Posted by: minnow | February 25, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name

My doctrines are simple.  Seek to see Christ in and show Christ to everyone.  Avoid mistaking good for evil and evil for good.   Continually be mindful of the Spirit’s presence.  Walk out what God put in.  Believe I am loved and act accordingly.  Trust the Spirit to know what’s best for others and to have God’s back.

In a recent FB conversation I found myself saying the same things I say during most of my encounters with traditional evangelical Christians.  At times believing their voices proclaim love and allegiance to the same God I claim to love and belong to is almost impossible. You see, the pictures we paint of our Father and the attitude with which some of us relate to His creation are so strikingly different I am perplexed.

I know the person I recently talked with on FB has read the Bible–cover to cover–and has put hours into studying and praying, as have I.  Yet we walk away from our study and our conversations with each other with very different interpretations of what the “story” is all about. I get that Church history and long-held doctrines carry a lot of weight in most Institutionalized church circles.  Yet for me that fact is equally perplexing since those doctrines and history are the teachings of men and most are based on a foundation of a politicized religion which got its roots even before Constantine forced the Romans to become Christians or become dead.

I bet when the Holy Spirit signed up for the job of being our guide and the revealer of truth it had no idea how much we like to hear our own voices or how much fruit of The Tree we actually ate.  I do not just need the Holy Spirit (even if that is what it says in the Bible).  I need my English translation of the Bible, and my seminary teacher, and my doctrinal treatise, and my study guide, and so-and-so’s latest book, and my study group or my small group, and my devotional, and…  If someone else thinks it first, or writes about it, or becomes popular enough to be invited to a conference well, that means something.  God has ordained them, or they are anointed, or they have a call on their lives because, well, we voted on it more or less and, that means something, right?!

The more conversations I have with traditional Christians the more I have begun to understand that we put a lot of weigh in a name.  From the time God gave Adam the job of naming all the animals we have had the notion that naming gives us power and with power we have control.  The trouble with that scenario is the job God actually gave Adam was to find himself a helpmate.  His message to Adam from the get go was: “You need Me.  Without Me you are alone.  Having (because I gave it to you) all the power and control in and over the world is not enough”.  When God finally gave Man a helpmate what did Man do?  He named her–in his own image.  Humm…

The problem is–knowing someone’s name, even God’s, is not the same as knowing him or her.  Most of the people I rub shoulders with outside of Church circles are actually pretty decent folks.  Some of them are serious stewards of the earth and everything in it.  Several have made their life’s work to care for the widows, orphans, and the poor.  A number give their time away to help people who do not have the same blessings they have.  A few even give their time to people who have more than they do.  To my knowledge, none of them lie, steal, cheat, bare false witness, or commit murder on a regular basis.  At least not any more regularly than my Christian friends.  Behaviorally I just do not see a big difference between the two groups, which scripturally is not what we are supposed to see.  (But I will save that point for another post).  My point for this post is that we walk out what we know.  Sometimes we know more than we know we know and sometimes we know a whole lot less.

I hear the Bible thumpers already, “But it is not by works that we are saved.”  To which I say AMEN.  I totally agree.  No one is advocating salvation by works here.  I am only saying what comes out shows us what already has gone in.  In Matthew 7:22-23 when His followers pleaded, “Lord, Lord, did we not do stuff in your name?”  Jesus told them He did not know them.  The stuff, even when it is prophesying, healing, driving out demons, or caring for the poor, is never the point.  It is only the by-product.

For way too many of us a whole lot of garbage has gotten mixed in with what God intended.  Sadly, much of the garbage is labeled God because experientially the messages received from his followers are often hateful and condemning.  John 3:17 explains: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   Those of us who “get it” have the privileged of seeing the good, the God in others and calling it what it is.

 

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Responses

  1. I don’t think I could add much of anything to what you call your doctrines. I’m reminded of a saying, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand around you will be saved.” However, the historian in me does want to raise his hand on one point.

    “even before Constantine forced the Romans to become Christians or become dead”

    The poor guy tends to get blamed for all sorts of stuff. We shouldn’t unfairly dump more on him. By the time the persecution under Diocletian ended by order of Galerius, Christians formed a very large portion of the population of the Empire. In the east, Maximinus did not really comply with that edict of toleration and continued the status quo. Constantines Edict of Milan, which reinforced toleration of Christianity in the Western empire in 313 was really aimed at Maximinus in something of the same way that Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclamation. Constantine extended toleration to the whole empire after the battle of Milvian bridge when he united the whole empire under his rule.

    Constantine never did anything more than extend toleration to Christianity. He did not make it the state religion. Christianity grew, but unlike the growth under persecution, converts under toleration included many who thought they would gain favor or power through their conversion. That shift led many to the desert and led to the rise of monasticism. Then later, with so many trying to curry favor and power, the church in the cities began to turn to the desert to find genuine bishops.

    Anyway, even though he wanted the disputes within Christianity resolved, it’s unclear what he actually preferred. Given that he recalled Arius from banishment and was baptized shortly before his death by an Arian bishop (at least by some accounts), it seems likely his personal preference did not prevail at the first council. His sons were certainly much more openly favorable toward Arianism. His grandson tried to bring back paganism and persecuted Christianity again, but it was too little too late. The vast majority of the Empire was Christian by that point.

    It was Theodosius toward the end of the fourth century who made Christianity the official religion in the Edict of Thessalonica, issued shortly before the second ecumenical council which gives us the creed in its present form (well, minus the filioque that the west added later). However, his edict was primarily affirming the Christianity that affirmed the creed of the first ecumenical council over other Christian sects (Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, etc). Those sects were labeled “heretics.” It wasn’t really targeted as much at pagans because paganism was no longer a significant force within the empire proper by then.

    Even so, it wasn’t really a threat of death. Theodosius revoked the right of other religions to meet, to ordain priests, or to spread their beliefs. (Rome never had a right to free assembly.) He banned heretics from Constantinople and later confiscated their places of worship.

    Probably a lot more than you were interested in ever knowing, but I hate to see Constantine blamed for a lot of stuff he never actually did.

  2. Thanks for the history lesson, Scott. I much rather be corrected than go on with a faulty assumption. Feel free anytime! I should have left it at becoming politicized.


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