Archives For emergents

This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information…

And while many traditional Evangelicals decry this movement as being shallow, theologically weak and even heretical, many see it as a step in the right direction—a revolution similar to that of the early church: authentically living out Christ’s model of service, sacrifice and holistic love….

When it comes to following Christ, it’s easy to get distracted by things that don’t matter, and Satan is always trying to divide and destroy. This is how something as simple as following Christ’s example becomes a complicated mess filled with thousands of theologies, practices and conflicting beliefs.

Source: When Revolutions Become Religions – Stephen Mattson – Red Letter Christians.

The above words come from a blog that I am a regular visitor. It very much aligns with my views of religion and it also aligns with the title of this blog.  The story above is a discussion of the “emergent church” that is happening in much of the world today.

I find it totally disheartening that our most powerful Christian denominations in the U.S. today are so intertwined with the extreme radical right edge of our our political processes. The political agendas that are prevalent in that group run very counter to the teachings of Jesus, at least to me. Much of the evangelical community today seems to be more interested in rules and restrictions to keep their followers in line than they are about actually living as Christ taught us.

Something is drastically wrong when we find it necessary to divide into 39,000+ different versions of Jesus. This fact is not going unnoticed by the current younger generations. It is unlikely that they, like their mothers and fathers will return to established churches that cling to outdated agendas.

Many evangelicals have nothing but disdain for the emergents in their midst and yes there are many in their midsts, whether they recognize it or not. Many of the current religious leaders somehow believe that this new movement to get back to the roots of Christianity is a passing fancy. I see it as anything but that.  The movement is about living Jesus’ teaching instead of just listening and agreeing to what their leaders say about Jesus.  They are just too attuned to things that just don’t matter to many of us in the 21st century.

I am totally convinced that the emergent movement will eventually take back the church to its early roots. But to do that means tearing down some of the man-made rules and traditions that currently stifle that idea.  Yes, the times they are a-changin.

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Except God Alone….

February 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.“No one is good—except God alone. 

Mark 10:17-18

These words have always troubled me to one extent or another. Let me explain why.  The story which they came from was about the rich man and the kingdom of God.  It is a well known and often cited story to indicate that God’s grace is a gift and impossible to earn but when the words above are isolated from that story they suggest a truth that goes counter to many current Christian beliefs. the primary belief being the concept of the Trinity.

Before I delve into why these words are troubling to me let’s look at the history of the concept of the Trinity. The concept of the Holy Trinity was made into Christian doctrine more than three hundred years after Jesus. Terms like “the father, the son, and the holy spirit” were used much before that time.  Ignatius of Antioch was perhaps one of the first theologians to coin this phrase. Jesus did of course mention God the father and the Holy Spirit but without a codifying statement about any relationship.

When we talk about things like the Trinity it is very easy to get bogged down in “church speak”. That is using special words to describe the varying conflicts that were present in the early church leaders. I try to avoid that as much as possible in this blog. Instead I will give you some simple words I found in Wikipedia that I think describes what went around the discussions of the trinity.

Although there is much debate as to whether the beliefs of the Apostles were merely articulated and explained in the Trinitarian Creeds, or were corrupted and replaced with new beliefs, all scholars recognize that the Creeds themselves were created in reaction to disagreements over the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These controversies, however, were great and many, and took some centuries to be resolved.

When there has been conflict within the church a new creed was usually developed to exclude those who thought differently. The Nicene Creed is the predominant one today that attests to the concept of the Trinity. We are taught that basically the father, the son, and the holy spirit are three equal parts of the same God and cannot be divided but are three in one. This concept is often called “a mystery of christian faith” in that the very concept is difficult for human beings to understand.

Getting back to the original purpose of this post, when I read the words  “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.”  Jesus seems to be telling us that he is not the equivalent of God and that he was shocked that someone would even make the comparison. Of course the concept of the trinity had no meaning in Jesus’ day among Jews and Jesus was a Jew.

The questioning about the validity of the Holy Trinity is not accepted in many Christian churches. We are told to just accept it on blind faith.  We are told we must pledge our allegiance to that concept. To do otherwise is to risk our membership. To me that is the sad part of the  church today; many seem to unwilling to admit that maybe those involved in the past church history my have developed a man-made concept that is really not critical to being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Here are some thoughts from Randy Oftedahl over at QuakerQuaker:

Now I believe there are many paths, and God in His love for human variety has given us an infinate number of ways to follow the Spirit, depending on what best speaks to our condition. But sometimes I think Quakers, perhaps because we have a particular history as a “peculiar people” or more distinctive worship and organizational forms, of for whatever reason, may be prone to a kind of spiritual pride or elitism we would reject if we found it in a fundamentalist or charismatic sect. Have other Friends ever wondered this?….. Can Quakerism become an idol? I suppose as a created thing, it could become an idol as much as any other created thing if we let it. Can we focus too much attention on the path and lose focus of the destination? (I may know this experientially). Since the Spirit of Christ can be just as truly heard in all churches/sects/creeds – or in none – might it be more in keeping with that Spirit to speak of small ‘q’ quakerism and not let our path get out ahead of our Guide?

It seems a given in our current spiritual world for each group to lord it over all the others. Each group/sect/denomination (however you want to split it up) thinks they are superior to all the others. They all have some reason or proof of their claim of superiority. Many use the circular logic of saying their religious documents prove that they are the really spiritualists of the world. Quakers, who I have a personal affinity toward are no exception.

The quote above brings up a serious question within the church of Christ. Can your religious institution become an idol that actually gets in the way of your understanding God and his nature? When we lord it over others because we think we have it right and they are wrong we are indeed doing harm to the body of Christ. When we split over our superior attitudes we do harm.  I see that the Indiana Meeting of Quakers are about to split over differences mostly involving pelvic issues. It saddens me to see even Quakers driving “superior” stakes in the sand. I was hoping that they were somehow above thinking they have religious superiority.

Randy asked the question “can Quakerism become an idol?” I think he really answered his own question and in my mind all religious institutions to one degree or another exhibit this trait. The secret to escaping this superiority condition is to admit that each of us are likely wrong about many things dealing with the nature of God. That is one of the characteristics that has drawn me to the emergent movement.

The emergent movement is not a new denomination threatening to take over but instead a new way to thinking. Here is how Wikipedia describes that concept:

Emergents can be described as Protestant, post-Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, conservative, post conservative, anabaptist, adventist, reformed, charismatic, neocharismatic, and post-charismatic…. Some attend local independent churches or house churches while others worship in traditional Christian denominations. Proponents believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” calling the movement a “conversation” to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature…

When all of us finally admit that we are just as likely to be wrong about some of the things we believe about the “truths of God” as anyone else, that is a first step to bringing the church back together as Jesus intends.