Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dawning of the Age of the Heterdox

A post on the Inter-Faith/denomination Forum on Facebook by John Brandkamp:

An interesting issue that keeps coming up here is the concept of what is "orthodoxy" and who gets to define that. In certain respects I'm quite "orthodox" (within the Evangelical Protestant tradition) and yet in other areas I'm quite off the beaten path. It seems to be a movable feast to say the least. And it seems to be as true in other traditions as well. Are we left with a cacophony of theological noise and nothing else?

My (lengthened) response:

Conveniently, there's a term called "heterodox": those of us who are generally orthodox or at least accepted by the church but have some points of view that disagrees with generally accepted theology. I wonder if this age of the Christian church is the "heterodox" age.

While there is not the multiplications of denominations, as there was in the Reformation era (circa 1530), but there are certainly the multiplications of beliefs.  Just within the evangelical movement, one of the more conceptually restrictive movements, there are a variety of political ideas and belief systems.  Both Jim Wallis and Pat Robertson can call themselves "evangelical", but they certainly agree on very little.

This is more so in other denominations and religious groups.  For the most part, we have all had to learn how to get along with people we strongly disagree with, people who hold radically different beliefs than ourselves.  What is "orthodox" is being shrunk to some very basic beliefs, that seem to matter less in our everyday lives.

On the one hand, this is good.  We need to learn to rub elbows with, and not judge, those who see life differently.  This is why God established marriage as He did.  We become one with a person who cannot think "right".  Yet we need to learn to live with that person, to care for that person, to support even some of their "wrong" decisions.  To have the church at large do this can be constructive.

On the other hand, it could undermine the whole idea of orthodoxy and lead us to a concept of relative truth.  We need to determine what is really, basically true, and stick with that.  For me, there is one basic truth-- Jesus is Lord.  There are some basics that come from that one belief, but there's also a lot that I hold dear that can be disagreed with by good followers of Jesus.  

The key to heterodoxy is to have that balance of accepting diversity and defending basic truths.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prayer Against Temptation

Lord Jesus, send the clarity of your light into my mind
and expel all darkness from my heart
Fight strongly for me
and drive away the temptations
that rage like wild beasts within me.
Then my conscience will be at peace,
and the praise of your name
will sound within the temple of my soul.
Command the winds and storms of pride to be still
and the sea of covetousness to be at rest.
Subdue the north wind of the devil's temptation
Then there will be a great calm within me.
                       -Thomas a Kempis

Cotton Patch Version

Clarence Jordan wrote a version of the New Testament called The Cotton Patch Translation.  It truly was a translation, he had studied the Greek and made out the meaning as best as he could, and then he translated this understanding to apply to the language and geography of his mid-20th century Southern United States.  What comes out is spiritual and humorous and deeply compassionate.

Here are a couple examples:

“So then, with what shall I compare the people of this day, and what are they like?  I know, they are like children playing in the streets, and shouting to each other, ‘We put on some jazz, but you wouldn’t dance ; so we put on funeral music, but you wouldn’t go into mourning.’  For John the Baptizer offered you a harsh, rugged life and you say, ‘This guy is nuts.’  I, the son of man, offer you laughter and joy and you say, ‘Look at that man, a gadfly and a jitterbug, a friend of Yankees and a nigger-lover.’ So if intelligence can be judged  by all that it produces, well—! “

“The officers did a lot of other remarkable and wonderful things among the people.  They were meeting together at Grant Park, and while nobody was brave enough to join them, folks did speak mighty highly of them.  But increasingly quite a group of both men and woman put their faith in the Lord and were enrolled.  Besides, the sick were carried into the streets and put on cots and stretchers so that even Rock’s shadow might fall on them as he passed.  Also, crowds from towns all around Atlanta flocked in, bringing those sick in body and mind and they were all healed

“But the mayor and the city council, who were members of the Conservative Party, blew their top. They arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail.  But that night an angel of the Lord opened the jailhouse doors, led them outside and said, ‘Go, stand on the courthouse steps and explain to the people all the matters concerning this kind of life.’  They listened carefully and at the crack of day they went to the courthouse steps and started teaching.  Now the mayor and his assistants called a meeting of the Council and all the prominent white citizens and sent to fetch the apostles.  But when the fuzzes got to the clink, they didn’t find the apostles in it.  They went back and reported: ‘We found the jailhouse locked according to regulations and the guards were on duty, but when we opened up and went inside we didn’t find a soul.’  When the police chief and the Council heard this, they tried to figure out what the hell had happened.  About that time somebody came bursting in and shouted, ‘Hey, those joes you put in the jug are standing on the courthouse steps preaching to the people.’  Then the chief and his fuzzes went out and got them without using brutality, because they were scared the crowd might throw bottles at them.  They led them in and stood them before the Council.  The mayor tore into them and said, ‘We warned you in no uncertain terms not to spread the ideas of that fellow.  And now look, you’ve agitated all of Atlanta with your ideas and are trying to pin that guy’s lynching on us!’

“Rock and the other officers replied, ‘It’s our duty to obey God rather than humans.  Our ancestors’ God raised Jesus whom you mobbed and strung up on a tree.  God promoted him to be his number on Leader and Deliverer, to bring to white folks a change of heart and a way out of their sins. And all ofus are evidence of this statement, as indeed the Holy Spirit which God give to those who are controlled by him.’

“At this the city fathers blew a gasket and wanted to kill them on the spot.  But a Baptist by the name of Gamaliel, a Sunday school teacher with a good reputation in the community, got up in the Council and ordered the apostles to be put outside for a little while.  Then he said, ‘My fellow citizens, be extremely careful in your actions against these men… I’d advise you to keep your hands off of them and let them be.  If this plan or program of theirs is a purely human scheme it will blow itself out.  But if it’s God’s thing, you can’t put a stop to it without declaring yourself at war against God.’  That made sense to them, so they called in the apostles, beat them up, warned them not to talk about Jesus anymore, and turned them loose.  The apostles then left the Council meeting, happy that they were counted worthy to be disgraced for the Name.  Every day, both on the courthouse steps and from door to door, they never quit teaching and preaching that Jesus is Lord. “