Reflections by someone trying to learn what it means to live under God's Reign
Thursday, August 31, 2006
The Emergent church's language is full of building community. I like that. I like being apart of a community, and feeling welcomed by a group. I also feel that my church does a good job of that in Beaumont. My concern is however that through this language of building a community is that we have lost an individualistic spirit. Now some of you out there would say, "Ray church is a community." Yes, but the community ought to be made up of individuals who have different characteristics and opinions. I do believe that in the essentials, we ought to be unified. However, with non-essentials I think there is beauty within diversity. Because even though we may disagree over a particular issue, say speaking in tongues, we serve the same God, and it is beautiful when people worship together and get along in community despite individual opinions. In Baptist life we have lost this. Historically, Baptist churches have been autonomous, and supposedly they still are. Now it seems that if you do not agree with me on a specific issues, there is no way we can even be in the same room without tension, much less worship together. However, we were all created in God's image. God also created us different from everybody else. God created us to be diverse, and to have different outlooks on life. God created us to be individuals. That is why it is an individual's decision to come to Christ, and not a family's. Family has an important role, but ultimately it is up to the individual to make the decision to come to Christ. As Baptists, as Christians, we ought to welcome individualism, and realize that we are all in it together. That is community.
About a year ago, Joel Olsteen got blasted by many of my Baptist friends by saying that he didn't know if non-Christians in India who he saw "the hand of God" upon were automatically condemned to hell because they did not know Jesus. After getting blasted, he apologized and said he absolutely believes that Jesus is the way to salvation, as do I. However, sometimes I wonder, and last night I was confronted with it, is there a difference between someone who has been saved and someone who is a Christian? For instance, for someone to be a Christian I believe there are certain dogmas one must hold, such as the ressurection. My question is, can someone who does not believe perhaps in the bodily ressurection of Jesus be saved? Albert Schweitzer is one example that comes to mind. Here is a man who has poor Christology I believe. But he gave his life to the teachings of Jesus, and judging by his life, it seems that he loved Jesus. I know I am treading on dangerous territory, almost heretical it seems. But my point is that God is a gracious and merciful God. Our job is to be Christians, and to spread that salvation is through Jesus. God's job is to save people, and for us to condemn somebody to hell, well, I think we tread on God's territory. What do you all think?
I have decided I hate moving. I'm excited for the change, but I hate moving. Setting up takes time, effort, and money that I don't have. Also, as of right now, I don't know that many people, and none of my neighbors have been out to talk to. Change is hard, but good at the same time. Today I was putting things on my wall and for some reason began to think about Abram. Abram was a successful man before God called him. His friends and family were there, and I'm sure it was a comfortable life. But God called him to move out of the country he had grown up in into a land which God would show him. Abram didn't even know where he was going to go! At least I know that for the next few years. Although Abram made some mistakes, he followed God and God took care of him. I can only hope for the same thing for myself.
If you ever want to start a huge argument among Christians bust out the whole Calvinism vs. Armenianism debate. The thing I do not like about the debate is that both sides read the Bible through a system, and do not read the Bible for what it says. We always want to put systems or creeds in order to understand scripture, and I'm fine with that. However, many times the creed or system becomes the only way for a person to read the Bible. If you do not read a certain scripture a certain way, then you get lumped into a different group, an enemy if you will. For instance, if you do not read the Bible through a Calvinist's system, then you must be an Armenian, or vis versa. I just have a hard time believing it to be true. The fact is that there is evidence for both Calvinism and Armenianism in the Bible. As Dr. Mullins said "It's both." Maybe we should stop limiting God to a certain system, and start realizing that God is bigger than any system that humans can come up with.
When I started this blog, I was determined that I would not write anything out of anger. But only a month into the blog, I am going to break that. Today I read an article about a ruling of US District Judge Robert Pratt. He ruled a Christian program called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Iowa unconstitutional because it violates church and state. If he would have left it at that, it would not have been a big deal. This program, which has been very successful, is an evangelical effort to help prisoners rehabilitate and gets money from the Faith-based initiatives. What Judge Pratt did that greatly overstepped his bounds was define evangelicalism in a twelve page opinion. He found that Evangelical Christianity to be "anti-sacrimental which downplays baptism, holy communion, marriage and ordination." Evangelicals are also "comtemptuous of Roman Catholic practices." I'm all for seperation of church and state. Whenever the church gets into bed with the government, the church gets raped. However, what this man did was as a judge define Evangelicalism as a narrow, mean-spirited minority. He also took a step toward a court defining what is and what is not legitiment theology. Seperation of church and state was really created to protect the church from government. Why then in this ruling, supposedly upholding church and state, did a government appointed judge define evangelicalism? That is over the boundary that the government is supposed to abide by because it could then be applied to any church-related program that does good in society. I hope this decision gets thrown out in appeals court.