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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
First day of Advent               Friday, November 15 2002 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster Consolation

Bishop Joseph Sprague of the Chicago Methodist diocese has said that he's trying to recast Christianity from the miraculous or supernatural to the natural and laboratory-verifyable because he perceives a big market for a less dumbed-down Christianity, as discussed yesterday, or what might be called a "more respectable" or, to use one of his other terms, more "middle-class" Christianity. I find it interesting that even though Jesus was born into a middle class Jewish family as the foster son of a building contractor or furniture manufacturer (or both, depending on whose take on Joseph's carpentry you accept), He took well documented steps to mingle with, minister to, and even be identified with the lower classes of First-Century Palestine.

Yesterday's entry cited Sprague's description of the people he's trying to reach: "There are many thoughtful seekers looking to the church for help with a gnawing spiritual hunger in their hearts. We must open windows to help those people to see the essence of the one whose life, death, and resurrection, are the substance of the faith once delivered to the apostles."

Though I have met people who have trouble believing in the supernatural, or comprehending concepts like the virgin birth and "mystical truth," I've never met anyone who has told me that demystifying faith helps them believe. Though I've known for most of my life that there are atheists and agnostics in places of power in Christian organizations, I've assumed that they're there because they like the altruistic and charitable aspects of religious bodies. "I may not believe in or understand 'resurrection,'" they seem to be saying, "but I know homeless outreach and soup kitchens do vital work. That, not a body of doctrine, is my religion, my understanding of what it means to be a Christian."

I don't agree with them and their reasons are not among my own for being a Christian or undertaking ministries, but I have to admit that some of them in some ways make me and my efforts look pale in comparison. More power to them. But most of the intellectual Christians I've met either personally in university ministry for nearly 20 years, or through their works like the writings of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, T. S. Elliott, Blaise Pascal, and many others, all testify that there is no Christianity without the virgin birth, resurrection, and other supernatural aspects.

People looking for consolation for this life and the next know that for their hope to be meaningful, there has to be something more than the test-tube and theories. Thus they are looking for affirmations of the spiritual world, not affirmation of dissent. If there is no virgin birth, Christ is the son of Joseph as Sprague says, or of a "blond German soldier stationed in the Roman outpost of Palestine," as another modernist theologian speculated, or take your pick. If there is no incarnation, there's no salvation from the Creator, no one has come for us. If there's no resurrection, we are all, as St. Paul writes in the New Testament, doomed. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable," (1 Corinthians 15:19). But why, if they hadn't seen the evidence and handled it and passed it on themselves, were so many thousands willing to die for their right and choice to believe it in the first century, and in the twentieth?

The following feedback was received after the first entry on this topic appeared on Wednesday.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Hi Jon,

I don't often get a chance to read your references but I did go to the one yesterday on the Bishop's dissent.

Although I have been raised in and have adhered to a very fundamentalist brand of Christianity, I must admit that a strict interpretation of the miraculous Virgin Birth and Resurrection have been difficult for me to accept or at least understand. And without the Virgin Birth and Resurrection what is there to make Christians unique from other religions. All the local ministers I have heard preaching on the Resurrection point to it and boast with pride that only Christianity has a "Living Savior." I don't have the intellect or education to follow all the Bishop's reasoning but I do understand enough to believe his thoughts would be very disconcerting to many if not most Christians.

While I don't believe his theories or thoughts on Christ and Christianity, I do see a potential for such a belief forging a road toward the blending of some of the religions of the world. When Christian's accept unconditionally the words of Christ as reported by John, "I am the Way and no one comes to the Father except through Me," they exclude and condemn the rest of the world. Many other faiths find this exclusionary attitude of Christians to be very arrogant. For instance, when I was in college I met a Chinese girl and when we got on the subject of religion one day she became very upset and asked me this question. "How do you Christians and Jews have the audacity to believe that God would wait around to make you His chosen people and give you the only path to Heaven? My people were civilized when you guys were still living in caves. The Jews added mysticism to their history and called it religion. You Christians bought into their arrogance then carried it a step farther and cut them out as well as the rest of humanity" The Bishop's ideas of Christ and his humanness lets the door open for an eventual blending of other religions and their quest for Heaven.

—David Caldwell

Signs across America

 

—Sent by Sallie Covolo

Thought for today

If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing.

—Blaise Pascal
French mathematician, scientist, 17th Century

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