A Common Table

In his introduction to the book The Post-Evangelical, Dallas Willard notes: “Often we create ‘marks of group membership’ by making definitive statements from a particular interpretation of the Bible.  So for example, issues such as whether you believe that women should be allowed to teach or whether Christ will return soon after the millennium begins may be used as tests for whether or not you believe the Bible – and that test, in turn, may be used as a test of whether you are a Christian.  And so on. The question moves from ‘Where are you before God?’ to ‘Are you a member of our group?’.  Once we make that move, we risk smothering Jesus in a heap of trivialities.”

In lieu of such a definitive statement, (what many of us hold to is found at this site), here is an attempt at describing our posture of faith:

A Common Table

As Willard noted, statements of faith can often be used as litmus tests to help someone determine whether people are ‘in’ or ‘out’, or whether or not this church ‘has it right’.

So rather than making a long list of what we do believe or don’t believe, we’d prefer to think of a table which gathers us together and invites us in, at which all are welcome, and at which we can experience life together.  This table denotes some things that are central to our understanding of faith, but the table is not meant to keep people in or out, but rather, to draw people into the center of life with God.  A table evokes things like food, meals, shared experience, laughter, tears, confessions, obsessions, accomplishments, rejections, love and sorrow, bread and wine, newness… and community.

In the picture, you notice three words – God, Jesus, resurrection.  Those represent what you might call our ‘working understanding’ of the Bible and the life and message of Jesus:  that God has presented himself to us through the person of Jesus, who on the cross showed us that God is love, that God is present with us in suffering, and that God sought ultimate justice by submitting to injustice.  Yet this could not hold him down, and in the resurrection we find that God is not done with this world, but is in fact, transforming it.

All of this can be understood by the declaration ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’, which was central to the message of Jesus.

That is what we come to the table understanding as central to our life as a faith community.

Perhaps you noticed that the words are somewhat faded.  This denotes to us that God is not always obvious in our world, and even how we understand these concepts of God, Jesus, and resurrection are not always cut and dried.  There is room for questions, even for doubt, as God is always bigger and beyond our conceptualizations of him, and we all, like Jesus on the cross, experience moments of his absence (indeed, some would say this loss of God is the moment of true faith; for a God who is obviously present requires very little faith).  We trust that though presently we ‘see through a glass darkly’, one day we shall see ‘face to face’.  So while we may each have differing perspectives on various doctrinal issues, our common core understanding is that we encounter God in and through the person of Jesus, that we seek to be disciples who walk in the way of the cross, and that the resurrection means real hope for people here and now and that we can anticipate one day a new heavens and a new earth, a world where God is ‘all in all’.

If that sounds like a life worth living, or a community worth experiencing – we invite you to pull up a chair and join us.

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9 thoughts on “A Common Table

  1. Hi, Peter. I’ve been reading your conversation with Bryan a bit at at time, and trying to understand where you’re coming from and, more accurately, what your primary concern is here. I’m not the writer you are, but let me try to summarize one central issue you’re discussing before asking a question.

    You seem to be acknowledging that many non-Christians are actively transforming aspects of American (or more local) culture for the (moral) better, and you’re wondering what the role of Christians should be in/regarding that. You seem to be wary of just joining in (or of having Christians generally just do so), for fear of failing to be uniquely Christian, but you also don’t think Christians should just stand by and wait for specifically-Christian versions of organizations to start/continue doing the sort of environmentally-conscious, justice-seeking work that local not-specifically-Christian organizations are doing. (I know there are many Christian organizations that participate or lead as well, but that’s another matter.)

    In the last post you put this issue succinctly in terms of the familiar message to “be in the world but not of it.” Since that seems to be at the heart of your concerns, I’d like to ask you about it.

    Despite having proclaimed it for much of my life, I’ve always found this claim a little puzzling–obviously Christians are part of the world, in the ordinary sense of the word. (For what it’s worth, I find the source texts even more puzzling.)

    Then consider the command not to be “of the world”? That’s not an ordinary English expression, so it’s hard to know where even to start on that one. In retrospect, it felt like a kind of naive elitism. We’re special. We’re better. It’s up to us (Christians) to teach them (the world) how they ought to live.

    But those feelings I associated with ‘not of the world’ don’t necessarily reveal anything about what was meant or what it should mean for Christians today.

    So, I’m curious what your take is on this expression or the verses it paraphrases. What do you think is meant by ‘the world’ here? And what do you think it means for Christians to be “in it but not of it”?

    Maybe you don’t know, and maybe that’s what you’re asking. Or maybe you don’t care so much about that expression, in which case, I’d like to ask you about something else. Maybe later.

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  2. I didn’t choose my words very well. Self-righteous probably doesn’t convey the right meaning. I don’t mean arrogant or proud or morally bankrupt. (No, I don’t think every act needs a little cross by it to have merit.) It is self-righteous in a nominal or technical sense in that it can’t look outside itself for rightness or a basis to order society. I don’t mean to trash Traverse City or degrade any particular person or action. It’s a delightful place with many people doing exciting work. In many ways I am an enthusiastic participant and supporter of this local culture movement.

    I am trying to frame the issue as a problem of distinction for the church, since we are called to be in the world but not of it and we live in a bucolic paradise. We shouldn’t be too enamored with the shininess around us. If the church is going to be a lampstand we should attempt to be clear about the nature of the light and how it differs from natural light around us. It can be splintered but still different in kind. Jesus does not give as this world gives. Being a community of grace seems like the crucial distinction. This implies debtors in need of grace and a creator who gives it lavishly at a cost.

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  3. I find this conversation very helpful and healthy.

    It’s a gift to see God at work beyond our imagination, bringing his kingdom to pass. I’d like to partner with God in extending his grace, truth and mercy to any and all. At times it’s clear to me that he is working beyond the borders of the church and at other times it’s beautiful to see it within the church.

    Is there value in embracing those who promote the ways of God outside the church? I think so. I hope so. Is there something Jesus offers us that others can’t? I think so. I hope so. It’s not an either/or reality to me.

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  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. Again, I think we have much in agreement, and I always appreciate the depth of your thinking on these matters.

    A few questions/thoughts:
    Is there really a self-righteousness about people trying to do the right thing? I suppose there are cases, but to put an across-the-board label on it seems a bit unfair. Are you calling these things self-righteous (or even morally bankrupt) just because Christians didn’t come up with them first? In reality, there is more than one example of the church playing catch-up to the broader culture on moral issues, in addition to the examples where the church has led the way.

    That said, I agree that the gospel judges cultures in many aspects, and think it has much to say to ours. We highlighted some of those things in our series on Revelation such as putting our hope in the powers of this world, particularly those that claim a [divine] status they have no claim to, relying on wealth as the means to ultimate ends, cooperating with the systems of power that diminish the poorest and weakest among us, and being willing to worship gods and lords other than Christ (which was actually a word to believers as much as to the broader culture).

    However, the gospel would affirm many things our culture is beginning to value more and more: treating the earth with respect (recycling, sustainable practices, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, keeping clean water pure, etc); seeking to provide fair wages and prices, particularly to workers in the developing world who are caught up in a free-market system that thrives on using them and keeping them voiceless and powerless; making sure everyone is valued and given opportunities, particularly those who have historically been marginalized – just to name a few.

    Sadly, there are some who would denounce all of the above in the name of their faith, because they are certain the gospel always speaks out against everything that somehow doesn’t have the label ‘Christian’ or ‘church’ on it, or have reduced the gospel to a spiritualized escape mechanism in which this world is just a phony first step to ultimate spiritual nirvana. Sometimes the gospel needs to speak out against such distortions of itself.

    There is no monolithic ‘world culture’. There is no either/or. It’s nice to think we have our pure gospel culture here, and the world over there. But the reality is that it always going to be mixed together until the kingdom comes in its fullness. A bit of yeast in the dough, with instances of the kingdom here, there, and everywhere. Unfortunately the times that Christianity has controlled the culture it hasn’t gone so well, which again goes back to the denunciation of the use and abuse of power, which occasionally the gospel has had to speak to the church.

    It seems to me that Christ exhibited the power of powerlessness: exposing the abuse of power as wielded by religion and the state. The early Christians were an instance of an alternative community, which centered on worship of God, the sustenance provided by a meal which remembered Christ, and putting kingdom values into practice. It spoke the word of the cross into the world, which nearly always went over poorly to those in power (it was foolishness then and now), since it critiqued their very MO, but spoke a word of hope to those on the margins, who saw that God had shown himself on their side. Jesus was, as you noted, example and sacrifice.

    (We could discuss what kind of sacrifice – and I would recommend a couple of resources for more thinking on this: S. Mark Heim’s Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross, or Stephen Finlan’s Problems With Atonement).

    You ask about a love-only God as not being just. You ask, “What about those who commit injustices, are they given a free pass? Are they written off?”

    I don’t think so. In what is arguably the greatest sin or crime in history, the death of Jesus, Jesus himself prays to God on behalf of his executors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Not: “Forgive them, because they are about to repent.” Not: “Forgive them, for they know the theological formula that will later be developed and be their ticket to forgiveness.” Not: “Forgive them, because they secretly are my disciples, they just had a bad day.” No. It is “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Forgive the ignorant. Forgive the killers. Forgive those committing this unforgivable act. Could not this be the greatest hope that is offered to every single person in history? Could it be possible that mercy triumphs over judgment?

    You stated that you see our culture as very much ‘me for me’. I agree this is very prevalent, and would ask if you have ever heard us affirm that kind of thinking at Watershed? I would hope not. We often admit and articulate the deep brokenness (sinfulness, fallenness) that our world, and we as individuals, exhibit, and appropriately include times of confession in our worship. We could criticize the above ‘non-statement’ all we want, but it was not meant to be comprehensive.

    Yes, there is a strong dose of selfishness and entitlement in our world today. And the gospel not only speaks out against that, it provides a powerful alternative of ‘loving one’s neighbor as oneself’. But to put that label on all cultures everywhere that are not Christian would again be a mistake. There are many cultures, philosophies, and religions that mitigate against such selfishness. It would be nice if the gospel were unique in this critique, but it is not, and we musn’t pretend it is. Rather than trying to claim a sole moral position on this issue, we ought to join our voices with all who speak out against such selfishness, which would be a powerful force for change in our world.

    As a follower of Christ I do feel that the gospel provides a unique hope – that of having a changed heart through the work of Christ. As you noted: something coming from the outside that begins to transform me into one who is Christlike. But this is a process, a journey, and it takes time – and I trust that God over the long haul will continue to work out his changes in my heart and life.

    Again, this is not to say that other faiths cannot at some level change someone into being selfless or loving or patient as well. Yet our hope is that the gospel does more than that – it makes us into worshipers of the God who is.

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  5. Since it is Saturday morning and I don’t seem to have a lot to do, I’ll risk some distraction here.

    What is the conception of justice among those who propose a love only God? How does the creator then deal with the atrocities and oppressions of this world? Will those accounts never be settled? Will they simply be written off like bad home loans to be picked up the tax payers?

    It is curious to me that the mainline church, as interested as it is social justice, would abandon the most charitable act of justification imaginable.

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  6. Does Building 50 Need a Lamb?

    As usual, I arrive months late to the conversation. Nevertheless I will add my two cents here for what it might be worth. My understanding is that the leadership council endorsed what is written here following some discussion about what exactly Watershed affirms. I have a couple thoughts to contribute, one about tone, the other substance.

    It is worth pointing out this statement starts with a negative assertion of who we are or aspire to be. We’re not those mean people who create theological yardsticks to hit others with. I pretty much agree with what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about an open door. The reordering of kingdom participation from the formula believe>behave>belong to belong>behave>believe is among the gifts the church has received, to some extent, from the Emergent movement. I welcome it, although I think it makes defining the center that much more essential.

    But this construction of that idea is a bit of caricature. It portrays people who think a well-defined center is desirable as ready to administer breathalyzers at coffee hour, put up fences and pile on adjectival qualifiers. The effect is a little chilling. While it keeps the door open it alerts us that some attitudes about the Gospel are regarded with suspicion. There is a line somewhere there but it’s hard to say where. Since I don’t know when I might be accused of crossing into the trivial or brandishing a stick, it becomes a looming threat that could be used to silence me at any moment. Better to play it cool than harsh somebody else’s buzz around here.

    This is a difference that makes a difference, I think, since Emergents hang so much of church life on conversation. The art of conversation with real debate and disagreement is a lost one in our time and place. We are more comfortable being nice than serious. Someone once announced as much at one of our services. Wouldn’t you rather be nice than right? (I guess it would depend on what I’d have to be wrong or silent about for you to think I’m nice.)

    Anyone who thinks conversation is so vital should ask how much it’s degraded by contemporary notions about niceness. I notice a lot of the conversation around the Emergent movement consists of cheerleading and high fives. Look at how lame the comments are following Samir Selmanovic’s blog post elevating conversation to the level of a sacrament. (http://www.samirselmanovic.com/2010/03/08/3-thoughts-on-emerging-church/comment-page-1/#comment-178)

    If you read down the comments you’ll see “Indeed…nice post…beautiful…I agree…powerful and true…wow.” They sound like the Duffers Prince Caspian meets on the Magician’s Island, “Keep it up, Chief, keep it up.” You have to wonder what “Lisdyer” means when she says Emergents “expect to disagree and frequently do.” Really?

    My main issue with this statement, though, is that we seem to have little or nothing to say about sin and what it cost God to redeem the world. We talk about the crucifixion here but it seems abstract to me. I can’t say for certain why Jesus submits to the ultimate injustice or what it means for me or the church or the world. How does this lead to the ultimate justice? What is that? How does a brutal death at the hands of religious and imperial authorities transform the world?

    The answer to this might be bigger than our conceptions of it but it seems to me the scriptures are fairly clear about one aspect of this. Even if we take a more naturalistic view of scripture—the faded picture with a few cracks and chipped paint—we can’t miss the theme of an atoning sacrifice from beginning to end. When Adam and Eve sin a deer gets it so they can be covered. When God establishes his covenant with Abram, he walks through the animal carcasses to show who will pay later when the covenant is broken. When God asks Abram to sacrifice his only son, whom he loves, he foreshadows the coming sacrifice of a beloved son. Later, we have the Passover linking sacrifice with protection from God’s wrath. (A godlike son is also killed resulting in the emancipation of the Israelites.) Eventually God establishes a complex grid of ritual sacrifice at the temple as an offering for sin. Over the generations this must have imprinted the image of atoning sacrifice onto the mind Israel. When Jesus appears, John the Baptist identifies him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” When Jesus establishes the new covenant it is in his blood “poured out for the forgiveness of sins” directly connecting himself with the Passover and atonement. Then at the culmination of time, the heavenly city descends and John says, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

    From beginning to end an atoning sacrifice is kept in view and is, to my read, essential. It costs something to redeem this sinful world, you and me included. I think in many quarters the church is stumbling on this issue. This difficulty should be expected in a therapeutic culture of easy choices. We don’t want to see ourselves as sinners accountable to a holy God. Mean people suck, right? A wrathful God? Give me a break. I appreciate honesty, (https://pubtheologian.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/an-angry-god/) about the difficulty we have with this issue. In many parts of the church the concept of a sinful nature and the revelation of God’s wrath have been expunged entirely without even a conversation. They’ve opted for a Gospel of self-actualization.

    I too am tempted to liken myself to a naughty child rather than an idolatrous sinner. (After all we call God Father and Jesus uses the image of a mother hen gathering her chicks.) I think we would do well to meditate on some of the other biblical images, such as when God compares Israel to a prostitute spreading her legs for pretty much anyone (Jeremiah 3), when Paul calls us God’s enemies (Romans 5) and when James addresses the church as an adulterous wife (James 3).

    Consider, though, that our difficulties might not spring only from a lack of a vocabulary for sin. It could be that a tendency to not articulate a concept of human sinfulness results from deference to the dominate idols of our time and place. This is the really important point to grasp. If we look around Watershed’s neighborhood, we see a vibrant culture hard at work doing good to bring about a new earth. We’re recycling, buying local and having community festivals. We’re smart commuting, pulling out invasive weeds and developing innovative alternatives to capitalism. The building we worship in is literally a monument to the hope that human community can be renewed with a better infrastructure. (http://www.newurbanism.org/) The streets might not be gold but there are yoga studios and around the way we can literally drink justice in our morning coffee. What could Jesus possibly offer such a community? Does Building 50 really need a lamb?

    To be clear, these things are not objectionable. I like Higher Grounds coffee and applaud the restoration of a grand historic building. In fact, I cherish the decision the founders of Watershed made to plant the church right in the physical midst of this community. But the question is, doesn’t the cross look ridiculous amidst so much progress? Is it foolishness to talk about sinners in need of a savior who comes out to us while standing amidst “the true and only heaven”?

    In what way would the Gospel confront this culture of bliss? In worship we seem to locate sin in social structures, usually religious and governmental, but even then I don’t hear much about Christ’s suffering reconciling those institutions. I think our neighbors can easily accept a fist-shaking Jesus who condemns the religious and the Empire. They’re doing that too. It is hard to see, though, how Jesus would then be Lord. He might be an admirable example; He went to the mat to stick it to the Empire! But essentially he will just be someone to draw inspiration from.

    At that point the cross becomes a resource to motivate my inner radical rather than the sign of a salvation that comes from outside of this world and is announced to us. Consider the difference in how we view Christ’s work. When on the cross he cries out, “My God why have you forsaken me?” What is happening? Is this a momentary absence of God’s presence that can encourage us when we feel God is distant? Or is it the anguished cry of a savior entering into the heart of hell on our behalf, suffering the isolation and silence that you and I deserve for our determination to be our own master and sovereign? We would do well to let our gaze linger on that for a moment.

    Phylis Tickle has suggested that the direction of the church in North America in the “Great Emergence” will be toward a faith that looks decidedly more Jewish. My hope is that will mean a people who never approach God without sacrifice. This prospect should bring us joy since we have a perfect sacrifice, who has gone ahead of us into the sanctuary on our behalf (Hebrews 6). Perhaps we could start by remembering that Jesus spoke of repentance when he announced the Kingdom was at hand (Mark 1).

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    1. Hi Peter-
      Thanks for your thoughts on these important issues. I think there is much agreement among the leadership about your sentiments.

      Jesus is indeed “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In fact, we looked at this text this past Sunday, and I’d encourage you to give it a listen if you get a chance. I do believe that God is reconciling the world through this act of sacrifice, and that, at the core, it is his work that will bring about the kingdom in its fullness.

      That said, I believe that we are those, as John Caputo notes, who live “in the meantime”. The church lives on the hope of what God has done in Christ in the past, and anticipates what God will do in Christ in the future. But that doesn’t mean we sit around doing nothing because he’s done it all – or that God isn’t doing anything now. I’m not saying you are endorsing that, but that was the sentiment I certainly grew up. The only kingdom work was to get people to believe the right things about God and Christ, while letting our neighborhoods go to rot and even joining in the condemning of them. My thinking on this has since shifted to see God in Scripture compelling us to join in the redeeming work that has already begun (definitively) in Christ, and to be a part of the restoration of individuals and structures and systems.

      Is all the progressive, positive things happening in the Village just a false mirage because it doesn’t have Christ at its foundation? That’s a very good question. I would tend to oppose that view, and hope that there is a strong dose of ‘common grace’ at work when people act in line with God’s desires for our world, even when not knowing quite sure why or even are doing so out of a different foundation or worldview. God used Cyrus – a pagan king – to help Israel re-establish itself out of the exile. The Israelites could have said, “Sorry, fella, you’re not one of us – so we’ll stay here in misery until one of us does something.”

      I have no problem affirming the positives we see happening around us – and think we are called to come alongside and be a part of it, trusting that God will provide openings for us to share the hope and foundation that drives us toward such ends.

      That said, I hear your concerns, and agree that we do often speak of Christ’s death as an example at Watershed, perhaps as much as foundational act of reconciliation.

      Both approaches (among others) are a part of the historic Christian faith, and both are biblical, as 1 Peter 2 notes: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” And then moments later it says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

      And Hebrews 12 notes: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

      Both these texts note Jesus as sacrifice-for-us and sacrifice-as-example-for-us.

      There are many other biblical views/models of the atonement: Christus Victor, Moral Influence theory, ransom theory, participatory atonement, exemplary, etc.

      Traditional penal substitionary atonement theology presents some challenges, as noted in my blog post you reference:

      –Does God need to resort to violence to accomplish his ends?
      –Does God side with the powers of evil, darkness, injustice and empire at the cross?
      –Is God cheering on Rome and Pilate and the Jewish leaders?
      –Is Judas Iscariot the greatest hero in the Bible because he hands Jesus over?
      –Did God’s anger win the day, or God’s love?

      These questions and many others present not insignificant quandaries, and it is not sufficient for many to just ignore them.

      Many historians would say that the earliest understanding of the cross was not penal substitionary atonement:

      ‘The general patristic teaching is that Christ is our representative, not our substitute; and that the effect of His sufferings, His perfect obedience, and His resurrection extends to the whole of humanity and beyond.’, Cross & Livingstone, ‘The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church’, p. 124 (3rd rev. ed. 2005).

      Clement of Rome saw the atonement as an expression of love not anger: ‘Because of the love he had for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, in accordance with God’s will, gave his blood for us, and his flesh for our flesh, and his life for our lives.’ He notes elsewhere: ‘…the one thing that is absolutely clear is that the passion of Jesus Christ was all love, love beyond human conceiving, the love of God Himself. There is not a whisper here of anger, or vengeance. It is simply the unplumbed mystery of love.’

      And where the concept of punishment occurs in the patristics, it is generally presented as educative rather than penal. This interpretation understands Christ as the representation of how Christians should live, making salvation dependent on participation in the life of Christ. The atonement changes the attitude of the sinner towards God (note – still a work of God!).

      Sometimes we resist these other views, because us Protestants have had one view pounded into us. That doesn’t mean that that view doesn’t have great weight and meaning. Neither does it mean these other views are invalid.

      In any case, I think it is healthy to have a multi-faceted approach to the whole thing, and to draw on the multiplicity of meaning that Scripture presents and the church has developed.

      The bottom-line is, God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ – and that is good news!

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      1. Bryan,

        Thanks for the quick response.

        My observations about the progressive and, frankly, pagan community we live in were in no way meant to condemn or to suggest we partition ourselves from anyone. (I guess I was poking fun at the self-righteousness of it) In fact, I said the opposite. I merely point out that we exist in a very distinct missional context. I think we stand in a unique position among churches in our community toward that ascendant culture. Questions about how we attempt to proclaim and translate the Gospel into this culture ought to take into consideration the fact that the culture will attempt to colonize the church and make it more palatable and bend it to its ends. We need to be careful not to become just another moralist exhorting people to do all the works this culture admires and authorizes as good. The Gospel judges cultures starting with the Hebrew culture it was born into and then the Roman Empire.

        The issue of Christ as an example or sacrifice does not seem like much of a problem to me, theological or practical. Of course, a sacrifice is going to be an example. However, an example will not necessarily be a sacrifice and can be discarded. That is my concern. And if Christ is an example and not a sacrifice even his example is diminished from one who submits to his enemies for their gain.

        Theories of atonement are somewhat above my pay grade. It seems like a source of potentially endless debates and theorizing. If we put stock in Peter’s letter that says “by his wounds we are healed”, I don’t have much need to parse doctrinal statements. I would venture in far enough to say that if aberrant ideas about the atonement were contemporary once, that has no claim on me. Maybe that’s why we draw a distinction between the canon and other early letters and the work of the early church fathers. I would also hope that it is not so complicated or problematical that we can’t proclaim it each time we gather for worship in an intelligible way for our own edification and for the hearing of someone who has never heard it.

        I would push back harder against attempts to tinker with the doctrine of human nature, which is not mentioned in the original post-in-lieu-of-a faith statement here. My own experience, what I see in my children and what I see in the world around me affirms that the operating principle among my kind is “me for me”. The beauty of the Gospel is that we can stop lying to ourselves about this because we can see our worth beyond our sinfulness and can rest in the work of Christ. This is the position from which we can then be sent to engage in his work. We live in a culture that is addicted to lying to itself. Public relations work is our main growth industry in the U.S., the business of having the reality you choose. We should be careful not get entangled with this even if we have to sound a little out-of-date when we gather.

        Peter

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  7. Have you ever thought of writing? 🙂

    Very little time to respond. However, I appreciate what Willard says and what you say. Dallas has said in other places that too often we get hung up on either the “externals” of faith; how we appear, what list of do and don’ts we employ, and exactly what list of propositions define us… much like the quote you used from him. Or, we get hung up on the mountain top experience. We need to have our senses stimulated on a chronic basis. It almost becomes an addiction and of course, if we count on those sensations to be present to define whether or not we are with God, we will inevitably fail. Neither the externals nor the experiential are bad in themselves, but they often get in the way of the treasure we have in Jesus. As one close Jesuit friend of mine once pointedly asked me, “Mark, someday the consolation of God will be enough, you will no longer need the consolations of God.” So often we need the consolations by way of mountain top experiences or anchors by way of absolutes.

    I will admit, my anchor is in an incarnated God, in the person of Jesus and in the resurrection. That is the lens I try to see everything through. And lots could be said about that, but not here and not now…. I like the table metaphor. I’ve also heard it described as ‘well-focused’ as opposed to ‘fenced in.’ Some might like the security of a fence, I like the idea of going to a well.

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