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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Progress?

I'd often had this discussion with my mentor Sidd. What part of being a christian is culture and what part is true faith?

I guess this is the fundamental issue that cause protestanism to splinter off into a myriad of 'sects', Presbyterians, Methodists, Brethren, Baptists, Evangelicals, Anglicans, Episcopalian and that's just the beginning.

Sometimes, I'm not surprised by why we have trouble converting people. What's the difference between all these divisions? why do we even have these divisions? Does anyone have the monopoly on truth? If they don't, by what right does one go out to 'convert' others to their faith? The whole issue of the subjective faith comes to play.

Many of the divisions in the protestant faith a cultural... I went to school 4 hrs drive from deeply Amish communities, and more than one occasion, have driven by horse driven carts with all manners of reflectors attached but no electric bulb. I've often asked myself, "what makes me different from them?" Am I less likely to be go to heaven because I've failed to follow certain practices?

I suppose if we took the lowest common denominator, "Accept Jesus as your personal saviour". But this dumbs down many of the other aspects of christianity, the community, the works of faith.

Sometimes it's all too confusing, and many times I've listened to sunday morning sermons with advice and guidance that are mostly cultural... Lyn's had pastors that admonished 'cookie monster' from sesame street as demonic because it was a monster, and yet others that objected to harry potter without giving an credible rational for such an objection.

When I hear instances of these things happening, I feel several things. 1. Shame, for having the same faith as these people. 2. Anger at these people who blatantly imprint their personal (and cultural) preferences on others in the guise of 'faith'. 3. Sad that we (I) don't do anything to correct such people in order to give them 'respect'.

Christianity is so embedded in culture (having assimilated many others into it's fold) that it's hard to tell the difference.

BRMC installed a Christmas tree (which is an established pagan druidic ritual). We all celebrate 25th Dec as Christmas (which is also the pagan date of the vernal equinox and most theologians regard August as a likely month of Jesus. Or even this shocker... The name 'Jesus' is a typo.

The name of the person we call 'Jesus' in the bible is actually Yeshua, which translates to Joshua. The name 'Jesus' is actually a latin translation error made in the late 600s, when bibles were very rare and always hand copied.

3 Comments:

Anonymous captain vegetable said...

I hear ya. However, it muddies the issue to say that ‘divisions in the protestant faith are cultural’. Most of the historically significant divisions between denominations in any sector of the church – and Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy all have their different strains – have been based on differences of doctrine. The cultural trappings, however prominent they seem now, came later.

Given that we are told specifically not to say that we are 'of Paul' or 'of Apollos' in Corinthians, it follows that any disunity within the church grieves God. However, He continues to affirm Christians of every stripe, because they do their best to love Him.

ALL of being a ‘true Christian’ is about faith. God is above culture – the message of the gospel is universal. (why do you think Jesus let Himself be defined by His words alone in the Gospels, and there is no physical description of Him in there? I reckon part of the answer is so that there would be no barrier to anyone of any race picturing Him.)
Nevertheless, our practice of Christianity (as opposed to the foundation of our Christianity) is admixed with culture, because humans are cultural beings. It is pointless to hark back to a truly ‘cultureless’ faith – like, they didn’t have culture in 1st century Galilee? - but it IS right and good that we desire the fervency of faith that those first Christians had.

So what do we have in common with them? Only one thing: the same Holy Spirit that filled them, fills us. John 16:12-14 says: 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

So what can we do, if we are disillusioned by the gap we perceive between the church visible and the church in her full glory?

1) abandon the faith completely – throw the baby out with the bathwater.
2) sit on the edges of the church, and carp on and criticise it without participating in its renewal. (The god-blogosphere is full of this…)
3) love the church – pray for her – embrace and pass on truth as it is revealed to us by the Spirit – identify, expose, and reject fellowship with, any works of darkness - love those who don’t know God, knowing that it is not we who ‘convert’ them, but rather the Spirit – love those who DO know God, remembering that we are called not to judge but to love and encourage.

It is one thing to spot slipshod discernment in our pastors about faith/cultural issues – but then again, how many of us then make an effort to sit down and talk to our pastors about these things, and how many of us seriously pray for them to be clear channels of God’s thoughts? And how many of us affirm them when they preach a GOOD sermon? I speak as someone very guilty in all these respects.

Derek Webb (derekwebb.com) is an American signer-songwriter who in his music and ministry has been calling the church to awareness of its failings… and pointing out to all in it that the easy road is to criticise or reject the church, but the high road is to invest themselves in its transformation. I recommend his stuff to anyone who cares to think about these things…here are some of the lyrics to his hymn-ballad called (appropriately enough) ‘The Church’:

I have come with one purpose
to capture for Myself a bride
by My life she is lovely
by My death she’s justified

I have always been her Husband
though many lovers she has known
so with water I will wash her
and by My word alone

so when you hear the sound of the water
you will know you’re not alone

‘cause I haven’t come for only you
but for My people to pursue
you cannot care for Me, with no regard for her
if you love Me you will love the church

I have long pursued her
as a harlot and a whore
but she will feast upon Me
she will drink and thirst no more

so when you taste My flesh and my blood
you will know you’re not alone

‘cause I haven’t come for only you
but for My people to pursue
you cannot care for Me, with no regard for her
if you love Me you will love the church

there is none that can replace her
though there are many who will try
and though some may be her bridesmaids
they can never be My bride

‘cause i haven’t come for only you
but for My people to pursue
you cannot care for Me, with no regard for her
if you love Me you will love the church

12:47 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

6:03 pm

 
Anonymous Aargafella said...

Minor aside- the pagan origin of Christmas is by no means universally accepted: "The pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the 'pagan origins of Christmas' is a myth without historical substance."

Read the rest of this excellent article here- http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

11:30 am

 

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