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?


Craig V. said...

Great post ded! I like this line:

"… what causes such great diversity among Christian believers, the simple answer is money/conflict, religion as we imagine it in our hearts and politics over what our institutional structure should be"

It would be an edifying adventure, it seems to me, if we attempted to discuss differences on this level. If, for example, I as a PCA pastor would sit down with someone from a radically different tradition and rather than start with doctrinal distinctions followed by machine gun volleys of Bible verses we were to ask "Where are my desires? What are my idols? What of my tradition is built upon sand?"

One caution: though I agree we should be wholly different I would not want that to mean we should seek to be super human. The difference you are referring to actually makes us more human.

ded said...

I am glad you got something out of it, Craig. You are so right that I am not trying to say we become super human, but that we find the humility of Christ, in Christ and become more fully human.

Anonymous said...

DED this is CSP IV... As an historian and the son of an historian I'm going to take some historical and spiritual liberty here and suggest another pattern for the current mix offered by a colony which pre-dated those mentioned in Jamestown and Plymouth. One of the greatest mysteries of American History is what happened to the Roanoke Colony. A mystery of the walk we are taking is our dual citizenship.

I suppose that when hope of provision from their former home was exhausted the colonists arrived at the place where hope in self-provision was all that remained. They certainly couldn't turn fully to this new world for hope and provision. At some point however, the new was all that remained perhaps they had to fully immerse themselves in this new place and take a new citizenship leaving all that was of their former world and their former self behind. This transformation was so complete that almost no clue remains of their former existence. Over the years some research has been done on those from the region that have the same English name as some from the original colony. More recent work involves DNA comparisons between these people and other descendants of the colonists that still remain in England.

If all that remained was a label of our former life or some imperceptible trace of our previous citizenship what impact would this have on our shared walk?

I realize that this is rather quick and simplistic but I thought I'd toss it in none the less.

Ben said...

"...that we find the humility of Christ, in Christ and become more fully human."

I see this as the krux of the matter. It really is natural for all of us to assume that our tradition isn't based on tradition... Then all of our conversations with people of a different tradition is wrought with blind attempts to fortify our defenses and put holes in our "opponents" defenses.

I've often been guilty of this myself. One of the things I am learning to do is LISTEN. If we are listening in humility then our differences can actually be enjoyed while keeping Christ at the center.

Great stuff here, ded. Thanks for putting it together.

ded said...

CSP IV, thanks for reading here. I got excited over your insight into this using the Roanoke colony. My students learned about the Lost Colony just last week!!

Interesting to me that you made the connection. I was thinking about where to go next and a topic I intend to write about is spirit life as the anti-dote to knowing ourselves according to who we are in the world. Surely the fellowship which is deepest is a function of knowing one another after the spirit and not after the flesh.

ded said...

Ben, thanks for the encouragement. Listening is so key to being in the spirit. We either hear what we have been programmed to hear, or we hear much more because of His love within us!

Jimazing said...

ded - this is rich stuff! I am particularly moved by the thought that what makes us different is the same stuff that makes everyone different. We cannot help to bring our diversity into our organizations, including church organizations. The things that make us different are both the gifting that we have received from God and the conflicts/symbols/structures that are part of our world i.e. not from God. Rather than allowing those conflicts/symbols/structures (lust of flesh, eyes and pride) to divide us, a more Godly response would be to love one another. That love would lead us to seek understanding from those who with whom we disagree.

I want to understand that this world is not my home and live out of that paradigm. We will always feel conflict here. It's normal. Otherwise, he wouldn't have had to tell us to love one another. Great writing, my friend. I am inspired and encouraged.