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Transforming Christian Theology: Part Three

On to part three of my discussion of Philip Clayton’s Transforming Christian Theology (parts one and two here and here).

Part Three of the book is called “Theologies that Can Transform Society” and basically extends the argument Clayton made for how better theology can breathe life and light into churches to the realm of the broader culture.  Clayton calls us to move beyond traditional liberal/conservative battles, to embrace a more holistic understanding of the nature of our problems as human beings and how the gospel addresses them.  He calls us to a bigger understanding of what salvation is and how it works, and encourages us to allow these new understandings to move beyond the church and have a transformative effect upon our culture (by “culture,” Clayton seems to mean “American culture”).  In sum, Clayton’s is a call to unite social action and traditional evangelical zeal for cognitive and emotional embrace of the truth of Christ into a more robust and “progressive” Christianity that involves hearts, minds, hands, and feet.

According to Clayton,  the “progressive” Christianity he advocates is characterized by:

  • A spiritual vitality and expressiveness, including participatory, arts-infused, and lively worship as well as a variety of spiritual rituals and practices such as meditation;
  • Intellectual integrity, including a willingness to question;
  • An affirmation of human diversity;
  • An affirmation of the Christian faith with a simultaneous sincere respect for other faiths;
  • Strong ecological concerns and commitments;
  • Social justice commitments.

Rather than a lengthy excursus on what I think should/should not be on a “progressive Christianity” checklist (or whether I think compiling such a checklist is even a worthy endeavor), I thought I would simply solicit your feedback.  We postmoderns are all about the wisdom of the community, and learning from the insights of diverse voices, right?  So what do you think?

Does the summary above accurately reflect what ought to characterize progressive (or any other kind of) Christianity?

  • What do you like on the list?
  • What’s missing from the list?
  • Do lists like this serve a useful function?
  • Does this list describe a Christianity you could/would embrace (or have embraced)?
  • What questions does a list like this provoke?

What say you?

38 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well. To be honest, what’s missing from the list is Jesus and the gospel. I mean, I’m happy to advocate every item on Clayton’s list, but they all seem to make the church rather redundant. If I may quote:

    “When a sermon is thought to be no more than a speech by the minister to provide advice to help us negotiate life, the content of sermons usually are exemplifications of the superficial and sentimental pieties of culture. Then we wonder why the mainstream church is dying. Why do you need to come to church to be told that we ought to treat everyone with dignity? Why do you need to come to church to be told we ought to share some of what we have with those who do not have as much as we have? Why do you need to come to church to be told the children say the darndest things? Why do you need come to church to hear stories it gives insight in the human condition?”

    Indeed, why do we need to come to church to have a willingness to question authority? Why do we need to be a Christian to be a respectable religious pluralist? Or to care for the environment? Or to want spiritual vitality and expressiveness? These all seem like rather obvious and generally universal North American values, which makes the need to spell them out rather interesting. Perhaps Clayton is concerned that there are Christians who reject these values, and he wants to bring them up to date. Fair enough.

    Myself, I would like a Christianity that preaches and teaches the apocalyptic truth that those who bear crosses are working with the grain of the universe, because the universe is made and held together by Jesus, the Crucified One. Now that message, and the attitudes toward power, war, and forgiveness it demands, is not going to be heard unless the Church teaches it.

    November 30, 2009
    • Kara #

      Amen!

      November 30, 2009
    • I echo Kara’s “amen!” Throughout this book, I have frequently found myself wondering if the “transformative” theology Clayton espouses is little more than a Christian justification for the list you identified above (par. 2 & 3). Jesus does figure very prominently in the book, but sometimes as little more than an example of what it means to be really, really, really loving, tolerant, humble, environmentally sensitive, and inclusive. As you say, these are all good things and they should characterize a life of discipleship; but they’re not the sum total of the gospel.

      November 30, 2009
  2. Paul Johnston #

    ….if you see the list(buddha), kill it….

    Hmmm, it reads like Mr. Clayton wants to depoliticize the process by creating a more inclusive, rebranded politic. Lets just all be progressive liberals and conservatives. The liberal can make the conservative sign out his weapons, while the conservative can insist that the liberal affirm a woman’s right to abort suspected gay and lesbian fetusus. Sounds pretty Jesussy to me.

    I’m thinking my answer to questions #3 is no.

    November 30, 2009
    • Whew, you got all that out of the list? Wow.

      November 30, 2009
      • Paul Johnston #

        I think I just agreed with you, Michael and Kara.

        Pretty much. 🙂

        November 30, 2009
  3. Ken #

    His list does characterize the normal concerns of a progressive church. The liberal churches have been trying to live up to these goals for many years. As you know, I went to seminary where he teaches. They have long had the idea that what Christianity needs is to be more progressive. My experience in liberal churches is that they have fallen short and that one comes closer to meeting these ideals by simply spending one’s life in a university rather than in a church. Professors are like priests and pastors in progressive culture. The university congregation is huge and its officers are paid well and have the respect that priests and pastors once had.

    I have noticed that Clayton straddles this fence – a foot in the church and a foot in the university. I once did that.

    Re: Strong ecological concerns and commitments.

    I wonder what he has in mind.

    Contemporary ecological concerns are most compatible with animism and Gaian spiritualities and naturalism that are quite different from traditional and most contemporary Christian theology. I wonder if he has these in mind, or the idea of stewardship, which is the usual model adopted by churches. I wonder if he proposes the incorporation of animism, Gaian spirituality and naturalism into Christianity. Probably he does not. I think his list would look differently if he did and he would not use the word “progressive.”

    The idea that we are or should be stewards of nature is generally rejected by current ecological thought. Most ecological writers and spiritualists are quite critical of Christianity and blame it for the ecological crisis that they describe in their work and that motivates their concerns. Those who have already embraced a kind of ecological spirituality tend to be anti-Christianity, anti-church.

    A new book, Dark Green Religion, by Bron Taylor, examines what is happening now in ecological religion. It is a fascinating work written by a university scholar who embraces dark green religion in its surfing form. He illuminates the scope and characteristics of this new religion. It truly deals with transforming, or replacing, theology far beyond what I think Clayton imagines.

    November 30, 2009
    • Re: the ecological concerns, Clayton obviously goes the stewardship route rather than the options you mention.

      Re: “ecological religion” and “progressive” theology, is it a given that more progression is better? Is a “progressive” theology by definition the one that embraces the most new features and sloughs off the most old ones? I’m not convinced that incorporating forms of animism or Gaian spirituality into Christian theology is (or should be) among the marks of how “progressive” one is. Could “progressive” theology also look to the past?

      Incidentally, I think your description of the university as the new “church” and professors as its priests is a very accurate one on many levels

      November 30, 2009
      • Ken #

        Re: “ecological religion” and “progressive” theology, is it a given that more progression is better? Is a “progressive” theology by definition the one that embraces the most new features and sloughs off the most old ones?

        I know your questions are rhetorical. Although it is not exactly expressed that way, I think the answers are basically yes to both questions. That was and is the spirit of enlightenment, even though from within that spirit the guiding principle is thought to be reason.

        Re: “I’m not convinced that incorporating forms of animism or Gaian spirituality into Christian theology is (or should be) among the marks of how “progressive” one is.”

        I agree. And so do the dark greens indirectly. Dark Green Religion is not progressive. The aim is not progress but restoring the “natural.” Progressive movements have been humanist, or human centered, and the aim in dark green religion is to stop that human-centeredness and the aim is to let live rather than to improve. Instead the aim is something like Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic.”

        A question that I spend much time thinking about is how to merge dark green religion and Christianity. They coexist in me now without merging. It involves reconciling Darwin’s view on the origin of species (and nature) with Christian theology. It involves much more than the subject of creation. It also involves reconciling with Christianity the ideas of animism and what Bron Taylor describes as “Gaian spirituality.” Most dark green religion writers don’t believe it is possible, but they know very little theology. And I think most theologians don’t think it is possible either, but still I have hope. I think I can see a kind of animism in the Bible and in the theology of Saint Francis. In addition, I think I can see a kind of Gaian spirituality in Psalm 104.

        re: Could “progressive” theology also look to the past?

        I think that much of the enthusiasm for the progressive movement within Christian theology does involve looking to the past.

        December 1, 2009
    • Paul Johnston #

      Intellectual understandings and adaptations of scripture as a lynchpin to faith, inexorably lead to faithlessness. Academic methods of understanding are best suited to that which is physically demonstrable, that which is material. The Spiritual realm is dependant upon the transcendant power of the Spirit to justify itself. Words and the ideas the connotate, will never do it justice, or render the Spirit as anything other than an absurdity; a figment of the imagination. The Spirit isn’t because we can deduce that it is. It is because, “I am that am”.

      The great tragedy of all modern non catholic confessions is that they seek to make the case for Christ an academic one. In the end the Church need not condemn or correct, the academic world will do it for us. They will expose their post enlightenment cousins for the ridiculous contradiction of a critical posit founded on a mystical premise.

      In the end it will be between the “Priest and the Professor”. There is no sustainable third option.

      November 30, 2009
      • Paul Johnston #

        Sorry, the first line in paragraph two should read…”most non Catholic confessions”…there’s some wrong spirituality in play also.

        November 30, 2009
      • We’ve been down this road before, Paul, but I think your first paragraph sets up an entirely false dichotomy. We do not have to choose between “the spiritual realm” and “intellectual understandings and adaptations of Scripture,” nor is the former the sole domain of truth and the latter a one-way path to faithlessness.

        Re: your claim that all/most non-Catholic confessions seek to make the case for Christ an academic one and that they represent a “ridiculous contradiction of a critical posit founded on a mystical premise.” Um, OK. Yet again, I guess we confused and spiritually obtuse Protestants can only be grateful for people like you to point out our many and varied errors…

        (Are you seriously suggesting that intellectual adaptations and understanding of Scripture are the sole domain of Protestants?)

        December 1, 2009
  4. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, is a “dark green theology” more the consequence of basic scientific research or moral criteria? If the former, some accomodation with the Church could be possible. If the latter and the morality is variant, I wouldn’t think so.

    December 1, 2009
    • Ken #

      Although the roots are numerous, I think it is fair to say that dark green religion is mostly grounded in a Darwinian view of nature and is that sense connected with basic scientific research. As nature writers describe the ethic they generally see it as conflicting with traditional Christian ethics. The dark green ethic is basically what Aldo Leopold called “the land ethic.” It is a way of saying that the dark green ethic is not centered on humanity but encompasses all of life. I think that ethic is reconcilable with Christian theology. I think that nature writers have mostly not understood enough theology to make the judgment they have made. I think theology is compatible with the land ethic. At the same time, I agree with dark green nature writers that most of us think most of the time in moral terms that only involve humanity. This would need to change.

      I think a major theological problem is to explain the appearance of indifference to good and evil and of indifference to outcomes that are part of the workings of natural selection. I don’t believe anyone has yet successfully done that. I think even dark green religion struggles with this. I think dark green religion turns mostly to something like the ancient idea of stoicism to deal with it. I think it would be possible instead to trust as Christians do in redemption.

      BTW, dark green religion has a canon. In it, Thoreau (Moses) wrote the Torah; John Muir is Isaiah; Aldo Leopold is Matthew, Paul and John; and Loren Eiseley and Robinson Jeffers wrote the Psalms. And in that canon, Darwin is Abraham.

      December 1, 2009
  5. Paul Johnston #

    Ryan my dichotomy is not false, though it is open to challenge. Your analysis of it however is completely errant. I state clearly that it is the prioritizing of intellectual adaptations of scripture or any other philosophy or worldview I might add, over spiritual intuits, that will lead to faithlessness. To describe my contention as an either/or dichotomy is to misrepresent it. My dichotomy deals with right emphasis, not exclusion.

    Given this error in premise then, your futher contention regarding the sole domains of truth and the domains of Protestants are best ignored.

    Regarding your choosing to be insulted, quite simply, that is your choice, not my intention. To suggest a point of view is errant, is not by nature, to insult the point of view with which one disagrees. The real language of insult is found in your response, not in my contention….hmm…on rereading my response I withdraw the word “ridiculous” and apologise for it’s inflammatory tone. I would like to replace it with the word inherent, if I may.

    Frankly, I think I hold primarily to what is spiritually self evident.Human words and understandings will always fall short of the mystery of God…”Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance”… (Job 38:2) Human reason can no more ascertain and verify with certainty the existence and intentions of God than a flower can a gardener’s.

    Reason can make a substatial but still refutable case for the being of a God. Devine revelation makes a conclusive and irrefutable case, not only for a God, but for the one and only true God. Through an utterly free decision, God reveals himself to man. Through and equally free decision man responds to that revelation. This is reckoned to man as faith. The reasonableness of which, is a matter of conjecture.

    I’m not angry with you my friend, nor is it my intention to offend, though my language is at times intemperate and inadequate. My concern for you and for all my seperated bretheren is that in prioritizing understandings of dogmas, apoligetics and pieties (clearly my interpretation, not yours) you have lost the better thing.

    The experience of God directly, through sacramental revelation in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    December 1, 2009
  6. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, if a man can love another man, simply through his understanding of the other man’s writing, I love you.

    Please don’t go where your going. Stand firm in Christ. He will reveal a right understanding of nature to you if you perservere in thought and prayer. Christ has a right land ethic, the only right land ethic.

    I know in your heart, you know that.

    December 1, 2009
    • Ken #

      Thank you, Paul. My heart is as you say.

      I have heard that there is an old rabbinic story that when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies the other priests tied a rope around his waist so that they could pull him out if he got in trouble in there. Similarly, I think there is a rope tied around my waist and the other end is tied to the cross. Hopefully that will keep me safe. I don’t mind you tugging on it occasionally just to make sure I am still okay.

      December 1, 2009
      • Paul Johnston #

        LOLOLOL…Thank you, Ken. I am humbled by your very generous response. Please know that if you ever think my “cross needs tugging”, I would be honoured.

        December 1, 2009
  7. James #

    Hi Paul
    Maybe this can help you understand why an Anabaptist like myself [I won’t presume to speak for Ryan] doesn’t quite know how to respond to the Catholic sales pitch.
    Anabaptists view Catholicism as a corruption of Christianity just as Catholics see Protestantism as a departure from the True faith. While Anabaptists were thus labeled in the Reformation it is the NT Christianity that is our model. Catholicism, the Reformation, modernity, post modernity etc are certainly interesting- but are merely that.
    In the 500 years that Anabaptists have carried that label they have been party to plenty of abuse and misuse along with their pragmatic interpretation of the Gospel- but the gold standard is not Menno Simons or Luther or Calvin or Pope John Paul. The gold standard is the ideal of the church described and prescribed in the NT.
    If you knew our history you could easily find plenty to chasten us about- but telling us to look to an institution established in the 4th century by a freshly converted pagan- as Mother Church simply baffles us. We don’t have priests, we don’t have sacraments, we don’t have Popes, we don’t have sacred rites- and we don’t know why you do. You might as well try to sell ice to Eskimos 🙂
    There is plenty in the above to quarrel with but that is the Anabaptist thumbnail sketch of the last 2000 years and that is why any appeal to Catholicism [or any other branch of institutional Christianity] runs into a credulity gap. To bridge that gap you will have to understand that gap. Hope this helps.

    December 1, 2009
    • Paul Johnston #

      Thank you for such an even tempered and thoughful critique, James. Thanks as well for the very prudent suggestion that I make myself better aware of Anabaptist history, culture and traditions. I am rightly embarrassed that such a thought has not occurred to me before.

      I will take your advice with regard to the Weaver text. I think there is a certain justice in me learning about and pondering over, your expression of the faith, this Christmas season. 🙂

      I don’t want to focus too much on the specifics of your critique but I would like to make the following points.

      Constantine’s conversion to the faith is not the historical beginning of the Catholic Church, it is simply, if such an event can be so described, a monumental moment in the life of the Church’s Roman and worldwide mission. We claim our Church, though admittedly the history is fuzzy, to be directly descended from the Apostle, St. Peter. Claims that have never been dismissed, then or now, and are honoured by our EO bretheren.

      Further we claim our authority as the right historical extension of the Petrine commission conferred upon St. Peter in the Gospels, by our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. “You are Peter, upon this rock (meaning him) I will build my Church and the gates of hades will not prevail against it”,….”what you bind shall be bound, what you loosen shall be loosened”…

      It is fair to challenge and even disagree with the Catholic Church’s claims regarding it’s authority. What I would think you would find though, after a more thorough investigation of the facts, is that the Church can make a strong case for its claim based on biblical revelation.

      So too, it is with other claims regarding the faith. Everything, I mean everything, the Catholic Church professes can be substantiated biblicly. Again you would not have to agree. Interpretive methodologies, by their very nature, allow for disagreement. What would be wrong though would to be to assume that Catholic practise in either it’s eastern or western expressions, does not always, always, seek to rightly reconcile it’s practise with sacred scripture. This is just simply not true.

      I offer the largest Protestant community to you, the Anglican Church, as a potential proof. Irrespective of the horrific social, political and ecclessial turmoils of the reformation the Anglican movement retained much that was Catholic. Even to this otherwise hostile community, the scriptural validity of most Catholic practises was self evident.

      As for the seperation of the Catholic faith into two rites, know this. Both the EO and RC are in full, absolutely full, sacramental communion with one another.

      While there are minor theological concerns regarding filioque and the relationship of the Virgin Mary, to origional sin, most if not all commentary I’ve read on the matters thinks these concerns can be reconciled. If in fact they aren’t practically reconciled already.

      Sadly like too many human endevours, even church ones, it is the personal, political and in this case the ecclessial differences that are preventing a complete re-unification.

      Time and the right understanding of faith and God’s will are on our side though. The two rites will one day again become one. Of that I remain convinced.

      December 2, 2009
      • James #

        Hi Paul
        Your explanation is appreciated. There are a couple of points of response-
        1. While the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Coptic branches of our common faith have much to teach us- the claim to time is not on their side. The Anabaptists, like many of the Reformers and humanists of the Reformation era when back to the formative texts of Christendom and the Anabaptists gravitated to the Apostolic and Ante Nicene Fathers more than the post Nicene Fathers- whom they viewed with suspicion. In particular Tertullian [ca 200AD] is heavily discussed for key pieces of Anabaptist confessions- particularly adult baptism, church and state relations, and the refusal to bear arms [called non-resistance in our tradition]. Bottom line- we see our expression of faith as more ancient than yours. Sorry about that 🙂

        2. The linkage of the Peter the rock text to the papacy is profoundly rejected as a post Nicene invention. This, of course is not just an Anabaptist opinion. As you note, the historical evidence in favour of a papacy prior to this is fragmentary, at best. That is a substantial credibility hurdle, IMO. I don’t think there is any need to persuade you to re-think the papacy but assuming that papal claims are self-evidently authoritative to post Reformation Christians doesn’t work even if a lot of us had warm feelings towards, Pope John Paul.

        3. As to Catholic doctrines being Biblical- these need to be taken one at a time. For example- I would suggest that very concept of an earthly priesthood is not NT Biblical unless it is understood under the rubric of the priesthood of all believers. We don’t have priests . . . and don’t understand why you do. Seems to me it is up to you to explain what is Biblical about the Catholic priesthood, for example.

        December 2, 2009
  8. James #

    And we don’t consider ourselves Protestant, BTW. It is almost certainly true that more Anabaptists died at the hands of the Protestants than at the hands of Catholics. Just a historic footnote, though. We’re not looking for apologies.

    December 1, 2009
    • Ken #

      James, this is very helpful to know. It greatly increases my interest in learning more about Anabaptist history. Can you or Ryan suggest titles or authors I might look for?

      December 1, 2009
    • Paul Johnston #

      Thanks for this also, James. It gives me a better understanding of why there could be offense taken to my identification of Mennonite traditions as Protestant.

      Broadly speaking, from a Catholic point of view all dissenting Churches would be viewed as Protestant. Still to a community with the history you describe such a characterization could only be insultiing. Sorry, Ryan. Sorry, James.

      December 2, 2009
  9. James #

    Hi Ken
    IMO a good scholarly but accessible book on the history of Anabaptism is “Becoming Anabaptist: the origin and significance of sixteenth-century Anabaptism” by J. Denny Weaver. Anabaptism is complex as you will discover if you study it- but a significant shift has taken place in the 2nd half of the last century. Before that “classical” Anabaptism was articulated by scholars like Harold Bender. Since then a major re-articulation and shift has taken place and is represented by the works of John Howard Yoder.
    For a people who are seen as anti-modern Anabaptists have always been very technologically adept [we can build anything] and have a great scholarly website http://www.gameo.org/
    When you see the people in the pictures the GAMEO website- they will often look miserably somber. Don’t let that confuse you- we now all look like Ryan and are very cool 🙂
    Blessings
    James

    December 2, 2009
    • Paul Johnston #

      Yeah, I gotta admit for a kid born to “barn raise” Ryan does look stylin’.

      December 2, 2009
  10. James #

    Oops, Ryan and I must have posted at the same time. Take your pick.

    December 2, 2009
    • Ken #

      Thank you, James and Ryan.

      I just checked Borders hoping that they might carry at least one of these books in the store here, but they don’t. I know I can get them on line, but first I will check the used book stores here. BTW, I noticed that Bender’s books must now be quite rare, considering the prices at Amazon.

      I like the website. I plan to spend some time there too. I guess the history books will explain the move from somber to cool.

      December 2, 2009
  11. Paul Johnston #

    With more particular regard to the issues raised in this post, the social activism litmus test (sorry Mr. Clayton you can rebrand it in name, as progressive, but it is a fundamentally liberal concept)leaves me suspicious.

    I think the traditionalist holds that a right relationship with God will lead to a right expression of social activism. If the activism is lacking, so then must be the relationship. It’s all about an investment in time, in relationship with Jesus, that matters. God will do the rest.

    If Mr. Clayton doesn’t prioritize and then offer a means to a deeper, truer relationship with God, He offers only “milk”. Useful to the “child”; the novice, as a conversion tool.

    The need for the mature believer; the mature Church however, is the solid food of holiness.

    December 2, 2009
  12. Paul Johnston #

    Hi James,

    Thanks for the response. I am not in a position, at this time, to answer your concerns with regard to the priesthood, though I can give an affirming “yes” with regard to the understanding being contextualized through the “priesthood of all believers”. As well, off the top of my head, the Church makes reference to the Levites as a means to defend it’s claims.

    I hope an OT defence of a priesthood is an acceptable proof to you.

    A more thorough and accurate response will require some reading of the Catechism and canon law, so that I can lend reason and accuracy to my contentions. My response will have to wait until tomorrow however as I am about to leave for my weekly Catholic charasmatic prayer meeting.

    Time to pray some rosaries and make some joyful noises, well loud ones anyway! 🙂

    I will respond to your concern tomorrow.

    December 2, 2009
    • Ken #

      Paul, I don’t know the specific history of the origin of the priesthood, but maybe the answer is that the test of truth in the Roman Catholic Church is not the Bible but church teachings, and the Roman Catholic belief that its traditions, like the Bible, are traceable to the apostles even if the historical details are lost in history.

      This does not, of course, answer the basic question that each of us faces – why are there multiple versions of Christian belief and practice and does it make any difference?

      Personally, I don’t know the Anabaptist tradition. I imagine that I could find a true home there even as Ryan and James have. I do know the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. I love both, although it is true that I love the Roman tradition the most. To me, the Eucharist is unsurpassed. Whatever its roots and those of the priesthood that administers it, to experience it is to recognize in it all the truth that ever matters in life and death.

      I imagine there is something unsurpassed, a truth that is all that ever matters, in the Anabaptist tradition to which the experience of James and Ryan testify.

      I have some Coptic friends. I can tell that it is the same for them – something happens in their worship that is the greatest thing in life and that someone simply knows is true by being there.

      And I have Jewish friends. It is the same for them. I have seen it. It is in the Torah.

      Perhaps one way to understand the diversity within our great common faith is that the Temple has many gates, one for each us to know.

      December 2, 2009
      • Paul Johnston #

        Hi Ken,

        Thank you again for your gifts of the Spirit.

        …”To me, the Eucharist is unsurpassed. Whatever its roots and those of the priesthood that administers it, to experience it is to recognize in it all the truth that ever matters in life and death.”…

        To me also. In spite of my sometimes quarrelsome behavior, this is the point of my presence here. To express and affirm the real presence of the Lord through the mystery and majesty of the Holy Eucharist.

        He took the bread
        and gave You thanks
        broke the bread
        gave it to His disciples and said,
        “Take this all of you and eat it
        this is My Body
        which will be given up for you.”…

        After the supper was ended
        again He gave You thanks and praise
        He took the cup
        gave it to his disciples and said
        “This is the blood of a new and everlasting covenant
        it will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven
        do this in memory of me.”…

        If a person experiences the real Presence of God, not an arguement an apologetic, or polemic but the real Presence, is that person not commissioned to offer that Presence to others?

        For Jesus’ sake? For the kingdoms sake? For loves sake?

        I know I’m a bit of a broken record, Ryan; same verses over and over. What am I to do? What would you have me do?

        I agree with Ken that there must be something of the “Presence” in your form of worship. I read it in your writing. The Paraclete
        works through you. Of that I am convicted.

        I don’t always read it in the authors you quote and I get pissy. Sorry about that. I am generally suspicious of the commercial industrialization of the faith, it’s literary, “Oprahfication” 🙂

        Sometimes I just get tired and confused with all the talking. “Show me Jesus or piss off!” I know that is hardly a Christian response but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to sometimes feeling like that.

        Sometimes I feel like that a lot.

        December 3, 2009
    • James #

      Hi Paul
      You may have already figured out that we do know that there is an OT priesthood so any appeal to that without NT collaboration will be a tough sell 🙂 Also, while the history of your Church is interesting we don’t hold any of the traditions of the last 2000 years to be normative. The frustration of trying to communicate with Anabaptist is probably what drove the Lutherans, the Calvinists and the Catholics of the Reformation period to agree on one thing- Anabaptists deserved to die. Thankfully all 3 branches of the faith have since become slightly more tolerant towards us. It probably also helps that the death penalty has lost some of its cachet 🙂
      Hope you have a truly blessed evening.

      December 2, 2009
      • Ken #

        The encyclopedia article at gameo.org on theology of history appears to elaborate on what you have written here – about the belief that the church suffered a fall and that the Anabaptists have attempted restoration, if I am understanding it correctly.

        Ecumenical discussion is extremely hard. So many differences go to the core of our beliefs. I think the awareness in our time of how much perspective affects our truths makes it easier, but, of course, that relativism infects us all with nihilism at the same time; and that is not pleasant.

        December 3, 2009
      • Paul Johnston #

        Hi James,

        Thank you for you patience.

        With regard to the issues you present let me say this;

        Regarding the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church and it’s authority, I would stongly disagree with the the inference of your post. While the history is incomplete, reference to a Roman espicopate and its historical claims to direct apostolic succession go back as far as the Gospels themselves. (John 13:36, 21:18-19)

        Likewise in his historical tome, A History of Christianity” by, historian Paul Johnson, (no relation) we have this,… “Jerusalem, was the mother Church where all the Apostles had operated, but the Jerusalem congregation had ceased to exist by 70 AD…The only other Apostolic foundation was Rome, since both Peter and Paul were believed to have been martyred there. Peter’s martyrdom was alluded to in John’s gospel…and both Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians and Ignatius’s letter to the Romans (both about 110 AD) indicate it took place in Rome…Tertullian excepted it as fact; by his day there was already a monument on the Vatican Hill, built about 160.”…

        Apostolic succession as I understand it was an essential requirement of any of the churches seeking expression and communion within the Catholic faith. Rome’s legitamicy in this regard was then and is now, irrefutable.

        James, I am at a loss to understand how your tradition can claim this same legitimicy when it divorces itself historicly from the very institutions that did uphold and verify the tradition. If you reject the Church from Nicea (325 AD) until the 16th century, historicly speaking, how do you make claims to Apostolic succession?

        Likewise with regard to the Bible, if Nicea is the place where scripture is consolidated and made uniform. The Church determining the Word as the Spirit so animates the Church, so to speak, how can you affirm the outcome of such a gathering ie. the Bible and at the same time reject the conclusions and authority of the council itself. It would appear to me to be a self defeating arguement.

        With regard to the Priesthood the Catholic cathechism says this.. “The whole community of believers is as such a priesthood…” The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being, “ordered one to another”, they differ essentially…the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood…the ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His church”… (excepts from canons 1546-1547)

        The intention of the canon is to affirm the all inclusive “royal priesthood” while at the same time making a case for episcopacy.

        Episcopal practice is particular to the OT through the Levites. The NT in the expression of Churches in Jerusalem and eventually in all churches pre and post Nicean in origion. They become so because it is believed to be the right understanding and application of both our common history and scripture.

        December 3, 2009
  13. Paul Johnston #

    Sorry James, left one thing out, wasn’t able to reconcile it’s expression with my last comment.

    …”It probably also helps that the death penalty has lost some of its cachet.” 🙂 lolololol

    Maybe we will have the chance to share a beer sometime you crazy bastard!

    December 3, 2009
    • James #

      Good chatting, Paul. Face to face is definitely has a place. Love to be able to do that some day. We probably can’t go much farther in our conversation without constipating Ryan’s blog 🙂

      December 3, 2009

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