Saturday, August 30, 2003

Why One Way? 4


Why One Way? by John MacArthur

"A Christian worldview." "Authentic Christianity…is concerned first and foremost with truth" "Biblical Christianity is all about truth." "God's objective revelation (the Bible)…" One of the conservative Christian buzz phrases regarding scripture is propositional revelation. So we have the KJV and NASB (other translations, too?) laid out with each verse as a separate statement, a distinctive "proposition," so the reader can rest assured knowing it's all clean and neat and clearly defined.

why one way coverEarl, it looks as if you and I pulled out some of the same concepts from this chapter! I very much like Dr. Mac's saying on page 42, "Christian truth…isn't nullified by changes in worldly opinion or standards or political correctness. It doesn't need to be adapted and redefined for every generation." And, "The same truth Abraham, Moses, David and the apostles believed is still truth for us." Right on! And to be picky, Timothy's deutero-Paul! On page 45 he says what I wrote in an earlier post about letting scripture interpret scripture, so I gotta agree with him there, as well. Together with Earl, I like his saying, "Real faith involves the assent of the mind and the submission of the will to the truth." IOW, not a feeling, though I agree with Dr. Mac that reflecting on God's self revelation and salvation in the course of our human history will generate some extremely intense emotions.

But, "…the truth is instrumental in salvation? …hearing and embracing the truth…we are called…to proclaim Scripture as the supreme truth against every lie propagated by the world." ??? I'll think about that, though I need to say, "called to proclaim Christ Jesus crucified and risen!" And, of course to proclaim, "God still among us and God still with us!"

From Dr. Mac I want to hear about the possibility and the reality of transformative relationship(s), about our God who calls a people and in covenant creates a people. The biblical accounts of the people of God for sure are messy, untidy and frequently chaotic narratives of people living, loving, sinning and dying, but they're also about our God entering the people's history to the extent of tabernacling, of "pitching a tent" to live among the people, of God in Jesus Christ literally dying to love creation, and of God daring and risking to call the people – yes the people!!!!! – as God's partners in bringing salvation, wholeness and healing to a broken world. Why One Way? is a short book that can't possibly cover everything, but Dr. Mac is making Christianity too much of a head way rather than a relational heart way.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Why One Way? 3


Why One Way? by John MacArthur

why one way cover

Moving right along, or I would be, but I open every file I had about chapter 3 and the title, "Rationality" was the only content.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Why One Way? 2


Why One Way? by John MacArthur

One of the discussion participants posted: "The Bible in the UCC is viewed as "the authoritative witness to the Word of God" that's us right?"

Although I didn't participate in the survey you mentioned, I'd call the biblical witness "authoritative," though technically my description of its authority most likely would place me within the 30%. As we teach in Sunday school the Bible's not a history textbook, not a science textbook, not a book of rules and not a book of general religious platitudes, but a highly specific witness to the saving acts of a Holy, Transcendent, still-Living God as that Sovereign God calls and forms a covenant people, completing the redemption, liberation and deliverance of all creation in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the human one, Jesus of Nazareth, whom we affirm and celebrate as the ultimate and definitive manifestation of God.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority: for me, the biblical text has authority to the degree it "shows forth Christ," to paraphrase Martin Luther, which some passages do splendidly, others really not at all.

why one way coverCurrently I'm without call, but people in the congregations I've served literally have been all over the map in their views of biblical authority, from a scattered few who openly said they wanted "nothing to do with that old Bible stuff," to folks who were literalists to the last comma and period – though not necessarily KJV adherents – to some others who considered the Bible an authority in a vague, exceptionally freewheeling manner, to a bunch that pretty much concurred with most of my interpretations (must've been listening to me!).

M said, "And sometimes God-truth gets made the most real in story, myth and song. Then as now." And I respond, "Amen, amen, and AMEN!!!"

Dr. Mac "truthfully" loses me when he writes (page 24), "But if we really believe Scripture is the Word of God, why should we balk at saying it has an objective meaning, it is absolutely true, and all other interpretations are false!...The Bible is God's revelation to us." The cultures into which the biblical texts were revealed and recorded simply didn't run with the same post-enlightenment view of truth, objectivity and accuracy we've inherited from the Enlightenment, and which, as he admits, post-modernism has pretty much discredited. As I said last evening, for me, as a Reformation Christian, Jesus Christ is the "true" Word of God; the sacraments are visible words, too. Although casually I frequently refer to scripture as the "Word of God," Christ Jesus is God's definitive Word of revelation, telling us of our created-in-the Divine-image-humanity, God's Word insisting on justice (the righteousness of God!) for all creation, the still-speaking Divine Word of Life.

Dr. Mac claims, "Scripture…is also sufficient to equip us thoroughly with all the spiritual truth we need." If by "spiritual truth" he means revelation about the Holy and Transcendent Other self-revealed in Jesus Christ, I'll agree. And for sure there are many times that the written words of scripture leap off the Bible's pages to become incarnate and human in various ways, but Dr. Mac appears to be seeking the kinds of cut-and-dried answers we can't obtain anywhere as we live in this world.

Our author uses the expressions, "authentic Christianity" and "historic Christianity." But it seems as if he's not particularly in touch with Christianity's historic and cultural – and religious – origins! So I'm struggling to converse with Dr. Mac, since he and I seem to be running on divergent tracks.

But I'm still thinking!

J, excellent points, thanks! Some of Dr. Mac's writing does sound biblio-idolatrous, and indeed, the decision to canonize which books was very rooted in culture and history; IOW, for cultural and historical reasons we (on this thread) might decide different writings "should" be canonical.

I don't hear enough about the person and work of Jesus Christ from Dr. Mac, though the book's title references the "One Way" of Jesus Christ. Go figure.

W wrote, "I worry when we take the Bible as THE ONLY word of God. God speaks in so many ways…when I disagree with the "message" do I ignore it because I disagree... when MAYBE the message is coming from God?"

Part of F's response included, "Perhaps some of us dwell too much on the written Word and do not stop to listen to God's spoken Word in our hearts and minds. In learning to listen to God's spoken Word, we may also learn to listen to God's written Word in a new way!"

Yes, yes, yes – it's about the Word again becoming a reality we can sense and therefore really appreciate and appropriate as a part of us, part of our very living, breathing and relating – an incarnate word! W, I know discerning the spirit behind the message has gotta be one of the most difficult things we do, and despite all the classical "tests" we can perform to decide the validity of the message, sheer human obstinacy still often remains in the foreground and in the background…you KWIM! The day finally arrives when all a person can do is what they see as the most likely and least unlikely choice.

M, your words remind me of my writing a couple of days ago that I think I was a better preacher and teacher before I'd learned quite so much about the incredible complexities of biblical interpretation! As I just said to W, as the deadlines loom, sometimes you need to Just do it ® – to quote and credit Nike from a couple years back.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Biblical Christianity

The Church in the World

Doing yet another CROP Walk, helping build another Habitat for Humanity have become expected Christian “works.” People have told me they think my “religiousness” is silly or superstitious. I can roll with it, though! Because biblical Christianity ain’t popular! But if one simply were a “spiritual” person, that’d probably be OK with most of the rest of society. It’s the activism, the concern for the sojourner, the stranger, the “other” whom our God became in Christ Jesus that makes us less than trendy. I like describing Christians as “salt and light!” I’ll add “leaven” to that, as well.

To comment on “modernism ‘…began with a presupposition that nothing supernatural is real…’” Much of the world’s offense regarding the Bible remains its peculiarly and particularly not-spiritual witness, though of course I acknowledge it as the narrative describing a Holy Transcendent Other’s actions and interventions in creation’s life and history that makes its witness so physical and material!

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Why One Way? 1

The Church in the World

Why One Way? by John MacArthur

Moving into chapter 1: first of all, thank you, thank you to our moderator for your most gracious "facilitation" of our discussion! Thanks everyone else for participating, too.

Have I ever been "seriously 'hated'" for believing in something so fully? I've being called inappropriate, unchristian and who knows what else, because I do insist on taking a stand and why one way coverwhenever necessary I insist on demonstrating my convictions. The lonely individual stance is what's difficult – doing yet another CROP Walk, helping build another Habitat for Humanity have become expected Christian "works." The same as M's experience, people have told me they think my "religiousness" is silly or superstitious. I can roll with it, though! Because biblical Christianity ain't popular! But if one simply were a "spiritual" person, that'd probably be OK with most of the rest of society. It's the activism, the concern for the sojourner, the stranger, the "other" whom our God became in Christ Jesus that makes us less than trendy. I love E's describing us as "salt and light!" I'll add "leaven" to that, as well.

To comment on modernism "…began with a presupposition that nothing supernatural is real…" Much of the world's offense regarding the Bible remains its peculiarly and particularly not-spiritual witness, though of course I acknowledge it as the narrative describing a Holy Transcendent Other's actions and interventions in creation's life and history that makes its witness so physical and material! That's all for now; I'll be back tomorrow!

Saturday, August 16, 2003

On Heaven

Desert Spirits Fire on Heaven

I'll comment on what seems to be the central concern. Yes, I believe ultimately everyone will "go to heaven" – once again, Jesus promises to "draw all to himself." The gift of reconciliation, restoration, wholeness, healing is offered to all – and when God offers a gift, God never rescinds the offer – God's Word is sure and God cannot contradict Godself: in Christ Jesus, the incarnation of the Eternal Word, we have physical evidence of the fulfillment of all God's promises, although I'm not a universalist in the sense that I consider all "religions," all "ways" equally good and valid. Back to Elmer: I agree that whatever heaven is, it definitely needs to be "different from our present reality," though we catch glimpses of the heaven experience off and on, now and again. Doesn’t this get back to our definition of "heaven" – whether it's a here-and-now, a hereafter-now, or some of both (which is what I consider heaven to be). Being bold with my experiences and emotions again, I'll say "homecoming" is my definitive description of heaven.

Election? Well, (semi-)orthodox Reformed theologian that I am, I believe in election, but I read the Bible as proclaiming God has elected every part of creation to be redeemed, reconciled, made whole – whatever terminology works for you. Since linear time is a gift of God's condescension to humanity/creation, and because God is outside of and beyond both time and space, God has foreknowledge of any "future" creation may experience.

"Does the Bible make exclusive claims?" Yes!!!!! The song of the scriptures we affirm sings of a God of Sovereignty and Glory, a God Who expresses power and dominion in love, mercy – and justice; a God Who reveals his Glory ultimately in becoming one of us, in being "high and lifted up" on a cross of shame in solidarity with society's outcasts, those he declares most worthy of positions at his right and at his left. Scripture sings of a holy, righteous God of justice Whose children also partake of the Divine crucified glory.

For me the Bible's and Jesus' central message (in Marty Haugen's words in his "Now the Feast and Celebration") remains:

For God has come to dwell with us
to make us people of God
to make all things new!!!

And I've long assumed our faithful God will eternally indwell all creation.

Friday, August 01, 2003

More Theology of the Cross Notes

When I saw your introductory post for Chapter 4b I started thinking before reading, and a few minutes ago I checked our thread again where you said, "What I think IS foolishness, a stumbling block, and just plain ANATHEMA to our culture is the Christian claim that we are not made for ourselves, we do not live for ourselves and we do not die for ourselves." Exactly! I was planning to respond to your previously asking, “Just what is it about our faith that is 'foolishness' to our culture?” And I’ll say that peculiar foolishness is evident in our proclaiming we worship the foolishness, the indignity, of our God crucified; when we proclaim the reality of resurrection, when we aspire to living in the weakness, vulnerability, shame and dishonor of servanthood rather than existing in the comfort and triumph of being served. This gets back to the un-churched and de-churched considering Christianity yet another possible selection on the smorgasbord of spiritual delights: it's all about "me and me," and maybe peripherally about "I" but not about an "I" truly connected to any other "I." Our God crucified, dead – and risen – isn't about prosperity thinking, isn't about conspicuous achievement; it's unreasonable and illogical and unscientific.