Western Christians are all heretics!

Lets face it, every Christian is a heretic in some way.

Perhaps you think that "Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as Son of God" by the descent of the Spirit on him. Heretic! That is called adoptionism.

Perhaps you think Jesus was created by God. Heretic! That is called Arianism.

Think Jesus had a divine side and a separate human side? You heretical Nestorianist!

Think that humans have a divine soul that is trapped in a body? Gnostic!  

Think icons are idols to be destroyed? Iconoclasm was deemed heretical by Nicea II in 787.

Ever talk about the Trinity is like water in that it can be three things (solid, liquid or gas) but is still one thing? Modalism

Think the trinity is like an egg where there are three different parts to the whole? I ought to trump you up on charges of Partialism!

I could go on. We are all heretics by someone elses (past or present) understanding of what is orthodox.

So before you or I begin to argue and condemn a fellow Christ follower we view as unorthodox or heretical or holds views that are "counter to the word of God", slow down and breath and perhaps you too will see that we all are heretical in some form or fashion but that does not mean they are evil/bad/horrible/jerks who desire nothing more than to destroy the church and blaspheme against God. 

It could just be that everyone is trying the best they can to describe the indescribable. 

Originally published August 25 2014

Treating the Bible as Idol rather than Icon?

My wife bought me an icon of Elijah sitting and being fed by God through the delivery system of ravens. It has been with me now for over a month and I have worked to integrate it into my prayer life. When I have shown it to people the questions immediately come up:

What do the Greek words at the top of the icon mean? Is it significant that his robe and the water are the same color or that the tree in the bottom right corner has a branch broken off? What

These are not very interesting questions. Looking at this icon and asking questions about what can be seen is missing what the icon is pointing to. This icon, like all icons point to the unseen. For instance, this icon points the one who is praying to a deep truth about patience and waiting and trust. You cannot measure these things, but we can trust in them. 

What makes an icon different from an idol is that the idol is dedicated to point to itself. The idol claims all that is powerful and meaningful is contained in the idol itself. We need not look beyond the idol to find "meaning". Idols can only point to themselves, while icons point to that which is beyond.

The difference between icons and idols is relevant when discussing our relationship with the Bible. There are many Christians who get tripped up with what the authority of the Bible really means and treat the Bible as an idol. Meaning that the Bible is the only place that God ever has or ever will speak. Using words like inerrant and infallible are attempts to elevate scripture but in reality it only lowers scripture to dead words on a page. The Bible is not an idol, it is more an icon that points us to the divine love that calls all things into being. 

The first step in moving away from idolizing the Bible is to stop asking what does the Bible say and ask what does the Bible point us to? 

Now we are talking icon. 

Love Does Not Exist

My love list is similar to many. I love God, my spouse and children. I love lemon chills and vacations. I love putting in a good days worth of work and I love Sabbath. However, the Christian life is one that comes to see that love does not exist.

This is not to say that love is not real. Love is very real. But love does not exist as an object that we can identify. Or to echo John Caputo, Love does not exist, it insists. What does that mean? Here is an example.

When I walk through a park I see a lot of things. I also do not see a lot of things. I walk through the park and walk past 100 people and don't see them. These people are like other things in the park - objects. The people might as well be trees or benches and I just don't see them. 

However, the moment I walk past my son I instantly see him. I can tell you the color of his eyes and what he was wearing. I can tell you if he was happy or upset or if he was pretending to be a Jedi knight fighting off the bad guys from Skylanders with his fellow good guys from Paw Patrol. I can walk past him and when I see him he is not an object - he is a subject. It was love that pulled him from crowd and into my view. from the background to the foreground. When we experience love, we are responding to the invitation of love to not see something or someone as an object but as a subject. To "objectify" someone is to not experience love for that person. 

This is why love insists. Love is everywhere, insisting all things into existence. If there was no love then all things would evaporate. One Bible writer says that God is love, and we all know that God is not an object. God is the animating force of all things. God is not a thing - God calls all things into being. Without the Love of God then it all ends. Or to put it another way, love never fails.


Mad Men Having More Influence on Evangelism than Jesus

If you consume any sort of media these days you will find that advertising is more annoying than ever. Not long ago, we would sit through commercials because we did not have the ability to speed through them. (Who can forget the most famous introduction to commercial breaks: Chuck Woolery said the Love Connection will be back "2 and 2".) Today however, banner ads on websites are ignored, pop ups are blocked and pre-roll ads are universally deemed annoying. So when we do have to experience an ad we feel like we are being subjected to something that we did not sign up for. 

Essentially, advertisers are the uninvited guests to a dinner party.

The television show "Mad Men" glorified the advertising model of something you might call caught and taught. This was the time of no skipping or blocking ads. It was the time of limited media channels. It was a time when every ad was seen by a vast majority of Americans because no one had any choice - people were caught. The ad's job then was to capitalize on this caught audience. The viewer was "taught" about the product/service and saw the desired benefits. Today, the closet thing we may have to the "caught and taught" is each year with the Super Bowl. 

The "caught and taught" understanding of advertising is not only annoying it is now obsolete. Truth be told, I have never seen an episode of Mad Men! We all are consuming media in a dramatically different way than was previously possible and advertising is trying to figure out how to stay relevant. 

For many in the Church, "doing evangelism" is thought of in the same terms of the "caught and taught" method. It is thought that you go to a place where people are "caught" (street corners, subways, buses, parks, etc.) then proceed to teach the Gospel. More sophisticated versions of caught and taught evangelism include building a relationship with someone with the intent to teach them about Jesus. If we are going to use methods of "caught and taught" for evangelism, that is just fine we just need to remember one thing: Evangelists are the uninvited guest at the dinner party. 

No one appreciates a dinner guest who shows up and begins to comment how they are better cooks and select better wine than you do. No one appreciates a guest who talks only about topics she/he wants to talk about. No one appreciates a guest who stops does not listen but only waits for their turn to talk again. 

When we "do" evangelism it is important to remember that evangelism is sharing of Good News. This means that it is contextual. Good News to the addict is not the same Good News to the single mother of three. Evangelism influenced by Mad Men is more interrupting and agenda driven. Evangelism influenced by Jesus is more listening and following.