Archive for category tolerance
Posted by Christian Beyer in Bible, biblical literalism, Christianity, Emerging Church, Evangelism, Faith, Fundamentalism, God, Gospel, Heresy, Heterodoxy, History, Jesus, Orthodoxy, Religion, Religious Right, Religious Tolerance, salvation, Spirituality, Substitutionary Atonement, Theology, tolerance on January 28, 2011
Over on the Wall Street Journal blog, one of the members has (hopefully) started a thread by asking this question:
How do Christians define Christians? What makes you or not a Christian?
I often come across the argument that “said person is not a real Christian”, many tend to use this argument to exclude particulars who happen to shame the religion calling themselves part of it, or act in the name of it.
I think it would be interesting to see, how does every one define it, is it simply believing in a higher authority?. Is it taking every literal word of the bible?. Is it following the “reasonable” aspects of the bible?
Now, so far, only one person has given an answer, and it is one that I suspect the majority of American Christians would agree with:
A Christian is somebody who believes that Christ died on the Cross and shed his blood as the ultimate atonement(replacement for the blood sacrifice of the Old Testament law) for the sins of mankind. They believe that Christ is who He said He is. ie, The Son of God, and therefore God Himself. The concept of the Trinity applies here. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christ was the product of the immaculate conception. Christ was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. Isaiah 53:3-7 is an example, among others of the prophesy.
The first chapter of John in the New testament, gives a good representation of what Christians believe about Christ.
To be saved (ie a Christian), is nothing more then the realization that man is born into sin, and the acceptance and acknowledgment of the free gift of eternal life(made possible because of Christ sacrifice on the Cross), that is offered to mankind, should they(exhibit their “free will”) except it. It is nothing more then Gods grace being demonstrated through mans faith.
If all of the above needs to be believed in order to be a Christian, then I guess I am not one. Of course, for many reasons I think the above definition, although perhaps “orthodox”, is incorrect.
Over on Ric Booth’s blog there is an interesting conversation taking place about a new organization that John Shore is spear-heading called ThruWAy Christians, particularly their controversial acceptance of gays and lesbians. The stated goal of ThruWAy Christians is to provide moderate Christians with a new forum. As it says on their website: “If you find conservative Christianity too oppressive and exclusionary, and progressive Christianity too theologically tenuous, you’re probably a ThruWay Christian.” Which means that, though I agree with much of the content of their founding document, my theology is much too “tenuous” (something which I am sure the Conservative Christians could accuse the ThruWay people).
Surprisingly, I don’t believe my theology is any weaker than theirs or any one else. It’s different to be sure. Maybe not as orthodox as they would like. And like Christianity, it is evolving. But that doesn’t mean that it is “flimsy, insubstantial or lacking in strength”. This is a charge that the orthodox have always levied at those who had the audacity to question theological authority.
The good folks over at ThruWAy Christian are not really challenging conservative Christian theological authority, though. They are only challenging the conservative interpretations of certain scriptures that they believe lead to intolerant and mean spirited attitudes and behavior. But I would suggest that the overarching theology that both the moderates and the conservatives still hold in common ( much of which has been condensed by the commenter from the WSJ blog and jives with the first line of ThruWay’s creed ) is actually what drives this intolerance. And has for centuries.
I ‘ve found that it is nearly impossible for Christian moderates to engage Fundamentalists in any meaningful dialog that might result in a change of perception on the part of either, so I’ve given up on it myself. If this is the goal of the folks at ThruWAy, well then, have at it. But if they would be open-minded enough to engage some Christians whose convictions are not quite as solid, substantial or strong as theirs then perhaps they might find that ‘progressive’ is not such a bad word after all.
Having once been an adherent myself, this is my understanding of why Christian Fundamentalists are so zealous about Creationism:
… accept the theory of Evolution as the most reasonable explanation for the variety of life on Earth
….accept the geological evidence that says that the Earth is billions of years old
…accept the astronomical evidence that the Universe is much older than even the Earth
…obviously do not read the Bible literally
…do not believe that the Biblical creation account is true
…cannot trust that anything else in the Bible is true
…cannot accept God’s Word as true
…under the influence of Satan
So, in fundamentalist eyes, conventional scientific inquiry is not necessarily flawed but profoundly dangerous. In order to protect the philosophically unassailable conclusions of Creationism, which are based solely upon Biblical texts, any tactic that can discredit the conventional scientific wisdom is acceptable, particularly the ad hominem argument
But the defense of Creationism becomes more difficult as scientific research continues to reveal evidence for the natural history of our planet and the workings of the Universe. This evidence cannot be ignored so it must be re-interpreted, but always through the lens of the Bible. In this way the geologic and fossil evidence can be explained ‘scientifically’ through the extrapolation of Biblical stories, particularly the story of the Flood.
As it turns out, the Flood is a convenient refutation of just about all the physical evidence that supports evolution and an old Earth, at least for those who believe in Biblical Creation. It is the point at which the Creationists and the Evolutionist continue to bump heads. Because, though the Evolutionists can say that the Flood is merely a convenient myth that neatly gives religious answers to questions about the Earth, the Creationists can reply that yes, indeed it does. The Flood explains everything. But it is no myth
Without the Flood and the story of Noah and his Ark, there would be little if any support for the theory of Creationism. This is the mechanism that provides an air of ‘scientific’ legitimacy to their position, one that incorporates physical evidence coupled with a theory that is irrefutable, as it cannot be tested. When this theory is questioned on the basis of obvious evidence to the contrary, the Creationists are left with no choice but to fall back upon a supernatural explanation that is often the result of a non-contextual rendering of a Bible verse. ( i.e. “all things are possible with God”)
It obviously boils down to a question of faith, not science. If one definition of faith is that it is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, then Creationism cannot be called science. Yet another definition of faith is trust, confidence in someone or something, without the necessary evidence to support it.
If ultimately the Creationist position is supported by an article of faith that cannot be tested, then why spend all this energy on modifying school science texts so that they teach Intelligent Design or the ongoing construction of numerous Creation museums (one intent of which is to ridicule modern science and scientists)? It is a classic example of “preaching to the choir” and comes across as a desperate attempt to present evidence necessary to “prove” the existence of God. Because there just isn’t enough faith.
As reported on today’s CNN another Christian music artist, Jennifer Knapp, has come out of the closet and announced that she is homosexual.
After selling about a million records and winning at Christian music’s prestigious Dove Awards in 1999, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter simply vanished in 2003 — leaving fans wondering where she had gone. There were countless theories as to why Knapp checked out, including the possibility of illness.
But the one that raised the most ruckus among her die-hard fans was the one which proved to be true: Jennifer Knapp is gay.
So, far I haven’t seen too much ruckus, but give it time. It’s a comin’. Yet a breaking article on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website was surprisingly even-handed. Could this be a sign that a new, broader Evangelical mindset is evolving?
CNN was able to find some typical neo-Evangelical criticism, but when you consider the name of this fellow’s organization, what would you expect?
Rev. DL Foster is the founder of the Gay Christian Movement Watch Web site and said he believes as society has become more accepting of homosexuality, Knapp and other artists are finding it easier to go public.
“For a person to try and combine [being gay and being a Christian music artist] is not biblically correct, and I would hope that the church would reject such music because it does not represent us,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t matter if you are openly gay or closeted gay, sin is still sin.”
I find it interesting that what made her so endearing to her fans before, her music and her lyrics, have now apparently become unworthy for holy ears. It’s not like she wasn’t gay when she wrote them. But Knapp isn’t surprised.
Knapp said she realizes that some fans will now view her earlier work with lyrics about inner turmoil as evidence of the struggle between her beliefs and her sexuality. But she says she has always struggled as a person of faith to be the person she wants to be, and her sexuality was only a part of that, she said.
God has always known she would walk this path, Knapp said.
“I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being,” she said. “If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be.”
As already noted, Knapp isn’t the first Christian music artist brave enough to declare their sexual orientation is outside of the neo-Evangelical mainstream:
In 2008, Christian singer/songwriter Ray Boltz came out as a gay man after a 20-year career in the industry. In 2009, gospel star Tonex went public with his homosexuality as a guest on “The Lexi Show,” a popular program on the Christian channel The Word Network.
Lexi, who is also a gospel music artist, said that while many in the Christian music industry are aware of who is gay, “we don’t talk about it, because that’s the unspoken rule.”
Lexi said she doubts most fans will ever fully embrace an openly gay artist, but she points to other artists who have been able to straddle the line between secular music and songs of faith.
“I think some Christians will totally avoid [Knapp] and say that she is the devil and all that, but there are some that are more open who will embrace her new material,” Lexi said. “Then she will find a new audience.”
Undoubtedly she already has. But I think what we are seeing are more signs that the traditional Evangelical (and Roman Catholic) churches are going to have to find new audiences.
“Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free.” [Pat Buchanan, 1993]
“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” [Ann Coulter, 2001]
“In the coming years an endless struggle will be waged across five continents, a struggle in which either violence or dialogue will prevail. Granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of the latter. But I have always thought that if the man who places hope in the human condition is a fool, then he who gives up hope in the face of circumstances is a coward. Henceforth, the only honor will lie in obstinately holding to a formidable gamble: that words are stronger than bullets.” [Albert Camus, 1946]
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” [Proverbs 15:1]
I’ve been fortunate to land a part-time job working with youth at a local Presbyterian (USA) church. Realizing that I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the doctrines of any denomination aside from Roman Catholicism and Methodism, I picked up a little book called Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt – a Theological Survival Guide for Youth, Parents, and other Confused Presbyterians written by two Presbyterian ministers; Ted V. Foote Jr. and P. Alex Thornburg. The book is published by Geneva Press, an arm of the Presbyterian Publishing Company so I figure that it’s pretty orthodox.
I’ve found the book to be very refreshing and the theology is right in line with my own evolving beliefs. Their use of the phrase “Bible Belt” doesn’t refer to a geographical place but a theological and spiritual state of mind, one that I am very familiar with. In particular, I appreciated their discussion of heaven and hell, a topic which has been a bone of contention when talking to Hyper-Reformed Calvinists.
The question of heaven and hell are of primary importance for the neo-evangelical in the Bible Belt. In many ways, the concern about the destiny of one’s soul in the afterlife is the motivating force for accepting Jesus into your heart. As we noted earlier, many neo-evangelicals consider the future salvation of your soul to be dependant on your conversion, your acceptance of Jesus into your heart. “If you don’t, God won’t save you.” Therefore, the ultimate reason for accepting Jesus is to ensure your place in heaven. The life of faith is really just a kind of ‘heaven insurance” so that you can be certain of being fitted with wings and a halo. You “take out the policy” by believing and doing the right things, and then it’s paid off when you die and you get your reward. Heaven is the place for people who paid the right dividends on their hell insurance. (we never thought of ministers as insurance salespersons, but it fits the metaphor.)
Obviously, there are a number of problems with this view of the world, or the afterworld. Not the least is the prevailing attitude that it’s always “our people” who get into heaven and the bad guys, usually anyone who doesn’t quite believe and act the way we think they should, who end up being cast into hell. Heaven becomes an exclusive country club for the beautiful people who can look down at those sinners in the ghetto of hell and feel sorry for them.
Well said, though I am embarassed to say that not too long ago the idea of my faith as ’heaven insurance’ would have had a nice ring to it. If I get nothing else out of this little book I’ve learned a new word that will be seeing some regular use: neo-evangelist. I love it.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the goats on his right and the sheep on his left.
Then the King will say to the goats, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me with holy words, I was thirsty and you took away my strong drink. I was a stranger and you set high standards for friendship, I needed clothes and you shamed me in my nakedness then gave me your castoffs, I was sick and you told me to pray for healing, I was in prison and you said it was what I deserved.’
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whenever you admonished the least of these brothers of mine, you made my job easier.’
Then he will say to the sheep, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you only gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing but drink, I was a stranger and you only invited me in, I needed clothes and you took me shopping, I was sick and in prison and all you did was visit with me.’
‘I tell you the truth, whenever you spent your worldly efforts on one of the least of these you pushed them even farther away from salvation.’
Then the weak and soft sheep will go away to eternal punishment, but the strong and righteous goats to eternal life.