Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where are we at? What about Jesus Christ?



I believe that most who are advocating for the ordination of practicing homosexuals are in actuality denying the Lordship of Christ. But they are, first of all, denying orthodox Christology. To put it in the words of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, they are not listening to “Jesus Christ as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” (8:11)

On the extreme progressive side some are moving into a position of denying not only Christ but even the idea of God. An example is John Shuck , his Presbytery , who upholds his beliefs, and the Witherspoon Society, who recommends his blog postings. Shuck’s views provide most orthodox Christians with a fairly clear understanding that the issues being promoted by extreme progressives are inherently about the rejection of Christ and his word.

But even those with Evangelical views, such as Mark Achtemeier, who have held to a high Christology, who now advocate for the ordination of practicing homosexuals, are, as I see it, moving away from their original orthodox view. Sometimes that is done by avoiding the full exegesis of biblical texts. That is, one only looks at part of the passage rather than the whole. This is generally done without the intent of changing the words of Jesus but nonetheless it does allow for deaf ears when one encounters the whole word of God. It therefore gives the Church permission to disobey the Christological content of scripture especially as it relates to Christian leadership and Christian marriage.

Recently in the rationale of several overtures passed by Hudson River Presbytery one sees the move away from a proper Christology. (see 100114_hrp_minutes.doc(43 kb) [1]The overture changes “Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship,”(W-4.9001) to “Marriage is a covenant between two people (“the couple”) and according to the laws of the state also constitutes a civil contract. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which the couple are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.” Part of the rationale is:

“Marriage is beyond gender. It refers to the commitment of two people to live beside each other with a love expressed as tenderness and justice. It refers to the deep promise to live together through the thick and thin of their journey together through the years. It refers to the mystery in which the love of God meets, is joined to and made manifest in the love of two people whose hearts are a home place to each.”

Two things are happening in both the change and the rationale that are an attack on biblical Christology. The first is that in an attempt to “move the Church away from fear and reprisal” of “ecclesiastical charges” by adopting this overture its advocates are listening to both State and culture over against the words of Jesus Christ who defines marriage as between a man and a woman. (see Matthew 19:4-6) The outcome of this policy: the Church rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The second way Christology is being attacked is by the inference that the love relationship of two people is a place where God’s love meets, joins (the homosexual or heterosexual love) and is made manifest. This is not even true of marriage between a man and a woman. If one looks at the most basic biblical text that intertwines Christian marriage with Christ there is not even a hint that such coupling is that place where God’s love is revealed. (See Eph 5:22-33)

Instead the relationship between a husband and wife is pictured as that between Christ and his Church. Instead of the knowledge and experience of God’s love being found in marriage, knowledge about marriage is founded on God’s love already revealed in the love of God as known in the Incarnation. We meet God’s love in Christ and Christ alone. Nothing else stands beside him, Jesus Christ as found in Holy Scripture is God’s revelation. The outcome of this theology: the Church rejects God’s revelation, Jesus Christ.

So I ask again the questions I have titled this posting: Where are we at? What about Jesus Christ?


[1] I cannot find the overtures on their web page but I do have a copy.

132 comments:

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Oh Viola, I can't tell you how deeply this vexes my soul. I came to find my place in the Church and receive my call to presbyteral ministry through my time at PSF ETSU. I poured three years of my life into building a successful campus ministry there. This grieves me and my wife so personally, words fail.

The previous director, an elder, was of a Barthian mindset but fairly dealt with more traditional believers. And he was thoughtful, compassionate, generous, and able to laugh at himself while taking the things of God utterly serious.

How far Holston has fallen in a span of 5 short years.

Be vigilant, remnant Presbyterians; your presbytery can turn quicker than you'd ever imagine possible.

Viola Larson said...

I'm sorry Chris I didn't mean to pull you into a personal place of grief. But now you know how to pray (even more).
Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

Viola


I don’t read systematic theology and have never put much stock in nice neat, orderly, and coherent reductions of matters of faith like our confessions. Somehow I imagine that the orthodoxy you espouse is nothing more the syncretism of Greek, Hebrew, and other traditions up to Calvin and Westminster when everything froze.


I find Mark Achtemeier’s talk at the Covenant Network convincing which should be no surprise to you.


Have you considered the possibility that John Shuck personifies everything you find objectionable about all of us on the other side? There is something unhealthy about this obsession of yours

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Debbie said...

John McNeese, did you condsider Viola's arguments, or in your comment did you just intend to be dismissive by making put-down remarks about what you consider to be the non-depth of her thinking and her supposed obsession?

It would have been far more interesting if you could have actually responded to the arguments in her posting. As it is, it's hard to find anything of substance in your comment. Why should anyone be persuaded to think like you?

Debbie said...

Oops, Debbie Berkley, Bellevue, WA.

Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

John, I don't find people, in general, objectionable at all. It is their actions and some of their ideas that I sometimes find objectionable. People, themselves I usually find fairly amazing. Of course people like Hitler, Stalin and Idi Amin yes they are objectionable.

So John what are your views on Jesus Christ? What do you have to say about Jesus' views on marriage in Matthew 19:4-6? What do you think about that first part of the Declaration of Barmen where we are to obey Jesus Christ as we find him in Holy Scripture?

John Shuck does bother me because he so brazenly denies my Lord while holding an office that is meant, by way of ordination, to glorify, love and proclaim Jesus Christ. And it bothers me that so many others allow this to go on, even encourage it. There is a word for that it is called apostasy.

But I used him as an extreme to show that from the extreme progressive to the evangelical who denies the words of Christ there is a growing movement of those who are deserting orthodox Christology.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

Viola

We can go round and round on this. How about:

I believe that most who are advocating for the ordination of divorced persons (And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’*Mat 19:9), are in actuality denying the Lordship of Christ. But they are, first of all, denying orthodox Christology. To put it in the words of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, they are not listening to “Jesus Christ as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” (8:11)

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

John said...

Viola wrote:

John Shuck does bother me because he so brazenly denies my Lord while holding an office that is meant, by way of ordination, to glorify, love and proclaim Jesus Christ. And it bothers me that so many others allow this to go on, even encourage it. There is a word for that it is called apostasy.

+++

Dear Viola,

I do not believe John Shuck is brazenly denying your Lord at all. His understanding of your Lord obviously differs from yours on many points.

Many of us have come to accept the reality of hard-wired homosexuality as a reality of humanity. Your obsession with this particular issue is homophobia, nothing less. I hope you get over it. And Jesus had nothing to say about it at all. And the 3 or 4 other references to it in scripture are problematic and probably culturally-conditioned and certainly not written in stone.

It is sad when people decide they are right and others are wrong without any effort to be humble and willing to acknowledge our human limitations.

Einstein was one of the great minds and hearts of the last century and he said: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."

A great American judge, Learned Hand, said "The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.”

Gandhi said: "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

And the great Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who is featured in "Meaning of Life, Part 43" at Shuck and Jive said:

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth."

and:

"Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times."

and:

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness."

Those are the first 3 of his 14 precepts which are full of wisdom and compassion and common sense. Go to http://seaox.com/thich.html and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see them all.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com + "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire." -- Teilhard de Chardin

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

John McNeese: I'll give that a hearty Amen. Chucking the Biblical standards for Elders and Deacons meant that conforming to Constitutional standards was all wink wink / nudge nudge.

John Wilde: You said
"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth."

and:

"Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times."

and:

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness."

Are you ABSOLUTELY sure that epistemological agnosticism in the face of revealed religion from a covenant-keeping God is a good idea?

Let's be clear - you and Shuck have absolutes (whether inclusiveness, epistemic fogginess, or whatever). Don't go pretending that those who disagree with you are insurmountably closed to new data and reformulation of stance and that you are infinitely open to the same.

The question is where do you get your absolutes? Whence do you derive your non-negotiables.

If it's out of your own doubt & uncertainty, or the values of the culture, or anything other than the pure word of God, you become a Barmen-sized idolater.

John said...

Dear Father Chris Larimer,

Did you understand a word I said? Did you make any effort at all to appreciate a different point of view than your own?

Of course there are absolutes but TNH and others are so absolutely correct to say we must discern for ourselves, do our own thinking, analyzing, pondering, praying, wrestling, struggling, growing. Wisdom requires nothing less.

Please get over your need to put me and others down because we don't embrace your version of Jesus the Christ.

love, John A Wilde, Whitesboro NY
where the sun is shining (I think). I'm in Rochester today where the sun is shining and it feels oh, so good! Namaste!

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Mr. Wilde,

No insult was offered (at least no more than your defamation of Viola as a homophobe).

You clearly reject the Scriptures as God's word that speaks over and above our fallen natural order, so you've already tipped your hand as to your source of ultimate authority. (You can substitute Tillichian ultimate concern if that makes you feel better.)

You also stand up for a man who, while in ordained office, casts scorn and derision on those who disagree with his radical agenda of revision (all the while insisting that he's somehow a humble fellow open to all avenues of thought). Sorry - I've felt the sting of his poisoned tongue. I know better.

Last, you show an unwillingness to reference (or unfamiliarity with) the Christian tradition's latitudinarian - drawing instead from TNH. At least know you're audience: if we're the closed-minded bigots you take us for, choose an authority base that we recognize.

But don't insult our intelligence or character by pretending that we're the only ones with preconceptions towards the truth of the matter.

And NOmaste. I don't recognize divinity in you, me, or any created thing. That's idolatry.

Viola Larson said...

John Mc
We probably will go around and round on this. But I think that very few pastors, elders or deacons who have gone through divorce see it as natural, a gift from God, a place where God chooses to reveal his love, etc. Instead they find divorce a place where God offers forgiveness and healing from brokenness. We don't ordain leaders because they glory in their divorce but because they have found healing in Jesus Christ.

Viola Larson said...

John,
Sometimes you leave me almost speechless. Almost.

Are you saying that there are absolute truths but we can't ever know them. If we can what do you believe those truths are?

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Chris,
I like your apologetics.

John said...

Dear Fr. Chris Larimer,

I don't think we are getting anywhere. I will defend my friend John and other compassionate, justice-seeking Progressive Christians with all my heart, soul, strength and mind.

I do recommend that you stop judging him. I know he is human and makes mistakes just as you do and just as I do and every one else.

I don't expect to find agreement here but I do expect an honest effort to appreciate and understand where people are coming from.

If you don't see divinity in humanity, I wonder if you and I are reading the same Bible. We are connected, adopted, made friends, joined together in communion. In Baptism we become one with Christ. He said: You are the Light of the World. We are the Body of Christ. We are the branches. Yes, we are sinners too and often miss the mark. But to deny our divinity is, well, idolatrous. The Bible says Jesus is The First Fruits. We become fruits too as we commune with Christ. It's called the Holy Mysteries for a reason.

I really wish you would try to understand me and John and other Progressive Christains and not put us down. A little effort might go a long, long way.

love, john a wilde, whitesboro NY (although today in Rochester NY, our second home, where the sky is very blue today for a change. It's wonderful!)

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

John,

I really wish I could be as compassionate and humble and non-judgmental as you.

Show me where to draw the line:

It's okay to call someone a homophobe because they disagree with pansexualism, but saying someone's a heretic because they publicly ridicule and deny every article of the Apostles Creed is judgmental. Is that right?

And it's okay for you to defend your friend John (1 Cor. 15:33 notwithstanding), but it's not okay for me to rally to the defense of one of the godliest, sweetest, most charitable, and kind hearted souls I've had the privilege of meeting. Is that right?

And I'm supposed to see limitless fonts of divinity in everything and everyone EXCEPT for the Bible and its human authors (much less its Divine one). Am I getting close?

I think I'm catching on. Whatever you and your ilk believe is right, just, compassionate, tolerant, fair minded and intellectually defensible, etc. And Viola is just lacing up her jack boots to ram right-wingism down our collective throats by simply asking if we're being too cavalier about Jesus in churchy-type places.

Did I miss anything?

Why don't you try understanding this: we orthodox believe that people's eternal destiny is in the balance, and that people like John - who have taken public oath to glorify God and enjoy Him forever - are going to be judged with a double measure because he's a teacher, unless he repents. This isn't a game of words - because there's a real God who has really revealed himself, and is really going to keep covenant with his Son - pouring blessings throughout eternity on those who have hidden themselves in him, and curses on those who (being outside of Christ) failed to keep covenant faithfulness.

Life is short and eternity is LOOOOONG. So forgive us if we have a sense of urgency about these things.

John said...

Dear Viola,

Thanks for the question. I love you and your quest for wisdom.

You wrote:

Are you saying that there are absolute truths but we can't ever know them. If we can what do you believe those truths are?

+++

We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

Christ is the Ultimate Avatar of this Matrix, the first-born revealer, indeed creator, of this matrix. By the grace of God, Christ came to us briefly as a human being and will come again in ways we can only guess at.

The Trinity is a mystery worth pondering and adoring. I believe deeply that the Trinty includes us. Not that I'm as good as Christ the perfect divine one and human one, but, nevertheless, in some wondrous and mysterious way, made one (at-one-ment) with all that is holy and perfect. I believe with all my heart, soul, strength and mind that Saint Paul got it right in Romans 12:1-2. Our minds can indeed be transformed into something mysteriously holy, perfect, divine.

Saint Paul got it right on many occasions in his glorious writings. And, then, there's the culturally-conmditioned stuff, too. That's where discernment comes in. And humility which Saint paul offered often as an important gift of the Holy Spirit.

Simultaneously Saint and Sinner. That's Us. We can only be penultimately certain that we are following Christ's commands at any given time.

I see your certainty as problematic and I can't go there. But I honor your right to believe what you believe and strive to teach others what you believe. That's a good thing. I just wish you could do so without calling others heretics and apostates.

love, john a wilde, whitesboro NY (but today in Rochester where it's time to walk the dog in the glorious sunshine we have seen all too rarely this winter along the Erie Canal.)

Viola Larson said...

And John how do you know that this is an absolute truth?

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Since we're all part of God, the good and holy, what is this "sinner" stuff of which you speak?

You're not as good as Christ. Who is Christ not as good as? Buddha? TNH? Harvey Milk? BHO?

How do you know when Paul "got it right" (indicating that you also recognize when he "got it wrong")? And why wasn't his spark of divinity that animated his writing as good as your spark of divinity that illumines your critical reading? Are you not as perfect as Christ, but at least more perfect than Paul?

And where is that humility and agnostic bit again?

Just take off the alpha privative, and we recognize this 2000 year old reiteration for what it is.

Snad said...

Viola said: "Instead they find divorce a place where God offers forgiveness and healing from brokenness."

That is some rich rationalization there! It creates some very fertile ground for cherry-picking Scripture!

Snad
Stoney Creek TN

Toby Brown said...

The problem is, we are Reformed. We hold to creeds that teach the Biblical TRUTH.

Anyone who does not like it is free to leave at any time. So, why aren't they? The Unitarians are always there.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"You're not as good as Christ. Who is Christ not as good as? Buddha? TNH? Harvey Milk? BHO?"

Chris, I think you should consider slowing down a bit. I think you're coming across a little too hostile and angry. I say that because you missed the obvious answer to your question in the very same sentence you seem to be referring. John said: "Not that I'm as good as Christ the perfect divine one and human one, but, nevertheless, in some wondrous and mysterious way, made one (at-one-ment) with all that is holy and perfect."

I'm sure you have some wisdom you could add to the discussion here, but it's awfully hard to see it through all the hostility.

“The problem is, we are Reformed. We hold to creeds that teach the Biblical TRUTH.”

Toby, if you are so “Reformed”, why does it seem you are still bound to Bishops (man’s unauthoritative creeds)?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie:

You missed his hubris. He said that Christ is human and divine, and that he himself is human and divine. It's not a category distinctive, but rather one of degree. When people lay claim to divinity in se, it does tend to get my dander up a bit. I have the audacity to claim that the Scriptures speak with God's own authority, and when I'm faithful to them I also speak God's word. But to claim to be part of the mystery of the Trinity - differentiated by degree rather than design - is a depth of humility to which I cannot dip.

Gnostic monism...it almost makes me believe in reincarnation, the way it keeps popping its head up in the Church's history.

Presbyman said...

I agree that our widespread acceptance of divorce within the church has led to our current dilemna regarding homosexuality.

I would also argue that our widespread acceptance of artificial contraception has had a similar impact.

If the church could abandon centuries of consistent teaching about contraception and divorce, it is that much harder to argue with integrity that we should NOW draw the line at homosexuality.

And I would agree with Viola's point that abandonment of traditional sexual ethics (but I would go beyond the issue of homosexuality in this) leads inexorably to the abandonment of theological essentials beyond sexuality.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

Snad,
The whole idea of the good news (gospel) is that God forgives sinners because of Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection. We are all sinners. Some of us repent of our sins others feel we do not need to. But the important and wonderful thing is Jesus died for sinners. Both repentent homosexuals and divorced people can be transformed and the church then can ordain them.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Chris,

I wasn't referring to what you seem to think I missed, so why would you assume such a thing?

My point was that you simply appeared to overlook the obvious answer to your hierarchical query. I surmised that your apparent impaired vision could have been the result of a less than desirable frame of mind.

I suspect some of your problem with John's writing here on the Trinity might stem from a difference in perspective more than anything else. You appear to be taking a temporal perspective, and he seems to be taking an eternal (non-temporal) perspective. In that sense, you could both be correct. I see no reason for you to be getting your "dander up" before you even attempt to understand his perspective.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie & John,

Here's something that needs to be underscored (Toby - you're slipping, letting an Anglocatholic do this).

God doesn't love us unconditionally.

God loves us because we are found in the beloved.

We are elected unconditionally to be in the beloved because there is no untainted loveliness in us. Johns monistic categories collapse all of what we know of God's love in Scripture. The Trinity is not undifferentiated emotivism.

Nor is Jesus an "avatar" (his word - not mine). That's an import from Eastern mysticism, a foreign category, and an assault on INCARNATION. It is docetism warmed over. If I seem "hasty" to you, it's only because I recognize the old fallacies and heresies that have proven spiritual dead ends over the course of two millenia.

It's nothing personal with John or anyone else. It's the nature of my presbyteral office that public heresy is countered in an equally public manner.

For far too long, presbyters have been able to say any amount of garbage, drag our Lord and his precious condescension, incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension through the mud...and no one says anything because they're scared of being called mean or insensitive or intolerant.

Those threats mean nothing to me because I exposed how hypocritically those statements are made. Judgment coming from people claiming to be non-judgmental. Moral absolutes handed down from someone claiming there aren't any. Certainty wielded by someone who says we're arrogant or closed-minded for receiving the preserved truth of God's Word with confidence?

Sorry, sister...no dice. Doesn't get a free pass from folks who are willing to ask the simplest of probing questions.

Anonymous said...

Toby

I thought you were taking a break from all this.

Our creeds do not teach Biblical truths, but only how one group of believers, in a given time period, defined their faith. We are to be guided and instructed by them only. Your regard for confessions borders on idolatry and was frozen at Westminster. I do like our Brief Statement of Faith, but it is not the whole of what we believe.

You have suggested that I leave and go to the Unitarians before. I was born, raised in this church and in spite of the current conflicts, I’m not leaving. I love this church.

You would be a better match for the PCA or the EPC, but I’m sure their medical and pension plans do not match ours. O, and there is thorny problem of women and their place in the church. But don’t leave on my account.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Kattie W. Coon said...

"If I seem "hasty" to you"

You certainly do, and you seem to be trying to justify your haste by referring to the errors of others.

Why not try to have an actual conversation with John rather than simply assume you know where he is coming from. Why not simply ask him what he means when he says "Christ is the Ultimate Avatar of this Matrix" instead of simply assuming it is equivalent to your understanding of what an Eastern mystical Avatar is. You might simply be wrong in your understanding of his statement. You don’t appear to be the least bit interested in finding out. In fact, you appear to be wallowing in your hostility toward a largely unknown and possibly imaginary adversary.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Debbie said...

"Saint Paul got it right on many occasions in his glorious writings. And, then, there's the culturally-conmditioned stuff, too. That's where discernment comes in." Wow, John Wilde, you know that you're smarter than St. Paul, and you also know that, unlike him, you're able to avoid being culturally conditioned! You know that you have greater discernment than St. Paul! You know this because you're able to point it out!

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie: Because Mr. Wilde is a big boy and knows what he's doing. He's not some uneducated layman groping for his own grip on spirituality. He's a duly called and elected minister of Word and Sacrament, charged with keeping the pattern of sound words handed down from the apostles to this day (2 Tim. 1:13). He's been to seminary. He's an active blogger and reader. He knows the difference between a repeatable avatar and the uniqueness of the incarnation.

So there are two options:

Either he doesn't believe & uphold the faith he vowed to believe and uphold, and needs to be reprimanded OR he has lost his way and needs to be shown back.

I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he's doing and is conscious and present to the moment - and that he has chosen to scrap the faith and the church and create something de novo (just like his website says).

At least allow him the dignity to be self-directed and competent.

Viola Larson said...

John Mc one of my dear friends is a woman pastor in a EPC Church.

On the Nature of a Confession, Arthur C. Cochrane who was an expert on the Barmen Confession and wrote a whole chapter on the Nature of a Confession in his book The Church's Confession Under Hitler, wrote:
A Confession is therefore not the publication of the opinions, convictions, ideals, and value judgments of men. It does not set forth a program or system of theology or ethics. It is not a set of principles or constitution for a fraternal order, social service club, or a religious society. It is not a political or ethical, religious platform. It does not bear witness to certain events, powers, figures, and truths in nature and history that may be championed by certain groups in society. It confesses Jesus Christ as the one Lord, the one justification and sanctification of men, the one revelation, and the one Word of God we have to hear, trust, and obey in life and in death."

Kattie W. Coon said...

Debbie,

Why don't you try writing to him rather than at him?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Interjection: Viola, you host some of the liveliest dinner parties! The conversation just seems to roll, and you don't even have to turn water into whine.

Debbie said...

Kattie, I was writing to him, here in the Comments section.

Using a little sarcasm, I was pointing out the illogical tendency many progressives have to believe that they are smarter, more free of cultural conditioning, more open-minded, more discerning, and more enlightened in general than people in past centuries. They don't say it in so many words, but it's implied in the common progressive belief that they can know what's true in the Bible and what supposedly isn't true, or what Bible writers understood correctly and what they didn't understand correctly, etc.

John said...

Hi everybody.

I enjoyed walking along the Erie Canal with my wife and poodle on a cold but very sunny day.

Thank you so much Viola for allowing me to share my beliefs and values and struggles here. I wish you would consider me a fellow Christian but maybe that will happen some day. I live in hope.

Your latest question is fascinating. How do I know?

I don't know. I just believe based on the experiences I have had and the wisdom so many people have offered over the ages. I find the beliefs and values and struggles I advocate in our sacred scriptures and creeds.

How do you know?

The charges being made here strike me as totally absurd and mis-informed. I am disapponted and frustrated by the hostility.

Everyone interprets scripture and the creeds. Every one. No exceptions.

Therefore my dander goes up too, Father Chris Larimer, when someone claims to know for sure what the Bible and the creeds mean on any given issue such as capital punishment or war or abortion or homosexuality or slavery or Capitalism or Communism or so many more things where we simply can not find the authoritative word of Jesus Christ or the Bible as a whole.

But you have a right to believe what you believe and so do I.

I don't want to be a Unitarian. I love my Unitarian friends and respect their beliefs. But I'm a Christian and I love our symbols, sacraments, stories, teachings and our love affair with all of humanity and all of God's fantastic creation.

When I say that anyone is homophobic I am simply trying to understand why people come to certain conclusions. I do not use it to be a name-caller. I am homophobic and I imagine I always will be but I keep working on my fears believing that Love conquers fear. My fears also have led me to be racist and sexist and imperialist as well as a person with other addictions and idolatries. Fortunately, God isn't finished with me yet.

I simply don't believe that God wants us to deny human beings who are hard-wired as homosexuals the rights and privileges heterosexuals enjoy in the church and in society.

Kattie, thanks for going to bat for me. I appreciate it. I found great wisdom in the following sentence you wrote: "In fact, you appear to be wallowing in your hostility toward a largely unknown and possibly imaginary adversary."

I have been amazed at the hostility directed at me. I'm glad we don't burn suspected heretics at the stake anymore.

I'm simply struggling to continue to find meaning and joy and purpose in life and I have found the wisdom I need to do that in Christianity primarily but also in other great wisdom traditions. I love the variety God has created in our delicious and delightful humanity.

Fr. Chris Larimer, maybe you don't realize that Viola says I'm not a Christian because I don't interpret scripture and the creeds the way she does. That hurts.

Like it or not, the Presbyterian Church has a semi-democratic form of government and the whole body gets to decide who is orthodox and who is not. I hope your side does not win in your efforts to exclude people with different interpretations of our sacred scripture and creeds and with a different sexual orientation.

I hope I am not returning hostility toward you, Father Chris Larimer. That is not my intent. Perhaps you are not hostile toward me but it seems that way and Kattie detected it too.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com + "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire." -- Teilhard de Chardin

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

"A Confession is therefore not the publication of the opinions, convictions, ideals, and value judgments of men..."

How much of the BOC do you think we should disregard based on that?

Chris,

I give up for now. You appear far too interested in playing with your straw men, and the air of hostility is just way to thick to breath.

John Mc.,

I would like to hear Toby's explanation of his creedal "TRUTH" statement, but it does, at this point, appear to be borderline idolatry to me too.

Debbie,

“Using a little sarcasm”

Yep, that’s what I meant by talking at him. I see sarcasm as a weapon (so does Webster).

“common progressive…”

Hmm… straw men from you too? How about having a real conversation with John Wilde rather than some imaginary “common progressive”.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Leslie Day-Ebert said...

Oh, Viola - say it isn't so. Not about your comments on Jesus Christ and our falling into apostasy or syncretism, that's more than a little distressing. No - what I'm referring to is the title of this piece. I'm praying you were sharing some tongue-in-cheek sarcasm of the vernacular but to read "Where are we AT?" in your blog.... tell me you were kidding. Of all the expressions that I find particularly vexing, "Where are we at?" or "Where's the party at?" have to be among the most annoying.

You're such a brilliant writer and scholar and I enjoy your commentary so much. Keep up the great work. Just please don't say "Where's it at?"

Leslie Day-Ebert
Santa Ana, CA

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Mr. Wilde,

Don't deflect with your favorite social categories. Right now, I don't care what you think about homosexuality, capital punishment, racism, sexism, or any other issue. That's not really any of my business because those are second or third order issues.

What is concerning - distressing, even - is that you have a muddled sense of the Trinity personhood of God, an elevated sense of your divine self, and a deficient Christology - just as Viola said. It's not me sitting in judgment of you - its the blood of the martyrs and the countless saints who have confessed this faith. (Died for it even.)

When you took public office in Gospel ministry, it was handed on to you...and you're making a mess of it. You deflect to hot-button social issues to take the heat off of the deeply flawed Theology, Christology, Bibliology, Hamartiology, and Anthropology of your posts. THAT's where the battle rages. Fix those - align them with the faith handed down by the apostles to their successors in the Apostles & Nicene Creed - and we can enjoy Christian unity, even though we differ on second order issues.

If I have pegged you rightly as a gnostic, docetist, potential Pelagian - then do something about it. But don't throw a smokescreen of flashbutton issues that paint you as the tolerant soul laid upon by benighted bigots.

The main thing is the main thing - and that's the core understanding of God, Humanity, Jesus, and how broken people are made whole.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Chris,

Ok, I'm sorry, I couldn't help it, I just got mad.

Stop throwing charges and have a freaking conversation brother!

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Leslie,
I'm laughing just a little bit and wondering if I should tell you why.

I was actually going to title this something like "Should we be in statu confessionis?" That is a term I heard discussed by a panel at the Celebration of the Confessing Churches ten or so years ago with such people as Roberta Hestenes and Andrew Purves and yes Mark Achtemeier. The consensis was no, but I guess after reading John Shuck too much and seeing that many others have agreed with him, I wanted to ask that question. I decided not to. But by then my thinking was a bit fuzzy as I substituted "Where are we at" for the question I really wanted to ask. If you want to read more about status confessionus go to http://reformationtoday.tripod.com/chemnitz/id11.html

Viola Larson
Sacramento Ca

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie, If I came on here using sexist and racist language, would you have to initiate a dialogue process to see if I knew what I was doing? What if you already knew that I had a degree in sociology?

Same thing. He's AN ORDAINED MINISTER IN THE PCUSA.

Debbie said...

Kattie: I said "common progressive belief" because it's a belief I've run into from many progressives. I don't know why those words would be offensive.

John Wilde, a couple of misunderstandings on your part.

First, "hostility directed at me". I have not discerned any hostility directed at you. I have seen disagreement with your views. Do you consider your views to be an essential part of yourself? In that case, I can see that you might perceive hostility towards yourself. Otherwise, you may be having trouble debating ideas without reading hostility towards yourself into the debate.

Second, "Viola says I'm not a Christian because I don't interpret scripture and the creeds the way she does." No, that's not true, either. The real thing is that Viola says you're not a Christian because you don't acknowledge faith in Christ as the unique way of salvation. Now, it's probably true that that's the way she interprets scripture and the creeds, but the main point is that the way Viola Larson personally interprets scripture and the creeds is not the defining factor for her of what constitutes a Christian. So while your words may be technically true, your reasoning is not. You have focused on the wrong thing, something which to Viola is unimportant. You are misinterpreting her and being unkind in misrepresenting her views. You have presented yourself as a person who wants to be kind. You sign all your comments with "Love, John." So act like it. Don't misrepresent people.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"would you have to initiate a dialogue process to see if I knew what I was doing?"

No. I would initiate a dialogue process to see if I really understood what you meant. I don't know why that idea seems to escape you, since that's the point I've been trying to make clear all along.

Just trying to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Kattie W. Coon said...

Debbie,

"I don't know why those words would be offensive."

Sorry, I thought I made it clear the last time. It is because you appeared to use it as a straw man surrogate for John Wilde.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Kattie W. Coon said...

Debbie,

You said to John: “I have not discerned any hostility directed at you.”


Well, here’s what I discerned to be hostile toward him in this article comment section:

1) ” Don't go pretending that those who disagree with you are insurmountably closed to new data and reformulation of stance and that you are infinitely open to the same.” Chris Larimer

This looks to me like a clear case of hyperbole. It isn’t the kind of language that I would say promotes civil discourse, therefore I characterize it as hostile.

2) “No insult was offered (at least no more than your defamation of Viola as a homophobe).” Chris Larimer

Chris admits he was insulting up to the level of defamation. I am assuming this was intentional. I characterize this as hostile.

3) “You also stand up for a man who, while in ordained office, casts scorn and derision on those who disagree with his radical agenda of revision” Chris Larimer

I recall Calvin describing the Churches in Corinth with similar language yet he points out that Paul still saw in them Churches. I not only see Chris’ language hostile to John, but hostile to the Scriptural message as well.

4) “Last, you show an unwillingness to reference (or unfamiliarity with) the Christian tradition's latitudinarian - drawing instead from TNH.” Chris Larimer

I think that’s just plain insulting. John Wilde is a Seminary educated, ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). Also, the fact that he didn’t quote from Christian tradition in that one comment is not any kind of proof that he was showing an unwillingness to do so. I also take that as hostile.

5) “But don't insult our intelligence or character by pretending that we're the only ones with preconceptions towards the truth of the matter.” Chris Larimer

This is a clear mischaracterization of what John was writing. Like #1, it looks to me like hyperbole.

6) “And NOmaste.” Chris Larimer

That looks to me like a snarky, hostile response to John’s “Namaste” bow or respect and humility toward Chris.

7) “Sometimes you leave me almost speechless. Almost.” Viola Larson

I read that and thought to myself; “was that comment worth the energy it took to write it?” It looks pretty hostile to me.

8) “I really wish I could be as compassionate and humble and non-judgmental as you.” Chris Larimer

I think I’m pretty safe in characterizing this as sarcasm. I don’t know when sarcasm isn’t meant to be hostile.

9) “It's okay to call someone a homophobe because they disagree with pansexualism” Chris Larimer

I’ve not seen anyone in this comment section even hint at promoting pansexualism, let alone call anyone a homophobe because they disagree with it. It looks to me, once again, hike hostile hyperbole.

10) “I think I'm catching on. Whatever you and your ilk believe is right, just, compassionate, tolerant, fair minded and intellectually defensible, etc. And Viola is just lacing up her jack boots to ram right-wingism down our collective throats by simply asking if we're being too cavalier about Jesus in churchy-type places.

Did I miss anything?” Chris Larimer

I think this one speaks volumes all by itself.

I’m getting tired of writing this, so I’ll stop here. I think I’ve more than made my point.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

I think alot of this has turned into an argument about who is insulting who. Perhaps we could return to the subject.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

Do you think we could return to the subject at a much more respectful level?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Snad said...

Viola said "Both repentent homosexuals and divorced people can be transformed and the church then can ordain them."

You mean a repentant divorcee becomes "undivorced" and somehow all that bit in Scripture about a divorcee being an adulterer is hogwash? And all that stuff that isn't found in Scripture about an unrepentant homosexual still stands? That's very confusing. No wonder people aren't going to church anymore!

Snad
Up the Creek

Viola Larson said...

Snad,
Some actions can be repented of but cannot be undone. For instance Paul called himself the chief of sinners because he had Christians put to death before he became a Christian himself. He did repent and became the great missionary he was. He did not murder any more but he could not bring back the lives of those he had put to death. That is the case with those who divorce. On top of that, of course, for some it is not their fault they are divorced. I think you knew all of this already- but...

Viola Larson said...

Snad,
Do you ever go down the creek?: )Or are you just there without a paddle?

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
I hope so perhaps you could try first.

Snad said...

As I said. Wonderful rationalization, Viola.

And by the way, if I were without a paddle I wouldn't be going up the creek, now would I?

OK. That's enough "fun" for me. Back to the real world I go!

Snad
Creeking along

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

Oh, so you're waiting for me?

You're the moderator of this shindig, don't wait for me.

You're the one who allowed Chris be so hostile, insulting and disrespectful. You would never have let me get away with even a small percentage of what you allowed him. I'm sure you know that. You've even found words of encouragement for him without so much as passing concern for his bad behavior. Where's the justice in that?

Respectfully,

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie:

Let's be crystal clear about something: Standing in judgment of Almighty God is not humility.

When God speaks and someone says "Hath God said...?" that is NOT humility. It is the same pride that characterized the first sin: PRIDE.

Saying "Namaste" (which means the divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you, within a reincarnational monistic worldview) is NOT the same as saying "I respect the image of God in you." He and Mr. Shuck know the difference, and are intentionally fostering the notion that there is no essential difference between the JudeoChristian worldview and the Eastern monistic worldview.

You finally admit that Mr. Wilde knows what he's talking about when he speaks on things spiritual and theological. I agree - that's why I'm holding him responsible for his words in light of the claim made on him by baptism in the Trinitarian faith (you remember him stressing that, right - the faith & formula that marks us as in agreement with the Apostolic faith of the Creeds) and further the presbyteral teaching responsibility he freely took up in ordination.

Kattie - I don't expect lay people to be as careful with their language (even "lay" deacons and elders). But we (meaning all who hold presbyteral office in the church) are duty bound to discipline - not on our distinctives (whether Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or otherwise) but on the essentials of the catholic faith (found in the aforementioned creeds). That's what you see throughout church history - going back to the very first synod in Acts 15.

What Viola's point is within the post is that unity and the bond of peace is being undermined within the congregations, presbyteries, synods, and assemblies - and within Christian dialog ecumenically - because the standard of faith (the Apostles and Nicene Creeds) are ACTIVELY UNDERMINED by the very persons commissioned to propagate and defend it.

Christology matters. We can't be at peace "in Christ" and leave all judgment to Him because we trust him if one person thinks that Christ is none other than the Second Eternal Person of the Trinity (which does NOT include me) and the other thinks Jesus is an avatar (meaning just one of many embodiments - which may or may not be fully human or fully divine).

Do you begin to see what gulf separates Presbyterians? And what unity catholic Christians have in the simplicity of the Creeds?

John said...

Dear Friends:

Maybe I need to take this blog off my Favorite Places as I'm finding the hostile response hurtful and not helpful. Yes Debbie my beliefs and values are a big part of who I am.

Like it or not, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been and still is and hopefully will continue to be a Big Tent where wrestling with God and prayerful discernment is not only allowed but encouraged. Yes, I hope it remains that way.

I love the Bible and I love our creeds and confessions. The Bible is not perfect and the creeds are not perfect.

The motto of our denomination is:

REFORMED AND ALWAYS BEING REFORMED.

I may continue to make comments here. I am praying about it. I may decide to ignore Father Chris Larimer. Your hostility and anger seems to run very deep and it looks like winning arguments and putting down those who disagree with you is your game.

I have come to respect you, Viola, as a person who is struggling with your faith just as the great men and women of the Bible and the Church have been doing for ages and ages. So, I will continue to read your posts and make comments when I think they may be helpful. And, yes, sometimes being helpful means being challenging. I do not mean to offend.

I respect all of you as fantastic and wonderful people made in the image of God. Even Father Chris Larimer who currently wants to put me down but maybe someday we can meet each other in a new way after both of us have continued to grow and change.

Thanks again, Viola, for providing this forum and allowing dissent from your positions. I don't know but I probably will continue to read your blog and participate in the discussion. I probably will continue to promote the idea that you embrace the Big Tent PC(USA) and not try to eliminate people with whom you disagree. I'm not interested in eliminating you from the PC(USA) even though I find your version of orthodoxy troubling (but only when you seek to use it to exclude those who disagree).

I am always open to the possibility that I may be wrong but I will offer my beliefs and values and experiences as a witness to God's love with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I see you doing that and I affirm it. Just keep growing and be as open-minded as you can possibly be striving for perfection as Paul teaches in Romans 12:1-2. I'm convinced that an open mind is essential in this process of transformation, renewal and "working out our salvation in fear and trembling."

A special Thank You to Kattie for your energetic and thoughtful comments supporting me as I simply try to witness in a humble but determined way to my beliefs and values and experiences.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." -- Albert Einstein

Beloved Spear said...

Interesting. The challenge I have with this post comes in this assertion:

"The second way Christology is being attacked is by the inference that the love relationship of two people is a place where God’s love meets, joins (the homosexual or heterosexual love) and is made manifest."

If love in this context is to be understood as only signifying sexual intimacy, I concur with this statement.

If, on the other hand, love is understood in terms that transcend eros, then this statement is not just in error, but in error in a way that fundamentally violates the foundation of Christian ethics. Such a statement particularly struggles in face of Matthew 22:34-40, which is a non-trivial aspect of Christ-centered orthopraxis.

I'd be interested in your response to this.

Kattie W. Coon said...

John,

I am certain there are several areas concerning theology and ethics where we would find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence, but I value you, your right to hold your point of view, and your desire to have a civil conversation. Thank you for your kind words.

Chris,

You said: "You finally admit that Mr. Wilde knows what he's talking about..."

Huh? Was I ever asked to admit that? I don't think so, so your statement that I seem to be coming to it late seems a bit odd, and rather hostile too.

When I read: "Do you begin to see what gulf separates Presbyterians?" I thought to myself: "Does this guy have any clue of just how arrogant and condescending he really is?"

Viola,

Why do you let Chris get away with this stuff over and over again?

Kattie,
Huntsville, Al

Kattie W. Coon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kattie W. Coon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
You are misusing my blog. I don't need a referee; please do that on your own blog.

Viola Larson said...

Beloved Spear,

On the statement about God’s love being revealed in homosexual or heterosexual love I first of all took that to mean sexual intimacy since I have read most of the book Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-love and the authors there do see sexual intimacy as manifesting God’s love.

However, if it is taken in the other way, that is meaning a different kind of love, and here you are being a little confusing-but I will explain later, I still have a problem with it. You cite Matthew 22:34-40, which is love that fulfills all the law, complete love for God and love for neighbor. If this is the way it is meant I still hold to my statement, because Christ centered orthopraxis still must rest on the person of Jesus Christ. He is the one who reveals the love of God just as he is the one who fulfills the law. We are unable to fulfill the law unless we are united to Jesus Christ. He is still the one who reveals. The final revelation.

About what I find confusing: whether sexual intimacy or something more if we move away from eros as Christians we are surely speaking of agape which in itself implies that love which is given by God (love without selfish interest) that points to the gift which is Jesus Christ. We love because he first loved us. So as Christians we must always see Jesus Christ as that place where God’s love is revealed.

Kattie W. Coon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nav said...

Viola,

I just want to tell you I have paused to lift up prayers for you and praise to God for your service to Him and this part of His famiy, the PCUSA.

You are such a blessing to me and so many others through your faithfulness to God and I hope you never forget it.

I know you take heat when you post something like this and I just wanted you to know you are most highly valued and appreciated by me and so very many others.

God's blessings to you,
Matt Ferguson, pastor
Hillsboro, IL

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
You are finished for this posting. You have yet to make any comments about what I wrote, only comments about what others say.

While I think everyone should be careful about what they put on facebook-I tell my grandchildren this all the time-it isn't your place to do reporting on my blog. It is my blog. If you would like to comment on the posting fine if not that is all.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Matt, I hope prayers will abound even from those who don't like what I write because it is a sovereign God who will answer them all.
Again thank you.

Dave Moody said...

Amen to what Matt Ferguson said.
Dave Moody,
Pastor, Trinity Church
S. IL

Bruce said...

I once again concur with my oily bearded brother Dave.

Viola, I check in here at least once a day and am committed to pray for you each time I do.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie, maybe we could be Facebook BFFs?

For all you know, I could be talking about another blog entirely. Isn't there a Carly Simon song about that?

John - Sitting down face to face with Mr. Shuck didn't change my opinion about his heretical views one bit. We found out that we share some history, sense of humor, etc. But I'm not in the church to be united around those things. That's what my facebook is for.

The Church (from Scottish KIRK, from Greek KYRIAKOS, meaning "the Lord's own") is the place where we gather around Jesus Christ as he comes to us in Word and Sacrament.

If you think Jesus was a radical political figure who would rubber stamp an agenda, you've got the wrong Jesus (and thus, not the Church). If you think he was a wise teacher, but just a man, you're going to need to find someplace else. (After all, who would call the Dalai Lama a wise spirit master if he said that your eternal destiny hinged on eating his flesh and drinking his blood? or calling him the way, truth, and life?)

Christology matters more than manners, more than common interests, more than shared civil concerns. That's why I said that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a house divided. Not because there is diversity on secondary & tertiary issues - but, as our host pointed out - there are still EDUCATED AUTHORIZED OFFICIALS of the PCUSA who ask "What's the big deal about Jesus?" And don't have an answer that presents him as the only path to reconciliation with the Father.

Viola Larson said...

Chris I tried to end that issue about the Facebook comments so perhaps we ought to let it go.

I think the rest is right on!

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

Delete this if you want, but if you do, take his out too. He addressed me specifically, so I'm responding.

Chris,

"For all you know, I could be talking about another blog entirely. Isn't there a Carly Simon song about that?"

You and I both know better than that. This blog was named specifically in the exchange there. Also, the time proximity of Dave Moody's comment on FB and his comment here is just too close for comfort. Maybe all the readers here could go over to your FB wall and check it out for themselves, and see how a blog thread can be full of words on Christology and prayers, and a FB thread can be full of reveling in human depravity, by some of the same folk.

As Viola's article asks, "what about Jesus Christ?" You're so wrapped around the axle dealing with right Christology, that you forgot how to be a Christian. Think gnats and camels, splinters and planks, whitewashed tombs, priests walking by a man dying by the roadside, and Micah 6:6-8 that I referred to earlier. Viola thinks I haven't been commenting about the subject of this blog article, but she's wrong.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Mary E said...

Viola and Chris,
I have truly enjoyed reading your blog and your comments. I found this by way on J.S. and his blog. I found it quiet humorous that Katie and John were insulted in some way by your statements. I have commented on the other blog and they were far less courteous to me, than you were to them. To me it is a case of if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.

As for the blog... I agree whole heartedly with you. Homosexuality is a sin stated by God's word. I am not pointing fingers or accusing, or wanting to abusive to anyone. They can say what ever they want, but regardless of the issue first and foremost is being obedient to Christ.

There are times that I disagree with God and what he wants me to do, but at no point do I think God is wrong. I know that I am being disobedient, and separating myself from Him. My choices have consequences, that I have to face. And to think there are no consequences I am either arrogant or stupid. After all God’s chosen people lived in the Promised Land, but began looking at other gods and wanting their beliefs. (I think we have been hearing about that already in this blog comments) Yes we all experience God's grace, but that does not mean He accepts our behavior.

Thank you Chris and Viola, for your candor and faithfulness.

God Bless.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie, If I told you all the loving Christlike things I've done this past week...well, that wouldn't be very Christlike.

Look, the simple fact is that the PCUSA (and most of the mainline) has the pyramid standing on the point. The lower ones doctrinal faithfulness, the higher one climbs within the organizations hierarchy.

I am told by non-believers that I'm one of the gentlest, long-suffering teacher you could ask for. And that's as it should be - to UNBELIEVERS. To those who have received the gospel, learned their catechism, sent to seminary, and then raised to a position of leadership in the Church of God, there are MUCH higher standards.

Assume we were doctors (as pastoral ministry used to be called the cure of souls). What should a physician do if he sees a fellow practitioner prescribing bleeding and leeches for a case of malaria? Stand idly by and say "Well, I know our tradition has already tried that out and watched it fail...but he's free to do whatever he and his patient will agree upon, and who am I to judge???"

Would that be the compassionate thing to do? If I believed that he was with-holding useful treatment, and then going further by doing something that could cause harm, should I stand by? How would you judge me in that case?

Trying worn out heresies (like reductionist monism, gnosticism, Arianism, Socinianism, etc.) is nothing less than ecclesiastical malpractice. When I was an officer in the PCUSA, I took seriously the duty described in the book of order to be a colleague and to participate in the judicial bodies of the Church. I take it seriously now, too. Though I know the battle for "Reformed Distinctives" that would be recognizable more than 100 years ago is a lost cause in PCUSA, there's still a whisper of a chance to turn things around and at least have bare bones orthodoxy. Not much point in it, but it's there.

The reason Christians have gone into jungles to die of malaria is because they believed people were eternally lost if they didn't hear of Christ. The reason Christians died in the arena, rather than say that Caesar had a place in the Pantheon, is because they believed that Jesus himself was God in the flesh.

You won't have to worry about some two-bit Anglican vicar pointing the finger. The blood of the martyrs, and the blood of the Lamb, will have far more to say than I about what has been done with that witness.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"If I told you all the loving Christlike things I've done this past week...well, that wouldn't be very Christlike."

Ah, but you just did, didn't you?

The rest I have no argument with except your view of the PC(USA).

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Kattie W. Coon said...

"I found it quiet humorous that Katie and John were insulted in some way by your statements. I have commented on the other blog and they were far less courteous to me, than you were to them."

It's telling that you found insults to be humorous. Also, I don't believe we have ever interacted before. In fact, I have no idea who you are other than someone with the handle Mary E, so be careful when you write things like "they were far less courteous to me". I'm curious, has John Wilde ever interacted with you? Do you somehow think that John Wilde and I enough alike theologically or otherwise that you feel justified in lumping us together?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Debbie said...

Kattie, despite the list of things you made as examples of hostility, I still claim that they are examples of hostility to ideas, not to people. I realize from John Wilde's further comments that to him his ideas and his person are not separate. He would not be able to debate in academia or business, unfortunately. But Viola has asked us not to discuss how people talk, and I won't continue.

One other thing, Kattie, there is no straw man of a "common progressive" that I had set up. The adjective "common" was applied to the term "progressive idea". It was an idea that was evident in John Wilde's writings as well as in many other people's. I could have said "your idea" to him, but it's not his alone.

John Wilde, again you get things wrong. You said to Viola about her orthodoxy: "when you seek to use it to exclude those who disagree." No, she does not seek to use it to exclude those who disagree (unless it's to exclude them from ecclesiastical office in which, due to their beliefs, they would be betraying ordination vows and leading people astray). But never, and I think I'm speaking correctly for Viola, does she seek to exclude them from church, where they can hear the message. Instead her wish would be to persuade them of right doctrine, and also to prevent them from teaching wrong doctrine.

Again, it is unkind to misrepresent people. Please act kindly instead of just saying that you value kindness.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

John,

I don't know if Latin was part of your training, so let me offer a blogpost of mine that shows that "Reformed, always reforming" is neither faithful to the Latin, nor to the sense of the saying (as - in revisionist use - it ALWAYS cuts off "according to the Word of God").

But then again, you probably already knew that, seeing as your a seminary trained presbyter of some 30+ years standing.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"Kattie, despite the list of things you made as examples of hostility, I still claim that they are examples of hostility to ideas, not to people."

Go over to Chris' FB page, read what is there, then come back here and read those comments again.

Stop pretending that we can have substantive discussion here on Christology with the folks who, behind our backs, are referring to us (not our ideas) as "blogtards", or think that term is "far kinder than what I was thinking", refer to this as some sort of battle, and say things like "You'd have more luck with zombies. At least when you make a head shot with them, they admit it."

You and Viola may have good intentions, but it appears to me that others do not. I submit that there are far bigger fish to fry than wrong Christology.

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
"I submit that there are far bigger fish to fry than wrong Christology."

I submit that Christology is the biggest one. While I would very much like for all the conversation about who insulted who to end you have at least brought us back to the proper subject, Christology.

If we do not have a right relationship with Jesus Christ, if he is not God and human, if he did not die on the cross for our sins, if he was not resurrected, then there is no forgiveness for any of us. And there is no transformation. If we do not care about a proper Christology and it is not ultimate in importance we have nothing to offer others.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Barb said...

And that's the crux of the matter. Amen, Viola!
Barb Moody
Sparta, IL

John said...

Dear Father Chris Larimer:

I will try again to see if a respectful conversation with you is possible.

The way I see it is that I have 3 alternatives:

1 - Buckle down and accept 16th century orthodoxy.

2 - Wrestle with the Bible and our creeds and confessions and see if I can find ultimate meaning and purpose in them.

3 - Leave the church behind.

Well, Father Chris Larimer, guess what?

I choose option 2.

I find it sad and disturbing that you can not affirm my honesty and vulnerability with more compassion and kindness and gentleness and humility and patience and other gifts of the Spirit.

I don't expect you to take seriously this feedback or Kattie's or others, but I live in hope and I hope there will come a day when both of us grow and change enough for a real friendship to be established ... maybe even in this lifetime. As I said, I live in hope.

So far, as I read your comments, I only see defensiveness and game-playing, the game of "I know my 16th century theological terminology better than you do." (You win!) But I'm not playing that game. I never signed up to play that game with you. If you keep it up, I will simply bow out of any kind of theological conversation with you and probably ignore any comment you make because I don't need to be treated the way you are treating me. Oh, yeah, the Golden Rule comes to mind.

Christianity is a vital and dynamic faith and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

By the way, I translated the Latin correctly. Read my comment again!

Or, I will remind you what I wrote:

Reformed and always Being Reformed. God does the reforming. I get that. And I also get that God works through humanity. Right?

Finally, before you get defensive and argumentative again because I'm giving you some tough love here, well, don't forget that you are offering me your version of tough love in huge doses. Fair enough?

love, john a wilde, whitesboro ny where we have enjoyed another sunny day after weeks of clouds and lake effect snow.

Viola Larson said...

John,
Beyond how you are feeling about me or Chris,

Wouldn't you say 16th century orthodoxy is no different than 21st century orthodoxy. How could it be. That is what the term orthodox implies.

It was Karl Barth in Dogmatics in Outline who wrote,

"There have been many complaints and murmurings over this formula [The Apostles' Creed] and probably, sooner or later in your studies, you will come up against men of letters and even teachers, who also do the same and think it dreadful that this matter should be reduced to this formula. . . This inveighing against so-called 'orthodoxy' is just a 'wolf's snarl', which an educated man should have nothing to do with.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"I submit that Christology is the biggest one."

Sorry, but I don't see it as the biggest, but you already know that. I place Mat 23:23-24, which includes Christology as a subset, as more important.

We've observed right here a good example of what happens when we elevate Christology above justice and mercy (i.e. not co-equal). We get Mat 23:27-28 instead.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Kattie without Christ as both fully God and fully human we lose the full implication of mercy and justice. I think it was Thomas Torrance who said that if there is another God behind Jesus Christ we cannot know God at all except a wrathful God whose compassion is not known. Justice may be there but mercy is unknown. And it is Jesus in his suffering humanity that connects that mercy to us.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Sounds to me like you're saying they're all connected. Good, in that case we agree. Without any of those aspects the whole thing collapses.

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,

If you still believe this we don't agree, "I place Mat 23:23-24, which includes Christology as a subset, as more important."

Viola Larson said...

Bruce and Dave I never said thank you. So thank you so much.


And Mary E. thank you also. I am sorry you have had so much trouble else where. I hope you keep coming back.

Viola Larson said...

Barb,
It is the crux of the matter. Thanks for your agreement.

John said...

Dear Viola,

You asked: "Wouldn't you say 16th century orthodoxy is no different than 21st century orthodoxy. How could it be. That is what the term orthodox implies."

+++

As much as I like Calvin, Luther, Zwingli and other reformers, I do believe that they were dealing with a different situation than we are. The same is true of the wonderful fourth-century people who gave us the Nicene formula. And the same is true of the writers of all of Holy Scripture.

Mark, for example, is written when the Jewish community of which he is a part, is facing the violent wrath of the Roman Empire. He and his community have to make sense of it all and do so as they tell the story of Jesus in the form we know it for the first time.

He is a marvellous story-teller. He is so good that Matthew and Luke use his story as the foundation for their stories which both honor the Markan tradition and change it. Good thing to do. Always necessary.

Orthodoxy is dynamic, not static. It is an unfolding story. We know the basic structure of this story but the details do indeed change from one generation to the next. Sometimes we fight wars about our interpretation of the story. The 30-years war comes to mind. And the Civil War here in the USA where both sides used scripture as rationale for their objectives.

I hope we won't have to have another Civil War to determine who gets to decide who are real Christians. I'm not optimistic but ever hopeful that we can finally embrace the Big Tent understanding of Christian orthodoxy where people are allowed to think freely and openly about who Christ is and where Christ is now leading us. I am convinced that people on both sides of the current conflict have a lot to offer and people on both sides are making some serious mistakes. Maybe you haven't noticed but I can sometimes be quite critical of people on my side of the conflict. For example, Debbie is right that our side can display arrogance and be quite, what's the word ... oh yeah ... condescending.

What the writers and leaders of Biblical times, of the fourth century, of the sixteenth century, and of the twenty-first century, have in common is our humanity. We can be inspired one moment and miss the mark the next moment. Classic theology declares that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. This is why I emphasize the need for humility so much (just as Saint Paul and so many others did). And, again, we need a lot more of it on our side as well as on your side.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com + "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." -- Albert Einstein

Viola Larson said...

John,
First paragraph,
Just because the Reformers were dealing with something different than the early members of the Nicene Council does not mean they believed differently. On essential matters, the Trinity and Christology they were in agreement. On salvation although they used different formulas as to how it worked nonetheless it was still always and only through Jesus Christ. Calvin constantly quotes Augustine on doctrine.

Second, third and fourth paragraph:
Yes the Gospels were written in different settings. But they do not give us each a different Jesus. Nothing one Gospel says about Jesus changes Jesus in another gospel.
Yes, “Orthodoxy is dynamic, not static,” that itself does not change orthodoxy, it simply enlarges and clarifies. For instance, many now understand, as Thomas Oden puts it, that all the various formulas are needed together to show how Jesus is the only one through which we have salvations.

Fifth paragraph:
You are the only person on this comment strip that ever suggests we might have to fight a war over our positions on Christianity. Are you planning on starting a war?: -( I am not.

I will write later. I have company

Doug Hagler said...

Chris:

"Assume we were doctors (as pastoral ministry used to be called the cure of souls). What should a physician do if he sees a fellow practitioner prescribing bleeding and leeches for a case of malaria? Stand idly by and say "Well, I know our tradition has already tried that out and watched it fail...but he's free to do whatever he and his patient will agree upon, and who am I to judge???"

I was really tickled by this, given that bleeding and leeches is a traditional technique. You would likely argue that theology does not improve over time (otherwise why orthodoxy instead of creativity?) but this is also humorous because medicine does improve over time. In fact, one progressive position that is common is that theology is more like medicine than I think you or Viola would allow - that we learn things over time and our ideas improve. Just like the divine right of kings or slavery or the subjugation of women used to be supported by "orthodoxy" and are now rightly rejected because theology got *better* over time, I believe the same will happen with homosexuality and a number of other historical biases that do nothing but damage and have no scientific or ethical basis to stand on.

Theology will catch up, as it has in the past, and will continue to do as long as human beings are doing it.

It's time to put away the leeches, in my view, but I do not have the slightest fantasy that I can ever convince you of that. It'll be a matter of time, I think. We're already busy raising a generation with dampened biases around race, gender, sexuality, disability and a host of other things, and they'll grow eventually. If they see any value in the Church at all (that remains to be seen as young people drain out of religious life and decide the baby isn't worth the bathwater for them), they'll be hard pressed to justify it's lingering biases which do no good.

I've come to think that's the best hope for justice at this point. That, and the occasional personal conversation, or someone's experience of a homosexual person (or another group denied equal rights) where they realize that "they" aren't all scary and out to destroy civilization.

Anyway, I rambled a lot, but originally, just wanted to point out the humor of using medicine as an example of why theology *shouldn't* change. Load of irony there I'd say.

Doug Hagler said...

Oh, to answer Viola's questions:

"We are at what I think are called 'loggerheads' - that is, bumping against each other and making a sort of wooden thumping sound."

"We disagree about who Jesus Christ is and what the Holy Spirit's guidance to the Church today is."

I know it's hard sometimes to attribute good intentions and intelligence to 'the opposition', but I have never personally met a progressive who intended to deny Christ. Many of us, myself included, hold the position we do *because* of Christ. At least, that is my (our) honestly-held and thoroughly-considered conviction.

From this side, it looks like those who stand with you and Fr. Larimer are the ones denying Christ - at our worst moments we might think that, anyway. Otherwise (to me at least) it just looks like well-intentioned people who are wrong about one issue. I even feel like I can understand some of why you are where you are, even though I can't in good conscience join you.

I don't think I can do anything to convince you otherwise, but that's my view anyway, and I didn't want to type this much without answering your questions.

Reading this "discussion" I wonder if all this energy might be better spent elsewhere.

Though doubtless a comment with just the right alloy of venom and self-certainty will no doubt clear this all up. I'll see what I can come up with.

John said...

Thanks Doug. I appreciate your sense of humor and your wisdom and common sense.

Viola, I do not intend to start a war. I do fear that some people on your side feel called to some kind of Holy War. I hope I'm wrong.

I find your responses to my comment totally missed the mark because you simply decided to defend your position and not make any serious attempt to understand my thought processes. That is what really gets to the heart of the problem. I believe Orthodoxy is a dynamic process where change is always possible and even encouraged as we evolve as human beings. Christianity was and is a huge leap forward in our understanding of reality. We do not need to be enslaved to ideas about reality which made sense for another time and place. Freedom is a really good thing. Christ sets us free.

Stay open-minded. Keep growing.

My comment yesterday was cut short by the rules here. Too many characters! So, I wasn't able to offer my concluding remarks.

But, fear not. I saved them. Here they are:

I see orthodoxy as far more a dynamic process than a fixed content. God gives us a way, a process, an approach, a method, a system, to deal with life and death, with meaning and purpose. Christianity is that way for me and for you. I really do believe we have far more in common than what divides us. Possibly its more fun, more interesting, to focus on what divides us. Maybe we need to find ways to have fun focusing on what unites us.

How about: Love One Another. The Golden Rule. The Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment. The Great Commission. Working for Peace and Justice. Healing and Liberating people. And. embracing the Life and Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the "decisive revelation of God" (Marcus Borg) for those of us who have the kind of world-view which unites us to all people who have had, have now, and will have, such a world-view.

I know you probably won't like the qualification I just offered but I have to be honest to the way I understand reality. In other words, I believe there are people who have an entirely different way of orienting themselves to reality. If it works for them, and it is the way of compassion, peace and justice which are the absolutes of divinity everywhere, then I am not about to take it away from them by force of arms or force of mind-control (orthodoxy interpreted narrowly).

And that's the way it is for me, has been for decades and probably will be for the rest of my life. I'm sure I need some correction. We all do. So far, most of the corrections you and others here are offering simply don't make much sense to me as I experience our world today.

Thanks for the question. I appreciate the opportunity to articulate as best as I can my beliefs and values and experiences here. Great blog.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com + "The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.” – Judge Learned Hand

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

John: I haven't made a point of any 16th century confessionalism (other than when you omit secundum verbum dei). Westminster style orthodoxy is DEAD in the PCUSA. It is only a matter of private opinion and publicly acknowledged history.

I keep stressing the CREEDS of the apostolic / patristic age. In particular, the Apostles Creed which you affirm by hammering your baptism. John Shuck is an enemy of the resurrection. You wish to defend not merely his liberty to believe as he wills on that (something I also defend within the human realm) but also his ability to maintain teaching office in the PCUSA and to spread that garbage to students who are struggling with finding their place in the faith.

That's the disagreement. As we keep saying, it's about Christology.

Kattie: I'm a blogtard. As I understand its use, it's someone who just can't let it go. But if the use offends you, I offer my apology.

Doug: Revisiting heresies that stand long condemned (because they don't lead back to Jesus) is not progress. That's the point. I don't deny a progression in doctrine (what else would you call the Nicene Creed, then the Nicene-Constanipolitan Creed, then the Athanasian Creed - or the Chalcedon Definition?). The problem is that our schools don't teach church history adequately. Or when they teach history of doctrine, they do so with an eye to saying "See...the church didn't always believe this way, so you don't have to either!!!"

Would you accept that from a medical school? Humor me.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"But if the use offends you, I offer my apology."

It does offend, and I accept your apology for that. That wasn't all that I found offensive though, and it was certainly not the worst of it by any of you. I would like to see an apology from the fellow who said that term was "far kinder than what I was thinking", and the one who made the zombie head shot comment. There was a lot of unkindness flying around that stream of wall comments, and I have no intention of going into all of it here.

I pray that we might ALL do better.

Like I said on John Shuck's blog; "that comment stream with the associated FaceBook comments is one amazing eye opener I will recall for a long time to come. I'm planning on referencing it at our upcoming Worship Team meeting where I'll be leading a discussion on Matthew 23."

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Kattie: I hope you're similarly opprobrious to folks on S&J when they say far worse.

As for blind guides and practicing our piety before men, that's a good lesson for all of us (conservative, liberal, or something in between). May I suggest "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns as a starting point (for "contemporary" worship). It plays well off this past Sunday's lection of Luke 4:14-21 as well.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Chris,

I don't believe "opprobrious" is an appropriate term.

Viola Larson said...

Doug,
I don’t believe that I said that it was the intention of most progressives to deny Christ. Although I do believe it is John Shuck’s intention, I did not say so. What I did say was that most who are advocating for ordination and marriage of homosexuals are denying Christ. There is a difference. One can do something without the intention to do so.

Viola Larson said...

John,
Who do you think on "our side" is calling for a holy war? What do you mean by that term? Are you suggesting that some who are orthodox are thinking of picking up arms and shooting at others? Sounds like hyperbole to me.

Viola Larson said...

John let me see if I can get this straight. You write:

“I find your responses to my comment totally missed the mark because you simply decided to defend your position and not make any serious attempt to understand my thought processes.”

Your thought processes are that Jesus Christ is not the only way to God, that there is a universal god or life force that is behind all religions. Therefore all religions are a path way to that universal understanding that you speak of as God. That all faith books are equal in value in bringing others to a place of the love that is a universal principle. That you are uncertain if Jesus is the unique Christ or if they may be separated entities. You believe that Jesus was perfected by Christ in some way and we may also be perfected by Christ not by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his physical resurrection.

If I am wrong in any of those suppositions please let me know.

Viola Larson said...

John,
One more question. I wrote a blog posting. You disagreed with what I said. You came over to my blog and disagreed with me. That is fine; it has an old fashioned name, debate. I think that is a good thing. Dialogue is good too if it isn't used to insist that all concepts that people have are all alike or if it isn't used to suggest that if I don't agree with you I am somehow being unkind to you.

I believe Christians will all believe, and this can be a growth process, certain essential truths about Jesus Christ, you do not believe that is necessary. Must I agree with you because you seem to be insisting on that?

John said...

Dear Viola,

I have quite a head cold right now so I may be a little fuzzy in my thinking. Of course, you probably think my thinking is fuzzy even when I'm feeling good.

I really appreciate your effort to understand me and to listen to me. Here is today's Spiritual Practice of the Day offered by the amazing team of Mary Ann and Fredcewric Brussat at Spirituality and Practice:

"Many years ago, I read about a study in which people from different walks of life were asked: What is the most profound way you feel loved? The number one response was: 'When someone's really listening.' — Mary Manin Morrissey in No Less Than Greatness. To Practice This Thought: Give someone your undivided attention."

Well, you are doing that and I heartily affirm you for that.

I affirm the creeds and confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with the understanding that the words and symbols point to a Greater Reality which is beyond our knowing as limited human beings. I believe other wisdom traditions also point to that very same Greater Reality which is common to us all. Jesus Christ decisively reveals to us the essence of that Greater Reality. I believe other wisdom traditions have also been able to reveal the essence which is Compassion, Peace and Justice, the Kingdom of God offered in abundance. In prayer and devotion to Christ, we are offered the Keys to the Kingdom. I do not believe Christians have an exclusive claim on these keys. But our claim is unique and special and powerful and worth shouting from the housetops. Others are shouting too. Let's listen and find as much common ground as possible.

I think I can agree with most of what you wrote about my beliefs. As I said, You are a good Listener.

I do need to feel a little better before I respond fully to your latest question which I appreciate very much. I think your "wrestling with God" is authentic and meaningful and interesting. I think that's why you are listening to me so well. Thanks a lot.

love, john a wilde, whitesboro NY where rain and mild weather have melted most of the snow and caused some flooding + "The force of love is greater than the love of force.”

Pastor Bob said...

John: a couple of comments

1. If all humans are created in the image of God then all humans deserve respect. This has wide ethical implications but I'm going to stick to theology. To truly love the other begins with listening to the other. I think this is a vital part of evangelism, not as a technique but rather as a recognition of who the other is. We earn the right to speak what we believe by loving the other enough to listen to the other. I don't know if you ever attended one of my classes on evangelism in Utica Presbytery but I always emphasized the responsibility to see the image of God in the other and therefore to listen to the other.

2. There are a great many Christians, theologians included that believe that salvation is through Christ but that Christ saves all. C. S. Lewis believed this. There is much debate about Karl Barth's believe on universal salvation although he never made himself clear on the subject.

3. If I understand the difference between us correctly I would say that salvation only comes through Christ and would add that, contrary to C. S. Lewis I believe that faith in Christ is a vital part of salvation.

4. One of the problems in talking about other religions and salvation is that many of them would not use the word salvation. Hindus (of some sorts) and Buddhists believe that through knowledge (and behavior) one us subsumed into God. Therefore it is difficult to have a one to one comparison between Christianity and Hinduism and Budhism

%. I think I can say with a certain confidence that the core of the orthodox (meaning here that main line between the gospels accepted by the Church )Christian faith has historically said salvation is only through Christ and that one has to have faith in Christ to be saved. We define salvation as forgiveness that leads to eternal life with Christ and we continue to be individuals in the Kingdom of God.

5. There is some truth in every religion and we can learn from others. But the core of Christianity is that Christ in the way to salvation.

Viola Larson said...

Bob,
I agree with almost everything you said, but busy-body that I am, I just have to disagree with what you stated about, C.S. Lewis. I think I am correct to say that he believed some were worshiping Christ in their adoration of another savior because they were attributing what belonged to Christ to that one by mistake or misunderstanding. And he believed that Christ would receive them.

The Last Battle has a good example. The creature Emeth who worshiped and served Tash begun to be troubled when some deceivers were trying to say that Aslan and Tash were the same. When Tash discovers that some of Tash’s leaders are being deceitful he decides to go by himself into the hovel to find Tash. Instead he encounters Aslan.

And this part just before he enters the hovel is great: “But when the cat had gone in and had come out again in a madness of terror, then I said to myself, ‘Surely the true Tash, whom they called on without knowledge or belief has now come among us, and will avenge himself. And my heart was turned into water inside me because of the greatness and terror of Tash, yet my desire was stronger than my fear, and I put force upon my knees to stay them from trembling, and on my teeth that they should not chatter, and resolved to look upon the face of Tash, though he should slay me.”

After Emeth meets Aslan and Aslan welcomes him, Emeth says “alas , Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash.” And Aslan says, “Child all the service thou hast done to Tash I account as service done to me.” This confuses Emeth and he asks if it is then true that Aslan and Tash are the same. And this is the best part.
“The lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said it is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou has done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and no service which is not vile can be done to him. “

On the other hand the evil Rishda is carried away into what must be hell by a monster bird. And is told by seven kings and queens of Narnia, “Begone, Monster, and take your lawful prey to your own place: in the name of Aslan and Aslan’s great Father, the Emperor over the sea.”

I could write about other stories but Lewis did not hold to universalism. And thanks for getting me back into that story.

Doug Hagler said...

I can see that this is all time well spent.

Chris: I know you and I would differ on what "properly" meant in terms of teaching Church history (which I've done in the parish and Synod and enjoyed but doubtless was only another way my evil and heresy reared it's ugly head). I imagine I might sit on a session of you teaching Church history and be hard pressed to recognize what was being discussed - nonetheles, it would be interesting and worthwhile I don't doubt.

I would be curious to learn what changes over time you see in theology - substantive changes, not just window dressing - at various stages of Christian history. I have never seen you make theological claims of any kind coming from the last four hundred years, for example, and you certainly take a much narrower view of early Church theology than me. Still, I'd like to see where you see theology changing, and how you square that with your belief in infallible scripture (and the infallible ability of those like yourself to interpret it correctly).

Doug Hagler said...

Viola:

I have no idea, in your view, how the story from the Last Battle that you quote (which reflects a theology I heartily agree with) squares with 'orthodox' Christian exclusivism. Have I read you wrong as non-exclucivistic?

Doug Hagler said...

Chris:

I also don't really think you meaningfully addressed my comparison to medicine, but I'm not sure it's worth pursuing. Suffice to say, for me, like medicine, theology changes over time, hopefully improving in aggregate, as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us. That is, we know more today than anyone did even a hundred years ago (not to mention four thousand, or two thousand, or even in the days of the Reformers), and that makes our theology both quite different and potentially better.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Doug - Progression of dogma would hijack the thread, but I'd be happy to discuss on my blog or yours.

As for medicine, the point stands: A historical understanding of the Church clues you into the shifts in theology that may seem like innovations, but are really just dead alleys that have already been tried. Blood letting is a dead alley. (Yes, I know there is renewed use of medical leeches!) Similarly, trying to understand who Jesus is - and who God is because of who Jesus is - can't be done when you deny his divinity, resurrection, and two natures.

Orthodoxy is latitudinarian. It sets limits beyond which one only finds dead ends. But within orthodoxy, there is a glorious freedom in that you are walking a path that leads to Jesus.

John said...

Dear Viola,

I think I already addressed your question in a previous comment. No, you don't have to agree with me. But I am asking, even insisting, on the right to do my "wrestling with God" within the friendly confines of the Presbyterian Church (USA) just as you are.

When you say I'm not a Christian simply because I disagree with you, I find that disturbing. I love our wisdom tradition and do not believe I am teaching any kind of heresy. Yes, I interpret many portions of our scriptures and creeds and confessions differently than you do. I honor your right to interpret differently than me. I simply ask that you and others stop demanding agreement with you.

Isn't that interesting? I just put the shoe on your foot. Yes, Viola, you are the one insisting on agreement, not me.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + www.abundancetrek.com + love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." -- Albert Einstein

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

John,

I think you should wrestle with these ideas within the confines of a church. That's what churches are for - Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

But should you have presbyteral authority to teach while you do so?

Is it safe for church leaders to allow you to do so for your sake (James 3:1)?

What about the sake of others placed in your charge(2 Tim. 2:2 & 2 Pet. 2:1)? It's not like you're a neophyte (Hebrews 5:12).

Would you want someone teaching constitutional law who wasn't sure of an individuals basic rights as established in the Bill of Rights? How about someone teaching mathematics who wasn't sure the square root of four is two, or couldn't agree on the definition of prime numbers "because they go on into infinity"?

If not, why on earth would you want someone to teach in the Church who isn't sure that the Scriptures are God's word to us? Or that Jesus is God in the flesh - and that his life, death, resurrection, and ascension are sure vindication of his divine mission?

Viola Larson said...

John,

Let me make the question clearer. I believe that when someone denies that Jesus is the unique christ, that is, the only Christ, and denies that he alone is the way to God or salvation and denies that the Bible is the only true word of God they cannot be a Christian.

Do you still believe that I have the right to hold these beliefs?

Viola Larson said...

Doug,
I think you missed my point. I was trying to point out that C.S. Lewis was not a universalist. He did not believe that all would be saved. And going further he looked with horror on the attempt by some to meld two different gods or religions together.

About whether there are people who are worshiping Jesus Christ under a different name because they have been misled, I don’t know, that seems to me to be something only God knows. But notice it is still only Jesus Christ, not any other Lord.

And on top of that I am thinking of those many Muslims who have lately had dreams of Jesus and acknowledged him as Lord.

Pastor Bob said...

John

To put it all a different way the ancient Church Councils always ended their statements by declaring anathemas against those who disagreed. One was excommunicated when one had an anathema declared against him/her.

No one here has the power to excommunicate. In fact I suspect that it would be rather difficult to do in the PCUSA today for theological reasons.

So when someone says "this is my definition of the word Christian and you statements tell me that you lie outside of that definition" it may hurt you emotionally but it doesn't change your status. You are still a minister member of the PCUSA with all the rights and duties that go with the office.

Your definition of the word Christian is clearly different than what some others here use. That includes me. I suspect that the biggest difference between us is that I believe there can be innovations in the way we speak or live the gospel in a particular time and culture but the basic message is the same. You seem to (and correct me please if I get it wrong) believe that what I consider to be a central part of the gospel can change over time.

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Caring does not mean that we just don't speak about things.

Dwight said...

A few brief thoughts

Christ as God's saving activity is the qualifier to Jesus who is so qualified. Christ in that sense is the more inclusive term. God's saving activity was presumably happening before Jesus, as well as in Jesus, and in any other context that makes for life. Without Christ, then yes we are lost. But that doesn't mean that without the Church, without Jesus, without a certain doctrinal apparatus that has come to surround this figure, that God cannot be the same saving God. But because of my history, my context, etc. Jesus becomes the means by which such a saving activity has been opened up to me, discerned, etc. So Jesus and the church is necessary for me. But that's a confessional claim. And if it hems in God or nullifies God's activity in other religious or even secular contexts, something is amiss.

I think the tension is between a kind of universalism which can only see God in terms of the universal, divorced from the concrete instances by which God can be experienced, that is in word and sacrament, though particular stories, rites, groups and those that are so impressed by how God becomes known in the particular that other particulars are dismissed, condemned. The first ignores how we came to know God. The second ignores that God is bigger than the occasion of God's self revelation to us.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Dwight,

I feel very sorry for a Jesus who is so confused about the nature of God that he says one can only come to God's salvation through him.

That's not an enlightened teacher or wise spirit-consciousness. That's a megalomaniac...

Unless it's true.

Dwight said...

Fr Chris
I think the distinction between the son and the father are much more apparent in the synoptics than in John admittedly, but even then I'm not sure how that translates to and "therefore become a Christian".

The Gospels indicate what would become the church's relation to Jesus and their claims about him more than anything else. I think the confusion is likely to arise from the church that is impressed that it found a way of relating to God that by definition must nullify any other way of relating.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Dwight,

The Father and the Son are eternally distinct. That's a true Trinitarian statement. It's equally true that they are united in essence (or being) and purpose. So if the Jesus says that He is the only way to the Father, you can take it to the bank. It's not just a Johannine issue.

In Mark 16, Jesus commands the disciples to go and baptize, knowing that all who do not believe in Him and His gospel are already condemned. Luke 11:14-20 shows that those who do not gather around Jesus are scattered. John 3:16-20 shows that those who do not believe in Jesus stand condemned already.

Why are we condemned?

The problem is not that we aren't as kind and loving as Jesus was - or even as much as we could be. The problem that prevents us from seeing God is that we are sinful. Even if we were to amend our life today, and live perfectly hereafter, there would be no way for us to make up for past sins (either of omission or commission).

The problem is that we cannot achieve unity with the Godhead. We can only be found "in Christ" and thus be treated as sons. That's the Gospel - that God treats as obedient sons wicked rebels who flee to Jesus and His righteousness, and hide themselves in Him.

The question is this: do you believe this Gospel? Or have you fallen captive to another? One where our works make us worthy to the beatific vision?

Let me ask you something: If there were another way, would Jesus have gone to the cross? Would the Father have put Him through that? Have you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart? Or are you open to another? Do you want other people to be open to another?

Viola Larson said...

Dwight.
Really when you write this,
“The Gospels indicate what would become the church's relation to Jesus and their claims about him more than anything else. I think the confusion is likely to arise from the church that is impressed that it found a way of relating to God that by definition must nullify any other way of relating,” you send all kinds of thoughts through my mind.

In the last fifty, sixty years most New Testament professors, except those who are aligned with the Jesus Seminar, who use historical criticism as well as form and etc. do not see the early church as inventing their own view of Jesus.

For instance, Bruce M. Metzger, in his text book, The New testament: its Background Growth and Contentwrites:

The fact, for instance, that certain of Jesus’ parables were recast in the retelling so as to deal more directly with new problems in the developing church, so far from supporting the opinion of some form critics that the early Christian communities invented a large part of the contents of the Gospels, points rather to the tenacity with which the church retained the words of Jesus and merely readapted them to meet new situations. Furthermore, the total absence of parables in the teaching of the apostles, as reported in the book of Acts and the twenty-one letters of the New Testament, indicates that, so far from their being the creation of the early church, the gospel parables reflect the authentic teaching method and message of Jesus.”

Metzger goes on but that is long for a blog comment. When we come to more scholars nearer today, we find those like Richard Bauckham with his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. You cannot so easily dismiss the Gospels as something the church used to nullify others. Good scholarship does not support that.
Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Great point, Viola. Moreover, recent archaeological finds point increasingly to the antiquity of the NT records. For instance, in D'Anconna / Thiede's Eyewitnesses to Jesus (now under print as The Jesus Papyrus), we find scraps of the Gospel of John (long acknowledged as the last Gospel) dating to around 60 A.D.!

That would mean that Matthew & Mark's Gospel are most likely was written within the lifetime of the apostolic eyewitnesses. It would also mean that the four document hypothesis, mainstay of Gospel scholarship since the late 19th century, is in error (as would be most theories based on it). That book is tough slogging for those without interest or aptitude in papyrology, but very rewarding!

Dwight said...

Viola
Which is why so many, including a number of Jesus Seminar folks, are interested in the parables. I'm not suggesting that there is no connection to history though I'm apt to agree with folks from Bultman to Luke Timothy Johnson that trying to disentangle Jesus from the way the Gospels and the church took him up is about as successful as separating Plato from Socrates.

I have my suspicions of the cool hip Jesus of Robert Funk as I do the orthodox God man. I'm apt to treat the Gospels as at least interpretations of what Jesus had come to meant for their communities. That and the way he is taken up in successive writings from the creeds to theologians in the 20th century.

Fr Chris
A few questions come to mind. When did the split between Judaism and Christianity occur? Such that it can be possible to imagine folks arguing that you need to become Christian and not Jewish (which I don't think you see Paul doing for instance. Some date that with the council of Jamina. Whether early or late dating, the Gospels, esp. the Synoptics are likely before then. So it raises a question of how folks can read the Gospels story as speaking of the requiring of Christianity.

Is the cross necessary? Yes and no. If you mean that Jesus and how he was taken up in the early church must be what it was for it to be disclosive to those whom it has been disclosive to. Certainly. There are no incidentals, not important features of the story. If you mean therefore God wasn't engaged in saving activity before hand or in other contexts. I don't see how that can be informed, just from a read of the Hebrew Scriptures alone, what less the implications of monotheism (before Christianity and Judaism there was still the God of the universe).

I want people to be open to where God is leading people, sometimes I even think that might mean to the church and to Christian faith. And I think of evangelism has trying to keep that option a live one for people. Not easy in this age and day but I think it's an important feature of mission today.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Dwight,

It depends on what you mean by "Judaism." There were competing traditions within Judaism while Jesus walked on earth. But it's clear that there was a break of some distinct kind starting in the pages of Holy Writ. For instance, the Temple authorities struggle with the place of Christian preaching in Acts 2-7 (ultimately expelling most of the new believers). In Acts 21, James exhorts Paul to enact Jewish purification rituals while in Jerusalem because his reputation for casting off culturally-bound Jewish rites.


But what you must understand is that your category is off, here. "Must become Christian" or "requiring Christianity" means what? A fully Christianized culture wouldn't exist until the Byzantine empire; whereas Judaism had a distinct culture that was millenia old (and had proven adaptive to the Diaspora). The Council of Jamnia deals threats to Jewish cultural distinctives: the translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular (which made God's prophet's available to everyone) and the Christian movement (which proclaimed God's Messiah was for everyone). Nevertheless, individuals and communities submitted to Jesus as Lord - within different cultures and contexts - from the time that His apostles proclaimed the message; and that's the crux of the matter.

As for your view of the cross, I'm a little puzzled. What we do know - again from Biblical typology - is that the sacrifices (from the time of Adam & Eve to the paschal lamb on that Passover when He was crucified) were pointing to Jesus and his atoning death on the cross (just as the Lord's Supper points backwards to it). The NT Scriptures point this OT typology out over & over again. Jesus was born to die a public death of scorn - to be the scapegoat, and remove His people's sins (to expiate and propitiate). Whatever other distinctives one wishes to make, that kernel must exist if one is to believe the apostolic kerygma.

If Jesus discloses the real God, then He is God's final answer to the human condition of separation from God, others, and self. He came "in the fullness of time." It was then - not now.

(No...God was not waiting for us to develop a multicultural context or a postmodern epistemology. He was waiting for the burden of the Law to form a people, and the avenues of communication be opened for the proclamation of deliverance to issue forth, which happened in the first century.)

Viola Larson said...

Dwight,
After explaining that there are excellent scholars that do not find it necessary to disentangle Jesus from the gospels and the early church it seems you are just making a choice based on your feelings about whether Jesus could be both God and human or not. Since you find it impossible to disentangle him from the most basic Christian texts you could be helped by reading some different books. Why not read Richard Bauckham, not only his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses but also his God Crucified: Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament. I know there are a lot of others, but that is a good start.

Debbie said...

Aaargh! John Wilde, Viola does not insist upon your agreeing with her for the sake of having you agree with her! You act hurt that she doesn't understand you, yet you don't take the time to understand her. And this is important because of what is at stake.

Here is what matters:

1. In order to have salvation, you must agree (and this is oversimplified) that Jesus is the only way to God. Viola wants you (and others) to have salvation! She cares about YOU! (She also cares about those you teach.)
2. (Very secondary point) In order to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, you must agree with the Scriptures and its Confessions.

You may disagree with point #1 or in how various aspects of these points are interpreted, but this is what Viola is concerned with, not with whether or not you agree with her for the sake of agreeing with her.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Viola Larson said...

Debbie for John's sort of good-by to me see my posting with comments at "Elephants and gods: writing about an article in Hungryhearts."

I think you will find that interesting.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

It always escapes them that we're not asking them to agree with us, but rather pleading that they rejoin their belief to the communion of the saints.

Nothing could be as humble on our part as laying aside the seeming wisdom of our time for something that last. Nothing could be more proud and arrogant than to look upon the testimony God has left in His people and murmur "Hath God said?"

Pastor Bob said...

One of the problems I see with some progressives and my friend John Wilde in particular is the insistence that to be "tolerant" one must be like him. John says he has a different view of Christianity. He does. While it is certainly a tradition that runs through Christian history it is not, in my opinion, the central core of the gospel as proclaimed by the Church throughout history.

While I disagree with John on a variety of points the one that concerns me at the moment is that to be tolerant one must agree with John. Not that you have to agree with him on a variety of points but you must admit that his definition of Christianity is a viable one.

This is precisely the question at hand. While there will always be theological questions that are left as differences between brothers and sisters to say that the Christian wisdom tradition (a phrase that concerns me) can be compatible with Islam or Hinduism strike me as a rejection of the core message of Jesus and the New Testament material about Jesus.

It also strikes me as failing to take seriously the beliefs of the other. Jews throughout most of their hi8story since the 1st Century have insisted that Jesus is not the Messiah. Christians disagree. And while we will have points of agreement with our Jewish friends (and our Muslim friends too) about the increasing failure of Western Society to have any worthwhile morals we come at the question from different theological starting points.

Jesus is the Messiah or he is not the Messiah. Jesus is not an avatar of God or Jesus is avatar of of God. Jesus brings salvation through his life, death and resurrection or Jesus did not die on the cross (a big difference between Christianity and Islam).

Tolerance does not mean agreement. It means civil conversation and agreeing to disagree. It means not expecting civil government to oppress people who disagree with you. And let's admit it, for too long Christians did not tolerate Jews or Muslims. But we don't have to abandon who we are to disagree with civility.

Debbie said...

Pastor Bob, you are exactly right about what tolerance is. And it's awfully strange that John Wilde keeps getting after Viola for supposedly wanting everyone to agree with her, while all along he wants everyone to agree with him that his viewpoint must be accepted as just one more valid Christian theological expression.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Dwight said...

Viola
Your initial claim was a bit more modest. That we have good reason to believe the Gospels are not just made up, that there is continuity to be found in the sayings, etc. And I agree. I've never come across scholarship whether from the right (Johnson) to the left (Crossan) that suggested that there is not a mixture of history and the needs and issues of the church at play in the Gospels. But I can look at what you're suggesting author wise.

Fr Chris
I think there's enough presuppositions that differ that I'm trying to find some points of connection to be able to respond. I think you're right about how long it would be to develop Christianity as Christianity so if we put that aside, then what is being called to accept, respond to. Jesus? Ok..well, most of the world, heck probably most of Palestine had never heard of this man or series of events that is being called to accept. That would take awhile. The God of Jesus. The one spoken of in the beginnings of Romans or in Acts 17, the one evident in creation? That's a God that has been at work throughout history, including before scripture, before humans arrived at the scene. In that sense, Jesus at a particular point of time, re-presents such a God to a particular people, a particular time, a particular place. In a decisive way? Yes. In a way that called people to follow him? Yes. And to turn to the God of their salvation? Yes. But in a way that suggests that before Jesus or in other times and places, people are lost? I don't see it. It suggests God's saving activity starts and stops in a most peculiar way, and one which I don't think experience could validate (ie it's clear that people in other religions or those without are also relating to that which makes for life, for love, etc). When Job is picked as a model person, he relates to God as someone who is not Jewish. That wasn't hard for the readers to imagine or a sticking point to be denied.

Bob, Debbie
That doesn't mean the differences aren't real. It just means that while Muslim conceptions are different then Christian ones, and of course many religious and secular faiths are not theistic at all, and this may govern how they relate to God it doesn't suggest that there fore God is not relating to them. Or to paraphrase H. Richard Niebuhr, the qualified relationship is on our end.

As a last note, I don't think I'm trying to think of this on my own in a way which ignores the testimony of the church. Almost everything said has come from church documents, theologians, etc. That is liberal Protestantism didn't pop from the sky anymore than other forms of Protestantism. They reflect something of how the church has over the centuries taken up these kind of issues.

Pastor Bob said...

Dwight

"As a last note, I don't think I'm trying to think of this on my own in a way which ignores the testimony of the church. Almost everything said has come from church documents, theologians, etc. That is liberal Protestantism didn't pop from the sky anymore than other forms of Protestantism. They reflect something of how the church has over the centuries taken up these kind of issues."

A couple of different perspectives on this. First modern liberal theology was and is an attempt to make the gospel "relevant" in the modern world. We might put a cut off date to this around the 1870's with on the one hand the social gospel movement. The problem that I have found with this particular form of liberalism that it takes a step that the orthodox church had not taken. The Church has always sought to speak the gospel in terms that can be understood in a specific culture. Modern liberal theology instead changed the gospel to fit the culture. I think when parts of the church attempt this they go down the wrong road.

A second note is that yes, different parts of the Church have always gone down different paths. Some of those paths fit well within orthodox theology and faith. Others do not. An example is ancient and modern Gnosticism. The underlying assumption in some Gnostic groups is/was that the creator god is not the only god. In fact the creator god is evil (or at least misguided), attempting to take the spirit and trap it in the physical. This is a drastic change from the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Church ultimately said that Gnosticism was outside the bounds.

The same can be said of many paths some have sought over the years. Modern Unitarianism steps outside orthodoxy. Even the NCC doesn't accept the Unitarians as part of Christianity.

In other words there are some theological positions that are beyond the pale. Saying that Jesus is one of many ways to God is and has been beyond the pale in orthodox Christianity. It is anathema.

Dwight said...

Bob
I would say that if Jesus is just one guy among many, we've left Christianity. Jesus becomes the occasion for us of God's decisive self revelation. That doesn't mean I believe that God somehow isn't speaking, being represented today or in other contexts. Only that it is a particular context that God became known to me. If I thought all parents were the same, one interchangeable for the other, some would doubt my relation to my parents. But if I have a decisive and unique and potent relation with my parents (that is, they are irreplaceable or even unsurpassed for me) that doesn't mean that I ignore or deny that there are other parents.

In terms of the history of Christianity, I think some forms of pluralism have been evident in mainline Protestantism including in organizational documents for a number of centuries. I'm in the Disciples of Christ (which admittedly is non creedal and not PCUSA for those who can breath a sigh of relief :) And when the general assembly has commissioned theological studies for the denomination, what they've said and what I'm saying are pretty close. I used to be in the PCUSA but as a liberal I was one of the numbers who left (I think some think only conservatives leave the denomination). I think heresy trials and the national GLBT stands did me in finally.