Monday, 31 July 2006

Three things I believe

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list—but here are three things I believe:

1. I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s self-giving Word.
2. I believe that this Word is a wholly good Word for all people.
3. I believe that this good Word is the meaning of life.

12 Comments:

kim fabricius said...

I believe that's a good start for the second article to a contemporary Creed!

Anonymous said...

FINALLY, you write something that has some real depth rather than the fluff you usually write! Good post, write what's in the Bible - not what other people think about what's in the Bible!!

Bacho said...

Well articulated statement. Simple, clear, and good.

For anonymous commentor above...have courage to put your name on your bold statements.

Matt Edmonds said...

Do I smell another guest post series??? Brief and poignant Ben. Thank you.

Matt

revabi said...

Ooh I like this. I follow your posts as a lurker. But I have learned a lot.

Tarwater said...

I have no problem with your three statements per se. What strikes me however, is that such constructs feed the minimalist disposition of much of modern, and especially American, religious culture.

How many times have I heard, "all that really matters is that we agree on the essentials" (what this breezes over is who defines the 'essentials'!) The problem is that such a sentiment is not justified, is nowhere found in the Scripture, and cannot be discovered in the history of the Church Catholic. No Father of the Church taught such a thing. It is purely a surrender to the anarchy of thought that prevails among Christians as a result of the 16th century controversy. It is a novelty. Every writer of the New Testament would have decried such a thought.

Your three statements could be an article of faith in most of the heresies that have tried to destroy Christianity from the beginning. Gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, Monophysites, Albigensians, etc., could all agree with what you set down.

The problem with such a minimalist approach is that it leads so many of the flock into a poisoned version of the Truth, which is not the Truth at all. It leads to a religion of sentiment, as Newman well knew.

"And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this. And Protestantism . . . as a whole, feels it, and has felt it. This is shown in the determination . . . of dispensing with historical Christianity altogether, and of forming a Christianity from the Bible alone: men never would have put it aside, unless they had despaired of it . . . To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant."

John Henry Newman

http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ53.HTM

D.W. Congdon said...

Tarwater,

Would you rather have everyone pen full systematic theologies? Or should everyone subscribe to the same confession on details like transsubstantiation vs. consubstantiation vs. something else? Or do you find any and all ecumenical attempts a waste of time? Or did you just miss Ben's statement that those three were not intended to be comprehensive?

kim fabricius said...

Tarwater, you should put down your tedious Newman with his polemic against Protestantism, and get out more. Even when Newman penned it it was a caricature, and in the contemporary confessional context it is certainly counterfactual, particularly the bit about Protestants and history.

On the other hand, how ironic, ecumenically, that your Catholic call to rid the church of those with a more interrogative faith than yours - sentimental heretics with their "poisoned version of the Truth" - comes straight out of the discourse of Protestant fundamentalism.

The real beauty of Ben's little list is that it is simple - and truthful - and joyful. Yours, I fear, would have some anathemas in the footnotes.

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for your point of view, Tarwater. Sorry if I've created misunderstanding, though: I wasn't trying to offer a "minimalist" confession, or to state the bare "essentials" of faith. I just wanted to list a few things that have been especially important in my own life of faith.

You're right, of course, that these three statements "could be an article of faith in most of the heresies" -- but then, the same is true (pre-eminently true!) of that great primitive Christian confession: "κυριος ιησους!" This makes further confessional definition necessary -- but it doesn't undermine the value of that simple confession, which even today remains at the heart of all Christian faith.

Aaron G said...

"Christianity, after all, is not rooted in doctrinal formulation, but in the person of Jesus Christ."

- Lawrence Cunningham

Tarwater said...

"Christianity, after all, is not rooted in doctrinal formulation, but in the person of Jesus Christ."

Of course, one can respond that Arius taught the same thing. The statement is true but insufficient. As soon as you proclaim it you beg the question: What do you mean when you say 'the person of Jesus Christ'? The whole history of the attempt to destroy Christianity is largely a defense and an unfolding of the answer to that question. Gnosticism, Arianism, Nestorianism, were all perilous attacks on the 'person of Jesus Christ'. That is why dogma and proper authority are essential to Christianity, it is of the nature of the Church. Without it any thought, as can well be witnessed by the apostacy of Anglicanism and much of the rest of liberal 'Christianity', can and does lay claim to being Christian. Since Protestantism rejected the necessary connection between Apostolic Tradition, the Church, and Scripture, in favor of the abstract principle of Scripture Alone (as if you can put the Bible in the dock and ask it what it means) all one has to do is disagree with what the next guy teaches and viola, a new denomination! It happens every day. Where is such Authority granted in the New Testament? Who had/has the right to hive off and establish their own church in favor of the Church which has existed from the start? Is it not true that doctrinal anarchy (and the attendant mass confusion it brews, which can plainly be observed) is a systemic to the nature of Protestantism?


Mr Myers,

Agreed and very heartily. I only meant to address what seems to me the Spirit of the Age. I did not mean to infer, nor do I think, that you have a minimalist approach to Christianity.

Regards

Tarwater said...

Mr. Fabricius,

It seems beneath you to resort to ad hominem. I commented on Mr Myers statement, I neither spoke pejoratively or contemptuously as you have. You sneer, why?

You dismiss Newman with a wave of your hand and label him 'tedious'? Such is to strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. That you are more perceptive than Newman I disbelieve. As much as I respect what you have to say, it is a common witness of reflective people across the spectrum of Christian thought that Newman was one of the greatest minds in Christianity over the past 200 years.

Nor does your false dichotomy between joy and 'anathemas in the footnotes' make any sense. Chesterton roundly condenms heresy with as much joy and verve as can be imagined. Are you saying he was wrong or unjustified in doing so? If so, then I merrily accept the sentence.

The fact is, the Truth is exclusive, and there is such a thing a heresy. And heresy, by nature, seeks to destroy the very thing you seem to think it opposes: Joy. Chesterton knew it, so did Newman, and a host of the most profound minds in the history of the Church.

Again you dismiss me, and it is not hard to see the contempt, as somehow irrelevant when you deem my faith as being insufficiently 'interrogative' (and you know this how?). But whose faith was more interrogative than the great converts to Catholicism? Chesterton was less than interrogative? Newman, Walker Percy, Bouyer, Campion, Knox, Claudel? You must dismiss them before you get to me. For I hold to the same Faith that they confessed.

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