Do we tell the age what it wants to hear, what is pleasant and easy? What does it want to hear from Christians? Well, since ‘the age’ is an abstract entity, we shan’t know, but if we examine the substance of some of the things which some Christians say to it, and what it says to us, we can, I think, compile a useful list: but feel free to add to it if you like.
The Age requires:
- that we go along with its fixed beliefs
- which includes allowing women to be ministers in the same of equality
- reinterpreting any Bible passages which say active homosexuality is sinful
- ignoring passages which say fornication and adultery are sinful
- avoiding passing moral judgements on others in the name of ;who am I to judge?
- reinterpreting any Bible passages which require a belief in miracles
- or indeed anything ‘supernatural’
- and preferably an interpretation of Jesus which allows Islam and others to ‘feel good’ about Him.
- to avoid giving the impression that when you die you are likely to go to hell is you are not a Christian, or a bad Christian.
- preferably to avoid talking about hell at all.
- to keep our faith to ourselves and regard it as a private matter
- to accept the faith that secularism is the best way forward for our society
- and to abandon any claims for the uniqueness of the message of Christ.
The offer, implicitly held out, is that if we were to do all of these things, then we might be fortunate enough to find ourselves left alone to get on with our odd services, until, that is, we all die out under the impact of better education and the enlightenment of secularism. The exception to this seems to be Islam, because the secularists are frightened of the reaction: they don’t want to be accused of the greatest of all crimes in the modern world, racism; and, if the secularists told the truth, they are probably also a bit frightened of the violent reaction with which Islamists have shown they will respond to insults and perceived threats.
What does Christ require of us?
- that we repent and confess Him Lord
- that we walk in His way
- that we love the sinner and hate the sin
- that we do our best to bring the world to Him
- that we render unto Him the things that are His, and to Caesar the things that are his
- that we each bear our Cross as we follow Him
- and that we are prepared to suffer the hostility of a world which does not like being told it is sinful, and of sinners who scorn the name
- that, if necessary, we die rather than renounce Him
Old Polycarp is said to have responded, when told that he could live if he renounced Christ: “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt”; well, I can claim no such length of service, but when asked to abide by what the age requires, I say what the old man said – and I stand with him.
St Bosco said:
There are those in here who say that everything has already happened in Rev except for judgment. They say that two would be working in a field and one taken has already happened. They say that pray that your flight be not in winter has happened. They say there is no rapture. For them, the bible is last years newspaper to be tossed in a corner of the garage.One enterprising gent in here told me that Israel becoming a nation has no bearing on anything. So just keep eating your Velveta imitation cheese and watching your TV, all the bad stuff in the bible has come and gone. Pass the air freshener and the remote control. This is all there is to life.
Fine for the second list, not in agreement over the first. Which begs the question – why is the first list so important then if the second list doesn’t necessarily flow from the first? I think perhaps Geoffrey our versions of Christianity differ by a generation. I am in my early 40s, not 70 something like you.
Still, I find much to learn from those on this blog.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
I am unsure that list 2 is compatible with list 1, Struans, but am interested, genuinely, if you think they are.
It’s not the sort of thing I can explain in a flash – one comes to realise things like this.
One of many books I might recommend is Science and Soul by Charles Birch.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
People have different ways to express Christianity – although one hopes that the embodiment of the Spirit of Christ is paramount. Whilst your no. 2 list isn’t the sole way that one might list out Christian attributes, I don’t find anything in there that I disagree with, although I might not lay so much direct emphasis on, for example, telling people that they’re sinners. Why I don’t do that isn’t out of saying that sin isn’t important, but because I don’t believe that such an approach is very helpful in helping people into Christian faith and living. We’re all different though, and I can understand that some might view things differently.
When I started writing for this blog I set out a list of things that I thought I might write about. Well, I haven’t made much progress on that, partly due to business, but partly because I’ve come to realise that I need to listen to others a lot more first. I feel fairly at home with my own liberal catholic approach to faith – and have over years come to know Roman Catholicism which I appreciate although I have my differences. It is the type of faith that Rob and you Geoffrey hold that I find myself needing to listen more to. There are a number of areas that I don’t understand why you hold the views that you do. A few weeks ago I asked Rob a series of questions and he’s commented today that he will come back to me – and I’ve also bought a book he recommended: God’s Strategy in Human History.
What I mean to say is that I don’t feel like coming out with my faith in full flow yet on this blog because I sense that rather than making my position clear it would raise an enormous wild good chase of misunderstandings and questions. That’s why I need to listen first to others – to know how to craft what I’d like to say: and perhaps even change my views too: you never know.
I read almost all your output Geoffrey, and I must say that I am impressed with your Biblical knowledge: I am behind the curve there and need to improve, but our differences are more in how we approach faith – and somehow that needs to be experiences rather than explained: so I hope my recommendation of a book isn’t seen as a cop out.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
Thank you, Struans. That’s most interesting, not least because I feel that I could learn from your point of view. The Christian faith has more expressions than any of us can be familiar with, at least very easily. Opportunities to really discuss it tend, at least for me, to be with either those from my own church – some of whom find me far too ‘ecumenical’ for their taste – or those I meet at ecumenical occasions. So, I find this place refreshing in many ways, not least being exposed to other ways of seeing the faith we hold in common. So, thank you for your company here – and I would never think of you as copping out.
Struans – No doubt you believe we are all sinners and I agree it not helpful to start with most folk by just declaring that to them. From how Geoffrey explained they assisted a single mum I doubt he acts that way in practice either but more likely raises the issue of sin a meaningful context of its harmful results.
I remember a day long ago getting the urge (or inspiration) to go into Cardiff City centre and present Jesus to the shoppers. I grabbed hold of a friend a musician / song writer and off we went. With a couple of songs he drew a few initial people.
Early in the spontaneous presentation I began apologising for all the Christians who had come there and started telling them they were sinners. A crowd had already begun to form and this sincere apology drew considerably more. Immediately I was interrupted and heckled by a small group of Christians. I continued with my intended thoughts saying “we all know we are sinners and being reminded of it does not help us a great deal”.
In this way I addressed the crowd and myself in relation to sin in a non offensive way – which kept them engaged. I spoke of habits we find unhelpful and binding in this context.
I spoke of praying, which very many people did back then (and probably do now), when they were in a jam and asked about gratitude and thanks to God when they got their answers (lack such being another sin but I did not need to specify it as sin). This approach came from my firm conviction that God is already out there working in people irrespective of scripture, reasons, tradition etc.
The outcome was a session of prayer on the street with a lady who was not a committed Christian. She had prayed when in need and vowed to follow Him if she got help. She received the help in a remarkable spiritual experience but never returned to God with thanks or fulfilled her vow.
In the gospel it is usually the religious folk and Pharisees that get Jesus’ direct rebuke for sin. In the case of the sinners Jesus approaches them as a friend and addresses the results of their sin, their lack of rest, their psychological and spiritual thirst and calls them to Himself to obtain relief. He still at it we just have to listen.
Thanks for that Rob. Much appreciated.
Servus Fidelis said:
Each ‘age’ has its own character (if I can call it that). The apostasies and challenges of the earlier ages was more black and white: drop your faith or die – worship the Caesar or die – show obedience to a monarch or die, etc.
Today’s age is more ‘refined’ and ‘gray’ in the way that evil is presented to the populace: all is shrouded in the appearance of a greater good – or under an assumption that we are being intolerant – or that we are violating the principle of freewill – or the trump card we have seen over and over again, that we are ultimately only subject to our own conscience. This is a newer, kinder and gentler, more enlightened age that requires us to investigate the subtleties of the attacks of Satan. The temptations are often of mixed value: mixing what is objectively good with what is objectively disordered or (in absolute terms) positively evil. The attacks are more sophisticated and enlist the aid of ‘experts’ in the sciences (especially psychology), the humanists and the social justice of political ideologies (often disguising the slavery of their ideology as a form a freedom and the loosening of the bonds of oppression). We are fighting an opponent that knows the well the inner workings and the defects that are most common in the human person. We cannot underestimate his insidious intentions nor the tendency of the masses to follow the crowd down a road of ‘good intentions’ to a place that is far from the empty promises that they give their life work and energy to.
This is all true SV but in another sense in this post modern era the issue is totally black and white. I think it is this issue that lies behind your comments. Current society in having no God but itself has no absolute reference point, no absolute truths, no basis for them and no like of those who consider they have these things in Christ.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
Interesting comments from you both.
This society seems to value relativism where it is damaging, and to have certainty only over its own taboos – matters such as racism and sexism.
Yes all liberal views are acceptable what’s not is any rejection of relativism