Beliefs vs. Practices….

With this post I am going to introduce you to a book that has had a pretty profound affect on my faith. It is by Robin Meyers entitled Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus. Here are a couple of quotes from the book that will provide fodder for this post:

Strangely, we have come to a moment in human history when the message of the Sermon on the Mount could indeed save us, but it can no longer be heard above the din of dueling doctrines. Consider this: there is not a single word in that sermon about what to believe, only words about what to do. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. Yet three centuries later, when the Nicene Creed became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe! …..

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Christianity as a belief system requires nothing but acquiescence. Christianity as a way of life, as a path to follow, requires a second birth, the conquest of ego, and new eyes with which to see the world. It is no wonder that we have preferred to be saved. 

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Today, worshipers of Christ agree to believe things about him in order to receive benefits promised by the institution, not by Jesus.  

It seems that much of the Christian world today is split between two Christian world views.  One is Christianity as a belief system as taught to us by the Nicene Creed and the other is Christianity as a way of life as taught to us by Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.  These two Christian world views have been battling each other since the fourth century when the emperor Constantine made Christianity a mandated State religion of the Roman empire.

Unfortunately many today want to classify this struggle for Christ’s church in empire terms by deeming it conservative vs. progressive (some use the tainted word liberal). The only thing this accomplishes is to link following Jesus to today’s empires and in my mind that is a very detrimental thing.

There are those who think that Christianity is a “something for nothing” proposition. That is all you have to do is to take an altar call and publicly profess Jesus as your savior. After that profession nothing else is required except to say you believe in a long list of man-made beliefs  about God. These believers treat Christianity as a fire insurance to insure that they will go to heaven. When Martin Luther found that single verse in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he solidified this way of looking at Christianity for many in our current age.

Fortunately there are also those who think that Christianity is about doing what Jesus says. They treat the Sermon on the Mount as a foundation of how they live in this world. They take Christianity to be an active way of life, many say a life changer, not a passive do nothing but believe system. I am proudly a member of this later group.

Some say Constantine when he kidnapped Christianity to try to save his dwindling empire he brought it out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Robin Meyers book shows us examples why that is just not the case.  He instead started it down a path that would pull many away from the words of its founder Jesus Christ.

History of the Church — More Details …

I realize that due to trying to keep the last post brief I did not fully explain the three ages (Age of Faith, Age of Belief, Age of the Spirit) very well so I am taking another shot at it here. As a quote to explain it further I am using one from Diane Butler Bass in her book entitled Christianity After Religion. I realize it is kind of strange to use one author quoting another but I  believe this quote is the most descriptive with the fewest words of any I currently have in my database. (I’m and information technology guy so of course I have a database and it is growing daily 😉 )

Harvey Cox proposed that Christianity reflects this broader transformation regarding human knowledge and experience by dividing church history into three ages: the Age of Faith, the Age of Belief, and the Age of the Spirit. During the first period, roughly from the time of Jesus to 400 CE, Christianity was understood as a way of life based upon faith (i.e., trust) in Jesus. Or, as Cox states, To be a Christian meant to live in his Spirit, embrace his hope, and to follow him in the work that he had begun.

Between 300 and 400, however, this dynamic sense of living in Jesus was displaced by an increasing emphasis on creeds and beliefs, leading Professor Cox to claim that this tendency increased until nascent beliefs thickened into catechisms, replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about him….

From an energetic movement of faith [Christianity] coagulated into a phalanx of required beliefs. Cox argues that the Age of Belief lasted some fifteen centuries and began to give way around 1900, its demise increasing in speed and urgency through the twentieth century.

We have now entered into a new phase of Christian history, which he calls the Age of the Spirit. If the Age of Faith was a time of faith in Jesus and the Age of Belief a period of belief about Christ, the Age of the Spirit is best understood as a Christianity based in an “experience of Jesus.” 

What I plan on doing, at least initially, is to flesh out this history with facts and examples. Initially we will try to understand the true nature of the early Christians and how they went about living their faith. I can’t wait until then so I am going to tell you that they did a much better job of being followers of Jesus Christ than we have for generations since them! What they did and how they did it was impressive indeed especially given that many of the leaders were fed to the lions because of their faith.

I will also be covering the Age of Beliefs to understand just how all these different beliefs, and in particular creeds came from. I think you will be surprised how much human hands are involved.  I will be covering heretics turned saints and saints turned heretics as well. This period and this topic is a very interesting one for me.

Finally I will take the concept of the Age of the Spirit. Some call it the Great Emergence and some have other names for it but I think they are all trying to reach the same point. A point where we return to true faith and jettison some of our previously held man-made beliefs.

Until next time I wish you peace….