A New/Old Kind of Christianity

From A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith  by Brian D. McLaren:

We’re following the best Christian tradition of going back to Jesus and the Scriptures, so our quest for a new kind of Christianity is, in fact, a most conservative quest. In our return to our roots, however, we’re not writing off all the great sages, scholars, and saints of church history. We’re simply going back to the original Evangelists, apostles, and especially Jesus and making sure we’re as in sync with them as possible from this point forward. We’re not trying to explain away anything in the Bible. We’re simply trying to take seriously the central elements of the canonical texts that have been studiously marginalized for too long—the good news of the kingdom of God and the biblical narratives that it consummates, integrates, celebrates, and opens to all people everywhere.

From time to time on this blog I get comments from people who seem threatened by my words. They say “why are you so down on the church” or “what do you have against the church”.  When I answer them I try to assure them that I am not down of the teachings of Jesus Christ. They are very much a part of my daily life. But we have come to see Jesus more through a lens of other men and have fallen away from the words themselves.

What is happening via the emergent movement today is kind of like renovating an old house. You often must strip down layer after layer of paint that has been put on the house by many previous owners in order to see what the house originally looked like. By going back to the original words our quest for a new kind of Christianity is actually a conservative one. You might say that we are trying to restore the old kind of Christianity but with meaning to today’s world.

I know that these words will not calm many in those churches who seem fixated on reciting a man-made list of beliefs about Jesus as proof of their faith in him. They seem to think that reciting beliefs  that others have formulated about Jesus is what is expected of us.

The central elements of the text which are the words of Jesus seem to be but a shadow in many churches of this day.  The good news of the kingdom of God has been lost to recent generations.  The emergent movement that is taking place in the church today will eventually free us to understand the words of Jesus  outside of this archaic literal foundation. Origen had is right almost 1800 years ago that there is just too much inconsistencies to say all in the bible is literally true without exception.

Don’t Take It Literally….

There are many today who believe that all of the Bible must be taken as absolutely happening and the stories are without the possibility of error. But this is not the case with many of us follower of Jesus.. Several of the early fathers of the church warned against taking things literally. One of those was Origen.

Here is a quote from People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diane Butler Bass from him:

The problem with literalism began, according to Origen, in Genesis: Who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it.

It is clear that Origen was saying that the Genesis story is simply a story to relay a message and should be taken figuratively only.  For those who might want more info about Origen you can see that at my post From Saint to Heretic to Saint Again .  Origen tells us that it is just too simplistic to believe that eating an apple gives one the knowledge of good and evil.

One of the problems with many churches today is that they have boxed themselves into such a corner by their literal interpretations that the only way thing they can do is to deny established science or just plain common sense when it contradicts biblical stories.

Here is another quote from the book cited above to explain what is happening today:

Jesus fascinates millions, but Christianity, the religion that began with Jesus, leaves countless people cold. What happened after Jesus—oppression, heresy trials, schisms, inquisitions, witch hunts, pogroms, and religious wars—witnesses to much human ambition and cruelty. The things people do in Jesus’s name often contradict his teachings. From Constantine to Christendom to the Christian Right, “after Jesus” can be remarkably depressing for thoughtful and sensitive souls. This dismal historical record surely was not what Jesus intended as he preached a merciful kingdom based on the transformative power of God’s love. 

This “dismal historical record” as the author mentions is man-made often as a result of personal power struggles. It is definitely not what Jesus intended. We need to wrestle back the true messages of Jesus so that those who are still fascinated with him can hear the true story about him.

That is what the emergent church is all about.