Thursday, February 08, 2007

On evangelism

<< Believing in Christ's resurrection does not result in an exclusivist viewpoint. This notion conflates the resurrection, described in all the Gospels, with one line in John, and the "Evangelical" or "born again" church viewpoint. You can believe in the resurrection, as I do, without being an exclusivist. Your description also conflates (combines) the resurrection itself, with the doctrine of the atonement. There are many explanations and understandings of the resurrection, and of atonement. For some people, one or both of those, depending on how understood, may be a powerful evangelical statement. For me, the resurrection stands as a powerful testament to the truth of Christ's divinity, and therefore of the notion of Incarnation. >>

My response:

Interesting point. I agree with you because clearly the Archbishop of Canterbury does not believe Jesus is the only path to God. Click here. And he believes in the resurrection.

Note, though, that the doctrine of the resurrection only adds to the confusion a bit... ie, whether you believe in the physical, bodily resurrection or the metaphorical interpretation or symbolism of the resurrection. Read the debate between N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg.

My understanding was that the death and bodily resurrection were tied directly to the doctrine of atonement, sacrifice for the sins of the world. Maybe this is inaccurate.

Lastly on this point, you say that the "resurrection stands as a powerful testament to the truth of Christ's divinity, and therefore of the notion of Incarnation." Thus, you believe that Jesus is God incarnate... as do most Christians. What I do not understand is how one can believe this and still be inclusive of people of other faiths.

If indeed the God who created the millions (perhaps billions) of planets and stars in the universe chose one day to be born of a virgin (on a tiny planet named Earth in a relatively small solar system) and become a Jewish man from Galilee named Jesus, who would inspire the creation of a religion called Christianity... then I can certainly understand how that particular religion would have a unique claim to being the "ONLY WAY". I don't agree with this conclusion because I do not believe in the doctrines that lead to it. But if I did, then I would certainly understand and probably agree with the logic of the conclusion.

<< I don't know scientifically what happened at the resurrection (resuscitation or some other phenomena); but the fact that Jesus' followers turned from a band of dispirited followers of another messiah wannabe into the most spirit filled group of leaders is proof that Something Amazing happened. >>

My response:

I disagree with you here. N.T. Wright has made this point repeatedly. It has become one of his hallmark arguments. But I think it's an extremely weak and narrow one. Neither Dominic Crossan nor his friend Marcus Borg accept it.

I do not believe the growth of Christianity is "proof" that just ONE amazing thing happened. There are many specific historical and political reasons to which Christianity can attribute its growth. One could teach a university course on why Christianity grew as it did... I suspect there are several being offered somewhere.

If you want to give credit for the growth or even survival of Christianity, then give the credit to our friend Constantine. Without the fusion of Church and State in the 4th century on his watch, who knows what would've happpened. Or give credit to the tremendous missionary skills of Paul, who traveled widely and spread the teachings of Jesus to the Greek-speaking world.

Give credit to the fact that the early Christians were never seen as a military or political threat by the Romans, as were the Jews, and thus they were not exterminated by the most powerful and brutal Empire the world had ever known. Remember, the early Christians didn't fight back because that was what Jesus taught them, and thus they were not perceived as a threat by the Romans.

Remember, Christianity was co-opted by Constantine. Christianity became a part of "the system". That's probably the one main reason it was allowed to flourish.

But my gosh, you just have to give some credit to the most incredible 3-year social and spiritual ministry the world has ever seen... that of Jesus (plus his Apostles that he sent out into the world). Sometimes I think we downplay the INCREDIBLE LIFE CHANGING POWER of Jesus' radical teachings. History has always been changed by individuals and their IDEAS (look at Mandela, Ghandi, King). That is the way countries and empires have been born. Note the ideas of freedom and equality... pretty powerful. That is the way religions have been created and grown. Christianity is no different.

<< I agree that living out Jesus' teaching is a powerful tool of evangelism. There are others, too, I believe. One is learn to tell our story - how being a follower of Jesus changes our own life. How we are transformed, how it gives us the courage and strength and energy to do Jesus' work in the world. >>

My response:

I agree. I would emphasize telling the story of how being a follower of Jesus' teaching changes our life and the potential to change the world, rather than "worshipping" Jesus. Jesus never asked us to idolize him. He asked us to follow what he taught us, to emulate him.

One of my favorite verses is from Matthew 19:17...

Responding to the young wealthy man who came to him saying, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" ... Jesus said...

"Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God"

This at least suggests to me that Jesus was ego-less, uninterested in being praised, opting instead to redirect that praise to God. All Jesus wanted was for his followers to "LISTEN to what he was SAYING", as would be the wish of any great teacher.

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