I’m taking a break

August 31, 2006

I’m taking a break for a couple of months to sort out some stuff. Nothing dramatic or particularly interesting. If you want to get in touch, my blog email address is in the About Me page.

Have fun!

Demas

A Bath Teashop

August 29, 2006

John Betjeman was born 100 years ago – 28 August 1906. To celebrate, A Bath Teashop:

“Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another—
Let us hold hands and look.”
She such a very ordinary little woman;
He such a thumping crook;
But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels
In the teashop’s ingle-nook.

He could be cutting, too: From In Westminster Abbey:

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I’ll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

One of the interesting things about blogs is when people find your blogs from search engines, you can see what they were searching for when they found you.

Someone came across this site using the improbable search term “Universalist Church in Scotland” (I’ve had a lot of searches lately for variations of “Carlton Pearson Homosexual” too. Don’t know what’s going on there)

Universalist Church in Scotland? Sounds like a denominational name (the ‘in’ rather than ‘of’ is interesting – compare the Uniting Church in Australia vs. United Church of Canada)

So, are we looking for an outpost of UUism, a mistaken search, or something strange?

I did my own search.

And I eventually found record of a Universalist Church in the town of Scotland, Windham County, Connecticut:

During the decade from 1840 to 1850 a flash of Universalist sentiment appears to have run through the churches in this part of Connecticut. A church of that order was organized in this neighborhood, and in 1843 a meeting house was built. This flourished fairly well for a few years under the ministrations of Reverend H. Slade, but its active life was short, and it has long since become a thing of the past.

So there you are.

Well, not quite.

There is also this woman, a reference to Glasgow Universalists and a Scottish Universalist Convention and these universalists turned unitarians turned humanists turned undefinablemishmasians (where have I seen that before?). But I can’t find more info about it online. The UUA site is broad but shallow – get this stuff online, people! If it is not online it may as well not exist.

An evolving Bible?

August 16, 2006

A People So Bold asks Would it be a good idea to include new books in the Bible?

I’m reminded of the Good as New paraphrase of the Bible, which adds the Gospel of Thomas and leaves out the (often dangerously misinterpreted) Book of Revelations.

I’m also reminded of Luther’s decision to remove the Apocrypha.

Assuming that we don’t believe that the process of deciding which documents were included was an infallible process, on what basis do we accept the current list? Is it only that everyone else does, so we do to?

The core of the Bible for me contains those documents which witness of the life and teachings of Jesus, so I would include those documents which are the earliest of those witnesses (the current Gospels and most of the letters. Thomas? Maybe. Revelations? Maybe not – after all, it never even made it into all the bibles in the first place)

After that, what? Any why?

Before I so rudely interupted myself, I was trying to do a small survey of the faith documents put out by liberal Christian groups. I’m starting with Christian faith statements, because I’m not qualified to really discuss, say, Buddhist statements (are there Buddhist statements of faith?). Second off the rank is the Centre for Progressive Christianity and its 8 Points.

Source

The Centre for Progressive Christianity is, in its own words, dedicated to providing “guiding ideas, networking opportunities, and resources for progressive churches, organizations, individuals and others with connections to Christianity.” It has as a founding document “8 Points”, which are:

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who…

  1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
  2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
  3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples
  4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
    • believers and agnostics,
    • conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
    • women and men,
    • those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
    • those of all races and cultures,
    • those of all classes and abilities,
    • those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope
  5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
  6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty – more value in questioning than in absolutes.
  7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God’s creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers
  8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

Each of these has an associated “Study Guide”, which are too long to post here. Interestingly, the first sentence “We are Christians who…” doesn’t have a study guide.

The TCPC says “From the beginning of TCPC, the intention of the ‘8 points’ has been to present an inviting expression of a particular approach to the practice of Christianity. Our hope is that this series of ideas will be appealing especially to those who do not find a comfortable fit with traditional understandings of Christian faith, and result in thoughtful conversation on basic themes throughout the Progressive Christian network and beyond.”

Initial Impression

Somewhat random, a shopping list and not a story. Obviously a camel – the work of a committee. A strange amalgum of dogmatic statement (Pt 8 ) and denial of the goodness of dogmatism (Pt 6).

Specific Comments

First off, what does “we are Christians who” mean? What does it mean to be a Christian? I’ve been told more times than I can remember that I’m not a Christian (I’m especially proud of the time I was told that I was a ‘fata morgana of a Christian’) so the term is hardly uncontested. Is this meant to limit what follows, or to say “This is the type of Christian we are”?

I have a big rant about the word Progressive, but I’ll save that for another time.

I actually quite like Point 1. It is reasonably clear while remainging broad. It is presumably further clarified by Point 8 – this is what it means to approach God through Jesus.

Point 1+8 seems to be immediately undercut by Point 2, though. I get what they’re trying to say – youse all ain’t going to hell. But this is such a strong statement of relativism that it tends to send the rest of the points into a spin. Can we approach God through a path that doesn’t involve Point 8?

Part of the problem is, I think the confusion between a way and a name for that way. It is one thing to say “other people have other names for the way to God’s realm”; it is another thing to say “their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us”. Which is it? A single way (outlined in Pt 8 ) that has been called by many names, or a multitude of ways, all of which are valid for those who follow them?

Point 3 is pointless. Christians will recognise this as a position statement on the Eucharist. Why is this a matter of such importance to this group? The Study Guide on this point doesn’t really help me – it only talks about how there should be an open table. Great, I agree. But why mention this and not, say Baptism?

Point 4, “We’re TTTHHHIISSS tolerant!” (holds arms out wide)

Point 5, good-oh. The fruit test.

Point 6, Absolutes like Point 8? I guess I would put this in the “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” basket.

Point 7, Let’s Get Together!

Point 8, And be Nice!

I’m trying not to be cynical (really!). But there isn’t anything here to excite me. There’s no underlying proclamation, no good news. It’s an inhouse document, for Christians to speak to each other, which is fine. But I don’t live in that world. I want to be able to speak to the people around me with intellectual integrity and be able to say “This is where I stand”.

This document is too fuzzy for me. It would communicate little to my non-Christian friends, and little beyond fuzziness and “liberalism=doubt” to my Christian friends.

Tentmaker.org is one of the most well known sites on the web devoted to universalism from a Christian perspective. It has a number of very good historical articles, from olden days Universalists to more modern day authors.

Tentmaker is run by a guy called Gary Amirault. It’s focus is on a biblical Christocentric universalism, for which I have a lot of sympathy. My own universalism is Christocentric and grounded in the New Testament, albeit from a more liberal approach to biblical interpretation.

But I have just been reading a passage which has made me stop and pause. It is in an article about the Doctrine of Inclusion, which is Carlton Pearson‘s slant on universalism. The article, written by Gary himself, is intending to clarify what Christian Universalism means to conservative Christians, who are only hearing about it through the inevitably warped and inadequate lens of mainstream media. Fair enough. What makes me pause is this:

The secular media, dominated by a very liberal Jewish voice is always looking for individuals in Christendom which they can use to mold and shape Christianity according to their views. Anyone who can’t see that the American media is ultra-liberal and dominated with Jewish names is living in Lalaland. And there are a lot of Christians who live in Lalaland.

The kind of Inclusion Message Carlton Pearson has been preaching of late resonates with the liberal Jewish media. Carlton Pearson’s message of Inclusion seems to have taken a very liberal and unbiblical turn from his former Pentecostal days. Homosexuality is no longer unbiblical and an unacceptable life style, it’s the way some folks are born, according to his recent theology. His church, which has dwindled from the thousands to a few hundred since he’s come out of the closet on universalism, has Hindus and Moslem’s attending, according to various sources. It seems Carlton ‘s “Inclusion Message” is going the way of the Unitarian Universalism Association, which once contained hundreds of thousands of Christ-centered and Bible believing people and leadership during its earlier years in the early and mid-eighteen hundreds. But today, one would be hard-pressed to find the roots in this denomination that once were grounded in the Bible.

[snip]

Not all things conservative are good and not all things liberal are bad. Most Christians I know who believe in the Universalism found in the Bible are conservative in their morality. They would see homosexuality, for example, as sin. The liberal Jewish controlled media, would like to get that part of the body of Christ that has embraced universal salvation to accept the homosexual lifestyle. Most Christians I know who teach universal salvation do not agree with this. They believe it is sin.

In the days ahead, the liberal Jewish controlled media is going to give more liberal voices in the message of universalism a lot of positive publicity. There is good and bad in this. Simply bringing attention to this much needed message is good, but the perversion of the message is not good. I ask the reader to go to the message and the Book that contains the message and the God who is the Savior in that message, and not to charismatic personalities Hollywood might use to promote their agenda which is not good to anyone including themselves. The secular media controlled predominantly by liberal Jews have changed the church far more than most Christians are aware of. The American church has been Judaized quite thorough. The secular media wants to control this message just like it has controlled the Evangelical world through the teaching of false teaching of Zionism. Do not let them deceive you.

This actually makes me like Carlton Pearson even more… but more importantly it raises questions about Tentmaker.

I don’t want to link to resources at an anti-semitic site, even if the specific resources are good in and of themselves. It leads credence to the anti-semitic message, and it damages my message in the eyes of my listeners.

Am I overreacting?

What should I do about the resources at Tentmaker which are useful and not anti-semitic?

Brian Smith, who blogs as a universalist at The Beautiful Heresy, has read The Evangelical Universalist, and has given a review, which concludes:

The book is not exactly a light read. It’s pretty scholarly and is loaded with scriptural references and footnotes. It’s well researched and well written. I wish we knew a little more about the author and why he (or she) chose to write under a pen name. In my hierarchy of books on Universalism, I would put this one, in terms of the strength of the case it makes, pretty close to Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God”. But, in terms of readability, I’d put it below “What The Bible Really Says About Hell” or “Martin Zender Goes to Hell”. Its real strength, I believe lies in the credibility it might have among evangelicals. But, the author has managed to keep his strong Protestant Evangelical faith in the Bible and to embrace a Universlist perspective. I am hopeful that he can speak to people who are more reticent to give up their inerrant and literal view of the Bible than some of us might be.