Thinking out loud

Water to WineWe have begun to read Brian Zahnd’s book Water into Wine. Loving it. Worth it for the following quote:

Over time I began to see the cross in a much deeper way – not as a mere factor in an atonement theory equation, but as the moment in time and space where God reclaimed creation.

We stopped reading at that sentence as it is so full of content. What a reclamation – not the planting of a flag, a show of strength and the killing of the enemy. The cross was planted, there is a total yielding to all hostile powers and the Prince of Life is killed.

Loving the book. So now to my thinking out loud. Brian tells his story of a courageous journey from a charismatic-flavoured evangelicalism to an eclectic embrace where he sees that all versions of Christianity have generally the same amount of truth. We certainly benefited from his understanding, and coming from my sectarian (I use the term sociologically) background a helpful kick up the rear. And it is here that I am thinking out loud… there are many approaches to ‘church’, but I wonder are there three sources of thought? So trying this out.

1) The sectarian approach. This of course is always rampant in all faiths. Judaism had its sects – Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes etc. The nature of a sect is that it shares the world view of the wider group but believes it adheres to the implications of that world view more faithfully. Protestantism broadly fits this and of course the more fanatical we become the more we fit the description. ‘We have studied the Scriptures and now we have the biblical pattern of…’ I must not write too much on this as I feel such a confirmation of how right I am coming on.

2) The church with all its faults is what God has given, with its creeds, history, structures etc., all as part of the richness of the mystery. The church can then be really seen as a sacrament. Ecumenical generosity and finding an appropriate place to dock then would be two very sensible follow-ons. I am not looking to label people, but seems Zahnd, MacLaren, Wright and a whole bunch of other amazing people seem to fit in here. It might be that a number who have been in the sectarian camp find this a very healthy way to grow and express their faith.

3) The church has to find its setting in the world. It is part of the world and responsible for the world. It is not institutional but a movement and therefore contingent. Leading to finding dynamic relationships that might / might not be geographically based; more open to God being involved in a whole set of situations beyond the Christian faith; open to politico-social movements and willing to connect with them. Neither demanding nor negating personal salvation. (OK a rough go at describing a position.)

So thinking out loud, and letting it hang out there. Is the third position just a variation of the first? Is it the first but influenced by elements from the second? Is it the second without some of the sacramental elements? Or is it truly a third way? YES of course it is. OOPS, my unbiased viewpoint shaped by my history and my interpretation that of course I am on the right path nearly came out there. Must remember never to open up as to what I really think and hold all opinions to myself.


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