Saturday, May 24, 2008

One Faith, One Hope, One Baptism Pt 2

Entitled in honor of this song by Michael Card & John Michael Talbot

I always suggest more Bible readings over any other introduced texts - be it Book of the Mormon or Christian Talmudic equivalents (You'll hear this called 'church tradition' or 'interpretations from our founders' or some such thing. The latest popular interpretation books can be similarly controversial.) While I don't endorse such doubtful additions as BoM, I recognize that folks often need guidelines to interpret scripture into everyday living. Traditions and guidebooks aren't necessarily wrong, but sometimes even the best-intentioned of them may lead believers astray. If you believe this is happening, I figure you can't go wrong with recommending more Bible studies - presuming the person loves God. A heart open to the leading of the Holy Spirit will encounter in scripture what is most needful to keeping their faith straight. A closed heart/mind won't be any worse off than they were.

It strikes me as ironic that so many Protestant branches will quote the Nicene Creed as a way to distinguish their real faith from what they regard as Catholic heresy - when the Nicene Creed was established by the Catholic church. I'd even say that's the Catholic Church at its best. Even today, this simple creed is the glue that binds so many believers close enough together that they can at least recognize the family resemblance!

I rather enjoyed reciting the Creed with them at the last mass I attended. That said, I cannot in good conscience accept ALL the extraordinary claims made for Mary (I do see a reasonable historic case for her being 'caught up' after death), but I accept that many who do also have a strong love for God & Christ. I acknowledge their faith and their special doctrinal terminologies as something I should respect. Who am I to judge what 'counts' as a sacrament and what doesn't in the eyes of God? Much of Catholic tradition and practice is firmly rooted in scripture, just as most Evangelical & Messianic faith is practiced in 'good faith' - in the belief it honors the words and requirements of Almighty God. It concerns me that even a strong Christian leader like MacArthur, whose works I respect and from whom I have learned much, has yet to see the wisdom of recognizing the One Faith he shares with many (not all) serious Catholics.

I've found that Evangelical Protestants have been highly selective in their Ecumenical tolerations. They quote C.S. Lewis cheerfully enough, who was an Anglican (now a Protestant branch but originally very close to Catholicism - with Henry VIII instead of the Pope), and - through Lewis - George MacDonald, a Calvinist/Congregational minister and fantasy writer. But most ignore the Christian apologists who preceded Lewis - especially G.K. Chesterton, the noted Catholic. I remember my own surprise at finding so much in common between Lewis & Chesterton. Would Lewis have been as acceptable to current prejudices if he had recommended Chesterton as often as MacDonald? Probably not. Which is a shame - on the whole church of his day.

Unfortunately, many believers never see the celebrations of faith outside their own sect, and have no idea of the commonality involved. I love the faith that inspired church branches to get back to Biblical basics, some as far back as Messianic Judaism, but how can I love the judgmental-ism, the unkindness and pride so many show to those they believe to be 'less enlightened?' I love Messianic Christianity until it 'goes there' -I think it may even be the closest to the truth. HOWEVER, many millions of believers have found themselves accepted (or reproved) in their walks with Christ over 2 milliennia without hearing how they were supposed to be living like the Jews and using only the Jewish feasts/calendar. There's nothing wrong (and much right!) with observing and learning from these feast days and calendars, but it certainly isn't required.

I have no doubt God loves Sunday services, Christmas, St Nicholas' Day, St Patrick's Day, and Easter. He has shown it in signs and words given to the faithful many, many, many, many, many times - despite the imperfect origins & uses of these events. Paul didn't even have a problem with Christians in his own time eating the meat resold after use in pagan temples in their festivals. The limit was not worshiping idols/demons WITH the pagans and avoiding scenes that would cause a weaker brother to stumble. Otherwise, pray over the meat and don't ask a lot of questions - for your conscience's sake. Remember? 1 Corinthians chapters 8 & 10

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there are prophecies, they shall fail; whether there are languages, they shall cease; whether there is knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

The knowledge of the church has always been 'in part' - It is perfectly imperfect, just like its members, and ever shall be until we all get to heaven. Its understanding has always been imperfect too, even in Apostolic days. Many churches had but a part of the scriptures to read, and some of those weren't copied correctly, which is why new churches so often needed to be brought up to speed on what the main core of the church believed by the Apostles/Preachers they sent out. This was the reason the Apostolic, Holy Spirit- inspired leaders were nominated by Christ to lead the church, to prevent the endless splintering of beliefs likely to occur under decentralized 'sola scriptura.' This, of course, set up for other problems that come with a central hierarchy, but nothing run primarily by humans is going to make all perfect decisions. The mistakes don't invalidate the faith of those who have believed in Christ through imperfect institutions, Praise God!

Even back in Acts the Apostles had to reprove one another (or were reproved by the Holy Spirit) for failing to see what God required - and didn't. Interestingly it was Peter - long regarded as head of the Catholic church- who led the 'Messianic' failings in Jerusalem. At one point he refused to sit with uncircumcised Gentile believers, and was reproved by Paul for not recognized they were sanctified by faith in Christ. At another point, Peter was shown directly by God in a vision that the Christian church was not required to avoid 'unclean' foods in the same way that the Israelites had been. Another time, Peter was reproved for strictly following Jewish custom with the Jews around him, but putting these aside in meals taken with Gentile or less strict Jews, without mentioning his full beliefs on the matter to any of them. Paul believed in adjusting one's behaviors to respect those you were with, but in stating clearly where you stood as a leader. Peter agreed when this was pointed out to him. Peter was very good about publicly repenting his failings in these incidents. Everyone knew the most important rule, that laid down by Christ, and God His Father was love - which we usually show to each other by respect - seeking not to unnecessarily offend.

Its absolutely shocking to speak to someone who can spout off their ancient knowledge of the scriptures for hours on end - only to find at the end that they have become a clanging bell (sounding brass), because they have lost sight of the love that Yeshua brought to all mankind, to Gentiles as well as Jews. Listened to one 'brother' write off the vast majority of Christendom because they have 'incorporated pagan practices into their Christian faith' - and all this given as a reason why he didn't have to show other believers respect. 'WE decide what is real' (doctrine) etc - uh huh.

yeah, right. That's gospel according to Dogbert. I don't believe its been added to the commonly accepted canon. :P

Actually the first major departure from classic Messianic Judaism was not that long after Pentecost - with the first missionary journeys of Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, & Cephas/Simon Peter. They had to make determinations very early on about which of the practices of Judaism would be binding on new believers. Some wanted the whole law applied, including circumcision. Paul argued that faith had made these one in Christ without the law, and so they should not seek to live under the law but by grace. A big gathering of church leaders prayed over the matter and discussed it for days. They ended up with a very limited forbidden list for the new Gentile believers.

Acts 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain who went out from us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment:
25 It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul:
26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who will also tell you the same things by mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That ye abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from lewdness: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye will do well. Fare ye well.
Jewish & popular Pagan festivals were celebrated side by side in the time of Christ & the Apostles, but the scripture doesn't say much about that either, aside from avoiding the idol worship that was directly involved in those days. The overall impression was a live & let live kind of thing. Love your pagan neighbors as beings for whom Christ died, in hopes of saving them by expressions of your love. Rereading this article reminded me of how much love the early church often showed to non-believers, even to those enemies whose persecutions easily matched and often exceeded the medieval witch trials & political massacres of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation years. Would that all members of Christ's church had still understood the importance of loving each others differences in those days!


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