Class, Week 5: When Did the Early Church Become the Catholic Church?

Growing up in a tradition that sought to emulate the so-called “New Testament church,” I never thought to ask a couple of questions that seem relevant:

  1. What did the New Testament church actually practice?
  2. When did the New Testament church stop being the New Testament church?

These questions seem really basic, but the answers are quite complicated. The answers are assumed to be:

  1. What the New Testament says they practiced
  2. When it stopped doing what the New Testament described

Here’s the problem with both of those answers: Continue reading

Why Christians Should Be Environmentalists

One of the churches in town recently hired a new preacher – a young guy, around my age with kids my age. I was curious because this church has long had an older preacher and been on the conservative end of the spectrum. I didn’t expect them to hire Rob Bell or Brian McLaren, but new blood isn’t a bad thing, and I decided to check him out.

His name’s Wes McAdams, and he runs a blog called Radically Christian – which sounds promising for us progressive types until you realize he’s setting up New Testament restorationism as a radical break from the Christian norms of today. It’s a neat construct, but pedestrian conservative pseudoevangelical theology with a cappella worship doesn’t scream, “Radical!” to me.

One of his posts caught my eye, however, and that’s where I’m really going with this. The post is called, “3 Reasons Why I’m Not an ‘Environmentalist‘”.

It leads with this disclaimer:

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say, I love this planet and everything God put on it. I love the trees, the hills, the water, the animals, even the air; and I’m all for us keeping these things clean. But, I can honestly say, I’m not an “environmentalist.”

The reasons are, sadly enough, the reasons I used to give for why we needn’t worry about climate change or deforestation or any of the other ills humanity continues to inflict on our planet:

  1. God is in control
  2. The earth’s purpose is to be used, not protected
  3. It’s going to be destroyed anyway

Continue reading

The Importance of Doing

I’m powering my way through The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight – trying to finish it before I start reading for my class next week – and as I reach the end, a lot of the points at which McKnight spends much of the book hinting finally become clearer.

One of the nagging questions as McKnight tries to sketch out a more apostolic gospel than our modern obsession with who’s-in, personal-salvation-based Christianity is: Well, where does “doing” fit in? At some point, you have to do something to be saved, right?

Which is probably part of the problem. When you – as I suspect most or all of us did – grow up with the specter of hell hanging over those who aren’t “saved,” it makes being saved the important thing. You need assurance of salvation, and if you’ve sad the magic words – the sinner’s prayer – then you’re OK. You’re saved. Even though we talk about how we can’t do anything to be saved, we all have to do something, even if it’s simply saying a few words. That way, no matter what else happens, you aren’t going to hell, and that’s what’s important.

Never mind that Jesus didn’t seem to think that’s what was the most important. Never mind that the apostles preaching the gospel after Jesus didn’t seem to think so either. As McKnight notes,

Neither Peter nor Paul focuses on God’s wrath when they evangelize in Acts, nor do they describe the saving story of Jesus as an escape from hell.

Which isn’t to deny a judgment. Just that it’s not emphasized, and it’s certainly not the central part of the gospel message the way it is today.

But recognizing this intellectually is a far cry from being able to recognize deep down, where it’s hard to shake the fear that if we’re wrong, we might just end up in the flaming depths for all eternity. So while McKnight details how Jesus and Peter and Paul described the gospel as the Story of Israel being completed in the story of the Messiah and Lord, Jesus, I still couldn’t help but think: Where does salvation come in?

Continue reading