Essential Christianity

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Peteprint, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I recently wrote an essay defining what I believe regarding the essentials of the Christian faith. If anyone would be interested in reading it, and then providing me with constructive criticism or comments, I would be very appreciative.
     

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  2. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    P.S. As C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest influences on my Christian faith, I hoped to encapsulate at least some of his "Mere Christianity" viewpoint in the essay.
     
  3. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    Hi Peter I'm on holiday at the moment, so find it a bit hard to concentrate on your article but I will later. Of what I have read of your article so far I noticed you said this;

    "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 5 Christ’s resurrection from the dead is therefore the most important aspect of the Christian message; as St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 6 Belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is non-negotiable, and those who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus place themselves outside the Church by denying the historic Christian teaching on the subject. As St. Paul states: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

    One of the key points of this extract seems to be, that, if there was no resurrection then your faith is of no account.

    My problem with this is the bit where Paul says "that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures". If it's important that Jesus was raised, it should also be possible to find the bit where it says in the scriptures, that he was or would be raised on the third day. I can't find this reference in the scriptures, and remember Paul wrote in pre- Gospel times.

    Can I also be a bit nosey and ask what you have your PhD. in.
     
  4. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hi AnglicanAgnostic.

    An OT verse that I can find which is related to that prophecy is Hosea 6: 1-2: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."

    Of course Christ references it to the story of Jonah: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:40

    Christ also stated, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19 There are several similar statements in the other Gospels.

    We also see the following in Matt 27: 62-63:

    “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and Pharisees assembled before Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was alive that deceiver said ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order that the tomb be secured until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him away and tell the people He has risen from the dead.’”

    Of course you note that Paul wrote before the gospels were actually written, but he may have know of these from the other apostles.

    My PhD. is in the Humanities (Faulkner University, Montgomery, Alabama). I wrote my dissertation on religion and culture in 17th century England.
     
  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    Your problem is caused by your interpretation of the meaning of Paul's statement. Paul may not be referring to some proof verse somewhere in OT scripture which specifically states that Jesus Christ would be raised back to life 'on the third day', but no doubt some probably exist, it is justthat your search criteria are not picking them up. Paul refers to all of the OT scriptures which predict that the Christ, (who ever he would turn out to be), would not suffer corruption in the grave, but would live to the praise of God forever. (as suggested at the end of Ps.22.). These would have been the texts that Jesus had explained to the two disciples on their way back home after the resurrection, which confirmed his credentials as The Messiah, to who there are many references well known to Paul in OT scripture.

    My own view on the necessity of belief in the resurrection is that all that is necessary for obtaining salvation is a heart's desire for it to be true rather than an intellectual acceptance of it as a verifiable historical fact. If a person actually prefers, (in their heart), to believe it is not true that even the Christ could not have conquered death and the ultimate injustice of corrupt earthly power, then one's heart is already so enamored of wickedness and corrupt use of power, that salvation would be beyond ones reach. Only violent criminals and their supporters would prefer that resurrection is not possible, but the dead stay conveniently dead, silent and effectively disposed of, thus rendering their ways of wickedness permanently effective as a success strategy in their machinations.
    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  6. Shane R

    Shane R Active Member

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    I struggle with the very concept of your project: to distill the faith down to a minimal set of criteria. I struggle with it because of the results this project has produced in the USA. You can take a typical member from the most popular, highest ASA churches in the US and they won't know anything about the faith as defined in the Nicene Creed; and I'm not talking about the Creed itself but the doctrines it expresses.

    Particularly frustrating and appalling is what is made of the lines: "Begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten not made, Being of one substance with the Father." No one knows what to make of that. And in the second paragraph of the Creed, "We look for the resurrection of the dead," the doctrine of the bodily resurrection has been all but lost.

    Using the Creed as a minimal standard then still excludes a large swath of churches and church-goers. So, I have stopped thinking in terms of finding some minimal standard and I encourage people to "press on to perfection." Americans have the bad habit of "teaching to a test" as they say in the academic world when they discuss standardized testing. This holds true in the churches too with our various tests of faith.
     
  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    There must BE a simple set of 'beliefs' and 'behaviours' though that qualify a person to be considered by Christ to be a worthy disciple. And if they meet Christ's critera, then tat should be OK for us too, surely?

    It is odd don't you think that we seem unable to define what Christ himself considered acceptable human behavour, and a sufficient level of 'faith', to enter into His Kingdom. My guess is that apart from the Doctrine we can discern from the teachings of Christ, we cannot define discipleship by doctrinal orthodoxy but only by actual behaviour. It would seem that Christ held that position too. "Depart from me you workers of wickedness, I never knew you". Matt.7:23.
     
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  8. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    You mean, with the very concept of the Creeds, as promoted by the apostolic Church?..


    Are you speaking of the only Western country that has kept the faith?...
     
  9. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hello Shane.

    I don't see that requiring the Creed excludes any historical Christian churches. As for church goers if any, in their hearts, reject certain elements of the Creed, then there is a problem. Bishop Gene Robinson, according to a story I read, had issue with some of the Creed when a student at university. Supposedly his Chaplain told him it was fine to not believe parts of it. Following that conversation, he entered seminary and the priesthood. The Anglican churches have always taught the Creed, and it is recited during services. Belief in it is not optional, and what Robinson's chaplain told him was wrong.
     
  10. Shane R

    Shane R Active Member

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    The project of the councils of the Church was to establish the parameters within which the faith is expressed; not exactly the same as distilling it down to a minimal standard of belief.
    American exceptionalism. Did you know that Mexico has a higher percentage of Christian adherents than the USA? But most of them were Roman Catholic so the evangelicals don't like to acknowledge them. But the breadth of cultish denominations that the American experience spawned gets a pass; very strange.
    Define 'historical Christian churches.' I think I largely agree with you but I thought the initial couple of pages of the essay were meant to lay out a plan whereby many of the newer evangelical churches could be counted as orthodox Christians. One of my perceptions was that you were making the case that they teach the substance of the Creed, even if they don't use the Creed itself.
     
  11. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Okay, say that's the case... But the Roman Catholic church embodies the concept of putting down in writing the 'minimum standards of belief', so how does that support your case?

    I guess I'm asking what churches you know that don't have defined standards of belief and are flourishing?
     
  12. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes, Shane.

    What I meant is a church which accepts what the Creed teaches, even if they don't spell that out in their formal documents.
     
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    The historic creeds were not devised as a means of establishing 'Christian Truth'. That would have been very difficult since there is so much of it.

    What the creeds were designed to do was to identify and refute error, and they are aimed at the heresies of the age in which the Emperor Constantine was trying to unify and unite the Roman Empire under a single religion.

    The creeds therefore are intended primarily to exclude certain beliefs rather than impose a rigid belief system from which Christians are not permitted to stray.

    They are aimed at achieving unification within diversity by persuasion, not at the identification and vilification of heretics with a view to persecution and conquest.
     
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  14. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hello Tiffy,

    The issue is not really whether the Creeds exclude certain beliefs; they obviously do. And while not necessarily exclusively defining the Christian faith, assent to them is a requirement to be considered a Christian. They do, after all, begin with the words, "We believe." Either one believes in what the Creeds teach, or he/she doesn't. The undivided Church created the Creed. It is recited in the services of the Church. It is binding on all Christians.
     
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  15. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    @Peteprint thank you for sharing the essay. I think it is well constructed and makes a great deal of sense. I believe your observation on page 15 regarding the decline in Church membership is especially apposite. I know I have struggled with a few who hold that our politics informs our faith rather than our faith informs our politics, which sadly leads to the preaching of opinion rather than the preaching of the faith.

    I am not sure I entirely agree with this, given the history of the Church, that matters of the Councils was in the main to address matters of faith that were causing division, and to resolve them. In a sense they were to determine what was outside of acceptable belief as much as they were to describe the faith. The matter of the Creed of the Council of Constantinople, cited correctly in the essay sans filioque, is perhaps the clearest determination of the faith of the Church ever. Yet I agree with @Shane R in terms of the current era there are many in our pews, faithful and true, whose understanding of the Nicene Creed is somewhat ary. The predominant heresy that the Creed was devised to address was Arianism, and my observation would suggest that Arianism is as alive and well today as it ever was, and probably reflected in those communities of faith who have replaced it at the Eucharist with the Apostle's Creed because it is easier to understand and being shorter and leaves more time for other things.

    The Nicene Creed does not define a Christian though it does outline the Christian Faith and is the only Creed of the Œecumenical Councils, and as such is to be highly prized. Arians, whilst they may not be orthodox Christians, are still Christians. The western creed used as the baptismal symbol, the Apostles Creed certainly passes the lips of an Arian, more easily that the Nicene Creed. I believe we should place a greater emphasis on the Nicene Creed, and that it should be better taught in our congregations. In the last ten years I cannot remember a sermon touching on any part of the Nicene Creed, even though some of the material would have been connected - at least the incarnation and the resurrection.
     
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  16. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Thank you, Botolph. I appreciate your comments.
     
  17. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    I failed to mention that I thought your essay thoughtful and succinct. Also easy to read and understand, an attribute rarely seen in theological works.
     
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  18. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Thank you, Tiffy.
     
  19. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    Hi Peteprint back from holiday and living out of suitcases.
    Your Hosea quote refers to "us" so can't refer to Jesus. The temple and three days statement may be valid and known at the time but it won't fulfill the "according to the scriptures" bit. There's no comma in "that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" it's a one concept statement not two.




    In your article you say "this, in turn, led me to ask: “what was it that defined a Christian," My answer, and I think Christians as well, should be - "believing the Nicene creed etc. but this is only an educated guess and only God knows for sure". I may be doing him a disservice but I believe Bishop Spong doesn't believe in the after life but I'm sure he considers himself a Christian (and an Anglican).


    While the bible does, at times, appear to contain paradoxes or contradictory passages, it is not really scripture that is the problem—rather, it is one of exegesis, or interpretation.

    This again is one view, I'm sure many Christians treat the bible as, fallible man's attempt to explain an ultimate reality.




    I look to the early Church Fathers for guidance. .....
    In particular I look to the Ante-Nicene Fathers, since they were closest to the Apostles in time, and the further we move away from the Apostolic period, the greater the theological diversity we see in the teachings of subsequent Fathers.

    Being closer to the event in time does not necessarily make it more accurate. We probably know less about the Napoleonic wars than people will know in another 200 years."And if you regard Origen as a Church Father, he believed in the pre existance of souls.



    “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." 1 Cor 5: 12-13

    Hey does this mean you will all cut me some slack.:D





    But thanks for the article I enjoyed it.

    As for your PhD. study, I'm a fan of the Stuarts. As one historian said "Britain was probable well rid of the Stuarts" They were probable right but they made 17th century British history interesting.
     
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  20. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    There are no commas in Greek.

    The definition of a Christian is a person who lives by the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Have as much slack as you like. (But that from a fellow 'Anglican heretic' is of little value I fear).
     

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