Category Archives: jesus

That’s the Gospel? Really?

The 3rd post in an ongoing series about attending a “conservative led” church as a “liberal”.

I am really enjoying the liturgy in the Church of England we are attending. It’s something I found missing in other churches. For me, using liturgy helps me to find my role in the unfolding story of God. There is a flow and a rhythm to the service. We explicitly hear each week of the work that Jesus did in on the cross. It’s important to be reminded of that.

But it also leaves me asking the question, “is that all the gospel is?”

Each week we hear that we are sinful people, heading for hell but because of the cross we are rescued and get to go to heaven.

I’m not against that reading of the gospel. But I don’t think that serves up the whole picture of the gospel. I don’t think that covers everything that’s going on.

This reading reduces everything to a binary transaction. We are the problem, Jesus is the solution.

What of the creation narrative, the Abrahamic covenant, the mosaic covenant? What about the life of Jesus? What about our lives, right here, right now?

None of this matters if we hold to this basic view of the gospel.

Being a “liberal”, I don’t believe that the sole point of the gospel is for Jesus to rescue us from hell and take us to heaven. For me the gospel is the reconciliation of all things. It is freedom from oppression and injustice. It is longing for the Kingdom to come and for Gods will to be done on earth (Familiar words aren’t they?”

I believe that I am saved from something but also saved for something. I am to be a blessing to all people. I have to hold out and hold on to the living word. I care about this world, and its inhabitants, as I believe God cares about it.

The gospel is the proclamation that, through the Son, a new world order is breaking out in the midst of the old one. The gospel challenges us to be heaven bringers rather than heaven goers.

So yes, I believe that through the cross we have been ransomed, rescued and redeemed.

But that’s just part of the picture.

Say Yes or No Daddy!

“Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

Odd words I’ve always thought. Until recently.

Here is our three year old (four tomorrow!) son, Owen. He, like I imagine most pre-schoolers is incredibly inquisitive.

Yesterday he asked me if he could play the PS3. I told him that maybe he could play it after lunch. He replied, “Yes or no daddy. Yes or no?“.

Maybe is not a word he understands. Or perhaps its a word he doesn’t want to understand. He wants a yes or no answer. He wants assurance either way. It made me realize that I use ‘maybe’ a lot.

For me, using the word ‘maybe’ is a way of saying ‘no’ without actually saying it. It’s like I dance around the word ‘no’ but feel better because I’m not actually telling my son that he can’t do something. Even though that’s what I am really getting at.

Saying ‘maybe’ is not telling the truth. Jesus declares the devil to be the father of lies. So saying anything other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ does come from him.

We beat around the bush too often. We’re not honest with people enough. About anything.

My son has taught me that I should be. If I’m not going to let him do something, I need to tell him that. I need to show him that being honest is important. That being honest is a virtue we should all ascribe to.

In the youth work I do, I should be honest when young people ask me if we’re going to do this or that. I shouldn’t say ‘maybe’. Because ‘maybe’ isn’t really saying anything to them. It might make me feel better but I that’s not what it’s about.

Let’s get rid of the maybes in this world and start saying what we really mean. Let our yes mean yes and our no mean no.

Maybe Original Sin is not Completely Depraved!?

I wrote a blog post a few days ago that caused a bit of controversy on the comments and on twitter. read it here 

One aspect of bible college that I really miss, and that I find in the blogging world, is that of discussion and debate. At bible college you can throw out an idea and people can grapple with it together. This is what happened with this post and it has resulted in me learning more about some of the nuances of original sin and I’d wanted to offer a follow up post.

(One helpful insight I have  learned  is that ‘original sin’ does not have to imply that we are all sinful because of what a ‘historical’ Adam did. This is helpful for me as I do not believe in a historical Adam.)

So here’s what i think.

I still do not believe that we all stand condemned from the point of birth. What I do believe is that we are born into a broken world because of the ‘sin’ of others. We have inherited those consequences. Because we live in a broken world, we ourselves are also broken because a) our world is not how it was intended to be and b)  we are influenced by said world. We have the ability to live sinless lives (just as Jesus did) but on a daily basis, because of our brokenness, we choose to reject God through a number of actions.

And we cannot fix this problem by ourselves. It is not simply a matter of being better people. We need jesus. We need the cross. We need the wisdom of God. The cross is a symbol of God’s reuniting with people. It is God bending down and embracing our brokenness (not just us personally but the entire created world) so that we may become whole again.

So that’s where I stand. It is a nuanced belief and the main difference for me between my view and a more conservative evangelical view is from birth I would define humanity as ‘broken’ rather than ‘guilty’.

This is still only the beginning of the discussion for me and I hope to hear other peoples responses.

The Divide between our thoughts and actions is a myth

At the Baptist Assembly last year I heard from the front something I’ve heard a lot. Get your heart (ie emotions) in line with your thoughts (belief).

We moved house recently to be closer to the church I work for. We own a house so we wanted to rent that out and move into a rental property close to the church. As the weeks went by, and each prospective tenant came and went, my heart sank. Yes I believed in my head that God could provide but in my heart, it was a different story.

This is what the speaker at the Assembly was on about. Get your heart to match up with your head.

But I don’t think that’s possible. i think that’s a myth.

In his new book, “insurrection”, Peter Rollins says this:

“our outer world [our actions/ heart] is not something that needs to be brought into line with our inner world [our thoughts/beliefs] but is an expression of it“.

What our heart believes is what we truly believe. In other words our actions express what we truly believe. It’s not right to tell someone to get their heart in line with their head. They are not two separate entities. Here’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“the heart in the biblical sense is not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God”

How we act shows our beliefs. I think this is part of what Paul was saying in the famous love section in his letter to the Corinthians. We can say all the right things and believe what we’re meant to but it means nothing if our actions express something differently.

There have been many heated arguments over the faith based/ works based salvation. I’m starting to believe that they are one in the same. Our works are an expression of our faith so in essence, those works do save us because they project what we believe.

What do your actions tell others about what you truly believe?