Monday, June 12, 2006

Catholic v. Protestant

What are the Reformers and Puritans encouraging us to do? Christ corrected the Pharisees for spending all their time on side issues, and neglecting the real issue: "Come back when you have learned the meaning of this: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice". How is a slavish devotion to outward, intellectual conformity with one corner of Christianity's version of doctrine any different than imposing byzantine and draconian sabbath laws?

In the center is the religion Christ preached: simple, yet revolutionary; incendiary, and yet based in basic love for God and others; the religion of the sermon on the mount, the religion of the cross.

At one end is the syncretism and corruption of the Roman Catholic, tying the church too close to the world. At the other end is the bare religiosity of the Puritans, so intellectual and impersonal that there is room for the practicioner to be completely evil and yet still fill all its requirements.

In Jesus' time there were two parties that represented these concepts as well: The Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees were corrupt, used the power of the church for their own ends, and would do anything to hold on to that power. The Pharisees were a reaction, seeking to purify the nation (by their standards), trying to find God in complicated lists of rules and doctrines.

Jesus rebuked them both, and demonstrated the correct path. Unfortunately, it is narrow and there are few who find it.

Really, I am not advocating an absence of beliefs or knowledge. It's just that I'm advocating a different set of beliefs, or at least a different priority of beliefs. When you hear from the pulpit that you probably aren't a Christian if you don't jibe with their interpretation of a few particularly contentious passages about women, or that you're probably not a Christian if you have ongoing psychological problems, it's a far cry from "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" or "As I have loved you, so love one another."

I think it's really easy on this blog to talk past each other. Without context, a lot of times we'll miss what the other person is saying. I can tell you, I did arrive at these conclusions by studying the Bible. They are beliefs. But two people can approach the same Bible with different perspectives, and come out with different priorities and beliefs. I'm not advocating an absence of knowledge, I'm advocating the knowledge that is found only in the foolishness of God, that is an embarrassment to the world. I'm advocating the things about Christianity that I think are important, not just to me but to Christ, who is the representation of God to us. No one has seen the Father, but the Son has revealed Him. Etc.


David, T. said...

This is a comment directed at this post and the previous post/comment and consists of some thoughts that ran through my head, which may have missed the point altogether.

It is interesting... I wrote a paper on the use of the word Believe in the Gospel of John (an interesting side note is that he never used the noun form - faith or Belief... it was always described as an active process). Throughout that gospel, Jesus would call a group of people believers and then later in the text they would become hostile towards him. This happens when he comes back from waling on water after feeding the 5,000 in John 6 and in John 8 after the light of the world/before Abraham was "I am" discourses. In John 8:31, John specifically referenced the group as "the Jews who had believed in him," and in John 8:59 that same group had picked up stones to throw at Jesus.

In my paper I talked about the nature of belief, that it is a continual process of following Jesus. But the intersting side note, which will now serve as the point that I wanted to make is this, that the groups all became hostile towards Jesus when he claimed deity and lordship. They believed to an extent, but missed that critical component of faith. I think there is a lot of wiggle room in small matters of theology that are purposefully ambigiuos in scripture that people propogate as big issues.

It is without a doubt that we seek out the knowledge of God and theology from a love for him and a desire to know him. However, a "belief that is true" probably doesn't look exaclty like what we propogate today.

Ben said...

Yeah, that is really wierd. The text says Jesus is addressing those who believe in Him, but then he says "You're trying to kill me." (which they do later in the passage). I never noticed that before.

David, T. said...

Anyways, the main point was that there is a necessary quality to any sort of belief in Jesus. One must belief that he is the Christ. Now what that looks like can be and has been debated.

Sungkhum said...

Do you think that when the refomers split from the catholic church, they split because of "side issues"?

Or did I miss something...

Ben said...

Well, what do you think? I'm not necessarily talking about the reasons given for the split, but rather about the things they emphasized. I think I'm talking more about the Puritans, as well; they're a better example. The Reformation was a maelstrom of differing ideas and motivations and movements, most of which are hard to pin down. The Puritans simply wanted everything done exactly their way. I think the Puritan movement is completely analogous to the historical movement of the Pharisees. And being a Pharisee wasn't entirely bad, either ... Paul boasts about it when boasting, and many early Christians came from their ranks. But Jesus and John the Baptist didn't seem too impressed with their system of priorities, or more specifically, their fruit. For instance ... "You den of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance."