Orthodox

What kind of Christian am I?

Here is something for change. I am being introspective. jesus

As I read, study, and do life with other Christians in Mexico of all places I wonder what Christian category I actually fit into in all of my beliefs. I have been a part of YWAM for the last 8 years. Crazy! I’ve been a part of the CSBS for the past 7 years. So what that means is I have been a bit of a bible nerd for all that time. Over the past 4 years I have begun to really broaden my reading and writing habits. I mean broaden, in that I have been reading more then the bible. But that is perhaps the first observation about myself. Reading the bible so much and studying it in context did something to my brain. I think perhaps seeing the bible as one story, a story that fits into real history, a story that covered centuries of history and exposed me to new kinds of literature and authors. Essentially it was a new education, using an entire library of information presented in poetic form as well as prose. For me this study sparked an interested in adding to that sacred library more and more material. I have taken a strong liking to the kind of extra biblical material that challenges and enriches my understanding of the sacred library. Books about ecology, psychology, history, sociology, worldviews, science, and an ever broadening list of subjects. Of course the list of reading material includes a ton of theology stuff. I still don’t have a large appetite for theological debates. But as I have engaged in new theologies, and old theology I have began to wonder about this question: “What am I”?

I read about Reformed tradition, Anglican, conservative evangelical, charismatic, Catholic, emergent, orthodox, neo-orthodox and on and on. Ive read and engaged with a lot of church history and history of Christian thought and still I’m wondering where someone might fit me. I feel this way in part because I serve in YWAM, an Inter-denominational organization. We have people from all traditions and non-traditions in our tribe of Jesus followers.

I come from the Baptist Tradition. GARBC to be exact. My Father, my grandfather, and my three uncles are pastors with GARBC churches in the state of Michigan. I suppose you could say I have carried my share of disillusionment with the church. But over the past 8 years things have shifted. I have sought to find a clearer head in regards to what my thoughts are about church and about the kingdom of God. I now have a stronger love for the local church then I ever have. She has her problems and people will always line up to point them out. To me this is one of the observations I have been seeing. You know it is the church because people are watching to see inconsistencies with beliefs and actions. The most common accusation of Christians may be that we are hypocritical. I think it is important for the church to recognize its inconsistencies and respond to the critics with candor and sincerity to change.

My own disillusionment with the church lead me to explore some of the “Emergent” authors; McLaren, Bell, Campolo, Rollins, McManus. I have enjoyed to some degree a lot of what these guys do and say. I have not disagreed with them on each and every point. But in the end I’m not what we are calling “Emergent”. I don’t know… I think its just not cool to stay disillusioned forever. Some of the Emergent guys are doing quite well because its sexy to be disillusioned, confused, “broken”, and uncertain. It is not cool to know something for sure, its not cool to be healthy or to want to be healthy, and doctrine/theology/history is not cool at all. Its all just power play and dogmatism. So while a agree with some of the tough criticism that “emergent” writers bring on the established church I don’t in the end wind up an emergent. I’m not emergent in the same way that I would not consider myself a modern, pure materialist, humanist, secularist, blah blah blah. I am of course a person who lives in what many consider a post-christian, post-modern world and I am effected by much of the thinking, and the style of the rest of my generation. But I suspect that In order not to be cast off as a super old school, pre-historic conservative I need to find the right brand for myself. Maybe someone can help give me some insight as to what I am.

My title suggest that I might just fit right in with the Emergent crew. Because I seem to be unsure about what I am. But I’m not really unsure about what a believe. Check out my blog. I have lots of opinions and I am under no illusion that my beliefs are wrong. I believe most of them to be correct. In all humility I hope to correct the existing mistakes. But they are either correct, or they are mistakes. The only in between for me is that I do believe things aught to be looked at from different perspectives. This is actually post-modern more then it is a modern or pre-modern way of thinking. However, it is also an ancient Hebrew way of thinking. So I would not say that this acknowledgement of the need to asses truth from different perspectives is post-modern pollution of Christianity. Its like, why did God provide two accounts of the history of Kings in Judah with Kings and Chronicles? Why are there two accounts of creation? What we end up with is further enrichment of revealed truths. We are not talking about opposing contradictory messages. What we have are two complementary views about reality. Jeremiah paints a portrait of a failing monarchy and a decaying community headed for hard times. Ezra takes the same original model and paints a complementary portrait identifying the particular features that would help the community at a much later date to put things back together. The fact that this is happening in the bible affirms the validity and benefit from seeing things at different angles for a clearer grasp of the truth.

So aside from needing to get new perspectives I feel that I am either bringing truth or stumbling through error. Feel free to read, agree, or disagree. For now Ive have enough self evaluation. Just to wrap up. I love the church. It has issues here and there, but I love the church. Whatever your creed or tribe I love to see the gathering of folks seeking Jesus ans seeking to bring him out into the world initiating a transformation that he completes. God Bless.

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Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, Context, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Faith, History, Modern, Modernism, Orthodox, Poetry, Post-Modern | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Reformations Rethought: Part 1

Intro: When Did the Reformations Start? Jan_Hus_2

Wikipedia gives the most common start date for the Protestant Reformations in the early 16th Century. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions gives the same date. Wikipedia also identifies this as the schism that took place rather then an actual reformation of the church.

I want to take a look at the nature of what we call the reformations. Every October Lutherans around the world celebrate Reformation Sunday to commemorate the events of Martin Luther and other figures of the German reformation. However, this is a narrow view of the reformations. Our understanding of the reformations as something to do with Luther and the German church is obviously not hitting the whole church. There was an English Reformation, there was Calvin, Luther contemporary working to bring reform to France. There was the Bohemian Reformations initiated by the Czech Jan Hus. Only recently, and you can see it in the timeline on the Wikipedia page, that historians have begun to trace the beginning of the reformations to the 11th century.

The main body of this post will be to discuss the reformation spirit seen even earlier then 16th or 11th century. But generally it is a way of referring to the actual schisms that took place in the life of Martin Luther.

Generally speaking, most people are aware that Acts highlights the growth of the organic move of the spirit, and the work of the apostolic community. But were did the real trouble with the church begin. Before jumping to the time of Constantine i think it is important to remember what Jesus said about wheat and tares. Jesus knew that even in the Old Testament community of faith, there were those among the faithful who sought there own good and were not concerned with being the people of God. The early church, though it was a time of ‘organic’ growth, was a time when Judaizers sought to distort the message, Greek pagans, and Christian Gnostic attempted, and often succeeded in weakening the witness of the church.

It is obvious to me but not everyone, that ‘reformation’ may have been needed as early as the apostolic times. If we look at the nature of some of Paul’s letters it would seem that some churches, though young, encountered great error that needed to be addressed and people brought back to the truth. I think were the trouble lies later for the church is who has the authority to speak into the error within the church. Constantine, and the institutionalizing of the church has its pros and cons. I want to consider both when moving forward. But remember things were not perfect before the institution.

Constantine: Church gets Institutional con

To many various claims have been made about Constantine. That he was a blessing to the church because he helped it to triumph other religions and become the world religion it is today. Or that it was a curse to Christianity because it gave the church a sword. These two perspectives are a bit off though.

The triumph of Christianity was already in effect taking place leading up to the time of Constantine. If anything he weakened the expansion of the organic growth by supporting it. But there are some misconceptions here. Constantine did not make a Christianity a monopoly religion of the empire. He did not persecute pagans, many consider him to still be a pagan, and his conversion to Christianity fake. Some make an opposite argument. But in truth he simply ended the persecution of Christianity, sought the blessing of the Christian God in battle, and in time transferred some of the wealth of the state temples to the church. This weakened Christianity, because as Christ said, wheat and tares, there was not more of a reason for tares to come into the church. Also Christian bishops became friends, and influential parts of the Roman empire. The Capital of the Roman empire also became a capital for church policy and doctrine. Thought previous centers in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus, maintained their influence.

Constantine did work within the church to protect its unity with the sword, at times fighting off the heretics of the time. There is a bit that can be critiqued in the life of Constantine. Much is up for debate. One of the earliest issues within the church was that it became a place of power and influence. Simony, the buying and selling of offices within the church became a play at power for and were filled by sons of the aristocracy. The high office of Pope had its price along with the lowly parishes.  Clerical families took up residence in the high office. Pope Innocent I (401-417) Succeeded his father Pope Anastasius (399-401). This is the earliest example and the latest was 1044. This was far from regular but there are a handful of examples.

This gets me on then to the body of this post. Now that we have reached a somewhat institutional church as opposed to the early grassroots move of the church. What was the nature of the church? When did the reformations begin? Where there successful reforms? Was the church from Constantine to Luther corrupt, hiding scriptures, ignorant, and committed to all the wrong things?

Two Churches: From Constantine to Luther

I believe that this is a very unknown era of history for most Protestant Christians because when being told the story of the church people like to go to the beginning. For Protestants the beginning is often the reformations. Or maybe Acts. But usually not what happens in between. As a protestant young person, I’ve been grown disturbed at not having been adequately acclimated to this long era of Christian history. Not to mentioned it has polarized my faith from that of your average Roman Catholic. Though I remain protestant, some Sunday mornings I would just as soon attend a good Catholic church as I would a charismatic pentecostal church. And I say that not as a slant against either. I find that there are wonderful traditions in the Catholic church just as there are a few I do not appreciate. I also enjoy the emotional stirring of a pentecostal atmosphere from time to time. But it really is not about preference, I’m simply stating what my preferences are from week to week. So while I will remain protestant I will not bash Catholics. In fact I may be caught more often sympathizing with their beliefs and traditions save one or two.

I feel the need to do this sympathizing because there history is my history. Not to mention many of the Catholic traditions have in fact been carried over into Protestantism and it is wrong to claim them as solely protestant. So there is a large heritage protestants enjoy built up by those who’s loyalty to God, and the catholic church will be observed a bit here in this post.

However, when I refer to Catholic I am not using the word as a synecdoche. Catholic includes both the church of power, and the church of piety. Or the high church and the low church. These terms indicate that from a very early time in the history of the ‘institutional’ church that there was a difference in the part of the church concerned with power and those concerned with being the people of God. The early monastic movements as opposed to those buying office and playing politics. These are the two churches of the history from Constantine to Luther. If Luther and other reformers were not successful they would appear likely as another monastic movement within the Catholic church. Or had they been truly successful to reform rather than form a new sect then the catholic church would have remained in place. We may still have a Pope, although a very different version of what the Pope was and is and the authority he holds.

What we are then to be looking for is how much like the true church of Acts was the the two churches of the medieval era? ( also quick disclaimer, the two churches might bring to mind the eastern orthodox church. However, I will not be strongly including it because my knowledge is still limited as to what went on and why, within the Orthodox church.) So we will be looking at the church of Power, its corruption and some of the bright spots. Also we should be considering the reformation work of the monastic communities all throughout this era.

How the Church was the Church and how it was not

It is interesting to remember that the monastic movement was institutional just as the high church of power was an institution. Though many devotees went of in search of solitude and silence, ther reputations grew and soon man more would flock to learn from these hermits. The need grew for organization, rules, and establishments to be provided for many seeking to follow in the footsteps of influential monks. Francisco_de_Zurbarán_040

This is essentially the story of Pope Gregory the Great who was the first monk to ascend the papal throne. He began by seeking the kind of life that the great monastic founder St. Benedict. Upon his becoming Pope he fought endlessly for reform, he sought to reform the churches corruption of offices bought by wealthy families. He also reformed the monastic communities according to the Benedictine Order. He wrote a book on what being a Pope was to be about. For this early Pope, Gregory saw his role as a pastor over the whole church rather then the master of the flock. He understood his role as a servant to the church. After Gregory’s death the roman clergy quickly replaced monks with secular clergy. The church was still a tool for politics. Perhaps exactly what Constantine did, or something that came as a result of his influence given to the church.

He is an example of a number of men who rose to the high church even when this was not easy to do because of corruption and typically needing to buy your way into those positions.

But the traditions that had begun in the deserts of Egypt with monastic communities is a better way to trace the church being the church. Though its not completely one sided. There were two natures of the church during this era that I think are important to maintain. Monastics had a sincere approach and love for God. The High church was committed to public life, sometime to much, and sometimes compromising as I have mentioned.

It is helpful to think of the churches influence not in such drastic terms. The church did not consist of only Popes and Monks. The in-between is the job of the Bishop. When monks had spent time in meditation, discipline, scripture, education, they would then be elected to serve as Bishop. Many did so unwillingly because they preferred the life of a scholar and hermit. When examples came along who served faithfully as Bishop, and also enjoyed scholarly life then you had someone special. But scholastic monks had a great value even before becoming well known Bishops. Saint_Anthony_The_Great

The earliest well known hermit was Anthony the Great (251-356). His life inspired many to pursue the monastic life.  His most influential follower was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354-440). Augustine’s influence is well known. His work as a scholar has likely been the most influential of all scholars. Calvin’s commentaries are like holding a mirror to the work of Augustine. Not only was his work influential for theology but he developed a model for education and modeled a wider education for what would become the Cathedral Universities of the Middle Ages. Not only did monastic communities make way for an educational system, but also for better economic systems.

These are just a few key examples of the movements started. A movement for the reform of both high and low churches had begun with Anthony in the 3rd century (the same time Constantine helped shift wealth and power to the church).  A monastic way of life became what many sought who wanted a sincere approach the service of God. Among the monastics developed an entire educational system for reading, writing, scripture and other important works. The Scholastic movement was an option, men like Augustine lead way in this. And then there was men who dared as Gregory I did to reform the church of power, to fight against Simony, Adultery, and the lies of the high church clergy.

Conclusion:

Perhaps Ive done more to open up a can of worms here then anything else. However, I think there are a couple of main conclusions. That there are obvious characters throughout what some call a “dark ages” who’s aim was to bring the light of reform long before men like Martin Luther. Luther, well known for his challenge of Papal authority and his educational reforms had many who came before him. Pope Gregory, and Augustine both sought and achieved these kinds of reform but compromise and corruption persisted. Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå gallerix.ru

The Sequel to this post will be to include what character’s, and events of the 10th century until Martin Luther hold. Protestants owe more to their Catholic, Monastic, roots then they realize. In order to continue to see our own needed reforms we need to understand our past and try to implement what we can from a true biblical worldview. We are not attempting as in a revolution to break off from the past and forget any of the lessons we could be learning from.

Knowing History is a precursor for Reformation.

Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, Culture, Faith, History, Medieval Period, Orthodox, Society/Culture, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and the End of Christian Gnosticism

mountainflowersI want to begin this blog with a reminder that the bible affirms environmental stewardship and the sanctity of human life. Gods created order in Genesis one and two reveal a God who created man to partner with God in the good care of all forms of life.

The rest of the bible makes a strong case that man not God brings harm to the many forms of life. The fate of man us intertwined with the treatment of all other life forms.  So man not God hurts God created order.

The other biblical reminder is of Gods Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. His incarnation initiates the redemptive work in nature and humankind. The idea that the all mighty, powerful, creator putting on human flesh transforms our idea of a distorted humanity. He continues this redemptive work when he is killed, buried and then resurrected. He is reversing what Adam had broken in humanity by taking on death, and overcoming it for all mankind. That he would take on the flesh of a sinful race, die, and be resurrected confirms that Gods creation is still worthy of preservation.

We are challenged to be better caretakers of our environment, because God has carried for it, because he created it, because he incarnates it regularly, because he has future plans for its full restoration.

His plans for the future restoration includes the present. Right now God’s Word is to be incarnate in our lives. We are to follow the model he sets, the job he gives in creation, the job he gives, “go make disciples of all nations” and again in Acts “to the ends of the earth”. So all nations, all people, all lands, all of nature is to be touched by people of God bringing reconciliation and trans-formative restoration. His holistic approach reminds us when we attempt to evangelize a man that we treat him as a whole man. We make our appeal not simply in mechanical terms of truth but in the spirit of Love. We are not appealing simply to a soul without a mind or a body. Love means physical emotional connections must be made. When appealing to the mind we must bring some facts, some reason, some absolute certainty. Yes, and the third, man is a spirit and not just a mind with a body. Man is a metaphysical creature.

Just as our appeal is not only to on part of nature, or one nation of people. It is also to all of creation, all of humanity, and all of what is human. Jesus came to bring back to life all that is dead in his created order. trinity-172175215_std

The Doctrine of the Trinity affirms these many beliefs. That God is in some way inseparable from his creation by the three facts; that it is his creation, that he acted by his word to protect and guide the future redemption of all of creation and that he has taken on flesh and entered into creation. That man is made in Gods image affirms the three part of man that are to be redeemed. Non Human nature also bears the mark of trinity in Protons, Neutrons and Electrons. These three particles are the building blocks of all physical substances. Protons have a positive charge, electrons are negative and neutrons are neutral. In the same way we have the basic particles made up of Hadrons, Leptons and Bosons.

So how is it that we can get the trinity right without getting rid of Christian Gnostic attitudes towards creation. So much negativity has been built up towards the natural order. We are ready to see it all come crashing down. We are ready to see Jesus come back and save it all. But why are we not ready to defend the earth, to defend what God made in humanity.

Maybe we need to set our eyes anew on the last book of our sacred library. Maybe Revelation has something to say. For isn’t it this book that many think confirms our fears, that it is all coming down. That when it does then the rescue comes. Why not just hold on until the end, be raptured, be rescued, and forget about trying to make a pathetic effort to fix any of it.

Just as Jesus left it to his church to go into all the world and disciple nations. Revelation 21 reveals the climax of this work. That when Jesus kingdom comes in full the kings of the nations will bring into the kingdom of God the glory and honor of nations. (verses 24-26). How sad it will be for those who simply held on until the end. There will be no glory and honor being brought into the kingdom of God. There will be no part in bringing in the kingdom of God. Discipling nations to walk in holistic renewal, not just their churches, and the souls of people. But whole people,  whole nations, and the whole of creation. Only this work will be brought into the kingdom of God when it is in its fullness.

My friend Ron Smith, says that “The trinity, is a theological hill to die on”. I think I get what this means when I consider that God also has a certain kind of wholeness. We can distort his image to being parts of the trinity. When we do this we are vulnerable further to distorting the parts of man, parts of nature, and the nature of the Christian mission. A single crack in the trinity can wreck the churches witness.

 

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Divine Human Nature

What does it mean to get saved according to Genesis one through three?

This is a term I heard so much growing up in the Baptist Church. Its a term I still use on occasion. It is a word that starts to sound really weird after hearing so much.

“Do you want to get saved?”   “Are you Saved?”    “Am I Saved?”

Now nearing about 7 years of being part of the School of Biblical Studies in YWAM, I have taught Genesis 1-3  more than any other passages in the bible by far.

For the past few weeks I have been talking about the book, going through the first few chapters, with about 10-15 youth here in Mexico. All of the kids would say they are Christians. By and large, Mexican people would claim Christianity more than most Americans. It is a very religiously minded culture. Some of the boys are actually seeking discipleship and have began a real relationship with God that is evident in their life. But some of the boys are not in that place.

So I have been doing these bible studies for a mixed group, some of the boys have not been “Saved”.

So my thought has been, “what would that look like according to Genesis one through three”?  What is it to be saved?

First I have decided that its nothing to do with religion. No religiousness is needed to begin. In fact there is very little that is religious at all about these few chapters. If religion involves rules, than there was only one. Enjoy everything do everything your were created to do, just don’t eat of that tree. It brings death.

Of course God is involved. So if God = religion than maybe this is religious. But according the the great dreaded biblical scholar, Jesse Levi Evans, Genesis one, two, and three is not about religion.

It is about being a whole person. It is not until after man freely chose death for his race that man became somethingda-vinci incomplete. Before his choice, he had work that was fulfilling and meaningful. God had delegated to him the of job running everything he had set up. Not only meaningful work, but meaningful sex and relationships, and family. The very breath of the creator filled your lungs and gave you your full existence. Life was very good. Life was full. Man was whole. Man knew God. Man knew nature. Man knew himself.

What does it mean to be saved according to Genesis one through three? It means that being made whole again is possible. You learn what it means to be a person.

Though chapter three brings death, -death to the whole man, death to fulfillment in work, relationships, and mans relationship with his creator, man begins to set his eyes on a resurrection, on a recreation.

Studying the bible has become I hobby and a deep love affair for me. I still cry just reading specific passages. I get excited about the connections. Studying the bible is not a religious endeavor but me 1)becoming a whole person, 2) knowing the whole story, 3) knowing my environment and my role in it, 4) gaining perspective on Gods whole character.

In other words being saved is not religious nonsense found in a religious book created by fanatics. In fact that’s why I don’t use that phrase much.

Being saved becomes becoming whole, knowing myself, my environment, my friends and family by way of revelation from God and not being left to deal with only my bad choices that lead to death, frustration, toil, anger. The bible is not about becoming more religious its about become more human, which according to Genesis one through three is in the image of the divine.

Categories: Anthropology, Bible, Church, Context, Cosmology, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Faith, Genesis, Mexico, Old Testament, Origins, Orthodox, Philosophy, psychology, Salvation, School of Biblical Studies, sociobiology, sociology, Spiritual, Theology, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

God – Man – Nature

Genesis 1-2 outlines Gods design for the relationship between 1)man and nature, 2)man and God, 3)nature and God.

God created the cosmos for which he then created a human caretaker. Dominion was given to man. Though it is quickly seen in chapter 3 when man ‘sins’ it is not just a sacred thing between him and God. His ‘sin’ had a negative impact on nature around him.

God is owner, and founder of the Universe.

His relationship with nature is primarily by way of the managers he set in place. Men and Women created in his own image.

Mans relationship to God is then briefly outlined; You have a unique father like relationship with your boss who made you like himself. Mans relationship with nature is outlined as well, the system God created is open. It is effected by mans choices, there is great potential in nature both for good and for harm.

Modern man (1600-1900’s) began to see man and nature anonymous of Gods direct influence. Their first mistake was the deist theology. That God though he is there has no involvement in the universe or in the affairs of man. Their first mistake lead quickly to man becoming the complete measure of all things. That God no longer seemed rational therefore man and nature is all that there is. Terms such has humanism, modernism, and then enlightenment refer generally to this theological and philosophical activity.

The effect on theology was that those who continued to engage with scripture did so without any commitment to the bible as something reliable. There priory effort was to untangle the bible and its message from all reality. They were very effective in their work. The church reacted. Their reaction was not to guard the message of scripture by way of critical literary studies, or contextualism, rather they gave in to the new onslaught of scholarly activity an retreat inward. Since closer analysis seemed to contradict scripture as reliable the evangelical world put their emphasis on experimental faith experiences. People kept getting ‘saved’ and the church still grew steady. The missions movement thrusted forward with men like John Wesley with a passion to see the lost reached with the gospel of Christ. Certainly we are reminded that in a generation when such attacks on scripture were so effective, Christ is not bound. Though to end there would be to disregard that the church had failed to see the importance for future generations of the battles lost of the historicity and literary, and cultural legitimacy of scripture.

Just as culture and philosophy moved away from a more unified worldview, where God/Man/Nature where a tangled messy relationship. So the church rejected the modern notion of natures biblical significance. Since modern man sought to remove God, modern evangelicalism sought to remove the man/God relationship from nature, history, fact, science, critical studies.

The great commission of Christ is not merely a save souls plan. It is a disciple nations plan. It surely includes the evangelical biblical concept of salvation of the soul, but it includes the mind, and the body.

Mans relationship with nature is not everything.

Mans relationship with God is not everything ( though when man is in ‘right’ relationship with God it would mean that his relationship with his whole self, and with nature is coming in line as well)

Gods relationship with Nature: He created it and it was Good. We screwed it up. But his plan was to use humanity to make it even better. God is in the process of redeeming all things. Not just souls, but the whole man. Not just man but the whole of creation.

The Great Commission is better understood when Gods whole narrative is in our grasp. The from the beginning Gods Commission for man was to care for nature, to nurture and bring life forever. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is God using the church of Christ to fulfill his Genesis 1 Commission.

Categories: Bible, Church, Context, Doctrine, Enlightenment, Faith, Genesis, History, Mission, Modern, New Testament, Old Testament, Origins, Orthodox, Philosophy, Renaissance, Salvation, Science, Society/Culture, Spiritual, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Authority: Re-Defining the Word

anti-authority-dystopia1Now Authority, that is a scary word in our post-modern era.

Our generation asks “who is it that thinks they get to have authority over someone else?”

Very few do not feel the urge to ask the question: who is forcing their view or their truth? Who is doing this, and what gives them the right to use their position as power over others? And certainly these are good question to be asking. Though perhaps they arise out of a priory commitment to pluralistic thought, and relative truth, as many normal post-moderns would. Maybe, perhaps they are right in asking such questions. And maybe, the implied answer is in fact that many are asserting their power over others wrongly indeed. Maybe.

Of course those who’s heads are most commonly found on the chopping block of a “post-christian” west, are well                                …the Christians. Maybe, this is because Christians in times past and present have wrongly asserted their claims to ultimate truth. And maybe, their claims, though potentially true do not warrant such strong assertions as have been made.

That said, what remains to be defined, and re-defined is the Christians meaning of the word, authority. Long before Christians the word existed. And just like in our time, the very man who could not find any reason to sanction the execution of our Lord, gasped at Jesus’ own claim to being the embodiment of truth. A claim that in our own time is merely a power play. An attempt to hold ultimate authority over others, who’s personal claims,  are irrelevant to that ultimate ‘ugly’ truth that we claim to hold. What ignorance! Yet in the story of Pilot and Christ. Pilot, though not seeing any reason to execute, found himself, in all his power, powerless to do anything else. “What is Truth” he says. If he had the authority why could he not do what he wished, and set Jesus free. Pilot doubted the whole idea of the power of truth when he was powerless to act on what he knew was the truth.

So what is Christs own definition of authority? Perhaps Christians, when they have in history “wrongly asserted” themselves on the basis of their claims of ultimate truth have done so outside of what the “True” Christ centered definition of what “authority” really means. Maybe that is what they have done. Maybe they were wrong.

Lets take a look then at Christs own attempt to re-define for his closest followers what authority really aught to look like.

Here is my paraphrase of  LUKE 22:24-30

24 The disciples were arguing about which one had the most authority (Peter was likely winning the argument). 25 Jesus interrupts, “You guys are thinking like Gentiles. Its not going to be like their authority where the person with authority tells everyone else what to do and gets all the benefits.” 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, whoever wants authority will be a servant.  27 Typically, the one being served has the authority but I am showing you a different way. As one who has all authority given to me by God, I Serve. 28 You know because you have stood by me in this. 29 I’m giving you the same job my father sent me to do  30 so that in the end you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, and their you will have great benefits.

Clearly something was lost somewhere along the line. Was it his disciples who distorted that message on authority. That would be a problem if they did for their messages to the churches are inspired “Holy Writ” another claim of absolute authority. Though again, before we judge its claims to ultimate truth lets observe its content and the definition of its words.

Peter for instance. A man hungry for power during the life of Jesus. A man rebuked for his desires to see Jesus take office. Lets look at his message to the scattered 1st Century audience.

1 Peter 2:21 Peter gives a message to the all scattered Christians across the empire. In summary in chapter two and three are multiple reminders to ‘submit’ or to ‘serve’ authorities, in the midst of pagans to simply live such good lives that pagans would not be forced by would desire God. This lifestyle was a was of serving the pagan’s in order to see them come to faith. In conclusion he writes,  “…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Chapter 5 he addresses the leader. The one in the church with the most “authority”. What was Peter’s reminder for how to be a good leader over people. First there is the word for the leader and he is called overseer. Peter also refers to them like the prophets of the OT, that the overseer is a shepherd. Not just ‘telling the sheep what to do’.  But carrying for them. Serving them. Assisting them to come closer to God. Not insisting that they “obey those in charge” but pointing them to Jesus as the authority. The one who showed his authority by submission and service to all of humanity.

What about the other apostles? All who were present with Christ maintained the same definition of authority. Even Paul who had not been with Christ and was a major persecutor of the church in early days. In Philemon instead of telling those under his authority what to do. He points them to the example of Christ. He appeals on the bases of Love. That for Philemon to do the right thing he must not do so out of compulsion but love and a desire to serve the one who legally was required to serve him.

We could go on and on. But something changed. The definition faded as the church faced new challenges. When persecution was removed and honor and privileged was given how did the church respond? (more) How did Christs definition wane?  What period could be marked by the recovery of a right definition of authority? We already claim to have it, as we claim ultimate truth in Christ. Maybe, this is the time. Maybe amid this post-christian west we could rediscover the true and intended nature of Christian authority.

Practical Thought.
I am 26 now. As I grow in my own ‘authority’ I am excited. I used to be afraid to think about that word and use it, and especially for myself. But as I am recovering its real meaning as a Christ follower,  I’m excited. I know that when people look to me as an authority it will remind me of Christs words. “If you want to exercise authority you need to serve people” and not just in a general sense. I am to serve their relationship with God. Help point them to Christ. Remove obstacles that keep them from walking with God, and make my own sacrifices so they can keep growing.

Authority when Christ is the ultimate = Responsibility

As an authority I am responsible for others. My job is to care for people more then myself. This is why we can still look up to leaders. They are responsible for others.

Conclusion for Post-moderns and Christians:

1. Postmodern man wishes to remove the word and the idea of authority. But maybe we should as good post-moderns be asking, what gives them the right to do this? By what authority would you wish to remove authority? And what will you do once its been removed?

2. Christians, recognize the social climate we live in. People are asking good questions. Do we respond by asking those who ask such questions to be quiet and fall in line? We must take this as a great opportunity and responsibility to give a good answer. Authority can be questioned and ought always to be defined in the way Christ defined it. That is our model.

The Christian answer to postmodern questions and criticisms is two fold: that words of have power, so we ought to be sure we have the right definition. And the right definition of words demands action.

Words, Ideas, and Actions alike lose their power in a postmodern world. It is ultimately all speculation, and all relative, if our feet give way to this undertow, we will altogether lose our right to speak at all. The most integral of committed post-modern thinkers have given up speaking, thinking, and doing all together.

Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, History, Modern, New Testament, Orthodox, Philosophy, Post-Modern, Society/Culture, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Origins of Christian Tradition the Destiny of Christian Aspiration

For those seeking to affirm tradition need to be sure they are full acquainted with true Christian Tradition. For those seeking liberation from tradition the same aught to be required. Perhaps it is not liberation you seek but reformation to the basics of traditional Christian orthodoxy. For instance if you are looking at the church of 1400 AD you will see it littered with problems, and compromise. Most know this. However, you will also see an orthodox position for almost every issue in Christian belief. If you were outside of the orthodox position you were in danger of losing your place within the power structure of the Church of Rome.

But if you go back to the beginning you will find a more narrowed positive orthodoxy. Such as a the basics of Trinitarian theology. Early battles of the church against Gnostic Heretics were well worth the efforts to expel such teachings and if need be the teacher[s].

Original Church thought can be easily observed today on a number of free online sites. The Ante-Nicene Fathers works is public domain. If you read along in their letters to the church you will find two distinct features of the early churches accountability to a specific set of beliefs. Both features come under the same observation. By making note of each time men like Ignatius, Iraneaus, and Erasmus, quote the apostles. This constant observation emphasis two points; 1) The early apostles authority on matters of Christian Doctrine. 2) The ongoing use of the works of these apostles as inspired sacred text.

Thus, I suggest you begin with what is Holy Sacred and God Inspired. Begin with the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles. Then check out the stuff using this link.   http://www.studylight.org/his/ecf/ant.html

Perhaps However, you are not looking at 1400 AD, rather 2013 AD. Good luck attempting to grasp the problems in the church. At best its problems can be blanketed as apathetic, indistinguishable from society, exclusive, or irrelevant. Certainly these blanket statements are true of different parts of the body. But can not be true of all parts. Perhaps there is a common denominator in western Christianity. Each of these struggle with the same issue, how to respond to post-modern man. Do we immerse ourselves further into Christian orthodoxy, and hold the world at an arms length? Do we embrace the world void of any actual Christian position on morality, meaning, purpose or destiny? The issue is whether we believe truths in scripture to be relevant for today, or perhaps if we believe in truth at all. Perhaps we are apathetic, holding to the Christian Position, observing the sad state of affairs, daunted by the issues facing our generation and dumb.

Probably yes to one of those. Probably yes to at least understanding our struggle with these issues. So does the “Christian Position”, “Orthodoxy”, “WorldView” actually have something to offer post-modern man? The answer will not be complex. The issues are complex, the questions are complex. The answer is Jesus Christ. He will not disappear from History. As aptly summarized by Bruce Shelley;

“no other person in recorded history has influenced more people in as many conditions over so long a time as Jesus Christ. The shades and tones of his image seem to shift with the needs of men: the Jewish Messiah of the believing remnant, the Wisdom of the Greek apologist, the Cosmic King of the Imperial Church, the Heavenly Logos of the Orthodox Councils, the World Ruler of the papal courts, the monastic Model of the apostolic poverty, the personal savior of evangelical revivalists.”

Though his titles change, the truth of what he did and said has endured for all generations. The answer for the church today remains the same as it always has. Jesus Christ in us.

Deesis_Hagia_Sophia

Mosaic of Jesus Christ in Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, Doctrine, History, Modern, New Testament, Orthodox, Post-Modern, Society/Culture, Spiritual, Supernatural, Theology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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