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August 31, 2006

Comments

Tom

"Is it possible that we need to get beyond Christianity in order to truly get to Christ?"

If you mean Christianity the institution, I'll entertain that idea. If you mean Christianity the devotion of your life to following Christ I'd say hell no. Or something to that effect.

I'm personally uncomfortable with the remark about "the transformation of all institutional faiths into something new and different." What does that actually mean? The dreaded "one-world religion" that some believe will usher in the end-times? I would love to see all religions cease to exist because everyone acknowledged Christ as Lord. Is that what they mean?

(the last question is rhetorical since you haven't finished the book yet)

Jason_Hughlett

Wow Bill. When I did a word study on "heresy" and "heretic" after being called one by a guy in our church, the basic translation we came up with was "rebellion". Kind of similar to "apostacy". But since I'm on vacation I won't be thinking of these matters too much only to say, I guess some people see North American Christianity really broken if they're willing and promoting a term like heretic. I've seen others using it. I imagine it's in the same context as "rebel with a casue" and hopefully not like Saul whose rebellion was like witchcraft.. I'm sure some would be proud to fight against what they deem a corrupt system.. It seems unneccessary to me.. I wonder at what point does the angry deconstuctionist attitude (if that is what it is) subside and people just concentrate on building what they are going to build. but that was said with little thought or brain power because my brain is on vacation..

Lauraconk

I'm with Tom. Well, I mean I'm not WITH him...he's in NJ after all... but I agree with his post entirely.

r

The authors are right when they say that Jesus did'nt want a "religion" for us, He wants a relationship.
"Get" to Christ? Did'nt He come for us? is'nt He standing at our hearts door knocking to come in? I think when we make it seem like we have to "get" to Him it lessons the work on the cross and because Christ is so easily available.

Bill

I'm wondering if by throwing out "religion" the authors want us to throw out "tradition." Despite my obvious desire for change among Christians, I still think tradition is important. I want to be able to look back as I look forward. I think the church has made a ton of mistakes, but there are also achievements and important lessons we can learn from our forebears.

Perhaps we can say that "religion" is an expression of devotion to Christ. I like the idea of joining in on the expression of those who have gone before us. The danger is when that expression becomes a rule. People start to get the idea that the expression of the faith is what's saving them.

ken

"Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the @#&* that gets carried out in His name - wars, bigotry, but especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant."
-from the movie Dogma
(talking about God's view of religion)

Now, I don't believe all that is said above but I do think that we have taken "a good idea" and twisted it until it isn't necessarily what it was supposed to be.

Adam

Ken, great quotation. I found that movie to be somewhat offensive, and yet FULL of good "ideas" about how we often get things wrong.
R, I would say that you and Bill are probably using the phrase "get to Christ" in different ways. It is true that we don't have to "do" anything other than let him in to our lives. But, we still must strive to "get to him" in the sense of understanding just who it is that we are letting in. While it is true that he stands there knocking and we are just supposed to let him in, it is the foolish man who opens his door without making sure he is letting in the right person. I remember one day when there was a knock at the door and I just yelled "Come in", because I assumed it was one of my friends. It wasn't. It was some mexican guy looking to buy my brother's car, and he just came right in. It was rather an awkward moment.

Bill

LOL...that's a great story Adam! (and a great way to clarify what we're talking about)

ken

Adam,
You only found it somewhat offensive?! lol. It is a great commentary on the follies of organized religion (in general).

george

Bill asks "Do you think we need the kind of heretic's that Burke and Taylor talk about? Is it possible that we need to get beyond Christianity in order to truly get to Christ?"

Let me ask you somethings.

First what evidence is there that we have not "truly gotten to Christ"? but if that's true that we haven't...

Does all this reading of books that criticize 'fundamentalists" and "the church" bring you closer to Jesus or take you farther away?

Does it edify and unify or does it divide and cause conflict?

Does it stimulate "itching ears" or does it cause you to "Do" your faith?

Does it make you more loving to those around you both in and out of the "church" (including fundamentalists) or does it just make you feel that you are a bit smarter, a bit superior to those poor dumb fundamentalists?

Does it make you read your Bible more, with a deeper respect for God's living eternal WORD or does it make you go "hmmm if Noah's flood isn't literally true I wonder if the "do not commit adultery" part is literally true"?

Does it make you more like the world or more "in this world but not of it*?
*to quote a brilliant song writer I know ;-)

spencer burke

Bill,

Thanks for the thoughtful post. The comments are very insightful.

The use of "heretic" can be seen as metaphorical in terms of how most people would use it - the "institution" of church trying to hold power, dominance or control over people, ideas or progress that they feel is threatening - but in reality end up exposed for the motives they had.

Perhaps just like the movie Dogma, Barry and I have painted the religious landscape with big, broad brush strokes. Moving from "religion" to "spirituality" may give us the chance to leave a world of "catholic vs protestant, sunni vs shiite, red state christians vs blue state christians", to a new place where we find what brings us together rather than what makes us different and still hold our own personal beliefs - replacing dominance with love.

It is interesting to see people equate dissent with opposition. When I talk to most christians they don't believe the church or religion are working. Many have pointed out how they disagree with the book, I respect their insights and have learned from their remarks. But then I hope we can have the conversation about how the book has sparked their imagination, stretched their point of view or challenged their understanding of the world and spirituality.

Lauraconk

I am sorry... I thought what "brings us together" as Christians was/is Jesus. If I know truth, and the truth is the crucified and resurrected Jesus purchasing my pardon...desiring it for all, but aware that not all persons will accept...
what am I to find that "brings me together" with a Muslim, for example?
If, in fact, I really care for and want to show love to that person... won't I want to share truth with them? Not for some vain motive or some awkward need to dominate... but rather because a)it's what Jesus wants from me and b)I care for the eternal souls and the earthly lives of those I love.
Should I disregard what Jesus did and just agree with those that believe the way to heaven is to work their tails off at their own brand of morality? Do I say "Good for you!" or do I feign agreement by my silence? I could and let's face it, I often do exactly that when I'm not speaking up for Christ. But to actively seek and embrace such disregard?? Not so much.
So, am I misunderstanding all of this? Is there a point where uniting people of differing beliefs is intended to lead unbelievers to Christ? Or is that never the goal/idea/however you want to word it without being something with ill motives.
Christ offered Himself and truth up to all that He met and all that would come to hear Him speak. He never suggested that they all crowd round and worship the deity of choice...HE alone being the water that would cause us never to thirst again. What prayer would I pray with a Buddhist? What songs would I sing with a Muslim? What sincere heart-to-heart could I really have with an atheist? We would just never be on the same page if we are sincere about our beliefs.
(Please tell me if I'm misunderstanding the main gist here.)

ken

George,

I don't know how to answer that. Does reading books and web pages that condemn EC bring you closer to God? or just cause strife?

If you turn all of your questions around, what would you answer?

ken

Laura,

I don't think that it is about accepting their religious beliefs. I do think that it is about loosing the snobbish condescending reputation that we (the collective we) have, in many cases, earned over the years.
It is about loving thy enemy. Treating them with respect even as you disagree and attempt to witness to them. It is following Jesus' example and sitting down to eat with sinners.
I would hope the prayer you would share with a Buddist and the song you would share with a Muslim would be those that would bring glory to God and be a witness to them both. I think that it would be a great opportunity to do all of these things with unbelievers. What a powerful witness it would be to sit down with them.

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." -M. Gandhi

What a sad statement that is about Christians in general. I pray that we won't live down to this quote.

Lauraconk

So, Ken... in your idea of it all, being a witness IS in fact part of the plan. I'm curious if Spencer Burke sees it that way, or if others do. Is there agreement there?
And my other curiosity... would not the Muslims, Buddhists, etc. of this group at large (now we're assuming they'd even desire this kind of fellowship) be in turn trying to turn followers of Christ on to their gods?
I was thinking... "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" would actually make the perfect song to sing at such a meeting ;) (You gotta admit it'd be hard to sing "Jesus, Name Above All Names" with an ecclectic group.... but then again, is this group supposed to remain ecclectic if there is some "new and different transformation of all religions"? I find myself thoroughly confused.

george

Ken said "George,

I don't know how to answer that. Does reading books and web pages that condemn EC bring you closer to God? or just cause strife?

If you turn all of your questions around, what would you answer?"

So far, I've spent no time reading any books that condemn EC, I've based my judgement on the behavior and comments of the people I see within the EC movement. I have gone to a website or two but primarily because of something I've read here and then I may google the author and try to get more information.

What does bring me closer to Christ is reading my Bible, praying, fasting, meditating on God's word, listening to sermons by good preachers, reading books by people who actually BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ and digging deeper. If there's a hard passage, I dive into it, I don't gloss over it by saying either "it's not speaking to me" or "it's mythology that has to be demythologized."

I would guess by your inability to answer legitimate questions about EC and the fact that no other ECers popped in to explain how their watering down of Christianity and their attacks against the faith have strengthened them that I have my answer.

I know I could tell you how certain books I've read or certain preachers I've listened to have challenged me and how it has resulted in a "closer walk with thee" (thee being Jesus to quote the hymn).

Why can't EC'ers do that?

Seeing Spencers comments make me even more concerned. At least he didn't say "protestant vs sunni".

Suppose the only way to peace with these folks is to "play nice and deny your own beliefs" Would Spencer say that's a good idea? Is there anything worth dying for?

Does he want to see the "one world religion" and "one world government" that we're warned is coming?

If EC is a "conversation" why aren't you answering the questions that would advance the conversation?

Bill

George,

Your experience of the EC has been different than mine. I think it's all about context. Do people in the EC ever criticize things in bad way? Sure they do. This happens everywhere, in all groups. I think you might have a little more sympathy if you took into account the way:

a. many of us have been wounded

-and-

b. we see many others being deceived by Modernism, fundamentalism, etc.

You wrote: "Suppose the only way to peace with these folks is to 'play nice and deny your own beliefs' Would Spencer say that's a good idea? Is there anything worth dying for?"

I can't speak for Spencer because I don't know him and I'm only halfway through his book. On behalf myself and the EC in general, however, I would say that we are not about denying our own beliefs (unless we're talking about the false beliefs we may have held in the past). I think there is a way of being genuinely open to God's truth, wherever it may be found, without betraying my walk with Christ.

Perhaps one of the things Spencer would say is that Christianity (the religion) is not the only place one may find truth. In fact, he seems to be arguing that Christianity is actually holding people back from God. This is in reference to the system of rules and observances we've built up, not the basic belief that we need to follow Christ.

What if "following Christ" entails sitting down with a Muslim, not just to convert, but to learn something from the exchange?

george

Thanks for your answer Bill, it leads to another question and an emerging conversation. (grin). You said. snip...."(unless we're talking about the false beliefs we may have held in the past)"

Can you define any of the false beliefs that you may have held in the past that you are now free of?

Also, I do try to keep in mind that many EC'ers may have been wounded. My own mother has completely rejected the Christian faith because of comments made to her Christian father as he was dying of cancer. (some half-wit told him that "if he had more faith God would be able to heal him.) My mother blames all of Christendom for that.

Also, just as a point of reference, I would think when you refer to "christianity' in these posts you are really speaking of "christendom" right?

What can we learn from Muslims from an "eternity" perspective? I mean to ask, are you suggesting that Allah and Jehovah are the same God? Or that we worship the same God as Muslims? OR that they can teach us things about Jesus that we don't know from the Bible?

Deborah

George, I can list several sermons and books that have helped me walk closer with Jesus. Books: Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli, Sheep Tales by Ken Davis, Devotions for Preschoolers (talk about boiling down scripture to its essential points), The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McClaren. Sermons: "The Church Goes On" by Rev. P. Vosteen 2000, "10 Reasons to Get Fired for God" by Mike Yaconelli 2002, "Reality Bites: And Some Churches Have Fangs" by Len Evans 2002, "Help Me Overcome my Unbelief" by Bill in 2003, and the sermon preached by Pastor Frank on the last sunday in July 2004 about Psalms.

I can also think of specific people who brought me closer to Jesus not by preaching, but by how they lived their lives as a reflections of Christ and his love: June of UC, M. Lagerwey, Heath Plunkett, Mike Yaconelli, Tom Klaasen, Bill Faulkner, Jim Knol, Arlene Darrah, Bethany Brewersma (and her family upon her death), Sidney Bangma, and that is the short list. These people did not require people to agree to a faith statement to be a model of Christ

Ec'ers also can credit individuals and books who have led them. The book by McClaren I just finished reading points out several authors and people who have brought him closer to Jesus. It also affirms scripture and his belief in Jesus as Lord. At no point does he say something in scripture is mythology or doesn't pertain to us. In fact, by putting it into the proper context the words speak more to us today.

The church as an institution, over the last 2000 years, has been in opposition to many scientific facts (the world is round, earth goes round the sun) and anyone (from individuals and groups within the faith to those of other religions) who disagreed with the accepted orthodoxies of each generation.

It is interesting to me how Jesus confronted individual sin - "your sins are forgiven, go sin no more" and how he confronted institutionalized sin in religious doctrine - "brood of vipers", when the church powers focused more on following the letter of the law and ignored grace and love.

The church as an institution has spent a lot of time detailing their individual doctrines, nitpicking technical details like how much water should be used in baptism, trying to legislate sin, being active in the political arena, and following fads. I can personally say that those things have not helped me walk closer with Jesus.

Learning about Jesus, and the context of his message in his time and then relating it to our time, this has brought me so much closer to him.

Bill

George wrote: "Can you define any of the false beliefs that you may have held in the past that you are now free of?"

I have believed many of the things that I write against now. As you know, I come from a fundamentalistic background.

"Also, just as a point of reference, I would think when you refer to 'christianity' in these posts you are really speaking of 'christendom' right?"

I think the two terms are somewhat synonymous. I would separate them both from "the kingdom of God." God is at work throughout the cosmos, which implies that he is at work outside of Christendom or Christianity. How would you distinguish between the two terms?

"What can we learn from Muslims from an 'eternity' perspective? I mean to ask, are you suggesting that Allah and Jehovah are the same God? Or that we worship the same God as Muslims? OR that they can teach us things about Jesus that we don't know from the Bible?"

How do you distinguish between what is of eternal value and what is not? I believe in a continuity between this life and the next, so I am perhaps not as inclined to make a sharp distinction between the two. Having said that, I don't have anything specific that we can learn from Muslims in mind, but I don't rule out the potential for such a thing.

Are Allah and Jehovah the same God? In the sense that they are both a humanly constructed concept, no. In the sense that they are both meant to represent the one true God, yes. Let's be clear. I think Christians may have a lot to teach Muslims about the true nature of God. I think we should be humble enough, however, to realize that we might be able to learn a thing or two in turn.

My answer to your third question would be along the same lines. Just as I think we need to look at the context behind what the Bible says, I think we need to look at the Khoran in the same way. I reject the notion that the Khoran is an inerrant book dictated by God just as I reject much the same view that many Christians hold about the Bible. The Bible holds more weight, in my opinion, when discussing who Jesus is/was, but this does not mean I could never learn anything from the perspective of a Muslim.

ken

George,
My asking you the same question back was my way of answering your question. Yes, the books I have read have brought me closer to God. None of the books that I have read 'attack' fundamentalism. I will note that most of the writings I have seen against (and I mean that word in a very violent, confrontational sense of the word) EC however tend to be hostile at the least and outright condemnational(burn the witch) at the other spectrum. EC's are frequently called unbelievers and deceivers by the fundamentalists (and that's using toned down versions of what is really said). I don't see that nearly as much (it does happen) in the other direction. EC'ers don't think that fundamentalists are going to hell, just that they may be missing some of the points.

I will also refer you to Deborah's post above as it covers a number of authors that have positively influenced me.

george

Bill, if you read the Koran (which I have) and you read the Bible it is very obvious that Allah and Jehovah are not the same being. Allah of the Koran is unknowable. Muslim and Christian scholars have argued for hundreds of years over who has the right view of God, they agree that the two books cannot be speaking of the same being because of the contradictions.

In the Koran Jesus is a prophet who did not die on the cross.

Salvation in the Koran is through works.

Either Muslims are correct, OR Christians are correct or they're both wrong but they both can't possibly be right.

Now, I agree that a Christian can learn things from a Muslim but if the Muslim has the wrong view of God, how can he teach the Christian to know God better? Isn't that like the blind leading the nearsighted? (I mean if we assume for this discussion that the Muslim is wrong in his view of God).

If I don't know how to read music, can I teach you how to read music better? of course not. I may be able to teach you how to blend instruments better.

A Muslim who is truly humble and has great piety may teach a Christian to look deeper into God's holiness but the Christian must get his answer from God's word, and through prayer, not from the Koran.

george

Bill asked "I think the two terms are somewhat synonymous. I would separate them both from "the kingdom of God." God is at work throughout the cosmos, which implies that he is at work outside of Christendom or Christianity. How would you distinguish between the two terms?"

Christianity is the genuine faith of Christians and it is God's path to Himself it is what leads to the Kingdom of God. Unless Jesus is a liar there is no other way**

(** I'll comment on your other question about that in another post)

Christendom is the "institution" of the church. Christendom is what allowed people to purchase being Pope.

And yes God keeping the planets in orbit and on their paths through space does not necessarily fall under Christianity, just as the life of a sparrow, while in God's hands is not Christian or "Satanic", it just "is".

Bill

George asked: "...if the Muslim has the wrong view of God, how can he teach the Christian to know God better?"

I would suggest that both Christians and Muslims have wrong views about God and that we both can learn from each other.

"Christianity is the genuine faith of Christians and it is God's path to Himself it is what leads to the Kingdom of God."

That depends on what you define "Christianity" as. If Christianity simply means the pursuit of Christ that's one thing. I think Burke and others see "Christianity" as all of the rules and observances we've built up about how to do that. It is a word that describes an institution as opposed to a relationship.

By the way, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not so sure we should get rid of the institution/religion. I'm just trying to clarify what Burke is talking about.

Bill

Here's what Burke and Taylor say under the heading "What Exactly is Religion?"

"Religion, at its most basic, provides a way of understanding the relationship between humans and the divine. But it's incomplete, so over time, elaborate systems, doctrines, and dogmas are developed to fill in missing details. In fact the desire to have our religions cover every aspect of human life is so strong that even when the sacred texts are silent, we'll find a way to make a connection.

Still, in spite of our best efforts, there are always things that arise outside the system—realities of life that don't fit neatly into the religious boxes we have made. "Concepts create idols," Gregory of Nyssa, in the fourth century, reportedly said. "Only wonder grasps anything." The complex systems we create with our religions may help us make sense of the world for a time, but eventually they outlive their usefulness. When life takes an unexpected turn or throws too many curve balls, these systems are revealed for what they are: finite attempts to capture the infinite." (28)

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