Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things that make me a heretic (in some people's eyes):

1. I don't believe it is necessary to have a building in order to have church (a building can be a great resource but it can also be a terrible drain on resources).
2. I don't believe it is necessary to have a pastor, priest or pope in order to have church (in fact, having such an authority figure or hierarchy tends to be an impediment to a church functioning the way it was intended. I should mention that I attend a church which does have a pastor, but she does a great job of functioning as a facilitator of community rather than as an authority over a congregation).
3. I don't believe that sermons are needed (in fact, I think they get in the way of a church gathering functioning the way it was intended).
4. I believe we are commanded to give to the poor, not tithe to the church.
5. I don't believe in a Hell of eternal torment (rather, I believe that God will ultimately reconcile everyone to Himself. This view is called Christian Universalism).
6. I don't think the books of Genesis (6a) or Revelation (6b) were meant to be taken literally.
6a. As a result, I don't subscribe to the doctrine of Original Sin.
6b. As a result, I don't subscribe to the "Left Behind" view of the End Times. The position I hold is called Preterism.
7. I don't believe that people are inherently evil. Rather, we are capable of both great good and great evil. We suffer, not from Original Sin, but from Chronic Sin.
8. I don't need the Bible to be inerrant or infallible. It is a collection of documents recording people's encounters with God. These documents come from various perspectives and use various literary styles. The Bible is inspired and highly valuable to understanding who God is, but it is also highly susceptible to misinterpretation. I think the only way to have a shot at consistently understanding the Bible with any measure of accuracy is to have (or have access to those who have) fluency in the Hebrew, Chaldean and Koine Greek languages and a good understanding of ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures. In addition to (and superseding) this, the Holy Spirit is here to be our teacher and guide. We can drink directly from the same fountain that inspired the scriptures. As John Wimber used to say of the Bible, "This is the menu. It is not the meal. The menu describes the meal." The meal is the indwelling, living presence of God: Christ in us; leading, guiding, teaching, restoring, reconciling and bringing about change from the inside out.
9. I believe that what God wants most from us is not correct doctrine but compassion, mercy and lovingkindness, especially towards the poor and marginalized. Our greatest obligation is to love one another and show our love by our actions.
10. I don't have a problem with accepting LGBT persons as fellow followers of Jesus and worthy human beings, entitled to the same civil rights and ministry opportunities as myself
11. I believe that women can do anything in the church that men can do.
12. I do not believe that the Jews are God's chosen people or that Israel is God's chosen nation. I believe that we are all God's chosen people and are all worthy of being treated respectfully and fairly.
13. I believe that God is present and active and speaking, if we just take the time to be still and listen.
14. I believe that war is evil and should only ever be considered as the last option. To enter into war means that we have utterly failed at being what God wants us to be.
15. I believe that a great deal of pagan thought and practice has been layered onto Christianity over the centuries and that our challenge is to strip it away and get back to the basics of what Jesus was all about.
16. I believe that Jesus was the image (ikon/snapshot/xerox) of God and that He came to show us what God is like. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Jesus was, and is, the kindest person you'll ever meet.
17. I don't believe that the point of Jesus' crucifixion was to appease an angry Father God or to pay a ransom to Satan. Rather, it was a demonstration of God's intent to reconcile us to Himself through self-sacrifice. In the crucifixion, Jesus allowed mankind to pour out our evil and hatred and sin upon Him and He took it all in until it killed Him. His subsequent resurrection showed that He was, and is, greater than our evil and hatred and sin. Love wins. And love wins by means of love (see 1 Cor. 13).
18. Instead of focusing on when Jesus will return, I believe we should focus on His presence with us here and now. We should occupy ourselves not by studying eschatological timelines or seeking doctrinal purity or getting more people to come listen to our sermons, but by seeing what Jesus is doing here and now and joining Him in that work. What Jesus tends to be doing here and now seems to revolve around healing, justice for the powerless, reconciliation, restoration, hope and peace. These are signs of the Kingdom of God.
19. I believe that we were designed to live in community. We are at our best when we are living in community and at our worst when we are living in isolation. One of the signs of true community is when we can openly disagree about matters but still be committed to love one-another and be with one-another. Sadly, true community is very rare in modern Western culture. (For more on this topic, I recommend The Different Drum by M. Scott Peck and Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz.)
20. I believe that while studying the Bible, one should be constantly asking, "What did it mean to the original hearers?" If your interpretation of a given scripture would have been meaningless to the original hearers, then your interpretation is wrong.


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