old wars...
  • Some people in our own county will spend this winter without heat for their homes.
  • About a mile from here, I know a woman who can’t afford her medications because she lost her job and her healthcare benefits.
The Bible does say, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22.

But when the Lord said that do you think he really had in mind your vacation homes, real estate deals, and wedding receptions?

Now, I wouldn’t have said that. Dr. Fred Craddock said that.

But Fred Craddock probably did what Jesus would have done. He ate dinner with sinners.

Welcoming Jesus for dinner is risky business.
We don’t know what kind of sermon we might hear before--or after--we eat.

65 comments:

  1. **For the Jesus Seminar, ‘sinners’ was a term of social, not moral, status. Sinners were the outcasts, the non-belongers. **

    I wonder if Christianity might thrive more if there was more of a focus on this. Do we really need one more area of life telling us how bad we are? Because wasn't that one of the things Jesus was trying to stop in the Gospels? There already was a huge religious group telling everyone that they were outcasts, they deserved to be outcasts, they weren't "good" and so forth.

    And Jesus goes about saying the same thing? That people deserve nothing good, deserve to go to hell, that they weren't good as well?

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  2. Thank you, John.

    One, I think it's very good for people to realize something of their own brokeness, and spiritual need. Before I became a Christian believer, I was outwardly a very moral, righteous kind of person, a churchgoer, even.

    And, of course, I had this view that if I just had it altogether why couldn't everyone else as well. You know, pull themselves up by their own bootstraps like me. And, I was so much better, thank you God, than those poor, homeless druggies, and drifters. Hey, they're the ones over there that need the outreach, right?? Not like me.

    Imagine my total, and absolute shock, when God's reality came crashing in to my life, and heart. To know that I was in greater spiritual need than any of these folks on the street that I thought to judge, and even, yes, despise.

    When, I saw the humbling truth, "God I need you. Be merciful to me, a sinner." Then I could eat with the outcasts so to speak, really show mercy, and realize the grace of God for all of us together.

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  3. Grace,

    The point of my comment, though, is the nature of telling people they deserve nothing but hell. If hell is defined as the absence of God, then people are told they deserve no love, no compassion, no justice, no mercy -- nothing.

    What does that do to people? Imagine telling a rape victim they deserved what happened to them. I would hope that we'd all be outraged by that. Yet we have a gospel message that can say we all deserve something that would be one hundred times worse than rape? (No, not everyone presents the gospel in this fashion).

    Like I said, there was already a huge religious group in the four gospels, telling everyone who wasn't them how bad they were, and that they didn't really deserve anything. Yet we have a gospel that does the very same thing?

    Rather, what if we have a Jesus who embraces those society/the world has already rejected? A Jesus who says that there is value in those people who have been deemed worthless.

    There is a *huge* difference between realizing aspects of one's life might not be perfect, and saying that every single one of us deserve absolutely nothing good.

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  4. John, I didn't read your sermon in too much detail but I think I got the gist: The historical story of Jesus does not exist but there was an actual Jesus who represented God on Earth and he ate with anyone, rich, poor, young, old, etc.

    Thank you for the testimony, Grace. I too have gone through what you say you experienced. I was in hell before my transformation. The hell that is spoken about in the Bible is the way you feel and live your life when you live of this world and buy into all the deceits and lies that are around us. Must see videos here and here.

    "Now in our culture we have been trained for individual differences to stand out, so you look at each person and immediate hit is brighter, dumber, older, younger, richer, poorer and we make all of these dimensional distinctions, put them in categories and treat them that way"

    The system we have now is the most anti-Christ beast ever developed by man, even more than the Church of England during the Vatican times.

    Will the people stand with Christ to devour the Beast?

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  5. Rachel Baker - I'm intrigued - What was the 'Church of England during the Vatican times.'?

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  6. One of the hardest lessons to learn about God is that even in the times when we can't see Him, He is still there. Even when it seems like God is silent He is still ever present. I have always been fascinated by the silent times of God in the Bible. I think about Mary and Martha waiting at the tomb of Lazarus or the disciples waiting for Sunday in the upper room.
    ----------
    albertjames
    Viral marketing

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  7. j.d., I came across this sermon, Revelation Reveals the Antichrist! on the web about a week ago. The pastor correlates prophecy in the Bible to Western histories of empires that have risen and fallen over the past 2500 years. He says that the Church of England is the antichrist that is spoken about in Revelations and Daniel.

    I need to research it more, but I think it helps to add to the puzzle, so I reccommend watching it.

    Personally, I think the evil of this world is created by men and women by their systems of Government. Whenever government gets too powerful, the hearts of men become corrupted and all matter of evil happens under the sun. I think that is what we are witnessing today with the American Empire coming to its end.


    Albertjames, I realize God is here all along, but it is the responsibility of the individual to seek God (Peace/Love/Light/Serenity) out.

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  8. If you believe that the Jesus Seminar is correct and all that is left of the historical Jesus is a talking head skeptic and a minor sage of some wisdom, then why bother with Christianity at all? You certainly don't have to go to Jesus for the message of your sermon, there are plenty of more modern models and teachers that would give you much more material for your social gospel.
    So I have to ask again...Why bother with Jesus at all? Wasn't it Dirk Ficca that stood up at a Presbyterian Peacemaking conference and said, what's the big deal about Jesus anhow. So why bother with keeping this person who, according to you we know almost nothing about anyway? Why not follow the Gandhi or the Dalai Lama? Why bother with Jesus? Isn't it time you dispensed with Jesus and the Bible altogether since you have explained it away anhow? Why not? It seems like the logical conclusion to me?

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  9. "He says that the Church of England is the antichrist that is spoken about in Revelations and Daniel. "

    Wow.

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  10. Adel, I meant the Church of England during the Pagan Roman Empire and papal Rome. The point is that the Antichrist and Beasts that the Bible references are world Empires. I don't know history well enough to go into the details, but that video I linked to is a good start.

    I believe that the Anti-Christ is alive and well today and it is not the Church of England.

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  11. Rachel,

    I am assuming your comment is for Alan as I have not commented about the anti-Christ.

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  12. Jesus represented God and God equals Peace, Love, Light, and Unity.

    Unity does not mean that we have a forced one world order or one world government (i.e. Empire). Unity means that everything and everyone in the Universe is connected in ways that are unseen to the human eye.

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  13. Adel Thalos said...
    If you believe that the Jesus Seminar is correct and all that is left of the historical Jesus is a talking head skeptic and a minor sage of some wisdom, then why bother with Christianity at all? You certainly don't have to go to Jesus for the message of your sermon, there are plenty of more modern models and teachers that would give you much more material for your social gospel.
    So I have to ask again...Why bother with Jesus at all? Wasn't it Dirk Ficca that stood up at a Presbyterian Peacemaking conference and said, what's the big deal about Jesus anhow. So why bother with keeping this person who, according to you we know almost nothing about anyway? Why not follow the Gandhi or the Dalai Lama? Why bother with Jesus? Isn't it time you dispensed with Jesus and the Bible altogether since you have explained it away anhow? Why not? It seems like the logical conclusion to me?


    Cuz' we love Jesus, Adel. It's a matter of faith that doesn't depend on a logical conclusion.

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  14. Let me see if I understand DR. As a progressive/liberal you reject the historicity of the Biblical gospels on the basis that miraculous claims are not scientifically provable and therefore irrational. You prefer higher criticism' anti-supernaturalism and historic reconstructurism, because it is more rational and scientific (in your opinions). But you reject logic, in continuing to "love Jesus"? You "love Jesus," whom according to the Jesus Seminar you know almost nothing about? What exactly do you love? Do you love a Jesus that you have created in your own image...a skeptic, sage who never says or does anything that would get him crucified (according to the Jesus Seminar)?
    Common...give me a break.

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  15. Do you love a Jesus that you have created in your own image...a skeptic, sage who never says or does anything that would get him crucified (according to the Jesus Seminar)?

    Adel, you are using the same tired circular argument again. If science cannot prove faith, then faith cannot live without proof. That's idiotic and you know it. I recommend that you, sir, give it a rest.

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  16. Snad,

    It is the Progressives/Jesus Seminar that sets the criteria, not me.

    Here is the thinking:

    1) Science has disproven the Biblical witness for everything miraculous.

    2) Oh...by the way...the early church added all that stuff about Jesus being God and the exclusive message of the gospel.

    3) What is left is a talking head sage/mystic who says a few things about loving the needy and poor.

    4) But we "love Jesus".



    Here are my issues:

    The criteria of higher critical thinking has already been set and a personal God who reveals himself infallibly in scripture has been eliminated.
    A personal triune God is mocked and a Jesus who is both fully God and fully man is removed. A physical resurrection is a priori elminated as a possiblity and the substitutionary atonement is treated as a moral atrocity. A literal hell and heaven is laughed at, so what need is there for salvation. The second coming of Christ is laughably treated as a theology for the weak minded.

    So what is left...A leap in the dark faith that loves a Jesus of our own making? A faith that disregards all forms of logic, so that we can have the sociological and material benefits of ordination?

    You can't have it both ways. If logic and scientific evidence is the criteria that is used to dismantle orthodox historic Christianity, then logic cannot be abandoned when recreating whatever faith you want to put together.


    But ultimately my point is that progressives/liberals can have their faith and do what they want, as long as they do it on their own. Progressives/liberals in the "Christian" arena are a completely different faith than historic reformed protestantism. It is a "faith" that has a greater relationship with forms of atheism/agnosticism and new age pantheism/panentheism. So let us simply make a clean and amiable break throughout all denominations and progressives can call their religion/faith whatever they like, just not Christian.

    I find Unitarians/Universalists to be quite refreshing. A beloved friend and close relative of mine is a UU. She has honestly abandoned historic orthodox protestantism as a liberal/progressive. Why not work toward amicable realignments so that everyone can joyously, honestly and fully proclaim what they believe and welcome all those who share those beliefs or want to explore it? All of this fighting and anger is not benefiting anyone. Would it not be the most compassionate way of dealing with these issues.

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  17. "You can't have it both ways. If logic and scientific evidence is the criteria that is used to dismantle orthodox historic Christianity, then logic cannot be abandoned when recreating whatever faith you want to put together. "

    Yes, you really can. This is a false dichotomy.

    I am a scientist, a chemist actually. And in my work, I demand evidence for my conclusions.

    I don't, however, demand the same sort of evidence to conclude that a sunset is beautiful, or that a joke is funny.

    The notion that science and/or scientists demands the same sort of proof and evidence for every part of one's life is a ridiculous, simplistic, and unrealistic false dichotomy. In fact, it is not even true that what constitutes acceptable evidence is the same across all specialties in science.

    Everyone approaches different areas of life with different expectations, different ways of reasoning, and different demands for evidence and proof (or not.) To demand of another person a position on evidence and proof that you yourself do not apparently share, adel, is a bit presumptuous don't you think?

    What you are arguing against is more properly called "scientism", not science, and isn't something that anyone in this thread has been promoting or proposing. If you want to argue against scientism, that's fine, I'd join you in that, but don't assume that a pursuit of science necessarily leads to the sorts of scientism you're describing.

    Sorry, I don't care a whit about this discussion otherwise, but I do get a little annoyed at childish misinformation about science, particularly when it is combined with such faulty logic.

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  18. Alan,
    Thanks for taking the time to answer Adel. I, too, find the discussion tedious, but the use of false dichotomy and circular illogic irritating.

    Adel, if you find the concept of an historical Jesus bothersome, you are welcome to ignore what scholars have determined, and are likewise welcome to continue to think of Jesus as the figure someone else has conjured up for you. Some like to combine what they know with what they feel. I don't see for the life of me how that would diminish the experience of Jesus for you, or anyone else.

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  19. Alan,

    History and the Christian faith, which is rooted not so much in ideas but events in history, especially the life death and physical resurrection of Jesus, are more akin to forensic science than Chemistry.

    There are such things as eyewitness testimony, historical records, physical evidence, etc. that must be addressed in analyzing truth claims of history and the Christian faith. If after one does this, and concludes as the Jesus Seminar does, that most of the Bible is bunk and what is left is a Jesus who says only some things about the poor, then it leaves one with certain options.

    Option 1) Total rejection of the Christian faith for something else.

    Option 2) Deception -- masquerading unbelief as belief -- using orthodox language in a way as to undermine orthodox belief.

    Option 3) Affirm that historic orthodox Christianity has no historic basis -- but enjoy religiosity and false community, while promulgating one's own philosophy.

    Once again, I am not arguing your right to believe what you want. I simply do not approve of options 2and 3 which has a clear basis in deception.

    I am urging an open amicable separation that allows people openly profess what they believe. What is wrong with this?

    Fascinatingly it you that are guilty of circular illogic not me.

    Somehow you have reinterpreted the term "faith" to mean an illogical leap in the dark...something that is very personal, but not logically and historically verifiable...something that works for me. While you are certainly welcome to use the term this way, that is not the New Testament meaning of faith. I would refer you to Francis Schaeffer, Douglas Groothuis, Don Carson, Craig Blomberg and other scholars on this issue.

    All of these debates are fine and I am happy to have them, but isn't it ironic that it is exactly these same arguments that I have with atheists and agnostics. Which brings up my main contention.
    I am urging all leaders within mainline churches on both sides of the isle that it is time for an open amicable separation that allows people to openly profess what they believe. What is wrong with a clear separation that allows people to choose and to know what it is they are choosing? I believe it is the right thing to do.

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  20. All of these debates are fine and I am happy to have them, but isn't it ironic that it is exactly these same arguments that I have with atheists and agnostics.

    Or perhaps it is the only argument you know?

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  21. Snad,

    It is remarkable that you know me so well, as I have no idea who you are. Come on. This kind of comment does not further the discussion one iota.

    Such as making claims of circular reasoning without any indication what you believe the circular reasoning is. Your conclusion does not follow from your arguments and this statement of circular reasoning requires that you indicate exactly how the reasoning is circular.

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  22. It was once shared with me, and I think it true. Doubting Thomas even while he struggled with the reality of Jesus, never left the community, and they never rejected him, either.

    I think we should hold on to each other, Adel, be honest about our concerns, and then trust God. We can't know what the Lord may be doing in anyone's life and heart.

    Adel has addressed some concerns though that would be on my mind. And, I mean to share this is no unkind or disrespectful way at all. Hope everyone is able to understand.

    But, it's true, how can we love and follow someone or something that's not real, just a composite, legendary figure. This does seem irrational to me.

    And, then why would it matter so much what this mythical person might say in my life. I mean do we center our life, and faith around legendary characters such as Jupiter or Apollo?

    Even if it's believed that Jesus is merely a good man, or a wise sage, why should His teaching be regarded as an authority, anymore than any righteous person's opinion? Why should we call Him Lord?

    I understand that as Christians, we still see through a glass darkly, as the Scripture says. We only know in part.

    But, it seems to me that if our faith is merely an existential leap into the dark, and not grounded in any objective reality, it will not long stand through challenge, and adversity, and will not be something that is likely to truly impact future generations either.

    My thoughts, guys.

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  23. My lovely and I were out of town for a couple of days. Back to see a lively discussion on the sermon.

    Thanks for keeping it going while I was out.

    While gone, we have a bailout of Wall Street attempt that fails, a stock market drop and then back up part way the next day. Lots of concern.

    One of the things I was suggesting we consider in the sermon itself is how those of us in the tradition of Jesus (however we understand ourselves to be located in that tradition) might respond regarding ethics and economics?

    Maybe to ask what would Jesus do is unrelated to economics. Even if we feel there is some kind of connection, we may not know how to go about making it.

    I think there is a connection and I think there is a place to start.

    Is there anything those of us in the tradition of Jesus (whether we come through that tradition confessionally, critically, or a combination of both) should be doing and saying in response to economics?

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  24. Yep, I think we should all be looking at our priorities, how much is enough, and ways we can help folks that are really hurting right now. Coming into the fall of the year, this is a huge serge of people coming into our office with assistance for fuel. The jump in gas prices has been terrible.

    Personally, with the state of the economy the way it is, God has been especially showing me the sure truth of Scripture that our trust and hope need to be in God, not in the uncertainty of material things, (riches) that are here today, and can be easily gone tommorrow.

    I also can relate to Dr. Craddock's comments. As a Christian, should I be anxious, selfishly concerned just about my own assets, losing money in the stock market, or whether my neighbor can afford gas to get to work, or fuel for the winter.

    All as I can say is, "Merciful Lord, let me keep my eyes on you,, and my priorities straight." Amen.

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  25. Adel Thalos said...
    Let me see if I understand DR. As a progressive/liberal you reject the historicity of the Biblical gospels on the basis that miraculous claims are not scientifically provable and therefore irrational.

    Yes. That's correct.

    You prefer higher criticism' anti-supernaturalism and historic reconstructurism, because it is more rational and scientific (in your opinions).

    Yes, you're right. (** mostly right, but see below)

    But you reject logic, in continuing to "love Jesus"?

    Odd, isn't it? But, yes.

    You "love Jesus," whom according to the Jesus Seminar you know almost nothing about?

    Well, I probably would have voted "red" more often than most of the seminarians, but basically, you're correct.

    What exactly do you love?

    Jesus!

    Do you love a Jesus that you have created in your own image...

    I love Jesus who speaks to my heart and tells me to love you! And I love the Jesus that helps me live out the Eight points listed on our website. Have you seen those? They're goooooood!

    a skeptic, sage who never says or does anything that would get him crucified (according to the Jesus Seminar)?

    You're talking about some of my my favorite parts! I believe Jesus was killed because he tried to force the powers of his day to face the truth about their hypocrisy and shallowness of their theology...kind of the same way that you or I could be killed for preaching against the mainstream. (I know you're not liberal)

    Common...give me a break.

    Of course I give you a break, and I'm glad to do it.

    Look Adel, I've been to your website, and I see that you believe the bible is literally and absolutely the inerrant word of God, and just speaking for myself, I think that's completely ridiculuous, and hopelessly against all logic (as is intelligent design). I don't want to get into an argument with you about it. I'm not trying to tell you you're wrong. It's just that your faith, the point at which you become illogical doesn't make sense to me. (notice I didn't say, "doesn't make sense, period," I said, "it doesn't make sense to me." There's your break.

    Trying to be clearer...

    You abandon logic and go to faith in favor of accepting biblical inerrancy, and you abandon logic for intelligent design. I don't. I abandon logic and go to faith differently.

    As much as I love logic, sometimes I get tired of it, and I need a place of rest. I need a place where I don't have to think, a place where I can just be, and where I can be loved, and be recharged so I can get up, put on the mantel of responsibility and start thinking again in a logical way, with love, and with hope. And that place that renews me so is a place that goes beyond logic, and beyond thinking and rationality. That place is in the loving heart of Jesus. Now that may not make any sense to you, but faith isn't about making sense. It doesn't have to make sense. It's personal revelation. It just has to be effective in a way that helps me and hopefully all of God's creatures.

    You're brand of logic abandonment works for you, and mine works for me. If I tried to explain this to my church, I'd ask them to compare it to the sound of one-hand-clapping. They'd get it. We liberals really go for that Zen-like stuff.

    Anyway, best wishes.

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  26. One--

    You made the first comment on this post and my favorite:

    **For the Jesus Seminar, ‘sinners’ was a term of social, not moral, status. Sinners were the outcasts, the non-belongers. **

    I wonder if Christianity might thrive more if there was more of a focus on this.


    I agree. In the gospels Jesus is constantly harangued by associating with those whom others don't like. Some times Jesus had challenging words some times words of comfort for those with whom he associated.

    But the point was that everybody was in and he seemed to me to be trying to get people to see the humanity of the other across great and bitter divides.

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  27. "History and the Christian faith, which is rooted not so much in ideas but events in history, especially the life death and physical resurrection of Jesus, are more akin to forensic science than Chemistry. "

    With respect, I wonder if you're actually an expert in either. I doubt it.

    Forensic science, a field with which I am also quite familiar, is very different than the legal notions of testimony as evidence (including eye witness testimony, etc.) This is, in fact, an excellent example of how scientific evidence differs from the evidence accepted by other non-scientific fields. Your attempt to make an equivalency between the two is incorrect, which is why I believe you don't actually know much about either one.

    "Somehow you have reinterpreted the term "faith" to mean an illogical leap in the dark...something that is very personal, but not logically and historically verifiable...something that works for me. "

    I have?? Really? And just where have I done that? ROFL

    I have no idea whom you are addressing. But I assume it is me. However, I have not said anything of the sort, nor even implied it. I wonder if it's me you're addressing, because that statement is so completely without any support from what I've written. You complain that others don't know you, and yet you make such outlandish assumptions about me. Practice what you preach.

    All I have stated is that it is not necessary to reject logic and at the same time proclaim a love for Jesus Christ, while at the same time embracing science in its proper purview.

    Your statement, "If logic and scientific evidence is the criteria that is used to dismantle orthodox historic Christianity, then logic cannot be abandoned when recreating whatever faith you want to put together. " Is the one I have argued against. Where I've said that faith requires an illogical leap is a mystery to me. Perhaps you would do well to spend some time actually reading the entirety of what I've written, rather than reading the first 3 words and spending the rest of your comment making silly assumptions.

    I think you're making a number of completely incorrect assumptions about my beliefs. As I said before, I have no dog in this particular fight other than an interest in arguing against the sort of scientism you seem be describing, which no one here has argued for. (BTW, frankly, I'd be happy to match up my orthodox credentials against yours any day. I think I say without fear of successful contradiction that if this were an orthoodoxy contest I'd win.)

    I know that nuance often gets ignored in these discussions, but I suggest a quick re-read of my previous comment, then maybe you'll get it.

    I am not using circular logic. I'm simply arguing for science to maintain its appropriate purview, and for theology to maintain its appropriate purview. If one asks theological questions of science one will get only nonsense answers out and vice versa. An embrace of science does not mean one cannot then logically and reasonably believe in Christ Jesus, as you suggest.

    So then, the evidence that a scientist might require for physical phenomena is not the same as the evidence that one might require for religious, emotional, or psychological phenomena. So then, asking scientific questions that can actually be answered by science does not mean a person cannot also be a person of faith.

    I'm sure any number of scientists who are also Christians, from any number of fields including Chemistry and (as apparently you're already well aware) Forensic Science, would agree with me, not you.

    "and this statement of circular reasoning requires that you indicate exactly how the reasoning is circular."

    Practice what you preach, adel. But before you spend any time trying to show me how I practice circular reasoning, as you suggest, first you'd have to demonstrate that you even understand the point I've been making, which, so far, you have not done.

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  28. DR, I'm with you on the faith part. That's how I view Christ too, but what did you mean when you said,

    "I believe Jesus was killed because he tried to force the powers of his day to face the truth about their hypocrisy and shallowness of their theology...kind of the same way that you or I could be killed for preaching against the mainstream. (I know you're not liberal)"

    Can you expound on that? What kind of preaching do you feel like could get you killed? You still have freedom of speech. I don't see how anything you say could get you killed. Unless you mean you could get your career and popularity assassinated.

    There are many people speaking out against the atrocities of our current economic system, but they are marginalized by mainstream media--i.e. Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul, Naomi Wolf, Amy Goodman.

    Christians need to realize the seriousness of the state of affairs our world is in and get involved to change the system to a more just system.

    This poem was written during the war in Nazi Germany and applies to our times in relation to the poor:

    "First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me."

    We need to be speaking up for the poor today. The economic system is unjust, and I wish people would seek to change it because I feel like they are coming for me and my kids next. At this point, the best way to protect your children is by not having them. That's how serious the situation is.

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  29. Adel said:

    "Somehow you have reinterpreted the term "faith" to mean an illogical leap in the dark...something that is very personal, but not logically and historically verifiable...something that works for me."

    Exactly! If it is logically and historically verifiable, we call that a fact. When you have no facts, or not enough facts, you depend on faith to bridge the gaps.

    oooouuuhhhh! I feel the creeping presence of epistemologic dissonance coming as I ask...

    If you have physical evidence of the bodily ressurection of Jesus, can I see it?

    -------------------

    Adel said, "...progressives can call their religion/faith whatever they like, just not Christian."

    Sheesh Adel! The idea is to make Christianity bigger, not smaller.

    ---------------

    By the way, those links posted by rachel baker at the beginning of this thread: Those are good!

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  30. Rachel,

    Expound? Well...maybe a little.

    The first thing that comes to mind is what Billy Hicks said about people who expose "the ride".

    Then I put that in context with Jesus' words in the book of John, chapters 9 and 10. The context of this story is that Jesus healed a blind man, and he did it on the Sabbath. The Pharisees (the mainstream church) are mad about this happening on the Sabbath, and also because the blind man was a crummy litlle nobody, and because the blind man said he thought Jesus was from God. This really pissed off the Pharisees. They get after Jesus and catch up with him and then they discover that all Jesus has for them are some sharp words about what assholes they are, and how they don't know squat, and that he (Jesus) really does come from God. This bumfuzzles the Pharisees and they start squabling among themselves while Jesus walks away. The Pharisees decide they have been really dissed, and they're so mad they're going to kill Jesus as soon as they see him.

    They catch up to Jesus at Solomon's porch and the Pharisee's pick up rocks to kill him on the spot. So Jesus says to them, for which one of my good works are you going to kill me? and the Pharisees say, "we're not going to kill you because of what you did, but because of what you said. You said you're God."

    Then Jesus comes back with one of the most amazing things he ever said. It's right there in John 10:34, "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I (God) said, you are gods'?" He's actually quoting Psalms 82:6 which reads:

    I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you."

    And then, I beleive, the Pharisee made up their minds that come what may, this dude was going to die. Jesus had mouthed the equivalent of the secret that Hicks talks about at the end of his routine. It's just a ride.

    The same thing could happen today. In fact, it does happen today. Yeah, there's freedom of speech, but more people are killed for what they say they believe than for any other thing. Martin Luther King comes to mind. John Kennedy. Ghandi. The Chinese government would like to do in the Dali Lama. have a look at Pat Condell on youtube.
    There's about a million other examples, including the blessed heros in Knoxville who were shot in July because they said "welcome" to anybody who wanted to come to their church.

    You say Christians should be concerned. Believe me, we are very concerned. And I'm so very glad you are, too. Thank you.

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  31. Thank you DR. It can be overwhelming and hard to sustain hope at times. The only thing that I feel I have power to do is to stay informed, understand the issues, and vote for people who I believe will work for peace. It does seem that the odds are against us, but I believe the tide is turning. More people are waking up to the truth about America's foreign and economic policies and they are demanding real change.

    On a different note, I would like to hear more about your initimate relationship with Christ. Have you read Jesus: An intimate Portrait of the Man, His Land, and His People by Leith Anderson? I haven't read it all, but I really like how the author portrays Jesus. The author still includes the miracles, the Virgin Birth and resurrection, but goes into great length to describe the historical, societal, and political perspectives of the time. It talks about how Jesus opened his arms to prostitutes, the destitue, the sick, and the poor. One woman fell to her knees and felt utterly forgiven of her sins when she was in Jesus's presence. It's a good read, and I guess my point is that I am not ready to put it totally past me that Jesus was God on Earth. I'm hoping that someone else will come in the future and change the worldview of people like Christ did. I'm just hoping that something miraculous will happen and more people will wake up from the "rollercoaster ride" that Bill Hicks talks about. I'm waiting for more people to choose love over fear so we can create a better world and brighter future.

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  32. Well, DR, and Adel, what about reaching out to the unchurched, though, people who have not been reared with all the outward forms, and rituals of our institutions? How do we reach thoughtful secular people who may even be atheist, or agnostic, and feel no special attachment to the Christian church?

    It seems to me that we just can't expect these folks to check their minds at the church door?

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  33. How do we reach thoughtful secular people who may even be atheist, or agnostic, and feel no special attachment to the Christian church?

    It seems that St. Andrews PC is doing a pretty good job of that, which was the whole point of that post.

    Our little cult doesn't do a bad job of it, either.

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  34. I believe there's a special place in God's heart for atheists.

    I've gotten some good laughs from atheists with that line.

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  35. I believe there's a special place in God's heart for atheists.

    Ha! Line of the day. Discussion over. DR wins.

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  36. Grace said...
    Well, DR, and Adel, what about reaching out to the unchurched, though, people who have not been reared with all the outward forms, and rituals of our institutions? How do we reach thoughtful secular people who may even be atheist, or agnostic, and feel no special attachment to the Christian church?

    It seems to me that we just can't expect these folks to check their minds at the church door?


    So, we don't ask them to check their minds at the door. And we don't ask them to believe things they find impossible, but ask them, politely, if they'd like join us on helping bring more peace, justice and comfort to the world.

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  37. What a fascinating answer dr. Nothing about believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior and all that entails...nothing about making disciples of Jesus, who is uniquely both fully God and fully man...nothing about being born again...nothing about truth and a Christian worldview.

    But I don't see any reason to come to church for what you propose. The way you most likely interpret "peace, justice and comfort to the world" it would probably be better for them to just go volunteer for the DNC?

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  38. One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him,
    “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”


    Damn Democrat, that Jesus.

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  39. Is that all the Christian church is about DR, though?


    I'm not minimizing the importance of working for peace, and sustainablity. But,there are many secular organizations, and other spiritual groups that are doing an even better job of working for justice issues, I think, and providing community.

    If that's all we are, why should secular people feel drawn to the church of Jesus Christ? And, why should we especially care for people to join us?

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  40. "The way you most likely interpret "peace, justice and comfort to the world" it would probably be better for them to just go volunteer for the DNC?"

    Perhaps the best compliment I've seen paid to the DNC by anyone in a long time! Makes one wonder why everyone isn't a Democrat. ;)

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  41. John,

    **But the point was that everybody was in and he seemed to me to be trying to get people to see the humanity of the other across great and bitter divides.**

    The other thing that occured to me -- let's say the Gospel's core idea is that you are a bad person in need of salvation, and here Jesus is to provide it. Yet, when we think of the really charismatic speakers in history, the ones who people flock to ... those seem to be usually the types of people we're drawn to. The people we find inspiring are those who give us hope, make us feel good about ourselves (not in a prideful way), and usually don't say how bad we are. Those types of speakers don't tend to inspire people to great heights.

    So, if we compare the fact that Jesus attracted large crowds with something like the Four Spiritual Laws ... would he have attracted that many people if he had been saying they deserved eternal torment, or were doomed sinners who could never match God's perfection?

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  42. One,

    let's say the Gospel's core idea is that you are a bad person in need of salvation, and here Jesus is to provide it.

    Yeah, I don't think that was the message of Jesus or of the gospels. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that the only group or institution that can get away with that message is one that is in power and enforces power through fear and intimidation (such as the medieval church).

    People were not attracted to Jesus because he delivered the same message that Empire delivered. People were attracted to Jesus because he empowered them over against the dis-empowering message of Empire and its religious cohorts.

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  43. I think the most open, and compassionate people around tend to be those that actually realize their own fallenness, and brokenness, and need of the grace, and mercy of the Lord.

    Let's face it, if we suppose that we all can fix ourselves, and the world through our own effort, it's extremely easy to then be judgmental, and condemning toward anyone who, in our eyes, seems to fall totally short in one way or the other, who just can't make it, and get with the program.

    I think the most judgemental, prideful, and sometimes dangerous people on the planet are those that suppose, "I could never do that..."

    Just read the teaching of Jesus in that parable of the Pharisee, and the tax collector. Lk. 18:9-14.

    Who went down to his house justified? (Is this the message of Empire?) Yes, we need a Savior!!

    And, guys, I want to tell you that I work with some folks that have some pretty strong hurts, and needs, people that are molesting kids, manufacturing drugs, beating up on each other...Most of them do not give a rip about social justice, the environment, or evolution.

    But, like all of us, they need the Lord, to be found in the love of God, and to be healed, and changed in Him.

    If this all is not going to be the message of the church, I think we're irrelevant, and a huge waste of time.

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  44. Most of them do not give a rip about social justice, the environment, or evolution

    Very true, Grace. Not every community is for everybody. Again, this is why we have so many religions, denominations, different churches within each denomination.

    The best thing in my view, is to celebrate and encourage freedom among congregations to do ministry and outreach in their own way.

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  45. John,

    **I don't think that was the message of Jesus or of the gospels. **

    I don't, either. Especially given that he was anointed by/with the Spirit to give good news to the poor, sight to the blind -- that quote from the beginning of Luke. I always saw that as the group who deserved compassion and mercy, much like the victims of war. And those are the type of people who you don't then go and say the gospel is that Jesus took their punishment. The message of Jesus was most attractive to those already punished by society by virtue of who they were, those who were on the outside because they were women, or a lower class, or the wrong type of religious person.

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  46. But, you see, I don't think it's a matter of either or. Jesus absolutely shared that He came to give His life a ransom for many...And, He also came to preach good news to the poor.

    The message of the church needs to be about both personal, and social transformation. It's all connected.

    It's also my feeling that those who feel they have no need of a Savior, are actually the ones spiritually, that need the Lord the most. Jesus didn't come to call the already righteous, that's for sure, (as if there is a such a person on the face of the planet) but sinners!

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  47. Grace,

    **The message of the church needs to be about both personal, and social transformation. It's all connected.**
    Really? Take a look at the two main orthodox creeds -- the Apostles and the Nicene. Both of them mention the birth, the death, the resurrection, and somewhat of the second coming. Where's the mention of caring for the poor? Where do they say that the goal is to live as Jesus lives? How many "what we believe" in churches have an equal focus on living as Jesus did, in comparison to the right beliefs?

    Even looking at the purpose behind his death -- how often are the gospels referenced, in comparison to Paul? How often in the gospels does Jesus connect the "good news" with his death? He kept telling people to believe in the good news, and if he was doing that for three years, how many of the crowd connected that with his death?

    Or even look at the reaction of Mary and Simeon in the gospel of Luke. They are praising God for deliverance, but there is absolutely no hint they understood that deliverance in God had finally sent them someone to pay their ransom.

    And when dialoguing with Christians, the primary focus is always on the right beliefs. Do you admit to the Trinity, the Resurrection, Jesus dying for one's sins? How often is the question: do you feed the poor? Visit those in prison? Love your neighbor as yourself?

    **It's also my feeling that those who feel they have no need of a Savior, are actually the ones spiritually, that need the Lord the most. **

    But don't need in what way? Someone can fully admit that they aren't a perfect person, that they do have flaws, and yet feel that God does not exist. And can still be just as compassionate and loving as any Christian out there.

    **Jesus didn't come to call the already righteous, that's for sure, (as if there is a such a person on the face of the planet) but sinners!**
    But even with that sentence he uttered -- he said that to the Pharisees, when they said Jesus was hanging out with the wrong people. It makes more sense to view that particular sentence in terms of the social class of sinners, rather than a moral. He was telling the religious elites that he had come to call those whom they had made outcasts -- the social sinners.

    And this isn't saying that people are perfect the way they are. A lot do feel they need salvation from themselves. At the same time, the idea that Jesus died in someone's place -- took their punishment from God -- isn't the most successful message for those who are already oppressed, or victims. They don't need to be rescued from themselves. They need to be "saved" from what's oppressing them.

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  48. One, I"ve never been in a church where people are not also encouraged to walk out their faith, their relationship with Jesus by in some way showing His love, and compassion, caring about the poor, and needy, helping the downtrodden..etc. I've honestly never experienced otherwise in any Christian church.

    It's true different congregations might have various ideas about how to do all these things. And, not all may emphasize the same issues. But, my experience is that all in one way or the other care.

    I don't know what else to say. One, you are never willing to share concerning your spiritual background, but it just seems to me that you must have had terrible experiences with so called Christian people in the past.

    I can only share that I'm very sorry for it, ((One.)))

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  49. Grace will you stop with the parentheses already.

    One, you are never willing to share concerning your spiritual background, but it just seems to me that you must have had terrible experiences with so called Christian people in the past.

    Do you think you might be the "so called Christian" that annoys everyone?

    You come to this blog and tell those who comment and me that we aren't truly Christian.

    Do you really think you are scoring points for the Lord?

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  50. Grace,

    **I"ve never been in a church where people are not also encouraged to walk out their faith**

    But this doesn't address what I said at all. Do you have a response to the fact that the two main orthodox creeds don't address Jesus' concern for the poor, or his primary two commandments? Do you have a response to the fact that there are a lot of church doctrines out there that have a "what we believe" statement, yet not so much on behavior? I didn't address what a sermon may or may not encourage, or a pastor, or even a church in an unofficial setting. I said to look at a statement of beliefs. In order to join a Christian church, does one have to promise to feed the poor? Or promise to adhere to the doctrines? Or a response that the primary focus on evangelism is to make people believe the right things, and once that happens, the person is considered a Christian? I believe that if someone simply lived his/her life without any good or bad works, sincerely repented and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, and then died three days later, they would receive salvation. Whereas if someone lived a life of spectacular good works, didn't believe in God, the manner of salvation is much less guarenteed. Based on that comparison, what I see is that the primary focus is on the right belief set, and the good works become secondary.

    **you are never willing to share concerning your spiritual background, but it just seems to me that you must have had terrible experiences with so called Christian people in the past.**

    I'm going to apologize in advance, because I'm pretty sure I'm about to be curt. Only in a really long fashion.

    First -- I see no point in sharing. You've already said that it's better for people to not go to church at all if they aren't going to hear the gospel that you think is appropriate. You have already stated that the only way people truly get spiritually helped is if they hear the gospel as you essentially define it. You have already stated that you have serious issues with pastors who don't agree with you on some big theological issues, and maybe they should even step down -- which, in essence, would give me nowhere to go to church, if I did go. You've already stated that the most open and compassionate people you know are ones who have admited their own brokenness/fallenness, and need for a Savior, which leads me to believe that you are claiming Christians are the most open and compassionate people around, more so than any other group. You have already pretty much said that there is only one true way of encountering God, and since I haven't encountered God that same way, I can't possibly have had a 100% valid belief. Based on all of this, do you honestly expect non-Christians (both those who are non-Christians, and those you refer to as non-Christians) to share anything of a personal nature? I know you want to understand where I or others may be coming from, but I don't think that understanding can be reached if you are absolutely certain that our experiences aren't as valid as yours. And while you've never said that directly, I have very little intepretive room for statements that you feel there is only one Truth, which happens to be the Truth you believe. If you have access to the Truth, and I'm accessing something that doesn't measure up to that particular Truth, then in your mind, what am I encountering? The opposite of the Truth is something either false or a lie. Maybe I'm encountering only part of that Truth, but then what's making up the other part?

    Second -- you have also referenced everyone's need to be found in the Lord, and given what I understand of your personal faith, you did do some sort of change from the old man to the new, or a born again experience. I'm not belittling that experience, I'm not saying it never should have happened, and I'm very happy that you feel secure, and feel that you are a better person now. But if you also feel that I need to have the same sort of conversion experience, then my reaction will be that I am not accepted as I am, and if I already know that I won't be accepted, and that there will be some sort of prayer involved towards God to bring about a drastic change in me, then no, I'm not going to share anything personal. I have no problem with someone sharing something that has truly helped them, or something that has produced a tremendous amount of joy for them. I do have a problem with someone telling me all of my experiences are not as joyous or second-rate simply because I'm not of the same belief system as they are.

    Third – I’ve had less than pleasant experiences with Christians in the past. I’ve had less than pleasant experiences with all sorts of groups. I’ve also had great experiences with Christians, and other groups. What bearing does that have on my critique in terms of the orthodox creeds, or church statements of beliefs, or the primary purpose of evangelism? Does any potential “terrible experiences” I’ve had invalidate what I’ve said? How does that deal with the substance of what I'm trying to address? You yourself have said earlier that the church has really fallen down in terms of showing compassion, and helping the poor. I'm attempting to address part of a possible reason as to why that might be, given what the church focuses on.

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  51. Well, ok, One, my ears are ringing.

    I'll try to explain in the best way that I can, and then we probably have to leave it at that together. Chances are we aren't going to agree, at least not right now.

    It's pretty obvious I"m offending you left, and right. Although, I'm not trying too, One. But, well, why just keep running around in circles with each other, here??

    You see, Christians think that there is no one truly good, and holy, but God. Now that doesn't mean we suppose that everyone is as wicked as possible, or that humanly speaking we can't all do some positive, caring things.

    Also, there is a paradox here. It's also true we are fearfully, and wonderfully made, the creation blessed.

    But, at the sametime One, Christians think that we are also broken, and fallen, not able to fix ourselves by ourselves. We don't see this as just a kind of minor imperfection, but something that goes to the core of who we are deep inside. We tend to look to our own interests, and not to the interests of others. We want our own will very often, and not God's will.

    And, as often as we all talk about loving God with our whole heart, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, we can't truly do this, either.

    As the Scripture says, "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."

    Now we also think that in spite of all this God greatly loves us, and that God in Christ is changing, renewing, and forgiving all who trust in Him(Jesus.) We believe that "salvation" so to speak is this gift, purely given by the grace, and mercy of the Lord. And, One, this new life for us, is something that starts in the here, and now. It's not just about pie in the sky, when you die, either.

    We also think that God is redeeming us in community. We are walking out our salvation together. And, this relationship with Christ shows itself in good works which can impact everybody, and everything in the world.( This is just a given, One, or it should be. I mean afterall, alot more is said in church than just the recitation of the Nicene Creed.)

    Everyone from every race, and nation, gender, is welcome to jump right in, and come to God in Christ. For God so loved the world....!!!

    I suppose in a sense this does involve some right belief (knowledge.)

    Afterall, if folks don't see their need, and understand the reality of the cross of Christ, are they too likely to come to Jesus, to be found in Him?? But our faith is much deeper than connect the dots, recite these words, and bingo, "You're saved."

    It's more than about who is in, and who is out. As if we can know this with certainty??

    One, as far as I"m concerned, I cannot judge who in the end will be saved or lost. I certainly don't believe that all faiths are totally false. It seems to me that there is some truth, and beauty everywhere. But, it would seem illogical for me to suppose that every contradictory idea could be equally true,either. I don't believe this makes me intolerant, or judgemental. I certainly hope not.

    At any rate, in my own life, I can only share what God has done for me, and try my best, although imperfectly for sure, to reflect the love of Christ. And, trust the mercy, and wisdom of the Lord.

    So, there you have it, in a nutshell, One.

    What do you think? I'll give you the last word, unless I think there is this total misunderstanding, and then I have to comment again.

    Can't help myself. :)

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  52. You see, Christians think that...

    at the sametime One, Christians think that...

    Now we also think that...

    We believe that...

    We also think that...


    Grace,

    It would be a bit more gracious if you spoke for yourself than for all Christians.

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  53. I've been away from my computer for a while and now I am absolutely fascinated by this discussion.

    It is quite clear that we are talking about two fundamentally different faiths, religions, worldviews. This is the problem. One worldview is exclusivist, the other is pluralist. One worldview holds that salvation is exclusively by trusting a historical person and what they have done for us, the other believes that "good works" and human progress/liberation is what religion is all about and it matters very little what you believe. One is centered upon a particular person, who he is (the incarnate 2nd person of the Trinity), what he has done (substitutionary atonement), and his call that all repent of their sins, believe in him, and follow him. The other is concerned with belief only as far as it has to do with human progress, liberation of the poor and oppressed, and service to those recognized as physically needy.

    These are 2 fundamentally different worldviews/belief systems. Yet within mainline denominations they are yoked together which causes confusion, fighting, political power plays ultimately leading to people leaving churches disheartened. Why should things remain this way? Amicable separation is by far the best answer. Give people clear choices. Is this not the American way?

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  54. John,

    I'm not just sharing my own opinion with One, but the general testimony of the Christian church.

    It's to her decision, and to all of of us, whether we accept this witness as true, and what each one of us will do with Jesus Christ.

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  55. And that is the fundamental issue. It is your interpretation of the Christian witness. Not everyone shares your interpretation. It is your opinion.

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  56. Grace,

    **It's pretty obvious I"m offending you left, and right.**
    You can't deal with an argument by attempting to explain it away in saying that I had negative experiences. That may not have been your intent, but that is how it came across. Especially when there were barely any answers to the points/questions I had.

    ** This is just a given, One, or it should be. I mean afterall, alot more is said in church than just the recitation of the Nicene Creed.**

    Again. I am not addressing what is mentioned *in* church, such as sermons. I was very specific in mentioning the orthodox creeds, which are often used as the litmus test for who is and is not a Christian, and the official statement of belief. You are determining that you can't call me a sister in Christ not because I don't show good works, but because I don't acknowledge Jesus as God. How more likely is someone to get asked to leave the church because of doctrine, as opposed to good works? I'm looking at what is used to define who is and is not a Christian, and what defines a Christian is not what s/he hears in church. Where, in what is used as the official litmus test (the creeds, the church's statement of belief) do we find anything about what Jesus said while alive? Where do we find people saying what's the point in being a Christian if they don't produce good works?

    Not only that, but while it's a given to you, this is not a universal conclusion. I just read a book called "The Reason for God." It's by Tim Keller, and he in fact makes the argument that the Christian should expect to find the non-Christian to be nicer, kinder and essentially more moral than the Christian. And he's leading a mega-church. Somewhere in New York, I believe.

    ** And, One, this new life for us, is something that starts in the here, and now. It's not just about pie in the sky, when you die, either.**
    Except, if the person who becomes Christian dies in three days is saved, then the new life starting now is still something secondary. The primary importance becomes repenting before someone dies. The good works, the new life -- that's all secondary. I have no other way of seeing it. And I'm not talking about a magic formula Christian, I'm talking about someone who you would sincerely define as a Christian. The new life can start here, but it's clearly not a fundamental component.

    **But, it would seem illogical for me to suppose that every contradictory idea could be equally true,either. I don't believe this makes me intolerant, or judgemental. I certainly hope not. **

    Let me try an example here. Say you worship a tree. You've found joy, peace, and answers from this tree. The tree has totally turned your life around.

    I, on the other hand, know that the true god is actually the ocean. I have received the same things that you have -- joy, peace, and it's done a 180 degree on my life.

    Since I have never encountered this tree, what possible basis can I use to tell you that your spiritual interaction with the tree is wrong? And if I start telling you that the true god is the ocean, that you have to be found in the ocean, am I not dismissing all your encounters? Am I not being somewhat judgemental, especially since I've never encountered this tree myself? And, on some level, am I not calling you either deceived or misguided? Until you have experienced something that is this subjective, how can you possibly make a determination?

    It's one thing to say that someone is wrong for believing 2 + 2 = 5. It's another thing to judge something that is so internal, and that's really what the interaction with the Divine comes down to: an internal matter.

    **One, as far as I"m concerned, I cannot judge who in the end will be saved or lost.**

    I truly think you're trying to have it both ways here, because I have no way of meshing this with earlier statements you've made. You say you can't judge who will be saved or lost, and yet my understanding behind your fear of those hearing the "wrong" gospel is that they will be lost, on some level. If you truly can't judge this, then don't be concerned about what John teaches. Don't be concerned about what I believe.

    **At any rate, in my own life, I can only share what God has done for me, and try my best, although imperfectly for sure, to reflect the love of Christ. **

    I figured, at some point, I should say something positive, so this is really all we can ask for anyone who believes in God. And I think it's admirable to share what makes you so happy.

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  57. Adel,

    If you want to separate then go ahead and do it.

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  58. Adel,

    Are you a presbyterian minister? What is your faith background, if it's ok to ask?

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  59. One, if Jesus is merely a man, and not also in a real sense fully God, it would make little sense for me to even speak of being brothers and sisters in Christ. It would seem an idolotry to even speak in this matter, and non-sensical to me.

    I mean no unkindess or disrespect to you, One.

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  60. Grace,
    I am an ordained Presbyterian elder and pastor. Come by my blog and check it out. Please let me know you came by posting a comment or two.

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  61. Grace,

    Gah, you're going to get me on a new topic!! ;)

    First, the point of the statement was to show how it is determined who is a Christian, and it again comes down to doctrines and a belief set. One is "in Christ" because one believes the right things, which again ties to beliefs as the primary focus, and everything else becoming secondary.

    For the new topic -- I'm not sure why. Paul speaks of people being once "in Adam," and that clearly wasn't idolotry. Why say it would be for Christ?

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  62. Thanks Adel, I'll certainly stop by sometime, and visit. But, I would encourage you not to abandon the church. Since the beginning of our history there have always been these controversies, false teachers within the congregations, and emergent heresy.

    Tares mixed with the wheat are just part of our broken reality. The visible church on earth is fallen, and imperfect.

    But, I don' think the answer is just to leave, and walk away. God uses all of us where we're at, and in the end Jesus has promised to build His church, and that even the gates of Hell can't prevail against it. We can trust Him.

    Also, none of our mainline denominations have renounced faith in the trinity, or the affirmation of Jesus as Lord. Because there are some leaders even within the church who may not be Christian believers, or who rejoice in heresy, does not mean an entire denomination is apostate, and "heading for Hell in a handbasket."

    Also, I firmly believe that God is not finished with any of us yet. And, regardless of how far off track someone might seem, God has marked us as His own in the covenant of baptism, and His call in anyone's life is not something to be discounted, or tossed aside lightly.

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  63. Grace and Adel, I think I get your point. You don't want people to call themselves Christian if they don't accept basic tenets such as literal interpretations of Chirst dying on the Christ for our sins, of the resurrection of Christ (similar to zombies) and the literal interpretation of the Atonement. Is this correct?

    What exactly is it that we have to believe for you to allow us to call ourselves christians?

    Grace you seem to make the argument that we just need to accept that there is something grander than us. John does a good job of that in his Sermon on October 7, 2007. On his church website, you can listen to it.

    It's really silly that you are trying so hard to get people to see your way. Really all it does is reinforce your own beliefs.

    For example, I could sit here all day and try to convince you that we are all slaves to a global economic evil empire, but you will not understand because you have not watched and read the things that I have on it.

    Watch Zeitgeist-the Addendum. You will be enlightened.

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  64. adel wrote, "Amicable separation is by far the best answer. Give people clear choices. Is this not the American way?"

    I've seen you talk about amicable separation elsewhere, adel, and I keep wondering, why does anyone think they need permission to leave?

    As a Presbyterian minister, I assume you're familiar with G-10.0302:

    "(3) When a member, whether active or inactive, requests that membership be terminated, the session, after making diligent effort to persuade the member to retain membership, may delete that person’s name from the active or inactive roll.
    (4) When a member joins another church without a regular transfer or renounces the jurisdiction of this church, the session shall delete the member’s name from any rolls on which it has been listed."

    If someone wants to leave the PCUSA, it's remarkably easy. They can simply go to another church next week and never come back. If they want to do things decently and in order, they can request a letter of transfer, but that's not absolutely necessary.

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