Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Faith and the Future 3 (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

The central portion of Harvey Cox’s new book The Future of Faith lays out the New Perspective on The Church – which is no longer new. It is broad brush summarized as follows:

Jesus taught and enacted a kingdom vision.

His immediate followers were committed to this vision

Paul’s disavowal of the necessity to submit to Jerusalem demonstrates that it was Spirit driven

At its core the movement was a rebellion against human, particularly Roman, empire in favor of what could be – Kingdom of God

The diversity of texts found at Nag Hammadi among others demonstrate that belief in the early church was not uniform

The Gospel of Thomas is as old and as faithful as any of the four in the NT

Luke in Luke-Acts was setting forth a Christian epic to compete with the Aeneid and other epics

This community (ekklesia = gathering with political undertones) became distorted into a hierarchical church emphasizing beliefs and authority

? The distortion is apparent as early as the first epistle of Clement (ca. 92 AD)

? The distortion develops through Tertullian and Origin and Cyprian 

? The distortion crystallized with Roman favor and Constantine

The council at Nicaea, far from being a sober and Spirit led occasion marked the end of the beginning. The transition was complete.

Meanwhile the Christian bishops went on debating the fine points of theology, Now they argued over what homoousious really meant and the nature of Mary’s relationship to God and Christ. They composed more creeds and excommunicated more people. After the fall of Rome in 476, the ensuing centuries toll a dismal story if the repeated failure of using creeds and excommunications to achieve any result, except for further rancor. (p. 108)

So here is a question to ponder:

Which parts of Cox’s perspective on the Church ring true – and which parts don’t? How would you tell the story?

I ask this question in this fashion because we cannot simply dismiss what Cox has to say. Many of these ideas are running through our church today.  We see them in NT Wright’s work – and Greg Boyd’s. Isn’t some of this revision of church history the background for The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution? NT Wright, much as I respect the man, sees “anti-imperial cult” permeating the pages of the New Testament. LeRon Shults in his Science and Christology is willing to assign large portions of the creeds to time-anchored debates having no significant meaning for us today.

Church history continues … and Cox continues…

The reformers saw some of the excesses of church hierarchy and moved away – but then developed equally constrained formulae and creeds. Saved by faith became saved by believing in justification by faith.

As we entered the twentieth century, the fundamentalists saw the loose approach to scripture leading to an “anything goes” Christianity. Inerrancy and belief in inerrancy became the rock-bottom foundation. This is the creed. Cox has an interesting view of fundamentalists – and he classes his
foray with IVCF in the 1940′s as his experience as a fundamentalist.

Fundamentalism is the current Protestant variant of the toxin of creed making that entered the bloodstream of Christianity early in its history. Fundamentalists collapse faith into belief. They define themselves by their unyielding insistence that faith consists of believing in certain “fundamentals.”  (p. 141)

Cox sees changes at work though …

Conservative Christianity in America – and in many other parts of the world – is not a phalanx. The Spirit is moving. Faith is becoming more salient than beliefs.  … Worldwide, evangelical movements are moving, changing, dividing. They are vigorous in many ways, but often ambivalent about their mission. Many of their leaders who once condemned the “social gospel” are now searching for a social theology of their own that includes peacemaking, striving for racial justice, and combating poverty. The opportunity for useful conversation with the “other wing” may be more promising than ever.

He believes that his audience – secular Christian liberals – should seize this opportunity and open a dialog with more conservative Christians.

What of the future? We can argue with Cox – and I certainly think that his picture of both the Christian past and the Christian faith is deeply flawed – but many of the trends that he sees are true. Perhaps some of them are necessary correctives in the ongoing stream of the church. For example – there is a growing realization that the Christian faith demands a social theology that includes peacemaking and combating poverty and oppression (Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision are examples, but there are many more). But as we move forward this also requires that we think deeply about the faith we claim – the rock on which we stand. The story of the gospel (see last week’s post) and the story of the church (above) must be considered as we look to the future.

Cox has given his perspective. This perspective begs a response – a new response for a new day.  We can see (perhaps) the shortcomings of the ‘fundamentalist’ approach.  But the future is not so clear. Cox will throw up his hands in disgust, but there are core essentials to the faith – and these are grounded in beliefs. Belief in God and in his work in the world, past, present, and future.

What are your thoughts? Does a new perspective on the kingdom message of Jesus  require response? How?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Scot McKnight

posted November 10, 2009 at 6:50 am


The fundamental question I would have for Cox is “Where is God?” That is, does God guide the Church or not? Did God just let the Church go until his new age of the Spirit? If not, has he misread the entire history of the Church?
And, I’d ask how “creedal” the earliest Christians were? Does the NT have indications that creeds began early?



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 7:01 am


Scot,
I think these ideas fit well with the posts on Boyd’s book. There isn’t a neat dichotomy with easy boundaries.
Cox has a “kingdom vision” with little need for God and attaching no real importance to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. (A social manology as opposed to theology?)
Certainly the significance of crucifixion and resurrection was absolutely essential to Paul and thus is quite early one would suggest.
You asked on the other post today if the social theology of Life and Love developed by Boyd is big enough to describe the mission of Jesus. This is an interesting question to work through – what is the complete package – social theology, soteriology, atonement – and how do these pieces combine.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 10, 2009 at 8:21 am


RJS, you’re right: Boyd and Cox have a strong sense that Constantine got things all messed up. While I have my issues with the marriage of State and Church as was done through and after Constantine, I have a hard time thinking that such a marriage can be used to debunk so much of the Church.
God gave Israel a king because Israel wanted a king — 1 Samuel. And out of that choice to give Israel a king God raised up David and then Messiah.
There never was a pure age of the Church; there was no golden age; there wasn’t ever a creed-less church (Jesus said one had to confess him); so the movement from the beginning as always had problems and wrinkles and sinful folks at the core of it.
God has chosen to be among and to guide that kind of Church (and that kind of Israel behind it).



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Patrick O

posted November 10, 2009 at 9:35 am


“There never was a pure age of the Church; there was no golden age; there wasn’t ever a creed-less church”
This is so true, and so important to repeat again and again. Not only was there the confession of Jesus, there was the assumed confessions of Judaism. As the recent posts on Acts here perfectly illustrate, there were major battles over the “purity” of the early adherents, only the questions were about the marks we now consider as being Jewish. Paul and his opponents took the questions to the leaders of the Jerusalem church–Peter whose leadership seems quite obvious early on and Jacob (James) who was given immense respect and authority, even though he is not featured nearly as much in the NT, but shows up as the key leader in Eusebius. And it seems to me that Paul certainly did avow the need for faithful submission to Jerusalem, though not slavish.
Indeed, the lack of a golden age is precisely why we have a New Testament for the most part. We have the Gospels as testimonies, but it seems we have the Epistles precisely because even the earliest churches were caught up not only in problems of practice but also problems of theology, with both of these intermingling in often dangerous directions.
The attempts to offer different proposals to the early Christian debate strike me similar to Niebuhr’s framework for Christ and Culture. Only I don’t think it can be ever this neatly packaged. Was there anti-Imperialism in the early church? In a way. But it wasn’t inherently so. Early Christians refused to sacrifice to the Emperor. But they also prayed for the Emperor. The relation to the Empire, like the relation to the culture, wasn’t categorized. Like Jesus himself it was dynamic. The early church had a vision of the world as Jesus declared it–the Kingdom. As Empire or culture conflicted with this, there was conflict with the early church. But the reference was always to the vision of the Kingdom of God, as the early Christians sought to live it.
Empire and culture crashed against the rock that was the early church, rather than the early church orienting itself in some reactionary pose against Empire and culture. Even still this crashing caused a lot of continual re-examination and focus, especially after Jerusalem was lost.
Also, I wonder about the insistence on including Thomas. That seems less of a historical critical inclusion and more of a way to express an almost adolescent embrace of authority over those “ignorant” Christians of time past. Thomas is useful as a book that can be made to say a lot of contrasting opinions assuming the general public’s ignorance of what it says.
Coupled with other aspects, it feels like Cox and others aren’t as much interested in complete dialogue or embrace, but rather have shifted strategies, hoping to embrace seemingly liberal leaning expressions of the conservative churches and sway them more closely towards a liberal vision. I see this with some of the “dialogue” Cox and Clayton and others have with the emerging church movement–which seems to have much less actual interest in what the emerging churches are saying/doing and much more interest in co-opting the movement to help popularize their own interests. In early church terms, maybe it’s a sort of a neo-gnosticism?



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Rodney

posted November 10, 2009 at 9:37 am


RJS,
Paul as a “loose cannon” in the church doesn’t fit the picture we get from Acts or even his letters (why collect a relief offering if Paul doesn’t care?).
In other words, (as Scot has already said) Cox begins with a mythical view of early Christianity (F. C. Baur’s ghost still haunts us today!): the ol’ Jerusalem vs. Antioch, Peter vs. Paul antithesis. So, we must ferret out the “pure movement” from the corrupted parts. I’m growing weary of this western, evolutionary view of church history.



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Randhy

posted November 10, 2009 at 9:41 am


“The reformers saw some of the excesses of church hierarchy and moved away – but then developed equally constrained formulae and creeds. Saved by faith became saved by believing in justification by faith.”
This sums up the problem for me. When we push believing not in God and Jesus, but in certain formulations of how God and Jesus and the Spirit work, we end up circumscribing them as well as what it is possible to believe.
This is where I turn back to Madeliene L’Engle, and her differentiation of those who “open up” who God is and what he seeks with us and for us and for all creation from those who seek to circumscribe or “shut down” God into increasing precise formulae.
Regarding creeds, I rejoice that in the past 10 years, the Christian Reformed Church, of which I am a member has cast their 16th century anathemas on the Catholics and Anabaptists to historical footnotes and recently voted to adopt the Belhar Confession and update their “Our World Belongs to God” confession. These suggest to me that although creeds, which are the creation of the moment, usually in response to very immanent concerns, have been and will continue to be deeply problematic, can be a helpful guide to us in understanding what we have believed and do believe.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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David Opderbeck

posted November 10, 2009 at 10:13 am


I guess I’m piling on, but I’d echo the comments that have been offered so far. The Apostolic community encoded creedal statements into the NT literature, e.g. 1 Cor. 15:3-7:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

The Apostolic community also functioned with a proto-hierarchy, as shown by the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. The structure of the early Church and the “rule of faith” that guided the Church’s development of the canon and informed the process that led to Nicea thus are rooted in the Apostolic community.
I agree, as does almost every Christian who seriously studies Church history, that Constantinism was deeply problematic. I also agree that as we move out from the kerygmatic proto-creedal statements in scripture into the ecumenical creeds, and then out from the ecumenical creeds into specific confessional creeds, and then out from those into statements purporting to define doctrinal positions outside a specific confessional context (e.g., the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy), the deference we ought to pay becomes more and more attenuated. There is an ever present tension between “word” and “Spirit,” but the way to manage that tension IMHO isn’t to elide “word.”
Incidentally, I don’t agree that the historical place of inerrancy can be evaluated so easily. It’s only in the past century or so that inerrancy has been hotly debated. Significant portions of the Church that could be considered orthodox according to the ecumenical creeds — including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even many evangelicals (represented, e.g., by Fuller Seminary after the 1970′s and much of the British evangelical movement) — do not consider inerrancy an essential confession. Even among that small minority of Christians who consider inerrancy an essential confession (conservative North American evangelicals make up only a tiny portion of the world’s confession Christians), there is significant debate about exactly what “inerrancy” is supposed to mean. I’ve heard that even within the Evangelical Theological Society, not everyone who says “inerrancy” means anything close to the same thing. All this is just to say that there isn’t any ecumenical consensus on exactly what the doctrine of scripture implies.



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derek Leman

posted November 10, 2009 at 10:43 am


Cox’s assertion that Paul refused to submit to the Jerusalem congregation is highly debatable. I know why he and some others think that. But I completely disagree, so do many other interpreters, and it is a sketchy point to base his theology on.



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 10:47 am


Rodney,
I don’t agree with Cox’s picture – but on Paul he is commenting on Paul’s insistence that the gospel that he preaches was revealed to him by the Spirit and he doesn’t need the validation of Jerusalem to proclaim the gospel. It goes with the idea that the Spirit leads.
So given that Cox gets much of this wrong – but taking Wright and Boyd and many others into consideration – people who are not so western evolutionary in their views… Do we need a corrective rework of some of our understanding of church and the gospel?



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pds

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:10 am


RJS, Sorry for the off-topic comment, but I found out some more about the Biologos conference, and thought you might be interested in the links here:
<a href="
Biologos”>http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/biologos-workshop-in-new-york-city-are-intelligent-design-proponents-invited/“>Biologos Workshop in New York
The secret invite list is so intriguing and mysterious. Perhaps Dan Brown will write a book about it.
Peter Enns is going. Hopefully some good dialogue will result.



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Nathan

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:17 am


I’m becoming less and less convinced that these theories of ecclesiological relativism are really workable. They are fairly dependent upon individualistic views of community and authority, which were not prejudices shared by the early generations of Christians.
All the apostles claimed and exercised authority: that much is indisputable. Human beings are relational, communal creatures, and human communities necessarily require organization and leadership. This is foundational anthropological/sociological thinking, and I’m somewhat incredulous of the opinion that the early Christians were careless about ecclesiology, even if we don’t find it clearly articulated in their writings. If the apostles were ecclesiologically divided (so much for Paul’s calls to “unity”) this would be a workable theory. If they were not, the “diversity of belief” can just as well be chalked up to a rejection of the apostles’ authority.



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Rick

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:19 am


Apart from Cox’s faulty foundation (lack of early creeds), Cox wants to set up a false dichotomy (or series of them). Church or Spirit, faulty people or smooth discussions, social gospel or core beliefs, etc…
However, looking at how God did and does work, He uses unlikely people and situations. That is His MO.
Seeing the church as part of God’s missional approach (see Tony Stiff’s post yesterday) helps remove those difficulties even more. Furthermore, if we see the church as part of God’s mission, then we see the Spirit equipping and moving the church along. The Regula Fidei and early creeds are portions of that equipping for mission.



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Rodney

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:22 am


RJS,
Actually, Paul is a good example of word and spirit. The origin of his gospel, according to most scholars, was not only informed by the Spirit, but also the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jesus tradition, his own religious experiences, and the experiences of other Christians (including not only the Jerusalem church but also the churches he started). Perhaps I shouldn’t comment on Cox’s take on the sweep of Church History since I haven’t read his book, but from what I gather from your read, it sounds like the same, tired arguments of the early 20th century.
Regarding your question about a corrective/reworking of our view of church history, I’m out of my league to offer any advice. I think what you all are doing here is certainly helping me. My snarky comment about Baur via Cox has more to do with the division in Pauline scholarship whether Paul re-invented Christianity or not. We still keep beating around that bush.



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Bob

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:24 am


What’s all this nonsense about Luke wanting to be Vergil? If he was wanting to write a Christiad (anyone familiar with that particular gem of the renaissance just said “ugh!”), he wouldn’t have been writing in prose. And if Luke/Acts makes up more than the size of two (maybe three) books of the Aeneid, I’d be surprised. The very thought is just silly to anyone conversant with the style and structure of ancient epics, particularly those of Homer and Vergil.
Didn’t some nut a few years back say that the Gospel of Mark was based on the Odyssey of Homer?



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:45 am


pds,
Good for Pete and the others – I wish I was on the invite list, but was completely unknown when all of this was put together, and still am moderately unknown. But I am not bothered by secrecy. At this point a profitable discussion really requires the absence of a spotlight. This isn’t a public forum, it is an opportunity to think and listen.



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:56 am


Rodney,
I think that Cox’s argument is the second half of the 20th century rehash. It is heavily founded on the new literature (Nag Hammadi, Dead Sea, and such). He references Pagels and Borg and …
The issue of Paul reinventing Christianity … Cox treads on that a bit, but not heavily.
What I find useful here (not so much in Cox as in the whole conversation) is the attempt to put Jesus and Paul and the early church in the context of the first and second century culture. I don’t have the answers either, but I think that it is worth thinking and discussion.



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ChrisB

posted November 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm


“The Gospel of Thomas is as old and as faithful as any of the four in the NT”
Wow.
Next book.



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm


CHris B,
What response should I give a colleague, or a student, when in a discussion about Christianity if they make a comment that the Gospel of Thomas is old and reliable as Mark and older and more reliable than John? A dismissive response will go nowhere. This isn’t an uncommon or naive claim. Many scholars seem to take this view.
We need a response that actually gives a reason for placing Thomas on a lower rung so to speak.



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pds

posted November 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS,
Agreed. Not all gatherings need to do everything. I hope the Waltke view has some impact. It will be interesting to see the white papers when they are published. I will be curious to see Mark Noll’s especially.



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ChrisB

posted November 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm


@RJS,
I’d point out 1) those features of the gospel that are clearly gnosticism — and that that philosophy is too old to predate the canonical gospes and that sizable chunks of the NT refute gnosticism, suggesting that’s not what Jesus taught, and
2) the circular logic of those who support that age for Thomas.
Then I’d get them to read the thing. Just comparing how Jesus treats women in the canonicals and Thomas should give them pause.



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Brian in NZ

posted November 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm


RJS @18,
I read a book called ‘The Wisdom Jesus’ by Cynthia Bourgeault, who discusses the Book of Thomas, saying that it is written in the Eastern wisdom tradition of thinking, whereas the other gospels are written in our familiar linear format. Could it be that we relegated Thomas to a lower rung simply because we don’t understand the type of writing and the symbology/metaphor as quickly or easily as we do the linear approach?



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RJS

posted November 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm


ChrisB,
Cox agrees that the way women are referred to in the Gospel of Thomas is enough to give one pause. He isn’t quite sure why so many take it seriously.
On the other hand, he claims that gnostic is a catchall phrase that is nearly worthless because it is used for almost everything that is not “orthodox.” I don’t know enough to know if he’s right, but I’ve heard this from a number of other sources as well.
I’ve got the Nag Hammadi texts and have read the Gospel of Thomas and many of the others. I agree that is the best way to start a useful conversation.
But Brian in NZ’z point is interesting as well. Do we dismiss these because they are in an Eastern wisdom tradition rather than our familiar linear format? I don’t think that this is the reason, but I have heard this kind of argument from others as well – accompanied by the argument that “orthodoxy” is a western thought mode we need to break free of.
I bring these issues up because I do think that we need to be prepares to deal with the issues in a fairly rigorous way. (At least if we wish to be taken seriously among circles where they hold sway.)



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Randy

posted November 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm


I am no expert here and I have not read Thomas. But I would want to be very careful about calling the Canonicals or even Paul “Western.”
I taught history courses in the mid-1990s, when calling something “Western” was reason enough to pitch it right out. When I found myself teaching the rump of what we used to term “Western Civilization,” a combination of terms I found troubling, I began the course by drawing a circle around the geographic areas included in the course. When the students saw that this included Israel, Egypt and parts of North Africa, as well as Greece and Macedonia and Turkey and even Iraq, they began to draw one of two conclusions: Either 1) IThis was more than just “Western” (Aka European) civilization or 2) Those who constructed “Western Civ” were rather imperialistic in what they declared to be “Western” and “Civilized.”
I see Wright and many others, including Kenneth E. Bailey similarly opening our eyes to how “Eastern” some of these really are. In fact, Bailey makes a case that it is not the early Canonicals that are “Western” so much as our translations. The changes from the NIV to the TNIV reflect an interesting rolling back of Western assumptions in light of new knoweldge about Jewish culture, Bailey suggests that we also look to some of the early Syrian translations to deepen our knowledge.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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angusj

posted November 10, 2009 at 5:10 pm


?Paul’s disavowal of the necessity to submit to Jerusalem demonstrates that it was Spirit driven. At its core the movement was a rebellion against human, particularly Roman, empire in favor of what could be – Kingdom of God?
Which parts of Cox’s perspective on the Church ring true – and which parts don’t? How would you tell the story?
As an acknowledged layman in things theological, my reading of Paul in the NT leads me to believe that his soteriology was derived from his ecclesiology. It was evident at the church in Syrian Antioch that God?s Spirit had called Gentiles into God?s ?family? or ?kingdom?. The prevailing Jewish soteriology (Jewish nationalism, circumcision, Sabbath observance, Torah adherence etc) had to be discarded and replaced with a new understanding of who could fellowship in the family of believers. Paul understood the centrality of the Spirit in the life of the believer and so faith in Jesus and receiving of the Spirit became the new markers of membership. It seems to me that Paul?s railings against Torah observance were much more to address misunderstandings of church membership, and much less a polemic against works righteousness. Paul also replaced the obsolete label of covenant membership (Jewish nationalism) with two new labels for membership ? members of God?s ?Kingdom? and ?sons? (and implicitly daughters) in God?s family. While the ?Kingdom of God? metaphor may have been partly polemical against the Roman Empire, it would certainly have resonated with Jews anticipating the return of the Messiah and his reign.



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Chris Armstrong

posted November 11, 2009 at 10:33 am


http://gratefultothedead.wordpress.com
I share the concern expressed here that assent to propositions has replaced faith-as-trust at various points in church history. I even share the assessment that this was a problem within the fundamentalist movement, though I stop well short of seeing it as the one, single, animating principle of that movement.
If you check out the “five fundamentals” that emerged from early 20th-century American Presbyterianism and was commonly adopted by the early fundamentalists, you’ll see something interesting. Here’s the list:
* Inerrancy of the Scriptures
* The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14)
* The doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God’s grace and through human faith (Hebrews 9)
* The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
* The authenticity of Christ’s miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming)[4]
Although the first point, inerrancy, could certainly lead to a “propositionalist” approach to faith, by which the other four could certainly become merely notional statements of What Must Be Believed To Be A True Christian, note the personal dimension of the other four:
Jesus as a person was not just human but also divine
Out of his great love for humanity, the human-divine person Jesus died for sinners, atoning for their sins
Death could not hold the person Jesus, in the grave. He rose again bodily, walked with his disciples and others, ate fish sandwiches with them, and told them that although he was leaving to be with his Father in heaven, he would never truly leave them. He would send the Holy Spirit to continue to teach, guide, and comfort them.
The person Jesus, out of his great love for individual people, reached out, touched them, and healed them, in a miraculous way.
That same person Jesus will return to inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth.
Why did the fundamentalists affirm these “fundamentals”? I would argue, to protect from the secularizers of their age precious truths about the person of Jesus Christ and his relationship with individual believers and his church.
Did the fundamentalists tend to use modernist language in defending those precious truths? Sure they did.
Did arguments between fundamentalists and modernists descend into squabbles about words and formulas? Sure they did.
Did fundamentalists honestly believe they were saved by the raw application of belief to dried-out, empty formulae–forms of words?
Highly unlikely. Evangelicalism was *all about* fleeing from the reduction of faith to mere forms of words (e.g. in rote repetition of liturgy) and into a real saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
However off-track the fundamentalists got (and they got off-track: no church movement has NOT), the beating heart of the movement was always the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the wondrous possibility he opens up, of reconciliation and relationship with God.
Let’s not forget this.



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RJS

posted November 11, 2009 at 11:44 am


Chris,
Excellent point – and I think the key consideration that Cox in his educated liberalism misses. This is why I have hope for the future – and hope that we can work through the shortcomings of an evangelical (even “fundamentalist”) approach and retain a robust Christian faith.
The core issue is not so much belief and creed as God and the nature of God and Jesus – and the Spirit. This is along the lines of tomorrows post that wraps up the series on Cox’s book.



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Chris Armstrong

posted November 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm


http://gratefultothedead.wordpress.com
Thanks RJS. And by the way, I would defend the creeds, and to some degree even the Reformation Confessions, on the same grounds. These documents were the work of pastors. They were certainly abused when absolutized. But the things they protected were precious, and had everything to do with the living, personal God portrayed in Scripture and our relationship with that living, personal God.
I suspect folks like Leron Shults have been reading the 20th-century modernization of theology (that is, in this context, NOT “liberalization” of theology, but the fundamentalists’ tendencies toward rationalization, propositional-ization) back into the orthodoxy of yore, assuming that creeds and confessions were to the folks who used them nothing but intellectual formulae and/or bludgeons with which to beat their political enemies.
That they got used in both of those ways I don’t deny. But we have to be careful of what we lose when we fight the modernization of theology. One of the reasons I love Dorothy L. Sayers is that despite the fact that she once confided she had never had a religious experience, and could be saved, if at all, no other way than through her mind, she grasped the wonder and drama of the Incarnation (read her essay “The Dogma Is the Drama”) and the importance of encountering Christ in his full humanity AND divinity (read or hear her radio plays, The Man Born To Be King). She was a puzzle-lover, a pattern-lover, who gloried in the rationality AS WELL AS the person-ality of God.
By the bye, though I love the work of Robert Webber, I am disturbed by his tendency to make this same move of over-reaction against fundamentalist “propositionalism.” Heavens, that battle is now, by and large, over! Let’s not let our constructive theologizing be hamstrung by bitterness over what we hate about fundamentalism.



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eric

posted November 11, 2009 at 6:01 pm


A quick comment about a post a few days back.. I realize many lay nonchristians read stuff like the Gospel of Thomas as a supposedly true rendering of early christianity, but how many people will come to the faith by hearing a good counterargument against this theory?? i think the Spirit will do His work on an open mind/soul and our job as christians is to demonstrate Christlike behavior .. The early church won Roman converts by ministering to the ill in an early CE plague among other things..
anyway Craig Evans book Fabricating Jesus has a good section on how you can argue that Thomas is a pistache of other works by comparing it to syrian manuscipts.. fyi for interested folks



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Joel Gillespie

posted November 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm


I agree with angusj.
But the main reason I am commenting is that I don’t see Wright anywhere near, around, or behind Cox’s message as you have described it. Is “New Perspective on the Church” Cox’s language?
As I read your description Cox appears no different in spirit or knowledge than Dan Brown, as if he just has an ax to grind. It’s hard to even take it seriously.



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RJS

posted November 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm


Joel,
Cox’s position does bear some resemblance to Dan Brown’s and not much resemblance to Wright’s, except on one count. Wright has been pushing the idea that anti-imperial rhetoric runs through Paul’s writing and was significant in the early church. This was the only comparison I was trying to make.



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