In this edition: Women’s Voices,  Real Christians and the conversation continues around those 4 (now 5) verses. 
Women’s’ Voices:  My friend Brittany Ouchida-Walsh was in the newest Emergent Village newsletter  [link] with a GREAT reflection about voices that have silenced for far too long.  She has an immense insight about things. She also offers quotes that help you see things from a different angle. On her website, I found this one that  I thought I would pass along: 
     “So every pregnant mother enacts the communion words, ‘Take, eat, this is my body; drink, this is my blood.'” – Jean Shinoda Bolen
Real Christians: I got a note a couple of weeks ago that said ‘I have always divided churches into two categories : Bible believing and Not.’  This person went on to say really insightful things about their experiences and how their perspective has been challenged. 

    This got me thinking. Why DO we divide churches into those two camps?  Jesus doesn’t. 

Jesus says that at some point he is going to divide people up into two categories – but they are not based on believing the Bible – it will be based on how you treated other people (Matthew 25:31-46).  

    Why don’t we spit churches into Christ-behaving and Not – if we are going to split them up at all ?  My thought is that if we are going to introduce new categories – like “Bible-believing” and “Not” we should at least be required to integrate them into the categories of Christ. 

    Since I hate either/or  in/out  us/them two-categories (whether you call them binary or dualism or whatever)  here is my solution:  We make a chart that has 1 big square divided into  4 smaller squares. Across the top we put “Bible-literally” and “Not”. Then down the side we put “Christ-behaving” and “Not”.

    This will allow us to acknowledge that there are at least 4 types of Christians: those who take the Bible literally and behave like Christ,  Those that take the Bible literally and don’t behave like Christ, Those who don’t take the Bible literally and behave like Christ and Those who don’t take the Bible literally and don’t behave like Christ. 

    That would be more helpful (and more accurate) than this either/or thing that we do now.  I just think that at minimum we should use the categories and criteria that the Lord did  (a.k.a. the Sheep / Goats), even if want to integrate them into some criteria that we are after. 

The Conversation: My buddy Tim (a missionary) read my treatment of those 4 verses that we do the swap for [link] and said (basically) ‘that was great – but now that we know what they don’t mean, maybe you could throw out some suggestions of what they do mean…’ 

So I took up the challenge [link] last week and added a 5th verse for fun (Romans 10:9).  Here is Tim’s follow up note and my responses:  
Thanks for taking up the challenge my friend. Basically I like and agree with everything you’ve said.  
Let me respond to some of the thoughts: 
  1. 1)the governmental system stuff that you talk about is RIGHT ON.  When I read “Jesus for President” for the first time a lot of my impressions or ideas about this stuff was re-inforced, especially the Caesar is Lord issue. 
Shane Clairborne’s book “Jesus for President” [link] is one worth reading.  I would also put Warren Carter’s  “The Roman Empire and the New Testament” [link]  WAY at the front of my reading list if I were you. 
  1. 2)I still believe acknowledging the resurrection is a huge challenge for us but is essential in understanding God and being a Christian.  Even if our implications of the resurrection are a bit nuanced, for me, I still am with Paul in his ideas in 1 Cor. that without the resurrection of Christ we are left with a nice ethic but lacking the meta-physical power which sets this apart. 
    No doubt.  I am with you there.  I think that if you are going to be a Christian you have to have SOME belief in the resurrection – otherwise you are left with , as you say, a nice Ethic. 
    NOW – having said that… I have to clarify something. I have heard two good possibilities for the Resurrection that keep one squarely within the “ I believe” camp.  The first is called the ‘Empty Tomb’ camp and  is not really in need of any explanation. The second is called the ‘Presence’ camp and it holds that the Resurrected Jesus was the Presence of God whether or not there was a literal empty tomb.
    I know that this may sound weird to readers who are coming from a more conservative background – but you have to understand that for the last couple of hundred years in many Western churches (from Europe) there is a foundational belief in Enlightenment principles (like science) that you have to prove things. Since you can not prove the Resurrection and we don’t see many (or any) these days, then some have abandoned the literal Resurrection all together and other have had to kind of put it on the back shelf as simply a part of the tradition (the faith handed down).   
    This “Presence” approach allows believers who are coming from a more European perspective to reclaim the Easter story without abandoning or attacking the denomination or tradition that they came from – and I want to make room for them  in the conversation. 
    Now some people may jump and say “no that doesn’t count” but the more I have looked into it , the more I think that it qualifies as belief in the Resurrection.  Just keep two things in mind:
A) whatever kind of a body that Jesus had after the resurrection could walk through walls and stuff (John 20:19 for example). That body was not limited by physical space and time though it had physical properties.  
B) whatever the Apostle Paul encountered on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9)  was not a physical  body and yet it was certainly the Resurrected Christ. 
    I think that this is an important point to make because we are not having this conversation in a vacuum. It has been dominated for 400 years by Enlightenment Europeans who were working off of there own frameworks and agendas. So I do not think that we should allow them to control the conversation.  We need to address 1) scripture and 2) reality as we now understand it … in order to address our desire for a Big Tent Christianity and also to try to qualify as many believers in Christ as want to be qualified.  
  1. 3)I completely agree with the fact that being saved doesn’t mean simply getting a ticket to heaven.  This is horrible theology, a terrible reading of John 3, and frankly a very limited understanding of Jesus.  That being said, I don’t think that these texts necessarily oppose someone going to heaven after they die, I just don’t think that heaven is the central idea or even the goal in these selected texts.  
    Good clarification.  I certainly do not want to get rid of heaven after you die. My only point was that this is not the central concern of these texts.  I think that reading them in such a way dishonors them and misses the point. 

  1. 4)With you on the wide gate, on the thirst for power, on the love of violence, etc. 
    It has actually gotten to the point that over the last three years I have become suspicious that Jesus is nothing more than a hood-ornament on the Cadillac of Empire for many christians. Jesus said  Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? …”   
    I am planning a post leading up to Christmas to ask “Why do you think Jesus came ?”.  Modern Christianity  seems to have reverted to a form of nationalism, superstition, and greed … I honestly think that it is almost as if Jesus never came.  It would be no different if we just took all of the Greek & Roman mystery cults (denominations) and slapped Jesus’ name on them – as a title – but kept the basic framework, priorities, and behaviors without much alternation.  
    This is what Dallas Willard calls “Vampire Christians” – who want Jesus for his blood and little else. So little of what we do is based on Jesus – he is not even an Ethic for much of the western world. He is just a hood ornament on the giant machine of consumerism, military violence, and colonialism.  It’s almost as if Jesus never came and never said the stuff that he said and did the things that he did.  We often put “Christian” in the title and then do exactly what we would have done otherwise and when somebody says ‘I’m not sure that is Jesus’ way’ we say “in the Old Testament” or we say “in the Constitution”.  

  1. 5)In the John 14 passage I think you’ve said some important things.  These verses are definitely part of a conversation and shouldn’t be proof-texted (just like any other verses that we do this with).  I definitely don’t think that the primary purpose here is restrictive, that is, against other people.  However, I don’t think it doesn’t inherently create some restrictions by nature of the uniqueness of Christ.  What I mean is, even if you interpret the “way of Christ” differently (not as a ticket to heaven but as a lifestyle), you are still asserting that someone is following this way in order to access an intimate relationship with the father.  So, for me, to use your example, if a Hindu hates Jesus or the idea of Jesus, it is still problematic for me.  I definitely have friends, and maybe you’re in this category, who I love and respect, who believe that Jesus is the way in spite of the fact that the people who are seeking religion don’t acknowledge him.  In other words, his power supersedes ignorance.  Of course this is possible and God can do and does do more than we understand.  But personally for me it’s too risky to leave someone in a situation, knowing and experiencing nothing of Jesus and hoping that as a spiritual person they have this intimate relationship with the Father (we can just leave heaven out of it, no problem). Does that make sense?  
    Yeah. That is good. I think that the Way of Christ is the best thing in the world. I believe that the Jesus Way is better than every other.   Which is exactly why we need to stop quoting “I am the way” as a proof-text for why other religions are not going to Heaven.  All I am saying is : that is not what that verse is about.  We love to say “Jesus is the way” and this may or may not be connected to actually doing it Jesus’ way. 
Sorry to go on and on and on but basically this is the fundamental reason why I am in France in spite of the fact that people are cared for better than the States, there are fewer poor, most people are pacifists, green, etc.  In other words, in many ways they are advancing the kingdom.  But when I speak with them there is emptiness in the act, a void in spite of the heart for others, and a need for Christ to be central.  Sure we might talk about heaven at some point, but I’m certainly not leading with that.  I’d rather talk about the way of Jesus, but I need to talk about it, even if they’re Muslim, Hindu, atheist whatever.
    I love that you are there.  I love that you follow the way of Jesus.  I love that you want people who already do so many good things to do them with Jesus’ heart. That is awesome. I am with you 100%. 
    I think that you have real insight in the North American situation where so many who claim to follow Jesus don’t do those things.  
Great post, thanks for taking the time to do it and for offering solutions.   Appreciate you!
   Oh no , the pleasure is all mine! Thanks for the thoughtful response (and the challenge) . I am SO glad that you are doing what you are doing.