Monday, June 25, 2007

Morning Conversation

Joshua 22:5 (New International Version)
5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."


  • Love the Lord your God

  • Walk in his ways
  • Obey his commands

  • Hold fast to him

  • Serve him with all your heart and all your soul

I had just been reading and thinking about this verse and its implications when the phone rang. It was Peter, our son, checking in--trying to track down his dad.

Since Paul was out getting my car back to its pre "battle-with-a-raccoon" state, I had the blessing of a few moments to connect with Peter. Conversations with Peter usually involve thoughtful exploration of ideas punctuated by frequent breaks to mediate outbreaks of war amongst two or more of his flock of four.

He'd almost finished a thought provoking book that he said he'd like me to read and give my opinion on. I'd already had feedback from Paul, who read it first and went from wondering if he agreed with some points to being challenged in a good way on others. I said I was looking forward to reading it when Peter finished it. The book title is Letters to a Young Evangelical by Tony Campolo.

We got to talking about denominations. I love worshiping at our church, which is a Pentecostal church--but I resist calling myself a Pentecostal because I think of myself only as a Christian. I've never wanted to define my faith by a denominational label.

Peter pointed out that the first people to be called Christians were given that name because people recognized by their way of life--the things that they did--that they were followers of Christ Acts 11:25-27 .

We agreed that rather than focusing on denominationalism, it was important as people of faith, to be readers and students of God's Word--always asking, "What does scripture say?" and "What does the Church teach?"

But it made me wonder--if people didn't know that I was a Christian--would my life seem so radically different to that of society at large that they would immediately know I was a follower of Christ. There are so many nice and good people who aren't--so that isn't what defines a follower of his. Food for thought...what should mark us as his?

9 comments:

Poppy said...

Dear Bel-Q;What should mark us as His?Good question-So many answers come to mind.The bible says if we are his we will obey him.Is obedience the answer?But obedience to God manifests itself in as many ways as there are times when God asks us to do something.Jesus obeyed God by submitting and forgiving.The New Testament gives a new command-love God and love one another.So,for me,people will know we are his by loving and truly forgiving.It sounds short and sweet.Nut-shellish.But how many ways are there to love?And how often are we called upon to forgive?Millions of ways and thousand of times.Poppy

Belinda said...

Hi Poppy,
Obedience (how many things that covers!),loving, forgiving (even when it's hard--especially when it's hard).

Yes...these things would set us apart if we only could do them faithfully enough for others to notice the difference!

The Sheepcat said...

"What does the Church teach?" Yes, as we discussed last night, that's a really central question.

You might appreciate this essay by Ephraim Radner, an Anglican theologian who is coming to Toronto to teach at Wycliffe College. There are flaws in the analogy he suggests between the Anglican Communion and the unique Israel which in the Old Testament had to be continually purified rather than abandoned for the sake of a fresh start, but he does raise some interesting issues.

What does it mean to be a "man under authority" like the Roman centurion? If I refuse the authority of an institutional Church (which you might consider one denomination among many), am I left with enough checks and balances on my personal interpretation of what scripture says?

God bless,
Alan

Belinda said...

Hmmmm.
"What does it mean to be a "man under authority" like the Roman centurion? If I refuse the authority of an institutional Church (which you might consider one denomination among many), am I left with enough checks and balances on my personal interpretation of what scripture says?"
That is a point that I will ponder. I do resist institutional authority, but not the authority of scripture or of God.

Thanks for a thoughtful question.

The Sheepcat said...

Any time, dear Belinda! There are lots more where that came from! :-)

F'rinstance, what is the pillar and foundation of the truth? (Hint: 1 Timothy 3:15.)

Belinda said...

I concede that you're right and I'm wrong--about resisting institurional authority.

All authority, according to Romans 13:1-6, is instituted by God--although this is referring to secular authority. Imperfection is a given--since it is carried out by human beings.

We do need to honour the authorities that are over us--and the Church universal has safeguarded the truth of scripture and doctrine with the blood of the martyrs over the centuries.

I believe that I can honour the authority of the Church and I do, and resist a particular "label."

Thoughts? :)

The Sheepcat said...

Well, first of all, bless you for conceding the point about institutional authority. :-)

Now, it seems to me that there's something about "resisting labels" that needs to be unpacked. The anti-label sentiment you express is one I've often heard, and it most often strikes me as ultimately relativist or indifferentist. What is that truth of scripture and doctrine that you acknowledge has been safeguarded by the Church universal over the centuries? Is it possessed in equal measure by the Baptists and the Methodists and Reverend Bill's Gospel Hour Tabernacle of Divine Light?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could know the truth without admixture of error? Despite human weakness, is God wise and powerful enough to actually make that possible?

Ponder these things, my friend! :-)

Belinda said...

Dear Alan,
I believe that the truth is revealed in God's Word through the Holy Spirit and is there for all to see.

But I also believe that we need accountability and for the revelation of truth we receive to be tested by others to avoid error, which is where the body of the church comes in. Some of our conversations might fall under that category.

As for whether truth is possessed in equal measure by all of the denominations you mentioned, I would say that probably yes, more or less,it is, with the caveat that the measure is imperfect in all.

I'm a subscriber to Christian History and Biography magazine and find it interesting to read about various moves of God throughout history--but there is always a human element that distorts the perfect reflection of Christ's image, in any church. I don't expect to find perfection anywhere but in Christ.

God has chosen to work through weak human vessels. He uses his power in the influence of the Holy Spirit but man's cooperation is part of the equation.

Well this is my take on it anyway!

The Sheepcat said...

I've been pondering your comments, Belinda, and I think there is much we agree on. In particular, I too don't expect to find perfection anywhere but in Christ; the difference is that I believe in the mystical unity of Christ with the Catholic Church. Joan of Arc said at her trial, "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter." (This is not to deny the "elements of sanctification and of truth" found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church.)

If you're saying the truth found in scripture is plainly visible, this is an appealing idea in many ways, and obviously true in some cases, but unsupportable as a general principle. For if it were so, how could generations of sincere Christians have failed to reach consensus as to whether Christ becomes physically present in the consecrated elements of the Eucharist (see Luke 22; John 6), or whether salvation, once gained, can ever be lost (see, for example, 1 Cor 9:27; 1 Cor 10:12; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Pet 2:20-22)? I read these passages and find the meaning plain, yes, but many others, following the teachings of various Protestant denominations, do not see the same thing. Or if the truth of the Triune nature of God were obvious from scripture, how could it have taken several centuries for the Nicene Creed to be formulated?

You and I are agreed that flawed and sinful human beings distort the reflection of Christ's image in the Church in many of its actions. But consider: God inspired sinful men to write the books of Scripture, which we surely agree "must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation" (Dei Verbum, 11). So could the Holy Spirit not accomplish the protection of the whole of the doctrine of the Church from error? In other words, I'd like to press you to have another go at answering the last two questions in my previous comment.