A battle cry for Christian reform

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Q. You've said that the "WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?" model is too simplistic. How would those people who get out of the stands proceed? What I want to say is that we have to listen to Jesus' teaching. If "What Would Jesus Do?" means "How can we live our lives in a way that's pleasing to Jesus?" then I think that's a great question.

The problem is, we have to account for the differences between the first century and the 21st century. So if Jesus went from one place to another, he would walk and take a donkey. We take a bus or a plane, maybe.

Then we have to deal with other differences in context. For example, Jesus lived in a monarchy; we live in a democracy. So, Jesus never voted. But I think if he were here, he would vote. And Jesus never really talked about elections, because there weren't any. But if he were here today, he might talk about that.

Q. You want a deeper reading of the Gospels...

Exactly. One of our problems is that some people don't take the Bible seriously. They just dismiss it. And then other people claim to take the Bible seriously, but they read it in a very simplistic way. I think what we need to do is have people read the Bible with maturity and depth. And take it seriously.

It is hard to put into words my level of agreement with that last section which I put in bold. Read it all.





Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyTheology: Scripture

15 Comments
Posted January 27, 2008 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Adam 12 wrote:

Regarding the Bible, many I know don’t take it seriously because they think they know already what is inside it. That false image gives them an excuse for dismissing it. Of course, when it comes to opening scripture, no one is truly prepared for that adventure.

January 27, 7:48 am | [comment link]
2. Ken Peck wrote:

While we are putting Jesus’ teaching as reported in the gospels, perhaps we might consider that “homosexuality” and abortion were not the issue among the 1st century Palestinian Jews that the disparity between the rich and the poor were. Preaching against same sex cohabitation and abortion to that audience would have been “preaching to the choir.” Those were things that those pagan Romans and Greeks did, the Jews knew they were against Torah. Perhaps if Jesus had been preaching in Corinth his message might have been a bit different.

January 27, 8:21 am | [comment link]
3. Ken Peck wrote:

P.S., Jesus’ did tell us to heal the sick. Universal health care isn’t beyond the pale for Christian activism.

January 27, 8:22 am | [comment link]
4. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Ken Peck [#3] writes: ‘Preaching against same sex cohabitation and abortion to that audience would have been “preaching to the choir.” Those were things that those pagan Romans and Greeks did, the Jews knew they were against Torah.

Which raises an interesting possibility: A) Those particular “things that those pagan Romans and Greeks did” were known to the early church; B)  the early church’s accounts of Jesus’ teachings stressed other things, like the disparity between rich and poor, and didn’t rail against those things the pagans did. It follows that C) in the scheme of things, perhaps the early church wasn’t all that concerned about those things the pagans did. Which suggests D) today’s so-called conservative Christians might be getting themselves all worked up about things that didn’t seem especially to have troubled the men who actually knew Jesus in his lifetime.

January 27, 9:52 am | [comment link]
5. small "c" catholic wrote:

CT’s John Wilson has a thoughtful response to McLaren:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/january/24.59.html
I agree with him that it is McLaren’s ahistoricism (it seems to imply that no one, up until the emergents, has ever gotten it right) that is most problematic.

January 27, 9:54 am | [comment link]
6. Ken Peck wrote:

D. C. wrote, “the early church’s accounts of Jesus’ teachings stressed other things, like the disparity between rich and poor, and didn’t rail against those things the pagans did.”

Well, perhaps the early church didn’t “rail against those things the pagans did, but they certainly did rail against those things when Christians did them. For example, Paul rails against sexual immorality in the church at Corinth. (He really did have very little to say about the disparities between rich and poor.) And both homosexuality (as well as other forms of sexual immorality) and abortion are condemned in the Didache. And as you procede into the later church record, the Fathers generally allowed for two forms of “sexuality”—that of marriage between a man and a woman and that of celibacy. And perhaps their Christian audience understood that to preclude alternative sexual arrangements.

January 27, 10:27 am | [comment link]
7. RickW wrote:

“Jesus’ did tell us to heal the sick. Universal health care isn’t beyond the pale for Christian activism.”

kEN,  You have to be careful on that one.  Universal health Care is not what it seems.  What it is, can only be described as a different method of rationing health care among people than by economic status.  Currently in the US, Those who can affford it, get quicker care than those who can’t.

Jesus said “heal the sick, with an understanding that heaven has unlimited resources for that activity (the power of the Holy spirit and all that). 

Universal health care is a political point, one that is run by a government and will by no means be run as Jesus would have run it.  Once we get to a Universal system, the choices will be made according to interest groups - Children over the elderly, Diabetes in favor of the Alchoholics.  Unless we expand the delivery systems and even if we do, the scare resources of an economy will be measured out as best as a bureauocrat can manage.  Is that How jesus would
have dont it?

I only bring this up to make sure that we don’t confuse Kendall’s point that we “have people read the Bible with maturity and depth. And take it seriously.”

“The poor you will always have” is both a charge and a recognition of a condition.  There are poor people in our midst - take care of them.  There will alway be poor people to take care of, or if we run out of good things to do, the poor we will always have.

Since I have no medical training, I can do as the 12 or the 72 did and heal (pray for) the sick.  My efficacy rate may be as good as the trained physician, who’s to know?  If enough of us did that, perhaps we would have universal coverage after all?

Again, lets all quit the sniping about the rest of the article and take the Bible seriously. 

Pray, be humble, take risks, repent, encourage, offer grace everywhere it is not deserved, Love, make peace, refuse to receive our enemies as enemies, help people get free from bondages, tell people about Jesus, bring people to Jesus, heal in the name of Jesus, live our lives as representatives of Jesus, celebrate with Jesus, .....

January 27, 3:47 pm | [comment link]
8. Bob from Boone wrote:

Kendall, thanks so much for posting this interview. Yesterday, Phyllis Tickle gave a day-long workshop at my parish on the “emerging church” movement and drew from the work of McLaren, whom she has worked with, and others. The presentation was a fascinating one and led to a lively discussion this morning in our Adult Forum as to how this movement relates to the life of our parish and our Anglican tradition. We hope to continue this discussion with our bishop when he comes in a few weeks for a Lenten visit.

Tickle, McLaren and others in the movement see the emerging church movement as the outcome of 150 years of events and discoveries that have brought the 500-year hegemony of the Protestant reformation to an end and spawned the beginning of a 21st century Reformation in which the emerging church movement will be at the center. Tickle asserts that in Anglicanism, there are traditions (e.g., the via media) and other resourcs (our rich liturgical tradition) that is already serving segments of the emergents movement. She, McLaren and others think that in tens years or more this movement will became the dominant one in North America, drawing worshippers from all of the major church traditions (liturgical, social justice,
renewalists (pentecostals;charismatics”) and conservatives/evangelicals) to become the centerpiece of American Christianity, and that in 60 years the landscape of religion in America will have profoundly changed.

What are the implications of Anglicanism, especially given the conflicts within the American church and the whole Communion? It would be good to have the opportunity to discuss this with an appropriate posting.

Finally, I was most impressed with McLaren’s positions and found myself in agreement with almost all that he said about orthopraxis. I think the Jesus he has come to know is the one I also find in the gospels, even more and more as I teach them yearly.

January 27, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
9. Milton wrote:

Tickle, McLaren and others in the movement see the emerging church movement as the outcome of 150 years of events and discoveries that have brought the 500-year hegemony of the Protestant reformation to an end and spawned the beginning of a 21st century Reformation in which the emerging church movement will be at the center.

Yes, at the center of a vortex sucking down the unwary into the pit of “Hath God really said?”

January 27, 5:30 pm | [comment link]
10. Philip Snyder wrote:

D.C.  you wrote: 

It follows that C) in the scheme of things, perhaps the early church wasn’t all that concerned about those things the pagans did. Which suggests D) today’s so-called conservative Christians might be getting themselves all worked up about things that didn’t seem especially to have troubled the men who actually knew Jesus in his lifetime.

I have two points of argument.  First, perhaps the authors of the Gospels weren’t putting their messages in Jesus’ mouth, but were accurately reflecting the words and concerns and focus of Jesus.  Thus they show the concerns of a 1st century Jew living in Nazareth, Galilee. and Jerusalem.  Second, we can see from Paul’s writings and from the Acts of the Apostles, that sexual immorality was a concern - you might even say major concern - of the early Christians.  In almost every sin list, Paul discusses sexual immorality and the Apostles in Acts 15 make sexual morality one of the things that gentiles must do to become Christians (well, they make sexual immorality something that the gentiles must not do).

How, then, should we live as Christians in todays’ world?  Should we make provision for those that are sick among us, but cannot afford hospitals or drugs or doctor visits?  I believe that we should, but we should not make that provision a government entitlement.  We should work to provide hospitals and doctors and drugs for those who cannot afford it.  The question comes down to what level of care?  I don’t know of any doctor that would proscribe a heart transplant for a 90 year old person.  Who determines what level of care people should get?  Right now, it is determined by ability to pay, but if we change the system, then are you comfortable with government bureaucrats making your health care decisions for you?

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

January 27, 6:38 pm | [comment link]
11. Now Orthodox wrote:

#4 I suggest 1Timothy 5:8 is the correct approach to health care and the like!

Helping ALL those in need that we are able to help is who I believe Christ would have us do!
Peace,
Barry

January 27, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
12. Northwest Bob wrote:

...some people don’t take the Bible seriously.  ... what we need to do is have people read the Bible with maturity and depth ...

The first step to having people do either of the above is to convince them to read it.  It takes about 18 hours to read the New Testiment out loud.  At five minutes per day, say, in the morning, it takes about seven months to read it through.  Plus it just brightens up your day.  You do not have to be a religious scholar to let God speak to you through the His word.  Just read it and let it soak in.  If you combine this with daily prayer and regular church attendance at a faithful church, you are on your way to Christian maturity. 

It would take the better part of three years to do the same with the Old Testiment.  But this is not a race.  If you up the ration to about 15 minutes a day in the OT you would probably be through it a year. 

I realize it may seem simplistic to say that in order to understand the Bible you have to read it.  Maybe I am just a simple kind of guy. 

Bless you all in your walk with God.

In the Faith,
Northwest Bob

January 27, 11:48 pm | [comment link]
13. Pb wrote:

To argue that something is ok if Jesus did not preach against it opens the door to all sort of evil. I will not waste the space to list examples since they are so obvious and numerous.

January 28, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
14. libraryjim wrote:

NorthwestBob,
Last year I got my wife a ‘One Year Bible’ for Christmas.  It’s great! The books are laid out in order, with a reading from the OT, psalms and NT for each day.  Almost like a lectionary, but will the entire Bible.

It’s a good way to get started for someone who doesn’t know where to begin.

January 28, 2:09 pm | [comment link]
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