The Heretic is us

heretic

Heresy is the youth of truth.
Orthodox is descript old age.
Heresy is thought.
Orthodoxy is habit
Heresy is initiative.
Orthodoxy is inertia
Heresy is self satisfied and intolerant of orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy is equally self satisfied and intolerant of heresy.
The orthodox should think better of heretics.
And the heretics should think better of the orthodox.
For every orthodoxy was once a heresy.
And every heresy is fated to be an orthodoxy.
All countries were founded by traitors.
All our churches were founded by heretics.
The patriotism of today glories in the treasons of yesterday.
In our churches we bend the knee in cushioned prayer,
To saints who were once dragged before
The tribunals of the orthodox and condemned,
And hung for their belief or unbelief
Half of us are heretics.
The other half worship heretics.
Not even the orthodox worship the orthodox.
Every orthodox faith is founded on some old time heresy.
The men who conform to the old
Never win immortal palms

(Author unknown)
From the book, “Thinking and Talking about
God”

I really like this poem.  I think it basically of sums up the life of the church or believers.  If we were sent to the time of the Reformation we would be more heretical than Luther or Calvin.  Heretics are our heroes.   They are St. Francis, Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wycliffe and Jesus.  They all made huge waves in their day, but not without consequences.  When we look back they are our heroes, but those who are heretics today are the enemy or on their way to Hell.  Same things said about our heroes.

All of the great reformers or heroes of the faiths would have been considered heretics or at least liberals in their day because the norm would have been orthodoxy.  By definition, Orthodoxy is “authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice.”  In other words it is what is normal in the church.  Heretics are not normal.  They push the boundaries and we don’t like them just for that thing.  We want everything to be normal.  We are comfortable in our little churches doing our little things, following the way it’s always been.

“The way it’s always been.”  That’s kind of funny.  It’s probably only been that way for a few years.  Why do you go to church at 10 or 11 a.m. every Sunday?  Jesus didn’t do it that way.   Heck, Jesus and all the disciples went to the synagogue on Saturday for their entire life.   Luther liked to sleep in as he got older. That’s why we meet at that time.  We meet on Sunday because Christians were kicked out of Judaism in 90 C.E.   Until then Christians were members of Judaism and worshiped in the synagogue on Saturday.  After Christians were kicked out of Judaism Christians decided to change to Sunday since Jesus was raised on Sunday they would worship on Sunday, a day of work, not rest.

Do you hold on to the Rapture theory?  That got going in the 1830’s.  You mention the Rapture to St. Paul and he’d think you were a nut job.  He expected Jesus to return in his lifetime.  No rapture, no tribulation, not for Paul.

Most of us grew up with Sunday school but that is only 200 years old.  The church building was introduced after Constantine first made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire.  Christians took over Pagan worship sites and used them for their own purpose.  The church choir soon came out of those Pagan rituals.  The pulpit, offering plate, the typical worship order, and bulletins all came from the reformation time period.

The theology of the Trinity came from the late 4th or early 5th century.  It was not something that was taught in the early church.  It wasn’t even clear to all groups that Jesus was God until this time period.  There were many groups who looked at him as an anointed person or prophet that God gave great abilities to because of his closeness to God.  Those groups were all killed by the “orthodox church”, led by Constantine.  (Maybe that is one argument against a church run state but that’s another blog)  So, you could say that the orthodox church is only the orthodox church because they won.  Or you might say it was because we didn’t have a Bible yet.  But what bible should we follow?  The protestant with 66 books?  The Catholic with 73 books or the Greek Orthodox with 76?

For those who want to have church like Jesus had it would not want it.  We would not recognize their service and they would not recognize ours.  If you think something is heresy, maybe it is you who are simply holding on to your own theology or traditions and not onto where God is leading his assembly of believers.  People today are no different than the Pharisees that hold on to their traditions.  These traditions were only a few hundred years old.  Not really things that Moses or Abraham really did.

So I think by now you get the point.   Almost everything that we hold as essential to our beliefs or worship was once thought of as heresy.  Theology changes, rituals change and we change as we grow and learn the better way.

St. Francis was called before the Pope one day to testify as to why he was doing this odd thing.  Taking care of the poor.  When St. Francis told the pope what was happening he was sent off with blessings.  Not all heretics were or will be so lucky.  Many were killed, jailed, or kicked out of the church because people had to hold on to their traditions.  Today is no different.  People will be standing up for where the church needs to go.  They will be despised, cursed, condemned by those holding on to the past.

About every 500 years the church goes through major changes.  We are due.  What will you do?  Will you hold back yourself and others?  Stand firm on your theologies and traditions?  Or will you make a mark on your world.  Stand up for change and take the real Christ into this world.  The world that he loved so much.  Be a heretic.  Make a difference.

Here is a link to letting go of our theology and loving people like we should.

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/01/22/when-christians-love-theology-more-people

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Christians Left and Right Walking together

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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15

This past week I discussed or more correctly asked some questions of those who were more on the religious left.  A few weeks ago I talked about the problems with the religious right. What I see as the biggest problem is how each side read the Bible.  Funny how what is supposed to be God’s word can be so divisive and read in so many ways.

How we choose to read the Bible tells a lot about what our beliefs will be.  Literalists will discuss the rapture, anti-Christ, tribulation, Hell, Heaven, pro marriage, anti homosexual right, pro-life, Republican politics.  The left will discuss unity of all people, the spirit of Christ’s return, who wrote this section of the Bible?  Was it J, E, D, P, or A, or sometimes R?   They won’t talk about the tribulation and anti-Christ because it isn’t going to happen.  Those issues were for the writer’s time and not for today.  I’m taking a guess but I’d think most would vote Democrat but I also think they wouldn’t put a lot of stock in who was in office.  Most literalist would have no idea what those letters mean.

So there are a lot of things that could pull us apart, but it shouldn’t.  Instead it should bring us together to discuss our views.  That’s discussing the issue, not argue about why you are right.  I say that because that is often what it turns into.  Some heated argument about why we are right.  We often debate and not discuss our differences.  Debating means that I have to win.  Discussing means people taking the opportunity to learn from each other.   Don’t we serve the same God?

I believe that we have differences because that same God that we all serve has shown us what we need in our lives.  I have moved from the right towards the middle as God has shown me the hurts that living the ways of the right was missing.  Others I’m sure have moved from left towards the right for the same reasons.  If we do not move back and forth we probably aren’t learning anything and maybe we just simply become a Pharisee who seemed to think they knew what God really wanted.  After all that is what we’ve grown up with.  That must be right.  Tradition is always right.  Ok that last bit was sarcastic, but I hope you get what I mean.  The more we talk to one another the more that we can open each other up to those things we may be missing. Don’t ever think you or your beliefs are perfectly in line with God’s views.  That is dangerous.  Just ask those in Jonestown, Waco, the KKK, or Nazi Germany.  All thought or think they knew God’s will.  And yes, the Nazi’s did believe strongly in their idea of Christianity.  They even had a group searching for Christian Relics because it would bring them the power that they wanted.

Yes, they may be extremists, but the more we believe we have the only way the more it leads to hate for those not like you, bigotry, self-importance and explosions at abortion clinics.  If you feel that you know it all then anyone who disagrees with you must be a sinner and therefore bound for some kind of punishment, but not the reward that a person who is right in the eyes of God, whatever that right means.  Often these people come off as very judgmental, because they seem to think that because they are right with God they can tell anyone all their sins and what God will do to them.  This can be people in or out of the church.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them, who they put down.

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17 and Paul likened the believers to one body in 1 Corinthians 12.  It seems that we are having the same problems that Paul addressed.  Our eyes are saying to our feet, “I know the right way to go” Our hands are saying to our mouth, “you don’t speak for me.”  The head says to the ears, “why don’t you listen to God.” And Jesus says to the heart “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”, because we leave him out when we fight amongst ourselves.

Then Jesus turned to us all and said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Not in theology, but in love.  Paul follows his thoughts on the part of one body with the love chapter.  And what remains is Faith, Hope and Love,” but the greatest of these is Love.”

Yeah, we have differences and that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t get along.  If Jesus wanted us to have unity then we can, but it’s up to each one of us to put down our guard, our predispositions, our traditions, our theologies, and give it a chance.  Are you willing to let go of those things that make you angry at other believers?  Can you let go of those things that you hold as absolutes that may not be and to listen, truly listen, and learn from one another? I think we need to try, it sure can’t hurt.

Questions for the Left

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Several weeks ago, I wrote about some problems with the religious right and a friend of mine asked me to be fair and write about the problems with the left.  I kind of feel a little inadequate about that, since I have not lived that kind of life.  I’ve spent my 45 years of life in churches that lean right.  I have only read their views in books and discussed ideas with friends who have lived their lives understanding life from the lefts views.  I have also spent the last few months attending a more progressive church.  You would never notice a difference in the worship service unless you spent several weeks or months attending services.  However that is only one church.  Maybe others are different.   I will say that I have personally moved from the right more towards a middle ground.  I don’t feel that I am on the far right or left.  Some people I know might disagree with that though.

Let me explain that I believe that all religious extremist (either left or right) are problematic.  The farther to the right a person gets the more demanding that they are correct in all their views and no one other than those who believe like they do will get to heaven.  The farther left a person goes the more it seems that rules don’t matter.  Doesn’t matter how you live, eventually you will get to heaven if there is indeed a heaven.

The left does not read the Bible literally as I did growing up. Many read it from the historical critical point of view.  That is that they try to find out who the author is, who they are writing to, and what time period they are writing in.  Then they can figure out what the author meant in that time period and see if it has any meaning for today.  This is similar to what you might do with Shakespeare or Homer. It is not an inerrant work created by God.

There were not seven days of creation.  Science has proven that to be false.  I remember discussing this possibility with a fundamentalist ten or so years ago and they were sure I was simply playing devil’s advocate.  Nope, both creation stories are there to show us something about God; after all in the story vegetation is created before the sun.  They lean less and less towards miracles.  They look for natural or scientific ways to say this is how God did it, or they believe that the writers embellished the stories to get their point across.  Jesus never walked on water.  It’s simply a story about Peter’s faith and willingness to follow Jesus anywhere.  Maybe Thomas Jefferson was on that left.  After all, his Bible eliminated every miracle.

Hopefully I am getting this right. You lefties let me know.

Along with miracles come questions about Jesus.  After all, wasn’t his life and death filled with miracles?  There was no virgin birth.  That was an interpretation by the writer of Matthew of the Isaiah verse.  There was nothing really special about the birth of Jesus.  He was probably not well known.  Many historians of the era write about Messiahs but not one has been found to mention Jesus clearly.  The left would look at the stories and ask “If Jesus had done so many miracles wouldn’t people know about him?”  “Write about him?”

If there are no miracles during his life, then what about his death and resurrection?  The farther left you go the less there is belief in a resurrection.  The Spirit of Christ was revealed and sent out.  Paul does talk about Christ living within us (Rom. 8:9-11) and that is the kingdom of heaven.  There may not even be an afterlife.  At least, they say, not for your body.  The soul or spirit that inhabits your flesh will go, but not the flesh that is you.  My biggest questions for this are why should I do any good?  Why shouldn’t I just eat drink and be merry for tomorrow I die?  Did Jesus just die, or die for our sins?

Other beliefs hold that there is no eternal hell.  This has actually been taught since the early church fathers.  Origen was one of the loudest.  He even believed Satan would be reconciled.  Truthfully, I like that idea.  I like the idea that at some point all souls will be reconciled to God through his great mercy. But how are those verses about hell then interpreted?  And to say they are not crazy they will say, C.S. Lewis even believed in this chance.  Read “The Great Divorce” or Narnia where other people besides Narnians go to their heaven.

If all go to heaven, what word is it that we are supposed to spread?  That everyone is saved?  And if that is it, what is the purpose of the church?  What of the Bible?  Is it the word of God?  Certainly from the left it is not without error or contradiction, so what is it?  How is it used?

These are questions I can’t quite answer yet.  I am still struggling to understand it all.  I need more reading and discussing these issues.  Maybe I’ll get it in another 45 years.

I’d like to continue this conversation Sunday.  Please come back.

 

Ok found this link a few weeks after posting this blog.  It may help conservatives understand progressives a little more.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/16-ways-progressive-christians-interpret-the-bible/