About Starting Up Again

Before I get started on anything that requires serious lifting here, I want to look back a little to remember where I have been. Many thoughts crossed my mind while trying to decide whether to start posting here again. I think the top one was “Do I have the emotional and physical energy it will take to do this again?”

During my first five years here between November 2008 and April 2014, I was pretty deeply involved in the subject. I read about fifty books from a myriad of authors, all of those reviews still reside here among the 550 archive posts. I started out with some serious questions and after five years of study, I was pretty much disappointed with the answers I found. It just seemed to me that the vast majority of Christ’s churches have seriously veered off the path of the teaching of Jesus. Many had also put “what to believe” far ahead of “how to act”. When that became obvious I quit blogging here or even thinking much about it. But, what did surprise me during this hiatus, is that the site continues to get a significant number of weekly views, so that tells me I must have done something right.

When I came across John Pavolovitz and his blog “Stuff that needs to be said” it rekindled my spiritual flame. Here is a little about him from his blog of which I am now a regular reader.

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past four years, his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017 he released his first book, A Bigger Table. His new book, Hope and Other Superpowers, arrived on November 6th.

Source: Stuff that needs to be said

I must admit that the flame had never completely gone out as I continued to call myself a “follower of the messages of Jesus” and occasionally wrote cloaked posts about that over at my main blog RJsCorner. As those posts have become more frequent, I decided that maybe it was time that they should reside here again.

Going forward, as in the past, I will be somewhat blunt in my words of criticism, but I hope to also show my increased optimism of how so many congregations and theologians seem to be returning to their roots. There is much to talk about here on what has happened in the last five years.

I think the success of this blog in its first five years was due to the fact that I am just a regular guy who addresses these issues, and that makes me more approachable by other average folks to come and share their thoughts. No “Theologian Speak” here.

I hope some of you come back regularly to give me your thoughts, maybe some moral encouragement, and to just let me know I am not alone with my views of Jesus and his church.

A Mosaic….

Next time I will be starting to relay stories of the early church. Up front I want to make sure you understand that this journey into the history of the church and how we got here will be a mosaic rather than a timeline approach. It will also likely be a “people’s history type account. That is it will where possible be based on accounts of the common people rather than the primary leaders of the time.

It will be a mosaic instead of a timeline. In each post I will give you a small piece of the history that may not necessarily be connected to the previous piece but is an important part of the overall study. It is just too boring, at least for me, to just give the details of  each succeeding year.  When we are finished I think we will have a pretty complete picture of the whole story at least as I can humbly tell it.

I am really excited to get this underway. Sorry for all this preliminary stuff but I want you to understand the method to my madness so to speak. 😉   Please let me know if during this process there are any pieces of the mosaic that you think I should cover. I would love to add them to the ideas list for future study and posts.

Finally, I don’t want to you think that I am only going to cover where the church got it wrong. I will also be giving pieces where they got it right indeed.  I also don’t want you to think that I believe that there was some sort of conspiracy involved to take the church away from Jesus Christ.  I truly believe that most, but probably not all, of the church’s history makers had for the most part a pure heart in the words and practices they might have initiated. But, we must also recognize the corrupting influence of power in us human beings. I’m sure most of the people who helped form the current version of the church thought that the ideas they presented were inspirations from God even if some weren’t.

To further illustrate the idea of a mosaic telling a story here is a picture I took on a recent trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio.  It is made up of thousands of other pictures. I hope my mosaic is as clear as this one when it is finally finished. 🙂

Ok, so next time I will finally be putting in the first piece of the mosaic in place. I can’t wait to give you all of the pieces I have discovered to date. But I have many more to yet be fabricated. I pray you will learn as much from this study as I have and will.

Until then I bid you peace…..

A High Level View….

In this post I will try to give you a very high level view of what I believe is the critical history of the church.  Of course, as this study progresses there might be some things I change likely my mind about.  As with most everything else I am open to different views and one of them may change my overall concepts (but I kind of doubt it 😉 )

Before I get into the view I will be using I want to give you some idea of other ways church history has been viewed:

Here is a very colorful view showing church history from an orthodox perspective. They show that the orthodox church is the one that has had little change through the ages whereas the Roman Catholic and all its off-shoots have radically changed through the years.  They take great pride in saying that they don’t change. Since change is something that human nature seems to generally bristle against this view has some appeal.

Another view similar to the first shows basically the same shape but concentrates on more detail accounts of historic events. This is probably the dominant view of many Christian organizations today.

Here is a high level view, similar to what I will be using, that labels each period in church history based on the most significant events. I suspect that this came from a protestant author in that it deems the period after the reformation as the “modern” age. Some have, among other names, separated this age into modern and post-modern.


Now let’s get on to the view I will be initially focusing on. I will be covering three basic ages of the church. I couldn’t find a fancy graph as above for this view  so I will be covering it with bullet items instead:

  • The Age of Faith — This period began with the ascension of Christ and ended around 358AD.  I have many stories and such to try and understand just what these early Christians thought and believed.
  •  The Age of Beliefs —  This period spanned between 358CE to around 1900CE. This was the period that all of the many man made beliefs about Christ were formulated.
  • Age of the Spirit. — This period started around 1900 and continue through to the unforeseeable future.

As I have mentioned before these three ages were formulated by Harvey Cox in his book The Future Of Faith.

Next time I will be fleshing out these three ages in more detail. If you want to see a more detailed view see the book.

Until then I bid you peace…..

A History of the Church (but whose history??)

I proclaimed when I started posting this study a couple of weeks ago that I would be giving you a history of the church. In studying this topic I was quick to learn that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different versions of the history of the church. If you are a Calvinist your history is quite different than if you are a Catholic or Lutheran and especially an Eastern Orthodox. Everyone looks at history from their own perspective. Some like to concentrate only on the inspiring parts; I will be showing you the warts as well.

The last few weeks I have been collecting various versions of history and will give you a highlight soon. Some versions of history concentrate on Apostolic succession, others almost start their history at the Reformation. If you are a Fundamentalist you might even start in the early twentieth century for that is when your version of Christianity started.  For me the history of the church starts after Christ left this earth and is continuing even now. I do believe that the best years of the church are ahead of it instead of behind. But my version of future history will depend on whether Christians are able to put some things that they currently hold, maybe even doctrine, behind them so that the path going forward can be accomplished. Of course I will explain this further during this study but that should be enough to peak your interest. 🙂

They say that “History belongs to the Victors”. The history I will be giving you here will have a healthy dose of  the defeated as well. I believe that some of the defeated (heretics if you will) have value even though the power struggles of the time deemed them worthless.

I must admit, if you haven’t figured it out already,  my view of the church at least going forward is a progressive one.  I think that Christianity as it stands today is very passive and that is not what Jesus intended his church to be.  Some say that the total purpose of Christ was to die for our sins. If that were the case then the Bible should jump from his birth directly to his death as nothing else really matters. I think an equal purpose was for Jesus to show us how to live. So, of course my history will show what happened to stifle that  idea and how we can overcome the do-nothing Christian mentality going forward.

I hope that even if you don’t agree with everything I have said here that you continue on with me in this study and keep an open mind as to it worthiness. We all want to do what the Lord intended us to do while we are on this earth. That is why we pray that God’s will be done. I will be open to your ideas about that and I hope you will be open to mine.

Ok, five posts getting ready for the study is enough. Next time I will be giving you a macro-view of my version of church history and maybe some brief glimpses of the other versions.

Until then I bid you peace….

About My Sources…

This post is about some of my sources of info for the study I am presently undertaking on church history and how we got to where we are today.

I have read scores of books on church history the last few years and continue reading them for this study. I have mentioned already there is one that influenced me greatly and it is one of the reasons I am doing this study. That book by Harvey Cox and is entitled Future of Faith. Here is a small bio of him found from Wikipedia:

Harvey Gallagher Cox, Jr. (born May 19, 1929 in Malvern, Pennsylvania) is one of the preeminent theologians in the United States and served as Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, until his retirement in October 2009.  …

Cox was ordained as an American Baptist minister in 1957, and started teaching as an assistant professor at the Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. He then began teaching at the Harvard Divinity School in 1965 and in 1969 became a full professor.

Two books that introduced me to the concept of the “emergent ” church were Christianity after Religion by Diane Butler Bass and The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. As we will find in this study, especially for the future section, the phrase emergent church has been tagged onto a wide variety of different concepts. The one presented in these two books seem to offer the brightest possibilities. Of course there are dozens of other books that go into the details of church history and where we might be going in the future. Some of those authors include Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Robin Meyers, Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  Richard Stearns, Leo Tolstoy, and Robert Ingersoll. I thank them all for enlightening me in one area or another. Although I don’t intend to go into the theology details studying other books focused on the early theologians was also good background for this study. Those early writers will likely add a few additional brushstrokes to the portrait presented in this study. Last but absolutely not least in my source is the Book of Acts in my Bible. It continues to be a source of information as well as inspiration.

Other authors have who have influenced my walk with Christ and whom I frequently read are  Greg Boyd, Philip Gulley.  These two guys in particular helped me know that I was not alone in the thoughts I have about modern day Christianity. They will both likely continue to be mentioned frequently here.

I have also been reading quite a bit of cross-denominational things. All of them have influenced me to one degree or another. I discard none of them because of their particular affiliations. I will conclude this post by telling you that Quaker foundational thought, if they even admit to that, is where I am now in my walk with God. And in my humble opinion their non-creedal and non-exclusion stances are probably a critical part of the foundation of the future church.

I do not expect to be capable of completing this task by my own strength so I pray that theHoly Spirit guide me through this study.

Until the next time, I bid you peace….

Some Messy Stuff….

I know most of us get just about all our knowledge about church history from our church run bible studies. It seems that most of the professional clergy, meaning those who earn money from their participation in church, only seem to want to give us the good side of history.  The old saying that “history belongs to the victors” is also true in the Christian church. It seems local pastor/priests, seminary professors, theologians, and such don’t really come out and tell the average layman just how messy Christian church history is, that is if they even know it themselves. They tend to want you to see a very logical and God-guided progression from point A to point B to point C.

After even my initial studies I found that church history is a very messy topic indeed. It is full of contradictions and power struggles. There is definitely a dark side in the history of the church that often doesn’t come to light. In that way it pretty much reflects the world around it. Like it or not most of the struggles are around getting and maintaining power. Of course with power also comes one degree of corruption. Church history has some of that also.

One of the things I will be discussing soon is about faith and belief. Many today tend to blend these two things together but they were in fact VERY different things in the early church.  Another advanced warning is that although our Bible contains early church history it is by no means the only source. There have been recent discoveries that shed additional and sometimes contradictory light on what actually happened during those early years.    In this study we will be looking at some of the gospels and other early writings that were not included in the fourth century compilation of our current day bible. Some of them, as is even possible with the four in our bible, are likely forgeries meaning that they were not written by the person identified in their titles. But even the forgeries are very useful in helping to give us the complete story.

I will be talking quite extensively about the effect the Roman ruler Constantine had on the history of the church. In short he changed everything and some, if not much of it, was for the worse rather than the better. I was surprised just how much detail is available from this period of church history.

That is enough for now. As you can see from even this post we will be looking into corners of church history that are not typically taught to laymen such as us.  Of course I will be giving the good but I will not skip over the bad. It also is an integral part of church history. In order to make things better tomorrow we need to know the whole story of how we got to where we are today. I’m not sure just how long this study will run so I will just let it run its course. It would not surprise me to see this study exceed the three years of the one into Jesus’ words but I have no way of knowing that right now..

Until the next time I bid you peace…..

About Me and This Study…

I want to state up front that I most likely don’t have a complete picture of church history and I’m sure some of my conclusions will go contrary to many of today’s theologians. Especially those with very narrow agendas. I also want to tell you that since there are now 39,000+ different versions of the church of Christ I believe that the church is severely fractured if not broken. But that does not mean that I have given up hope as I definitely see a possibility for great healing.

I come into this study with a strong emphasis on the words of Jesus and on being active in following his examples. I am just not a couch potato Christian.  I believe this is consistent with the early Christians but not so much for the current day church. For me the main crux of this study is to find out when and how the Jesus focus was lost. I am sure there are those who don’t believe that their church denomination ever lost the focus. In some cases that might be true so when it is I apologize in advance for painting with too broad a brush.

Some times, maybe many times, I will drift off subject when I see something in the current media that shows the view of the church from those outside its walls. I think it is vital to see these types of stories if nothing more than to understand why the church has lost so much credibility among the general population of the world.

I am doing this study mainly for my own benefit so that I can understand where the church drifted away from its foundation. I am posting here to keep my thoughts organized and to let others who may have some of the same questions see at least one other layman’s view. Sometimes it seems that we are alone in our feelings about some important  issues. I want to let you know that you are not alone in this area.

I invite your comments on anything I say but I will not get into arguments about a different view. I certainly could be wrong about much of what I write but I hope you realize that you could also be wrong about some of the things you believe. I realize that for those biblical literalists out there that I am going to offend you on a regular basis. I just will not check my intelligence at the door when discussing religious issues.

Finally I want to apologize in advance for having to approve each comment you make before it appears here. This is necessary due to some unfortunate “stalking” problems in the past on this blog.

Until then I wish you peace…..

How Did We Get Here??

Have you ever wondered about how we got to where we are in Christianity in the U.S. ? I started this blog in 2008 to study of how well current Christian denominations follow Jesus Christ’s words. As reported here (see the About This Blog button above) I found that hardly any of them pay much attention to Jesus’ words  especially putting them into action.  Instead they seem to be more interested in our sex lives and many other “empire” issues (empire meaning worldly issues). I was so disappointed in what I found I no longer call myself a Christian but simply a “follower of Jesus Christ”. The word “Christian” has just been polluted so much as to lose any spiritual value to me.

This finding was a big downer to me. I wondered just how today’s church drifted so far away from its foundation! It depressed me so much that in August of last year I basically quit blogging here. But with the disappointment came another mission and that is to try to find out what happened to the church of Jesus Christ? I have been on a study to discover that since that time and am now ready to start blogging about it.

I want to tell you up front a few guidelines that I am using during this study:

  • I am approaching this study pretty much from a historical standpoint. I will try not to get bogged down in theology but sometimes the two will blend together.
  • I will state again that I am by no means a church historian or theologian. I am just a guy who has questions. In some ways I think this is an advantage as I do not have a lot of baggage going into the study that would distort my findings. 
  • I am approaching this study to view the “forest” of Christian history and not going to talk much about the “trees”.  That is I will not get bogged down in the details nor will I get  into debates on any specific beliefs or doctrine.
  • As we get started I will try to give a basic time-line of events but after that I will likely be hitting on issues that cross different periods of the Christian evolution.
  • As a rule for all my blogs I will try to keep all individual posts around five hundred words or less. To do that some discussions will have to be split into multiple posts. I personally become bored if something drags on and on….  I call this “bla, bla, bla…”. I will try not to let that happen here.

So here we are at the beginning of another study this time into faiths and beliefs and other such things. I think you will be surprised as to what I found. Try to keep an open-mind about some of the issues that may be sensitive to you. I promise it will be anything but a boring journey.

Welcome to the Re-Purposed Red Letter Living Blog

After an almost one year hiatus I will soon be posting again on this blog with this new format and a new direction.

Where I Have Been:  The first three years this blog examined how current day churches are doing in following Jesus’ words as found in the red letters of most Christian bibles. That study was concluded in August of 2011 and is still available here for your review. If you want to know more about the results of this study click on the “About This Blog” button above.

Where Am I Headed: Going forward besides studying the red letters I will be concentrating on how we got to where the church is now and where it might be headed.  I do want to warn you up front if you are not familiar with this topic that the church has a very messy history.  We will investigate that in some detail here. As cited above you can learn more about this future work by clicking on the “About This Blog” button at the top of this page. If you are interested in these topics come back often. I plan on posting at least a couple of time a week here if not more. You can subscribe to this blog via email in the right column here.