Keeping the Christ in Christianity

Those who seek to minimize the Christ in their Christianity do so out of a conviction that we must not offend, and must not intimidate (through “churchy” language and ritual) those who are looking for a touch of the divine in their lives. This is a worthy impulse, but we must be careful to not allow such thinking to seduce us into creating a faith for ourselves that is inoperative and unchallenging.

NotCrossRev. Heath is absolutely right in her recent article in Christian Century entitled “On Throwing the Baby Jesus Out with the Bath Water”: we need to keep the “Christ” in our Christianity.

In my view, the tradition that has been passed down to us, combined with the teachings and example of Christ and others as found in the New Testament and elsewhere, forms a foundation or framework for our faith: denying, minimizing, or casting aside that framework really would leave our faith “rootless” as many Evangelicals often (erroneously) label we who are Progressive Christians.

Christianity is not about supplying all the answers or enforcing a rigid set of doctrines and laws to live by. Jesus preached against exactly that sort of thinking and practice in the First Century, and it doesn’t work any better now than it did then. (And, frankly, doing so has never worked well.)

On the other hand, our faith isn’t just about making us feel good about who and where we are at the moment, either: Yes, we are to love and accept ourselves and each other as we are right now, but we are called to continually seek to do better, not simply accept what is.

Keeping Christ in our faith is challenging, and should always be so: if our faith is not challenged, if it is not continually being refined in the tension of this place we exist that lies between what was and what is to come, then our faith would be fruitless and meaningless. It would simply be a rationale for accepting things as they are, rather than challenging us to become better: to become more just, more thoughtful, and more compassionate.

Continue reading “Keeping the Christ in Christianity”

Challenged

It’s all so easy when no one challenges your views. No arguments, no wasted time or energy in the discussion of technicalities, no need to build consensus, no need to defend what you believe, no need to educate others who have differing opinions. No dissension! You have time to get things get done! And, in today’s world, with things moving so fast, especially when one or more crises are brewing (as always seems to be the case), it’s easy to not even listen for any dissension, and easy to justify squelching those who do question or challenge what we have to say.

Modern Remnants Of Herods Temple, Destroyed 70 AD
Stones at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: remnants of the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.

Delivered at ARK Community Church, Dalton MA, November 2, 2014.

Scriptures:
Micah 3:5-12
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

In the early 1960’s, Paul T. Fuhrmann was a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He would often present the following list (which I’ve amended slightly) to students in his Church History courses, claiming it was from his grandmother…

Grannie’s Notion of Church History…

  1. The ancient world was a desert, such a wilderness that not even a chicken could be found there.
  2. In the year 1, a King James Bible in English, bound & printed in New York (by the American Bible Society) and sold at $1.00, falls to the ground in that desert.
  3. The Apostles Peter, John, and Paul run to grab that Bible & organize the Primitive church, which was exactly like our church. Things were marvelous because the Apostles did things exactly as we do.
  4. In the year 100 the Devil came in and upset and corrupted everything, then went on to set up the Pope and later (much later) the Tea Party. The Pope plays all sorts of dirty tricks to make money. The Tea Party spends all sorts of money to play dirty tricks.
  5. In 1520, Martin Luther finds a Bible in chains, translates it, and the Bible spreads like butter on bread. In his barn in Rome, the Pope gets mad and swears to get even.
  6. In 1536, John Calvin comes in and organizes the UCC. Since he was intelligent, he must have thought exactly as we do in everything, and so did everything just as we do. The evidence of this is found in his two volumes of Institutes.

Please join me in prayer…

Lord, let it be your voice that speaks through my mouth, and let our hearts and minds be open and receptive to hearing the Word you have for us here, today. Amen.

It’s all so easy when no one challenges your views. No arguments, no wasted time or energy in the discussion of technicalities, no need to build consensus, no need to defend what you believe, no need to educate others who have differing opinions. No dissension! You have time to get things get done! And, in today’s world, with things moving so fast, especially when one or more crises are brewing (as always seems to be the case), it’s easy to not even listen for any dissension, and easy to justify squelching those who do question or challenge what we have to say.

Continue reading “Challenged”