Reformulating Thoughts on the Trinity

March 12, 2010

So it’s back to writing about religion today. I’ve spent most of my blogs the past few months on music and other media; back when I started this blog, I was incessantly commenting on Religion, Philosophy, and Politics. Over the past year or so, those articles have reduced in quantity drastically, probably because I spend so much of my time writing on those subjects in my life as a grad student, as well as in preliminary work for my later doctoral work. This blog allows me to shift gears and focus on my 0ther passions, but sometimes it’s still the best forum for me to roughly etch out what I’m thinking or wishing to express spiritually or theologically.

As is the case here, with the age-old concept of Trinity. I recently worked on a  mini-lecture concerning the Holy Spirit for a teaching class I’m in; the assignment was to use certain methods of teaching to teach a theological doctrine. I wanted to do Spirit because I find it so universally appealing–as a concept, it’s something most Christians can approach from different angles and have something to exchange with each other. In an interfaith sense, it’s something that many faith traditions can grasp because of many similar concepts to it are in the religious world–I veered away from mentioning the Trinity in any way. In another recent class, we’ve begun studying the the Nicene creed and council, as part of a look at Christian world history. It’s always startled me that these intensive theological debates about substance, essence, trinity, three-in-one, etc are so removed from the original Christian context. There is no mention of the word “Trinity” in scripture, nor “three in one.” There are verses and lines that can be stitched together to formulate an idea of what was later termed “the Trinity,” but there are just as many verses an ideas that contradict that concept. Christians spent so much time arguing and formulating creeds, declaring differing opinions as heretical, blanketing thousands as “anathemas,” and struggling to verbalize to the world just how it is that Jesus was God, that Holy Spirit is God, that there are these 3  that are really just 1 essence–much to the befuddlement of the rest of the religious world who are monotheist or polytheist without the need to find a middle ground.  So all of this time to define how to properly verbalize Jesus as being the same as the Creator and thus how to worship him properly–with salvation on the line, the eternal soul in peril–while all the while, Jesus had never really said “worship me,” he had actually said, “follow me.”

The Trinity bothers me. When I returned to the Church as an adult, entering in as an Episcopal where I had once been Baptist, I got my first serious connection and confirmation at a church named after the Trinity. Now, in my current church, as in the vast majority of Episcopal churches, I recite the Nicene Creed each week. I have heard of the Trinity all my life, and I recognize the importance of it on many levels– as a tie to history, a communal bond, a faith tradition. But in personal belief and in real practice, I see no need to hold to the traditional view of the Trinity. Jesus as we can know him in scripture and historical Jesus studies seemed to have been much more concerned with us doing as he taught, walking as he walked, living , loving, and giving as he gave than with us worshiping him. Paul Tillich and modern fans of his have written about us becoming Christian idolaters when we raise up those things that point us to God as more important than God– the Bible, our view of Jesus, etc. All of those years of bickering over creeds could have been spent addressing the physical needs and current life situations of the surrounding community. That would have pleased Jesus  more, I believe, and it would have pleased the Holy One he prayed to as well.

I mean no disrespect to Jesus. I have no problem in calling Jesus “Lord.” As I understand the phrasing, Jesus is Lord because Caesar is not–those that followed Jesus and his Way could not pledge allegiance to their empire and the “natural” rule of things–can we say the same? Is Jesus “God?” Well, as I understand what has been termed the “Trinity” before me, I see the Creator and the Spirit as inseparable and unified—the One that sparked all creation and the Spirit that runs through and can be made manifest in all, both the same God urging us to do justice, love mercy, walk in kindness. Jesus lived 2000 + years ago and exemplified to those of us that find an entry-point to God in him the way we are to live if we are fully consumed with the Spirit of God, and  the Spirit shone through every part of him and in every action he did. If someone is that Holy, they and God are inseparable.

All of this talk about “essence” and “substance” seems rooted in fear. Critiques of early views that differed voiced concern that we couldn’t truly be “saved” if Jesus isn’t fully God–so though they never met Jesus in the flesh, he had to be God or they weren’t safe; it couldn’t be as simple as Jesus being the Way they came to know the One unifying presence. If hell is your primary concern, it’s easy to see why these matters take on the utmost concern. I won’t rehash what I’ve written in the past, but if you scroll to the bottom of my blog site and click “religion,” you can read all sorts of attempts of mine at reformulating thoughts on “hell” and “salvation.”

So for me, if we are Christians and it is the tradition in which we have come to know God, Trinity best works like this: We worship the Creator to be filled with the Spirit so that we can live like Jesus.

I’m not usually successful at that; but I do recognize it to be the goal if I truly take this stuff seriously.

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18 Responses to “Reformulating Thoughts on the Trinity”

  1. There are a number of things to consider. If Christianity is a revealed or disclosed religion, then it seems quite important to get the teaching right. If the claims of revelation are false, then reasonable persons should reject them along with the title of “Christian.” One should prefer something like Unitarian or whatever other view of the world one thinks is true. This is seems to be what you profess rather than Christianity. After all, I persons aren’t free to redefine what constitutes being a Democrat, why think one can just redefine terms that designate definite theological positions?
    As to it being dispensable, that turns on whether the claims of Jesus and the wider NT are true or not. If not, then it doesn’t seem like something it is open to you to revise.

    As to the concept, the concept is not three essences, but three persons or hypostases in the one essence that is divine. It seems appropriate to get the concept right before rejecting it.

    Jesus certainly seems to accept worship on a good number of occasions and his actions seem to support the belief of many of his followers and enemies that he placed himself in the position of deity.
    As for reasons to hold it, the first would be because it is divinely taught. Second, that if Jesus isn’t deity, then his actions on your behalf amount to little more than that of any moral exemplar.
    To say that Jesus is Lord is to ascribe deity to him, just as the Romans did for Caesar. Moreover, the NT and early Christian usage of kurios as interchangeable with the divine name seems to nail it down quite clearly.

    I am just confused as to why someone would join a church and reject its major teachings> I mean, if the doctrines of the creed do not delimit what constitutes Christian belief, what do you suppose would?

    • dmhamby2 said

      Perry, thanks for your comment and input. To answer the things you posit broadly, I am Christian because in Jesus I have found my access to God–in his teachings, his life, and his revelation. I find my way to God through him but I don’t exclude others from finding God in other ways. I joined the Church because I find deep meaning in the liturgies, scriptures, traditions and concepts. I don’t reject the “central teachings” as you say, at least not in my opinion. I realize I don’t hold orthodox views, but I believe I’m consistent with many Christians who see themselves as part of the “Progressive Christianity” and the “Immerging Paradigm” segments. As I said I believe that Jesus was God in that he was completely filled with Spirit. I am more concerned with trying to live as Jesus taught than to formulate his essence. I think the Creator God is bigger than any of us can imagine. I love the scriptures and find deep meaning in them, but don’t find them to be exhaustive to answering all of my questions. I study all world religions, but my home is the Christian one–perhaps because my roots are there. I’m not Unitarian, although I once considered it, b/c I like the tie to the Christian past and it’s ceremonies, I like the focus on the teachings of Jesus, and I find that most all giving, all serving self-sacrifice is more rooted in Jesus than in Unitarianism.
      Thanks again.

  2. dmhamby2 said

    BTW, I didn’t say “three persons sharing one essence” specifically as you mentioned, but I know and did understand that was the conclusion Christianity came to and propagated after the Nicene conference. I don’t think I wrote anything that implied I wasn’t commenting on that conclusion, but should have been more explicit.

  3. When you speak of finding access to God through Jesus, I’d need to know what that means to know if it was compatible or consistent with Christian teaching. Such a statement could be uttered by a Muslim or any number of positions that are not Christian.

    I can appreciate the significance that is present in the liturgies, but the meaning there is predicated on the truth of a Christian view of God, revelation, etc. If one rejects those things then I am not sure what significance could be found in false beliefs, not to mention repeating them every Sunday morning and assenting to them..

    You seem to reject the divinity of Christ and Trinitarianism. I am not sure how much more central one could get. Simply remove those things and all that they entail from the Creed and the liturgy and what is one left with?

    I am sure your views are consistent with others who reject those beliefs that have historically defined Christianity, but I am unclear on how we get from that fact to the thesis that such a position is Christian. There is nothing to distinguish it from Unitarianism or other positions, other than accidental externals.

    To say that Jesus was “God in that he was completely filled with Spirit” is rather ambiguous. Perhaps you mean something like Hegel’s Geist or Plotinus’ Psuche but in that case, such a belief is Hegelian, Platonic or something else but it isn’t Christian and so neither is the preceding about Jesus being “God.” At best its adoptionistic.

    I don’t take myself in picking out what constitutes the beliefs entailed by the term “Christian” to be defining Jesus’ essence. I take myself to be using a term correctly.

    I am all for apophatic theology so the question and difference between us isn’t that I think that God is comprehensible and you don’t. Rather the difference seems to be that I think certain truths were disclosed by God to us and you are seeing it in terms of our constructing metaphors or ways of living out or some undefined experience of something

    I don’t think the scriptures aim at answering all of our questions. Christians have historically not taken them to do so. The point would be with regards to what they in fact teach on the subjects they do address.

    Not to be rude, but your theology seems quite Unitarian and your attachment to Christianity seems to be aesthetical rather than doxastic. You place yourself within Christianity not because you think its core claims are true, but because of what you “like.” Perhaps the beauty is pointing to its truth.

    • dmhamby2 said

      Okay. “When you speak of finding access to God through Jesus, I’d need to know what that means to know if it was compatible or consistent with Christian teaching.” God to me is Truth, Love, Justice. God is One. God is Holy Spirit and Creator, and God is fully manifest in the person of the historical Jesus. Through my roots in Christianity, by growing up in the church, struggling with, rejecting, and returning to it; by reading, searching and discerning through scripture, prayer and liturgy; my study of Jesus, his teachings, and the revelation of a “Post Easter Jesus” (as Marcus Borg puts it); these are ways I have come to know God through Jesus. It has resulted in igniting in me a desire to seek justice, compassion, and mercy. It leads me to try my best to forgive, be pacifist, go beyond what is logical and reasonable in terms of work for a better world. My knowledge of God through Jesus leads me to seek ways to teach, write, and proclaim to others that God, Faith, and Christianity is much bigger than any box we can build.
      You seem to reject the divinity of Christ and Trinitarianism. I am not sure how much more central one could get. Simply remove those things and all that they entail from the Creed and the liturgy and what is one left with? I find Jesus to be God, in the way I have explained. I do not believe Jesus was “present with the Creator” at the beginning of time and is truly interchangeable with Spirit or Creator. I don’t hold to the traditional view of the Trinity, but there were Christians for 350 years before there was a Doctrine of the Trinity. What am I left with? The sacraments–mediations of grace, like the Eucharist, that cause me to pause, reflect, and recommit myself to being the “hands and feet of Christ” in the world, fueled by Spirit. I’m left with study of the scripture, reading it in a church context in the hopes that the words will spark and cause me to think of something in ways I never have before. I’m left with a church, a committed body of people seeking Justice, Equlity, and Transformation. I’m left with God; Spirit; prayer; and though I don’t mean the Creed literally, the beauty of my tradition is that we are free to be ourselves and see things metaphorically and historically.
      Not to be rude, but your theology seems quite Unitarian and your attachment to Christianity seems to be aesthetical rather than doxastic.
      You haven’t been rude, and I thank you greatly for that. You seem to think I’d be better as a Unitarian. I have studied and considered that, but there’s no cohesion to it–many Unitarians are Atheist, Agnostic, or even Polytheistic. I am not. Unitarian’s don’t spend much time with Scripture. I do. Unitarian’s might be on the same side as me with many political issues, but I find the best examples of true above-and-beyond sacrifice in the Christian camp (I find a lot of bad too, but that’s just the way it is).
      Thanks.

      • oranjas b. oranjas said

        Please pardon the interruption to your discussion, but I have a thought to share. I can remember being taught a different way of understanding the trinity. Father, Son, self explanatory, but the Holy Ghost could be interepreted as that spark of the divine within each of us (which is not to say that we are gods, but that we are animated by the divine and are necessarily imbued with some trace of that… a “mark of the maker” if you will). The Holy Ghost can also be similar to the durkheimian “collective effervescence” concept. A clumsy analogy, but bear with me. It could be like the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, is magnetism and we are the little magnets that create a greater force by coming together. So that the central tenets to the church could be described as the creator, the savior(perhaps role model), and the community. It ties in with some other things I’ve read about the Kingdom of God being more about a way of life than pearly gates. Just an idea.
        I can see how the holy trinity could create problems in the minds of strict deists, and have found this and all of your blogs that I’ve read very interesting. Thanks for making me think today 🙂

  4. dmhamby2 said

    Thanks for your input, Oranjas. What you’re saying is very similar to how I taught “Holy Spirit” in my brief teaching intro on it. I spoke of a song by Rilo Kiley in which Jenny Lewis is singing about talking with friends about all of the bad things in the world, but that they never actually do anything about them. She says this is “the good that won’t come out.” Christianity traditionally teaches that the spark of the divine lives with humans, the “imageo deo” I spoke in class of the Holy Spirit being what activates the spark of God within us and allows us to bring the “good” out of us and into the world where it can transform people and situations. Then I went through some examples of how Spirit can manifest in the modern world: Through Prophetic Speech–speech that seeks justice, equality, compassion and forgiveness whether it’s literary, pastoral, academic or political; through bodily action-dance, sport or hands-on work to fix the physical world around us; art-through paintings and music that soothes us, brings us into commune with God, and touches us; through meditation, reflection and prayer; etc.
    Some great reading on the “emerging paradigm” view on the “kingdom of God,” good books are “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus Borg, “The Secret Message of Jesus,” by Brian McLaren, “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne.
    Thanks for reading!

  5. This article uses the term “historical Jesus”.

    The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

    While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
    Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and (“spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

    There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: http://www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with “30-99 C.E.”).
    Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

    Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

    What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period… in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

    To all Christians: The question is, now that you’ve been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

  6. dmhamby2,

    When you write that to you God is truth, love, etc. This needs to be flesh out to make sense. Do you mean that God is an impersonal quality or property? Second, when you write “to you” do you mean to imply that your thinking so makes God to be what he or it is or do you think God is what he/it is regardless of your judgments about him/it?

    When you write that God is “Holy Spirit” this doesn’t mean the 3rd person of the Trinity and so you are using the term in a non-Christian sense and I gather that you mean by this is a good immaterial power of some sort or another, akin to the light side of the Star Wars force. So when you say that you’ve come to know God through Jesus, this seems like equivocating since you don’t seem to have the Christian God in mind. Your use of Spirit seems to be more of what Hegel had in mind by Geist or the Platonists by Pneuma.

    Such a view might inspire you, but without specific directives and a working view and justification of what constitutes justice its hard to see how what constitutes justice just won’t be whatever your culture dictates at a given time or some subculture with which you choose to identify. It is hard to see how such a person could ever be unjust when they determine what constitutes justice.

    I grant that Christianity outruns our categories, but so far I haven’t seen anything that would indicate to me that what you are advocating is Christianity. Why think that the view you are advocating is Christian, which is what I asked in the first place? Second, while it may be true that Christianity outruns our categories, it doesn’t follow that the categories are mere human constructions and that Christianity is less than them and so becomes a wax nose. On what basis I wonder could your view exclude a member who advocates the principles of the First Church of Satan who thinks they are a “Christian?” If your inspiration leads you to a faith that is bigger than any box we could build, this seems contradictory to saying what Christianity is as you have determined it. If you have determined it and constructed it, then it seems your view of Christianity must be false. I suppose I am having a hard time seeing why and on what basis you are permitted to just redefine terms that have a history of established usage to mean whatever suits you. Language doesn’t seem to work like that.

    I grant that you find Jesus to be God in the sense that you lay out, but I am not sure how that qualifies as a Christian conception of “Jesus” “God” or any of the other terms, which is what I was asking about.

    Given that the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Son was defined, but not invented at Nicea in 325, your dating is somewhat off. Second, the doctrine of the Trinity was articulated with sufficient clarity long before Nicea by Melitio of Sardis, Irenaeus and Tertullian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. I’d also argue that the NT teaches the doctrine as well. It is important not to confuse the refinement of terms for the existence of an idea. Gravity existed and people knew about it long before its precise mathematical representation was articulated.

    You ask what you are left with and name the sacraments as conduits of grace, but I can’t help but thinking that when we look at what you mean by sacrament and grace, it again isn’t in a Christian sense that you have used those terms. Second, it seems to me that those subsidiary doctrines depend on their conceptual content on Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christiology. What is grace? What is a sacrament or a mystery? Once we fill in what these terms mean it seems we will be right back to what I posed as the problem, why think the definitions given are Christian?

    As for the study of scripture, if you reject the Church’s creed then I can’t see how your interpretation unguided by its doctrines will produce Christian teaching. Consequently, I can’t see how you are reading the scriptures in a church context except in the most attenuated of senses, namely in a church building.

    It also seems that scripture is important to you because of its hedonistic or aesthetic value rather than as something that is a revelation and a disclosure. Scripture is important it seems for what you can use it for, namely to produce certain aesthetical effects in you and not in and of itself.

    To speak of being left with a Church that seeks truth, justice and transformation, I simply don’t know what those terms mean for you since you reject the Christian tradition’s meaning of those terms. They seem quite nebulous and hence are capable of receiving any culturally approved meaning. As such they are of themselves meaningless and nihilistic.

    You speak of your tradition of being left free to be yourselves, but certainly you mean the tradition you have constructed for yourself and not the tradition of the Episcopal church. Certainly the weekly confession of sin doesn’t seem to go too well with the idea that we are free to be ourselves. And certainly Jesus often disapproves of people’s behavior. It is hard to see how Jesus would agree with such a view or how if he did so, he’d get crucified and be offensive. Its hard to see how anyone on such a view is sick and given that Jesus came to help those who are sick, I can’t see how he can help you. What is baptism for after all?

    I don’t think you’d be better as a Unitarian, I think you are a Unitarian who likes the outward aesthetics of the Episcopal church. And you are correct that there is no cohesion to Unitarianism and isn’t that the point? Your view lacks cohesion as well and requires a parasitic relationship upon a tradition that does have such cohesion. That seems to amount to a falsification of your view. If Spirit can be anything we wish, we can redefine terms any way we like since there is no deficit of metaphorical representations, political and social causes to which we can adapt said terms, there seems to be no cohesion. It seems to be a made up view to keep ourselves busy from getting bored and having to be alone with ourselves. If you’ve never read Lewis’ Great Divorce, I’d recommend you pick it up.

    • dmhamby2 said

      Perry,
      It looks like you decided to come back and follow up. I didn’t plan on responding again but I felt compelled to do this once more after reading your comments. Here, I’ve tried to go through your points as much as I can. I didn’t hit everything, but I tried to be extensive. I’ve quoted the line you wrote before dealing with it each time.

      “when you write “to you” do you mean to imply that your thinking so makes God to be what he or it is or do you think God is what he/it is regardless of your judgments about him/it? “

      I should have been more assertive here and said “God is” rather than “to me,” because no, I do not believe we construct God with our own minds and God does not change because of what we think God is. I stuck “to me” in simply because I realize people have different views and I respect other views; I think there are multiple valid ways of God in the details and the revelation of God to different people, but God IS Love, Truth, Justice and that does not change regardless of location and context.

      “God is “Holy Spirit” this doesn’t mean the 3rd person of the Trinity and so you are using the term in a non-Christian sense and I gather that you mean by this is a good immaterial power of some sort or another, akin to the light side of the Star Wars force”

      I’m not referring to the light side of the force from Star Wars when I mention Holy Spirit. I am talking about Christian context, but not as a traditional “trinity” figure, you have that correct. As I tried to make clear in my article, I don’t see much difference in “Creator” and “Holy Spirit”—both are God. God is Creator in that God is the beginning of all, the “first cause.” God is Holy Spirit in that (S)He runs through all of creation and can fill and work through anyone that submits to Her/Him. As Creator and as Spirit, God is accessible; God is both outside of and within us.

      “So when you say that you’ve come to know God through Jesus, this seems like equivocating since you don’t seem to have the Christian God in mind. Your use of Spirit seems to be more of what Hegel had in mind by Geist or the Platonists by Pneuma”

      Hegel wrote of “Geist” specifically as something not like God—Geist is a “world spirit” which serves simply as a way of philosophizing about history. In Hegel’s view, many great men have been unknowlingly used by the Geist, but once their important mission is over they are irrelevant. That is not what I equate Holy Spirit with. Holy Spirit IS God. Furthermore, Jesus was not “irrelevant” once “utilized” by Spirit—Jesus was so open to Spirit and filled by Spirit, that all that he did poured out with Spirit. So much so, that Jesus is still revealed to people—Jesus lives on, is Resurrected. People can know Jesus in a post-Easter since, be charged by Jesus, strengthened by faith in Jesus, and Jesus is there, in the trenches of life with those that fight for Justice.

      “without specific directives and a working view and justification of what constitutes justice its hard to see how what constitutes justice just won’t be whatever your culture dictates at a given time or some subculture with which you choose to identify.”

      Justice is not what my culture dictates. Justice is not what any culture dictates. Justice is what God dictates. My reading of scripture makes it clear what Justice is throughout—starting in the Torah, scripture dictates that the utmost concern is taking care of the stranger. The Hebrew word for stranger, phonetically spelled “ger” in English, occurs all throughout the Torah. The stranger was the one outside of the family, tribe, and clan. The stranger was the one that was weak and unprotected. Also beginning in the Torah are strong Justice imperatives in regard to ecology, creation, and the land. All of the dictates of food and land law linked together to show the importance of respect for the land and the gifts God gives through it. Thus, proper use of, restortation of, and care for the land and it’s inhabitants is paramount in Torah and afterwards. Respect for the animal that gives its life for sacrifice to God and which was then ate in the sporadic times in which the Israelites ate meat was meant to show care for and respect for how we raise, process, and eat animals. Recognizing the land is God’s and is as such a gift to us dictates proper laws of ownership, cultivation, etc. The Israelites were agrarian.
      Moving through the writings and the poetry of the Prophets, care for the stranger continues. Laws to “seek justice, love kindness, walk in mercy” prevail; instructions to care for the orphan and the widow are everywhere—those deemed unjust are those that oppress, harm and benefit from the subjugation of the “least of these.” Moving into the Christian New Testament, Justice remains key. Jesus hangs out with the stranger—in his day, the tax collector, the prostitute, the sinner. Jesus talks to the “unclean.” Jesus advocates for the child; the elderly; the widow; Jesus leads women as equals. Jesus ultimately dies because he speaks out against the oppressive imperialistic trampling of the widow, the orphan, etc by Rome. How do I know what justice is in my day? As an obvious continuation of not only a thematicly consistent reading of scripture which sees God as always on the side of the poor and the outcast and which sees peace, truth, and non-violence as the ultimate way of winning against oppression and war, but also through the continuation of Justice-seeking actions and words in Post-biblical times, as well as parallels found in every enduring world religion and social philosophy. It’s easy to know Justice in the Spirit: Justice seeks equality for all people, peace for all people, and a chance to live a fulfilling life for all people. As such, I seek justice when I work on behalf of the poor, the sick, and those of every race, sexual orientation, and country of national origin. I advocate for laws, practices and policies that seek peace over war; that seek inclusion over exclusion; and that give everyone a chance.
      “I haven’t seen anything that would indicate to me that what you are advocating is Christianity.”
      I advocate peace, justice, mercy, equlity, compassion, forgiveness, resurrection, eternal life. I advocate loving “the least of these,” and finding Christ in the heart of “the homeless, the prisoner, the prostitute.” I advocate radical compassion, transformative inclusion. I see these qualities in the historical Jesus and the Post-Easter Christ I find revealed to me, in whatever way that is and in whatever way you personally can’t understand. I invite all others to join on this path with me, and if they follow, I’m sure they’ll be better at it than I am. That is Christianity— the rest is just details.

      “On what basis I wonder could your view exclude a member who advocates the principles of the First Church of Satan who thinks they are a “Christian?”
      Okay, Percy, really pay attention to my response to this one, please. LaVey’s Church of Satan denies the existence of God completely. You are God—not filled by God, not made in the image of God—ARE God. The only goal in COS is to chase your own desire and pleasue—your own maximum happiness is the ultimate goal. A current priest in the COS answered in an interview awhile back, that if she had to pick a political view that most matched the church it would be libertarianism, because the best for the individual is the most important thing. She said she had no desire for policies that sought to seek the best for the group, the only clan she would be interested in providing care for would be selective people based on her choice, those that mattered to her on a daily basis. Now, for me and for the type of Christianity I’m talking about here, that’s completely the opposite view. Those in the COS are free to have that opinion, and I don’t judge them harshly for it, because it makes sense if you truly don’t believe in God at all. It’s actually in the best interest of the individual to live in that way, if that individual is lucky enough to have financial and other security and personal freedom to live in such a way. To be Christian, you have to want for your neighbor what you want for yourself—if not even more. You have to be willing to make the sacrifices that go above and beyond what is rational and safe. You have to advocate complete forgiveness, radical compassion, unceasing mercy. If any political policy comes close to this, it’s rooted in socialism and thus opposite of Libertarianism and COS. But it goes much further than politics—those that pledge their allegiance to Jesus cannot be controlled by Rome—and we still have Rome today, it just has different names.

      “Given that the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Son was defined, but not invented at Nicea in 325, your dating is somewhat off.”

      Well, you can certainly find the basis for that doctrine in scripture…you can also find contradictory arguments as well. In the letter that Cyril and Nestorious wrote back and forth to each other, both could equally cite scripture back and forth at each other to justify their own position which emerged from their own school of Theology—so Cyril argued the Alexandrian school of thought, stressing the divinity of Jesus, Nestorious argued the Antiochen school’s stressing of the humanity of Christ—Cyril won, thus we got that affirmed as the official position of “proper” Trinitarian thought—Nestorious was declared an anathema, a heretic. Funny, because Alexandria’s most famous theologian had been Origen—and he was declared a heretic, but the school he influence won the Trinitarian debate…hmmm…then Cryil, noble Christian that he was, ordered the brutal slaughter of the last Plationist philosopher in his land. So yes, you can argue any Trinitarian view you want to with the NT, but most of what you use to write that will make heaviest use of material that emerged far after the time of the historical Jesus and which is in many cases far removed what a good historical-critical look at the Gospels will reveal most likely in Jesus’ actual teachings. Which isn’t to say good can’t be gleaned from the texts that are canonical but more influenced by the church than by Jesus, just that there aren’t definite formulas to invoke.

      “It also seems that scripture is important to you because of its hedonistic or aesthetic value rather than as something that is a revelation and a disclosure.”

      I believe in revelation and disclosure. As much as I can gain from academic and formal criticism views of scripture, sometimes when the text is read aloud in the church it takes on whole new, goose-bump giving meaning when I’m in the pew. I like Karl Barth’s view that the scripture isn’t the word of God on the paper, but it has the ability to become the Word of God when read in a corporate setting and the Spirit moves through it to speak to us.

      “You speak of your tradition of being left free to be yourselves, but certainly you mean the tradition you have constructed for yourself and not the tradition of the Episcopal church.”

      No, I mean the Episcopal church. When I spoke to the priest at the church where I was eventually confirmed, I even voiced my concerns that I didn’t literally believe some of the words of the Nicene Creed. He told me the beauty of our tradition is that it’s a thinking church, and that it’s open to our personal conviction—that my recitation of the Creed may be of a metaphoric sense while my neighbor’s might be a literal one, but that there was room for both of us at the table. There are a lot of great Anglican and Episcopal writers that stretch all over the spectrum of belief on these matters; check them out—NT Wright, Barbara Brown Tayler, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong—you can’t get more different than Spong and Wright, and they’re both Episcopal.

      “I don’t think you’d be better as a Unitarian, I think you are a Unitarian who likes the outward aesthetics of the Episcopal church. And you are correct that there is no cohesion to Unitarianism and isn’t that the point? Your view lacks cohesion as well and requires a parasitic relationship upon a tradition that does have such cohesion.”

      Wow. That’s as close to a vehement attack as you’ve come, but I suppose you’re still trying to be polite. I take it you’re Eastern Orthodox, judging by your blog. I thank that’s a beautiful tradition. Most of the folks I’ve read and known that hail from it, though, think they’re the only ones that have it right and that the rest of Christianity is false and possibly hell-bent, which explains your ardent polemic and explains why you seem to not give room for my viewpoint. I don’t think I have a “parasitic” relationship with the Church. I’ve stressed why I’m not Unitarian, you don’t think identification with the teachings of Jesus and belief in the living Jesus in justice actions today as being Christian. I find my view is cohesive, it’s a view of love, justice, mercy. It’s a view that seeks the transformation of people and situations. It’s a view that seeks the kingdom of God, here, now, but expects that those with faith find restoration and reuniting with the Creator after this life is done. I see no place for strict Orthodox, hell, damnation, , etc. I don’t think all that digress on how to worship are “anathema,” I just hope all can find ways to work together to make this world the way it ought to be regardless of the vocabulary they use for God and Spirit. I think loads of research and theology point to this type of view being close to the historical Jesus as we understand him today.

      Peace to you, Percy. I hope you have enjoyed this exchange, but I see we can never see eye to eye. That is okay, and hopefully I have not offended you. Thanks for reading and dialoguing.

  7. I did return. I apologize but I was delayed due to the need to skewer some Calvinists. Thanks for the clarification excluding relativism. That helps.

    If you think there are multiple ways to God, then you must take the exclusive claims made by Jesus in the NT to be inauthentic. Is that correct?

    Next, God may be truth, justice, love, but since different cultures and different philosophical views disagree about what counts as instances of those things or even what those things are, this doesn’t go a long way in being informative or addressing my initial concern, namely what qualifies such a view as Christian?

    The notion of God that you seem to advance is a bit less nebulous but still seemingly non-Christian. If it’s a personal agent at all, it is quite Unitarian in the classical sense.

    True enough about Hegel, but Hegel didn’t think the actions of individuals were meant to serve one historical goal and then they were irrelevant. A more apt criticism would be the one launched by Kierkegaard, that his philosophy flattens all individuals since all past actions serve to bring about some future good and so have significance on that basis alone. The individual is nothing and the equalizing system is everything.

    In so far as Jesus is used, he is qua Jesus irrelevant. Certainly the kind of adoptionism you are proffering isn’t Christianity since I don’t see why one couldn’t say as much about other candidates in terms of manifesting certain qualities and yielding to the divine. It also seems like crass Christological Pelagianism. Secondly, I am not sure why Jesus would be so open to divine directives. Did he just get lucky or work harder than other people? If so, the place of Jesus is more like a fluke and so not intrinsically significant.

    When you speak of Jesus being resurrected I’d need to know what that means to know if it were a Christian take or not.

    If justice is what God dictates, which God would that be given that you take a more inclusivistic view of competing religions? Certainly Hinduism and Christianity don’t have the same understanding of what constitutes Justice. Further, since you seemingly reject the inspiration of the biblical text in the traditional sense and so reject some material in it, to know what justice it is that God dictates I’d need to know what from the biblical material you exclude. I’d bet that what we end up with is a concept of Justice that fits very well with more Left leaning political ideologies of our time which stress egalitarianism or leveling in some form or another.

    Actually the Torah does not give the utmost concern to taking care of the foreigner or stranger. It gives the utmost importance to worshipping the true God and loving him above all else and loving your neighbor as yourself. If the OT material teaches us anything, it is that false deities are to be eschewed with extreme prejudice.

    As for your gloss on the stranger being the weak and the unprotected, would that translate in your view to protecting the life of the unborn or no?

    Granted that the OT has as a concern the treatment of the Land, and by Land the OT means the promised land as typical of Eden. In any case, it is hardly a concern for ecology in the way that modern Leftist ideologies are so. Along the same lines, while the Israelites were agrarian, they were also against infanticide, sex outside of heterosexual marriage which includes heterosexual as well as homosexual behavior. Its interesting that one of the major things that distinguished the Israelites, namely their views on sexuality didn’t make it into your description of Justice.

    I agree that Justice remains key, but without the persons who are just, it can’t hang together. That is, you are assuming that we can keep the ethical imperatives without the persons who ground such claims. That is, it seems that you think that some material from the NT can be jettisoned in a Jeffersonian fashion while retaining the other material. I don’t think this is really feasible and history seems to bear this out.

    Jesus does have concern for the outcast, but it is only to draw them to repentance and not to approve of their sinful behavior. Consequently Jesus excludes the impenitent. You state that you know what justice is via a thematic continuation of biblical material. But you find some of that biblical material to be false. Furthermore, the OT is clear that we are not to favor the poor man over the rich. (Ex 23:3) And so God is not always on the side of the poor. In other words, Ron Sider was wrong and Chilton was right. Moreover, a consistent thematic reading doesn’t imply that it is true. Why think that the notion of justice that you favor is true?

    If its easy to know Justice in the Spirit, then why so few have it and why do so many disagree about it? Second, if Justice seeks the equality of all people, then the biblical model is unjust since it is clearly hierarchical. Women are excluded from OT and NT priesthoods for example and this is grounded in creation and not the fall. The emphasis on equality seems to reflect Enlightenment concerns rather than biblical ones. The modern dialectic is between freedom and equality with the right wing tending towards the former and the left wing tending towards the latter. To the degree people will be free, they will not be equal and vice versa.

    You state that for example you work for justice on behalf of those regardless of sexual oritentation, but the Bible doesn’t that is, it condemns not only the notion of sexual orientation, but its attending behaviors as “unnatural.” This is why your emphasis on equality strikes me as having more to do with modern Left leaning ideologies than with a biblical picture. That’s fine if you favor the former over the latter. It’s a free country so to speak, but what doesn’t seem honest is turning the latter into a wax nose for the former. So again its hard for me to see what you are advocating is distinctly Christian.

    As for policies that seek inclusion, Jesus doesn’t seem to preach this way. In fact Jesus preaches a fair amount about judgment, exclusion, condemnation and hell, just like his cousin did-in fact not a fair amount, quite a lot and often in the Gospels.

    You speak of the historical Jesus and the post Easter Christ, but this strikes me as a more updated version of Nestorianism motivated by Lessing’s ditch and Kant’s division between fact and value. Jesus of facts and the Christ of value. Consequently, we are right back to the heterodoxies that the teachers and fathers of the church argued against. There isn’t anything particularly new here it seems or particularly Christian because there is no Word becoming flesh and no revelation. More to the point, to echo Paul, if Christ be not raised, your belief in Christ is worthless and Paul didn’t mean as some kind of nice ideal to follow. And this is why an appeal to the historical critical or grammatical critical methods don’t help since they are not presuppositionally neutral, especially with regard to Christology. It is no wonder that the church condemned their basic outlook in the Fifth Ecumenical Council with regard to typology. And it is no wonder that the modern versions produce the same heterodox views. Consequently, they are not “scientific” any more than Cyril or Athanasius’ theanthropic interpretative methodologies were.

    More to the point at the heart of the discussion, your litany of justice, inclusion, compassion and such doesn’t seem particularly Christian or seem to entail it.

    As for the example I gave from the church of Satan, I don’t think you’ve met the challenge. If you are free to gut the Creed, why should belief in God be a necessary condition for being labeled a Christian? Once we are free from the mooring of historical usage, why are you exclusionary when it comes to the existence of God and aesthetic nihilism? Surely, not a few contemporary left of center Episcopal and modern theologians advocate really nothing different. Perhaps it is more collective aestheticism, but it is aestheticism nonetheless. They just choose different metaphors in the church of Satan. And certainly not a few of these types of theologians have denied the existence of God and affirmed to the contrary that humanity is God. What else do you take Altizer’s Christian Atheism to be other than the transformation of theology into anthropology? People like he and Tillich and a mess of others were quite clear about their project. Christianity was just a useful tool, something that satisfied their intellectual aesthetic needs. In Kierkegaardian terms, they suffer from despair regarding the finite and favor the hedonism of the infinite, the possible, the mental. This is why they always need the “Spirit” to do a “new thing.” So I am not sure what is particularly shocking in a member of the church of Satan denying God as if this was some kind of demarcating line for membership in “Christianity.” (They deny the existence of Satan too, btw.) Its not like John Spong affirms the existence of God. So I don’t see why the denial of the existence of God should be the basis to exclude others from defining themselves as “Christian.” After all, a number of bishops in the church of England are quite open about their atheism. And why one God, and not many gods? Why aren’t people free to redefine the Creed in a polytheistic direction?

    As an aside, I don’t think the church of Satan’s hedonism makes sense at all. In fact, I don’t think they are consistent with their own worldview. I’d suggest that what their paradigm entails is not hedonism, but nihilism. They have just made a God substitute with hedonism and so haven’t really realized the consequences of the death of God. As Nietzsche rightly noted, “I fear people still believe in God, because they still believe in grammar.”

    You talk about “your type of Christianity” but I for one am still not clear on what makes it Christian. All of the values you posit can be affirmed by other worldviews. And the view of Jesus that you proffer isn’t historically Christian.

    Socialism and Libertarianism both agree on fundamental principles, but they only take them in opposite directions. The state is simply one individual whereas libertarianism is political Leibnizianism. In this way they are both advocating a kind of autonomy of the self and so are both satanic for that reason. Consequently, while I personally lean to the right politically, I eschew Libertarianism as well as Socialism. This is why Socialism usually ends up producing one or the other of two things-either a stack of dead bodies or a whole lot of illicit sex, the same as Libertarianism. They are two sides of the same coin because they are both grounded in a nominalistic and nihilistic notion of the self.

    You are right that those who pledge their allegiance to Jesus cannot be controlled by Rome, unless the claims of Jesus are false and he isn’t God the Son, second person of the Triad. This is why churches that favor the view you proffer fall under the spell of statist ideologies and favor statist solutions. And this is what makes them dangerous-they are totalizing in the worst kind of way through utopian moralistic rheoric.

    You assert that we can find contradictory argument in scripture relative to the divinity of Christ. I don’t think so and you didn’t give any examples. What you do find is material that people have used to construct arguments for an opposing understanding, but that doesn’t imply that the scriptural texts contain such concepts.

    As for Cyril and Nestorius I think I have to disagree with your analysis. Here’s why. Granted that both sides could cite scripture, but citing the text and eliciting the text’s meaning and representing faithfully the apostolic tradition are not the same things. Nestorius’ fundamental problem is the same as Arius and Apollinarius. He is importing Hellenistic dialectic to cash out Christian theology and it won’t work since Christian theology is not dialectical. This is why for Arius, Apollinarius and Nestorius, persons are instances of natures. In Hellenism there isn’t a concept of person other than an instantiation of a kind. And this is why Cyril was freer with Hellenistic philosophical terms, much to Nestorius’ chagrin, but more precise and consistent in terms of the Christian concepts he was articulating. This is why Monophysitism and Nestorianism fundamentally agree on the core principles. And this is why the notion of the Antiochian “school” and Alexeandrian “school” is a mistake. You can find candidates who are Antiochian who should be classed by such a taxonomy as Alexandrian and vice versa. This is why that taxonomy is false on historical grounds and a cognitive misfire on philosophical grounds. It doesn’t map on to what was motivating the opposing views or the errors-it is a explanatory dangler.

    Cyril won for a very simple reason-Nestorius’ Hellenistic conceptual apparatus could never admit of a single subject that was distinct in natures. I’ve sketched Nestorius’s views here. (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/some-notes-on-the-christology-of-nestorius/) This is why the Antiochians like John and even Theodoret eventually admitted that Cyril was correct.

    Origen had the same fundamental problem-namely trying to cash out the terms of Christian theology by Hellenistic and dialectical philosophical content. New wine and old wine skins don’t mix. This is why Trinitarianism was such a problem for Platonism.

    As for the murder of Hypatia, there was plenty of scheming to go around. None of the groups, Jews, Christians or pagans were pure in that regard. Second, on historical grounds alone, it is doubtful that Cyril orchestrated it, although I am sure he didn’t cry too much over her death. And Hypatia wasn’t by any means the last Christian philosopher in Egypt.

    If you reject what I conclude from the NT because I supposedly heavily rely on later material than that which is form the period of Jesus’ life time, the same is true of your view. So I am not sure how this helps you. Second, you’d need to demonstrate that the conceptual content of later councils wasn’t in the NT since I contend that it is and forms a consistent tradition. To merely assert as much is question begging. Third, the NT canon itself is part of a later judgment as well but you don’t seem to jettison that. This looks like special pleading.

    You write that such material is more influenced by the church than by Jesus, but this supposes an undemonstrated division. I am not sure why you get to assume that. Why assume discontinuity rather than continuity? And I don’t need definite formulas to invoke, I only need conceptual content.

    I am sure you believe in revelation and disclosure, I am not finding a reason to think you mean what Christians have meant by that term though.

    Historically, the Episcopal church hasn’t taught that you are free to be yourselves. Not in any of its historical documents or liturgies. What this or that theologian may say is immaterial, as this now changes with the wind. And even if it weren’t so, it would just push to the surface the original question-why think then that the Episcopal church counts as a Christian church? What do they advocate that Unitarians historically have not advocated?

    What your priest told you was something other than historic Anglican theology, regardless of whether it was low church or high church. He essentially made the point, that you construct the faith for yourselves and if so, its hard to see how that can be a religion of revelation when you are in the revelatory driver’s seat.

    I was raised in the Episcopal Church so I am quite aware of the “diversity” in it. I dare say that people like Wright would say that people like Spong aren’t professing Christians in any meaningful sense of the term. Perhaps this explains why the Anglican communion is coming apart at the seams. As was often said in the 1980’s in ECUSA, there are two religions in the Episcopal church-Christianity and something else. So I don’t find your listing to provide a commending basis for your take. That is, it doesn’t show your views or theirs are Christian. You are therefore confusing being in the same institution with being of the same faith. Such seems not to be the case from either end. When high ranking liberals at General Convention from the mic say of those few bishops that refuse to ordain women, “We know who you are and we are coming after you!” this doesn’t exactly map on to the idea that they are of the same faith. And I suppose this is one of, though not the sufficient condition I left the Episcopal denomination and became Orthodox.

    I don’t mean my comments to be insulting or “vehement” but direct and to the point. I don’t think my argumentation is any different than what a faithful Catholic or Lutheran would utter (or any more polemical than I’ve heard members of “Integrity” utter at diocesan or General conventions.) I’ve heard the same with respect to what you’re advocating as non-Christian from across the denominational spectrum. Its not indicative of Orthodox exclusive claims to preserving apostolic tradition and succession. Its more along the lines of Lewis’ Mere Christianity. This is why I suggest you pick up his Great Divorce as he wrote a dialog as part of that work on much of what we are discussing now. Lewis was truly a prophet.

    I give room to your viewpoint in that you have a legal right to express it and that genuine faith cannot be compelled. I do not give it room in so far as I see no good reasons to think it is true and I see no good reason to think it is Christian. I am not any more exclusive on principle than you are with members of the church of Satan who might wish to label themselves “Christian.” We just draw the exclusionary line in different places and for different reasons. And if push came to shove, I think you’d exclude people like me from the Episcopal church given half a chance. I watched it happen growing up time and again. A call for dialog just meant buying time until the liberals had enough power to push professing Christians out.

    As for your view lacking cohesion, I think I should have been more clear in labeling it Unitarian. I meant by that term classical Unitarianism or how it started out as affirming a distinctive place for Jesus in an adoptionistic sense, much as your view does. Eventually though, it fell apart and lacked cohesion and I have no doubt that the Episcopal church will go the same way theologically and liturgically. All forms of Idealistic Nominalism are acidic on those conceptual and social forces and entities that induce and support cohesion.

    As for a parasitic relationship, I don’t mean you have one on the Episcopal church except in so far as we are talking about historic Christian theology in that body. If left to itself, the view you espouse will eventually be so inclusive that the distinctive Christian elements will be revised away and drowned out and that is exactly what is happening to the Anglican communion as we speak. When you can put statues of Astarte on the altar, its not Christianity in any meaningful sense and Astarte or Aretemis are jealous deities and will drive out the symbols and markers of their competitor. Pride abhors a rival. I’d expect another revision of the BCP within the next ten years or so. In that way, your view depends on views other than its own. If it had to form a society of people on its own, it would end up like the current Unitarians where people mostly prefer to think what they like and stay home rather than waste the time dressing up in funny clothes. So I grant that you’re not Unitarian in terms of institutional membership and perhaps not in terms of what passes for contemporary Unitarian teaching, but the theology is still essentially Unitarian in the classical sense.

    I am sure you find your view cohesive, but that I’d argue is a temporary situation. You haven’t been inclusive enough and for long enough. You speak of transforming people and of love and justice without really defining those terms. It sounds more like political rhetoric than talk about real things. I don’t mean to be rude, but the delivery is practically utopian.

    If you see no place for hell and damnation then I suspect you have an idol Jesus of your own making. Jesus preaches on hell a whole bunch as any good Jewish apocalyptic prophet would. Why then do you exclude it? Why is Jewish Agraianism kewl but Jewish damnation is bad? The old remark of Loisy comes to mind of looking through a well of 19th centuries to find the historical Jesus just to find your own reflection looking back at you. You don’t like hell, damnation and such so you exclude it and make Jesus like yourself and what you already agree with. Its hard to see how you need Jesus at all. Even more so, its hard to see how such a Jesus could be revelatory, let alone challenge you in any serious way, except to move you to more social activities. But this is the same problem found among evangelicalism. The confusion of activity with spiritual health. Evangelicals just end up managing people and I can’t see how what you’re advocating is really all that different.

    I appreciate the civil exchange and that we’ve probably come to the end of the dialog. There isn’t much more to be said I suppose. And no I am not offended-I have thicker skin than that.

    I just wish something better for you.

    • dmhamby2 said

      Perry, not an attempt to get the last word in, I promise, but my last response (because we both realize this is circular). I’ll read “The Great Divorce,” I like Lewis but have not read that book. Whether or not you read them, I recommend the following, they word many things I’d say on these last statements you’ve made better than I ever could:

      On agrarianism, ecological concern, the land and continuity by one of the best exegetical writers working now: “Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture” by Ellen Davis

      On concern for the stranger, thematic consistency, justice, and the Law by someone who has worked in Biblical translation, lecture,the Christian-Feminest movement since practically day one, and by someone with great care, respect and knowledge for both Judaism and Christianity: “Making Wise the Simple: the Torah in Christian Faith and Practice” by Johanna van-Wijk Bos (she also has nice sections about how homosexuality falls into the modern day issue of Justice and she roots it very Biblically, she deals with the 4 or so passages in scripture that disparage that very efficiently and believably);

      I also recommend “The Heart of Christianity” and “Jesus: A New Vision” by Marcus Borg, as well as “The Last Week” by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg if you’ve never read them.

      I’ve written previous articles on many issues you brought up:
      on hell: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/she-said-i-want-some-of-that-hellfire-and-brimstone-stuff/
      on justice: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/the-church-as-it-could-be-social-justice-hub/
      on salvation: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/salvation/
      on scripture: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/drastically-different-themes-same-source/
      Why I’m still Christian and involved in the church: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/why-church-why-christianity-marcus-borgs-heart-of-christianity/
      Prayer, and a reference to Lewis: https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/prayers-and-an-earthquake/

      And, for the record, I would not work to “kick you out of my church,” honestly. I would hope we could both worship side by side–often saying the same things with different meanings. We would clash on the justice issues because my views on equality and social justice which I feel derive from the heart of my faith are far different from the judgements you feel you must make on certain groups based on your reading of scripture, views I feel owe more to the cultural context the scripture emerged from than with God…but I think there is room in the worship for both of us, as long as we wish to be there. I thank you for clarifying your statements that I took as border-line attack, and I get it. You certainly did keep things as heated debate, but respectful. Thanks for reading.

  8. I’ve read most of what you cite-Borg, Crossan, etc. It would take me quite some time to produce all the reasons I think the takes you’ve cited are wrong or even if coherent and plausible aren’t Christian. So I’ll just give a few remarks.

    Since I think Feminism is false on philosophical grounds alone, let alone theological, whatever take Bos has, I’d doubt I’d be persuaded by it.

    Borg and Crossan argue for the falsity of Christianity and replacing it with something else essentially, so they make my point for me. They just aren’t honest enough to find a new line of work. What they advocate isn’t Christianity, but something else. And nothing they advocate can’t be had in some other view of the world so why call it Christianity? This is why you aren’t reformulating the doctrine of the Trinity, but replacing the doctrine of the Trinity.

    On the historical Jesus stuff predictably I side with Wright and Meier. If you’ve never read Meier’s Marginal Jew series, I highly recommend it. I got through the first three volumes.

    On hell, you create something of a straw man. Augustine, Basil and others believed in hell, but not anything you describe by it or the conditions necessary and sufficient to go there so I think you’re shadow boxing. Second, we still have the problem of Jesus’ preaching on it. Divine judgment is no small part of Judaism. Third, the kind of annihlaitonalism you proffer turns on the same Christological and philosophical mistakes that Calvinistic predestinarianism, universalism and Arianism do-namely a confusion between person and nature. Origen’s system is the father of all of these problems. I’d recommend paying special attention to the theology of the 6th council for a solution.

    As for sexuality, its interesting you wish to retain those parts of Judaism such as “Agrarianism”, which is a tad anachronistic, and which is, if anything, a product of their times, and then reject their sexuality, which was unique and most probably not a product of their time as something of a cultural artifact. I think you have things backwards. Moreover, the exegetical gymnastics that one has to go through to argue that the OT and NT don’t condemn sexuality activity outside of marriage is far worse than the thin reeds Protestant Reformers tried to base their theological novelties on. It posits that practically everyone competent in the biblical languages for thousands of years across cultures and locations systematically misunderstood their own native tongue in many cases. Its absurd in the extreme. Besides, the judgments of scholars do not make the doctrine of the church. Christianity is a religion of tradition, of things delivered by God and handed on and not a religion constructed by us. And gee isn’t it quite convenient that “scholars” find out that everyone was wrong in reading the bible in terms of sexual norms just at a time when the Gay Movement gains social and political power? Sorry, I am not buying it. Its argumentation like the ones you cite that justify infanticide or collectivization. What is more, monogamy could just as easily be classed as a product of the culture, as could the the prohibitions on beastiality. Frankly I see no reason to permit homosexuality and not fornication, polygamy or beastiality. And personally, taking Darwin seriously, I am genetically disposed to plant my seed with as many females as possible. Why is it that my genuine genetic disposition doesn’t get a pass, but the homosexual unproven disposition does?

    As for liberal ecclesiastical exclusivism, I am not buying your response. Its not personal, and I am sureyou’re a nice person, sinceren and all that, but I’ve heard the same thing over and over again on the ground and through the hierarchy for years. Either deliberately or indirectly, they forced out millions of people and took their cash, property and foundations. I watched it happen. And I’ve heard enough people from “Integrity” and other groups plan such things when they didn’t know I was orthodox. War is deception after all.

    Given that the NT, church tradition and canon law forbids open communion with impenitent and open heretics, it would not be possible to worship and commune together. I am not being intransigent or mean. I am being consistent with Judaic and Christian teaching in the historical senses of those terms. Those who openly commune with heretics a la Athanasius are heretics. One of the worst things one can do is confirm someone in their self destructive beliefs and behavior. It is a form of violence, if nothing else.

    I don’t mean to be rude which is why I tried to be direct and not use inflammatory terms. That said, I still can’t see a reason why to take what you proffer (or Borg, Crossan, et al) as Christianity. It is Unitarianism with a co-opted liturgy and vestments. I mean, I’d offer for you to consider why isn’t it Unitarianism? I’d just prefer people be more honest about their rejecting Christian teaching and just join another society rather than be dishonest and transform it into something else and drive out all those who were faithful in maintaining what that body adhered to. I don’t think that is asking too much.

    • dmhamby2 said

      The Davis book on Agrarianism and scripture is anything but anachronistic–and I think aspects of it you might find interesting in your views as well, it really posits nothing that either of us would find problematic, I think. I’ll check “The Great Divorce” out; try and give the Davis book a read if you ever have the time.
      Peace.

  9. […] The post was by an apostatized Baptist of sorts who returned to “Christianity” through the Episcopal church. The post was an expression of his thoughts on “reformulating” the doctrine of the Trinity. What the post was, was in fact not a reformulation, but more an expression of his rejection of the Trinity and an expression of its perceived uselessness. I didn’t take the post to be overtly hostile, (I am sure he’s a nice fellow) but it wasn’t something that amounted to Christian thinking on the subject and that’s the point. This post expresses the typical adoptionistic Christology found among classical Unitarians and contemporary liberals. Jesus is the man who was more open to the divine or “Spirit” and so is a means by which one is in contact with “God” or “Spirit” and so moved or inspired to “social justice.” The other posts on Hell and other doctrines pretty much fall into the typical liberal, that is Unitarian glosses. […]

  10. […] April 17, 2010 · Leave a Comment Perry Robinson, a philosopher in the Orthodox Church, wrote an interesting article Why I am Not an Episcopalian. It’s a fairly sharp response to an Episcopalian struggling with the trinity. […]

  11. bls said

    You state that for example you work for justice on behalf of those regardless of sexual oritentation, but the Bible doesn’t that is, it condemns not only the notion of sexual orientation, but its attending behaviors as “unnatural.”

    Good heavens! Where in the world does the Bible “condemn the notion of sexual orientation”?

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