Monday, March 27, 2006

The House You Live In

As I was driving to St. Louis from Nashville last week, I was listening to some music that I had not listened to in a long time. One of the songs really spoke to me that morning and related to the simplicity of Christian discipleship. It is the simple things about discipleship that we gloss over that have the greatest impact. Much too often we gloss over them and tackle the theologically tough issues because it is actually easier to debate unclear points than to execute the simple and clear points. I hope you find the song as refreshing as I did.

The House You Live In
Go first in the world, go forth with your fears
Remember a price must be paid
Be always too soon, be never too fast
At the time when all bets must be laid
Beware of the darkness, be kind to your children
Remember the woman who waits
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate

When you're caught by the gale and you're full under sail
Beware of the dangers below
And the song that you sing should not be too sad
And be sure not to sing it too slow
Be calm in the face of all common disgraces
And know what they're doing it for
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you're out on the road and feeling quite lost
Consider the burden of fame
And he who is wise will not criticize
When other men fail at the game
Beware of strange faces and dark dingy places
Be careful while bending the law
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you're down in the dumps and not ready to deal
Decide what it is that you need
Is it money or love, is it learning to live
Or is it the mouth you must feed
Be known as a man who will always be candid
On questions that do not relate
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate
Gordon Lightfoot from Summertime Dream 1976

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Salvation and Looking to the Cross

As Christians, we often hear or say look to the Cross of Christ for our salvation. This is almost always said meaning that it was Jesus' sacrifice, death, and resurrection that has saved us. This statement references the act of God giving of Himself through the Son and the act of the Son in regards to mankind's salvation.

But what about mankind's role in salvation? What are the mechanism from our side that are needed to fulfill our personal salvation? we have much debate.

"It is grace alone--the actions of God."

"No, not grace alone. You also have to believe that Christ was the Son, that He was from God. You have to belief in the death and resurrection."

"And there must also be repentance by man."

"Yes, but there must also be baptism."

"What form must this baptism take? Immersion, sprinkling, do they all count?

"How you live your life afterwards surely cannot be ignored!" And the debates continue on.

Today while reading in Luke 23, I was struck by verses, 39-43, one of those light-bulb moments that sets the mind racing. Reading these verses, I pondered if we could turn to the Cross in a much more literal sense for insight into the debate above.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42 The he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

In this example we have confession: we are guilty and getting what we deserve. We have belief in Christ: ...come into your kingdom. In this instance this was enough for salvation. So can we look to the Cross for insight on this topic?

What are your thoughts readers?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Understanding Scripture Discussion

The comments on my last post ended with a discussion about understanding and accepting scripture that I feel was left hanging. This is a critical issue for any Christian. So, I post excerpts from the last few comments to spur further discussion. Intricately involved in this issue is faith, which was also a discussion point in the last post. I will start off with a definition of faith that I penned in a journal entry.

Faith: that part of our belief that supercedes facts, contradictions, doctrine, law, and emotion--that part beyond anything knowable. -- Tony Arnold, 9/21/2003

Now let me seque into the discussion of understanding scripture, keeping the above comment on faith as a back drop.

Brent wrote: My conclusion (as well as that of many other Christians) is that the texts which we have today are a compilation of interpretive writings. What I mean is this: Those who wrote the originals were not "inspired" miraculously so that people 2,000 years later would know the truth of the events during the time of Jesus. The Gospels are a collection of writings which present the early Christian traditions that existed at that time (30-90 years later). The Gospels are not recorded history, but history interpreted. Scholars now surmise that many early Christian writings are forever lost. . . . It is not surprising that Constantine was sick of all the schisms in Christianity and decided to call the first council to get everyone on the same page. Unfortunately it was too late. By the 4th century too much damage to the various Jesus traditions had been done.This isn't DaVinci code stuff here. This is information that historians have discovered over the last 2 centuries (expecially the last 20 years).

Phil asked: Brent, if what you say is true, does that keep Scripture from being something that can and/or should be followed?

Brent wrote: To view scripture as something to live by or follow is fine as far as I'm concerned. However, when selected ancient writings are classified as Scripture ... and deified so that individuals can claim to "know the Truth," those followers will be exclusive, judgmental, arrogant, and condescending toward the rest of the blind world. In my opinion, that is not the love of Christ. It is triumphalism.

Phil asked: So how do you [we] decide which parts of Scripture are worth following and which aren't?

Brent answered: The best answer seems to be through the collective community. This is the best (in my opinion) but more difficult approach. Personalities clash and opinions differ across spectrums ofinterpretation. ... I must add that I don't think that the Bible is something that can be figured out. An open-minded community shouldn't set out on a mission to decide which books of the Bible to keep or throw away, which Gospel is the most accurate or who's interpretation of a passage is the best. No. It may be healthier for the community (local as well as worldwide) to simply take a humble position and learn from one another instead of pointing fingers of condemnation at dissenters. If this isn't done, Bishop Spong may be correct - Christianity may die.

Please do not mistake a link for your investigation purpose as an endorsement or denouncement of any one person or viewpoint. These are very real issues being wrestled with in the Christian community and each Christian needs to have a firm understanding of their belief and faith.

The only comment I will make at this time is that I am completely confident that Christianity won't die. Christ already died in order to defeat death and He rose again. Christianity cannot die for this very reason. Now, that comment may spark enough discussion within itself. So weigh in everyone--on faith, on scriptural authority, and/or on the viability of Christianity.