Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Ownership Of The Christian Message: A response (part 2)

14 Comments

This post is the second instalment in a response to a Ownership of the Christian message. by siriusbizinus You can find Part 1 here.

I have been struggling to find any satisfactory conclusion to the first part of this article. Christianity is so diverse that it’s often difficult to recognise some denominations as belonging to the same religion. While most Christians in NZ are at the liberal end of the spectrum, even here there are a few extremists. One only has to compare this rant with this statement to wonder what they have in common. As far as I can see, the only commonality is the use of the word God, although clearly not the same God.

At one end of the spectrum there are Christians who believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and the only source of authority. At the other end there are Christians who believe the Bible is valuable piece of literature full of myth, wisdom, ancient tribal law, factual inaccuracies, and with no more authority than any other piece of literature.

Some Christians believe that unless one takes Christ as their saviour and is “born again”, one is destined to eternal damnation. Others believe that if one believes/practices the essential Christian message of love, one will be saved regardless of whether one knows of Jesus or Christianity. Some believe that somehow, all but the most deliberately evil will eventually have eternal life. A few believe that salvation is a man made concept.

Some will say that the doctrine of the Trinity is an essential element of faith. Others will say it’s optional. Some insist that the doctrine is a heresy, and either they are three completely separate persons, or that there is only one person.

A few believe the Second Coming is imminent. Others believe it might happen sometime in the distant future. Others believe it is a metaphor. A few believe the kingdom of God is in the here and now, and it is up to humankind as to whether it turns out to be a heaven or a hell.

Most Christians believe in the divinity of Christ. Others believe Jesus was was a radical Jew. A few wonder if Jesus as portrayed in the Bible existed at all.

A few believe all the laws in the Old Testament (over 600 I believe) apply to everyone (although I have yet to see a Christian who obeys them all). Most will argue that the laws were a covenant between the tribe of Israel and God, and doesn’t apply to Gentiles, or that Christians have a New Covenant that supersedes the old one. A few believe all laws (biblical or otherwise) are man made, created to to regulate society.

A few Christians believe the world was created in six days and the earth is 6,000 years old. Most don’t. Even the concept of a Personal God isn’t universal among all Christians.

At one end of the spectrum, some Christians believe that God is a White male, all knowing and all powerful. At the other end, there are Christians who believe God is little more than a quiet voice that pricks their conscience.

Some Christians believe the church is the source of authority, others believe the bible is the only source, while others believe in a more individual (direct?) source.

In other words there’s almost no belief about God, Jesus and the Bible that is shared by all Christians. And we haven’t even touched upon morality, ethics and proselytising.

So is there a Christian message at all? I’m still pondering this question. To siriusbizinus: I had originally hoped to contain my response in a single post, but the question you posed has given me considerable food for thought, and to be honest, I haven’t been able to reach a conclusion as yet. It looks like this is developing into a series of posts as I work through the process.

To anyone who happens to stumble across this post: While I appreciate any and all comments, I would prefer that on the question of the ownership of the Christian message, you keep on topic, and that comments don’t degenerate into a slinging match of believers verses non-believers. If you haven’t read siriusbizinus’ post, I urge you to do so before commenting here

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Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

14 thoughts on “Ownership Of The Christian Message: A response (part 2)

  1. Hmm. I don’t mean to sound so cryptic here, but God is love. The conflicts usually arise over trying to define what “love” is.

    “Most Christians believe in the divinity of Christ.”

    That really is the bottom line that binds us all together. Catholic, protestant, all denominations believe that. That is the basis of our salvation. Everything else from that point on is a matter of belief, study, opinion. You do not have to believe in the trinity, in creationism, or in the second coming to be saved, to be a Christian. You sure do have to believe in the divinity of Christ however, or else you’re just an “-ian”

    As to ownership of the Christian message, I really do believe Christians are accountable for that. We are responsible spiritually for the things done in the name of our faith. The bible speaks of this, those who preach falsely are held doubly accountable for the ones they lead astray. Those who know of some wickedness going on and say nothing, the blood is on our hands.

    • IB, in this part of the world there are many people who profess to being Christians, but don’t hold a belief that Jesus is divine. And that includes some ordained ministers, and in Mainstream churches such as the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Methodists. There is also a further group who, while themselves believe in the divinity of Jesus, don’t believe it absolutely must be an article of Christian faith.

      The last time this came to a head was back in the 1970s when a member of the Presbyterian clergy taught that belief the Resurrection, Christ’s divinity, and God is a being are not essential to the Christian faith. A single member of the clergy and around a hundred lay members charged him with heresy. His trial ended with “no case to answer”. Officially the church said that those teachings were “not in accordance with Church Doctrine, but were not contrary to them”.

      In following siriusbizinus’ blogs on his move away from religion, I can see he suffered terribly from what I would call “spiritual abuse”. The things he was taught and he came to believe as a Christian, are so foreign to me that I can not recognise it as the religion I am familiar with.

      And that’s the problem with the ownership of the Christian message. I’m not sure that there is a single Christian message. The message SB got was one of God loves conditionally and he will do terrible things to you if you don’t abide by the rules in Scripture as interpreted by your Church. I imagine that is a terrible way to live one’s life.

      You and I agree that God is love, but to you, I’m not a Christian as I personally don’t hold a belief in the divinity of Christ. However there are Christians here who recognise me as a “brother in Christ”, (i.e. a Christian), even knowing what beliefs I do hold. You mention false teachings, but what exactly is meant by “false”? Not only do Christians not agree on what is true, they cannot agree on what is false. Hence my dilemma.

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  3. Barry:

    We can list all the tenets believed to be true or not true, and argue or despair over the correctness of each belief. But I believe that what is possible is far more important than what was or is true. There was a work proposed to us in “Eden.” It is a work assumed by Jesus when he said [Matt. 28:18] “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It was a work offered to the disciples when he said [Matt. 18:8] “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The nature of the work is of such great moment and hazard that we hesitate to apply ourselves to it, concerning ourselves rather with arguing over the different tools we have been provided, much like arguing over whether a screwdriver is better than a crescent wrench. In the end, though, there is no escaping the fact that, as creatures created in God’s image, possessing an intelligent soul bound to a body that allows us to transform spirit, we all do the work. Some of us make a mess of it. Some of us are offered a place among the angels. It’s probably time for us to stop pretending that it’s all up to Christ, and just get on with it, drawing gratefully upon his supervision..

    Brian

    • and just get on with it“. If only. I’m all for religious diversity. It adds to the rich tapestry of life. If someone wants to believe that Christ lives on the far side of the moon, I don’t have an issue with that. In fact if he wants to express that belief publicly, I won’t object. But I do draw the line at him preaching that unless you believe as he does, you are destined for eternal torture. There are too many people who are vulnerable to harm from such a message.

      • Barry:

        I sympathize with your complaint, but that is not my message. My message is that in Christ we find the power to heal not only ourselves but the angels. Read the New Testament, and you will see that this is His work, a work of healing. Not just physical illness, but all divisions between people based upon religion, caste, gender and ethnicity. It extends, as evident in the sorrow that overtakes Him in Gethsemane, to the natural world that loved Him so, and that longs for us to assume the role of guiding it as we once did in “Eden.” This is what I enjoin us to participate in. To me, it seems just quixotic to turn away from that gift. As I understand it, the reason others do is because they fear the responsibility and struggle.

        Brian

      • And just to address the issue of “eternal torture”: This is best understood from the Buddhist perspective. This place (samara) is the hell we make of it. I tend to focus on the gift of being allowed to turn to heaven, that place where every thought becomes a reality, and where only those of us that have learned to surrender concern for ourselves can walk safely in the garden of the holy mind. This is taught in every religion: there is a way out of this place. The way out is self-discipline and other-love.

        • That philosophy may work well for you, but it is not the message conveyed by many Christians. So the question remains: What is the Christian message, if there is one, and how responsible are are all Christians for this message?

        • A valid question Barry, and so I’ll rephrase my point: the measure of a Christian is not in what they profess, but (as Jesus alluded to in the parable of the talents) in their participation in the work of Christ. That work is to remake heaven and earth through love of God and each other. In that process, the authority of Christ devolves to us (which is really only to present the possibility of our wholeness with irresistible admiration). So the right question to ask a Christian is really “How do you participate in the work of Christ, and how does his healing manifest through you?”

          Otherwise what we are doing is either: a) making Christ responsible for the things said and done in His name, thus making God out of the corrupters of His purpose, and making Christ responsible for humanity as it is, rather than as He gives it the potential to be. Or b) replacing the Christian’s responsibility to Christ with a responsibility to other human beings, which is to substitute human convention for divine guidance (implicitly undermining the basis of faith).

          You see, I refuse to answer the question because to engage the question is to deny my faith.

          And, BTW, the reason I referenced Buddhism is that there are two kinds of religious tolerance: one which says that the differences between religions proves that they are all arbitrary and therefore somewhat meaningless. The second enters deeply into the practice of a religion and discovers that at the heart is wisdom that is common to the teachings of all of our religious avatars. That realization fires an enthusiasm for all religious expression as confirming that the divine presence must exist. I know that I have discovered this in Christianity, Daoism, Buddhism, the Great Spirit teachings, Judaism and Islam.

        • Thank you for your considered reply. I too have a sense or an awareness of the divine, and consider myself religious, although I’m not sure that it can be called faith.

          Fortunately I live where all religions are looked upon favourably. But it appears that where siriusbizinus (who first posed the question of the ownership of the Christian message) lives, the Bible is not viewed as a source of wisdom, but THE source of historical facts pertaining to God. Anyone who deviates from their interpretation of the “facts” is wrong.

        • Barry
          :
          I appreciate the difficulties we face, and applaud your courage to engage in this debate. I hope that you discover a willingness in others to shift their attention from worship of the past toward the promise of the future. There is great healing in that promise, and I have found that the most effective way to break the steel grip of the past is to demonstrate the efficacy of that healing in freeing us from fear and anger. For me, that began with this realization: “Look, I don’t agree with your interpretation of the historical facts. That’s OK. I feel the love of God calling to me from the future,” and being really at peace with that reality given that nobody can steal the future from me if I don’t let them.

          Brian

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  5. I did as you suggested and went over to siriusbiziness’ blog and read and commented over there. 😀

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