iSoul Time has three dimensions

Tag Archives: Christianity

Notable webpages

One of the original purposes of a blog was a web log, that is, a log of the interesting sites one has visited. This posting is a list of links to webpages that are notable in some way.

* Voting and Elections *

Approval voting – Voting each candidate yea-or-nea

Demeny voting – This is the idea that parents (or legal guardians) have a proxy vote for their children so that children have a political representation.

2016 Presidential Election Results – No candidate won the popular vote in 2016 since no one received a majority of the votes cast.

Washington Initiative 1000 – Washington State legalizes discrimination based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, age, etc. George Wallace would be pleased

* Reverse Chronological Order *

Medieval cure for modernity – As modernity ends, pre-modernity is looking better

The New Family Violence – Canada criminalizes sanity

A Revolution in Time – Time as a timeline

Truth-telling and Big Abortion – Pro-choice deception

Neo-Segregation at Yale – A new form of racial segregation

It’s time to recognise anti-Christianism – Persecution today

Has the Postmodern Revolution Come Full Circle? – Post-truth politics is failing

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History and theology

What follows are excerpts from Ramsay MacMullen’s book Christianizing the Roman Empire, A.D. 100-400 (Yale, 1984). He begins with historiography pointers relevant to religious history.

My subject here is the growth of the church as seen from the outside, and the period is the one that saw the church become dominant, and Europe Christian. p.vii

My object is history. It might be, but it isn’t, theology. Accordingly, my view focuses naturally upon significance, the quality of weight that distinguishes historical phenomena from the (sometimes much more engrossing or at least more diverting) items of merely human interest that we see in the headlines of certain newspapers: ‘‘Mom Axes Babe” or the like. Significance, in its turn, indicates the degree to which many people, not just a few, are made to live their lives differently in respects that much engage their thoughts, not in respects they do not think about very carefully. … Significance must be compounded of both “many” and “much,” in a sort of multiplicand of the two elements. p.1

This is all elementary. Still, it needs to be said in order to explain the inclusion in my account of scenes not usually given much attention in books about church growth, scenes in which large numbers of persons are brought to a change in their religious allegiance, but namelessly—they are just ordinary folk of no account—and without great dramatic, further consequences in their manner of life. I think these scenes need to be included, along with Saint Augustine and a handful like him, because otherwise we would see only a church all head and no body, a phenomenon that affected only a few lives, a change without mass and therefore without historical significance. And that is the exact opposite of the truth. p.1

The process we are tracing, of the slow but gigantic growth of a community of believers, seems thus to have had at its heart a psycho-logical moment that might have been, though it was not always, quite uncomplicated; and that fact belongs by right, and not by later development, to the whole long process of ecclesiastical maturing. From the very beginning, Jesus’ disciples followed him instantly, without instruction; new adherents, by supernatural actions, were won to instantaneous belief, or trust (πιστις, “commonly mistranslated, ‘Your faith’ …,” with implications of doctrine, as has been pointed out). p.3-4

There is an obvious connection between simplicity of belief and rapidity of conversion: the simpler the set of ideas with their attendant feelings, the shorter must be the period of transition to the new. Which is not to say that much longer, complicated transitions may not also have had their abrupt moments, like Saint Augustine’ in the garden near Milan. The point is worth stressing because the more richly intellectual and dramatically interesting conversions naturally hold our attention best, and are most written about. p.4

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Is Christianity a religion?

It’s not uncommon for evangelical Christians to say that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. Or to contrast works-based religion with faith-based Christianity, making that the difference between religion and non-religion.

But it’s a mistake to say that Christianity is not a religion. For one thing, that would mean religious freedom wouldn’t be important for Christians. But we dare not give up religious freedom. For another thing, it drops the question of which religion is true. And it promotes negativity about religion, which is bound to impact how people react to Christianity, too.

One problem is that the word religion is almost impossible to define since there is such a variety of religions. For example, not all religions are theistic. And where does irreligion fit in? Is atheism a religion? How about secularism as a way of life? There could be no end to what counts as religion.

The Oxford dictionary defines religion as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” Does that apply to Christians? Certainly it does. And it justifies the separation of the state from oversight of religion: a secular state has no competence or authority over what is beyond life in this world.

Christians would do better to adopt a positive attitude toward religion, since at least religion as defined includes “belief in and worship of” something or someone beyond us. That is a better place to begin than secularism, atheism, or irreligion. Christian apologetics could focus on making “the case for Christ” rather than having to convince materialists that transcendent reality exists.

Essentials of Christian Thought, part 4

The previous post in this series is here.

The key to this middle way, if it is truly a middle way between extremes, is divine self-limitation—the idea that the God of the Bible is vulnerable because he makes himself so out of love. p.139

… the personal God of the Bible is revealed there as the one “principle of all things,” “both cause and reason” for everything else’s existence. [Emil] Brunner also rightly emphasized that for the Christian this is no “theory of the world,” no rational, speculative hypothesis, but revealed truth of the “one word of God.” p.142

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Essentials of Christian Thought, part 3

This post continues from part 2, which is here. The following are more excerpts from Roger E. Olson’s The Essentials of Christian Thought.

For [Emil] Brunner, and for me, natural theology means only (1) that the biblical-Christian worldview better answers life’s ultimate questions than its competitors and alternatives, and (2) that eyes of faith for whom the Bible “absorbs the world” see the natural world as God’s good creation—”charged with the grandeur of God”—even if eyes of unbelief cannot see it as such. p.75

For biblical-Christian thought, in contrast with Greek philosophy, souls are created by God, they are not emanations, offshoots, of God’s own substance. p.81

Nearly all extra-biblical philosophies struggle with the [biblical] idea of a personal, related, vulnerable ultimate reality capable of being influences by what creatures do. p.84

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Basic Gospel Message

Vic Scaravilli is a Catholic who put the following on his website here. I’m reposting it (with permission) and note that Evangelicals would agree that this is the gospel, with some nuances about baptism.

The Basic Gospel Message

By Vic Scaravilli

God loves each one of us. He loves me and He loves you with an unconditional love. You are precious in His eyes.

There is something that has kept us separated from God, something that has kept us from experiencing His love in our lives. That something is called sin. The result of sin is spiritual death. We have all sinned and never can be perfect.

Does that mean we can never know and experience God’s love? No, because God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for each one of us. Jesus is the only bridge that takes us from our sin to the love of God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for everyone.

This is called salvation. It is the free gift of eternal life that is completely given to us by God’s grace. Salvation is the life in Jesus that begins now and will be for all eternity.

The free gift of salvation must be accepted in order for it to be our own. We must experience an internal conversion experience that changes our hearts. Once we accept Jesus into our hearts and allow Him to come into our lives, we begin to experience His love.

In order to become children of God, we must be born again. The sacrament of Baptism forgives your sins, gives the gift of the Holy Spirit, restores the grace lost by Adam, and makes you a member of His family.

This is the gift of salvation. We have the opportunity of eternal life because of what Jesus did for you and me. All we have to do is personally accept it by faith and be obedient to Him. Baptism and conversion are required to begin this process.

Jesus paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

Branches of Christianity

Christians accept the four gospels as four different perspectives on the gospel. In fact, each is properly titled, “The Gospel According to …” That is, there is one gospel but four perspectives on it. While it is an interesting exercise to compare the gospels with each other, they are best thought of as parallel accounts of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are four branches of Christianity, corresponding to the four Gospels. The parallels between each gospel and each branch of Christianity show this. The four branches are the Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal churches. Like the one gospel, there is only one church, but there are four perspectives on the one church.

The gospel of Matthew shows Jesus as the Messianic King. The gospel of Mark shows Jesus as the Suffering Servant. The gospel of Luke-Acts shows Jesus as the Son of Man. The gospel of John shows Jesus as the Son of God. From considerations like this, one can see the Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal branches, correspond to the gospel according to John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke-Acts, respectively.

Christians have learned to accept the four versions of the one gospel, and their different perspectives. It is past time that Christians learn to accept the four branches of the one church, and their different perspectives.

Convergence point of Christian unity

Christendom was a Christian culture and civilization that, historically speaking, began with Constantine. It started to divide with the Great Schism between East and West in the 11th century. It divided again with the Protestant Reformation beginning in the 16th century. It further divided during the Enlightenment movement beginning in the 18th century. Christendom has so divided that the word is almost archaic now.

Where does Christian unity come together? Where does it converge? Although Christ is the head of the church, where is the unity on earth after his ascension?

Since the early centuries of the church, the elders, called bishops, united in regional hierarchies that maintained mutual respect. When heretics threatened to divide the church, it was the bishops that met together to define the line between orthodoxy and heresy. The bishops united formed the unity of the church on earth.

In time the bishop of Rome asserted authority over all the other bishops. As Rome was the seat of the empire, so it should be the seat of the church. As the apostles Peter and Paul had been martyred in Rome, so there must be a divine seal on that location. The papacy was the convergence point of Christian unity, at least in the West.

The papacy has a simplicity that makes it a strong point of unity. However, it means that a pope may compromise the whole church. If he decides to sell indulgences, then the church sells indulgences and is compromised. That was the last straw for Luther.

Luther wanted to reform the church, which many agreed needed reform. But it was not to be and the Reformation turned into a schism. What did the Reformers propose as the convergence point of Christian unity? The Holy Bible. With the advent of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into the common languages of Europe, the Bible was newly available to the whole church.

Although the Bible has the advantage that it doesn’t change, it doesn’t do anything by itself either. What is called sola scriptura presumes some agreement on what the scriptures mean. That turns out to be harder than the Reformers thought. So the Reformation led to the formation of hundreds of groups, each of which revered the Bible but disagreed on some point of doctrine.

Where does that leave Christians today? Largely disunited, and unable to work together for common purposes. That is a point of weakness. The ecumenical movement attempted institutional unity but missed the unity of heart and mind. Progress has been made to at least recognize one another but common action is rare.

What can be done to achieve Christian unity now? The best that can be done is to foster specific projects that Christians can agree on. Aid to the persecuted. Assistance to the poor and marginalized. Reaffirmation of Christian morals. And prayer for unity.

Christianization of the world

In Mt 13:33 reports of Jesus: He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Christianity is the leaven of the world. Put it into the world and gradually the whole world is leavened. This is the Christianization of the world.

Note that leaven works from the inside out, not the outside in. Christianization does not mean the world is given a coating of Christianity in hopes that it will penetrate further down. Rather, it means that the leaven of Christianity is put into the middle of the world and gradually works its way throughout.

When this is done, the outside at first may look as if nothing much has changed. But if the inside has changed, then sooner or later the outside and everything in between will change. That is what genuine Christianization means.

Christianity is a meta-religion: it “comes after” religion because it takes a religion and transforms it. The first religion Christianity was applied to was Judaism, as recorded in the New Testament. After that, the pagan religion of the gentiles in Europe was Christianized. Many of the customs associated with Christianity today come from Christianized Judaism and paganism. For example, Easter is a Christianized spring festival (the name comes from the Teutonic goddess of spring) and Christmas is a Christianized winter solstice festival.

Other religions have not been Christianized as much, but they could be. Music is one aspect which has been Christianized. There are Christian songs in every music tradition. Converts from any religion should be able to retain parts of their culture with a new focus and interpretation. Christianity is not about replacing the cultures of the world but about redeeming them.

The kingdom of God is the Christianization of the world. Where the kingship of Christ is, there is the kingdom of God. The world in all its diversity can be redeemed — and preserved — through Christ.

 

Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical

This post is about the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical and what they mean. The first question is whether only one branch (denomination) of Christianity can legitimately use any of these words. The answer is No; many churches can use them.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed includes the words “In one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. So any church that accepts this creed has some claim on the word catholic (as well as the word apostolic).

Catholic means universal so any church that identifies with the universal church (whether as part of it or the whole of it is another matter) has a claim on this word. This includes every branch of Christianity, though the Church of Rome has taken it their moniker.

It is similar with the word orthodox. Any church that considers its doctrine to be orthodox Christianity has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, although the churches of Eastern Christianity have taken it as their moniker.

The word evangelical simply means “pertaining to the gospel.” Any church which promotes the gospel has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, though some Protestant churches (especially revivalist ones) have taken it as their moniker.

We could say that the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical have generic and specialized meanings. Their specialized uses are usually capitalized. No one branch of Christianity has a monopoly on any of these words, though it sometimes seems so.