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Is Christian Anarchism an oxymoron?

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Posted

I must acknowledge that the title of this thread is not my own. It has been used by an article I found on the web, and althought I will give the link for reference, I am not going to spend time commenting on it now. Needless to say I hold the view that I do not think it is an oxymoron!

http://www.strike-the-root.com/52/davies/davies1.html

In this post I shall deal with my wife's concern, therefore my apologies to those who have made some comments and presented some questions in my thread on old age, but my wife comes first! In relation to the business of growing old together (my wife and myself), we are both on the firm platform of God's Word, as interpreted for us in the English speaking Bibles. Her concern is the use of the word "anarchy".

When I have ever read any recent serious commentary on anarchism, it always begins by denouncing the common usage and understanding of this word by most people, especially the media and the public utterances of politicians, who have a vested interest in getting anarchism treated in a pejorative way. Anarchy means "chaos", the absence of law and order, violence, and terrorism. I have never identified with these terms. In my younger days, when I did attend one or two political demonstrations, when things turned nasty I always pulled out.

Gregg Boyd puts it very simply:

"I’ll argue that Kingdom people are called to pledge their allegiance to God alone, not to any nation, government, political party or ideology. Because Kingdom people are under the rule of God alone, they are not under any other rule. Kingdom people are thus called to be “anarchists” (meaning without [“an”] human authority [“archy”])."

http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/kingdom-living/christians-and-politics/the-bible-government-and-christian-anarchy/

Of course I read a little about the famous anarchists, Bakunin, Proudhon and Kropotkin, and with my anarchist friends (many of whom were Marxists, I thought) we talked endlessly about means to ends. Power would not be taken from the governments without violent protest and violent revolution, since their power only rested ultimately in the armed forces. Reading Tolstoy, however, was influencial on me, and although he never claimed to be an anarchist, his attitude to the army, to government, to education and to the peasants appealed to me, and I notice now he is a principal reference for Christian Anarchists.

In my teaching I was made aware of Paul Feyerabend. He too abhorred violent means:

"However, anarchism, as has been practised in the past and as it is being practised today by an ever-increasing number of people has features I am not prepared to support. It cares little for human lives and human happiness(except for the lives and happiness of those who belong to some special group); and it contains precisely the kind of Puritanical dedication and seriousness which I detest. ... It is for these reasons that I now prefer to use the term Dadaism. A Dadaist would not hurt a fly - let alone a human being. ..."

("Against Method", footnote, page 21, Verso ed. 1978.)

In my Christian studies I enjoy Hans Kung, and he writes:

" ... and some arguments of Paul K. Feyerabend - the enfant terrible of critical rationalism - are worth considering even if it is impossible to share his anarchical attitude to method ("Anything Goes")."

("Does God Exist?", page 109, Express Reprints, 1996).

Perhaps, as PF suggests, we need a different word. At the moment I am typing Christian Anarchy with capitals. I will not drop the upper case "C" from "Christian", I am open to suggestions about the word "anarchy"! Christian humanism and Christian atheism are in Wiki, and obviously we do not have to say Christian Methodism or Christian Roman Catholicism!

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Posted

... we are both on the firm platform of God's Word, as interpreted for us in the English speaking Bibles. Her concern is the use of the word "anarchy".

... vested interest in getting anarchism treated in a pejorative way. Anarchy means "chaos", the absence of law and order, violence, and terrorism ...

Gregg Boyd puts it very simply:

"I’ll argue that Kingdom people are called to pledge their allegiance to God alone, not to any nation, government, political party or ideology. Because Kingdom people are under the rule of God alone, they are not under any other rule. Kingdom people are thus called to be “anarchists” (meaning without [“an”] human authority [“archy”])." ...

Reading Tolstoy, however, was influencial on me, and although he never claimed to be an anarchist, his attitude to the army, to government, to education and to the peasants appealed to me, and I notice now he is a principal reference for Christian Anarchists.

I certainly understand the reflexive disfavor had for the term "anarchy", but I cannot at the moment think of a better word to use -- especially in association with the terms "Christian" and "Christianity".

Boyd is absolutely correct when he says that Christians' allegiance is supposed to be to God alone. From this it follows that Christians are not (supposed to be) servants of any government (and what is a government other than its laws?); Christian scriptures advise that it is not possible to serve two masters; hence, it can be said, as Boyd does, that Christians are "'anarchists' (meaning without ... human authority ...)."

Boyd's mention of Christians as being "under the rule of God" could be used to deny that Christian anarchy is an actual "absence of law and order" despite there being no authority to human law, because, it could be argued, God's rule occurs by means of God's laws. By this understanding, Christian anarchy is not an "absence of law and order".

This presentation of Christian anarchy comports with the following remark by Tolstoy:

Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is within You, Chapter III, Christianity Misunderstood by Believers In the midst of the elaborate religious observances of Judaism, in which, in the words of Isaiah, law was laid upon law, and in the midst of the Roman legal system worked out to the highest point of perfection, a new doctrine appeared, which denied not only every deity, and all fear and worship of them, but even all human institutions and all necessity for them. In place of all the rules of the old religions, this doctrine sets up only a type of inward perfection, truth, and love in the person of Christ, and - as a result of this inward perfection being attained by men - also the outward perfection foretold by the Prophets - the kingdom of God ...

However, Tolstoy also seems to be intimating an understanding of Christianity which would be a more radical sort of anarchism, one of order without the rule of law.

Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is within You, Chapter III, Christianity Misunderstood by Believers "If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? ... Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Keep my sayings, and ye shall know of my sayings whether they be true." No proofs of this doctrine were offered except its truth, the correspondence of the doctrine with truth. The whole teaching consisted in the recognition of truth and following it, in a greater and greater attainment of truth, and a closer and closer following of it in the acts of life. There are no acts in this doctrine which could justify a man and make him saved. There is only the image of truth to guide him ... the person of Christ ... The greater or less blessedness of a man depends, according to this doctrine, not on the degree of perfection to which he has attained, but on the greater or less swiftness with which he is pursuing it.

Some may be inclined to understand the insistence to love as a rule or a law, but love is far more indefinite (while being, in a sense, more real, certainly more authentic, and having more genuine authority) than are what are most commonly considered to be rules or laws. So, the Christian emphasis on love seems rather more like guidance than well defined law, and the call to love hardly seems to be something which can be satisfied so easily as can be the requirements laid out by a law:

Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is within You, Chapter III, Christianity Misunderstood by Believers Blessedness consists in progress toward perfection; to stand still in any condition whatever means the cessation of this blessedness.

For Christians, the person of Christ is guidance; the imitation of this person can provide initial direction, but there would hardly seem to be any laws which would correspond with the person of Christ whom sets an example.

The difficulty with comprehending lawless Christianity is that its orderliness does not become apparent until love -- and goodness -- are experienced. Not experienced as given to or as being received by one's self; rather, experienced from within or as one's self.

Michael

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Posted

I think Boyd is wrong -- a Christian's duty is not to God (what would that mean?), but to other people. This is the fundamental meaaning of the gospel.

Circling back to the topic then, Christians have a duty to work for political and economic systems that help other people, and avoid exploitation, and are consitent with and even promote Jesus' central admonition to love each other.

Whether that system is anarchism or representative democracy or socialism is for each Christian to decide. There's no handbook for that. It requires consideration and commitment.

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Posted

I think Boyd is wrong -- a Christian's duty is not to God (what would that mean?), but to other people. This is the fundamental meaaning of the gospel.

To the extent that the description, "God is love", is correct or accurate, then allegiance to God is allegiance to love. Part of the allegiance to God is love of other people -- as individuals, since the God's love is love for people as individuals. But, the foremost allegiance is not to other people; that allegiance is to God, and with that allegiance comes the love for others.

Circling back to the topic then, Christians have a duty to work for political and economic systems that help other people ...

The love of people as individuals does not preclude concern about "political and economic systems". However, inasmuch as the love of God is for people as individuals, the Christian's first "duty" (after the previously discussed allegiance to God) is not to any "system" or to people in general; rather, that duty is to any and all individuals - and certainly to any and all whom one encounters.

Whether that system is anarchism or representative democracy or socialism is for each Christian to decide. There's no handbook for that. It requires consideration and commitment.

If "God is love" is a correct or accurate description of God, and if God's love is first for people as individuals, then, to the extent that a system is not first focused on people as individuals, that system fails to reflect the love that God has. The Christian's allegiance, the Christian's "commitment", is (supposed to be) first and foremost to God, to the ways of God, to making the love of God more manifest in the world by the development of Godliness in one's self; the Christian's commitment is not (supposed to be) to a system.

Michael

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Posted (edited)

I think Boyd is wrong -- a Christian's duty is not to God (what would that mean?), but to other people. This is the fundamental meaaning of the gospel.

To the extent that the description, "God is love", is correct or accurate, then allegiance to God is allegiance to love. Part of the allegiance to God is love of other people -- as individuals, since the God's love is love for people as individuals. But, the foremost allegiance is not to other people; that allegiance is to God, and with that allegiance comes the love for others.

Circling back to the topic then, Christians have a duty to work for political and economic systems that help other people ...

The love of people as individuals does not preclude concern about "political and economic systems". However, inasmuch as the love of God is for people as individuals, the Christian's first "duty" (after the previously discussed allegiance to God) is not to any "system" or to people in general; rather, that duty is to any and all individuals - and certainly to any and all whom one encounters.

Whether that system is anarchism or representative democracy or socialism is for each Christian to decide. There's no handbook for that. It requires consideration and commitment.

If "God is love" is a correct or accurate description of God, and if God's love is first for people as individuals, then, to the extent that a system is not first focused on people as individuals, that system fails to reflect the love that God has. The Christian's allegiance, the Christian's "commitment", is (supposed to be) first and foremost to God, to the ways of God, to making the love of God more manifest in the world by the development of Godliness in one's self; the Christian's commitment is not (supposed to be) to a system.

Michael

Well we disagree.

Saying that God is Love, and then deriving from that a duty to put God first is an abstraction that destroys the purpose of the admonition. Christians show love of God by loving others. Not by loving love. This is what 1 John 4 seems to be saying, as well as James.

I think there is some terminological slippage here. By "putting God first" I think Boyd (and maybe you too) mean putting a particular text first, or more precisely putting a particular reading of the canonical texts first. And I reject that. I don't think the reading of canonical texts by doctrinal Christianity is particularly good, and I don't think it accords with the gospel narrative at all, and I am more concerned with the gospel narrative, then the surrounding commentary. What else could it possibly mean to "put God first" other than "put a reading of the NT -- i.e., a traditional doctrinal reading -- first"? I don't agree with that reading, so the issue should be stated explicitly, rather than abstracted. What we may really be disagreeing on is the meaning of these text, or even which texts are meaningful.

Finally I believe you have created a false dichotomy between loving people individually and commitment to social change that helps people and ends exploitation. To me there aren't two categories here. The gospel promise is that Christians are transformed into loving people, admonished to express their faith through love. That can take any form the particular Christian sees fit. It may involve individual charity, but it might just as well involve committing oneself to ending sweatshop labor in China, or working for racial justice, or voting Republicans out of office. I reject any claim that says there is only one way to express Christian love, especially if the claim denegrates social action as somehow inferior to other actions, since that conceals a particular political agenda itself, ironically. I can't accept any claim that suggests political action is somehow tainted and not Christain. We're political animals and there is nothing unChristian in expressing the admonition to love others through social action. Indeed, I think a strong argument can be made that individual charity, which is discontinuous and quirky, is itself an inferior way to show Christian love. But I don't need to go there. I'm just saying that each Christain must decide that for himself.

Edited by gamera

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Posted (edited)

This is an interesting exchange, Michael and gamera. I notice that Jesus Christ is only mentioned in the Tolstoy quotes provided by Michael, and then at the end of the same post by Michael himself, and also by gamera in Post 3. In my quote from Gregg Boyd, Jesus is not mentioned but it can obviously be assumed that the God he is referring to is the God of the Christians, namely Jesus Christ, because Boyd is a Christian minister.

There are two points to make concerning my reasons for focussing on this, both of which I feel are important. The first I find rather disturbing, therefore I will deal with it first, and is not related to your exchange concerning the phrase "God is Love". I will consider that one in my second point.

My wife and myself have some friends who are also members of the Lodge, that is Freemasonry. This has caused us both to give some attention to Freemasonry, and we cannot reconcile their commitment, faith if they accept that, to their Great God of the Universe. We find that although their desire to accept all faiths, Christian and non-Christian, into the fraternity is highly commendable, when it comes to one's belief, religion if we accept that term - realising all religions are the works of man and therefore open to corruption - then a choice must be made. Of course many Lodge members deny that Freemasonry is a religion, but our studies so far have convinced us that it is, especially when we look at the higher degrees within Freemasonry.

Many Christians, including many who are in the ministry, are also Freemasons. To us this is anathema to our Christianity, as we cannot serve more than one God. They claim to be Christian Freemasons, but are not allowed to end their prayers in the Lodge meetings by saying "in the name of Jesus", as this might rightly offend Muslims, Hindus and others.

This brings me to my second point. In our discussion of Christian Anarchism - and I am not claiming to be a Christian Anarchist but I do claim to be a Christian, very much along the lines of C. S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity" - when I say God I mean the God of Christianity, namely Jesus Christ. Now for me this is where the discussion above on the phrase "God is love" is interesting, because this phrase only achieves its greatest impact through our relationship to Jesus, and we only achieve that relationship because God came to earth as man.

Love is a human emotion and comes in many forms, all of which are described in the Bible. One of C. S. Lewis's books is called "The Four Loves". gamera, if we take your suggestion that "a Christian's duty is not to God, but to other people", then that could cut God out of the picture altogether! I am not suggesting for a moment that atheists are not capable of love, I am sure that most of them are very loving and lovable, and lead lives which would put many so-called Christians to shame, but in all honesty I started this thread on request because of my expressed interest in Christian Anarchism in my other thread on the business of getting old. I am sure you are not trying to shake my faith, but my interest is with the views of other Christians who might see the idea of Christian Anarchy as an oxymoron. As I see it at the moment, if Christian Anarchy moves me away from the idea that Christianity is just another religion along with all of the others, then I am interested, because my Christianity, as expressed by Lewis, has little to do with religion, which is a human construct, with all of its evils.

Your last post, gamera, is very interesting and has made me think deeply, thank you. I have just read 1 John 4 several times, from different English translations of the Bible. Like you, I think, I am not a literalist. The Word of God, spelt with an upper case "W", is far different from the words we read in any Bible. For me, the Word of God refers to my spiritual relationship with God, the written word is merely a guide. I have to say that my readings of 1 John 4 have not moved me away from the idea that my relationship is with God, through Jesus (emphatically). I can reciprocate God's love for me, because I can love Jesus who was a man, who then admonishes us to love our fellow men. But my love for God comes first. My real problem is trying to love my enemies, there are some very wicked persons in this world, and those who have done dastardly deeds in the past!

Edited by Mathsteach2

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Posted

I think there is some terminological slippage here. By "putting God first" ...

I not recall using the phrase, "putting God first", nor have I been able to find that phrase in this discussion before you presented it. Is that phrase you put in quotations representative of some interpretation on your part?

I think Boyd (and maybe you too) mean putting a particular text first, or more precisely putting a particular reading of the canonical texts first.

I do not know Boyd; therefore, I do not speak for him. I speak for myself alone. I do not have a clear enough idea of just what you mean by "putting a particular text first", and I also have no idea what you think is the problem with "putting a particular reading of the canonical texts first" since to me that just sounds like having a preferred interpretation.

I don't think it accords with the gospel narrative at all, and I am more concerned with the gospel narrative

Without interpretation there is no narrative; without interpretation there is only text.

An interpretation seems as though it could well be described as a "particular reading"; so, once again, I do not see why you would suggest - as I have taken you to do above - that there is necessarily a problem with "putting a particular text first". Maybe the emphasis is supposed to be on the "putting" as in "forcing a particular reading", but would such a forcing really amount to anything other than an alleged misinterpretation?

What else could it possibly mean to "put God first" other than "put a reading of the NT -- i.e., a traditional doctrinal reading -- first"?

I would interpret "put[ting] God first" in the same way I would interpret "foremost allegiance", and with that interpretation there is no confusion between the being of God, the nature of God, and any text or any tradition. To "put [the being or nature of a loving] God first" is to be dedicated to making characteristics of such a God ever more manifest in one's own self. Or, to put it another way, it is a dedication to making one's self more Godly, more like God. It is not a dedication to either a tradition or a text, even if it does depend on interpretations, including interpretations of texts and even traditions.

Saying that God is Love, and then deriving from that a duty to put God first ...

I have no idea how you came up with that ordering; it certainly does not represent what I have written. But, since you have some interest in "the gospel narrative", the following might help you better understand what I have written:

Matthew 22:37, King James Version Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

In and of itself, this verse would seem to be describing an utter and, thereby, foremost dedication, but let us continue:

Matthew 22:38-40, King James Version This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hand all the law and the prophets.

The so-called "duty to put God first" does not derive from the statement "God is love". Rather, it is from one's realization of the nature of God that one realizes that God is not actually loved - and one is not actually dedicated to God - without being loving towards others.

is an abstraction that destroys the purpose of the admonition.

Without proffering any means by which this so-called "abstraction" does its alleged destroying, the statement quoted immediately above almost seems intended as an indictment of "abstraction" in general. But what is it that is supposed to be this destructive abstraction? Is it God? Is it love? Is it "put[ting] God first"?

God and love may be better thought of or described as indefinite or indeterminate terms rather than as abstractions, but, either way, it is hard indeed to see how these terms in and of themselves destroy anything. So, maybe it is the "put God first" notion which is supposed to be the "abstraction that destroys".

I can see how "put[ting] God first", how dedicating one's self to God, is an idea and, hence, an abstraction, but I do not see how this dedication so certainly warrants being described as destructive. Dedication to God is not attained - it is certainly not complete - until one realizes some things about the very nature of God, including the nature of love, and when one realizes the features of this love one realizes that the dedication to God is not attained without one having love for others. So, "put[ting] God first" might be an "abstraction", but it is clearly not necessarily a destructive one.

Christians show love of God by loving others.

Christians are not supposed to show love, and they are not even supposed to mimic the ways of Jesus. They are not supposed to show love; they are supposed to love. They are not supposed to mimic love or loving ways, because they are supposed to be loving. There is a difference between being and showing and mimicking.

Finally I believe you have created a false dichotomy between loving people individually and commitment to social change that helps people and ends exploitation.

I have spoken in terms of loving people as individuals. The dichotomy between the commitment to love people as individuals and the "commitment to social change" is not false if that social change is not itself a commitment to people as individuals. Any commitment cast in terms of classes, races, religions, and the like, is most definitely unlike God's loving people as individuals.

Christians are transformed into loving people, admonished to express their faith through love. That can take any form the particular Christian sees fit.

If the Christian commitment is to God, then it follows that the Christian love for other people is for them as individuals. This means that the Christian misplaces his commitment if it is to any system, cause, or course which is not devoted to or based upon the love for people as individuals. And this means that it is false to assert that a Christian's commitment "can take any form the particular Christian sees fit."

Michael

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Posted (edited)

I think there is some terminological slippage here. By "putting God first" ...

I not recall using the phrase, "putting God first", nor have I been able to find that phrase in this discussion before you presented it. Is that phrase you put in quotations representative of some interpretation on your part?

I think Boyd (and maybe you too) mean putting a particular text first, or more precisely putting a particular reading of the canonical texts first.

I do not know Boyd; therefore, I do not speak for him. I speak for myself alone. I do not have a clear enough idea of just what you mean by "putting a particular text first", and I also have no idea what you think is the problem with "putting a particular reading of the canonical texts first" since to me that just sounds like having a preferred interpretation.

I don't think it accords with the gospel narrative at all, and I am more concerned with the gospel narrative

Without interpretation there is no narrative; without interpretation there is only text.

An interpretation seems as though it could well be described as a "particular reading"; so, once again, I do not see why you would suggest - as I have taken you to do above - that there is necessarily a problem with "putting a particular text first". Maybe the emphasis is supposed to be on the "putting" as in "forcing a particular reading", but would such a forcing really amount to anything other than an alleged misinterpretation?

What else could it possibly mean to "put God first" other than "put a reading of the NT -- i.e., a traditional doctrinal reading -- first"?

I would interpret "put[ting] God first" in the same way I would interpret "foremost allegiance", and with that interpretation there is no confusion between the being of God, the nature of God, and any text or any tradition. To "put [the being or nature of a loving] God first" is to be dedicated to making characteristics of such a God ever more manifest in one's own self. Or, to put it another way, it is a dedication to making one's self more Godly, more like God. It is not a dedication to either a tradition or a text, even if it does depend on interpretations, including interpretations of texts and even traditions.

Saying that God is Love, and then deriving from that a duty to put God first ...

I have no idea how you came up with that ordering; it certainly does not represent what I have written. But, since you have some interest in "the gospel narrative", the following might help you better understand what I have written:

Matthew 22:37, King James Version Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

In and of itself, this verse would seem to be describing an utter and, thereby, foremost dedication, but let us continue:

Matthew 22:38-40, King James Version This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hand all the law and the prophets.

The so-called "duty to put God first" does not derive from the statement "God is love". Rather, it is from one's realization of the nature of God that one realizes that God is not actually loved - and one is not actually dedicated to God - without being loving towards others.

is an abstraction that destroys the purpose of the admonition.

Without proffering any means by which this so-called "abstraction" does its alleged destroying, the statement quoted immediately above almost seems intended as an indictment of "abstraction" in general. But what is it that is supposed to be this destructive abstraction? Is it God? Is it love? Is it "put[ting] God first"?

God and love may be better thought of or described as indefinite or indeterminate terms rather than as abstractions, but, either way, it is hard indeed to see how these terms in and of themselves destroy anything. So, maybe it is the "put God first" notion which is supposed to be the "abstraction that destroys".

I can see how "put[ting] God first", how dedicating one's self to God, is an idea and, hence, an abstraction, but I do not see how this dedication so certainly warrants being described as destructive. Dedication to God is not attained - it is certainly not complete - until one realizes some things about the very nature of God, including the nature of love, and when one realizes the features of this love one realizes that the dedication to God is not attained without one having love for others. So, "put[ting] God first" might be an "abstraction", but it is clearly not necessarily a destructive one.

Christians show love of God by loving others.

Christians are not supposed to show love, and they are not even supposed to mimic the ways of Jesus. They are not supposed to show love; they are supposed to love. They are not supposed to mimic love or loving ways, because they are supposed to be loving. There is a difference between being and showing and mimicking.

Finally I believe you have created a false dichotomy between loving people individually and commitment to social change that helps people and ends exploitation.

I have spoken in terms of loving people as individuals. The dichotomy between the commitment to love people as individuals and the "commitment to social change" is not false if that social change is not itself a commitment to people as individuals. Any commitment cast in terms of classes, races, religions, and the like, is most definitely unlike God's loving people as individuals.

Christians are transformed into loving people, admonished to express their faith through love. That can take any form the particular Christian sees fit.

If the Christian commitment is to God, then it follows that the Christian love for other people is for them as individuals. This means that the Christian misplaces his commitment if it is to any system, cause, or course which is not devoted to or based upon the love for people as individuals. And this means that it is false to assert that a Christian's commitment "can take any form the particular Christian sees fit."

Michael

Again, we simply have a fundamental disagreement.

1. All I meant by using "putting God first" was a paraphrase for the verbiage about being subject to the rule of God, having a primary duty to God, etc., used by the various essays in the OP, as well as you. I think my point remains: this all boils down to a particular reading of the texts, a reading I simply find unsupported, and actually contrary to the gospel narrative.

2. Once we agree that neither you nor Boyd nor Davies are getting messages directly from God, but rather are reading and interpretating particular texts in light of a tradition, then we can really discuss the issue: it is not the duty to God, but the reading of the texts and the authority given to them by other texts (historical Christianity). We can't really discuss this if the assumption is that there is a self-evident duty to God that Christians have. That simply assumes the conclusion. I don't understand what that purported duty is or ever could be. I don't know what it means to "dedicate oneself to God." Again, I think this is just a rephrasing of a particular reading of the text. But my view is the gospel is not about articulating our duties to God, nor it is about dedicating oneself to God, but rather about transformation through God's love. Or as Paul puts it so wonderfully:

Galatians 6:15 - For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Galatians 5:6 - For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith workin through love.

3. Regarding the rest of your post, I think the issues have become too broad to discuss in one post. Needless to say, I disagree with your interpretation of Matthew, which we could discuss at length. I think your interpretation of the sayings of Jesus, and various other latter commentaries are well within the interpretation given by doctrinal Christianity, and thus, to my mind fundamentally flaws. I accept Paul's claim that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, not the sayings of Jesus or the epistles or subsequent commentary. My view is the gospel is an existential document that asks questions about who we are and who we wish to become, and through it and the tranformational power of God's love, Christians become loving persons. And from then on they are free to express their love as they see fit. But as I say, we have ventured onto vaster waters, so maybe we ought to limit the issues to one or two that can be focussed on.

Edited by gamera
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Posted (edited)

This is an interesting exchange, Michael and gamera. I notice that Jesus Christ is only mentioned in the Tolstoy quotes provided by Michael, and then at the end of the same post by Michael himself, and also by gamera in Post 3. In my quote from Gregg Boyd, Jesus is not mentioned but it can obviously be assumed that the God he is referring to is the God of the Christians, namely Jesus Christ, because Boyd is a Christian minister.

You've raised a very interesting topic close to my heart. I would note that I don't typically refer to Jesus outside the gospel narrative, because it makes no difference to me whether there was an historical Jesus or not. I take Paul seriously when he emphasizes that it is the gospel -- this little narrative about God and his son -- that transforms us, not particular doctrines and beliefs, even about history. Christianity isn't empirical. Doctrinal Christianity arose well after Paul, and to my mind was a disaster we still haven't recovered from. Christainity to my mind still hasn't happened.

There are two points to make concerning my reasons for focussing on this, both of which I feel are important. The first I find rather disturbing, therefore I will deal with it first, and is not related to your exchange concerning the phrase "God is Love". I will consider that one in my second point.

My wife and myself have some friends who are also members of the Lodge, that is Freemasonry. This has caused us both to give some attention to Freemasonry, and we cannot reconcile their commitment, faith if they accept that, to their Great God of the Universe. We find that although their desire to accept all faiths, Christian and non-Christian, into the fraternity is highly commendable, when it comes to one's belief, religion if we accept that term - realising all religions are the works of man and therefore open to corruption - then a choice must be made. Of course many Lodge members deny that Freemasonry is a religion, but our studies so far have convinced us that it is, especially when we look at the higher degrees within Freemasonry.

Many Christians, including many who are in the ministry, are also Freemasons. To us this is anathema to our Christianity, as we cannot serve more than one God. They claim to be Christian Freemasons, but are not allowed to end their prayers in the Lodge meetings by saying "in the name of Jesus", as this might rightly offend Muslims, Hindus and others.

This marks a distinct difference betweem my Christianity and yours. I have simply put aside exclusionary claims about the gospel, and believe Christians should rest in the power of its narrative, without comparing it to others. It doesn't concern me in the slightest if Freemasons have a different narrative, since I am convinced of the transformational power of the gospel narrative. Further, every denomination of Christianity (including I dare say yours) has added a narrative to the gospel, which is no more or no less odd than the Freemasons. The whole history of doctrinal Christianity has been the urge to add to the gospel narrative (a little story about the transformational power of God's love for his son), so that Jesus and God are taken out of their narrative and placed into a new narrative (Jesus is a "real" son and God and he are sitting in heavan controling or at least monitoring us in some threefold state involving the Holy Spirit -- something totally alien to the gospel narrative). So I take it as a given that every Christian denomination is filled with narratives I reject and have nothing to with the core of Christianity, and that doesn't bother me any more than Buddhist narratives do, since I am quite happy with the positive transformation power of the gospel, not in contrasting it with other narratives. If a Freemason narrative can transform people into loving persons, more power to it. It doesn't diminish what the gospel says. And if one's salvation rests on the requirement that we "believe" any particular idea or other about God, then we're all doomed. God is ineffable and beyond human abilities to comprehend, and the Nicean creed and its progeny are incoherent and incomprehensible by any standard.

This brings me to my second point. In our discussion of Christian Anarchism - and I am not claiming to be a Christian Anarchist but I do claim to be a Christian, very much along the lines of C. S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity" - when I say God I mean the God of Christianity, namely Jesus Christ. Now for me this is where the discussion above on the phrase "God is love" is interesting, because this phrase only achieves its greatest impact through our relationship to Jesus, and we only achieve that relationship because God came to earth as man.

Again, my Christianity is fundamentally different from yours. I am not the slightest concerned whether Jesus ever walked the earth. What counts is the story, not the empiricism of Jesus's existence. Indeed, if the gospel were invented by a bored Syrian housewife, it wouldn't impact my faith. If God is so powerful that he can resurrect an actual Jesus in order to save us, he's certainly powerful enough to do it through a pure fiction. One isn't any harder than the other. God is transcendant and isn't limited by our paltry views of historicity and reality (and if he isn't, who cares about him?). I would claim that the gospel embodies the transformational power of God's love. And if you accept that God's love can transform you into a loving person, the promise of the gospel is that it will. We can't become loving persons on our own. If we do, that only reinforce our ego and selfinvolvement, making us less loving. If it is us who through practices or believing the right doctrine or being smarter or better than others, that triumphs over ego, than ego is only reinforced, not diminished. That doesn't work. It is a dilemma that Paul emphasizes by constantly criticizing the Law and the idea of works leading to boasting and self satisfaction. Christianty found a way out of this loop. It promises that if you trust that God's love is so deep (so deep that he, like a father, would be willing to experience the death of his own son, in the form of Jesus in the story), that it can transform you into a loving person, it will. Not because you did it, but because God's love is that immense.

Love is a human emotion and comes in many forms, all of which are described in the Bible. One of C. S. Lewis's books is called "The Four Loves". gamera, if we take your suggestion that "a Christian's duty is not to God, but to other people", then that could cut God out of the picture altogether! I am not suggesting for a moment that atheists are not capable of love, I am sure that most of them are very loving and lovable, and lead lives which would put many so-called Christians to shame, but in all honesty I started this thread on request because of my expressed interest in Christian Anarchism in my other thread on the business of getting old. I am sure you are not trying to shake my faith, but my interest is with the views of other Christians who might see the idea of Christian Anarchy as an oxymoron. As I see it at the moment, if Christian Anarchy moves me away from the idea that Christianity is just another religion along with all of the others, then I am interested, because my Christianity, as expressed by Lewis, has little to do with religion, which is a human construct, with all of its evils.

I'm not clear what you mean by "cut God out of the picture." I believe the gospel is the core of Christianity (everything else, from epistles, the Old Testament, to historical Christianity is irrelevant). And that story is about the transformational power of God's love. So God is defintely in the picture for me. But God is ineffable and never known directly but only through the stories we tell about him. And if you really have faith that God's love can transform you into a loving person (which I take to be the meaning of the gospel), the next step is loving people, not worshipping God or dedicating oneselve to God or subjecting oneself to God. I fail to see what that has to do at all with Christianity. That is the result of doctrinal Christianity, which claims that "believing" certain ideas about God, often utterly incomprehensible ideas like the Trinity that even theologians can't explain, causes you to be "saved". I think that position is contrary to the gospel narrative, and irrelevant to modern life.

Your last post, gamera, is very interesting and has made me think deeply, thank you. I have just read 1 John 4 several times, from different English translations of the Bible. Like you, I think, I am not a literalist. The Word of God, spelt with an upper case "W", is far different from the words we read in any Bible. For me, the Word of God refers to my spiritual relationship with God, the written word is merely a guide. I have to say that my readings of 1 John 4 have not moved me away from the idea that my relationship is with God, through Jesus (emphatically). I can reciprocate God's love for me, because I can love Jesus who was a man, who then admonishes us to love our fellow men. But my love for God comes first.

Well, neither of us are literalists and I appreciate your engagment with these wonderful texts and wouldn't depreciate your conclusion. Obviously, however, my understanding of the impact of the gospel narrative is somewhat more radical than yours. I agree with Paul wholeheartedly when he states the following, while the other aspects of the later theology just seem totally alien to what the gospel is doing:

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith.

My real problem is trying to love my enemies, there are some very wicked persons in this world, and those who have done dastardly deeds in the past!

Well, I hear that. I'm overwhelmed by Jesus' admonition here. But perhaps that's the point: because none of us can truly love our enemies, it prevents us from boasting how loving we think we are. That's exactly the kind of approach that accords with the gospel messsage.

Edited by gamera
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I think your interpretation of the sayings of Jesus, and various other latter commentaries are well within the interpretation given by doctrinal Christianity, and thus, to my mind fundamentally flaw[ed].

An interpretation is fundamentally flawed if it ever seems to comport with "doctrinal Christianity"?!?!?!?!?! Seriously? I ask because - Damn! - that seems to indicate a hopeless dogmatism on your part. Surely you mean something other than what you wrote. Or, maybe there is some other way I can interpret what you wrote. The thing is that I cannot figure out another way to interpret it; so, maybe you will be kind enough either to argue for your position (if it is as I interpret it), or maybe you can correct my interpretation or otherwise clarify your position.

Michael

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I think your interpretation of the sayings of Jesus, and various other latter commentaries are well within the interpretation given by doctrinal Christianity, and thus, to my mind fundamentally flaw[ed].

An interpretation is fundamentally flawed if it ever seems to comport with "doctrinal Christianity"?!?!?!?!?! Seriously? I ask because - Damn! - that seems to indicate a hopeless dogmatism on your part. Surely you mean something other than what you wrote. Or, maybe there is some other way I can interpret what you wrote. The thing is that I cannot figure out another way to interpret it; so, maybe you will be kind enough either to argue for your position (if it is as I interpret it), or maybe you can correct my interpretation or otherwise clarify your position.

Michael

Not at all. My premise is that the gospel is the core of Christianity. You can take issue with that if you want, but I think it is in fact the only thing that the various dominations of Chrsitianity all hold in common. They may also accept other writings, other authorities, and even other newer gospels (as the Mormons do, and I should know being married to one). But I don't think anybody who calls himself a Christian rejects the gospel.

So I take that as the core of Christianity, and starting from there, my conclusion, similar to Marcion's, is that most of what passes for scripture is simply a side narrative that is irrelevant to the core narrative.

At the very least I insist on making other Christians I deal with confront the fact that they have generated a new narrative different from the gospel (it generally involves a three person God ruling the universe in some problematic way that raised the problem of evil, free will, omnipotence and all the other traditional machinery of theology). If they still want to follow that narrative I have no problem with that. I'm just not interested in the new narrative and find the gospel narrative much more satisfying and key to my Christianity.

One of the most inauthentic things about modern Christianity (and why orthodox Christianity is becoming increasingly irrelevant to modern life and devolving into fundamentalism, the last gasp of an insecure religion), is its unwilllingness to question the strata of doctrines and stories that have become encrusted around the gospel. I say take the gospel narrative as a starting point and go from there testing whether we need the Old Testament, the Trinity, and so forth. I have concluded we do not.

Edited by gamera
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Although I am not a Christian, I find myself agreeing with Gamera on the grounds that faith without works is, according to the Gospels, empty and meaningless.

Hence, what is our love of God if we do not find compassion for each other? How can we claim to admonish the creator and all that is created if we reject the things that are created, and pretend to love only the creator?

No, only the hypocrite places God above everything else. God does not take precedence over the people of this earth. We put them first, and through our attitude to them do we show our true attitude towards God.

Which means I'm not going to do well, because I don't have a particularly good attitude towards other people.

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... faith without works is, according to the Gospels, empty and meaningless.

Hence, what is our love of God if we do not find compassion for each other?

What difference(s) do you see between the remarks above and the statement below?

it is from one's realization of the nature of God that one realizes that God is not actually loved - and one is not actually dedicated to God - without being loving towards others.

Also, do you think that works intended to be of benefit to others are necessarily loving or compassionate?

Michael

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Also, do you think that works intended to be of benefit to others are necessarily loving or compassionate?

I think that entirely depends on the motive. I might commit an action that will benefit someone, with the aim of gaining something in return. Hence, my action would be - at best - egoistic.

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Reading through this thread again, it appears that the disagreement between Michael and gamera arose over my first quotation from Gregg Boyd, about a Christian's allegiance to God. In it, I see no suggestion that we should "put God first", before people. Boyd is saying that our allegiance (political?) as Christians, is to God, not any human government, institution or authority. Quite naturally and correctly then, we have since been exploring a little of what we mean by an allegiance to God, and how our love of God, through Jesus, reciprocates into our love for our fellow human beings. I think we have therefore begun to provide an answer to gamera's question, "... a Christian's duty to God - what would that mean?".

I am going to try now to push this business of a political allegiance to God, through Jesus, by considering some of its possible consequences for pragmatism. Do we vote, do we pay our taxes, and are there any occasions when we feel justified in breaking the law? To what extent should we take our pacifism, are we ever justified in using personal violence even perhaps, never getting angry, and is there such a thing as a just war! Well, I am sure each one of these questions deserves its own thread, and the discussions need not involve one's faith at all. However, in this thread, as a Christian with anarchist leanings, I will attempt to respond briefly to them. I feel I can confidently do this in TGL without being vehemently attacked because of my faith, therefore we are arguing from a philosophical viewpoint - I hope that makes sense!

In this wicked world, controlled by the devil (C. S. Lewis convinced me there is a devil, as real and alive as Jesus), we must have law and order. Regrettably therefore, we need to engage some people who will work full time to ensure our safety, whilst the rest of us go about our daily business in, hopefully, a peaceful way. Our laws, our police force, our courts are therefore all necessary, and I willingly pay my taxes.

I abhore corruption in high places, and therefore have little faith in governments, so voting for me is of no consequence. If I begin to feel very angry about bad laws, incompetence and corruption, I would willingly go on demonstrations in public places, hopefully peacefully, and use all of the machinations of the forces of law and order to bring the wrong-doers to justice, ultimately through the courts. I would put my faith in God, and be the ultimate whistle-blower.

Along with Tolstoy, I do not think there is such a thing as a just war. If there is a war between Islam and the West (I think there was a thread recently here on that possibility) if permitted I would be a conscientious objector. If not permitted I would do something which would see me out of the action anyway, I would not be the first Christian to die for Jesus. If there was anything left of any of us at the end of it, and Islam became the dominant world-wide religion, it would not shake my faith, albeit pursued silently and secretly.

At a personal level, I do not totally abhore violence. If my nearest and dearest were threatened in any way, I could react violently. I have had only two experiences in my life when I came near to this explosion (which it would have been) within myself, but on both occasions I held back. There have been consequences as a result, which sometimes makes me think that I should have reacted violently, but I pray to God and keep being assured that I did the correct thing - by holding back. In this respect I do not regard myself as a pacifist. Turning the other cheek is an extremely difficult thing to do, I think.

I will close now, its 7.30a.m. in Barbados, and my wife wants a cup of tea! I would like to discuss further The Holy Trinity since gamera mentioned it. My wife and myself both firmly believe in the Holy Trinity, but I guess that would be done in a different thread.

Edited by Mathsteach2

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Also, do you think that works intended to be of benefit to others are necessarily loving or compassionate?

I think that entirely depends on the motive.

Is it possible to be compassionate without being loving?

Michael

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Also, do you think that works intended to be of benefit to others are necessarily loving or compassionate?

I think that entirely depends on the motive. I might commit an action that will benefit someone, with the aim of gaining something in return. Hence, my action would be - at best - egoistic.

Hence 1 Cor. 13, where Paul agrees with you entirely. By the way, I think 1 Cor 13 is the purest explication of what Christianity is at its core: an existential commitment to be a loving person. What you believe about the cosmology, the doctrine of original sin, or the nature of Jesus' birth is completely irrelevant to that.

Edited by gamera
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I will close now, its 7.30a.m. in Barbados, and my wife wants a cup of tea! I would like to discuss further The Holy Trinity since gamera mentioned it. My wife and myself both firmly believe in the Holy Trinity, but I guess that would be done in a different thread.

Just a note before addressing the more particular issues raised in your post: Why would "what you believe in" (i.e., cogitation) have any impact on your Christianity, or your "salvation" or whether you are a "new creation", which according to Paul and Jesus is the purpose of the gospel?

Trinitarianism raises the issue pointedly because it obviously defies all understanding, as even theologians admit, but it applies to all of doctrinal Christianity. In your view is "salvation" (and I put the word in quotations because I think its meaning is at issue and I will not concede the definition of doctrinal Christianity on that score) the result of willing yourself to "believe" (cogitate, ratiocinate, achieve by reason?) certain ideas about God (that don't on their face even make sense). This means that salvation is a result of will, or superior reasoning power, to deal with ideas, abstractions, concepts. Those who are able, through will power or subtle reasoning abilities "believe in" the Trinity (and the rest of these unusual doctrines about God and Jesus), win. The rest lose.

I find this view so contrary to the essence of Christianity that I'm constantly flabbergasted that this view survived in Christian history. Seems to me this view -- that the winners are those who are smart enough or willful enough to accept various (odd) assertions about God and Jesus, ineffable and transcendant though they are -- leads inexorably to contradict the notion of centrality of grace, and Paul's wonderfully existential admonition, that salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works, lest any man should boast.

I can't accept the notion that salvation depends on "getting it right" when it comes to whether God is a transcendental three-person entity (whatever that could possibly mean) or a two-person entity or a one-person entity. Resting salvation on such arcane subtleties about a transcendental being boogles the mind, and has nothing to do with the gospel narrative, near as I can tell.

Edited by gamera
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Reading through this thread again, it appears that the disagreement between Michael and gamera arose over my first quotation from Gregg Boyd, about a Christian's allegiance to God. In it, I see no suggestion that we should "put God first", before people. Boyd is saying that our allegiance (political?) as Christians, is to God, not any human government, institution or authority. Quite naturally and correctly then, we have since been exploring a little of what we mean by an allegiance to God, and how our love of God, through Jesus, reciprocates into our love for our fellow human beings. I think we have therefore begun to provide an answer to gamera's question, "... a Christian's duty to God - what would that mean?".

Well I think Boyd's assertion that Christians must "pledge their allegiance to God alone" is pretty much summed up in my phrase. But putting that aside, I honestly don't know what a political allegiance to God means. Political life is social and involves other people, not transcendental beings. There is no politics of God. I think what we are really talking about -- especially Boyd -- is politics in the normal sense, in which particular positions are justified through a particular reading of particular texts, deemed sacred. So I will keep pressing for what it means in practice to talk about a political allegiance to God, since I think it really means nothing more than "naturalizing" history, to use Roland Barthes' terms - that is taking the political, the historical and the contingent, and insisting that one's particular view is natural, or inevitable, or in this case God-ordained. This is just politics waged via orthodoxy, and it is an inauthentic way to approach social problems.

I am going to try now to push this business of a political allegiance to God, through Jesus, by considering some of its possible consequences for pragmatism. Do we vote, do we pay our taxes, and are there any occasions when we feel justified in breaking the law? To what extent should we take our pacifism, are we ever justified in using personal violence even perhaps, never getting angry, and is there such a thing as a just war! Well, I am sure each one of these questions deserves its own thread, and the discussions need not involve one's faith at all. However, in this thread, as a Christian with anarchist leanings, I will attempt to respond briefly to them. I feel I can confidently do this in TGL without being vehemently attacked because of my faith, therefore we are arguing from a philosophical viewpoint - I hope that makes sense!

In this wicked world, controlled by the devil (C. S. Lewis convinced me there is a devil, as real and alive as Jesus), we must have law and order. Regrettably therefore, we need to engage some people who will work full time to ensure our safety, whilst the rest of us go about our daily business in, hopefully, a peaceful way. Our laws, our police force, our courts are therefore all necessary, and I willingly pay my taxes.

This is a reasonable conclusion, and I don't even disagree with it. But it has nothing to do with assuming the existence of Satan, soteriology, or any other doctrine of historical Christianity. I have concluded that the world isn't wicked, that there is no Satan, and that soteriological references in the gospel are symbolic. Nonetheless I still think we should have a police force.

Not only that, if a Christian reached the opposite conclusion -- that Christian commitment to love means eschewing political force, I wouldn't attack his Christianity. I'd argue with him on the merits of what constitutes Christian love and the practical problems of pacifism.

I abhore corruption in high places, and therefore have little faith in governments, so voting for me is of no consequence. If I begin to feel very angry about bad laws, incompetence and corruption, I would willingly go on demonstrations in public places, hopefully peacefully, and use all of the machinations of the forces of law and order to bring the wrong-doers to justice, ultimately through the courts. I would put my faith in God, and be the ultimate whistle-blower.

When it comes to politics, I put my faith in democracy and the rule of law. I don't think God is in that business. We're grown ups. We have to govern ourselves.

Along with Tolstoy, I do not think there is such a thing as a just war. If there is a war between Islam and the West (I think there was a thread recently here on that possibility) if permitted I would be a conscientious objector. If not permitted I would do something which would see me out of the action anyway, I would not be the first Christian to die for Jesus. If there was anything left of any of us at the end of it, and Islam became the dominant world-wide religion, it would not shake my faith, albeit pursued silently and secretly
.

I think WWII was not only just, but one of the highest expressions of civilization against barbarism and darkness. That said, I don't have any ill will toward Quakers and other pacifists who refused to fight. I would only point out to them, that their pacifism was a luxury based on the willingness of others to risk their lives to combat barbarism and lawlessness. I see no admonition in the gospel to be a pacifist. While Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when we are struck, that doesn't mean we are admonished to turn the other cheek when somebody is beating up somebody else. But again, opinions differ. There isn nothing essentially Christian about one view or the other..

At a personal level, I do not totally abhore violence. If my nearest and dearest were threatened in any way, I could react violently. I have had only two experiences in my life when I came near to this explosion (which it would have been) within myself, but on both occasions I held back. There have been consequences as a result, which sometimes makes me think that I should have reacted violently, but I pray to God and keep being assured that I did the correct thing - by holding back. In this respect I do not regard myself as a pacifist. Turning the other cheek is an extremely difficult thing to do, I think.

I think we need to distinguish between individual responses to violence and threats, and political action. There is nothing contradictory about not wanting to get into a fistfight, but supporting liberation efforts by exploited peoples to throw off their oppressors.

Edited by gamera
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And if I may, I think this argument about the political allegiances to God is inevitably going to be about how we interpret various texts — and indeed what texts are deemed relevant: the gospel texts, the canon, the historical church commentary, etc. I don’t want to make this discussion any broader than the OP, but that ultimately is a central issue in our disagreement.

So here’s my perspective. Mathsteach and Michael (and Boyd) are very much in the mainstream tradition of historical doctrinal Christianity in how they view the canon and how they base arguments upon interpretations of the canon. As is generally acceptable in historical Christianity, they view the canonical texts as a consistent whole, from which, if interpreted properly, we can derive ideas about God’s nature and moral touchstones for living life as modern Christians. These doctrines, derived from these purportedly consistent and unified texts, decocted into declarative statements like the Nicene Creed, constitute what must be "believed in" in order for one to be a Christian and achieve salvation, in whatever sense that’s taken. Christianity, in the orthodox view, is what you think (about certain discourse) not who you want to be.

In contrast, I (and postmodern Christians in general, such as the Emergent Church) view the canonical texts as a diverse, inconsistent accumulation of texts written by different authors from different cultures at different times with different purposes. There is no central meaning to these texts taken as a whole. They were simply redacted over time by later redactors who claimed they belonged together. But there don’t. The derivation of doctrines from these diverse texts is simply the role later theology played in an attempt to impose order on a body of writings that have no single theme, through the power of pattern recognition and confirmation bias (the creative disregard of elements in these texts that are discordant with orthodoxy). Indeed, the entirety of the medieval period was taken up in the attempt by clerics to "harmonize" the so-called Old Testament (i.e., the Hebrew Scriptures) with the New Testament (i.e., the Christian Scriptures), often in a desperate manner. Even the New Testament is a hodgepodge of texts with no core idea, or even a consistent representation of God or Jesus.

And thus, my view (which is radical even by postmodern Christian standards), is that Christianity isn’t about doctrine. I’m basically a Marcionite and don’t think Christianity needs the "Old Testament" (indeed while it includes wonderfully insightful texts, it is utterly contrary to Christianity). Christianity doesn’t even need the New Testament. It’s simply a narrative, the gospel, which preachers have been repeating on street corners since Paul's time, about the transformational power of God’s love, and how that provides us a way to get out of the loop of self-involvement and egotism and become the loving persons we long to be, but can't achieve on our own. The gospel is meaningful, but doesn’t have a meaning that can be presented in doctrinal terms. The meaning is the story. Christianity is narrative, like Hamlet. And like Hamlet involves existential questions of who we are, not what we think.

I’m not depreciating the orthodox view. It is as mainstream as it gets. I understand my view is out of the mainstream. But I do think the orthodox view is untenable in the modern world and one of the reasons why Christianity is becoming an anachronism and devolving into fundamentalism, which is always the last gasp of a dying insecure religion. I think the orthodox view is also why historical Christianity became a force for violence and exploitation, in the form of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the witch trials, and so forth — all of which has crippled the Christian witness.

Finally, I would note that the orthodox view is self-defeating in that it can’t possible harmonize these diverse texts. So essentially anybody can derive any doctrine anybody wants out of them. And they have. And so while my instinct is to argue against Boyd by disputing the premise of doctrinal authority, I can go against my instincts and, using the orthodox view of these texts, argue against it by citing inconsistencies in the very texts Boyd uses. Which if push comes to shove I’m happy to do, since it supports my postmodern view of these texts: that there is no central consistent doctrine here.

Edited by gamera
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Maybe there's an analogy to be made with the interpretative principle Galileo advocated during the so-called Galileo Affair, which was to refer to Cardinal Baronius's assertion that the Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. If this holds, mutatis mutandis, it seems to me that Christianity does not and need not imply any political system; and, by extension, it doesn't exclude any system either. However, if we are to freely choose Christianity (insofar as our choices are free), perhaps a Christian should seek to support political ideas that seek to maximise positive freedom (in Berlin's terminology) such that a person's decision is as free as it can be, not bound by political, social, economic and other factors. Obviously it would depend on a person's political persuasion but anarchist Christianity and liberation theology strike me as having these ideas in mind.

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The more I delve into this business of what it means to be a Christian (c.f. Hans Kung, "On Being a Christian", 1974), and then on top of that what sort of Christian I might be, the more I am beginning to think that labels are just what I do not want.

However, perhaps we all need some sort of comfort zone, and mine is certainly to continue to claim that I am, at least, a Christian.

gamera in particular has given me considerable food for thought. His post 20 has led me to the Emergent Church, emerging Christianity, post-modernism, Marcion, Gnosticism, Anabaptism and the Mennonites! Interestingly Greg Boyd is quite impressed by the Mennonites.

gamera seems to think there is a disagreement between his views and mine - I cannot speak for Michael nor Greg Boyd. This may certainly be the case, but I find little to disagree with in post 20.

I first have to pick on the phrase "(the) mainstream tradition of historical doctrinal Christianity" to which gamera identifies me. As home churchers (my wife and myself), mainstream we certainly are not, and this extends to our discomfort with traditional Christianity. Comparisons of the various doctrines within the mainstream denominations is interesting, but only academically so. For myself, this also applies to the Bible. Yes, I do have great respect for the canon because I believe the books are inspired by God (as are many other works of art) and those who closed the canon were similarly inspired. However, and I have already mentioned this, reading the Bible in whatever language and version we are comfortable, brings me to the Word of God, spelt with an upper-case "W", which is my spiritual communication with Him, and is not solely confined to the words I read. I find praying is of great help here.

In post-modern discourse there is a lot of talk about narrative. Am I beginning to think that this is what I mean by the Word of God? gamera's final sentence reads "... my postmodern view of these texts (is) that there is no central consistent doctrine here" to which I wholeheartedly agree, but is there a central consistent narrative, centred, of course, on Jesus?

Hugo uses the phrase "anarchist Christianity (and liberation theology)" and I like this, or the even more indefinite "Christianity with leanings towards anarchism", thus avoiding the use of labels. Whatever we like to call ourselves, whether it be Methodist (etc.) or emergent Christian or anarchist Christian (etc.), I think as Christians our search for God through Jesus is the supreme commitment of us all.

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I don't care, in this context, whether anyone is Christian or not, or what they think being Christian means. Yes there are varieties of anarchism, some of which are roosts for crazies, and some (for instance, anarco-syndicalism) which fit in well with other revolutionary strands. But the thing is, you don't have to choose between Christianity OR anarchism OR socialism OR what have you.

For one thing, the revolution isn't going to spring out of the wood work and catch you by surprise. You won't have to abruptly choose one over the other. People won't change after the revolution: The revolution will happen when people have changed. If you want to incorporate Christian practice and faith into the disestablishment of the state and the corporation, the redistribution of wealth, the socialization of production and distribution, the decentralization of social decision making -- and so on, go right ahead. A revolution which can't tolerate people of faith (whatever that faith is) is going to be too narrowly dogmatic. I wouldn't want to live there.

There is a streak of wildness in a variety of religious experiences, and that is true of Christianity. (Its a streak: The early church congealed and became institutionalized fairly soon -- and it needed to, of course. Wildness very quickly became a problem, like it does in all organized movements, and it doesn't take long.)

One can read religious texts, like Jesus, and derive inspiration to become a radical. Your first and most forceful opposition in this style of reading the Gospels will not come from the anarchists or communists, it will come from the church. So, you might have to dispense with parts of the church. Feel free.

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Many thanks, 123xyz, for posting here, my response to you is really to further explore my own thoughts regarding Christian Anarchism. I am going to do this by drawing in references to the recent rioting in some UK cities, where typically the media and politicians have labelled the behaviour as tending towards anarchy.

To begin, however, I am quite taken with this short piece by Jonathan Sacks, who is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

http://online.wsj.co...2066723110.html

On reading the essay, I was immediately struck by his comparison of the London riots with the royal wedding, just under four months earlier. These were exactly my thoughts when I saw the first pictures of the riots, for previously, here in Barbados, I had not seen views of London on the TV since the wedding. It seems to me that the main thrust of his essay is that it may be the decline of religion which is resulting in the alleged moral decay of society.

I say alleged, for one notable at least is suggesting there is no widespread moral decay in society - Tony Blair. I think his slant is to say that there are isolated pockets of disaffection which need to be taken far more seriously by the moral majority, and of course that majority would include the religious and the irreligious, which puts us all in the same boat, I guess, as far as the riots are concerned.

Or does it? Lord Sacks may have a point. That is, a moral society will be far more able, willing and effective if it is also a religious one. I am not sure how T. Blair would respond to that. He seems to be suggesting that we are all in the same boat - I guess he does not want to promote the flare-up of back-lashes from either the religious or the anti-religious communities.

Therefore, assuming we are all in the same boat, I cannot help but quote in full one paragraph from Lord Sacks. Referring to the rebuilding of society in the early 19th century, he says:

"What happened over the next 30 years was a massive shift in public opinion. There was an unprecedented growth in charities, friendly societies, working men's institutes, temperance groups, church and synagogue associations, Sunday schools, YMCA buildings and moral campaigns of every shape and size, fighting slavery or child labor or inhuman working conditions. The common factor was their focus on the building of moral character, self-discipline, willpower and personal responsibility. It worked. Within a single generation, crime rates came down and social order was restored. What was achieved was nothing less than the re-moralization of society—much of it driven by religion."

Concerning the conflict model (there are others, of course) which drives some exchanges between science and religion are we going to put aside our differences concerning faith? If London does rebuild (and I guess it will) in time for the 2012 Olympics, will the main thrust come from religiously motivated people, or from us all?

My concern is not to have to choose between Christianity and anarchy, but in order to develop my faith then certain anarchistic principles have to be upheld. I will dwell on one for the moment, the idea that an anarchist is not beholden to any human authority, and the reaction of governments to rioting on the streets is not going to bring us closer to God. I do not think water cannon and rubber bullets are in Jesus's armoury. However, we must have order on the streets and this is where I think Lord Sacks has a point.

His citation of the organisations of the nineteenth century which led to a moral re-armament (so he says) - I use this phrase deliberately, rather than "re-moralization, in remembrance of the MRA movement of the early 1930s.

In October 2009 I posted in this thread, and I will now copy and paste from it, rather than continuing there.

http://www.galilean-...__fromsearch__1

As I have continued to learn a little more about the different religions of the world, I have tried to gain a better understanding of what we mean by 'religion'. Then a little book attracted me by its title: "How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious", by Fritz Ridenour. It is a harmless little book, I think, based nearly entirely on the book of Romans in the NT. Ridenour claims that Paul "shows you that Christianity is far more than a religion". Whether Ridenour convinces us, or whether or not Paul succeeds in this premise is, of course, a matter of conjecture, but the idea certainly caught my attention.

My wife and myself had at this time already given up our membership of any Christian Church or denomination, and as Christians we continue to hold our interest in the home church movement, primarily based on the New Testament.

Philosophically (I hope I am correct here), rather than try to say whether something is or is not a religion, I try to think in terms of a world-view, or Weltanschauung. In this respect, scientism in its most intense form (as described in the thread just linked, in post 3 by Michael Pearl), is, I think, a world-view rather than a religion, and if Ridenour is correct Paul shows that Christianity is a world-view, rather than a religion.

Let me put it this way. If Ridenour's title is (also) seen to be an oxymoron, then we perhaps should view the suggestion: "How to be a scientismist (I had to invent that word!) without being scientific" is also oxymoronic! For after all, the pejorative definitions of scientism suggest that anyone holding this world-view claim that science is the only path to knowledge, yet science really is only one way to knowledge, and restricted to, of course, scientific knowledge.

But is my invented suggestion an oxymoron? If we hold to the world-view which we call scientism, scientism being described as a scientific world-view, whereas Chrisitianity may be described as a religious world-view, then neither of these suggested approaches to these two world-views are oxymoronic.

I have another example (which brings me to) my interest in Christian anarchy (and this current thread's suggestion that some think that this too is an oxymoron).

Along with many others, I maintain that Christian anarchy is not an oxymoron, because I have faith in its perceived method for searching for knowledge, if not the truth. And now that I have introduced faith into my world-view which I am calling Christianity, I may well be accused of being religious, but this, does it not, apply equally to scientism? Those holding to this-world view have faith in its perceived method for searching for truth, I think, which would therefore make them equally religious?

These are only the musings of my mind, I am not claiming to know anything (I said, in the earlier thread!).

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