Monthly Archives: February 2016

Losing Faith? Think Again!

The United Car Manufacturing Association and its members all agree that manufacturing cars is what the UCMA is all about. But, they say, you cannot be a member of the UCMA if you don’t believe that little pixies push the lifters in the engine.

If it is true that manufacturing cars is what the UCMA is all about, then the only beliefs which matter are those one can act on, and all of those will be related to the manufacture of cars.

So when a member of the UCMA says it is a central belief of the UCMA that little pixies push the lifters in the engine, it can not be a central belief. It cannot be acted on, nor does that belief lead to the manufacture of cars.

In the same way, “God is triune”, “Jesus walked on water” or “Jesus was raised from the dead” are not and cannot be central beliefs of Christianity except that they are about tradition and community, but certainly not anything to do with being “saved”. That is, only if being Christian has anything to do with being like Christ and human solidarity and well being.

Is God triune? If so, good for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit! Can Jesus walk on water? If so, good for Jesus, isn’t that neat! Was Jesus raised from the dead? If so, that’s great for him; he really did get the crap end of the stick anyway and now he’s alright!

Do little pixies push the lifters in an engine? If I’m serious about manufacturing cars, should I say anything but “Who in the hell cares!”

And Christians wonder why there’s a huge reduction in UCMA membership. How can there be surprise at that?! Prospective members wanted to manufacture cars! They formed their own association that actually centers around … manufacturing cars! For the most part, they call themselves Secular Humanists or “Nons”.

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A Lapse In Good Judgment …

All it takes is a single, innocent lapse in hubris for the thought, “My theology could be wrong”, to creep in. Absolute disaster ensues when asking which others may be right. And hearing the reasons for each variant of Christianity only makes things worse; for you have gained understanding. But the utter gaffe comes next, realizing that belief has been made the center of Christianity, of salvation, of atonement.

Suddenly, as much as it pains but still for the lapse in hubris and in light of a vaporous centrality through understanding, a solution comes to mind! What if we find center by saying what is fundamental to Christianity is what all Christians agree on?

Three things become apparent. First is that all Christians believe Christ atones. Second is that no Christian collectively agrees on what atonement really means, because no Christian can agree on exactly what we’re being saved from, what divider between God and man Christ has removed, or how Christ atones in any case. These two things cancel each other out, leaving only a final agreement; the only possible thing which remains to call “fundamental” or “central” to Christianity is … well … to follow Jesus as exemplar in being human, to do as he did.

In a final but thankfully fleeting moment of lucidity, you realize all other Christian beliefs are only central to tradition and community.

But that was all a fleeting lapse, thank God. Of course everyone else is wrong about Jesus but me! What was I thinking after all! Silly me.

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The Confession

A person travelled the world caring for the needy, standing with the accused, adopting the orphan, feeding the hungry, befriending the outcast.

Was this person a Christian?

If you are inclined to say, “Well, unless the person tells me what he believes, I can’t say”, then I think you may want to introspect; for beliefs entail action. There is then no distinction to make between calling the person above a Secular Humanist or a Christian if both would do the same things. Both literally believe the same thing.

If there is some other confession inside Christianity that makes some kind of distinction, then it isn’t one that impacts behavior. And like James suggests with faith, what is any “belief” if no action is or can be taken as a result of it? A nice thought perhaps? Quite definitely inconsequential in any practical sense, and perversely moribund if such “nice thoughts” are said to be the centrality of Christianity; a triune God, the Eucharist, proper theology and orthodoxy, etc..

If the person above is as God intended a person to be all along, how is that person not also the logos of God literally? How is that person not the alethea of God, the expressed truth of human nature? How is this person not the zoe of God, and the hodos, the manner and mode humanity is to be in the world; the “way, truth, and life”? How does God not abide in this person while this person abides in God, by participating in the good that God is, and not merely doing the good?

Is it that he must confess something other than what his life already does?

Micha 6:6-8

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The Infomercial

Does anyone remember infomercials in the 80’s? Dave Del Dotto comes to mind. Dave knew you wanted to be rich. To work, you had to find Dave trustworthy, credible, and charismatic so that you would act. Once you did, purportedly you’d listen to him, follow his advice, and hear his promise of success in being rich in doing what he’d done.

It seems to me that Christians miss something in all of that.

Does being rich depend on Dave? How do you know you can trust Dave? Because of his charisma, the tales of his exploits, his je nes sais quoi? Or, do you find out, interested in that way of being, by doing what he says and seeing if it bears fruit?

It seems Christians are entirely committed to legendary elements of scripture, not possibly anything but literal rather than literary. It seems whomever Jesus was has bearing on your immortal soul rather than things said, intended merely to get you to listen and act. It seems that what’s been made central to Christianity has nothing to do with being a follower of Jesus the Nazarene.

It seems to me too, that whether or not Del Dotto is a charlatan and his credibility card pulled by the FTC, or whether or not theologians, or atheists for that matter, cast a long, long shadow on the nature of the man from Galilee, a Del Dottoan or a Christian is one who has done, in faith, and has found fruit in having acted, having no reason for faith any longer, save from its meanings of trust and confidence.

Too, a reminder needs to be made, for in being any way in the world — rich with money, with love, with friendships and so on — none of it is denotable by merely attaining the object of the pursuit. In any case, it is how we’ve spent ourselves in attaining rather than having something to spend that we’ve attained.

A lover will always find love, and business-minded person, business, a friend will always find a friend. Del Dotto and Christ, or Ziglar and Cicero or anyone else inviting you to a way of being in the world can only be asking you to understand his own mind, and where your faith must and can only be is in hearing that by doing, one comes to understand what they are like and how in the doing, one transforms their mind and is then as they are.

Just a thought.

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On Evangelicalism

Evangelism, truly it is the calling of every Christian. My thought is the meaning of what “good news” (the gospel) sounds like.

A so named Evangelical may find his tradition told this way, largely because he knows no other traditional gospel message than his historically new one:

“I have good news for you! You are a terrible wretch by nature and the object of God’s wrath. But, the unconditional love of God can be yours on the condition that you believe Jesus is God but not God, he died but didn’t, and paid the price for the nature he gave you, but didn’t, and your salvation is entirely up to you, but isn’t, if you only choose to believe all of this, but can’t.”

Other than outrageous the more one inspects that “good news”, the more one finds the shallow basis for it and little good is found in it.

“I have good news for you! God loves you as you are, unconditionally. Neither you nor He will be happy however, until you have the fullest life possible. Through the life of Christ, we see how humanity is supposed to be and committing ourselves to living as he did is the way to that life. You are your own judge and God wants you to stop it. Live for others and love and you will have found yourself and God in the middle of it all and everything will have changed for you, for God, and for others. The only choice is not much of one: can your life have more meaning and can this way of being in the world provide it?”

Two very different and distinct gospels. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone knows both views are scriptural, one is from Augustine or from Abelard, and so on. What matters is whether or not there’s good news in either, or in any of the dozen or so theories of atonement (which no Christian collectively agrees on). The story of the gospel you accept will be from a tradition basing theology on the problems you have for Christ to solve, be that fear of hell or the need of afterlives or be that existential angst and peace through “fitting in” to the human picture. All address purpose. All gospels, however they’re told, reduce to a purpose for you through a belief about the purpose of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no dogma for this man that has not been man-made long after his death.

What is a matter of fact is any gospel can be good news to someone else, but only if the story you’re telling is literally good news as they see it.

Culturally today with the decline of Evangelicalism proper, it’s easy to note that fewer people find its story good, and more and more, find it actually morally and intellectually bankrupt. The solution isn’t to be sectarian and damn the world for not getting it. It is for the Evangelical Christian to realize his is a tradition of thought and belief among many varied Christian thoughts and beliefs where many collide and clash often in total disagreement; each appealing to the same scriptures, showing only more so that either is indeed following a tradition of interpretation rather than some certain, propositional, unassailable truth.

Honestly, when society doesn’t have the “problem” of heaven and hell — which hell, fire, and damnation preachers of the 20 century actually removed by making it meaningless themselves, much like hearing Adele’s “Hello” continually played on every radio station, but for generations rather than a month or two — then hearing “Jesus died and rose again!” is only good news for Jesus.

At this crossroads in the entire body of Christ, it’s time to revisit very, very old songs that sung now, will seem completely new; finding a home because it is actually relevant again to the problems people really have today.

Just a thought.

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Why so little evidence for God. I tend to think that if God isn’t big enough to become insignificant, then He already is. So, where does humanity see God. In the otherwise insignificance of ourselves and the world; a smile, a butterfly, shooting star hurled to its death, a tear of hopelessness and the hand that wipes it away. If we think He is found elsewhere, then we ourselves make Him insignificant by putting Him outside of anything meaningful at all. If God ceases to be the poetry of ordinary life, then He’s far too extraordinary to matter at all.

Just a thought.

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