Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Christian diversity -- final thoughts

Picking up where I left off, I submit that as mere humans what we believe about the origin, nature, and methods of Christianity is limited by our worldly, corrupted human knowledge of Christianity. Our quarrels and disagreements are not from the Father. We do not recognize how we have concerned ourselves with an elemental wisdom that is from the world. We function as Christians all too often as if we are part of this world system. We focus on issues that are rooted and expressed in terms of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. When someone else claims to be a Christian and disagrees with us, we look for ways to undermine their position, rather than looking for the fullest expression of familial love and affection that we might share.

Pulling back up the original question of what causes such great diversity among Christian believers, the simple answer is money-resources conflict, religion as we imagine it in our hearts and politics over what our institutional structure should be. Further, think of all Christian brethren on three levels: an individual level, a local corporate level and a universal cultural level.

As individuals, we are influenced by nature and nurture. We are born with a particular gift mix, mental abilities, and inclinations toward temperament. Additionally, we are selfishly inclined and this selfishness is bundled in three areas, our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Gordon's comment in part three was that Eve and Christ were tempted by Satan in these three areas. We have fallen natures, but it is important to recognize this nature has three parts.

On a corporate level, whenever we build communities of believers, we not only bring our individual baggage but we also encounter a corporate structure inherited across centuries of development. Regardless of our current stream, this structure includes decision-making by others reaching us through time. The natural, social construct we call "church" dictates to the individuals how to behave directly through "objective" teaching and indirectly through "subjective" teaching. We call this tradition. Another factor of seeing differently is that a relatively short stretch of time causes people who know an older set of mores to mix with folks inculcated amid a set of altered cultural norms.

From the broadest cultural view, the Body of Christ experiences some twists in thinking as well. The church develops concurrently with the culture in which it is based, interacts and can be pulled in. There are plenty of examples of churches taking cultural stands that were wrong. Southern pastors of the early-mid 1800's "preached" in favor of slavery. Many churches in Nazi Germany supported the fascist regime; the Crusades and the Inquisition were cultural mandates of the church itself.

This is becoming long, but you can see that the ground of our hearts is rich for disagreement and the opportunities for us to see things differently as a function of our socialization are many. When I confront someone whose whole social experience culturally and historically is different from me, and he disagrees with my take on Scripture, how do I respond? Is it not understandable that differences will be there? If we realized and embraced that what we are being asked by God is to establish among ourselves deeply loving relationships built on the social order of heaven, we would approach strangers who profess Christ differently. What if we understood Christianity as a spiritual state that is wholly different from our identities shaped of the earth? What if we sought to simply love others inspired by the Spirit of Christ within us?

Maybe I just discovered my next group of posts!

Jas 3:13 t0 Jas 4:1
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christian epistuh--WHAT? part three

I know epistemology ain't a regular, every-day word, but it says exactly what I need to say about Christianity in this train of thought. More on that a little later.

epistemology = a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

Consider also the following scripture reference, and I hope this all comes together for you like it came together for me sitting in that classroom thirty-two months ago:

1Jo 2:16 (
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. NASB

Everything wrong in the hearts and minds of men is a result of the fall. Let's be more specific:
  • What we desire related to our bodies -- lust of the flesh
  • What we view (symbolism in images) -- lust of the eyes
  • What we do with our intellect -- the boastful pride of life

We are triune beings, a composite of body, heart, and mind. Semantic baggage we will have to sort through in some other post is the piece of us some call heart, some call soul, some call psyche, and some call spirit. I am using the term heart purposely to enable the inclusion of the word imagination separated from the intellect.

Humans are corrupted in all three parts of our being. Our bodies and every decision we make motivated by providing the body security, comfort and pleasure is affected by the lust of the flesh. Our imagination that allows us to conceptualize abstractly and see meanings behind the material world is corrupted by the lust of the eyes. (The Cadillac coat-of arms carries a complex set of connotations wholly different from the Volkswagen V over W inside a circle, while both are just an identifying mark on a vehicle. We understand the connotations and connect with them emotionally by a look at the symbol. ) All that we are able to build materially, not just skyscrapers and bridges, but our institutions and social order are corrupted by and are themselves a source of the pride of life.

Sociologists cannot agree on whether or not Conflict Theory (control of resources), Symbolic-interactionism (power of symbols) or Structural-functionalism (social order as a function of institutions) is the unifying theme for society because all three exist together. I submit each of these organizing matrices can be identified in society because each is a function of one of the three parts of humans. Conflict Theory deals with issues of resources and wealth because we have physical bodies; Symbolic-interactionism deals with issues springing from our heart and its imaginations; and Structural-functionalism deals with our mental acuity and various applications of the same. We are triune beings and we have established a world system that reflects ourselves. (for evidence of this rooted in the US see previous post discussion of capitalism, religion, and republicanism)

All of what we have done is corrupted by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. All that is in the world, is from the world.

Part four will examine the consequence of what I suggest here on the historical diversification of Christianity into sects, our modern day debates about how we interpret Scripture, and thus how we think about God, the Father. Ultimately as mere humans what we believe about the origin, nature, and methods of Christianity is limited by our worldly, corrupted human knowledge of Christianity.

Questioning more experienced bloggers: What does it mean and/or do when I create a label for a post?

Friday, October 26, 2007

second part on Christian diversity

The cycles of teaching in an elementary classroom tend to follow holidays. With darkened Jack-O-Lanterns on porches this coming Thursday morning, our students' attention will shift toward Thanksgiving, the next break from school. I'd like to use the Pilgrims of Plymouth to further the discussion I started in the last post along with their sister colony of Jamestown to the south.

The story of the United States begins with the founding of the English colonies of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. From a sociological perspective, these colonies represent the three major forces which shaped society in the colonies, through to the United States and today shape our world.

The North American colonies of the 17th and 18th centuries are a bridge between monarchism and the rule of democracy across Western cultures, then expanding worldwide during the 20th century. Jamestown was strictly a business venture. Plymouth was a religious freedom movement for the Pilgrims, and a political exercise as the group sought an opportunity to pursue the rights of man distanced from the power of the English crown. Within just a span of thirteen years, the colonies had created the opportunity for three groups of thinker/adventurers to launch concurrent experiments in sociological functions. Jamestown represented capitalism. Plymouth had a dual thrust of religion through its Puritan Christian social order and fledgling republicanism in the Mayflower Compact. Together these two colonies comprised three societal forces that can tear any family apart: money, religion and politics.

I identify these three sociological forces as the thread that ties this post to the last. Sociologists inability to identify a unifying theme for social order is because they have identified three main theories and debate rages over which is "the one". These three main theories are Conflict Theory, Symbolic-interactionism and Structural-functionalism. I suggest the three theories together represent a three-footed basis of human interaction. The colonial experiment illustrates these three forces and identifies sociologists' elusive unifying theme, not one theory but all three exerting influence simultaneously, a braided rope on which society hangs.

I apologize to the regular reader for the sociology lesson, but it is necessary to make my point. I apologize to any sociologists for the over-simplifications.

Conflict Theory states that conflict between have's and have-not's is the key that turns society. (my opinion follows) What causes this conflict? It boils down to who controls the land and the women who go with the land. Women represent men's ability to extend control of land across generations through an established lineage. Land is wealth. Men fight over it. (back to theory) Once a group establishes itself as in-power, the marginalized workers struggle for ascendancy and this shapes society. The capitalism of the US and now the world at large is typified by Jamestown and representative of Conflict Theory. Follow the development of Jamestown across the centuries until one examines the World Bank: do the have's join together to reach out to the have-not's of the developing world for altruistic reasons or to insure that developing-world instability does not disrupt the wealth and power of those in control? Either way, conflict between have's and have-not's is a major sociological function in today's world.

Symbolic-interaction Theory is about the power of symbols to motivate people to action. Consider the Cross of Christianity, the Crescent of Islam, the Menorah of Judaism, the pervasive designer symbols of Madison Ave. and the power of the American flag to bring tears, cheers and rants. The Plymouth connection to this theory seems fairly obvious.

Structural-functionalism Theory is about human ability to establish institutions with an order of purpose, policy, and procedure to insure societal functioning. Republicanism in the colonies was the next wave carrying the political ship of state from monarchism into democracy, such as it is. Political demarcation and compromise remains a major component of most governments in this modern world.

Next, I will connect modern sociological theories to a basic premise of Christian epistemology.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

why Christianity is so diverse

Those who claim Christ as Savior express a wide set of opinions on a varied set of topics. I became acutely aware of this after I left organized religion. I fully believed at one time the true Christian looked, spoke and believed similarly to me, regardless of his or her particular stream. The "true" Christian was "sold out to Jesus", full of the Holy Spirit, someone dedicated to all things Christian and exhibited strong character as a result.

Then I began to doubt in the character of those I walked with largely because I could no longer be dishonest about my own immaturity. I had to face it. In doing so, my sensitivity to what immaturity looked and sounded like became more acute. So I left. The others did not want to deal with our mutual immaturity, and it was either sink with them or swim on my own.

Once I had left the organized church, I told myself I wanted to think again. I had allowed myself to think only what I had been told was safe to think for too long. Eighteen years to be exact, twelve of these as an elder. (This is not intended to suggest that organized religion does this routinely. It is simply what I experienced.) I began to read and often from what before had been labeled by my teachers and spiritual leaders as inappropriate theology. Since I no longer recognized their authority over what and what not to read, I read...widely.

I discovered broad parameters of a significant diversity of "Christian" opinion. I simply wanted to know, "What is right belief?"

It actually came together for me in a secular, graduate sociology course. Much of current Christian theology seems intended to make the world a better place. I think this is misguided. In order to explain and follow Kansas Bob's advice for a blog post to be brief, I think I will need three different posts...maybe four. So please bear with me, if I have gotten your attention.

Beginning in the middle:
Sociology is a modern, established scientific discipline in disarray. Some would even say that it is not even truly a science, though a degree in sociology is a batchelor's degree in science. Many colleges have even begun to dismantle their sociology departments. (It's been two and a half years since I took the course that delivered this information to me; so if this state of affairs has significantly changed, I apologize upfront for any disinformation.) As reported to me then, the problem is that sociologists cannot agree on a unifying sociological theory for why society functions as it does. Please do not be put off by my know-it-all impertinence, but I know why; and the answer explains, in part, the great diversity of Christian opinion about what Christianity should be.

See you soon with more.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

volition and His Being

Consider volition:

1. the act of willing, choosing, or resolving; exercise of willing
2. a choice or decision made by the will.
3. the power of willing; will.

Do we volitionally (will and act to) place ourselves in the Spirit of God resident within us? If the answer is "yes" that is a statement of faith in the supernatural. That is, God the Father is a supernatural being and believing that this Being labeled God the Father is accessible for a human to choose to be in Him is a statement of belief in a supernatural experience between human and God.

I for one believe this is the exact state the Father intends we enter once Jesus regenerates us from sin, and the Holy Spirit in-dwells us. Further, this is the place of completion and peace we know while we traverse this earth as aliens away from home. In my view, there is no other way to truly know the peace that passes understanding.

Often as I experience Christians, I catch attitudes of superiority or disdain for the lost or even fear of them. I wonder where that comes from. I have an explanation for this phenomenon myself, but that is not why I am writing this post. Rather I am attempting to make the point that there is a set of thoughts and expression that claims Christianity which is nothing more than a religious system of thinking characterized by particular ways of being that are not supernatural. In contrast, there is an authentic experience of the in-dwelling Christ characterized by the way of Christ; He directly referred to this when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

True enough, Jesus is the way one gains access into the Father's presence. However, I see a deeper statement that once Christ in-dwells us, we also enter into a way of being human which was demonstrated in the human life of Jesus, ie the way He did things = the way we will do things in Him. Therefore, the volitional act of placing ourselves fully within His in-dwelling Presence is at once an act of faith in the supernatural and an active participation in the divine nature that lifts us into a place of authority in the spiritual realm while we exist in the natural.

Adopting an attitude of separation from the humanity around one's self based on a self-perceived special knowledge as a Christian announces in both body language and verbiage a sub-conscious function of one's true state of self dressed in Christianese, "I am above you." (This is not about how and with whom we fellowship or other choices based on sanctified living, but how we behave toward other human-beings who do not know the Presence of Jesus.) However, the Spirit of Christ in us fully identifies with the sinner...not because He is a sinner, of course, but because He was fully human and He is filled with compassion for those who live under the condemnation of the curse.

I will be interested in your response, whatever it is. Don't be afraid to use your imagination. It is a fruitful path in the Wild Wood.

Monday, October 22, 2007

doctrine and opinion in the Wild Wood

The Wild Wood is a metaphor for the world around us. Not the majestic and sometimes threatening physical world, but the fragmented, ponderous and very dangerous social world created by humans. Spirit refers to what we sense is the spiritual framework running like blood and air through the society. Society is at once both a material reality and a function of our imaginations. Within this social milieu historically and presently, Christians have had so very little understanding that we've killed one another while claiming we are the representatives of the same Spirit. I can really pontificate on this one, but I will spare you that today.

As I write this blog, those of you who may continue to read me will find a hodge-podge of ideas from a variety of disciplines. I am moderately educated as a person and have been exposed to a fairly broad set of notions and authors represented within a liberal arts education. I am an expert at nothing, not even teaching, and as many of you know from reading my comments over at Steve's, I can sometimes get my facts confused. ;^) Alas, such is the weakness of right-brained people like me.

What stirs me most and frequently is how to articulate the deep things of living life in the Spirit of God. God here identified as the Eternal Father, revealed by the Son who left the comforts of His divine place with the Father to have His earthly flesh sacrificed for humanity; Jesus' purpose was and is to reveal the Father and to restore communion between Himself and His creation; Jesus experienced literal resurrection and ascension into heaven, immediately intertwining the realities of the natural, physical existence of humans with the Spiritual realm of the Father and thus precipitated the entrance into this Wild Wood of His Spirit.

Beyond the above, you will find very little heart within me to argue about "doctrines". In fact, let's demystify that word here and now. didaskalia from the Greek=teaching. Doctrines are little more than what someone teaches from the text. These may be either right or wrong from the Father's perspective, and that perspective alone is what matters to me. Folks who insist their "teaching" is the correct one are often so ill-tempered as to clearly reveal they do not walk in the Spirit of Christ, and such is among the vagaries within the Wild Wood I want to explore. Why is that?

Finally, you will find me not attempting to teach here about how to divide the Word, though I intend to use the Word in this mental exercise. However, my perspective is intended to spring from the heart of me as a common man. I cannot separate my intellect from my functioning, but the intellect (here comes my first real opinion) is not the center of any one's existence; believing it is, is a serious deception which leads down very tangled paths within the Wood.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On bumper stickers and my areas of interest

The subtitle of this blog indicates some of my varied interests.

I often read bumper-stickers that intend an imaginative one-liner as a common statement for all people. Most of us in the US have probably seen a bumper sticker that says something to the effect of, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

I liked that as soon as I saw it. Over time and a bit of reflection, however, I see the intended inference as a limited view of our humanity and hardly a common thread of truth the 6.6 billion of us can mutually accept. Sticker-bumped statements are not usually regarded as truths held by us all anyway, eh? There are some people who would deny there is a spiritual dimension to our humanity. There are some who see it according to the first thought, humans having a spiritual experience, and some who adhere to the ending expression of spiritual beings having a human experience.

Add to that three-way divide of perspective the great variety of connotations attached to the meanings of words by 6.6 bil. individuals, the further extrapolations which result from the working imaginations of said multiple individuals and stir in the arguments about the nature of an unprovable, supernatural dimension among those who accept its existence and...well... there would seem to be no possible commonality of thought among us on the above bumper sticker message. We are lost in a wild wood.

Yet, I have a bent of using my imagination to think about the supernatural, while I am very aware of what a common human I am, and I thought a blog would be an interesting way to explore the mix of all that together adding some variety of thought from readers (assuming I eventually attract one or three).

Oh, here's an interesting tidbit. When I checked to see what the current population estimates are to include for this post, I also researched population estimates for 1967--I was 12 and entering seventh grade. It was about 3.3 bil., then; world population has doubled in the last forty years of my life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

generating one

On impulse, I have created a blog. I never really kept a journal, so keeping a blog will be a stretch. The time to write in my life has come, though, and the "public" forum intrigues me.

In all things, including this, I simply seek to grow in the Spirit of the Father.