Monday, January 02, 2006

Living with the Detritus of Past Theologies

Living with the Detritus of Past Theologies

My fundamentalist "friends" may be amazed at this, that I do agree with them one some points. One being, that we need to return to the scripture as the final word on what God says on a topic.Many think that all the answers are in the Bible. There is not one subject that God has not touched on that is not given light to in Scripture. I would disagree with that as I think that it is obvious that the Super bowl, VW bugs, and a few other things are not mentioned so the obvious is that not all things are in the Bible. I would go as far as this. All the basic and mental and spiritual guidance to life and understanding who you are and who God is; is in the Bible. Many, who contend as I said, that the Bible has the final word, seem to also base their understanding on some other man’s understanding. John Calvin, Jacobus Arminius, or even modern Theologians such as C.S. Lewis may have had many things right, but they were just mere men.

To often I hear teachers and preachers without realizing it equate a developed, system of theology with the Bible. One is in grave danger to do this. Yet, to ignore the vast history we have as people of faith is even more of a danger.Many of the early Fathers wrote against heresy. This is evident in the bible as Paul and John and others wrote against many different groups such as the Judaizers, Nicolatians, Gnostics and some who preached the gospel out of impure motives. This was carried over into the letters of Polycarp, Ignatius, and Irenaeus. Yet, these men wrote from the authority of eyewitnesses and/or men directly having been disciple by one of the Apostles of Jesus.

I love the quote from an article/interview of Uwe Siemon-Netto who is religious-affairs editor and senior writer for United Press International. In the interview he says:

“It became clear to me that by separating yourself from history, and especially the history of the church and Christianity, you become woefully shallow. And if you become woefully shallow, all sorts of things can happen, with the demise of the Protestant church in Germany as one example. Other examples are the "German Christian" heresy in World War II [when certain biblical critics rejected everything in Scripture they deemed too Jewish], and the incredible homosexual and feminist heresies that now abound. If you don't have something to relate things to, you are certainly at a loss.”

We need reference points. We need to have a grasp of who we are, yet still in the grand context of our identity in Christ. I remember the first time someone brought up the crusades and the inquisitions as an argument against Christianity being a “religion of love”. I don’t remember exactly what I replied, it was probably lame anyway. Yet, if someone brings it up now I own it and say, “You confuse religious power with true Christianity.” Yet I never once deny that these are part of our heritage as a whole. To do so would be dishonest.

Yet, though I accept that there are portions of our Christian history that I am not too proud of, I think the connection of power overshadowing love is even present in many peoples theology today. To use our “faith” to push political agendas is a dangerous game. This is the territory the Catholic Church treaded as it also became a political power… in fact more than that, a sovereign nation.

In some ways we have two “histories”; one being of the Paulian house churches and the other of the tradition of Jesus choosing Peter as the temporal Head of the Church. If I had to choose, I would tend toward Paul as I see that in the scriptures more played out. I do not see that the many churches in the NT are showing any special honor to Peter, nor to the Church of Jerusalem, which would be the church Peter started according to scripture. I see through Paul’s writings that Jesus is always the Head of His Church and never does the Body get severed and handed over to a temporal “Head” on earth. It is as Jesus prayed, “On earth as it is in Heaven.” Jesus reigns in Heaven and also on earth.

Yet, again as many men worked out their faith in the midst of the Roman Catholic Hierarchical structure, we must not over look that here we have a great resource of writing that can show us where we as the Christian faith have come from.I do think first off our identity and purpose come from God. Without that foundational understanding we are completely lost in the sense of direction. That is why it is hard for me to accept books like, “Purpose Driven Life”, not that the book is bad or wrong or evil, rather that the Bible is pretty clear as to our purpose;

Ephesians 2:10. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) -- 12. remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15. by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16. and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Philippians 2: 12. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13. for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (all scripture form NIV)

From these scriptures one can see that our foundation is to fulfill the works and purpose of God through Jesus. Life is not about seeking our own purpose, but more about seeking to do God’s purpose in us. Some say that is the message of Rick Warren. I would say I agree then, yet it is not in seeking after purpose that we find our own, but in seeking after Christ we find His purpose in us and for us. I believe in a Christ Driven Life.We must be aware of who we are, or we can be lost in the seductions that come and toss us to and fro because it sounds good to us.

In the Emerging “movement” (I prefer to call it emerging thought) , we have a phrase. “It resonates with me.” Now, that is pretty cool. But still we need to seek to see if it because it is Good and brings us to a more mature relationship to God in Christ, or because we like how it, feels/sounds/smells. Are we tickling our own itching ears, or seeking THE REAL?
I view our history as many paths taken as in the parable of the sower. Some of our history is just sad. The seeds hit rock and birds take it away. Some of our history looks good but in reality it was not as the roots were shallow and when troubles came they did not stand against them. Then there are those in history who were caught up in the power/riches of this world. Sadly these tend to have the biggest impact and leave the darkest marks.Yet, though all this there is the History of those who have the Seed planted in their hearts and seek Christ’s purpose and turn history on its head as Jesus Himself did.

I would say Martin Luther was one as well as the Jesus movement of the 70’s and possible the Emerging Church Movement. We must be careful though to not allow the tares of this world to over take us in our pursuit of Christ and His Life and Purpose for us in Him. We must not put a person, movement, or anything in front of us that can obstruct our view of Christ Jesus.Blessings,iggy

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