Monday, September 17, 2007

Cultural Ignorance in the Church Structure

A lot of events have happened this week back home - which oddly enough - has gotten me thinking about the role of culture in the church.

The church, as we see and hear it Sunday to Sunday, through and through is Euro-Western in structure and processes. It has become it's own little enclave of the Modern Western mind-set adding to it's own 'church culture' what it see's fit from society around it - and this usually comes from the Eurocentric world-view. In essence, these churches conform to society - not vice-versa - and they are quite picky about which 'society/culture' they pick from.

I am guessing (from Acts and Paul's Epistles) this whole thing started off Jewish - in writings, teachings, structure, leadership, and processes. There was a gradual trade off when Paul started to take this faith to other cultures and communities - and things started to change from a Jewish focus to one of all cultures are included (or equal) - new leadership abounds, new writings, new structures, new processes, and new teachings. Actually the early church is a great study in this 'battle' for the integrity of the faith and the rigid lines laid down.

What seems to have happened is the solidifying of certain cultures into the actual structure of the church - we see this first in Constantine's Roman inclusion of Christianity but is later made 'petra' by Orthodoxy/Catholic schism in the 1000's, the reformation branches from Europe, and denominational off-shoots from that tradition in the 1800's and 1900's. Fact is, if we look at this with integrity - the church resembles nothing of Acts 2 and has lost real connection back to it's Jewish roots (even Jesus Christ is not Hebrew/Aramaic but Greek).

But that bothers me a little - what bothers me now is my culture (First Nations in Canada) - is deemed by overwhelming ignorance in current church culture as 'pagan'. There is nothing Aboriginal (or Indian/Metis) about the churches we have in Canada and America - yet those are the founding peoples of this land. As much as we like to believe there is no 'church culture' - that is purely not true - it is a mix of European cultures (founding these denominations) and Western societial values. It is this same 'church culture' that seeks to change the Indigenous one's around it - actually - to destroy them through a process of assimilation (losing one culture for another one) - and this is more than documented globally.

The church these days only takes from Western - European societal values whenever they seek change - it's never another culture - like the Asian, Indigenous, or African communities - even when some of those ideas are mind-boggingly brilliant. Or why don't they let these communities re-define what symbology should be used in the actual presentation/services of their faith - since in times past this was 'outlawed' (but we know better now - cultural diversity and respect and all).

My example will be First Nations - since that is what I am (or Indian as we were first called). We have 'feasts' - which work as a commemoration of the dead person or rememberance (could easily double for communion). For prayers being offered up like 'incense' - my people 'smudge' with sweetgrass and other herbs - and we pretend to wash in the smoke - which then goes up to heaven - and we are cleansed (could double as a teaching on repentance). We have sharing/talking circles where each and every person is given a chance to speak - and this could help build community and listening/sharing (could be used as a bible study technique). We also have traditional dances and drum songs - which are all about a certain theme - and this could be used as an aspect of the worship service (cause we all love to dance).

But I think you see what I am saying now. My culture cannot be alone with great symbology/ideas to add to the convo - we live in a culturally diverse world with lots of good God-given cultures - and none of them are bad - what's bad is the narrow view the church has held towards them. Question these things in your church - I mean - even a lot of European cultures have some great stuff - who doesn't like a good Irish tune?

27 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

Hi society
It would help for them to understand the true meaning of "pagan" - anything that takes away from the Lordship of Christ. Rosary beads are pagan, but not a First Nations feast where Jesus can also be honored. The noble aspects in every culture are God's way of "mixing it up a bit".

BrotherKen said...

I agree that the tendency to convert and conform others into another culture is wrong. I think the basics of the faith can be taught and exampled without destroying cultural traditions. I have heard Native Americans speak of the "White Man's" God, and I can't blame them for thinking that way as long as it is expected that you must give up all your traditions to belong to a Christian church.

Yet, Christ must remain the focus of the service. Whatever symbology and traditions are used they must not confuse the message that Christ brought us. I think in most cultures that will cause some change in tradition. Even European and American churches have yet to shed some of it's non-Christ centered traditions.

I don't think it is the role of the church to instruct people in how they must live out the faith beyond the principles of Godly love. Smudges in Native American Christian services? I think it can work.

Anonymous said...

Why do we have to add any religion to Christ? I know what you are saying and I think I have shared with you before that I often see more that is in agreement with God in the cultures of the native people in my area than in my own anglo culture but to add religious ceremonies from any culture isn't what I believe Christ is about. I don't need religion but I do need Jesus. My relationship with Him is Spiritual not religeous.

I do think it is stupid though to try to make Native Americans into white men. Christ is for everyone and is not a cookie cutter religion, He is a living person. A living person that lives in the hearts of believers from many cultures. In Christ, people from all the nations of the world become members of the family of God but they do not become all alike and none of it is about ritual, it is about learning to love each other as God loves all of us.

Religion is about man trying to harness the power of God for himself and use it to rule over other men. It is that way in every culture. I long for the day when religion will be no more and not even the word or concept is remembered but instead, each and every person will live out their own lives in accordance to God through spiritual direction.

Pam

p.s. Do you know about Chaco Canyon? I spent the day there and have had many wonderful things to ponder. Your post brought all of my thoughts and prayers today to an interesting conclusion.

SocietyVs said...

Thanks for all the neat-o comments everyone - I think it is a good sign that we are open to the idea of cultural awareness in the church system - at least - this is something I hope can be a building block for the churches in dealing with various cultural groups (including my own).

the_burning_bush said...

Hmm ...

Every month women at my church (including my wife) perform a 'gospel' first nation's dance. They say it is a dance to Jesus, and, for a lot of the people there, I believe it is.

My concern is that for a lot of the people, dancers and members, this is really a performance, an exhibition of talent, esthetics, and general superficiality as a substitute for something real with God.

The word "culture" has a similarity to "cultivation", a great, great danger to spirituality. Have you ever seen a performing orchestra? Have you ever seen a conductor raise his nose way up in the air while he's conducting? That posturing, is called cultivation or affectation, and it is the staple fuel used by men to shut the kingdom of God in men's faces.

One way of understanding the reformation is in terms of taking the culture out of the Church, European or otherwise. The icons were smashed, the stained glass broken, and in Zwingli's congregation (if I'm not mistaken) they didn't even use instruments in worship!

In some ways I believe Jim Jordan, and Pam, to a lesser extent, were hinting at this.

The public respects people for their cultivation, but I think it's often a big sham. Most of the time, I think people really lord it over each other.

I'm okay with having some cultural activity, but its got to be secondary. The questions, "Did they do they dance right?" And, "How good did it look?" Are major, major obstacles to praising God or grasping spiritual truth. And that goes for basically every other culture out there too.

Anonymous said...

Burning Bush,

A good example of what you are saying is the church growth movement. Becoming culturally relevant has watered the church down to the point of dumbing it down to bringing it to the point of not being good for much of anything. The church can't be the church if it is not Christ relevant.

Pam

SocietyVs said...

"The word "culture" has a similarity to "cultivation". (BB)

They are similar - but they are nothing alike in meaning.

"The icons were smashed, the stained glass broken, and in Zwingli's congregation (if I'm not mistaken) they didn't even use instruments in worship!" (BB)

Interesting, and all those things again exist in masses of churches - thus proving European culture has slipped back into the church (as the preferable tool for correct Christianity). Which is something I have addressed - all these things we see in the church exist from some cultural perspective (from the altar call to the disco ball). I don't think it is a bad thing - but the over-use of one culture has proven to be ego-centric.

"I'm okay with having some cultural activity, but its got to be secondary." (BB)

I don't agree here - I thought I would - but I guess I don't. The church is wrapped within cultural contexts - everything whether symbolic comes from a cultural idea or even systemic procedures. These things are seen as secondary but they are as much the fabric of the church as the teachings are at this point.

I know this because I ask. I ask people to seperate Capitalism and faith - this is impossible. I have asked people change the structure of the church - this is impossible. I have asked people to change the interpretations of scritpure (it has European influences all over it - thus at time marring it's meaning) - this is impossible. Now I ask for culture to be checked into - and this is going to be impossible. That's 4 areas that can easily change if we want them too - what are people so scared of? Culture and change.

I firmly believe at this point the church and it's culture will not change for anything - it is firmly planted in it's own cultural roots now (and church-isms). There is barely even a faith that resembles with Jesus actually taught in the 'gospels' there anymore - which started off as Jewish culture (I see none of that in the church whatsoever). And I am okay with that - but if we can throw of the Jewish-ness of the gospels I can sure as I am alive - throw off the Western-isms of the gospel now (which I think are leading us off the straight and narrow).

I got huge questions for the church as a whole entity - and if I have to narrow them down to denominations I will do that. We need to change in the worst of ways.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there are continually movements of the Holy Spirit that move people away from tradtions that have smothered the truth all through out church history but after a time, those movements become organizations and that which gave them life in the beginning dies and gives way to the traditions of men. I really don't know what to do about it except to endevour to personally follow the Spirit and not traditions. Or at least, not allow those traditions to impede my personal relationship with Christ.

Pam

Anonymous said...

There is barely even a faith that resembles with Jesus actually taught in the 'gospels' there anymore - which started off as Jewish culture (I see none of that in the church whatsoever). And I am okay with that - but if we can throw of the Jewish-ness of the gospels I can sure as I am alive - throw off the Western-isms of the gospel now (which I think are leading us off the straight and narrow).

Great post! I guess I have to hope that reading on my blog helped you to see that Judaism is totally different from Christianity, that indeed if ever there were any of our ways included with yours they are long gone from the scene.

I disagree with the statement made by a commenter about religion being a bad thing. I hear that all the time and find it amusing. The people who say it follow a religion of their own making, they just don't want to admit it. Personally, I enjoy being part of a long line of traditions going back for thousands of years instead of having to make up my own as I go along.

I understand completely what you are saying in your post. When someone is a majority in a culture they never realize how much THEIR ways permeate everything around them, how much they force their views on the rest of us, even when they don't mean to do so. It's kind of like our own personal little habits that we never even notice but which can really be annoying to others. We don't notice them because they're just part of us.

As a Jew in a Christian dominated society and workplace, I can relate to what you are saying as someone whose culture is different than what is found in your church. I think your ideas for making your faith relevant to your culture are great. Surely that is what living is all about, helping people make their connections to God.

To some people everything 'foreign' is 'pagan'. I don't listen to such talk. Look closely at all the traditions included in the Bible and I'll bet you can find a lot of 'pagan' influence. Who cares? To take the mundane, to take the profane and make it holy, isn't that part of our purpose in existing?

Your ancestors had their own connection to God. Missionaries came along and convinced some that their ways were invalid, only the missionary knew the right way. Too bad anyone listened. What good has it done for your people? Do they have a closer relationship to God now? I have my doubts.

Someone mentioned about how a dance could just become a performance? So what? And preachers up front aren't putting on performances with their attempts to get everyone's emotions all pumped up? Anything can turn into a performance, just because something is from a different culture doesn't mean it is an any more danger of becoming a performance. Some of that fear I see as coming from a patronizing point of view. I have seen it from Christians looking down on our Jewish rituals as well. 'Oh look at those quaint Jews over there. Isn't that interesting?' Instead of seeing us as religious people who are worshiping God in a way they don't understand they just view us as exotic animals in the zoo!

If my comments are offensive to some here, oh well. I see a man trying to make his faith REAL in the face of centuries of others forcing their cultural norms on him in the name of God, taking more of the same. For whatever it is worth, SocietyVS, I applaud your efforts! Good for you. Hope you don't stop visiting my blog, however. I've enjoyed our conversations.

I'm out of here to finish preparing for yontif.

Yael

Anonymous said...

Jason,

I sure never meant to denigrate anyone's religion or culture and would hate to be misunderstood that way. I just don't believe that religion should take the place of our personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is the relationship that defines us as Christian not any religeous or cultural trappings that we attach to that relationship. That is my view.

Pam

the_burning_bush said...

Hi Pam,

I'm not familiar with the church growth movement. If it is about cultural relevancy, there is some room for understanding (as Paul preached to Romans as a Roman, etc.), but it is ultimately the individual who must find the gospel relevant and not "culture". God can raise sons of Abraham out stone, but a true disciple is the work of the Holy Spirit.

the_burning_bush said...

Hi SocietyVS,

I've been wondering for several days how you would respond. I read your response and I have some difficulty understanding what you mean about change in regard to structure, capitalism, and culture, but I fully expect you to make it clear as you always do on everything you find important.

I am a little surprised to read your claim that culture is woven into the fabric of the church. Perhaps you were saying this was a necessary evil or something along those lines? Surely you wouldn't suggest that when God judges the hearts of men He will take into account how cultural they were?

Anonymous said...

I sure never meant to denigrate anyone's religion or culture and would hate to be misunderstood that way. I just don't believe that religion should take the place of our personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is the relationship that defines us as Christian not any religeous or cultural trappings that we attach to that relationship. That is my view

Pam,
This comment wasn't directed to me, but was in response to my comment so, I'm going to respond to it, although my response is mostly a general response to your points.

No doubt you didn't mean to slam anyone's culture or religion, that is my point, that these things aren't blatant or even done on purpose half the time, they're just there, including in my own life.

I ask anyone who brings up such points the same questions:

What constitutes having a 'personal relationship with God'? Is not the assumption being made that these 'trappings of religion' are perhaps an interference or at least a distraction to having such a relationship?

What if instead these 'trappings' are the very thing which allows for a personal relationship or which show there is indeed a personal relationship? Why should someone looking into ways of making a connection to God which are not the 'usual' be subject to cautions about going astray?

Is it right to try to decide for others what makes for a valid personal relationship?

Is this caution against 'trappings' a misunderstanding of the role ritual plays in all of our lives?

I wrote something awhile back when a few Christians were bugging me about rituals. Not all of it is relevant to this conversation, but I think some of it is in pointing out how many rituals people follow without ever thinking of them as rituals.

(And just for amusement I asked if anyone ever wondered where the ritual of clapping hands came from? Does anyone ever wonder if it was of pagan origins? Perhaps an attempt to scare away evil spirits at times of celebration by making a lot of noise?)

Rituals are everywhere, to me it's just a matter of which ones are ours and thus deemed to be most meaningful, and which ones aren't ours and thus deemed to be questionable.

I applaud SocietyVS in his efforts to find those rituals which can facilitate the connection of the souls of his people to God. As a Jew who used to think one hour church services were too long to bear since they left me cold, but who just spent 11 hours in shul yesterday for Yom Kippur, a very solemn day filled with davening and fasting, and hardly noticed the time, I have come to the conclusion that our souls are not all the same, that we each need to find that community in which we can find that besherit, the one who speaks to our heart. When we find that place, we will know it. Until that time our souls will constantly long for something else.

Besides, in Torah no one has a straight path to God. To me this shows that it is not only OK to wander around, it is also necessary. Instead of getting bothered that someone is leaving UR, or stopping in Haran, or going off to Egypt for awhile, or going back to Mom's place, or going off to Egypt because they want to eat, or off wandering in the wilderness tending sheep, why not take these are steps required to be able to say as Jacob, "God was in this place and I didn't know it!" Or take them as a way for us to be able to hear God say, "Take off your shoes. The place where you're standing is holy ground." JMO.

Yael

Angels of Liberty said...

The apostle Paul used a culture's symbols to communicate Christ. In the First Nation community, there are symbols that have defined their spirituality for millennia. These symbols communicate the revelation of "The Great Spirit." When Christ comes, he further defines those symbols so that it is understood that YWHW, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Great Spirit; the God of ALL creation and cultures. It is in finding Him that cultures come to maturity - not in finding Western Culture, oppressively communicated by "Christianity."

Let's put an end to this nonsense that only European culture communicates Christ, and welcome all to the table of God's mercy.

ed

Anonymous said...

Let's put an end to this nonsense that only European culture communicates Christ, and welcome all to the table of God's mercy.

Ed,
I agree with your sentiment to a certain extent...How about also putting an end to the nonsense that Christ is the only way to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, since this is no where taught in Tanakh? This would be even better since it would end the pushing of most everyone in the world away from the table of God's mercy, including us Jews, who are the very descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Yael

Anonymous said...

I need to modify my previous comment. No one can push anyone else away from the table of God's mercy, as a Jew who just finished the observance of Yom Kippur last night I have no doubts about this whatsoever.

Ending the nonsense of Christ being the only way to our God would allow other religious traditions to be treated with respect instead of denigrated, would allow other religious people to be treated with respect instead of only being seen as potential converts, would acknowledge that all have a place at the table of God's mercy if they chose to sit down.

Yael

Anonymous said...

Yael,

Traditions aren't bad in and of themselves but when we place them between anothr and God they are bad because they cloud the truth.

A personal relationship is just what it says it is, a one on one relationship with God. That is what we have in Jesus Christ that is different from the rest of the world. It is impossible to have this kind of relationship except if one is in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who fulfilled all of the Laws and Ordinances of the the OT. He always did the Will of His Father and is the only One worthy of intinate relationship with the Father. Through faith in Him, our imperfect lives are covered by His perfect blood and we too can enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father. The only ordinances required are baptism and the Lord's Supper, according to the Bible. The Chrisitan faith is not about ritual or ordinances, it is about the way we live out our lives, which should acutally be Jesus living out His life in us and through us. Jesus didn't come to start a new religion but to make it possible for us to live according to the Father by minds and hearts changed to desire what the Father desires. This is a growth process and isn't taught through rules or ritual but directly by the Holy Spirit. The Chrisitan faith SHOULD be a living faith that reflects the Living God to a dying world.

If I were to equate religion to Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God, my Savior and the Savior of the world, then I would not be found faithful to Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and their is no other.

Jesus was an afront to religion when He walked the earth because He threatened to put it out of business. He is still an afront to religion.

Also, I too applaud Societyvs. for writing this and causing me to seriously compare some of the traditions of his people with some of the false european ones that I tolerate in church. Neither are harmful but I, in my heart, don't truly believe that any of them have a place in church. Culture is a good thing to maintain but Jesus Christ should supercede all cultures and their traditions in the life of a Christian. Neither can I be a Jew for I am a Gentile but studying the Hebrew culture and the Hebrew thought that is the underpinning of scripture and the culture of the people who wrote it as well as the culture of Jesus, my understanding of scripture is increased. Also, by studying and respecting the cultures of all peoples am I made better able to minister Christ to others. I do not wish to change culture but only to direct others to Jesus that they might enjoy the Heavenly Father in the same way that I do, that they might have eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Pam

Anonymous said...

Pam,
Thanks for the reminder of how incredibly insulting Christianity is towards Jews. Obviously we Jews see things just a bit differently.

I will repeat:
Ending the nonsense of Christ being the only way to our God would allow other religious traditions to be treated with respect instead of denigrated, would allow other religious people to be treated with respect instead of only being seen as potential converts, would acknowledge that all have a place at the table of God's mercy if they choose to sit down.

Yael

Anonymous said...

Yael,

None of what I said was meant as disrespect. I was only trying to explain my point of view to you. If I did not believe that Jesus is the way to God, I would not be a Christian. Anyway, people who don't believe in Jesus seem to spend a good deal of time fighting over their religion and I don't think that can be blamed upon Jesus.

I also could be offended by your attitude but I choose not to be.

Pam

Anonymous said...

I don't spend any time fighting over religion. I have no issue with other people who walk their own paths and leave others to walk theirs. Mostly I avoid those who cannot. I was quite annoyed with your response and should have walked away for awhile but unfortunately when posting anonymously, once publish is clicked, there is no turning back the clock. I can regret, but I cannot fix. And trust me, I did regret.

I can only use an excuse given by Jesus when he lost his temper. Zeal for God drives me to defend my people. When I think of all the incredibly Godly Jews with whom I interact daily, I cannot help but be bothered that someone who knows nothing of us or our lives so quickly pronounces us all as godless. If these people are godless, would that more of the world were godless as well.

My mother and sister both died as devout Christians, it is ever my sorrow that they are no longer here with me. I have no disrespect for their beliefs even if theirs are not mine, it has been a journey to reach this point, there is no doubt. My sister was never bothered that my path was different and I have no doubts that my mother would also have come to accept me in time. Another sister is a former missionary with an evangelical organization. She also has come to realize that no group can claim to have all of God for themselves. It has been a tough thing, building a relationship when we are so different, but we managed to do so once she saw that Torah and God is what I live and breath. We do not understand how it can be that our very opposite beliefs can both exist at the same time, but they do and we do not try to reason it out. We leave it to God to understand and instead strive to inspire each other to deepen our connections to God, each in our own ways.

The rituals which you say hinder people from knowing God are the very rituals God gave us to follow. I find great meaning in these rituals, a very real connection to God. There is no more holy a time in my life than davening while wearing tallis and tefillin during minyan. To have words of Torah on my forehead and on my arm, to be wrapped in the arms of God, to see the fringes on my tallis which remind me of how God wants me to live my life by the commandments, to have the holy language, Hebrew, on my tongue as I chant the Psalms as Jews have done through the ages, as I proclaim Shema, is the most spiritual time in my whole day. God hears the cry of my heart at those moments, I know because I also hear the answers. Sometimes these answers are a verse come to mind, words of Rabbi or another friend, something I find in my studies, something that comes to mind. You may dismiss it all of this as invalid, but the people who know me and interact with me do not.

I work in a very evangelical setting. At first many people tried to 'save my soul'. It was very difficult, very disheartening. I could cry out to God, 'Why can't they see that I already know You?' And you know what? Eventually they did see as day in day out I lived a Jewish life in front of their eyes. In the end many of them have come to ME asking me about Judaism, in fulfillment of the prophesy, In those days 10 men from nations of every tongue will take hold - will take hold of every Jew by the tzitzit and say, 'Let us go with you, for ewe have heard that God is with you.' Zech 8:23 It happens and the interesting thing is that I work with people from all over the world so they are indeed from many nations and tongues. They want to come to shul, to learn of Judaism, but I always encourage them to return to their churches and find God there, in their place, and make a difference right where they are.

So, perhaps we can just both go our ways in peace. I wish you well on your Christian walk and I hope that the day will come when you will also be able to wish me well on my Jewish walk. I came by to encourage SocietyVS in his journey, I did not come by to argue. To my shame, to the shame of my people, and to the shame of God's Name, I allowed myself to become involved in such things. I offer my sincerest of apologies to all who read here.

Yael

Anonymous said...

Yael,

It is very easy to misunderstand online communcation. Words may be percise but intent is very difficult to communicate. If you knew me, you would know that I hold the Jewish people, whom I regard as the Chosen people of God, in very high regard. Truly, I believe that I have been called out in Christ as a small part of a greater work of God that includes the saving of all Israel. I also hold in high regard the Law of God as in Christ those very Laws are being written upon my heart. Indeed, I hold all people in high regard as I know they all belong to God. I also don't believe that I have the power to convert anyone to faith in Jesus Christ, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. I also believe in the Sovereignty of God over all things and also over His plan for mankind. I believe that all of us are in the places He has designed for all of us.

I was not trying to argue either and I certainly didn't mean to insult anyone, though that often happens when we speak in honesty. This was a discussion of how believers in Christ should worship together. I was only attempting to add my point of view for consideration. I have a deep respect for Jason and his people and also very strong beliefs about what the church is and is not.

I too appologize for any misunderstandings. I am an old bird and fairly certain of what I believe which can be misconstrued as arrogance. On the otherhand, I am still learning and growing and if we can't test the validity of our beliefs and thoughts in a peaceful fashion, then we will probably all be at war. I do not wish for war but only for peace.

Pam

Anonymous said...

Pam,
Thank you, sort of! Your desire to help 'save' the Jews is not something about which I can wish you well, however for everything else but that I will. :>)

Yael

Anonymous said...

Yael,

I'm not going to 'save' anyone. I don't have that power but God does! If He can save me, He can save anybody! My desire is that all come to repentance.:0)

Pam

Anonymous said...

We Jews are more concerned with doing Teshuvah of which repentance is only a part. This is not a one time deal, the world is still in need of much repair. We don't need to be 'saved'; there is no such concept in Judaism. Conversion to Christianity only leads to the distruction of our people.

The assumption is still being made that we don't know God. Please, look closely at who we are and realize, we already have God, we have always had God. We don't need the God of another people. 'You shall have no other gods before Me.' We don't place another god in between us and God. We can already go directly to God just as we Jews have always done for centuries.

Time to head back to Jewish blogs for awhile. We will ever disagree here, that much is obvious! :>)


Yael

SocietyVs said...

Interesting debate between Pam and Yael - couldn't find the common ground I see - I find that kind of interesting.

I think we need to start looking at what the 'gospel' is really all about in our own faith - and I think Yael is doing that with her faith...and of all the faiths on this planet we should have some communion with - it should be the other one that follows the Tanakh. That's just me - but I am open to the dialogue about it.

For me, the gospel is not so simple and made of these steps 1 (believe in Jesus), 2 (repent), and 3 (you are saved) - it actually is way too simplictic. What do each of the 3 steps even mean then? What does it mean to 'believe'? What is the total scope of 'repentance'? What does 'salvation' all encompass? These are the questions I am only now looking into and finding that doctrinal beliefs (no matter the church system) are very weak on defining them and in including our responsibilities in those steps. I think each of those are good topics to look deeper into.

I thank Yael for honesty about her faith - a faith I admit to knowing very little about - and this no thanks to my Christian communities around me who taught me rather ignorantly about the Tanakh (and used that book very liberally for their own means). I think I have lots of room for discussion with Yael - and I don't need to patronize her faith with the all withstanding church calling of 'become like me'.

Pam I think you are a good soul and you mean very well in your intentions - and in your statements about your own faith - of that I can only say 'awesome'! But we need to start finding out if we have the true intentions of our own scriptures - and where better to start then with the Tanakh (OT) ans the very faith that cherishes it more than us - Judaism. This is why I enjoy the convo's with Yael - I am enlightened from a perspective I cannot get from any church.

Either way - it was a good convo.

SocietyVs said...

Interesting debate between Pam and Yael - couldn't find the common ground I see - I find that kind of interesting.

I think we need to start looking at what the 'gospel' is really all about in our own faith - and I think Yael is doing that with her faith...and of all the faiths on this planet we should have some communion with - it should be the other one that follows the Tanakh. That's just me - but I am open to the dialogue about it.

For me, the gospel is not so simple and made of these steps 1 (believe in Jesus), 2 (repent), and 3 (you are saved) - it actually is way too simplictic. What do each of the 3 steps even mean then? What does it mean to 'believe'? What is the total scope of 'repentance'? What does 'salvation' all encompass? These are the questions I am only now looking into and finding that doctrinal beliefs (no matter the church system) are very weak on defining them and in including our responsibilities in those steps. I think each of those are good topics to look deeper into.

I thank Yael for honesty about her faith - a faith I admit to knowing very little about - and this no thanks to my Christian communities around me who taught me rather ignorantly about the Tanakh (and used that book very liberally for their own means). I think I have lots of room for discussion with Yael - and I don't need to patronize her faith with the all withstanding church calling of 'become like me'.

Pam I think you are a good soul and you mean very well in your intentions - and in your statements about your own faith - of that I can only say 'awesome'! But we need to start finding out if we have the true intentions of our own scriptures - and where better to start then with the Tanakh (OT) ans the very faith that cherishes it more than us - Judaism. This is why I enjoy the convo's with Yael - I am enlightened from a perspective I cannot get from any church.

Either way - it was a good convo.

Anonymous said...

Society and Yael,

I don't really hold any particular denominational view anymore. I guess you'd say I'm out of the mainstream these days. Yet, I'm closer to God than I've ever been in my life. That's what can happen when you spend a few years with ill health, lots of time to study, and lots of time for indepth online discussion.

I too think I could learn a lot from Yael and was sorry to get off to such a bad start. I think I still use words that are common to Christians but often the common religio-babel doesn't really convey what is in my heart. I decided not to push further because I didn't want to offend further but I don't think common ground is that far out of reach.

Repentance as I have experienced it and understand it, is to turn from one's own ways to God's ways. When Christ was revealed to me, everything in my thinking was upside down to God and there was nothing in me that would seek after Him. I certainly knew I was sinful but on my own, I had no desire to be 'saved' nor did I understand the concept. There was a moment in my life when my eyes were opened to Who Jesus is and I knew that I needed Him to save me from the things I was doing to myself. That was my first act of repentance, acknowledging the error of my own choices and way of living and realizing that I could not change on my own. I needed help and I believed. I think of my life before that moment as darkness, a kind of death dance and my life afterward as when the light came on and I have been dancing in the light ever since in celebration of life. Before Jesus, my desire for my pet sins were at the core of my existence but He replaced that core. Where my desire for sin used to live, Jesus lives now and my desire is to please God. Repentance continues in my life as God continues to refine me and I learn to take every thought captive in Christ and surrender it to God.

Salvation is a concept I first understood as God saving me from the bad things I was doing to myself and to others. Now I am more mature and I have a much deeper understanding of what occured in the moment I first believed. I began with a very selfish view of my salvation, thinking it a good choice I had made then I began to understand the Sovereignty of God and knew that He had called me in Christ according to His purpose; and a very odd thing to me at the time, that I had not been called because of any specialness upon my part but because of my 'baseness'. I began to understand that I had been called in Christ as a demonstration of God's Mercy. Then as I studied more, I began to see an over-all plan of God for all peoples and indeed His entire Creation, in returning that Creation to Himself, fully redeemed from sin and death. I now understand that not everyone is supposed to be a Christian and not everyone is supposed be a Jew but that God is working out His plan through two separate peoples of God who are inter-related, even though they often appear to be at odds, in a way that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed...I stopped before because I did not want to offend further so I'll ask that this please be taken in the way that it is offered, as my personal beliefs and not as any particular attempt at conversion (again though evangelism is an important part of my faith it is only accomplished by the Holy Spirit speaking through a believer as another is drawn by that same Spirit to belief in Christ, it is not my work and I do not judge the spiritual condition of another). I now believe that if the Jews had not been blinded to their Messiah, then God would not have been able to show His Mercy upon me, a Gentile but that they were blinded so that the Gentiles could be grafted into the family God and because God was able to show His Mercy, unmeritted, to me a base sinner, then He also will be able to graft all those lost in Israel back in again when the Messiah returns and their long awaited Kingdom is established upon the earth. This is when Isreal (He who fights with God) will no longer ever fight with God but will be forever and eternally at peace with Him and when there is true peace with Israel that peace will flow to all the peoples of the earth. I, a mere Gentile, only eat the crumbs that fall from the table that God has prepared for His chosen people in that Kingdom. I now view my Salvation as my receiving through faith in Christ, eternal life but that gift does not stop at me but will indeed flow to all the Creation in the fullness of the dispensation of time.

It is actually much more complicated than this but I hope I have been able to explain my beliefs in a way that is clear and not offensive. My intent is never to offend but if at all possible, to live in peace with everyone. However, I can never deny Christ or say that I believe in anything but Christ alone for without Jesus, I would never would have had any hope of entering the Kingdom of God but because Jesus lives in me that Kingdom also lives in me and someday that which lives in me by faith will be sight.

Pam