Monday, November 07, 2005


"How tempting it can be - and how distracting from our primary mission - to devote so many efforts to rehabilitating society at large, especially when these efforts demonize the opposition. (After all, neither Jesus nor Paul showed much concern about cleaning up the degenerate Roman Empire.) As history has proven, especially in times when church and state closely mingle, it is possible for the church to gain a nation and in the process lose the kingdom."

~Philip Yancey - musing about the cultural influence of evangelicalism in USAmerica and making me wonder, yet again, how he keeps his job - on "the back page" of the most recent Christianity Today


Agent B said...

great quote. one of the best on church-n-state I've heard.

Michelle said...

I think once a Chirstian has it in somewhere its really hard to be fired.
In some cases this is great others its trajic.
Like the preists. They just kind of moved them around.

g13 said...

my continuing employment at lightway christian stores is exhibit a of your argument, mish. on account of the satirical posts, the profanity laden emails and my unique tendency to insert words like penetrate into product descriptions should have got me canned years ago.

Agent B said...

curious (and seriously...). What *is* your duty at Lightway?

g13 said...

i am the one who writes the copy, oversees product descriptions and organizes tent revivals.

The Anti-Lucifer said...

Interesting quote and part of the reason I am not a Christian. It's also part of why, even if I believe in Him, I don't necessarily like JC.

g13 said...

heya anti-lucifer,

thanks for stopping in.

i was intrigued by your comment. did you mean to suggest that jesus should have engaged in cultural and political reform or did you mean something else entirely?


the anit-lucifer said...

sure. seems to me there's no real way around it. I never bought the concept of being saved through belief in Christ only. I don't believe good works are without value; many Christians try to weasel out of such reasoning, but it's essentially what they preach. I don't like Jesus' nonchalant dismissal of cultural dilemmas, claiming they'll always be there. As far as I'm concerned, Jesus is just another cult leader placing an emphasis on himself rather than what's really important. "You've begun to matter more than the words you say."

What do you believe concerning the path to Heaven? Do you think the only way is through Jesus?

g13 said...

well, well, anti-lucifer, you are about to crucify me between my liberal sensibilities and my confessional Christianity. i'd like to thank you for this opportunity to kill myself now, as might not be able to do so later: )

let me begin by saying that i do not think that jesus was indifferent to his cultural surroundings. he was never indifferent to the poor, in contrast he fed the multitudes with the loaves and the fish even when he and the disciples were exhausted and headed out on retreat and made sure that his disciples had no doubt that their response to the poor among them would be one of the means of their judgment.

the text that seems to imply indifference, and the one i think you might be thinking of, is the text in which jesus tells his disciples to simmer down over a woman’s exhorbant act of pouring an expensive perfume over his feet. it might help us understand that text if we think a bit about the context (you can sketch this out for yourself in John 12:1-8). the disciples, we know from previous texts, were quite uncomfortable with jesus connecting with women, much less women of "ill repute" and, at least one of them, was keeping the accounts and skimming from the money bag whenever he wanted. the gospel of john tells us that it was this latter disciple, the embezzler, who asked “why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” john quickly notes that this embezzler, also called judas, was not really advocating for the poor in this situation, but for his own pocketbook. anyway, it was in this context that jesus said, “you will always have the poor among you, you will not always have me.” his comment was not to denigrate the poor, but to keep chastise judas for denigrating this woman’s beautiful act. i cannot be certain about a lot of things, but i can be fairly certain that jesus was a compassionate person. in the gospel of mark, the author talks about jesus loving people from the depths of his guts. i believe that this assertion is true. moreover, this belief in jesus’ compassion has motivated many of the significant social efforts of the church throughout the years, such as the abolition of slavery throughout the western world. of course christians have ignored christ’s call to compassion as often as they have heeded it, but that’s a discussion for another day (and i doubt that you have a pretty clear idea of the church’s flaws already).

agh…i don’t have time to write an exegesis paper, a.l., nor do i want to write a systematic treatise. so i’ll try to answer the rest of your questions in an honest, if rapid, manner.

first, although i do not think that works are the basis of our salvation, i do believe they are an essential expression and evidence of our salvation. do i believe that a person who prays the sinners prayer or mentally asserts to the propositions embedded on a gospel tract, but refuses to live a life of self-sacrifice, proclamation of the gospel (by which i mean being good news as much as sharing good news) and radical compassion is “saved?” probably not. like i said in one of my previous posts, i think that those who truly believe in Jesus and receive the eternal quality or kind of life he offers will dedicate themselves to a life of obedience, which consists in living in rhythm with and extended the goodness, mercy and truth that God has shared with us.

second, do i believe that jesus is the only way to salvation? well, i do believe that he is the way to salvation and that this way is trustworthy. jesus says that he is the way to the father in the gospels (John 14:6 is a famous instance, although other texts such as john 6 suggest the same thing in more metaphorical, and i dare say more intriguing ways), the apostles peter and paul carried this teaching forward and most of the traditions of the church have affirmed that jesus is our salvation and our way to the father (though, interestingly, the apostle’s and nicene creed say nothing about jesus being the exclusive way of salvation). so, i guess this is the long way of saying that yes, i believe that jesus is the true and trustworthy way to the eternal quality of life that God desires for us to live both now and forever.

is he the only way? the short answer is: i don’t know. the scriptures, church tradition and my own faith heritage robustly affirms that he is, but i, like many others, would have trouble assigning ghandi to a trailer in hell that sits right next to hitler’s. that being said i think that if biblical history and the history of the church has taught us anything, it is that redemption often comes in unexpected packages and unforeseen ways. one of the primary motifs of the gospels is reversal and i suspect that some of our (both Christian and non) assumptions about how salvation operates are going to be turned on their head when the kingdom has finally come.

please forgive the relative brevity and unabashed incompleteness of my answers. in the end, i found myself wanting to write a thesis in response to your question, but do not have the time to do so. Although I have utterly failed my intentions, I hope that I have written enough to provide you with a basic understanding of what i believe – and what i am not quite sure that i believe – about these important matters. if you have further questions feel free to comment, shoot me an email or, if you dare, join me for a cup of tea or a meal. I suspect that the latter scenario would provide us with the most helpful way to dialog about these matters.

one more thing: if you are a Christian, you read this blog and have questions/concerns/comments about my response to a.l., please shoot me an email. i am not interested in parsing my tenuously held beliefs and my tenaciously guarded doubts in this forum.


hey, one final thought a.l. maybe one needs to explore whether jesus is a road to redemption/reconciliation/salvation before one unravels whether he is the road. no gimmick or manipulation intended here…it’s just that the path i took towards jesus followed this concrete precedes abstract path. hell, it still follows that path.

Mike said...

well spoken brother.

james said...


a.l. said...

Wow. Thanks for the complete treatment. Didn't mean to put you on the spot or force answers to questions you don't like to deal with on this blog. Anyhow, good answers and, not to detract from them, answers I half expected. You're right about the passage I was thinking of and while I do appreciate your spin, I still can't excuse his words.

"(and i doubt that you have a pretty clear idea of the church’s flaws already)."

Certainly, I know Jesus cared for the poor. I was just being extreme suggesting otherwise. And it isn't right to criticize Jesus based on the Church's flaws. I'm still unable to accept the importance placed on Jesus (among other things).

Well, I haven't put nearly as much thought into my response as you put into yours. A bit busy today. Hope I can come back for more. Thanks.

g13 said...

a.l., i see that you stumbled across one of my (many) typos.

what i meant to say was something like this:

i am sure that you already have a pretty clear understanding of the church's flaws.

that would have made a bit more sense. looking forward to further dialogue.