Jump to content

Are Labels Really Necessary?


Javelin
 Share

Recommended Posts

Christianity, in some ways, is a confusing religion. I admit that I am both a believer and a skeptic. A Fundamentalist would probably say such a thing is not possible. You either believe or you don’t. I used to think that way too. Christianity, for most of my life, has been a black and white issue. Right is right and wrong is wrong and there is no such thing as gray areas.

 

I am an admitted skeptic, but my skepticism is limited in scope and focused primarily on the bible. I do not believe there is any possibility that the bible is, or ever was, fully inerrant or inspired. I do no see how that could be possible without Devine intervention, and I have never found any evidence, even circumstantial evidence, that would support such a hypothesis.

 

Additionally, I see no necessity for such an intervention by God. All the “Devine” biblical messages that I’m familiar with are simple, concise, and short. Why would the creator of the universe require thousands of words to communicate His will? God communicated His message to the nation of Israel in ten short commandments. The Jews turned those Ten Commandments into six hundred plus laws. I think scripture says something about the tendency of human knowledge to puff up and make a person prideful, even to the point of arrogance. A predicament that affects both the believer and skeptic.

 

If I didn’t believe that Jesus was Devine, and that Paul had not been personally commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel of grace, and explain the cross to mankind, I would see no point, or purpose, in Christianity. My faith, such as it is, hinges on both Jesus Divinity and Paul’s apostleship. It’s a packaged deal for me.

 

I don’t personally buy into red letter Christianity. Jesus, by His own words, came only to the Jews. I’m not a Jew. The offer of redemption was later offered to the Gentiles, me, through the Apostle Paul. It’s a packaged deal for me. They both have a vital role. Without Paul’s teaching I wouldn’t know why the cross was necessary and what it accomplished, and why its paramount for my justification.

 

I believe there is sufficient creditable circumstantial evidence to authenticate the New Testament as being essentially true. Jesus confirmed his mission was to fulfill or complete the law. Scripture says that Christ was the propitiation for the sins of mankind. That has become known as the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. If that doctrine is not true then Jesus death would seem to have served no purpose. If His death served no purpose then, its seems to me, the very sovereignty of God becomes an issue.

 

I’ve retained that much of my former fundamentalist teaching, because I see it as essential doctrine and the basis of Christianity. Without a sacrificial dead Christianity is a lie. If Paul was not who he claimed to be Christianity is a man made religion because virtually all the doctrines are based on Paul’s teaching.

 

I’ve come to ask myself just what kind of Christian I am? Am I really just a modified fundamentalist? If I am, is that a bad thing? Fundamentalists don’t accept my beliefs. They sure don’t think I’m one of them. Truthfully, I don’t want to be one of them. While I accept some of their teaching I fervently reject other parts of it. What label applies to me? Do I need, or even want, a label? I’m not into conformity and I really don’t want to be part of anybodies herd. I think, at least for now, I will just be an unlabeled Christian with inconsistent, and sometimes even conflicting, views and beliefs.

 

 

Ultimately, if scripture is correct, I will stand alone to face God. If that is true, then does it really matter what anyone else thinks? Religion is both comforting and enormously nerve racking. Sorry, I’m just rambling while attempting to make some sort of sense out of all of this.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

Labels, Javelin, are only as useful as the content with which we fill them. They are short-hand descriptions of broader concepts. So, as you can imagine, people fill their "label" with whatever content they deem necessary. What one person means by "Christian" may be vastly different from another person's idea. It's always been that way. That's why we have so many different denominations in Christianity, Christians have different content in their "Christian" pail.

 

For the most part, PCs aren't too big on labels. They tend to think that actions speak louder than words and, as the 8 points say, what we do says more about who we are than what we believe. So labels are not too important here, although we use them from time to time.

 

If you don't mind, I would like to contribute a few thoughts on fundamentalism for you to consider. Christian fundamentalism is not, as the fundies would claim, "the faith once delivered to the saints." It is a fairly recent strain of Christianity that appeared in the late 1800's as a reaction to The Enlightenment. By 1910, the Christian fundamentalists had distilled their theology down to five basic "fundamentals":

 

1. The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.

2. The virgin birth of Christ.

3. The belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin.

3. The bodily resurrection of Christ.

4. The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

 

It's important to know WHY these doctrines came to the forefront of fundamental Christianity. The fundamentalists didn't just pull these doctrines out of the air, they had a theological agenda to what they were doing. That agenda is basically as follows:

 

Mankind is fallen and sinful before God and needs a Savior. The saving act had to be done by God through Christ and that act was the atonement.

 

The notion of substitutionary atonement is at the heart of Christian fundamentalism. Why? Because atonement theory says that the sacrifice must be spotless, blameless, without sin -- hence the necessity of Jesus' virgin birth, something that only God could do. So Jesus' miracles prove that he was God and, therefore, qualified to be the atoning sacrifice. The bodily resurrection of Christ proves that God accepted Jesus' sacrifice on behalf of mankind. And the view of the scriptures support that neither the Jews, nor Paul, nor the early church could be wrong about the ability of blood to remove sin and restore relationship with God.

 

I've made this point before, and it is worth repeating, none of the "fundamentals" have anything to do with Jesus' teaching about loving God or neighbor or social issues, etc. Fundamentalism is an answer, not to "how should I live?" but to "how can I keep from going to hell?"

 

One other small point that is important. Yes, Jesus initially said that he came to the Jews. But in what we call the Great Comission (Matthew 28), he said to take his teachings to all the world. He told his disciples to make more disciples, not by spreading "atonement theory", but by teaching them what he had taught. So it simply will not do to say that Jesus was only for the Jews, my friend. Jesus countered that notion.

 

But if you see mankind, not as having once been perfect and then falling into sin which requires a human sacrifice, but as an immature species that really needs to learn to love one another in order to progress and survive, atonement theory is unnecessary. Sure Paul believed it. He was an ex-Pharisee. He also believed that slavery was okay, that kings ruled by divine right, and that women should be silent in church and never be allowed to teach men. PC is, in some ways, about leaving behind these ancient superstitious beliefs. IMO, atonement theory is one of them.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

.........The notion of substitutionary atonement is at the heart of Christian fundamentalism. Why? Because atonement theory says that the sacrifice must be spotless, blameless, without sin -- hence the necessity of Jesus' virgin birth, something that only God could do. So Jesus' miracles prove that he was God and, therefore, qualified to be the atoning sacrifice. The bodily resurrection of Christ proves that God accepted Jesus' sacrifice on behalf of mankind. And the view of the scriptures support that neither the Jews, nor Paul, nor the early church could be wrong about the ability of blood to remove sin and restore relationship with God.

 

.....One other small point that is important. Yes, Jesus initially said that he came to the Jews. But in what we call the Great Comission (Matthew 28), he said to take his teachings to all the world. He told his disciples to make more disciples, not by spreading "atonement theory", but by teaching them what he had taught.

 

.....But if you see mankind, not as having once been perfect and then falling into sin which requires a human sacrifice, but as an immature species that really needs to learn to love one another in order to progress and survive, atonement theory is unnecessary. Sure Paul believed it. He was an ex-Pharisee. He also believed that slavery was okay, that kings ruled by divine right, and that women should be silent in church and never be allowed to teach men. PC is, in some ways, about leaving behind these ancient superstitious beliefs. IMO, atonement theory is one of them.

 

 

I’ve studied the precepts of the fundamentalist religious movement. So I’m familiar with the information you posted, although the list of their doctrinal beliefs varies from author to author. I would appreciate it if you could provide the source of your information that influenced your understanding of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

 

I am likewise familiar with the early Christian beliefs of the Ebonite’s, Nazarenes, Marcionists, and Judaizers. At this point in my life the doctrine of substitutionary atonement remains a foundational belief for me. I recognize that various forms of Gnostic Christianity are seen as viable options by many present day believers, but that form of Christianity does not resonate with me at this point in my life.

 

Aside from loving God and others what is it specifically that you believe Jesus taught? Red letter believers and fundamental extremist teach that all the commands of God must be obeyed, but I have yet to encounter anyone who can produce a list of ALL the commands of God with an accompanying accurate interpretation. That makes me skeptical that this approach to God is anything other than repackaged Pharisaical legalism disguised as religion.

 

If Paul was an inspired Christ commissioned Apostle, who taught the concept of substitutionary atonement, then I feel comfortable putting my theological eggs and faith in his basket. If he has mislead me because he was a false teacher, then I will have to rely on a just God’s mercy and grace who knows my heart and my intent.

 

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with you. I look forward to more discussion about this topic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In an ideal world we wouldn’t need labels. I think that would be great. But in reality, this world is a world of category. Most people need to know which category they fit into, even if only for practical purposes.

 

Javelin,

I can see in your writing that there is a great deal of tension going on, fundamentally between faith and skepticism. This is a place that I too found myself in, and let me say that, in a way, my skepticism won. There came a point when I completely walked away from Christianity, it having been thoroughly discredited in my mind. Then something happened: something about it still spoke to me, and I began to realize that there is a depth of meaning to God and Jesus that is not so easy to dismiss. However, had I walked away and stayed away from Christianity, I’m sure I could still live a happy life, perhaps doing some other religious practice. The fact that I am here, being Christian, voluntarily, of my choice and because I want to and find it meaningful, and not because I feel coerced, removes any tension at all for me. I have freely come because I can also freely go (not that I intend to).

 

I think perhaps you’ve decided you’re comfortable being skeptical about some things: like the bible’s inerrancy. But other things you’re simply not comfortable doubting yet: Paul’s apostleship, substitutionary atonement. I used to do this, but I found that skepticism is not a respecter of beliefs, of doctrines. I could not hold off some things as untouchable, no matter how afraid I was at first to question them. Skepticism: it’s a way of life. And it’s one that I found, perhaps to the surprise of many, NOT diametrically opposed to my faith, but in fact supportive of it. You seem very uneasy doubting what you perceive to be fundamental to Christianity. This is understandable. You’ve expressed not a small amount of dismay at the thought of arriving at the conclusion that Christianity is “man-made” or “pointless.” But I think you’ll find that just “throwing your eggs in the basket” will simply not do once you’ve begun questioning. It is a process that must go somewhere, not stop half-way. At some point along my Christian journey I began to have significant doubts about the doctrine of the Trinity, and then about the deity of Christ. For a time I thought of myself a biblical Unitarian, and almost became a Christadelphian. I decided I would simply modify my beliefs accordingly and go on living as more-or-less the same kind of Christian, bible-believing, holding to the fundamentals. But I couldn’t stop questioning, much to my despair. And I must confess that though the thought of losing my faith in God and Christ was at first overwhelming and horrifying, once I progressed to the point where I could question the big things and think about them with some measure of calmness, it wasn’t so bad. The sun still shone, the flowers bloomed in spring, life went on.

 

I became interested in comparative religion and realized that there is a depth to faith the transcends mere affirmation or negation of abstract propositions. To me the question of whether religion is man-made is beside the point. Religion is rooted in man’s response to God, in man’s experience of the sacred. I used to think that the agnostic is doomed to a life of dreary, bitter, meaninglessness. But that is simply a belief based on a misunderstanding of human existence. Not all things are what they first appear to be.

 

For instance, we Christians in the West grew up almost exclusively with an understanding of the atonement that is known as penal substitution. And even though there are other ways of understanding what the New Testament is talking about, that particular theory is so ingrained in our understanding that many of us literally are not aware it could possibly be understood any other way - for us, our own theory is identical to what the scriptures say. There are so many proof-texts which are used to defend it, so many passages which seem only to make sense with penal substitution in mind. But it’s amazing how, if we just take the time to lay out a working, falsifiable definition of “penal substitution,” how much more complicated and difficult the task becomes to justify it with scripture. Allow me to supply the definition of the atonement that I grew up with: Christ made the payment for sin on the cross that satisfied the wrath of God: much like a business transaction, or even better, a fine: Christ paid something we owed to God himself, so we could be acquitted.

 

Now, try to find that in scripture - not just a text that seems fit in with some part of this definition, but some scripture that actually presents the underlying logic and explains the “mechanics” of the atonement in such a fashion. Scores of proof texts just got reduced to: just a couple. Meanwhile, the underlying logic of the atonement appears to be different from the penal substitution theory throughout most of the New Testament. For instance, Paul is very emphatic that it is Christ’s resurrection that saves us, not only his death. However, in penal substitution theory, Christ could have just as easily stayed dead so long as he settled the debt that we owed to God. This theory negates the essential theological significance of the resurrection in New Testament theology. Perhaps when we read that Christ died for us, we should not assume that “for” means “instead of,” but rather “for our benefit?” Perhaps the New Testament doesn't present such a mechanistic view of the atonement, but one more relational and organic? Another problem with this theory is that it eliminates the reality of God’s mercy and forgiveness in scripture. Can God really be said to “forgive” someone of their debts when in reality those debts were just paid by someone else? Where is the forgiveness when God was demanding satisfaction all along to the very end?

 

Of course, the preceding example assumes that one is relying on the teachings of Paul or any particular biblical author for his own world-view, which I do not. Why then am I a Christian? I gain a sense, as I try to learn and explore the Christian Way, that the meaning of something is not always what you can break it down into. Perhaps the Christian experience of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is something more whole than what is captured by its reduction to a few ancient, abstract propositions. I see the Christian faith in a sacramental way…through Christ I encounter God, the Sacred. I am not really a red-letter Christian, I approach Christianity expecting to experience the Christ of faith.

 

I felt moved to write all this, I hope that I did not offend you at any point, Javelin, or overstep my place, and if I did I apologize. I hope too that my post does not deviate from the intent of your original post…your topic seems to be about much more than "labels," given the content of your posts.

 

Peace be with you, friend,

Mike

Edited by Mike
  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was not offended by either of your replies gentlemen. I quite often disagree but I don't know that I've ever been offended by someone elses views or opinions. In fact, I don't like that word (offended). I heard it way too often when I was a fundamentalist. Any differing view turned into an offense, which is nonsense.

 

You have both given me much to think about. I need some more information from both of you on your interpretation, or understanding, of Christ atonement. I assume you can refer me to some website, essays, or academic works that might be helpful and informative?

 

Mike, I may be revealing something about my inner feelings in my post that I am truly unaware of. If I have doubts about Christ Deity, Paul's Apostleship, or the atoning nature of Christ's sacrifice, I am unaware of those doubts. I have numerous doubts when it comes to religious dogma, tradition, and the interpretation of scripture but no doubts about Christ or Paul that I am aware of. I think I'm rock solid about those issues, but I am open to other views because I am not inspired.

 

You have posted a lot of information Mike. I will need some time to ponder your thoughts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic was moved from the progressive area to the debate and dialog section. The progressive area is a "safe area" for those who consider themselves Progressives Christians only, as defined in principle by the 8 points. That area is "for general, supportive discussion about progressive Christianity or related ideas" There is no requirement to be a PC and accept that Jesus was divine or not divine to be considered a Progressive Christian on this site. However, from the content of the posts concerning itself with labels, it seems to me to be more appropriate to locate this thread in the debate area because of both the nature of the subject and uncertainty of the Opening Posters acknowledgement in principle to the 8 points as of this time. This topic is now open to all members of this site.

 

JosephM (Moderator/Admin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

Mike and Bill know the journey you are on and speak well to the issues. I was raised Presbyterian and was taught that atonement could be understood as at-one-ment: opening ourselves to the indwelling of the spirit in prayer or in practice. Jesus is (shows) the way that we seek to follow (imitate).

 

Scripture says that Christ was the propitiation for the sins of mankind.

 

I don't think all writers in the New Testament agree with this. I have read elsewhere that there are other views but don't have a reference so I cut and paste the following:

 

For those who believe Jesus’ death, being raised up/ascending on the cross, is the means of salvation, bringing eternal life (3:11-15), establishing Jesus’ divine authority (8:21-30 note the use of “I am” [he] ), and drawing all to himself (12:32); this is emphasised by the universal nature of Pilate’s proclamation of him as king (19:19-20). This is John’s major understanding of the cross as the ultimate revelation of who Jesus is and of his divine origins and destiny. Although there are hints (10:11, 15:13) after 1:29, there is no reference to the cross as a vicarious sacrifice for sin. Links are made to the Passover lamb, but this was not such a sacrifice(John 19:29 and 36, cf Exodus 12:22 and 45-6).

 

Many of the conservative or fundamental Christians I have known seem to need a lego-click-and-lock-in-place system of beliefs. Like my friend John who says that if the Bible isn't literally true then Jesus doesn't exist. I seek a belief that is more malleable - like clay.

 

Courage for the Journey

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

I would appreciate it if you could provide the source of your information that influenced your understanding of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

 

It's no one particular source, Javelin, just an amalgamation of teachings that I have been exposed to through the years being in Baptist, Pentecostal, Bible church, and Methodist circles. There are plenty of conservative theologians that believe and teach that Jesus took our place on the cross and suffered the wrath of God in our stead...as long as we believe that it happened this way.

 

Interesting, Paul doesn't always teaching substitutionary atonement. He sometimes teaches co-union in that, rather than Jesus being crucified in our place, we were co-crucified with him. To Paul has this alternate thread that says that Christians are so identified with Christ that they have been crucified, buried, and risen again with him to walk in the newness of life. Interpretations of Jesus' death, as I'm sure you know, are many and varied. There was no "one view" to see Christ's death, even in the early church. But the Jewish church did tend, as Matthew says, to interpret Jesus' life "according to the scriptures (the Hebrew Bible)." So it is natural that they saw Jesus as their Pascal Lamb.

 

At this point in my life the doctrine of substitutionary atonement remains a foundational belief for me.

 

That's fine, Javelin. And I'm not saying this at all in condescention, but each of us is where we are. SA, for me, doesn't make sense and doesn't seem moral. I don't find it a necessary doctrine for my faith or even a helpful metaphor. I don't believe that one person can pay for or remove the sins of another. And I grew tired of always feeling guilty that "I" was the reason Jesus had to die. I didn't ask Jesus to die for me, and I don't think he had me on his mind when he was being executed. I just don't think of him that way any longer. But if SA works for you, then hold on to what you know, what you believe makes you more like Jesus, what makes you a better person, what motivates you to give your life for the sake of others.

 

Aside from loving God and others what is it specifically that you believe Jesus taught?

 

That question deserves a long answer which I can't do right now. But it comes down to loving God, loving others, and living, in some sense, as a person described in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Red letter believers...teach that all the commands of God must be obeyed...

 

Actually, they don't. If you research Red Letter Christianity on the net, you will find that the focus is not on ALL the commands of God, but on taking Jesus' teachings seriously and not subjugating what Jesus taught to the Mosaic Law or to Paul's teaching. It is not at all about becoming Pharisaical, Javelin, it is about becoming concerned about the things that Jesus was concerned about and responding to that.

 

If Paul was an inspired Christ commissioned Apostle, who taught the concept of substitutionary atonement, then I feel comfortable putting my theological eggs and faith in his basket.

 

That's fine. But just as you know longer believe that being "inspired" makes the Bible inerrant and infallible, then, likewise, Paul being "inspired" doesn't make him inerrant and infallible either, right? At its heart, it seems to me, theology isn't about "eggs in a basket", it is about "bearing fruit" for the sake of others. :)

 

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with you.

 

Likewise, Javelin. I am not purposely trying to provoke you, my friend. I'm not even trying to "convert" you. I'm simply saying that there are alot more ways of looking at the death of Jesus than SA. Jesus' death is like looking at a diamond, there are many facets to it. The fundies, IMO, err in trying to make it too simple.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

Mike, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated your post. I know we can all agree that we are not trying to "win" here and your post reflects not only the pain of your journey, the the measure of peace that you find in being who you are. It is SO hard to put these things into words. But words are all we have on a forum like this and it is a blessing when "the spirit" comes through.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for your thoughts guys. I found nothing in anyones reply that was intended to provoke or rebuke me or my thoughts. I am clearly a searcher at this point in my faith. Bill, I do not believe Paul was inspired per se, but that he was given an inspired message. I believe Paul's writing reflect a lot of personal opinion and cultural baggage, but I think that is true of the other Apostles too. I my mind inspiration and inerrancy is found in the message not the messenger. I'm assume that is a minority viewpoint though. I need to do some research on red letter Christianity as this is a new concept for me. Thanks again for the replies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a 'in my view' bit on the substitutionary atonement point to consider as relates to Javelin's question.....

 

Substitutionary Atonement is a story which seems to me to be in line with the principles of sacrifice in Jewish law theology. However, in my present understanding, I neither find it necessary to believe nor disbelieve or even hold to an opinion as I find it unnecessary in my relationship to God. However have said that, I understand how it works for the Christian who receives it. If one is taught to believe in original sin and believes that man cannot himself appease God because of man's sinful nature, then it is necessary for him to believe in some sort of substitutionary theology to rid himself of the guilt created by such a belief of sin and a God who holds unforgiveness in his heart until the penalty is paid by sacrifice.

 

What I am saying in a sense is that guilt is self-created by belief. If one believes it is a sin to drink wine, then to him it is a sin. If one believes it is a sin to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, then to him it is sin. To one who truly understands this spiritual principle "ALL THINGS ARE LAWFUL TO HIM/HER " but not necessarily expedient or edifying. "All things are lawful, but care must be taken not to be brought under the power of any. These are deep sayings of Paul and there is great freedom in their understanding if done with wisdom.

 

All of which I have written above can be erroneously misunderstood or taken without the correct understanding so if it doesn't speak to you perhaps it is best to allow it to pass by. Nevertheless it is one understanding to consider.

 

Love in Christ,

 

Joseph

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is truly an interesting place. I’ve found it to be therapeutic, informative, and challenging. My religious experiences have been varied, confusing, and often traumatic. I can attest to the fact that much harm has been done in the name of God and religion. I have been unfortunate enough to have experienced some of it first hand.

 

I’ve discovered breaking away from my traditions has proven to be far more difficult then I anticipated. I’ve also come to accept the unpleasant fact, at least unpleasant for me, that conformity is an essential ingredient in any religious environment. Christianity promotes herd mentality because it tends to become chaotic without it.

 

Christianity comes in a wide variety of flavors and steadfastly resists unity. The interpretation of scripture is simply too subjective to be corralled into a concise format. One size clearly does not fit all. Scripture clearly says different things to different people.

 

I’ve also come to realize that I’m searching for a definable truth that simply does not exist. My truth is not another believer’s truth. What is spiritual for me is not necessarily spiritual for another believer.

 

Ultimately, my interpretation of scripture, or truth, is relative only to me. My truth is often another believer’s false teaching. I like this place because there is an unusual amount of tolerance for diverse opinions and beliefs.

 

I’ve just come to realize that I am quite comfortable with my present understanding of the New Testament and my relationship with God. It has taken me years of study and research to arrive at the place that I now find myself. I do not have all the answers but I am content with the answering that I do have. I’ve found that faith is indeed a journey not a destination. My journey continues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

I’ve just come to realize that I am quite comfortable with my present understanding of the New Testament and my relationship with God. It has taken me years of study and research to arrive at the place that I now find myself. I do not have all the answers but I am content with the answering that I do have. I’ve found that faith is indeed a journey not a destination. My journey continues.

 

That's a good place to be, Javelin. I, too, enjoy the balance found with a worldview that makes sense to me while, at the same time, calling me further or deeper. I'm glad you're sharing your journey with us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, I may be revealing something about my inner feelings in my post that I am truly unaware of. If I have doubts about Christ Deity, Paul's Apostleship, or the atoning nature of Christ's sacrifice, I am unaware of those doubts. I have numerous doubts when it comes to religious dogma, tradition, and the interpretation of scripture but no doubts about Christ or Paul that I am aware of. I think I'm rock solid about those issues, but I am open to other views because I am not inspired.

 

You have posted a lot of information Mike. I will need some time to ponder your thoughts.

 

I did not mean to be presumptuous in my post. I simply got a sense of tension in your writing, expressing doubts and disillusionment about many things. I mean, you are here, talking to us about these issues. I wanted to relate to you my experience with doubt, (and did not, by the way, mean to suggest you doubt Christ's divinity, I was simply using an example from my life). From your own words you seemed to me to be hinging a great deal of weight on some very big "ifs" that I was not sure you are comfortable with. By "if" I mean - *if* Paul was right, and so on. If you are comfortable with all of that, then that is fine with me. You are welcome to take my post, then, for whatever it may be worth.

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated your post. I know we can all agree that we are not trying to "win" here and your post reflects not only the pain of your journey, the the measure of peace that you find in being who you are. It is SO hard to put these things into words. But words are all we have on a forum like this and it is a blessing when "the spirit" comes through.

 

Thanks Bill. I enjoy the opportunity I get here to talk and learn from you and others on this board.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found nothing in your post that was presumptuous or offensive Mike. You were simply expressing a POV and I though you expressed it very well.

 

I’ve learned to add a modifier in the form of the word “if” when expressing an opinion about an emotionally charged subject. Stating something as an undeniable truth invites confrontational replies.

 

I am absolutely convinced “personally” that Christ was deified and that Paul was personally commissioned by Christ to explain the purpose of the cross and resurrection to the world. I also believe the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement is true and biblically defendable. I have no personal doubts about those issues, but I understand and accept the fact that others do and I respect their right to see those issues differently. My conviction obviously hinges on the fact that Jesus and Paul are who they said they were. Ultimately, my belief is based on faith, because I would not be able to provide irrefutable validation that would substantiate my belief to a nonbeliever.

 

I do not personally subscribe to the belief, as that relates to our present day bibles, that all of it must be true of none of it can be true. It is my opinion that our present day bibles contain truth, conjecture, opinion, cultural bias, allegories, parables, and myths. It is also often contradictive as well. What is, and is not, truth is not easy to determine and often comes down to a matter of interpretation and opinion.

 

As I’ve noted previously, I spent most of my adult life affiliated with an ultra conservative fundamentalist group that was legalistic to the point of exhibiting cult like characteristics. In that environment the bible became an object of worship and was viewed as a Devine instruction manual that had to be followed to the absolute letter.

 

My building doubts about that group’s doctrinal beliefs motivated me to study and research the historical aspects of Christianity and the Bible. Those studies lead me to terminate my relationship with them. As I have also previously noted, my doubts are focused primarily on religious doctrine, tradition, and biblical interpretations rather than the essentials.

 

The level and focus of my doubts seems to be clearly different from many other contributors on this site. I do not see myself as either a fundamentalist or a liberal. I see myself as more of a moderate. Others might view me more as a moderate fundamentalist. It seems I have morphed into a religious mongrel with no discernable identity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'Day Javelin,

 

Firstly let me congratulate you guys on a great post and discussion. If you guys have access to it, I began a discussion on substitutionary atonement at Easter and it generated some good points: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/topic.php?uid=18479574963&topic=11625

 

Secondly I just wanted to go back to the original question, as I have often pondered this myself.

 

I agree with many here, I think a world without labels, a John Lennon Imagine world, would be great, but it isn't one we live in. Further, I am not sure we should take for granted the power of a label. I have seen many posts on different topics saying, 'Does the label really matter, don't our actions speak louder?'. The answer, I believe, is yes and no. It indeed should be our actions by which we are judged, but labels DO matter. Labels matter because they the signposts to further understanding. Most people in this group, if not all, are here because at some point they tapped into their keyboard the word progressive and maybe christian at the same time. It was this label that drew us all in, like moths to a flame, to explore further and see if the content lived up to the label. Many of us, like Javelin, may find themselves in pursuit of the 'right fit', the right label that can be used by us to feel a part of a community, a part of many who adhere to the same badge, the same flag, that is the right label. Many have been mentioned here, fundamentalist, progressive, red-letter etc. So, you know what, I am going to share with everyone the label that I have recently adopted, as it comes the closest, at the moment, to being the right fit.

 

I have stated in other posts that I believe that one of the chief elements of diversity within the pc ranks is whether one sees Jesus as a mystic/teacher, or as having a metaphysical aspect, perhaps that can be described as 'deified' as Javelin says. I am firmly in the latter camp, though I respect absolutely the notion of adhering to the teacher Jesus. Now I may be totally wrong here, but I have felt this divide so acutely that I have felt the need to begin to call myself a METAPHYSICAL PROGRESSIVE Christian, an MP, if you like. This, for me, makes more sense, because I strongly and passionately believe in and embrace the eight points of TCPC, but a metaphysical aspect to Jesus must, for me, be a part of the intrinsic makeup of the label, so I have added it myself. I also toyed, inspired by Ian Lawnton, with the label, RBND, or RELIGIOUS BUT NOT DOCTRINAL, but there are connotations within that which require more thought.

 

Anyway, I thought it necessary to add this as it carries on a thought I have expressed in other topics. In short, yes, labels are necessary, and the best label for me is that of a metaphysical progressive christian.

 

Would love to hear some thoughts and, again, well done so far on a great discussion done with respect and intelligence. Great to see.

 

Adi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(snip)

 

I have stated in other posts that I believe that one of the chief elements of diversity within the pc ranks is whether one sees Jesus as a mystic/teacher, or as having a metaphysical aspect, perhaps that can be described as 'deified' as Javelin says. I am firmly in the latter camp, though I respect absolutely the notion of adhering to the teacher Jesus. Now I may be totally wrong here, but I have felt this divide so acutely that I have felt the need to begin to call myself a METAPHYSICAL PROGRESSIVE Christian, an MP, if you like. This, for me, makes more sense, because I strongly and passionately believe in and embrace the eight points of TCPC, but a metaphysical aspect to Jesus must, for me, be a part of the intrinsic makeup of the label, so I have added it myself. I also toyed, inspired by Ian Lawnton, with the label, RBND, or RELIGIOUS BUT NOT DOCTRINAL, but there are connotations within that which require more thought.

 

Anyway, I thought it necessary to add this as it carries on a thought I have expressed in other topics. In short, yes, labels are necessary, and the best label for me is that of a metaphysical progressive christian.

 

Would love to hear some thoughts and, again, well done so far on a great discussion done with respect and intelligence. Great to see.

 

Adi

 

Greetings Adi,

 

Good to hear from you again.

It seems to me, all you add by this new label is another level of intellectual complexity and in my view possible miscommunication. Does labels really matter? Isn't that the real question? What does it really matter to others if you think of yourself as metaphysical or not? You simply are what you are. As you know, Progressive Christianity is inclusive of you. Do we make another denomination of progressives to further separate us? Do we then make communities of RBND, MP's and communities of Jesus as teacher? I know you are not proposing this but perhaps you can see where placing emphasis on labels and subdivisions leads? It is okay with me if one wants to call themselves by whatever label they will but IMO it misses the point of PC and serves to further divide. PC is purposely a broad category and probably could be subdivided into other labels as you say and even then subdivided further but that leads to a slant to just another religion, a well defined theology, and separation which is what many here seem to me to have left behind. The word progressive means change or progressing and it seems to me this can be done without label subdivision which appeals more in my view to the intellect than Spirit.

 

I know you will keep in mind, this is just one man's opinion and not meant to offend.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Joseph,

 

Nope, no offense taken, indeed I kind of anticipated that this would be one of the responses. For the most part, I agree with you. There is a lot to be said for keeping sufficiently broad parameters of what it is to be a pc. And you are right, denominations and sub-divisions do, for the most part, create wide divisions which breed cultures antithetical perhaps to Christ's teachings. I certainly was not proposing a 'denomination' of mp of rbnd within pc (btw, is SBNR considered a sub-divison or denomination of PC?). I considered myself a progressive christian before this label, and I do so after this label. But as this post was all about labels, and Javelin's search which he so well put, I wanted to show him that I am pc and still hold to metaphysical aspects of Jesus. Indeed, if you are like me, this metaphysical is so important, and I think it is as important to Javelin, though I could be wrong, that I feel personally moved to include the epithet of 'metaphysical' within the pc label which I place upon myself. It is an added description, a clarifying point, which makes the label more relevant to my personal outlook.

 

Now I know that history has taught us of the dangers of labels and denominations, but if pc is absolutely inclusive then it can handle any amount of labels surely? Joseph you said "What does it really matter to others if you think of yourself as metaphysical or not? You simply are what you are. As you know, Progressive Christianity is inclusive of you. Do we make another denomination of progressives to further separate us? Do we then make communities of RBND, MP's and communities of Jesus as teacher?". I think what you say is true to a degree, in an existentialist sense maybe. We are what we are, our truth is our own, and that should be all that matters. But Javelin wrote: "It seems I have morphed into a religious mongrel with no discernable identity." I have felt that, I am sure many have, and the discovery of the right 'label', which, as I said, needs to be confirmed with the right content, can be like a cool wave washing the heat of doubt and confusion away from you. Finally, you think to yourself, these people are LIKE me, they feel the same way I do! So I contend that it is important, at least intially, that a label represents the true essence of the content to which it is pointing. After a few years kicking around the PC corridors in various ways, I have determined that I need this clarification. And why not? Why can't there be Catholic PCs and Anglican PCs? Why can't people call themselves Wiccan PCs or Buddhist PC's? I do not see this as 'separating' us if it is viewed in the correct way, a clarifying personalisation of the type of Progressive Christian you are. If PC is inclusive, why not accept these epithets? I understand the dangers as gleaned from the denominational and doctrinal divisions of the past, but I would like to think that PC is a different type of animal!

 

Yeah sorry its been a while Joseph, bit going on at the moment, but things starting to ease up!

 

Adi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But Javelin wrote: "It seems I have morphed into a religious mongrel with no discernable identity." I have felt that, I am sure many have, and the discovery of the right 'label', which, as I said, needs to be confirmed with the right content, can be like a cool wave washing the heat of doubt and confusion away from you. Finally, you think to yourself, these people are LIKE me, they feel the same way I do! So I contend that it is important, at least intially, that a label represents the true essence of the content to which it is pointing. After a few years kicking around the PC corridors in various ways, I have determined that I need this clarification. And why not? Why can't there be Catholic PCs and Anglican PCs? Why can't people call themselves Wiccan PCs or Buddhist PC's? I do not see this as 'separating' us if it is viewed in the correct way, a clarifying personalisation of the type of Progressive Christian you are. If PC is inclusive, why not accept these epithets? I understand the dangers as gleaned from the denominational and doctrinal divisions of the past, but I would like to think that PC is a different type of animal!

 

Adi,

 

So glad your back and things are starting to ease up. Your posts are always interesting and challenging.

 

It seems to me that one has to lose ones identity to find oneself but then again that is only my experience. Perhaps this is a necessary part of Javelin's journey?

 

Yes, of course there can be Catholic PC's and Anglican PC's, Wiccan, Buddhist, or whatever and people can call themselves whatever they like. And yes, they are accepted as PC's if they fit under the broad umbrella of the eight points and if not they are still welcome to fellowship with us without becoming PC's. The problem I see with using more defined labels is that the mind then tends to think they have defined that person by the label. The truth, in my experience, is that one has in reality placed that person in a box with ones mind thinking it 'knows' something that experience shows me one does not. If a person feels they require a label such as you mention then far be it from me to oppose such a choice. Yet in expressing my experience, I find it carries excess baggage not in any edification to the journey.

 

A PC is in my view a Christian (in principle with the 8 Points) on a journey of understanding that is ever progressing to the point at which all labels and identities disappear and only Christ is seen in all. Again, this is my experience and view not to be taken too seriously.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a related incident that happened here in Michigan during my present tour of the state.

 

At a campground near Traverse city, MI a fellow camper turned on a water facet that had not been used in a while and out came a couple of bugs and then some water in his cup. He said, they were earwigs. I asked him what they were and he repeated "earwigs" and looked at me like I knew what an earwig was. I asked again and he repeated the same answer as if I should understand. I responded "you could just have well have said " a didlywink", do you think because you have named it I should now know what it is? Then he got it and we both laughed.

 

It seems to me that we label and name things for convenience and all to often the mind assumes that by using a series of consonants and vowels to form the name or label, we have effectively communicated something of complexity with understanding.

 

Just a real life humorous tidbit I thought good to share.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A PC is in my view a Christian (in principle with the 8 Points)...

 

Joseph, even this is a label. I'm sure you know that. And the major fault with this label is that, right or wrong, it uses the word "Christian" in a way that historical Christianity would reject. Historical Christianity would not adhere to the principles found in the 8 Points. So, for all intents and purposes, PC is hijacking the word "Christian" and reinterpreting it within the context of the 8 Points. I personally don't mind that it has done this, but it should be honest about it and not pretend that it doesn't use or interpret labels.

 

To me, the problem is not the labels themselves. Just as there is not a problem with names or with shorthand. The problem arises when some people simply cannot tolerate the names, shorthand, or labels of others. If people want to use labels for themselves or others, well, we have free speech and we can do so. PC is not going to change that. What PC CAN do is to say, "No matter your label (or even if you don't have one), you are welcome here." If PC is to have a strength, then it seems to me that that strength is not to rip off everyone's label as they come in the door, but to say, "Welcome." And I suspect that this is what Adi is saying.

 

I know you advocate getting past labels, Joseph. I hear you on that and, on a certain level, I agree with you, especially when those labels are used to divide, shame, or exfellowship someone. But to say that all labels are bad, counterproductive, and must be removed before entering is, IMO, 1) extreme and 2) impossible. In order to sign up on this very forum, a "label" must be chosen. Names and words are labels. They express us and our concepts. And, yes, they can function as security blankets. As you say, we are who we are. And that includes those of us who still have labels and find them meaningful.

 

So it's my opinion that PC would do better to allow people to wear their labels, if they so choose, than to try to remove their labels from them at the door. If I had to pick a label right now for myself, it would not be "Christian", it would be "spiritual humanist", a term that most would probably find contradictory. But if others have a problem with that label, then the problem is truly with THEM, not with me. If they took the time to ask me, "Bill, what do you mean by spiritual humanist?", it would give us opportunity to share and understand. If they reject me outright because of my label, que sera, sera. I just don't think that the answer to the problem of labels is "Let's tear them off!" I think we are better people if we just accept one another, labels and all, and trust that we will grow to wear we know that the labels are not the person.

  • Downvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joseph, even this is a label. I'm sure you know that. And the major fault with this label is that, right or wrong, it uses the word "Christian" in a way that historical Christianity would reject. Historical Christianity would not adhere to the principles found in the 8 Points. So, for all intents and purposes, PC is hijacking the word "Christian" and reinterpreting it within the context of the 8 Points. I personally don't mind that it has done this, but it should be honest about it and not pretend that it doesn't use or interpret labels.

 

Greetings Bill,

 

You are correct , it is indeed just another label. And the label is neither right nor wrong but self defined by TCPC. As far as "hijacking" goes laugh.gif , perhaps the so called historical Christians are the ones that "hijacked" the word Christian? Who knows? Certaintly not I. As far as TCPC is concerned, in my understanding, there is no pretending that PC isn't a label and it seems to me very clear that it is broad enough to conclude that it doesn't try to limit or create theology or dissect beliefs or define a person in specific terms as does the historical Christianity you reference nor some more definitive labels people might choose to use.

 

To me, the problem is not the labels themselves. Just as there is not a problem with names or with shorthand. The problem arises when some people simply cannot tolerate the names, shorthand, or labels of others. If people want to use labels for themselves or others, well, we have free speech and we can do so. PC is not going to change that. What PC CAN do is to say, "No matter your label (or even if you don't have one), you are welcome here." If PC is to have a strength, then it seems to me that that strength is not to rip off everyone's label as they come in the door, but to say, "Welcome." And I suspect that this is what Adi is saying.

 

Yes, and to me that is exactly what TCPC says. Certainly, TCPC does not want to change that as it seems to me you can have any label you want. It is okay with TCPC and I have not seen anyone not accepted here because of the label they called themselves. Adi's label is fine with me also and from my exchanges with Fred Plumer, I am certain TCPC has no objections to what others wish to call themselves. My post reads ...

 

Joseph says: "Yes, of course there can be Catholic PC's and Anglican PC's, Wiccan, Buddhist, or whatever and people can call themselves whatever they like. And yes, they are accepted as PC's if they fit under the broad umbrella of the eight points and if not they are still welcome to fellowship with us without becoming PC's. The problem I see with using more defined labels is that the mind then tends to think they have defined that person by the label. The truth, in my experience, is that one has in reality placed that person in a box with ones mind thinking it 'knows' something that experience shows me one does not. If a person feels they require a label such as you mention then far be it from me to oppose such a choice. Yet in expressing my experience, I find it carries excess baggage not in any edification to the journey."

 

As you can see Bill, so there is no misunderstanding, my dialog was in no way opposing Adi's rights or options as a PC but merely expressing my experience and personal view that I find more definitive labels carries excess baggage. Being able to express oneself with such a view is one of the wonderful things of PC. As you know, there is never a requirement to accept a view as PC theology. In other words, no agreement is necessary and to me , my post seems to in no way limit the opinion of others that differ, or to "rip off everyones label as they come in the door" as you say, but only offers another consideration to be taken lightly in regard to Javelins topic question. You will have to ask Adi himself but I think you may have read him incorrectly if you think that is what he meant?

 

I know you advocate getting past labels, Joseph. I hear you on that and, on a certain level, I agree with you, especially when those labels are used to divide, shame, or exfellowship someone. But to say that all labels are bad, counterproductive, and must be removed before entering is, IMO, 1) extreme and 2) impossible. In order to sign up on this very forum, a "label" must be chosen. Names and words are labels. They express us and our concepts. And, yes, they can function as security blankets. As you say, we are who we are. And that includes those of us who still have labels and find them meaningful.

 

Bill, That is correct, yes I do advocate getting past labels. Perhaps you read too much in my post or misunderstand? You can see from my posts, I never said "that all labels are bad" nor do I believe that. Perhaps you assumed that meaning from my words? It is most acceptable to me that you or others have a label and that you find it meaningful to you. I use the label PC but as far as that label expressing me and my concepts I think you will find it too general and extremely inadequate which I find personally refreshing and freeing.

 

So it's my opinion that PC would do better to allow people to wear their labels, if they so choose, than to try to remove their labels from them at the door. If I had to pick a label right now for myself, it would not be "Christian", it would be "spiritual humanist", a term that most would probably find contradictory. But if others have a problem with that label, then the problem is truly with THEM, not with me. If they took the time to ask me, "Bill, what do you mean by spiritual humanist?", it would give us opportunity to share and understand. If they reject me outright because of my label, que sera, sera. I just don't think that the answer to the problem of labels is "Let's tear them off!" I think we are better people if we just accept one another, labels and all, and trust that we will grow to wear we know that the labels are not the person.

 

Your opinion is noted but it is obvious to me that TCPC does allow people to wear their labels. Therefore, I fail to understand your concern that TCPC is trying as you say "to remove their labels at the door" or saying "lets tear them off". Please do not confuse your understanding of my views or opinions as an official TCPC position. Anyone can wear any label they wish in my view. I am certain Adi has no problem with my having a slightly different opinion of the usefulness of more difinitive PC labels and from knowing him, I am certain he enjoys reading different views and expected as such. He is an extremely bright and insightful writer. And in conclusion smile.gif TCPC has no official position saying you should or must remove your label and neither do I personally. So I would say perhaps there is a miscommunication on one or both of our part.rolleyes.gif Or did I preadventure push one of your buttons? huh.gif

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

 

edited by Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day Bill and Joseph,

Sorry its taken a while to get back to this, my Mum is staying here with us this week as my Dad is away on business and she has serious health issues, so need to get in the right mindset before I hop on the boards, so to speak.

Well surprise surprise, I agree with you both! Almost always the case isn't it, which is great. Jospeh, I certainly knew from the outset that you weren't expressing an official opinion of TCPC but rather a personal preference as it related to Javelin's question. No probs there and have no issues whatsoever with you having an opposing opinion on the matter, indeed, as you said, vive la difference!

Actually, it is within this spirit of vive la difference (should that be la or le?) that I agree also with Bill, perhaps, substantively, moreso. As I stated in my first response to this topic, I think it was, labels are gateways to futher understanding. So while I, and I think Bill too, can easily see how great it would be to be able to totally get past labels, if this is impossible for whatever reason, what is the next best solution? An open-arms policy which respects and includes ALL labels, as long as it is predicated, I guess, on the overall raison d'etre of the relevant organisation, in this case, as Joseph rightly points out, the core values of TCPC. So, as I said, as long as we have a core foundation, such as the 8 points, then one should, and I hasten to add, already can, adhere to whatever particular clarifying label they wish to adhere to. I should say that the reason I chose to mention that I now feel more comfortable calling myself a metaphysical progressive christian rather than just a pc was that I saw in Javelin's initial question some of the same faith issues that I have had, so I thought I would mention this as a possible way that Javelin could not feel like a 'mongrel' in his label, or lack of one.

Finally I agree totally with Bill that labels can, if treated properly, actually cease being divisive and rather encourage discourse between those of differing view-points. For instance, when Bill states he is a 'spiritual humanist' I am immediately filled with many questions and intrigued by the possible responses. If we just continued to work as him being a PC and me being a PC, we may never discuss these defining individual issues. This is said half in jest, but perhaps we would experience an amazing outpouring of dialogue and understanding if, under the umbrella of us ALL being firstly PC, we each choose a label that defines our spirituality as an individual. We have gone from one extreme to another I guess!

Thanks for your responses though Bill and Joseph. I hope all this is in some way a help to Javelin too.

Cheers,

Adi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joseph,

 

Or did I preadventure push one of your buttons?

 

No, not really. I use Velcro anyway. Buttons are so passe. :D

 

I was just stating where I agree with you (that labels can be divisive and judgmental, and that it would be good if they were not necessary) and where I disagree, not necessarily with you, that labels are always a hindrance to relationships.

 

I know that TCPC had to come up with some kind of label to distinguish itself. Organizations must do that. It is just interesting, to me, that I feel rather “at home” here even though I am not a Christian. That’s a good thing, I hope. Once someone is on the inside, they can see that TCPC is not a “Christians Only” club. But it does appear that way from the outside. Not a condemnation, my friend, only an observation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service