Let’s be frank

May 24, 2006

Original Post Date:  5/24/2006

I recently have found through some experiences on one of the blogs that I visit frequently that I really don't think we have been frank enough with our theological views on the progressive side of this great debate in the "new reformation" of the church.

Actually I think the material exists, but I don't think it is being used enough.

Someone asked me on a blog yesterday if whether I thought Jesus went to the cross because he preached radically inclusive love or whether he went for the forgiveness of the sins of all.

I replied yes. It is a "both…and". Jesus went to the cross because of his radically inclusive love and for the forgiveness of all sins. What sins are there that do not stem from not loving God, our neighbor, or ourselves completely radically? Isn't that from which all the law and the prophets hang?

So says the good book. And that's what I believe. I believe that because we are essentially good creatures, we try to live up to that as best we can.

But distinguish "good" from "perfect." I have had so many write me to say that we are horrid, wretched creatures that are nothing without God. I don't believe God has created anything horrid and wretched. I think the belief of this undermines self-esteem and our ability to fully live into the gift of self that God gave us. Are we good? Yes. Are we perfect? No. Do we sin? Yes. Do we need God? Absolutely.

We need each other not as admonishing schoolmarms, then, reinforcing how wretched we are. Instead we need each other, in fact what one of the missions of the church is, in order to be the suppportive coach. Not to say "boy you really screwed up" but instead to say "you can do it!"

Is that what we are doing now? I don't think so. I know that I fall short myself.

I also know that it is time for us to stand up and be very clear about that which we believe. To stop talking about being gay and start talking about Jesus.


One Response to “Let’s be frank”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Converted comments from old blog:
    Comments(10 total) Post a Comment Eric S
    Offline Hi Jeff, it’s the guy whose question you refenrence above. You can imagine I have a few more questions. Let’s keep it simple, though, one or two at a time.

    You say, “I believe that because we are essentially good creatures, we try to live up to that as best we can,” and you say the good book says so. Where?

    I can appreciate your wish that what Christians do is build each other up rather than tear each other down. Life and years of study has shown me that we are built up when God’s Word as Law rtears us down and shows us our desperate need for God. I’m sure you know that we need more than a little help, but your post doesn’t say that.

    Where in Scripture and where in the world do you see your point made?

    Wednesday May 24, 2006 – 01:20pm (EDT) Remove Comment
    Offline IM
    (All – sorry I wasn’t posting yesterday- I was at Disneyland with my kids. I don’t have time to write anything today either… Already running late!)

    Hi Eric –

    Actually I was referring to “that from which all the law and the prophets hang.”

    Matthew 22:36-40 – ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

    I’m running late this morning so I don’t have time to look it up, but there are scriptural references to what God created as having been good (Genesis is one).

    BUT… again, I believe that you and I would look at things very differently. I view Scriptural authority as the starting point for inspiration and revelation. If I understand correctly, most literalists use Scripture as the “ending point” for theological finality. That is a very different world view.

    So I would not say that I need scripture to back up the theology point by point, but I need Scripture to inspire the ideas conceptually.


    Thursday May 25, 2006 – 06:43am (PDT) Remove Comment
    Eric S
    Offline I’ll check in tomorrow then. First, did you already tag me as a literalist? I’m not usre what that means. I’m not sure about the phrase “Scripture as end point.” I think that Christians need everything to square even with Scripture.

    I think that using Scripture as a jumping off place you had better look where you leap.

    Also, back to the question I asked, you didn’t address it did you? I asked where it says that we were good. You refer to creation before the Fall. Even if you don’t believe there was an Adam and an Eve, surely you work with the concept of fallen humanity, the brokenness that we experience in ourselves and others?

    Thursday May 25, 2006 – 02:57pm (EDT) Remove Comment
    Offline IM
    Hi Eric –

    I suppose I did assume that you were a literalist, sorry for the “label”!

    Check my previous entry of May 19 entitled “Journeys and Guidebooks” for more on how I view reading the Bible. I don’t think everything can square evenly with the Bible because I don’t think the Bible squares evenly with itself. It is difficult, for example, to reconcile “turn the other cheek” with “an eye for an eye” or the judgemental “sword bearing” Jesus. It is for me, anyway.

    I haven’t been through seminary yet, and I suppose I’m open to change. I don’t think I really need a scriptural basis to answer the question, so I’ll start with a non-scriptural answer which I’ve posted elsewhere based on Desmund Tutu’s answer. We are good. I know this because I can drive through an intersection and not be hit by someone more interested in getting to their destination than in ensuring nobody gets hurt by observing the rules of traffic and stopping for a stop light. I know this because when I am shopping, most people do not steal. I know this because most people have not tried to hurt me. I know this because when I need something, most people will try and help me. I know this because most people are moved by their feelings, and prefer making people feel good to making people feel bad. I know this because most people would rather be loved than be hated.

    Are there exceptions? Yes. Why are there exceptions? Because there is brokenness in the world. Brokenness in individual people. Brokenness in individual circumstances. Brokenness in times in our lives. Because we are not perfect, individually or together. But we are good. I know this from experience.

    Scripturally, I can probably look and find something to back it up. But I also know that the sky is blue. If I find scripture that says that the sky is black does that make the sky black? Of course not. I know from personal observation and experience that the sky is blue. Most of the time. Sometimes it is orange, sometimes pink, sometimes even purple.

    The best thing (without a Bible handy) that comes to mind, is again the Genesis story (yes, I do think it is a story and not a historical retelling of the birth of our race). The description of creation as good does come chronologically before the fall. But it does logically follow that we already have the propensity to sin. We have free will. I don’t necessarily follow all the logic of “original sin”. I also don’t necessarily agree that God wasn’t omniscient enough to know what was going to happen in the story of Adam and Eve… If God is omniscient, and didn’t think we were good because of original sin, wouldn’t he have said something much more like “This is good… too bad they are going to turn on me!”

    Thursday May 25, 2006 – 01:46pm (PDT) Remove Comment
    Eric S
    Offline I don’t want to seem to you or anyone like I’m picking on you. I see in your profile that you want to go to seminary. let me just encourage you to really study the Bible. There is a view out there that the Bible is full of inconsistencies, and its not. The more you read it the more you see the meta themes. Man is basically good is not one of them. Even the heroes of th ebible are schmucks and nowhere is that hidden.

    Where you will find “people are basically good” is in the philosophers of the Enlightenment. WWI should have ended that myth.

    As far as your shopping, driving narrative, I could suggest an Enron, Iraq, Darfur narrative.

    Anyway, I’m glad you love Jesus and you want your friends to talk about him more.

    Thursday May 25, 2006 – 05:00pm (EDT) Remove Comment
    Offline IM

    And I have have read and studied the Bible.

    I think that Enron, Iraq, Darfur– those things are the exceptions. You find, over time, that the arc of history always bends towards justice. Apartheid- gone. Slavery – gone. Women – equal rights, at least in the US. The third reich- fallen. Sudan- moving (hopefully) towards an end to the genocide.

    Yes, there are problems. But in our day to day interactions with people, if people are bad, I would suggest that our daily lives and interactions with each other would be far more miserable than they are.

    Even in these very hard to live places – Sudan, Iraq, and others– so I am told- people are still able somehow to smile. To laugh. To find a place inside themselves to draw some joy. That is the Holy Spirit moving within each of us. That is the goodness within each of us.

    I do not believe that Moses is a schmuck. I do not believe that Jesus is a schmuck. Paul– ok, he’s occassionally a schmuck, and certainly was before his conversion. And what really gets me is that people don’t give him the leeway to be wrong either. People don’t give PAUL the leeway to be human in his writings. When he is misogynistic. When his is homophobic. When he rants and raves about anything other than the central message of Christ, which is love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

    I find the Bible to have some really troubling issues, particularly in the Old Testament. How can the New Testament God of Paul say love your enemies while the Old Testament God is committing genocide against them? And I say troubling not because I find them personally troubling but because I think to take the Bible literally puts one in a troubling position.

    I experience the good in others. I think it is a sin not to see the goodness in others. I invite you to join in that experience of the world too. That doesn’t mean we stop improving ourselves and asking forgiveness when we fall short. It only requires us to change our outlook, free ourselves from bondage, and live fully into the grace given to us by God to accept the gifts given to us that we may serve and love as Christ served and loved us.

    And that is a good thing, in my book.

    Thursday May 25, 2006 – 02:16pm (PDT) Remove Comment
    Eric S
    Offline You invite me to see the good in others!

    The point I was maintaining is that people are not “basically good.” I have never said that I can’t see good in people.

    I see we have a real problem communicating if you are going to say “I don’t believe that Jesus was a schmuck” in a reply to something I wrote! I also never intimated that you have never read the Bible. I encourage everyone to read it more and go deeper.

    It’s amazing to me how people who experience so much judgement exercise the same on others to such a degree. People are not basically good, in my experience and in reading the Bible. We cannot set ourselves free from this bondage. The Book of Common Prayer says so much also.

    Anyway, you take care.

    Friday May 26, 2006 – 10:44am (EDT) Remove Comment
    Offline IM

    Let’s step back– I’m not intending to sit in judgement, so let’s try again.

    Let me try to re-explain my comments piecing together the two comments as a dialogue– maybe that will help.

    Eric: Even the heroes of th ebible are schmucks and nowhere is that hidden.

    Jeff: I do not believe that Moses is a schmuck. I do not believe that Jesus is a schmuck. Paul– ok, he’s occassionally a schmuck, and certainly was before his conversion. Etc…

    Eric: let me just encourage you to really study the Bible.

    Jeff: I have have read and studied the Bible.

    Eric: Where you will find “people are basically good” is in the philosophers of the Enlightenment. WWI should have ended that myth.

    Jeff: I experience the good in others. I think it is a sin not to see the goodness in others. I invite you to join in that experience of the world too.

    I hope that this better diffuses the communication– I’m not trying to sit in judgement of anybody. I don’t think that is within my rights. I can see how the phrasing of my “invitation” could sound a little condescending and I apologize for that, so let me try again…

    I invite you to experience a different world-view– one in which we see ourselves not as fallen and wicked, lowly creatures. But instead creatures who are created in God’s own image. Creatures of love and of grace. Creatures that are, however, human, and who, in that humanity, slip and fall from time to time, and need God’s help to stand back up and keep walking. Creatures whom God enjoys walking beside. Creatures whom God loves instead of judges. Imagine the “footprints in the sand” poem that is so famous. That kind of God. When we fall, when times are hard, when we can’t do it ourselves, God is there to help us, to guide us, and yes, to forgive us.

    That is what my invitation was for. I think it yields a much different theology than the theology of judgement and salvation by choice. It is one where we are wholly dependent on God for grace. God’s love. God’s grace. Not our own, small-minded, myopic decisions of today, which can never be broad enough to understand fully the gifts which we are given. God is too big for that.

    Friday May 26, 2006 – 09:40am (PDT) Remove Comment
    Eric S
    Offline Should you becoem a priest, will you not say prayers for the assembly like this:
    Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us,
    we beseech thee, the liberty of that abundant life which thou
    hast manifested to us in thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who
    liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, now and for ever. +Amen

    Bondage to sin does not sound like the Christian moral philosophy you are writing here.

    And at a baptism:

    We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
    Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
    Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
    in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
    received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
    Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, throught his death
    and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

    We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism….

    You’ll confess about Jesus:

    Because thou didst give Jesus Christ, thine only Son, to be
    born for us; who, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost,
    was made very Man of the substance of the Virgin Mary his
    mother; that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin,
    and receive power to become thy children.

    I think that Scripture and Tradition and reason and experience show that sin is deep, ingrained, intractable. We could go on but I’ll leave you with one more set of prayers in the liturgy you would lead as a priest:

    The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    *The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling*

    Most holy and merciful Father:
    We confess to you and to one another,
    and to the whole communion of saints
    in heaven and on earth,
    that we have sinned by our own fault
    in thought, word, and deed;
    by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

    *The Celebrant continues*

    We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
    strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
    have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
    =Have mercy on us, Lord.=

    We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
    We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
    your Holy Spirit.
    =Have mercy on us, Lord.=

    We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
    pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
    =We confess to you, Lord.=

    Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
    of other people,
    =We confess to you, Lord.=

    Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
    more fortunate than ourselves,
    =We confess to you, Lord.=

    Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
    our dishonesty in daily life and work,
    =We confess to you, Lord.=

    Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
    commend the faith that is in us,
    =We confess to you, Lord.=

    Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
    for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
    indifference to injustice and cruelty,
    =Accept our repentance, Lord.=

    For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
    neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
    who differ from us,
    =Accept our repentance, Lord.=

    For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
    concern for those who come after us,
    =Accept our repentance, Lord.=

    Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
    =Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

    Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
    =That we may show forth your glory in the world.

    Friday May 26, 2006 – 05:45pm (EDT) Remove Comment
    Offline IM
    No, Eric, I wouldn’t have a problem saying those prayers. I think I’ve said several times that we DO have sin. We are NOT perfect, and we need to confess and learn from our mistakes.

    AND I think it is a mistake not to accept forgiveness for our sins and move on, living fully in “liberty of that abundant life which thou
    hast manifested to us in thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ.” It feels to me like some folks have an inclination instead to want to try and focus on living in bondage, and that to me is a mistake. We are free, and we need to live in that freedom and use the gifts of God to the fullest.

    Friday May 26, 2006 – 09:14pm (PDT) Remove Comment

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