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Back to my "What is a Christian" page
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The Key Areas
Rather than reading the following as a set of "beliefs" to
which you should be persuaded, look at them as the results of a journey
which I will try in many ways to describe to you using the non-linear
possibilities of the World Wide Web. One way to see these "beliefs"
is as the fruit of many formative experiences and learnings which I have
begun to list and describe in my "Balcony
The image of "balcony" people comes from an image in the New
Testament where Paul writes of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses;
those who have traveled the road before us. The balcony image comes from
the imagery of theater and opera, and life is the stage upon which we
carry on the journey that has been formerly trod by those "witnesses".
They are in the balcony, cheering us on.
Links to be added as this Web progresses-
- My Southern Baptist heritage
taught me a deep respect for the Bible, and to see God speaking in the
stories and the teachings. I feel fortunate that I got to Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary in 1978, before the academic apocalypse
happened in the Convention, and changed the quality of the education
there. It's such a miracle how I ever came away from there in those
"liberal" years with a sense of the divine influence of scripture
(if you were to hear me say this, you would recognize the sarcasm).
- I do believe God is revealed
in Scripture. I don't believe that every word of it is from the mouth
of God. Could you imagine God or Jesus saying "Blessed is he who
smashes their little ones against the rocks"? Now if there is an
explanation for this that claims to fit this into the view that every
jot and tittle in the present canon is verbally inspired by God, then
there must be some kind of "symbolic" alternate meaning here,
and if so, then how do we choose between those places to be taken literally
and those not? I've heard people answer, "It should be obvious".
Like the place where Jesus says "give it all away"? He couldn't
mean that, so there 's something else there. Right? Right there is a
good example of the "selective" literalism of the so-called
Sociology and Interpretation
- ON the previous thought in the Bible section on varieties of interpretation,
it comes down to what is convenient. It should not be so, but it is
often the case. This is precisely why I tend to gravitate toward the
explorations of the wisdom in "alternate" (meaning non-Western,
non-Judeo-Christian) traditions. The socio-political climate brings
about some kind of syncretism of the theologies circulating throughout
a society, and the assumptions of that socio-political climate. So too
does the family history and heritage inbred in the lives of individuals
and communities help determine the emphases of that culture. Those elements
of the theology which speak to those tendencies are held as crucial
elements, or interpreted more or less literally as it serves the relationships
to others and that social climate.
- When I lived for a short time in Arizona a pastor at my church where
I served would often draw from the Native American wisdom literature
and traditions. Not long before that I had seen the movie Gandhi, and
used it on several occasions with groups to explore the notion of revelation,
and how it might be that God is more than the version of deity we have
learned of in the West and in our culture. The Bible IS indeed a Judeo-Christian
history and tells of the trek of Middle Eastern people, and on into
the Hellenistic and Roman times, when Western philosophic ideas began
to work their way into the journey of God's people. It seems that there
was a lot of God already out there in many stories of pre-Christian
world people that bore witness in many cases, to what seems to me the
same God, the same truths, the same discoveries.
- Lately, in the past 15 years, I have noticed in movements such as
the Christian coalition and the Moral Majority, as well as lately in
the Gingrich/Rush Limbaugh kind of rhetoric, a blending together of
right wing politics and conservative Christian concerns. Sojourners
asks "Who Speaks For God?" in their Feb/March 1995 issue.
Battles for the Bible
- Often carried out in a very "unBiblical", unloving fashion.
The crucial problem here is the idea that interpretation is blind when
one confuses one's own appropriation of scripture with "THE correct
interpretation". I often heard it said "God said it , I believe
it , that settles it". Someone interpreted for them what they heard
God saying, and that became for them what God said. There is a blind
spot in the communication down from other human "earthen vessels"
which we often confuse with a "that's got to be it" feeling
because it makes sense to us, and because there is such strong community
reinforcement behind it. I have seen so many people I know adopt a brand
of theology after finding community and support in a group espousing
The "American" Bible
- Jim Wallis of Sojourners
speaks of a preacher who held up a Bible clipped apart all through,
having been "edited" for American spirituality, with "irrelevant"
passages cut out. At Seminary I heard about "the canon within the
canon, where certain groups have their own particular "canon"
of scripture which are used in near exclusion to the rest, for "consistency's
sake". Just as the canon of scripture today was chosen out of a
wider range of written works, our "personal canons" are smaller
sub-sections of scripture which can be retrofit
into a "livable" theology.
- An ongoing process with a beginning, although it is not always clear
as to when. I can point to a significant point at which I turned my
energies toward learning as much as I could, and giving myself as completely
as I knew how, to what I could understand of God. I also had the strong
support of a tight knit group of youth during my High School and college
- I learned the Bible as it was shown to me and taught to me by my youth
program, writers, and friends, and along the way, experiences that "opened
my eyes" such as:
- The biblical stance seems to be contradicting when reading Pauline
epistles and James, but here I feel we have one of the many instances
of the polarities of our existence; that while it is not just what we
do that saves us, but our relationship to God which does, at the same
time that relationship will result in fruits of action. I have never
understood the basis for this debate. It seems useless to do without
- To insist upon "faith alone" seems to be designed to excuse
one's self from the responsibility to live out the conviction in our
relationships to others, society, and community. Actually, the use of
the word "faith alone" is the problem. It seems to be an oxymoron.
Faith should imply the inclusion of outer response to that perspective
or drive which enables us to go on without what would otherwise seem
to be sufficient evidence or societal approval. "Faith alone"
seems to be used to imply that the "faith" part is something
exclusively inner and unrelated to action or reaction. This is a false
dichotomy within this major theological concept.
- The dichotomy is clear in scripture. James warns of faith without
works. Paul warns of works without faith. More often, the use of the
word translated "faith" is in truer, more multifaceted sense
of the word: a wholistic faith which works on the totality of a person;
on their outlook, their resulting actions, and their sense of place
in the meaning of life.
The Church is a body fit together and it is no small part of our mission
to literally "get it together". We have this "treasure
in earthen vessels" that is the body of Christ that is called into
community, and to let this "seep out" ; "break out";
"infiltrate" the larger society.
To do our job; to heed the call, is to find what pieces we represent
in the task of providing what is needed to live out community among us
and to extend the reach beyond our inner circle and create community around
us by bringing the broken in.
Journey Inward, Journey Outward
- Church of the Saviour style community building as told in their stories
written by Elisabeth O'Connor, and experiences in my visit in 1984 with
my group from Iowa when I was Youth minister there. For 9 years prior
to that visit, I had fed upon the stories of how that community built
in an intentional structure for nurturing community and mission. No
"meeting place" mentality here, but a devotion to community
and the use of the strength of that community to build up the gifts
of one another to provide some service.
- The task of working out the resistances we have to forming close-knit
communities are the forces which have beset us in our journey with each
other. There are resistances to revealing our true struggles. There
are resistances to giving up our "comforts" in order to get
at what divides us so that we can set all this aside and get at what
bonds us. We know there are bonds to be formed that give us life, and
yet the barriers to that we tend to avoid because we have learned other
"distractions" which keep us from the true task.
- The church's job is to be a seminary to equip the laity. COS 's School
of Christian Living is a required curriculum for members. To join here
means to covenant together to journey and to search, and to do so in
mutual accountability. This model has made it difficult for me to have
patience with what I have seen ever since. I do not see any devotion
to community except in some shallow , liturgically-mouthed platitudes
- Ecunet was the outer edge of the web for me; a door through which
I entered into the world of community online. As I have searched and
browsed the diversity of the Net, and tasted of the "Web way"
of looking for resources, I see ways in which the Web can enable a stronger
ecumenism by providing ways for many in the theological community can
explore a widely diverse community that is just a "click"
away, and whom can easily be stored in a list to call upon again.
The following sections are included as outline
points to be filled in as this Web progresses