As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Reply to Post-Moderns

I'm not certain what you're asking, so I'll just give my reactions to what you wrote. Your post quotes a man who said:
But if it's wrong, it's wrong all the time regardless of the circumstances.
Although I believe this shows a slight lack of sophistication in moral philosophy, I basically agree with him. However, is polygamy a sin? Abraham did it (kind of.) Isaac and Jacob did too. King David did, and his son most certainly did. Aside from bishops needing to be "the husband of one wife", I don't see what the issue is. Why coulndn't anyone marry more than one wife?

But that skirts the larger issue. If something is wrong in one time and place, is it not wrong in all times and places? As I said, I largely agree with that. Animal sacrifice, for instance, is no longer acceptable. Eating pigs, however, is. But let's take the statement, for the most part, at face value. Something that is a sin is always a sin. If that is the case, why do we not follow some of the laws of God's Chosen from the OT? I mean the ones for the nation, like wiping out other nations that worship foreign gods.

But that still isn't the main issue of your post. How much can we question? It seems to me that everyone is going to question everything anyway. I know I did, right before I started down the Catholic path. Even the Orthodox, to some extent, encourage that as "wrestling with God." To be engaged with God in that manner is better that becoming distant from Him. And I think the Church must allow such questions and doubts.

However, the Church can never deviate from the deposit of Truth. As much as questioners deviate from it, they are not Christian. Thus, the main question is how are we going to determine what that Truth is.

Postmodernism in the real world

I recently went to the National Youth Workers Convention and attended almost every seminar they had that had anything to do with the "emerging church" or "postmodernism" (for more on the emerging church, see Most had to do with how we deal with the rise of postmodernism in youth ministry; ie, what sort of questions they ask, how to create a worship service that is appealing both to Christian and non-Christian postmoderns, etc. However, one seminar that I attended really interested me more than nay other. Rather than dealing only with practical issues, it dealt with postmodernism strictly as a philosophy. It was a debate, of sorts, between Tony Jones and Duffy Robbins, both of whom are committed Christians, but who have taken opposite viewpoints on how to approach postmodernism.

This leads to what I would like to discuss. As I understand it, postmodernism is a philosophy that basically questions everything we've ever believed about what is true. It rejects, or at least calls into question, all of the philosophies predating it, especially tose of the "modern" era. Where this impacts the church, and one of the most unsettling things that Tony Robbins said, is that we should feel free to debate everything about Christianity. To quote him, "Just because a group of bishops made a decision in 325 doesn't mean we can't debate it today." Now what he's speaking about is the Council of Nicea which nailed down the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union (Jesus is 100% God and 100% human). Another thing that was mentioned was the fact that in just about every culture, polygamy is taboo. However, if a tribe in the Congo sent 100 men off to war and only 10 came back, wouldn't it be acceptable for them the have more than one wife in order to perpetuate the tribe. For that matter, the idea of marriage, at least in the way we look at it in America, is a purely human construct. One man said, "But if it's wrong, it's wrong all the time regardless of the circumstances." So there's the delimma between the modern mind and the postmodern, is there room to question, or is it set in stone. For that matter, what's set in stone and what's open for debate. Let the games begin.

Let's post of this rather than just putting in responses.

One very confused Josh

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On the Header

Friends and fellow editors,

It seems only fair to acknowledge that I and the other brother are Evangelicals, albeit ones of different stripe. Whether in the common parlance of Christianity Today (or, for that matter, USA Today), or the technical understanding of those who divided the "Old Side" from the "New Side" when Wesley and Whitfield preached revival, my brother and I would be understood as Evangelicals.
The term, of course, is regrettable, not because it is too narrow, but because it is too broad, for what is an Evangelical ipso facto if not one committed to the Evangel, that is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And are we not those who, in addition to this basic Christian committment, add an emphasis on personal experience of salvation, and ongoing commitment to faith evidenced by a holy life? And not only this, but, committing the cardinal late modern sin of being intolerant (of the miserable condition of others), do we not dare to preach this Gospel all over the world? Surely, more is meant by "Evangelical" than meets the eye.
Let us consider, then, this ambiguous force pitted against us in debate. A Catholic Christian is one who understands themselves a member of the "Church Universal," that is, they understand themselves to be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Christ himself and left in the hands of the Apostles. (I might point out at this point that Evangelicals would happily include themselves in all these categories). The dividing point between those called "Catholics" and those called "Evangelicals" comes principaly on the location of the authority to determine faith and doctrine. Those called Catholics feel free to thus label themselves because they stand within a magisterium which claims some kind of formal authorization to draw a circle beyond which are the heathen. Whether the claim is the literal succession of Apostles, as in the East, or the vested authority which the Bishop of Rome claims to have inherited from Peter, those inside the circle are free to regard themselves as the only ones who may be called Christian in the full, historical sense of that word.
The difference between Catholics of the Roman variety and the Catholic here represented is that, while living under the authority of the magisterium that draws a circle around him, he is not compelled to accept the extent of the circle as dogma- that is, he is free to regard his Baptist or Presbyterian brothers and sisters as hellbound or not, however his conscience shall lead him.
And now, the point of controversy which I wish to promulgate: From the other side of the fence, as it were, one may imagine a much larger circle. In other words, although we Protestants are much more than Evangelicals, and refuse Roman doctrine on a few points, from our own vantage point, we could quite legitimately call ourselves Catholic! Indeed, we do so each time we recite the credo, and if we do not, we cut ourselves off from the Church Universal, that is, the one and only Body of Christ.
Further, this dogged Catholic of ours, committed as he is to the full and glorious Gospel of Salvation in the Name of Jesus Christ, and the vigorous working out of the soul's salvation through, (dare I say it), personal experience, could, without qualm, refer to himself as an Evangelical.

Therefore I conclude, dear friends, without deconstructionist intentions, (rather I hope to build, upon this foundation of untangled terms, a capacious house of faith), that we are Evangelicals and Catholics in dialogue with Evangelicals and Catholics- one in our love for Christ, and one in belonging to His Body. Although we draw our doctrinal distinctions with a fine brush, let us paint our circles in broad strokes.

Sir R.F. Burton

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Freedom, Rights and Christianity

An Athonite elder said, "The more spiritual a person is, the fewer rights he wants in this life."

Do you agree with this? Why or why not?