Upgrades or changes

There have been a couple of areas where my beliefs have either changed or been upgraded over the past years. Moving to Spain has been an enriching experience, though leaving behind certain connections and contexts in the UK has also been challenging. Getting embedded in a land and its history inevitably opens up fresh perspectives, and coming into a land that a) holds some keys to the release of the Pauline Gospel, b) has submerged aspects of that Gospel of freedom under myth and religion and c) held on to the alignment of religious and secular power – epitomised geographically in Escorial, ironically the place where many evangelical and charismatic gatherings take place! – has provoked fresh thoughts. (Now that sentence was way too long, what it could have said was: living in Spain has provoked fresh thoughts.)

Two crosses ~ two Gospels ~ two Gods?

I have certainly come to believe there are two crosses. The implication is that at best we have a variation on the Gospel as a result… two ‘Gods’ might be pushing it too far.

Two crosses – the Constantinian one that can be placed on the sword and shield, or placed above Franco’s tomb or placed on war memorials as per the Knights Templar’s cross does not, for me, stand for the cross, nor is it a variation of the true cross. A means by which the powers could take life being transformed into a means by which we can take life in the name of the life-GIVER is not a variation on a theme but a perversion of the true cross. A few posts back I posted a video of Dani Mateo dancing at la valle de los caidos, where two years ago we went to pray. His dance has not been appreciated by one and all, but he has been clear that this is not a dance of disrespect about religion saying that there are Christians who do not accept the cross there and its symbolism as the true cross. Count us in Dani!!

We are about to travel to take the first step of repentance with respect to the expulsion of the Muslims. This is not about ‘reconquering Spain’ for God. Spain belongs to Jesus, through creation and redemption. For those of us in Christ we are told to see that there is a new creation. If anything this will be a step of repentance with respect to a false conquering. That is not to lay blame at the feet of those who went before. I find that Scripture lays responsibility at the feet of every current generation, for how they respond in their generation and how they respond to what has been inherited in the land from previous generations.

There are major implications on which cross we believe in. Success, legislation and if need be imposition seems to follow the one. The other takes us on a path of servanthood and seeking the release of others. Of course the reality is that we probably all as followers of Christ adhere to a mixture of both crosses. However, what we focus on will shape how we seek to outwork the Gospel…

Two Gospels? That is a tough one to answer. I tick the ‘born-again’ box but struggle with / object to the approach that objectifies people as potential gospel fodder, that manipulates friendships for that purpose. I have to come close to thinking that approach (whatever the ensuing words) is another Gospel. I vacillate on which side of that I come down on – a variation or a different Gospel.

Two Gods…? First I need to accept that I do not have a true picture of the One true God. And any deviance from a true Jesus-image where my God becomes a non-Jesus looking God I have to accept as false. This is why I do not accept ‘allah’ as presented by Islam as ‘God’. The true God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who as exact image reveals him. Nuancing this though means I do not have to believe that all Muslims using the name ‘allah’ are not connecting to the true God, nor do I rule out the possibility that those who inject ‘Christian elements’ into their proclamation of God are in touch with the true God. Hatred, violence, and a ‘dehumanisation’ of others justified in the name of God / the Christian faith not only does not reflect well on God but does not reflect God at all.

The aspect of dehumanisation is definitely been an upgrade for me. I wrestled with how an atheist could have values that shaped them. ‘Good’ atheists can have values and they might manifest in terms of creation-care or carrying a conviction about justice. I decided that if anyone can see someone else, walk in their shoes, desire their well-being that they have a strong basis for values. Believing in God calls me to carry values for those around and beyond me. The OT laws are a strong evidence of this. The Jewish faith was not a ‘tick the box I have done my Sabbath duty’ kind of faith. It was to be deeply impacting on their society and beyond.

I am not an atheist (hope no surprise there!!) as I have had too many experiences and view the world with too much mystery as to be one, but have deep respect to those who are by honest conviction. If they also ‘see’ humanity they might be denying faith in God but they are in part seeing as God sees. There is a unique claim attached to humanity… the image of God. If a person, with or without faith, can truly see others, there is only step further they can go. They can see Jesus the one and only truly human. This value, of seeing others, has become a hugely shaping factor in how we believe God judges what is done. Even when it is done not in the name of Jesus I would believe this makes a contribution to the age to come.


4 thoughts on “Upgrades or changes

  1. Hi Martin, thanks for all this, very helpful and interesting as always.

    Can I just check what you said in the second half of this sentence (under Two Gods):
    ‘I do not have to believe that all Muslims using the name ‘allah’ are not connecting to the true God, nor do I rule out the possibility that those who inject ‘Christian elements’ into their proclamation of God are in touch with the true God.’
    Are you saying those professing to be Christian but dehumanising others are still in connection with the one true God? Or that they may not be?

    On a slightly different tack:
    It is good to hear you say the first bit and I think what you said in the previous post about definitions is true. In my discussions with some Jehovahs Witnesses, I have come to realise that the terms and language we use, often enlarge the differences in understanding/interpretation of scripture, which in some cases are in fact only marginal, at least in the case of the individuals with whom I have been speaking. (Two crosses, or one cross and one ‘torture stake’?).

    Whilst I believe that much Watchtower teaching is false and its followers are blinded to some important things. As you said, I recognise I do not have the perfect view either. It seems as individuals, we are all on a journey, understanding things the best we can with the information available to us. I cannot judge whether or not they are ‘saved’ or connecting with the one true God, and vise-versa. So rather than judging each other ‘right’ or ‘wrong, let’s relate and communicate and help each other get a fuller picture.

    Practicing or preaching Jehovahs Witness-ism (?) has recently been banned in Russia as ‘extremism’. I don’t fully understand the situation, so please excuse me.
    But I wonder, should we be pleased that the false teaching of the Watchtower and JW ‘cult’ is being restricted? Or should we identify with Jehovahs Witnesses as fellow sojourners and feel as we would if our own denomination had been banned? (Not saying JWs are only a different denomination). I understand that this is part of a bigger picture of in which anything but the Orthodox Church is being persecuted in Russia, which perhaps makes me more inclined to feel the latter, but not only for that reason.
    I don’t suppose they would necessarily welcome the support of (‘pagan’/not ‘true’) Christians, but I don’t feel comfortable aligning myself with the ‘triumph’ of them being banned? Is that an obvious/outragious position?

    Jehovah’s Witnesses may not seem very relevant (few seem bothered about them) but it has been helpful in thinking about other religions/belief systems*, including atheism. Causing me to think we would do well to approach those with differing views, with respect with the desire to journey together rather than focussing on and seeking to correct or conquer!?

    *You previously recommended some books to me on this subject, but I lost the details before I managed to get hold of any of them. I would be very grateful if you could give me them again please?
    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Melanie
      Maybe your comments are more profound than my post… they are musings but a little more than that too, so let me have a go at making some sort of replies.

      I think the difficulty of evangelicals that we share so much with – and really seem to share the same holy Spirit – and then you read /meet those who seem happy to dehumanise others. I have an ‘ouch’ and a how closely related are we kind of question. There are so many warnings in scripture that I am not to hold over others (‘i never knew you’) but are sobering indeed. As you go on with your comment and the JW scenario just highlights. Are they outside because of their beliefs? They are not orthdox… but maybe Islam (in some forms) which has a place for Jesus is also in the same category. After all surely Joseph Smith (Mormonism) has a place for Jesus too and a prophet. A lot of evangelicals were happy to allow Mormonism in when the potential candidate was a Mormon!! It is just a little messy. I hope I am not making a ‘god’ out of humanising / dehumanising – it has become such a feature in how we feel challenged to relate to people.

      Banning false religions or allowing them freedom and how we respond as believers is so challenging. I am not looking for the spread of anything false, and I still rejoice gladly when there are those who respond to the born again call, even if the process involved kinds of evangelism that dehumanised. Maybe I have to work through that, maybe it is a hangover from my past, or maybe people touched by the Spirit is so central to the heart of the Gospel. I think so and believe so deeply, though understand the Gospel in a much wider context.

      So far then your comments have outscored my response!!!

      Books – I cannot remember what books I suggested, but certainly the one by Brian MacLaren on Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road was very helpful indeed. The early part also introduced me to Derek Flood and his book Disarming Scripture. I suppose though I have assimilated my thinking from many different influences.

  2. Glad to see, throughout this series, that you consider your evolution as a positive development. An upgrade, rather than a downgrade! It’s nice to know we are always able to learn if we are willing to be challenged and changed. Life would be very dull and more than a bit depressing if we all just sat and stayed where we began.

    More seriously, it is an interesting exercise to take the time to think and reflect on one’s shifts and changes. Probably something more of us should do at least once in a while.

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