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an invitation especially to 'reasserters'

One of my favorite memories from General Convention 2006 took place just before the biggest hearing before Committee 26, the legislative committee handling resolutions related to the Windsor Report. I'd gotten there early -- not just so I could sign up to testify as soon as the lists came out, but also because there was an open wireless network outside the grand ballroom where the hearing was to take place, and I had a lectionary blog entry to write. I found an electrical outlet and a chair, pulled out my pocket-sized NRSV (yes, I do actually carry a bible with me everywhere I go -- this one is fabulous in that it's got the whole Hebrew bible and New Testament in pretty much the dimensions of a very thick checkbook) and my laptop, and started typing away.

I wasn't working all that long before Martyn Minns (who's being invested as missionary bishop for CANA on my birthday) walked up. "I see that there's one thing we agree on ..." he said.

I was sure he was going to say something about the open bible in front of me, but it was to my laptop that he pointed.

"Macintosh."

I think he and I agree on a great deal more than that, for as much as we disagree passionately about some important things. But I'd love to see if the community of readers here and on 'reasserter' (a term often preferred for self-designation by people often designated as 'conservatives' by progressives) blogs such as TitusOneNine and StandFirm can come up with a list of important points we actually agree on.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start a list of points on which I think I and many 'progressives' agree with the vast majority of 'reasserters.' Progressives and reasserters, please use the comments either to add your own points on which you think we'd agree or to let me know if you don't actually agree with one of the points posted up here, and I'll periodically edit the list in light of the comments. I'm not using the most specific or detailed language I could use, as the goal is to come up with the greatest number and most specificity possible while still allowing broad agreement. I'm also not listing everything in this first bunch of points that I believe and I think most reasserters also believe, simply because that would take too long and I've got papers due. I'll add more later, but I hope this is a good start.

That said, here's my initial list of things I believe that I think most reasserters would also affirm:

  • Jesus is Lord.
  • Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.
  • The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.
  • The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I know some Christians struggle with this, but I believe this was a bodily resurrection, and the tomb was empty (and John Dominic Crossan never persuaded me that there was no tomb).
  • Jesus' disciples met the risen Jesus -- some had visions, some corporeal encounters (though Jesus' body was different in some ways -- e.g., he didn't seem to need doors to be opened or unlocked to get into a room), but in all cases reported in the New Testament it was Jesus they met.
  • I think the list of canonical books in the New Testament is a good one. There is no non-canonical gospel that I would have liked to see in the canon, and no book currently in the canon that I'd exclude if I could.
  • I believe that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus' ministry, and that Jesus will come again to realize fully his work among us.
  • I believe that the God of Israel has chosen Jesus, the Christ, as judge of the nations.
  • I believe that Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
  • I believe that Jesus is really present wherever people gather in his name.

So, what would you add that you think we both believe? Is there anything above that you couldn't sign on to? And how would you identify yourself (a reasserter? a conservative? a progressive? a liberal? a moderate? something else?)?

April 28, 2007 in Churchiness, Just for Fun | Permalink

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» an invitation from Dylan from Thinking Anglicans
Sarah Dylan Breuer has issued an invitation at Grace Notes . Id love to see if the community of readers here and on reasserter (a term often preferred for self-designation by people often designated as conservatives&#... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2007 10:55:24 AM

» A good list to make from hypersync
Sarah Dylan Breuer, and Episocpal priest of "Sarahlaughed.net" fame, started a list a couple days ago of points of agreement between - here is a long list: Conservatives/Liberals, Traditionalists/Progressives, Reappraisers/Reasserters, or whatever term... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 30, 2007 11:58:59 AM

Comments

I'd probably add:
-God is one being in three persons
-The full revelation of God is the Cross of Christ

I'm not we'd all agree, but I would add
-That the Holy Spirit is found in the Catholic Church
-That the Spirit leads the Church into Truth
-That the Kingdom of God is breaking in upon us

I'm not sure where I really am on the spectrum - I claim to be a moderate, but I keep having people argue that I'm further to the right or further to the left...

Posted by: Nick Knisely | Apr 28, 2007 3:03:39 PM

Good list, Dylan. I agree with all your points, without any reservations. I might add the summary of the law, love of God and neighbor, as that not only gives us a clear list of priorities, but also defines the way we do evangelism, it seems to me.

I think this is an excellent exercise. If you don't mind, I'm going to invite folks at Jake's place to engage in this, with the caveat that they leave a comment here, and acknowledge your specific invitation for participation from reasserter readers (iow; don't drown out other voices).

I self-identify as a progressive, but am liturgically very conservative.

Posted by: Jake | Apr 28, 2007 5:07:58 PM

Thanks, Nick and Jake. And I think it would be fab for your readers to participate, Jake. I probably won't be able to monitor what comments are on posts there, though, so if people want to register their thoughts in a way that will shape the list over here as it develops, commenting here is probably the best way to do it.

And I'm not sure how to self-identify. On liturgy, sacramental theology, and ecumenism, I'd identify on the whole as a fairly flexible Anglo-Catholic (e.g., low-church liturgy isn't my cup of tea generally, but I don't think that it's less Christian or less correct); on attitudes toward scripture and the importance of making a personal commitment to Christian discipleship, I have strong sympathies with evangelicals (except that I think one makes that 'personal decision for Christ' countless times, not just once); and on social issues, the label 'progressive' fits me much better on the whole than 'conservative.' And I don't like the label of 'reappraiser' any more than I like the label 'liberal.' I interpret scripture literally on many points that others want to interpret metaphorically or allegorically -- for example, I take most references to "the poor" in both Testaments as literal. I think scripture needs to be read within its historical and cultural context and interpreted for the readers' historical and cultural context -- an activity that involves ongoing 'reappraising' in light of what we know or think we know about the past and where we are in the present, but also an activity in which 'reasserters' engage and for which many 'reasserters' (e.g., just about any biblical scholar) advocate.

'Progressive' probably works best as a label for me, with one important exception: I don't believe that newer ideas are necessarily any better than older ones, and I don't believe that human nature is improving over time.

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer | Apr 28, 2007 6:04:17 PM

This a very interesting project.

First, to place my self, I'll just state my position on a number of issues:
- a theistic evolutionist
- Job and Jonah not necessarily historical figures
- There was only one 'temple cleansing'
- There was an empty tomb and it was Jesus of Nazareth 'in the flesh' breaking bread on the road to Emmaus (sp?) and asking Peter if he loved him
- pro-life, pro-gun control, pro-affirmative action
- pro-civil union for the GLBT folks, but believe homosexuality a disordering of human sexuality

What do all those make me (many conservatives will view me as hopelessly liberal and progressives as equally hopelessly conservative)?

I have the temptation to be skeptical about what is actually believed when particular words are used (especially in regards to the Resurrection).

I am very interested in what we can say about human nature. Sarah says "I don't believe that human nature is improving over time." Is the brokenness/sinfulness of humanity something we can agree on?

I look forward to this discussion.

Posted by: Charlie | Apr 29, 2007 12:23:46 AM

I followed Huw's link to your discussion. I'm not sure if I'm really part of this conversation, as I'm not an Episcopalian. If forced to identify myself using one of the sets of binary oppositions, I'd go with "reasserter" since it implies a post-critical embrace of Tradition rather than a simplistic traditionalism. The shorter answer is, I'm Orthodox.

I think your list is a great start. With Nick, I'd add some recognition of God as Holy Trinity. I like Jake's inclusion of the two great commandments. And riffing off Charlie's comment, I'd like to suggest some mention of Christ as Redeemer of humanity.

Posted by: peter | Apr 29, 2007 1:05:18 AM

A very good list, and a good project. It may surprise many about the agreement we have on the fundamentals of our faith. I'm Anglo-catholic/eveangelical I consider myself as a -reasserter/orthodox/conservative/traditionalist. The titles are difficult because each one carries unintended baggage.I was opposed to VGR's consecration and I would add to the list:

a supporter of the Windsor process, Dromatine Communique and the Dar es Salaam communique.

On the other hand I have been working for the past three years, along with some "liberal" friends in promoting the UN's 8 MDG's through an organization named Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. My conservative friends scratch their heads over that one. One of my friends whom I admire greatly for his work is the Rev Ian Douglas of EDS. That would be another category: who in the church do you admire for their work?

Posted by: Gary | Apr 29, 2007 2:03:02 AM

I am Anglo-Catholic with a bit of a traditional Evangelical Anglican streak occasionally. I believe in the full theology of the Nicene Creed regarding God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I believe in the faith handed down by the saints and am definitely Anglican. I am still in TEC and in one of the southern Windsor professing dioceses.

I am a Lay Senior Citizen "Boomer" and veteran of VNW and a bit overly educated in the scientific and medical field than necessary so not all boomers are Woodstock hippies or responsible for what has happened to this denomination.

I believe that the Holy Scripture of both the New and Old Testament are the Living Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit,are moral and historical guidelines for a Christian Life and are totally valid in today's society.

I definitely believe there is a heaven and there is a hell and Jesus is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one will come to the Father except through Him. That is a reality that noone can change or dismiss as it was set by the Father.

I believe that God is unchangeable and is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow and noone can change that either for all the canons, discussions, and denominations or interpretations given by any position. They can want to, but it will not happen. He is what He is.

I believe that the mission of the church is to teach and bring knowledge of this truth to all and through that knowledge of Jesus Lives are transformed. The mark of the Christian is a transformed life. We are all sinners and can not be perfect in this life, but we can try to follow Jesus with the guidance of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and walk in that transformed life.

Finally, I believe that Jesus is present in the Sacrament and in our lives. I believe that the Holy Spirit is given at our Baptism and resides within us as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. The HS uses our conscience to guide our moral lives and to reveal through scripture, traditions, and reason, what God wishes us to do and to be.

As my Life will close in the not too faraway future as there are more years behind than before now and health at times gets precarious, I am assured by what I have stated to be truth and I am willing to live and die for my Lord and His truth. "For I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Blessings in His name to all.

Posted by: Michaela | Apr 29, 2007 8:42:47 AM

Like Dylan, I consider myself an Anglo-Catholic with very progressive political beliefs. One of the biggest struggles I have following reasserter discussions is the almost universal insistence that all "liberals" have thrown out the historical faith. Most of us have done nothing of the sort.In searching for places of agreement, I believe all of Dylan's list plus Jake's addition of the great commandment.And Gary should know that putting in the Windsor word, as well as the Tanzanian debacle, isn't reaching for well-intended consensus. Faith can bring us together, but recent Anglican political moves only throw gasoline on the fire.

Posted by: John D | Apr 29, 2007 8:44:56 AM

God--Father, Son, and Spirit--is holy.

As for myself, I am a sinner.

Posted by: Jill Woodliff | Apr 29, 2007 9:14:30 AM

Dylan:

I notice you left out Jesus being Virgin born. I think that is a pretty important piece to the puzzle.

Also, you didn't mentioning anything about the atonement specifically, other than Jesus being the Christ of God. I think Jesus' sacrifice was necessary to redeem us from sin. Why it was necessary is something in which there is room to disagree, in my opinion.

YBIC,
Brad Drell

Posted by: Brad Drell | Apr 29, 2007 9:26:07 AM

Agree with Brad. Delighted to Jesus as Lord at top of list, though not all of your progressive colleagues would agree (http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/179570). I can agree with your last point as written, but am concerned that some folks will extrapolate that to mean that every action of a corporate group claiming the name of Jesus is consonant with the actions of Jesus (the Spanish Inquisition is an example to the contrary).

Posted by: Jill Woodliff | Apr 29, 2007 10:29:13 AM

Add request:

Tradition refined by the wisdom of the centuries is due great deference and is wiser than we and much wiser than we generally realize. Christian tradition is guided by God.

Posted by: Reason and Revelation | Apr 29, 2007 10:42:11 AM

While I personally agree with most (though not all) of the points you list, I am more sceptical about the value of this exercise. It seems to be laying out a boundary which defines what Anglicanism (or Christianity) is, whereas I'm not at all sure that it is possible or desirable to establish such a frontier. Indeed, some liberals (and yes! I do self-identify as a liberal, thanks) would argue that this is precisely what we should not be attempting to do: to arrive at some consensus on who is and is not included in the Kingdom. Would you say that someone who rejects all of the points on your list could be an Anglican? I personally don't see why not (though it is unlikely that such a person would chose to identify as an Anglican).

Moreover, the Devil (so to speak) is in the details - while conservatives(er, 'reasserters') may agree with me that "Jesus is Lord", I suspect that their interpretation of this phrase is probably quite different from mine. So what value does it have other than as a slogan we can all agree with? And while I would view this latitude for interpretation (the slippage of meaning, etc.) as liberating, I suspect that not all the 'reaserters' would agree.

Posted by: Caliban | Apr 29, 2007 11:14:07 AM

1. The Lord God is one. All obedience is due Him, for no other reason than He is God.
2. God is triune- one Being, three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
3. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God.
4. Jesus was wholly God and wholly man. He was a historical figure.
5. There is no way to the Father but through the Son.
6. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.
7. By Christ’s crucifixion the reconciliation between God and creation was made possible.
8. Christ’s resurrection was a real historical event. “if Jesus has not risen from the dead then the Christians were the most miserable of all men”(I Cor 15:19) The entire Christian faith hinges upon the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus.
9. The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments is the inspired Word of God, and contains all things necessary for salvation.
10. The Ten Commandments is our Rule of Life. All ten of them.
11. The catholic Creeds are a sufficient statement of our faith. They ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.
12. Being a Christian is not easy. Christ our Good Shepherd will lead us through the Valley of the Shadow, not around it, by it, over it, or let us ignore it. We should live our lives as if Jesus was living them for us. We will fail… we will sin. But we cannot call sin blessed and go our merry way. We must repent and try again. We cannot earn our way into Heaven, but we can most certainly earn our way into Hell.

Posted by: Payton | Apr 29, 2007 11:21:38 AM

Dylan,

I appreciate this exercise, but I don’t think it is likely to achieve your intended result, for three reasons.

First, there is the issue of definitions, or, in other words, using the same word but meaning two different things. I believe conservatives and liberals (I am the former and prefer those labels, though I acknowledge the problem that they are tainted by also being political labels) have very different conceptions behind “Lord,” “judge,” and “evil powers,” to use examples from your list.

Second, in my experience trying to have just this type of discussion at Jake’s site, I’ve come to the conclusion that most liberals don’t agree in principle with even making such a list. The idea of boundaries, or the notion that Christianity would be attached to some definition, is very nearly anathema to the theological Left, even if individual liberals would themselves affirm many points of Christian orthodoxy.

Finally, it’s my firmly held belief that there is a very large faction among liberals in ECUSA that reject nearly everything you’ve listed. I believe the “liberal orthodox” have created an environment in which these people can thrive, and welcome them because they are allies in their most important pursuits, primarily the redefinition of sexual norms. Strangely, the “liberal orthodox” won’t brook discussion of this faction by conservatives and won’t lift a finger to condemn any of their antics. (I also believe that, to the extent there actually are true “liberal orthodox” Episcopalians, they will come to bitterly regret the presence of these Christian rejectionists once ECUSA has been cleansed of the conservatives.)

As an example of these three points, see the comment by “Caliban,” above.

On the specifics of your list, there are several on which I disagree we have consensus:

- I don’t think someone who believes it is equally valid to the salvation of one’s soul to be a Buddhist, a Jain or a Christian can honestly express the belief that Jesus is “Lord,” “Christ,” or “God.”
- “The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God . . .” is way too broad. Many liberals don’t believe it, and, of those that do, they mentally amend it to mean, “Some parts of the Old and New Testaments . . .” This takes off your statement about canonical books as well, since there are portions of the canonical books which liberals would strike.
- That Jesus was raised has to come off your list by your own admission: “I know some Christians struggle with this.”
- Finally, I don’t think we agree that Jesus will be the judge of the nations, since I believe too many liberals reject the notion that we will be judged at all. (And, if we are to be judged, it’s by standards that none of us are allowed to articulate, which, practically speaking, means it’s by standards liberals don’t believe we know, which is pretty unfair of God, especially by their conception of Him.)

Thank you for this exercise, though, and blessings to you.

Posted by: Phil | Apr 29, 2007 12:24:50 PM

That God's commandment is that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.

Posted by: Nick Finke | Apr 29, 2007 12:41:37 PM

I can go with most of the list (I'm broad-church Episcopalian converted from Southern Baptist 42 years ago) although I don't insist on the virgin birth or a literal physical resuscitation. I do believe in a historical Jesus but not necessarily that his purpose in life was to serve as a substituionary sacrifice to God for the sins of mankind. Would one part of the body (say an arm) demand the elination of a healthy eye or leg as a sacrifice so the arm would cease being angry?

I'd add the social justice part "whatever you have done to the least of my brothers (and sisters)..." I think that goes to the heart of what Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom (that is within or near us, not something to be enjoyed on fluffy clouds with gold streets sometime in the future). The beatitudes are, I beileve, also worth consideration.

Posted by: mumcat | Apr 29, 2007 12:52:03 PM

Dylan, this is a terrific idea. It really ought to be on a wiki, though, so that edits can be consolidated and we don't have 43 different individual lists. (And with annotations, your list could be an extremely useful resource for seekers and teachers.)

To show how this could be done, I've taken the liberty of copying your list to a separate temporary page in a wiki that I'm developing for a business start-up. I've also contributed a couple of factual annotations. By all means feel free to move what I've done to another wiki, whereupon I'll be happy to take down the temporary page.

Posted by: D. C. | Apr 29, 2007 1:08:42 PM

Whoops - forgot the URL, which is http://www.pactix.com/Dylanslist

Posted by: D. C. | Apr 29, 2007 1:10:54 PM

Dylan:

I think your initial list needs further definition. Was does accepting the premise "Jesus is Lord" mean? If Jesus is truly Lord was does that mean in the areas of ethics or sexuality?

Secondly, all reasseters would say "Jesus is the Son of God, not Jesus is the Christ God". By refusing to use accept that God revealed himself as a male human being denies the very essence of his being.

Face it, in many facits reasserters and reappraisers simply have irreconcilable differences and it would be in everybody's interest to negociate a amicable separation.

We are two vastly different religions in the same Church, full stop.

Posted by: David Wilson+ | Apr 29, 2007 1:25:25 PM

David Wilson writes: "Face it, in many facits reasserters and reappraisers simply have irreconcilable differences . . . ."

The differences are only irreconcilable because some folks choose to label them so and to act accordingly — for example, by refusing to share communion with people who don't hold the "correct" beliefs.

Posted by: D. C. | Apr 29, 2007 1:54:01 PM

I am a "reasserter" who used to be much more liberal/progressive in his political views before the consecration of VGR. Since that time, my views have slowly but surely been headed toward the conservative end of the spectrum. I would be the first to admit, by the way, that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bishop Robinson and to most "reappraisers" because it really has been their words and actions that have challenged me to study the Scriptures more closely, pray more often, and to engage in more real, honest intellectual effort to think through my faith and its implications. To come to terms with what I mean, exactly, when I say, "I believe."

Before 2003, I identified myself as a church-going Episcopalian who most often voted for Democratic candidates on the ballot. Today, though I am still a member of the same Episcopal parish, I would identify myself as an Anglican and an evangelist and a budding disciple of Jesus Christ. And I would never consider casting a ballot without first seeking God's guidance.

I agree, Dylan, with everything on your list. I also agree with others who have already posted that the entire Trinity, that is, Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit, are important and basic elements of any meaningful Christian theology. And that the atoning sacrifice on the cross is necessary to our salvation. More on this later.

I will also propose a few more items for your list, which I will break up into several posts. The devil is in the details, so these will not be short.

My first proposed addition is about faith. To say, "I believe," in a Christian sense means to say more than, "I intellectually agree." Saving faith is a conscious choice. We Christians deliberately and consciously CHOOSE to believe that Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected. We CHOOSE to believe that the canonical Scriptures are the inspired word of God. We CHOOSE to believe that Jesus Christ and God the Father are of one and the same substance. We make these choices although there is no real scientific proof available to us to show that the propositions are true. We make them knowing that many, many others disagree with us. This kind of faith is rather like a soldier planting a flag on a hill. We lay claim to it. Here is the spot we have chosen, and the territory that surrounds us comes with it.

I would go further and say that true Christian faith means that we also choose to believe God-- choose to believe that he always tells the truth, that he always keeps his promises, and that he has the ability to keep his promises. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky, even though Abraham was quite old and his wife had been barren her entire life. But Abraham believed God, and Paul describes this act of believing God as what led Abraham to being accounted as righteous. See Romans 4.

To sum up my first proposed addition: faith is a conscious choice and faith is a critical element in our relationship with God.

Posted by: Rick Harris, O.P. | Apr 29, 2007 2:36:46 PM

As a contributor to Thinking Anglicans, but hardly typical, et's have a go at this, before I go out of touch for a week.

I don't know what Jesus is Lord means. If it means a cool devotion towards someone who had ethical reversals insight then fine, but if it means subservience then not. Nor is this exclusive.

I think the universe evolved, and Jesus the human being was not involved in making the universe (why am I writing something that seems so obvious? I'm just reading some social anthropology about religion, and it does not require me for all its debate to inhabit another thought world)

The Old and New Testaments are full of spiritual insight.

Yes, born of Mary, taught, healed (psychosomatic, interested in an equivalent of chi) but evil powers is that spooky world again.

Well Jesus of Nazareth is a model for what God would be or should be if God is.

We have well crafted texts about authority and legitimacy that use a language of the time of resurrection that may well relate to some core religious post-death experience, just as another language might be used today. However, itis mainly to a community, about eucharist and leadership and direction, and is powered and framed by an end-time belief. I'm not convinced by an empty tomb: by the time it was in discussion no one could identify any body remains, but it was important in central developing Christianity to tackle the tendency towards Gnosticism and spiritism. But the stories suggest we are not dealing with a body - Paul's experience is spiritual (if that is what it is) and most of it is theologised out of recognition of description. It is not described, so what is the point of saying what it is? So it is open whether they met Jesus, just as it is open whether people have real near death experiences that tell them of a future that they will have, rather than a brain experience.

I would add more books from Nag Hammadi, from Qumran beforehand too. There are no barriers to what can be read and inspire.

Jesus's and Paul's expectation of a coming Kingdom did not happen, and we are officially living in an in-between time. Rather like the Party for "Socialism" before Communism, the Church is an institution that bridges something that was going to be and still is not.

Why judge nations: let's hope the nation state can wither. It is a form of tribe. Gosh, when we stop living in tribes, that will mean the Kingdom has arrived.

I think the eucharist is a give and take ritual: material giving and a spiritual gift about binding one with others and the unnerving idealism represented by Jesus.

No idea what really present means.

I live in this century, not some previous time. As I say, I don't have to transport myself into another mindset in order to do any academic thinking, so if Christianity cannot exist in today's thought forms (liturgical conservation an remythologising is another issue) then it has no credibility.

Posted by: Pluralist | Apr 29, 2007 2:40:16 PM

My second proposed addition is about our spiritual poverty and our need for salvation, which, to my mind, are one and the same. We are powerless to effect our own reconciliation to God. Any such reconciliation must be because of the efforts of God, and not our own efforts. We do not go to God. He comes to us. This is the real meaning of Jesus coming to earth to walk among us.

We cannot save ourselves. All our efforts to reconcile ourselves to God by throwing ourselves into good works amount, in the end, to nothing more than self-worship. Worship of the universe that we would remake in our own image. Worship of our own ideals. Worship of our own wants and desires and passions. And no matter how wonderful our vision of the universe, no matter how high-sounding our ideals, no matter how noble our wants and desires and passions, this kind of self-pursuit can't possibly come to a good ending. There can be no success apart from God, no obedience to anything or anyone but God. In the words of C. S. Lewis:

"This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again….God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from."

We can worship God, or we can worship ourselves. There are really no other choices. When we realize how deep and wide is the gulf between God's holiness and our own state, we reach a point where we say, "I cannot begin to cross it." And it is at this point that our spiritual poverty becomes real and vivid. It is then and only then that Jesus Christ has anything to offer us. If we don't realize we are drowning, why would we accept the life-ring that he throws us?

Posted by: Rick Harris, O.P. | Apr 29, 2007 2:56:08 PM

My third proposed addition to the list is about sin. Sin is anything we do or say or think that prevents God from having his way with us. God gave us free choice, and that gift of free choice necessarily means that we can choose to turn away from God.

Sin is not a trivial thing. It results in the wrath of God. Not wrath in the sense of arbitrary or capricious anger, but righteous wrath, more akin perhaps to what one of us would do if we put rotten food into our mouths. God is purely holy, and cannot tolerate anything unholy, any more than you or I could eat spoiled meat. God would be less than purely holy if he could tolerate sin.

And here we come to the necessity of the cross. In the words of Charles Cranfield:

"God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very Self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved."

If Christ's atoning sactrifice on the cross is a necessary element of our salvation, it follows that Christ was not a merely a great teacher and moral leader, such as Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. The crucifixion was not some tragedy that cut short Christ's brilliant career of healing and teaching. It was the purpose for which he came, a triumph, and, if one sees it as the atoning sacrifice necessary for our salvation, irrefutable proof of God's tremendous love for us.

"The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.
The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. . . . The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. . . . The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened - but the crash is on the heart of God." -- Oswald Chambers.

Posted by: Rick Harris, O.P. | Apr 29, 2007 3:19:16 PM

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