Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lord, Liar, or Lunatic

There's an argument levied against those who would entertain the idea that Jesus was a great wisdom (moral) teacher. Lewis' Trilemma.

C.S. Lewis called it Lord, Liar, or Lunatic, suggesting that you only have 3 options as to what you believe Jesus could be.

In chapter 2 of The Alpha Course Manual, the author attempts to establish Jesus’ status as God by appealing to human reason and using logic. He does this by quoting C.S. Lewis,
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher” he’d either be insane or else he’d be the “devil from hell”. “You must make your choice,” he writes. Either Jesus was and is the Son of God, or else He was insane but, C.S. Lewis goes on, “Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” The Alpha Course Manual, pg. 10
The Alpha Course begins this process of educating by offering up logical possibilities as to Jesus’ status.

What this point really is saying is the same thing that Sherlock Holmes said in The Sign of Four:
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
My problem lies in its methodology (and even possibly in its potential of manipulation).

They are appealing to our logic to accept the only possibility left – no matter how incredible it may seem to the modern mind, while deliberately sidestepping an equally possible answer. That the gospel stories themselves could be opinions or partially fabricated stories by unknown authors, or written as response to other wittings, or even influenced or tainted by previously established doctrines.

Like Sherlock Holmes said, once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable (or undesirable), must be the truth.

Although the Alpha Course is attempting to educate or teach, what it is beginning is the process of indoctrination; teaching what to think rather than how to think. I don't believe it is intentional, but I do believe it is a byproduct of Bible-worship; the bible being believed to be unquestionable.

The books of the Old Testament are listed chronologically. However, the books of the New Testament are not. The four gospels come first, followed by the Pauline Epistles and other shorter letters. I've wondered why. The fact of the matter is that all of Paul's letters chronologically occur first and therefore outdate the gospels. One conclusion I've come to is that Christianity as we have it today is based upon a Pauline construct. I believe Paul made Jesus Christian. However, Jesus (Yeshua) preached and taught“the Kingdom of God”, but what he got was the Church. The gospels (not only written significantly after Paul's letters and the beginning of the established orthodox doctrine, but even after his death) may very well have been tainted by this Pauline Christianity. There is significant evidence of editing and additions and tampering, possibly for doctrinal purposes. (1 John 5:8, the endings of Mark, etc.). But, again in the spirit of fairness and open mindedness, it is also possible that they were not.

I am left only with the idea that the truth of the Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth is so enmeshed and coddled as to be inaccessible, hidden and even unknowable. I am fully aware that many Christians will argue that the Bible is inerrant and without contradiction and that any perceived contradiction is the fault of the reader who doesn't fully understand...
... there's not much to say to this. This is a statement of belief, not fact. It is also an admission to the abandonment or lack of objectivity and willingness to learn.

(Excerpt from Oct. 4, 2009's Above and Beyond Christianity: a summation)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Economic Business Model

I think "church" should be who we are and what we do more than where and how we do it.

I believe when somethings become an industry their core principle and purpose becomes compromised. I believe the institutional church has become an industry.

I don't believe church should be based upon an economic business model, and I believe "church" as we traditionally/generally understand it today is. Church has been based upon an economic business model. Church has ceased to be what it's original purpose was and has become an industry. One key element in any viable industry is that it must be self-supporting or self-renewing.

I've been accused by some of taking the easiest way - the path of least resistance- of following a belief-system yet not committing to the burden and responsibility of a church and the obligations that go with it. Kinda like going out with a girl but not committing to marriage - trying to have the best of both worlds.

But I would disagree. In fact, my path leaves me very vulnerable and is far from the path of least resistance. Since I haven't supported that church I shouldn't rely upon it's services. Since I haven't invested in that church I shouldn't become one of it's services' consumers.

I run another real risk because I also know how supportive a caring community can be in difficult times. I am also aware that if or when those times befall me and my family (and I pray they won't) that I can expect little or no support. After all, I chose not to pay into this system - I chose not to pay my "spiritual insurance premiums". Is that why we're to go to and support our local churches? Is it really nothing more than a disguised insurance company? I know it shouldn't be.

I believe in the business of church.
I just don't believe in Church as Business.

The institutional church needs to abandon the Economic Business Model.

What are some of the more practical and mundane “tools of the trade” (for pastors/church leaders)? A cell phone, a computer with Internet, an email account, a telephone, an office, and a vehicle. What would the monthly expense for these things be? How do you afford these things? (And this doesn’t even touch upon the fact that you also need to pay your mortgage and feed your family). In a word, parishioners. There exists a very real, very practical aspect of church today that necessitates a Business Model. It’s a simply fact of economics. Bills need to be paid. Money needs to be made. Take away the money and the bills don’t get paid. Take away parishioners and you take away the numbers. Take away the numbers and the money goes away.

I find this disturbing. I hear talk about trying to emulate church leadership after the New Testament times with its pastors and elders, and presbyters, etc., but what I repeatedly see is the Economic Business Model. I don’t believe Jesus and His Disciples’ ministry was based upon this model.

Before we can even begin to entertain how church is “done” and before we can begin even asking the question, we must first look at changing how the most basic, practical, and mundane issues of how it is managed is done. How do we pay the rent? Or, maybe, even that’s asking the wrong question. Should we even be paying rent? The church does not need a roof over her head. The church is a Corporate Entity, but it is not a person like you and me.

But church, as this Corporate Entity, has a roof over her head while individual people are left out in the cold of a spiritual wilderness. And I don’t believe this is what the Lord had ever intended.

Jesus said that He had sheep of other folds (John 10:16). He also repeatedly told Peter to “Feed my lambs”. “Take care of my sheep”. “Feed my sheep”. (John 21:15-17). So the question begs to be asked: Why does the church have a roof over her head while there are people left out in the cold of a spiritual wilderness?