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After I posted, I went back to the lead-off post for this thread. I know I could edit my own post from just a few minutes ago, but I wanted this response to have its own little box.

I suppose I am one of those people Phil referred to who has a healthy sense of spirituality but who regularly unpins herself from her semi-organized religious context to roam around. Why would anyone roam? In my mind (or at least in my case) it's because she isn't getting everything she needs in one place.

And believe me, she tried. Smiler

To me it's a bit like astrology--I must be feeling comfortable on this discussion board to bring up astrology Smiler --there are billions of people in the world, but only 12 signs. Billions of people, but the religious scene seems so...limited. To me, anyway.

The places I consider spiritual homes are places where I don't have to fear that anyone is going to tell me that I'm not a good enough {fill in the blank) or that I'm not doing (fill in the blank) the right way or often enough or with the right kind of people.

This is what I would tell anyone who wants my advice on how to attract people into their places of worship.

That's not to say that organized religion must be completely at the whim of popular culture. It is after all *organized.* Smiler

But is a relevant? Oh, what a question. And what a great topic!

blessings,
shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:

I guess my real dilemma is this: Does Christianity mean you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? Does it mean that you pray to Jesus? Does it mean you're baptised by water, by the Spirit? Must you be a Trinitarian? Must you not? Are you saved? Are you not?
I think that if one wishes to call oneself a Christian, consenting to the basic propositions in the Apostles' Creed or Nicene Creed is essential. In addition, some kind of conscious committed relationship with Jesus is also necessary. What follows from this is a commitment to live a life of love, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, to practice virtues and disciplines which will enable you to become a better disciple of Christ, and, ideally, to become a member of a faith tradition and/or community of believers who gather "in His name" to worship God regularly.

Again, that's all the ideal, and is possible to realize in all of the various Christian denominations, to a greater or lessor degree. One must find the one that is "seems right" for their growth, knowing that there will most likely be some aspects of the teaching and practice which one finds irrelevant, or perhaps even disagrees with.

Now in saying this, I do not wish to deny the value of investigating the riches of other religious and philosophical traditions. A danger in doing so is that one can become syncretistic or overly ecclectic, in which cases, something of the truth and power of Christianity is compromised. If one is solidly established in a particular Christian faith tradition, however, integrating the new insights and practices in the context of Christian discipleship is usually possible, though not without struggle, sometimes.

I like your idea of a religious denomination as a "cultural/linguistic framework for carrying the Divine into the world." This seems to honor the formative influence of a religious tradition. Of course, somehow in all this, one must examine what kind of formation they offer, what kind of faith-receptivity they engender, what kinds of faith-convictions inform their doctrine, and other questions. Big topic, indeed!

As you noted, a good spiritual home is a place where you shouldn't have to fear being shamed or judged. My guess is that you wouldn't consider "being challenged to grow" a bad thing, however. It's another possibility which a religious tradition can offer, just so it's not done in a spirit of shaming or judging.

Those are a few replies to your thoughtful posts. Perhaps others have comments as well.

Shalom,

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dear Phil (and others)--Thanks for your reply.

I would like to hear from others as well, because as helpful as your answer was in many ways, it was also confusing. I looked at the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed and they both require a trinitarian belief. And yet, I know people and have heard of denominations who are not trinitarians but who self-identify as Christian. I also know that the Quakers have no creed but that many Quakers consider themselves to be Christian.

Well, whatever the finer points are, I consider Jesus to have had a powerful ministry.

Awaiting more input....

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Another very good point that Phil brought up....

...I don't like to post multiple issues in one posting because I sometimes feel that one issue will dominate or obscure the other. I hope people will indulge me on this Smiler

Anyway, back to Phil's remark about places that shame and judge. Yes, I agree that this is clearly not a way to bring people into (or keep people in) community. I am lucky, as no doubt many readers are, in that I have more than one community where I feel spiritually nourished--*most of the time* (again with that urge to roam!) Smiler

Unfortunately, shaming and judging is done far too often by faith communities. Is it any wonder that Sunday morning is considered the "most segregated time of the week" or that people are read out of their congregations because they have committed some transgression from which (apparently) there is no forgiveness. Hmmm.... Or that the welcome sign is out but people stand around after the service and no one ever talks to them.

All is not lost! Christianity has so much to offer the world but the living out of it is in the hands of humble humans, who mess up sometimes and have to try all over again. It's quite an inspiration to me that there are any churches at all. People are out there with hope in their hearts giving it another try on another day.

I was attracted to this web site by the word "contemplative" which I consider myself to be. I'm not sure that the intention of this discussion board is to help me find out whether or not I'm a Christian (which I think I'm going to define as "follower of Jesus" and leave it at that). But I do think that every person seeking the Divine needs help along the way, Christian or not. Ultimately all religions may come into unity, but unless and/or until that happens, it's good to have some diversity, and Christianity is a good part of that diversity.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For Shanti, a quote from C.S. Lewis:

quote:
"A man who disbelieved the Christian story as fact but who continually fed on it as myth would, perhaps, be more spiritually alive than one who assented and did not think much about it. The modernist --- the extreme modernist, infidel in all but name --- need not be called a fool or hypocrite because he obstinately retains, even in the midst of his intellectual atheism, the language, rites, sacraments, and stories of the Christians."
In the same way that there are secular Jews, I have some friends who consider themselves to be secular Christians. I am honored and humbled by their admiration of Jesus and by their acknowledgement that His life's story nourishes them as myth. I suppose that what I am driving at is that if I deeply esteem and hold sincere affection for these folks, then you should truly know how grateful I am to you, Shanti, for gracing us with your presence, whatever your conceptions and devotions.

If I clarify metaphysical or doctrinal issues in such a forum as this, it will be by way of providing information or possibly by way of invitation. The declaration of creedal positions by all of the great traditions, to me, generally seems to involve a positive statement of what is believed and not a litany of over-against statements about other creeds.

That is to say, most folks can define who they are and what their giftedness is on their own terms and without reference to those who hold dissimilar beliefs. In other words, it is more about who we are and less about who we are not, even though, by construction, there is always an implicit content of who we are not, this dynamic built into the way humans and the cosmos process information.

Consensus and dissensus are useful and unity does not require uniformity. Language conventions and etymological considerations do require some conformity if words like "Christian" and "Christianity" are to have any meaning at all. Also, different denominations will "guard" their "deposit of faith", not in a defensive posture, hopefully, which seems to be implied by the use of the term "guard", but moreso for reasons I elaborated on elsewhere, such as differentiation with an end toward identifying both "what is our gift?" and "how can we serve?".

There are folks who may play semantical word games and who end up being just plain silly. Most of the great traditions have precepts about Right Speech and use of the tongue, so with no animus toward those who I think may be spreading confusion and only charity toward those in their audience, I will interject clarifying statements, at times. Otherwise, it is the norm that people of large intelligence and profound goodwill will disagree on matters great and small and this can be done without stepping on each others' philosophical feet or kicking each others' theological shins.

Welcome. Our gift is the person Jesus, whom we believe many worship, even if as The Unknown God. I think you will find Shalomplace to be a place of Shalom, and

namaste,
jb
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you for a very nice, encouraging post, JB. I have found this discussion site to be welcoming (that's you, Phil, and now you, JB), I've also found it to be very interesting as I have looked around various sections.

About an hour ago, something entered my heart re: the Am I a Christian? question and it said to me, "don't worry about it." And then I read your C.S. Lewis quote (and your signature quotes). Nicely validating. Smiler

I think Jesus wants me to pay attention to him, regardless of how I idnetify myself in the world (sojourner might be a good word). So I will, and I will pay attention to people who can teach me things. Our teachers are all around us, but we often don't recognize them.

I'm closer to saying I'm a Christian than it would appear, but I think there will always be a hesitancy to sign on the dotted line as long as I feel drawn to further exploration.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good exchanges, shanti and JB. As I mentioned in another post, we're a kind of small group out here, but lots of people pop in and out. As on most discussion boards and email lists, there are many more lurkers than posters. That's OK, however.

As you noted, this site is contemplative in nature, and there are a couple of forums on the discussion board here which address those issues more explicitly than this one does, or even this thread. We've also had good discussions on the Trinity on this site--not just of the doctrine, but of its relevance to Christian spirituality. This thread was one of the better ones, even with the controversy that crept in.

By all means, be true to your heart and mind in your search, and no signing on any dotted lines until you feel that it's where God wants you to be. I hope you continue to feel free to share your searchings and experiences on this discussion board.

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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While tracking down some quotes for Daily Spiritual Seed yesterday, I pulled out one of my all-time favorite books, Spiritual Development: An Interdisciplinary Approach, by Daniel Helminiak, S.J. He uses the approach of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., to emphasize that human authenticity is best achieved through the effort of "being in love," and that wherever one is doing so, there is growth in authenticity, and, presumably, spiritual growth. The book addresses a wide range of disciplines, using Lonergan's method of theology to help clarify their relation to one another.

When he finally comes around to discussing Christianity and its contribution to spiritual growth, Helminiak notes:
quote:
. . . Often what passes for Christianity is not authentic Christianity at all; so the question about the contribution of Christianity in such cases is moot. Much of the sad history of Christianity--its wars and inquistions and persecutions--obviously not even authentically human, bears witness here. Where Christianity is authentic, as with theism, it helps the believer to live authentically. The Christian dedication to truth and love within the unity of diversified community and the Christian lesson that it is worth even dying for what one knows to be true and good, even as Jesus did, are examples here. As do other religions, Christianity has ways of communicating these important truths that pertain to human authenticity. Moreover, since the Christian believer not only lives a life in Christ but also knows and willingly embraces that life in Christ, he or she may attain a "higher degree of being" of that life in Christ. {italics mine} Yet that life is substantively no different from the life any other authentic but unbelieving person lives. All are in Christ.
This emphasizes a point that has been made many times on these forums: the distinction between explicit and implicit faith, understood, here, in the light of Longeran's theology as the simple inner imperative to live an authentic human life by "being in love." The advantage of explicit faith is highlighted nicely by Helminiak. His chapter on this topic goes on to state the advantages of explicit Christian faith, and how very seldom it is that one finds a very developed sense of what this really is in the Church. A few teasers:
quote:
. . . apart from Christianity there is no suggestion that a human could ever attain the limitless goal of the human intellect and so share the divine quality of understanding everything about everything. That the human mind attain this fullness proper only to God would be an instance of human divinization . . . apart from Christianity there is no suggestion that a human could ever love boundlessly and so share that divine quality. . . Belief in a human participation in divinity lies at the heart of the Christian tradition. . . Here, then (in Christianity) is an understanding of human divinization. The suggestion is that this is precisely what happened to Jesus in his resurrection. Jesus Christ became the first instance of human divinization. . . Jesus introduced a new reality into history, a divinized human being. Taking human achievement to a new high, he provided a new and now real terminus for human becoming. . . When Jesus was raised from the dead to divine glory, the possibility of human divinization moved from the realm of mere speculation and into reality. Opening this new possibility to humankind was Jesus' significant yet limited contribution. . . actualization of this new possibility in humankind results from the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . Completion of the work of human salvation requires a second intervention of God in human history. Human salvation requires the sanctifying mission of the Holy Spirit in addition to the redemptive mission of the Son. The mission of the Holy Spirit, the resultant Indwelling of the Trinity in human hearts . . .
I think that speaks very directly to the thread topic, "Why Christianity?"
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sue--I resonate so much with your post. I too feel drawn to Christianity but after about a decade of discernment, I find that I do not have a calling to "work within the church,"--or perhaps even walk within one. Perhaps it's my time in the ashram (where I no longer reside), perhaps it's the blend that has come to be my spirituality, perhaps it's the teachers I've had from more than one spiritual tradition, perhaps it's the defining moment I had two years ago when I received a teaching from someone I consider to be truly a holy person, perhaps it's just what God wants for me.

Yes, Jesus motions me closer, but every aspect of my search for meaning has said stay true to what is revealed to you in your own spiritual experience. Quite simply, I will not fit into the "rules and regulations" of human-made faith communities.

It has caused me no end of trouble among humans, many of whom try to convince me that their way is best, but every time I meditate on this issue I get the same answer: Go with what God whispers in your heart.

And therefore, so much remains private (including my true Sanskrit name)even while I spill out my struggle to understand Christianity on a discussion board.

I think there is a place for those of us who are spiritual sojourners, and if I ever join a church, follow a guru, or start hanging out with a faith community, it will be with the understanding that my relationship with God is one-on-one, and all my decisions flow from that.

Good luck to you.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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...an yet, as I ponder the original post on this thread and the quote that Phil posted recently, I am amazed at (and respectful of) the breadth of knowledge and reading in the area of theology that people here have. Quite frankly, I can hardly keep up with all the recommendations of books to read and web site to see. Smiler If ever there was a resource center, I have certainly found it.

My spiritual path is very simple and experiential and hardly measures up in the area of theology. If I could visualize myself walking down the street, pausing at a stop light, looking up and seeing a Christian church, what would be on the sign that would encourage me to go inside and find out more?

Bowing first to the theological expertise found here, I must also say that hearing Christianity described as "the only religion in which a human has been divinized..." wouldn't do it for me.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, folks, and you're right. I've already self-identified as a spiritual loner. But in that capacity, I think I can speak for more than a few people who would not be swayed by intellectual arguments.

I sincerely do not mean to blatantly criticize anything that has been said in this thread, but if one can't answer a "why" question to an outsider, then it starts to sound a bit self-congratulatory.

Well, I really hope I haven't stepped on too many toes here. I suppose my frustration is showing, and for that I apologize. I have read this thread several times trying to find the right words to express what I feel, and I find myself a bit inarticulate.

I beg your indulgence,
shanti
 
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OK, one last post and then I will retire to the back of the room to give others space... Smiler

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that I have recently investigated two Christian denominations through particular congregations. Last weekend I attended a faith inquiry class at a local Mennonite Church (after first having spoken with the pastor to tell him that I was not there seeking baptism). I was welcomed and found to my surprise, an Episcopal priest and a Roman Catholic among the group. I have also attended Quaker Meeting, a place where I feel I could fit in somewhat, but there is still the problem of expected church attendance...alas.

God only knows what I am doing on a Christianity discussion board, perhaps to function as some sort of temporary interlocator.

I'll sit back and listen, now.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi Shanti you said"
My spiritual path is very simple and experiential and hardly measures up in the area of theology."

Do i ever relate.
 
Posts: 380 | Registered: 01 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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shanti, sue, and others, I'm very pleased that you all feel free to share youre experiences and questions here. I hope that those of us who belong to "organized religions" can share responses as respectfully as you have.

I should clarify that the "fully divinized" remark by Fr. Helminiak refers to the resurrection and ascension of Christ. It's certainly not meant to deny the existence of good and holy teachers in all the world religions. None of these, including Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tzu, etc. are presented to us as masters who have experienced the resurrection as Christ has. Maybe that makes sense.

Finding a community where one can feel "at home" is very important, but to me, it's equally important to find one that proclaims the truth with integrity. I know that some will say, "but what is truth? All the denominations say they have more of it." Which is why one must search for oneself to discover the answer. For me, it's also a willingness to acknowledge that no denomination will suit my needs perfectly, but the value of being with other fellow Christians outweighs this issue. I, too, also feel rather wierd among the ordinary folk of the parish, but I also feel at home there. None of them know about kundalini or things like that, but that's OK. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and so who am I to require them to be like me, or to please me? I am there to love them, and they me. That's how I've come to see it.

Please continue the discussion and sharing. It's very good! Smiler

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi Phil,
Thank you so much for your post. I can so relate to being in my church home...yet not being fully a part of it. They know nothing of my interest in Christian mysticism, nor of my belief about the many things concerning the mysteries of heaven that are not only revealed to us, but wait for us to seek them. I appreciate your sentiment that they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the way I feel. I love the people in my church. I don't quite fit in with Protestant doctrine (varied though they are) nor do I quite fit in with Catholic doctrine, but I think I've found that my journey with Christ is for me individually and this will surpass doctrines and dogmas...in some ways, I think that is exactly the way it's supposed to be, while yet still knowing that we are of the one Body connected through the Holy Spirit.

Shanti, I hope you find what you are seeking and I guess I would offer that following rules is not what Christianity is supposed to be about, but man, in his pride and misguided attempts to serve has given that impression. A relationship with Christ is very personal..and very individual on many levels, however, as Phil said, gathering together can be a very important part of our walk as well. I believe we all need spiritual mentors to help us grow and as we grow, we then become mentors to the new in Christ through the guidance of God in His wisdom. Thank you for your honesty.

Blessings,
Terri
 
Posts: 609 | Location: Oklahoma | Registered: 27 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you recent posters!

I tried sending this message just few minutes ago and it disappeared. Smiler So if it shows up again, I apologize. And I'm hoping that I can recreate the message.

Anyway, I appreciate that some of you posted that you feel a bit like the one person in your community who has a slightly different journey toward discovery of the Divine. This helped me feel more at home on this thread, and I hope that there is not too much pain and discomfort involved for you in your life within your own congregations.

And thanks Sue for the affirmation.

I'm glad that the thread has drifted in this direction. I feel very uncomnfortable when I think people are starting a conversation that will end up with a "we're #1" message because it begins to feel like a spiritual soccer match with no one wanting to lose. Smiler (I'm not refering to anyone here, just a feeling I have about these kinds of discussions, I tend to want to challenge or run.)

So much relies on faith that I believe answers to "why" questions will ultimately come back to belief and therefore go in circles. So, drawing others close to where you would like to be in fellowship with them must (in my humble opinion) rely on some sort of experiential aspect.

I believe that Christianity can offer that, but perhaps not to everyone.

Phil, Re: divinization. I thought it was just the opposite, that Jesus came into the world as God in human form. Isn't that what incarnate means? (At least that has been the meaning for me and other.....) I beleive that have been are other incarnations of the Divine throughout human history. I have received teachings from one I believe in, the Dalai Lama. I have also received teachings from highly evolved humans.

But I see how the Christian message is good for the world. And I understand that at the very least it comes with a really great hero figure or at the very most with God incarnate. Where one stands on that doesn't matter when you consider how many people are passionately involved in trying to be good members of the human race based on Christian principles, how many people support each other in community or through work in the world, etc.

I don't know all the answers, I'm just getting started on the questions....., but I do believe that we will find teachers if we are open to being taught. Why, I remember once that a now-disgraced tv evangelist once spoke something that my heart knew to be true. He would have been as surprised as I was, I'm sure. God shows up in unlikely places, Smiler

So I understand "why Christianity" as much as I understand why any other belief system that has a ring of authenticity.

May the blessings that Jesus brought us be with you today.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Ooops, Phhil. Wink Just re-read your post about ascention of Christ. I think I would have an issue with the author about that (especially with his choice of the word "divinization"), but my issue is not with you.

Bowing to the spark of the Divine within all of us,

shanti
 
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"Same energy but different frequencies..." I think that's brilliant, Sue! Smiler Glad you have broken your silence.
**
Actually, I came back to correct something in a former post of mine. His Holiness The Dalai Lama is the 14th Incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion. I don't wish to insult the intelligence of anyone reading who already knows this, but just in case someone doesn't, a bodhisattva is like a combo saint/minor diety.

I think His Holiness would have to call me aside for a chat if he knew that I was refering to him as God incarnate. Smiler That is my own understanding, entirely.

shanti
 
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Good point about incarnation, shanti: yes, from the "divine side," it's a "humanization," but from the human side, what happens in Christ is human nature taken up and transformed into the divine: hence, the "divinization" of human nature.

This is a different idea than the incarnation or reincarnation of avatars or boddhisattvas, at least the way I understand those teachings. The key distinction is the resurrection of Jesus, which is unlike any enlightenment or mystical experience in any other tradition, east or west.

Of course, these are the kinds of things that inter-religious dialogue is investigating these days. So far as I know, however, this distinction for Jesus hasn't been denied by Eastern leaders, nor has it been reduced to a "semantical distinction" of some kinds--as though we use "resurrection" where they use "nirvana," for example.

I don't want to come across as a theologican snob on this point, but to me it's a crucial one. In fact, I will say that, for me, it's the decisive one. "Why Christianity?" Because Christ is risen and ascended to glory, the first-fruit of the new creation which God is bringing forth through his "anointed one." I want to be about that "work," as I think it's simultaneously the most humanizing and divinizing.

Hope that all makes sense, and you all feel free to shift gears away from the theological emphasis I keep giving this. The personal, experiential level is very important, too, obviously.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil, our dear web master, you are no snob to me! Smiler

In general, I think that anyone with an area of expertise learns a discipline-specific language, and it's easy for that language to start to bleed into general discourse. I find this happening with me, too, in my area of endeavor. And there have been times when someone would say to me: ooooh-kaaay.... Smiler

Actually I value the input of those who have made it their life work to study this or that. That's why I see a doctor, for instance. So here, I value references to books, theology, spiritual practices, etc.. I value this site, period. I would hate for anyone to feel that he or she couldn't say what they wanted to say in the words that are most comfortable for them. So, I'm hoping any gentle reminders to not forget those of us who are more experiential will feel just that--gentle.

So, continuing on....

I really admire your belief in Christianity, Phil, especially since I have a more wandering mind. However, picky me for even bringing this up again, Smiler but aren't we just going in circles when we answer the question "why Christianity?" with the phrase "because Christ is risen and ascended to glory"?? If someone already believes it, then the question is irrelevant. If someone does not already believe it, what is there to convince them to believe?

I really believe that one goes into a faith tradition either by "tradition" (e.g., being born into a family who practices certain things) or by some sort of "experience" (conversion, maybe), or default (it's in the neighborhood). Persuading people that one belief system is better or serves the world in a higher way is really difficult, and for me, the only argument would be to discuss how this belief system actually makes the world a better place (You in fact alluded to this in that you want to be about the "work" of Christianity).

I bet there are others like me out there who want some real-life reasons to "go Christian" or remain so. That Christ is risen and ascended into glory sounds very abstract. How does that differ (in terms of making the world a better place) than the "moments" other spiritual leaders have had (sitting under a tree and becoming enlightened, learning to perform one's duty without giving in to the desire for outcome, receiving a divine revelation from an Angel of God, etc.) I concede that in other belief systems, the divine aspect has not been portrayed in the same way as in Christianity. However, for most belief systems, these are events for which there is no "historical" record but plenty of P.R.

Meanwhile, my signigicant other has pointed out to me that while I consider "patience" to be a spiritual virtue, I'm not practicing as much of it now as I have in the past. Perhaps the answers I want are waiting for me further down the path.

So I will ponder that Smiler

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
aren't we just going in circles when we answer the question "why Christianity?" with the phrase "because Christ is risen and ascended to glory"?? If someone already believes it, then the question is irrelevant. If someone does not already believe it, what is there to convince them to believe?
Well, there's certainly no hard-core evidence other than the birth of the Church and the courageous witness of that rag-tag group of disciples, most of whom were crucified for their faith. But that's quite a bit of "objective" evidence, when you get right down to it.

My point, however, is that the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is what Christianity professes as its foundational truth, and this is quite distinctive among the world religions. If one believes this, then it profoundly influences how one perceives the meaning in life, God's relationship with creation, the future of the planet and human civilization: everything, really, is illuminated by this belief in some way.

There could be all kinds of reasons why people believe this, and, obviously, quite a few about why it's denied, ignored, or rejected. And so, yes, to respond to your point, one obvious response to "Why Christianity?" is that one believes what the Church teaches. I don't see how that's a circular argument, however, in that one could have one's reasons for believing, including, here, respect for the authority and integrity of the teaching Church.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Very good point, Sue, with both paths having equal integrity.

I guess my frustration came into play when I realized that the "why" question can be answered one way when a Christian talks to another Christian because they already share certain core beliefs. But when a Christian talks to a non-Christian, that sense of shared beliefs might not exist. So the "why" question would have to be answered in a different way.

And then there is the issue raised in the first post of why so many Christians are avoiding their own churches. Perhaps this has more to do with the nuts and bolts of community building and community maintenance than it does with paths of the heart or mind. Or perhaps it has something to do with how the really great Christian message is (or is not) being put into play in our complicated world.

I sure don't know the answers, and even if I can't (yet) hang my hat on some of the creedal statements, I believe there is something good to be gained by paying attention to the more practical aspects of Christianity.

And I like the fact that you have tried to find common ground on this thread, Sue.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sue, it sounds like you've had some bad experiences of Church. Sorry to hear that. I know that's out there, including the judging, shaming, and condemning kinds of things. As a wise old priest once told me, "it's a big Church," which means that Christianity is really bigger than those kinds of communities. I know that for some, that's their primary experience.

Re. heart vs. mind, I'd have to say that my way into Christianity was first and foremost through my upbringing, which was a combination of both. But later in life, it was through a number of powerful heart experiences that my commitment became more primary. Eventually, this needed to be supplemented with theological understanding, for the Lord doesn't just want us to know Him in the heart, but with the mind.

Shanti, the issue of why so many are avoiding the Church, why Church attendance has dwindled in Europe, and similar questions is a hard one to answer. My first inclination is to say that it's a matter of faith--not just with the laity, but with the clergy as well. After the Reformation/Enlightenment, Christian teaching became much more "intellectualized" in the mainline Protestant and Catholic Churches. This kind of belief is only one aspect of Christian faith, however, and for many, doesn't do much to foster a relationship with Christ. Where such a lively sense of relationship is emphasized, however, Christian community thrives. It can even appreciate the role it intellectual heritage plays in helping to form and guide this faith.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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If I am correctly interpreting the original question to be "why is Christianity important for the world?" I would have to say that, based on my experience, it has something to teach about forgiveness, about caring for one another, about--dare I day it Wink --non-violence, about non-judgmentalism, about getting second chances....

...about hope.

But, as in the case of "ALL" major religions, Christians don't always live up to their ideal. I often see Christians spending too much time talking among themselves ("aren't we lucky to be Christian", "Jesus is my personal savior, period", etc.), and not enough time taking their special message out into the world.

Phil, you obviously know more about the reformation than I do, but my intuition tells me you are dead on about the over-intellectualization of faith. I'm wondering if this creeped into the picture when people stopped "trusting" that God would provide them with a means for their being. Just a thought....

I know several Christians who do not go to church and may never go to church again. They have several reasons for this, but the two most often given are: 1) Christianity doesn't seem to provide practical answers to my problems, and 2) Church is too rule-oriented.

Perhaps a secondary question to "Why Christianity?" might be "How Christianity?" (See JB's newly initiated thread...)

And Sue, if you have had some bad experiences withtin various Christian churches, know that you are not alone. Stay on your path and keep your eyes open for people who know the "spirit" of Christianity. That's what I'm doing.

Wiht hope,

shanti, who may have used up her allotment of quotation marks Smiler
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm putting together Daily Spiritual Seed for next week and will use the following quote on Friday. I thought it applied rather well to some parts of this discussion.

"This means that Christianity is not a message, but an experience of faith which becomes a message, and as an explicit message seeks to offer a new possibility of life experience to others who hear it from within their own experience of life."
- Edward Schillebecks, "Interim Report on 'Jesus' and "Christ," NY, Crossroad, 1991 -


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a few replies to shanti's recent reflections:

If I am correctly interpreting the original question to be "why is Christianity important for the world?" I would have to say that, based on my experience, it has something to teach about forgiveness, about caring for one another, about--dare I day it Wink --non-violence, about non-judgmentalism, about getting second chances....

OK, but none of these are especially unique to Christianity. I'm sure there are atheistic humanists who would agree to all of these kinds of moral values.

More unique would be issue like the nature of God, God's attitude toward people, the ultimate destiny of the human individual and the human race, the atoning death of Jesus, the new humanity begun in him, the ongoing communion with Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But, as in the case of "ALL" major religions, Christians don't always live up to their ideal. I often see Christians spending too much time talking among themselves ("aren't we lucky to be Christian", "Jesus is my personal savior, period", etc.), and not enough time taking their special message out into the world.

Some of that sounds pretty judgmental of Christians. If you need to find a perfect Church or perfect Christian in order to believe in the credibility of the faith professed, then that just won't happen. Sure, we could all do better, including "taking our special message out into the world." But the fact that we fall short of the mark on this and so many other issues doesn't mean we're hypocrites, nor that the faith we possess is lacking in credibility.

Phil, you obviously know more about the reformation than I do, but my intuition tells me you are dead on about the over-intellectualization of faith. I'm wondering if this creeped into the picture when people stopped "trusting" that God would provide them with a means for their being. Just a thought....

Another major problem from the first was that the overwhelming majority of people who were "conscripted" into the Church after Constantine's conversion were never true believers to begin with. I'm not saying that that was a bad thing Constantine did, only that it did make for a different kind of Church than what we had in the pre-Constantine, persecution days. Since the Reformation/Enlightenment, a lot of those who bear the name (but not the faith) of Christian have felt more permission to absent themselves from Church membership. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. God has always seemed to count on the faithful remnant to further the transformation of the race.

I know several Christians who do not go to church and may never go to church again. They have several reasons for this, but the two most often given are: 1) Christianity doesn't seem to provide practical answers to my problems, and 2) Church is too rule-oriented.

I wonder what questions they find Christianity not addressing. The "rule-oriented" excuse is generally a cop-out, in my experience. When one keeps faith in Christ as a first priority, then a lot of those kinds of things show up in a different light.

Again, I would submit, the problem is faith.

And Sue, if you have had some bad experiences withtin various Christian churches, know that you are not alone. Stay on your path and keep your eyes open for people who know the "spirit" of Christianity. That's what I'm doing.

I hope you and Sue find what you're looking for, Shanti. Actually, I believe there are such people in all the Churches. If one is hoping for a perfect community where everyone seems to conform to our preconceptions about the way Christians "should act," however, there are no such things. Nevertheless, it really is important that one find a community where one is comfortable. And I know that the issue of the truth professed by a community is more important to some people than others.

For myself, I'd rather continue to stick it out with all these Catholic hypocrites, clerical horse's butts, rules and regulations, etc. because, in the end, I do believe that the Catholic Church has a more complete grasp on Christian truth than any other Christian tradition does. And I believe in the end that our own fidelity to truth will set us free. But we're not there yet . . . only on the way: same as everyone else. Those are just my beliefs, and I'm sure others feel the same way about their own faith traditions, which is fine with me, and most understandable. We can hold such convictions and get along just fine, imo. Smiler
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil, I'm sorry if my post made it seem that I was calling Christians hypocrites. In fact, I made my remarks within the context of "...as with 'all' major religions" to avoid pointing the finger at only one religion and to avoid creating the impression you have gotten. I agree with you. There is no perfect denomination / church / religion. And few of us live up to our ideals.

But this thread is devoted to "why Christianity" (Christianity specified) so I felt I could speak to my experience of Christians I have met and interacted with, many of whom have been made to feel that their faith is not supposed to relate to issues in their life (or worse still, issues in their life shouldn't be brought to church). These are sincere people I know, not people who are copping out.

Then there are those Christians who seem to lord it over others (pun intended). I've met a few of those, as well. I haven't felt much like going back to their churches.

And finally others who live their faith honestly and compassionately and in a way that attracts folks like me. I've met some right here.

I think people of the second kind can be found anywhere in any belief system, and they are the ones who make it hard to "make the case," so to speak. So when one asks "why?" one not only has to answer "because" but also "in spite of."

I also have a journey of my own and a relationship to Christianity (from without) which I feel has merit within the question posed at the beginning of the thread. I had hoped that my outsider status would add spice to the conversation, but I sense that the effect has been less than positive.

I'm beginning to have misgivings about continuing here. Frowner

At any rate, it was never my intention to call anyone a hypocrite or be overly confrontational.


shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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