Grace Emerges

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What's So Great About Christmas?, #3

by Brad Duncan

#3, The Lights!: Do you ever wonder why Christmas lights are so meaningful, even magical?  Electric lights on the trees, houses, Christmas tree and everywhere else?  What about when candles are lit in the dark?  It just seems to resonate with celebrating, joy, singing, sharing time with each other, and enjoying special meals.  Lights also seems to resonate with a peaceful stillness, indicating that the celebrations have a deep meaning for all of us.  Do you ever wonder why all the lights?

The reason hit home for me this year when reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 with our kids last night by candlelight.  My nine-year-old acted the part of the angel, and as he held the candle and said in a mock-booming voice "Don't be afraid.  I have good news for you...", I realized that the light was my favorite symbol of the good news.  Sometimes the world is a dark place.  But light fills it.  The light is a gift to the darkness.  It brings something good that wasn't there before.  Then with my family we talked about gifts, lights, and how God brought the light of the world as a gift for all people.  We wrapped up with the words of Simeon from Luke 2:32:

Your mighty power is a light
    for all nations,
and it will bring honor
    to your people Israel.

What good news!  All of these traditions, decorations, parties, and Christmas songs, all of these candlelight services, Christmas tree lightings, Christmas movies, children's stories -- they are all *magical* because of the power of light to transform the dark.  Every light is a symbol of Christ's birth.

And there's something more.  We are celebrating the light of Christ that still shines in this world.  The spirit of Christ still shines.  It lights up my life, it brings comfort, truth and help in time of need.  It shows us God's continuing eternal love for us.  When songs and stories celebrate "Christmas spirit", and when we find ourselves filled with "Christmas spirit" meaning love and kindness toward others, we are once again opening the gift that Christ brought to the world, the gift of his spirit to fill us and transform us.  The light of the world that shines through us all.  The Holy Spirit is the lasting gift, who is present with us, the continuing presence of  Emanuel, God With Us.

Merry Christmas to All ! May the light of Christ fill you with celebration!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What the Angels Didn't Say

What the angels said (Luke 2):
  • “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 
  • “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

What the angels DIDN'T say:
  • "And your savior will start a new world religion, that will in time take over the earth. One religion to RULE THEM ALL!"
  • "And he will raise up the Church as the seat of his power over the Earth and over other religions!"

Wouldn't that have put a damper on celebration a bit?

What are we celebrating? PEACE for the world, or domination of it?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stripped by God [View from a Room]

I wanted to re-post this article from Bob on "View from a Room".   It's really well written and described Progressive Christianity - Brad Duncan

Stripped by God

Some years ago a group of Christians including such notables as Marcus Borg, Bishop J Shelby Spong, Walter Brueggemann and John Dominic Crossen became part of a movement called Progressive Christianity.
They had observed over a long period of time that many have not only left the Church but also the faith. They concluded that a great deal of what passes for Christianity is largely outdated and irrelevant.
The gospel must be presented in contemporary language otherwise it will be seen as an ancient relic of the past. The present belief system, that represents so much of Christianity, has remained unchanged since the reformation of 1517 yet, we live in a world that is so different its hard to catalogue the differences, yet the model remains unchanged.A significant part of the challenge is the way scripture is read. For many the stories are still understood at the same conceptual level as Sunday school children. Not only do we continue to present Christianity at this level but we also insist that others see it in the same light.
The focus of Progressive Christianity is about embracing a more mature view of Christianity or what Brian Mclaren calls Adult Christianity. To do this we need to strip away the old and make way a new more vibrant way of seeing. “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” however, for many the model was always flawed to begin with. As Richard Rohr observed when we begin to see the gospel within a broader Adult context when the Scriptures are used maturely, they proceed in this order:
  • They confront us with a bigger picture than we are used to, “God’s kingdom” that has the potential to “deconstruct” our false and smaller kingdoms.
  • They then have the power to convert us to an alternative worldview by proclamation, grace, and the sheer attraction of the good, the true, and the beautiful (not by shame, guilt, or fear which are low-level motivations, but which operate more quickly and so churches often resort to them).
  • They then console us and bring deep healing as they “reconstruct” us in a new place with a new mind and heart.
No matter what our theological position, this poem is a poignant reminder that the work of the Spirit is often Iconoclastic in nature; we need deconstruction before reconstruction can take place and herein is the greatest challenge facing Christianity in the West;
What would happen if I pursued God if I filled my pockets with openness.Grabbed a thermos half filled with fortitude and crawled into the cave of the Almighty. Nose first eyes peeled heart hesitantly following until I was face to face with the raw pulsating beat of Mystery.
What if I entered and it looked different than anyone had ever described? What if the cave was to big to be fully known far to extensive to be comprehended by one person or group. To vast for one doctrine or dogma?.Would I shatter at such a thought? Perish from paradox or puzzle? Shrink and shrivel before the power?.
Would God be diminished if I lived a question rather than a statement? Would I lose my faith?As I discovered the magnitude of grace?
O, for the willingness to explore to leave my tiny vocabulary at the entrance and stand before you naked stripped of pretenses and rigidity disrobed of self-righteousness and tiny packages stripped of all that holds me at a distance from you and your world.Strip me O’ God then clothe me in curiosity and courage.         (Cynthia Langston Kirk)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Forward Progress 6: The King and Kingdom

Forward Progress: 
Lessons and Trends in Progressive Christian Faith
by Brad Duncan

A 6-part series on the church, faith and theology,
and how they can move forward into the next generation. 

The King and Kingdom

There's something wrong with our view of the future when it causes us to abandon the present.
In this final article in the "Forward Progress" series, I want to paint a picture of the future, of a better tomorrow.  What are the consequences of the Good News, Grace and Freedom for the world?  What is the mission of the Church, or alternately, how does the Church bring about the consequences of the Good News?

Did Jesus come to proclaim misery to the world but joy in heaven?  Did he teach us to abandon Earthly responsibility in order to achieve spiritual success?  No.  One way for people to see the good side of bad things is to simply hope for another day, even to the extreme of giving up on today.  If you live your whole life that way, you may look at life as a long walk of suffering, and the only hope is the end of it.  If the only point of life is heaven, then as the saying goes "Just kill me now!".

Now, if your life is truly a life of pain, and you are oppressed, needy, sick, etc., as so many people in the world are, then this approach to life might make sense.  But even people in the most dismal circumstances seem to relish the joys in life, in love and relationships with others, in briefly passing beauty, and in contentment in humble circumstances.  But there is pain and hardship out there, and we should look it straight in the eyes.  What does the gospel provide to those in pain?  It provides hope.  It provides comfort.  It shows that God understands and cares.

But what about those of us that just like to complain, but are living in relative comfort?  First, the gospel  provokes a compassionate response in us with means to do something about the pain of others.  Instead of just living for a better future in heaven, we can live to make today better for someone else.  Second, for ourselves we can focus on the spiritual qualities that Jesus taught, and actually live better.  As Jesus illustrated, those that follow the concepts that he taught in their own lives, can stand strong when the storms of life come.  Jesus taught us how to live, not just how to earn a future prize.  In the language of the gospel message: Jesus taught about "kingdom" as being some that has arrived immediately as the collision between God and man - the answer and hope for humanity.  Something that will remain when Jesus is gone physically from the Earth.  Something that will grow, spread, develop.  Something that will overpower evil.

What is our hope for humanity?  How do we participate in that hope?  How does the Holy Spirit contribute to that hope?  What about the church, how does it represent and bring about the hope of the gospel?  How are we using our resources and our knowledge of God to improve the future?

Rather than  answering these questions here...  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader, and as a goal of this blog and my new blogbook "A Moderate Wall", to explore what is the true kingdom that Jesus came to bring on this Earth.  See also the article More on )open( Future.

Forward Progress: "I am the way, the truth and the life.  Come to the Father through me!  Find the good life at home in my kingdom, where God's will is done, where your needs matter, and where forgiveness reigns." -- Jesus
Other Articles in This Series:

Figure 1.  The gospel should be based on the authority of Christ rather than a mix of grace and judgment.

Figure 2.  The gospel is about change.  The Messiah came to change everything, establishing a peaceful kingdom on Earth where the Holy Spirit has growing influence.  We can't neglect the Earth without neglecting the Kingdom!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chap. 2, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 2

The Tower of Control

I hope you liked the parable. Like a children's story it leads us to follow the progression in thinking of the characters, through their failures and toward redemption.  The first failure is a common one for all of us. When we are given challenges, stresses, and resources to handle them, one way we can react is to grab hold tightly of anything that can give us control. When we respond to need and pain with control and structure, we are trying to apply our own power to overcome the obstacles we face. I can think of many situations in relationships where good intentions to help another person lead to trying to force control on that person.  "Here, let me help you.  Here, you should do it this way..."

In groups, human tendencies are even more dangerous! The need to control and overcome leads to a need to institutionalize, as a way to set up power over enemies, to fight hardship, and to organize and distribute resources. When we institutionalize worship of God, we replace genuine seeking and spirituality with something that looks like worship, but is a replacement for true relationship. When we institutionalize emulating God's character, we create rules and expectations, that are erroneously connected with being spiritual. We think we need to be correct, pleasing, conforming, even popular, in the expectations of our social, religious system, in order to be right with God.

In the story of Kog, the attempt to control fails.  It fails, I suppose, because control creates revolt within and war without.  Those that resist the control will most likely topple the tower and declare victory.

The Isolating Wall

The second failure comes from a more reasonable, moderate, attempt to gain control.  Instead of forcing everyone to submit to centralized leadership, instead, let's try isolating ourselves from outside influences, shutting out bad things, and basking in the glory of our own view of ourselves.  This failure is also a common human reaction.  We can retreat, observe, and shore up our defenses, making sure that we protect our own kind.  In relationships, we avoid risks, maybe staying to ourselves in order to protect ourselves from harm.  In groups, we look for comfort among those that are similar to us, so that we fit it, they fit in, we all fit in.  The hope is that this low risk approach will avoid conflicts and protect from harmful influences from outside.  We all do it -- in our families, within the walls of our own houses, don't we defend against outside intrusion while protecting those of us within?  In our schedules, jobs and associations, don't we group together with like-minded folk where we feel safe and accepted?  In this way, we gain control of the chaotic world around us and fill our lives with safe havens.  We can relax, we can enjoy, we can relate, and hopefully we can prosper, within these safe confines.  But as we all know, minimizing risk can also minimize reward.  Our most brilliant moments in life are not these safe ones, but the ones where we found courage, embraced change, and took risks.  Isolationism leads to loneliness in the end.  It doesn't end well.  Risks, courage and change are required for healthy life and relationships.

In groups, isolationism is prone to its own risks.  Corruption within can easily take over.  A wrong idea, and leader with bad intentions, or a lack of resources can easily drive a group to desparation and possible collapse.  Even when things are going well, the limited perspective that we have due to isolation from outsiders can drive us into miserable, selfish complacency.  We can come to see tiny problems as giant mountains, while missing the true problems and challenges of the world outside.  It looks like bickering, complaining, infighting, power struggles, and basically just driving one another crazy!  Meanwhile, inside the walls of isolation, we become less useful, less concerned, less able, and less relevant.  The world outside doesn't care about us, in our walls, because we don't care about them.  The world is divided into "Us" and "Them".

Eventually, if we are lucky, the wall cannot stand the pressures from inside and out.  The isolationism doesn't hold together, and the outside world comes crashing in.  The wall crumbles.  The safety and comfort is lost.  The community collapses.  And we are alone once more, in a crowd of people that don't understand us.

The Hope of Peace

Is there another solution?  Can we find a secure place to live, with comfort for ourselves, stable social structures, secure cultural idenity, without building a tower of control or a a wall of isolation?  The solution must be a way of peace.  We must find our identity in a place where we can embrace others with a peaceful posture.  What can be built that brings both security and peace?  The people of Kog found that this was possible.  Peace was the solution. It brought side-effects of security and wealth. It was risky, but it avoided the problems that come from controlling the world around us.

Can we find a peaceful solution to the chaos around us?  Can we seek peace in relationships, peace in social settings, and peace in our spirituality?  The parable offers hope that peace can be found.  Join me as I continue to explore how this can occur.

Previous Chapter

Chapter 1

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

God Works for Good - and So Should We

[reposting this for the Christmas season - Celebrating all the good things...]

by Brad Duncan

Here's a favorite verse of many of us, Romans 8:28

Common English Bible:
28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Common English Bible)

and Contemporary English Version (with footnote):
28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.[a] They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,
Romans 8:28 God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him: Or “All things work for the good of everyone who loves God” or “God’s Spirit always works for the good of everyone who loves God.”
While we often use this passage to understand the role of prayer ("God please turn this bad situation around"), and God's disposition about bad vs. good things that happen in our lives ("There must be a good reason for this bad thing - God has a plan"), I find a subtly different, but stronger and more fundamental meaning to this passage, both for the nature of God and nature of God's children.

God's character is to actively create good things.  Period.  Out of any asset available.  Out of space dust.  Out of ground dust.  Out of water vapor evaporated from the oceans.  Any asset.  While we have limited understanding of our own existence, why God created us, why this Earth is here, we do know from the experience that man has had with God, recorded in the Bible, that God is resourcefully and diligently building good things.  Doesn't that explain our existence to some degree?  We are here because God makes good things out of the tiniest opportunity.  Do you believe in random chance?  Well any small random chance is enough for God to create something amazing!  What's the limit to God's creativity?

When bad things happen, as they tend to do, what is God up to?  God is mending, healing, re-fashioning, bringing things around for another go at it.  Looking for every opportunity, any asset, that can be used to create a more peaceful, a more gracious, a more healthy kingdom for his/her children to inhabit.

Whatever negative energy is wrapped up in anger, hate, discrimination, persecution, and exploitation -- if there is any asset available there, God can work to bring something good - peace, freedom, grace, forgiveness.  Isn't the Bible filled with this concept and examples of it playing out?  Sometimes the good thing comes from some kind of battle to release the enslaved.  Sometimes it comes from oppressors repenting and experiencing God in their spirits.  God is creative.  And powerful.  What a combination!  If you doubt anything about the Bible - do not doubt this fact -- God is a force of good stronger than any force imaginable.  Would you like to be the one resisting this force?  I wouldn't.

That brings me to the next point.  Us.  What is our disposition about bad vs. good things that happen?  We usually react.  Disappointment, prayer for help, elevated adrenaline level, attempt to control (through stress and worry usually!) and taking action to avert the crisis.  These are all normal reactions and can of course be healthy and legitimate, so that we correct our mistakes, avoid pain, and are alerted to danger.  God does indeed help us -- the Holy Spirit is our guide and comforter.  I've never found the Holy Spirit to steer me wrong, but rather to be active in my life helping me especially where I am clueless or powerless to help myself.

But besides reacting, there is a deeper truth.  As Christians we can seize God's character for ourselves.  We can embark on a journey to create good things out of bad, out of every asset available.  Choose the best possible way to use that negative thing to make something good:

  • Use it as a wake up call to resist evil and temptation or to fight against injustice.  Build awareness.  Create consensus.  Generate action.   E.g., we see new initiatives and organizations started by people who have experienced a disease or some injustice, to rally others to the cause.
  • Help the hurting!  What easier path could there be to the kingdom of God than to help someone that is  hurting.  Bring some measure of comfort to them in their pain. Maybe some measure of physical rescue.  Maybe be an answer to their prayers for help!  We all need help.  We all need to help each other.  Aren't you grateful for that time when someone rescued you?  Use the gratitude to help someone else.
  • Learn from it!  When the bad things are our own fault, well, the best reaction is to learn.  Pain causes memory and learning (as we well know).  Use it for that purpose!
  • Create something good out of conflict.  Good conflict resolution skills are built around the idea that relational conflict is needed and important, because of a need for the parties involved to work out their relationship.  Talk some, listen more.  Be willing to change.  Use the energy in the conflict as an opportunity to address the issue.  Make it an example of reconciliation and grace.  One for the record books of your relationship.  Avoid repeating the same story the next time.
  • Spiritually, create grace out of injury.  When we forgive someone instead of being offended by them, we create something positive out of something negative.  As Jesus taught us to love our enemies, he taught us to be creative in relationships to use even enmity as an asset for change, an opportunity for grace, a softening of our own heart, and in the end an entry point into God's kingdom.  That grace may or may not change our enemy, but it certainly changes us!
If you find yourself creating barriers, pride, or more comfort for yourself, instead of reconciliation, peace, and more comfort for others, as we are all prone to do, then you are missing an opportunity.  Create something good instead!  Seize God's character as your own.  What would Jesus do?  What would God do?  Create something positive.
The Birth of Stars -- The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp 'eye' of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

WFC3's broad wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared, reveals stars at different stages of evolution, allowing astronomers to dissect the galaxy's star-formation history.

The image reveals in unprecedented detail the current rapid rate of star birth in this famous "grand design" spiral galaxy. The newest generations of stars are forming largely in clusters on the edges of the dark dust lanes, the backbone of the spiral arms. These fledgling stars, only a few million years old, are bursting out of their dusty cocoons and producing bubbles of reddish glowing hydrogen gas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What's So Great About Christmas?, #2

by Brad Duncan

What's so great about Christmas?  

#2. The Gifts!  No, not (just) those kind of gifts!  Though I do love giving and getting gifts as part of our family traditions, much more I love the spiritual significance of gifts.  Presumably the tradition of gift-giving goes back to the story of the three Magi that brought gifts to the baby Messiah, and helped to fund his family's flight from Herod into Egypt.

But, even more significantly, the good news of the Messiah was closely intertwined with the concept of gifts:

  • Grace - means unmerited favor, unconditional love, and great kindness, especially given by God to people.  Grace is a word that means the gifts of God given to mankind.  It is the Good News declared by Jesus as the Messiah, the chosen messenger of God, the heavenly gift-bearer! When you celebrate Christmas with gifts, you are celebrating the gift of God to us all.
  • The Holy Spirit - Jesus launched the kingdom of God on Earth.  He left the Holy Spirit with us to continue the Incarnation for generations to come.  The presence of God is with us, guiding us, bringing about good things, showing us our God-given nature and comforting us with help and guidance.  The Holy Spirit is the gift that we experience day by day through knowing God.
  • Compassion - More generally, gifts represent gracious, compassionate love.  We give because we humans are the hands and feet of God on Earth, ready to bring about the good things that God desires.  Who will bring the daily bread, the healing medicine, and the warm clothes to the needy of the world?  Certainly God - but only through his human assistants - Us !  When we celebrate with gifts, let us celebrate the compassion that liberated us, and bring that same compassion to others.
Operation Christmas Child in action
The concepts of these gifts in the message of Jesus was in contrast to the Old Testament system of laws and sacrifices.  Today, these concepts are also in direct contrast to the budget-breaking circus we call Christmas Shopping.  Giving is a spiritual quality, and leads to Grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Compassion!       Lets all consider how to celebrate these qualities through our gift-giving this year.

What's So Great About Christmas?, #1

by Brad Duncan

What's so great about Christmas?  

#1.  By far my favorite part of Christmas, and the thing I love the most about being a Christian, is that we are celebrating the Incarnation.  The Incarnation is the arrival of God on Earth as a person, to bring about all of the amazing plans that were brewing in the imagination of the mighty Creator, since the time creation began.  A kingdom made, not of tyranny or power, but of Peace and Kindness.  Not of fear and faithful service, but of Freedom and Passion.  A kingdom where those that wish to do so can worship God in true knowledge of the One we are made in the beautiful image of - in Spirit and in Truth.  The One who showed us the true nature of God in the form of a person.  We call him Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful, Counselor.  The Incarnation.  The collision of God and mankind.  The plan of God from the time when time began.  The Hope, Joy, Peace, Love, Freedom and Good News for the entire world.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chap. 1, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 1

Hello Church

Hello.  Hello Church.  Hello Christians, like me, in the mainstream protestant culture of Western civilization.  I hope that description is specific enough to let you know the target audience, and to let you know that I can use the word "we" when I am talking to people that can relate to me, and to the Christian culture I am referring to.  Definitely a big umbrella, but given the huge array of denominational and non-denominational Protestant churches that believe in Jesus and the Bible, I think you know who YOU are - who WE are.  We are also called the Church, for our part, but certainly not the entire Church (including Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, etc.), which spans the globe, crosses all cultures, and must include the past, present and future Christians of this world.  So, Hello Church, as WE see it through our own cultural and historical lens.  Maybe what I describe applies to other branches of the Church, but due to my own limited perspective I really don't know.

In short chapters of what I will call a "blogbook" I want to write for my fellow Christians on this journey, to describe something that I have come to see.  Something of a wall.  I call it the Moderate Wall.  It is the thing we have built out of our belief system and traditions.  It certainly serves some good purposes.  It makes us what we are.  It circles us and surrounds us, helping us to identify with one another, helping us to form the Church that we belong to.  Without it (so it seems) the Church would be gone.  I would like to take a close look at this wall.  What is it made of?  What is its purpose?

Aah, there's the word.  Purpose.  Without purpose, we don't have an identity, do we?  And yet with a misguided purpose we could waste what precious time, energy and resources that we have in this world.  That is why I am writing.  The Moderate Wall defines us, but it also misleads us.  It guides us into a purpose of building walls.  And that's not much of a purpose at all.  Even worse, other things that we try to do and need to do are constrained by the very wall that we've built.  I would like to show us all this wall, so we can decide what to do about it.  And I would like to explore the idea of a Church with a different purpose than wall-building.  I would like to explore why the wall is there in the first place, and what could be built instead that could better serve the purpose of the Church.

Can the Church exist without its wall?  Can it find a new purpose other than building walls?  Can it function better without a wall than with one?  Can something else be built that gives us new direction and new purpose?  Explore these questions with me in this blog-based journey.

But First a Parable

To setup the metaphor and complete this chapter, consider this weak attempt at a parable. If you don't like it or can see holes in the plot, then no, I really won't be offended.  See if it makes sense to you:

The Parable of the Golden Bricks (by me)
In the land of Urt there was a kingdom called Kog.  The people of Kog were at times kind and gracious, and sought to do right, building their kingdom into a place of peace and wholeness.  A place where children could grow up nourished.  A place where everyone had their place.  But like all people, the people of Kog also struggled in every imaginable way.  They were threatened by corruption from within and without.  They were shaking and afraid, and their fragile kingdom was on the precipice of collapse.  
God came to these folks of Kog, and gave them a gift of golden bricks to properly build their kingdom.  Each brick, made of heavenly material that was impregnable, was bestowed with the beauty of God, and carried something of the goodness of his character.  They represented everything good and strong that could be used to build the kingdom of Kog.  
The rulers of Kog met to decide what to build with these golden bricks, and how to use them to save their kingdom from collapse.  They decided to build a strong tower to show the beauty of the bricks so that they could be seen throughout all of Urt.  They formed bricks of rock and clay from the land of Urt, and built them into the base of a mighty tower.  The golden bricks were used to finish the tower, taking it to a mighty point high up in the air.  This tower became the greatest symbol in Urt of all that is good and strong.
But while the kingdom of Kog did prosper with their new tower, all that was good and beautiful did not.  The tower brought power.  The rulers of Kog became strong and wealthy.  They became hungry for their own power.  By control of the rest of the people who worked the land they made themselves more and more rich.  By building armies they took control of all of Urt.
But in time, the armies and the workers failed, and the wealthy rulers could not hold on to the power they had longed for.  After some time, the mighty tower of Kog was toppled by wars and battles.  The golden bricks lay in piles of rubble.  The bricks of rock and clay from the land of Urt lay next to them.
After some time had passed, the people rose up to reclaim their kingdom.  Seeing the fallacy of their past efforts, they sought to build something that would truly make Kog a place of beauty and peace, rather than a place where leaders could rise up to become tyrants.  They decided to build a wall.  They circled Kog with a wall made of the bricks of rock and clay,  They
interspersed the golden bricks to add strength to the wall, and to surround their kingdom with the goodness of God who had provided the bricks. The wall represented all that was good and strong.  The wall protected the kingdom, bringing order, and allowed the people inside to find peace and happiness.
The kingdom of Kog prospered again with its new wall.  Other people of Urt would visit and marvel at it.  Families and communities thrived in Kog.  The rulers and government were able to lead the people without resorting to tyranny and control.  Kog was a place of freedom and order.  The wall became of fortress of strength for the people for many years.
But eventually the wall failed, and the kingdom failed.  The wall did not prevent the main two problems that plagued the kingdom of Kog, corruption within and without.  Inside the wall, turmoil and conflict led to disputes over how to keep the freedom and order in the kingdom.  Outside the wall, other kingdoms rallied from time to time and waged war on Kog.  The kingdom was besieged, and plagued from within.  Eventually the wall was toppled by wars and battles.
After a long and very dark time, new hope arose.  The people of Kog once again rose up to build their kingdom.  They found the golden bricks among the rubble with the bricks of rock and clay.  They had an idea.  Instead of building a tower or a fortress, what would happen to their kingdom if they built the bricks into a symbol of peace instead?  Since any tower or fortress was doomed to eventually collapse when attacked by enemies, why not resist the problem at its core - why not create peace instead of enemies?  How much more could the people of Kog prosper if they used all the strength and beauty of the golden bricks to try to achieve this?  Certainly, what harm could come from it?  Certainly, the failed experiences of the tower and the wall showed that something different should be done.
So the people built a bridge out of the golden bricks.  The bridge rose over the piles of rubble left from the bricks of rock and clay.  The bridge connected the kingdom of Kog to the world outside.  The bridge was a symbol of peace as well as strength.  It welcomed the people of Urt to visit the kingdom of Kog.  And come they did.  And they brought all kinds of treasure to Kog and helped build it into the most majestic kingdom the people could have imagined.  What's more, the people of Urt invited the people of Kog to come out of their kingdom and visit other kingdoms throughout the land of Urt.  When they did, they found something amazing.  In many places, they found other symbols of peace, like bridges, roads and welcoming statues, and they were all built out of golden bricks!  They realized that the kingdom of Kog had in a way spread to all of Urt, and it was a land of peace.
The End.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Peaceful Religion

by Brad Duncan

Is it any wonder that the church became a place of resisting the "other?"  In both the Industrial age and the Modern age the world was a scary place.  It still is, no doubt.  Modernization of the Western world was a rocky and volatile process.  Is it any wonder that our current culture is so shaped by fear of tyrants and empires, fear of power? Fear that the world would obliterate itself.  

Even though the Restoration Movement created an autonomous movement in opposition to the powerful church structures of its day, is it any wonder that in the Modern Age, the Age of Ideas and Order, that  this new church also became a place of ideological strength, of uniformity and exclusion, and ultimately a place of control? It is human nature to try to control the chaos around us.  To fight control with control.  Is it any wonder that we reacted to all the chaos by creating a system of power and control out of religious ideals?

But control is not peaceful.  The New Restoration should break down the walls of hostility to create a place of embracing the "other".  The New Restoration should create a Peaceful Religion.  Christianity that embraces the freedom that comes from serving Christ and from living by his words.  Freedom that believes in these principles so strongly that it partners with others who embrace peace, no matter what faith they may or may not have.  Freedom that comforts sinners instead of condemning them.  Freedom that brings water and education to remote villages.  Freedom that refreshes the inner cities and liberates the enslaved.  Faith based on principle and action, but not control, not fear of power and tyrants.  We need to topple tyranny, but not with another structure of tyranny.  We need to topple tyranny with Freedom.  We must bring this Freedom to the masses.

Truly the words of an idealist, I know!  But consider the ministry of John the Baptist in Luke 3.  Can we follow in John's footsteps and prepare the way for the Freedom that comes from Christ?

1-6 In the fifteenth year of the rule of Caesar Tiberius— ...—John, Zachariah’s son, out in the desert at the time, received a message from God. He went all through the country around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins, as described in the words of Isaiah the prophet:
Thunder in the desert!
“Prepare God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out,
The detours straightened out,
All the ruts paved over.
Everyone will be there to see
The parade of God’s salvation.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Swords into Shovels

by Brad Duncan

Sometimes I feel optimistic.  This is one of those times.  We can re-frame the doctrines we were taught to use as weapons, and instead use them as instruments of peace and healing.  Back to the intended message of hope.  Back to the good that comes from God.  It's time to end the elitism and hostility that we somehow derive from our faith.  That kind of faith WILL NOT save us.  However, the kind of faith that leads to peace and healing WILL save us day by day.

Isaiah 2: 1-5 The Message Isaiah got regarding Judah and Jerusalem:

There’s a day coming
    when the mountain of God’s House
Will be The Mountain—
    solid, towering over all mountains.
All nations will river toward it,
    people from all over set out for it.
They’ll say, “Come,
    let’s climb God’s Mountain,
    go to the House of the God of Jacob.
He’ll show us the way he works
    so we can live the way we’re made.”
Zion’s the source of the revelation.
    God’s Message comes from Jerusalem.
He’ll settle things fairly between nations.
    He’ll make things right between many peoples.
They’ll turn their swords into shovels,
    their spears into hoes.
No more will nation fight nation;
    they won’t play war anymore.
Come, family of Jacob,
    let’s live in the light of God. [The Message, Isaiah 2:1-5] 
 The Swords Into Plowshares Gallery and Peace Center is Southeast Michigan's unique location for peace and justice related art exhibits as well as a location for a number of peace-related events

Sunday, November 11, 2012

)open( missional community

My wife and I are thinking of starting an open missional community in Boston area (Bedford MA). Starting as a home church as long as it fits in our little Cape Cod house, meeting on Sat or Sun nights, and functioning as a co-op of believers trying to make a difference in our community and social justice around the world.

missional community
If you are interested you can email me at or message me at . If you have any advice, experience, encouragement or other resources to bring to bear I would also appreciate it! Could be a scary step for us to take, but very rewarding.

ALL people would be welcome from various backgrounds.  My statement of beliefs are summarized at: but you don't have to agree on beliefs or have any faith at all to feel at home.  The only ground rule will be Grace.

I'll keep you posted as things progress. I would love to kick things off with a Holiday Meet & Greet before Christmas.

Brad Duncan

Inspiring Repentance [updated]

by Brad Duncan

I would like to propose a definition for valid criticism: it should be welcomed by the person receiving it. If they don't thank you for it afterward, your criticism failed. We should choose our words wisely so they have the desired effect.  What good is it to point out another persons sins when they don't want to hear it?

What about spiritual criticism?  Think about it. If our mission is to criticize someone's spiritual values we are working against a very strong defensive mechanism. By labeling sins and pointing to salvation, we are incriminating the person at their core. Calling for complete reversal, by pointing out a person's flawed state. Pointing to God, by saying how displeased he is, and how the person must shape up or else.  To change behavior, we need to inspire the core of the person instead to see things a new way.

Our Christian mission should INDEED call to repentance. But repentance means one thing --> Change. Not misery, but hope!  We can inspire people and lead people to change more effectively by shining light on the good works of God and the good news brought to man, than by criticizing them. God's spirit will do the rest of the work. Inspire people by example, and by showing them the power of working together with God and others to achieve a greater good.

You can pull a rope but you can't push one.  Be a shining example of the change you hope to inspire in others.  Don't push people around hoping to change them.  Use words only if necessary.

Take a look at this interesting passage in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8. It seems that Paul is more interested in the person's response and well-being than in the sin in question. Can we respond more practically when we are offended? Trying to find the road that considers the person more than the offense? Also notice how efficiently and obediently the church chastised this person. Paul is saying "enough already! Now is the time for love. All of this judgment can overwhelm the person being corrected."
Forgive the Person Who Sinned
5 If someone caused distress, I’m not the one really affected. To some extent—although I don’t want to emphasize this too much—it has affected all of you. 6 The majority of you have imposed a severe enough punishment on that person. 7 So now forgive and comfort him. Such distress could overwhelm someone like that if he’s not forgiven and comforted. 8 That is why I urge you to assure him that you love him. [GOD's WORD translation]
How do we inspire repentance using criticism?  It's a tough road fraught with peril...  Maybe we should do nothing about wrongs that are committed?  That's sometimes the better path, but when someone is really getting hurt that leaves us as the accomplice, so that won't do.  No, we need to find a way to successfully criticize when needed, if we want to intelligently defend the powerless and right wrongs.  Would Jesus leave injustice un-addressed?  We need to speak up MORE against injustice, and less against mere differences in opinion on spiritual matters.  Let's invest our words of criticism in things that are important!

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Christ and Christianity

by Brad Duncan

I often ask myself what I'm up to, by writing this blog and keeping up the )open( church FB page.  Is it really doing anything useful?  What's the purpose, etc?  A little bit of existential neurosis is good for you from time to time.  The answer is, I write because it's something I can do, and something I want to do.  I write because I love the Church and want it to be a home for Christians.  But at the same time I want the Church and Christianity itself to change.  Really change.  Repent.  Modify.  Correct.  Be something different.  Cultural shift.  Missional shift.

First I have to say that some churches and denominations are joining me in this cultural and missional shift.  I'm not standing alone in the woods screaming my head off, here.  I'm just joining in the choir.  So, if you're already aligned with this movement of change, we're partners in the change.  I'm writing to help.

One place to find the evolving story of the cultural and missional shift I'm calling for is in the writings of Brian McLaren.  I'm reading this book right now:

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren (Sep 11, 2012) 

So what is the shift?  In short I am (we are) calling for Christianity to address it's mistakes.  Yes mistakes.  Like slavery, colonization, misogyny, racism, religious violence, and genocide, there were times and events in history when wrong actions were considered right, even God-ordained.  Now we understand that these things are wrong.  We understand best when we look at these wrong actions from the eyes of the person and group being harmed.  It is now time that we realize that Christianity is harboring hatred toward outsiders, propagating violence, perpetuating discrimination, and resisting real beneficial change in the world.  Harsh words, I know.  But it's why I write.  It's why I do something.  The society I love, the society of fellow believers, is due for some real repentance.  

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., who called on Christians to stand up for freedom and to oppose racism and violence, I am calling again for Christians to continue the tide of change.  I'm calling for basically one thing: open your arms to the "other".  The Church is Christian society.  It has thrived by loving itself and its own.  But in the process has split the world, deliberately I would say, and based on wrong theology, into "Us" - the good guys, and "Them" - the "other" - the bad guys.  This dichotomy excuses certain behaviors, done in the name of love, but which is visibly harmful to the "other".  McClaren describes this love.  It is the love for our own cause, and standing up for its defense when it is attacked, that causes us to excuse mistreatment of the "other".  In this way, "love" does harm.  It is Christian society shoring itself up and defending itself against the outside world.  It's called isolationism.  Society protecting itself by excluding outsiders and defending against foreign ideas.

What I'm asking the Church to do is both difficult and easy.  Don't abandon culture, religion, traditions and beliefs, unless and except these are in place to protect your own interest.  Open your hearts by liberally applying the teaching of Jesus in a counter cultural, revolutionary way.  Love liberally.  Don't worry about the potential harm to your cohesive society.  Let down your guard against the "other".  By embracing the "other" you will let go of some of the defenses and cohesiveness of safe Christian society.  But you will embrace our true Christian mission to love the world and reach the world with God's kingdom.

What's hard is that the "other" is people of other religions.  Non-Christians, like Muslims, Hindus and Jews.  Like atheists and agnostics.  The rest of the world.  The "other" is also gays, LGBT.  Or democrats ! :) .  Actually, you know quite well who the "other" is, because it's the people that you declare yourself to be different than. "I'm so glad I'm not like them."  You say, or "Don't ever be like that," or "I'll never understand how someone can ...".  We can't see through our own culture to recognize the equally valid cultures of other people.  This blindness is in fact something we all have in common, Christians and non-Christians alike.  It causes the worst kind of crimes and atrocities!

What I'm calling for is a new Church.  One that keeps Christianity.  Keeps Christ.  But lets down its guard.  Lowers the defensive wall.  Opens mind, heart and arms.  Embraces its role in broader society.  Like McClaren, I'm calling for an end to the hostility  

If you still have no clue what in the world I'm talking about, I recommend reading his book.  In the safety and privacy of reading a book, you can ponder whether you are part of the problem, or part of the solution. In fact, if you email me I will BUY you this book, up the first 20 takers :), under the condition that you will discuss it with me.  Together we can change Christianity.  Not throw it out, as some might be calling for, but call it to repentance.  Times have changed.  People change.  Society changes.  Christianity can change too.  

One final appeal: if you think Christianity can't change, because it is based on the Bible and the Bible is static, then look at history.  Christianity has adapted time and time again. It has addressed its previous wrongs.  It has done great good, where previously did harm, especially in the area of racism, for example.  The Church still has a HUGE distance to make up in women's equality, racism, homosexuality, and acceptance of other religions, just to name a few.  It also needs to step up and care about the world we live in.  The kingdom of God is here, now, and we need to take responsibility for it.  As the keepers of the Great Commission, we have an important role to play in bringing the kingdom of God to all people.  We can't just abandon them, in favor of safe Christian society!  Apathy is the worst enemy of love.  We know it.  But we excuse it.  It's time to end the hostility and open our minds, arms and hearts to the "other".  It's time for the )open( church to take shape.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One God, Many Paths?

by Brad Duncan

Christians we have a problem. We are selfish and arrogant to keep God for ourselves. We feel justified in this selfishness because we believe it is a mystery why God elected some to receive grace (those that believe in Jesus), and for all others to receive rejection and destruction no matter what they do (because they don't believe in Jesus). We know that salvation of the elect few is contradictory with "God so loved the world" but we just credit God with making the universe this way. Oh well, too bad, lucky for me. I believe the right thing.

Arrogant? We get God, no matter what we do, and they don't get God no matter what they do (except become one of us).

Selfish? We're content as long as we get all the cookies and ice cream. Not enough for you. I'm sorry.

The choice to believe in Jesus or not, is not the choice between good and evil. Its a very different thing, caught up in tradition, ethnicity, culture, history. We are arrogant to think that our circumstances which give us our beliefs make us the elite elect. We are selfish to smugly accept that situation.  Doesn't it bother you to condemn the rest of the world?  Doesn't the pain eat you up at night?

God is everywhere in all things good. God calls me through all of life. Through experiences. Through love. Through joy. Through the majesty of nature, the cosmic and the microscopic.  Through the eyes of a child. As Jesus said, he can be found on the streets, as the poor, naked and hungry reaching out to be fed. God can reach to China or Timbuktu.  Even without Christian missionaries. God is. God seeks. God speaks. God prevails.

We are not the elect, the elite, the privileged. No, we are human. We are the object of an enormous unquenchable love that seeks us out. Yes God spoke through becoming the incarnation, the Messiah, the king, Jesus. But in the process Jesus did not doom the rest of the world. He came to seek and save. And that he did. Even those that don't see it the same way as we do. Why do we have to turn "the way, the truth and the life" into a death sentence?

Christians, the kingdom is bigger that you think. The scale is grander. The shepherd has sheep which are not of this fold. We can't keep God to ourselves. It's selfish and arrogant to try.

I'm a Christian because of my belief in Jesus and my love for God. But I'm not the only kind of God lover in this world.  Yes it's a slippery slope.  Yes that means I need to open my heart to Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, both of which believe in Jesus, but differently than I do. Yes that means I need to open my heart to Jews and Muslims, both of which share my love for the God of Abraham (and also believe in Jesus in their own way). Yes that means that people in the Orient, India, Africa, people of indigenous tribes, those that have distinctly non-Christian paths to see God, may be regarding with love the same God that I am, seeking him (or her :) ), and that God is answering back! And of course there are many Christians in those areas as well. 
If you were God, what would you do when your creation called out to you? 

What about atheists and agnostics? Well, these folks can embrace the good of humanity and creation just as well as any God-lover. I can't condemn or judge the condition of the heart of the atheist, nor can I excuse the cold heart of any God believer.  We just can't draw the lines since they only do harm.

One God.  Many Paths.  Join the FB discussion at The God Article.
The only sane answer is "One God.  Many Paths". What does that make me, a Christian or not?  A Universalist or not?  Maybe this: Christian Universalism on wikipedia.  You can decide for yourself whether people like me are "Christians" as you define it.  For me, I will continue to love God, love Jesus, love the Holy Spirit, and they will love me back.  And I will try to let go of the arrogance and selfishness that come from being the elite elect, the chosen few, in order to make room in my heart for the sheep that are "not of this fold".

Share the cookies and ice cream!

God loves us all.  
Coexist foundation

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No Pain No Gain?

by Brad Duncan

Again, I would like to bring up the flaws with righteousness as a higher priority than love.

It's kind of obvious though.  Right actions and right belief, without right love, are empty and without purpose.  "Righteousness" that is defined as right love is the greater righteousness that Jesus taught.  It doesn't make you right with God.  It makes you the kind of person that God intended when you were created.  It makes the world function.  Families, friendships, communities, and governments can prosper under the concept of love.

Love is in contrast to violence.  Actions without consideration for others.  Actions driven more by selfishness and power.  Actions that leave the person that commits them less of the person that God intended them to be, and leave others damaged by their presence.

When Jesus said "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's prayer, he probably wasn't suggesting that God send manna from heaven.  He wasn't asking God to favor the elite or those with proper faith by providentially filling their cupboards.  He was asking God to enable society and people to function to share bread and goodness with one another in a way that functions to bring sustenance to all.  God can bring the rain (if we want to view meteorology as God's work) and the crops, but we must harvest it, make the bread, distribute it, sell it, give it, share it, and keep the world from starving.  Jesus was indicating that sustenance is our God-given job.

Loving actions and words are also sustenance, without which all of us will die.  Jesus taught this concept until he was blue in the face.  "Love God, Love Others" he said, and then explained what he meant using the parable of the good Samaritan.  In that parable, those pursuing righteousness (instead of love) refused to help the injured victim on the road, but the Samaritan who was not of the religious elite made serious sacrifices to help the injured man and make sure he was okay.  Righteousness was demonstrated by the Samaritan who didn't care about righteousness, rather than the religious elite who were actually obsessed with righteousness.

Now about the church the implication is this: if we build something that is an organized group of Christians, call it a body, a community, an institution, whatever, and we define the mission of that group to promote right actions and right beliefs in people, then it will naturally overstep love to do so.  It can lead to violence.  (see the recent post by a friend of mine).  Trying to make people better usually harms them.  And we know it, and we are okay with it, because we follow the motto "no pain no gain!".  I don't think that's right.

What's worse?  Claiming that the Holy Spirit is alive in that body (community of believers), causing it to function and leading it to improve the right actions and right beliefs of the body.  That God's goal is to make people more acceptable.  Claiming that God promotes violence instead of love. No, it doesn't work that way -- we are the ones mistreating others, not God.  Certainly God is only going to work consistent with his/her character and bring about real human contact, real human connection, real loving actions.  Not judging.  Not discriminating.  Not hating.  Not love by coincidence but love by intention.  If we say that the Holy Spirit oils the machine, and keeps the system running, then we are saying the Holy Spirit is ascribing to "no pain no gain", to make the people better whether they like it or not, working to bring good out of the pain.

So, again I challenge the church.  Don't make it about the righteousness, claiming that by pursuing God's favor through right actions and right beliefs, that we will achieve a higher purpose of loving people through the help of the Holy Spirit.  No, seek a greater righteousness, that does not seek God's favor, that does not concern itself with acceptability.  Seek a sacrificial righteousness that embraces humanity and tries to participate in it.  Helps the neighbor and the enemy.  Emulate the good Samaritan.  Seek to be like Christ and his teachings, not to curry his favor by saying and doing the right things.  Build your house upon the rock, and it will stand.

Join the revolution that Jesus started!  He called it the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Prayer for Courage

by Brad Duncan
Dear Lord, help me today to conquer my fear.
The fear that rears itself as hostility toward others.
The fear that causes me to run and hide my light under a basket.
The fear that flees connections with others.
When possible, bring love to conquer fear. But human love often fails.
When possible, bring trust to conquer fear. But human trust also fails.
So when necessary, bring courage to the rescue. Help my courage not to fail.

Hospitality vs. Hostility

by Brad Duncan

Can Christians take a stance of hospitality rather than hostility toward other religions? What are the implications? Can we still hold on to our faith and identity and at the same time lovingly accept the others?

Yes, I'm reading McClaren's new book. So far it's making me think. 

So far, I think Christianity and a desire to help God bless the world (bring good news and good things to the world), is totally incompatible with condemning people of other faiths, other brands of Christianity (as we are so prone to do), non-religious people and atheists. And we can do that without watering down our Christian identity, by believing in Jesus and his teachings rather than the tradition of hostility toward our neighbors.

I'm reminded of all the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist neighbors I had in graduate school. Lots of traditions from all over the world that I didn't understand, but people were still just people. God bless you all!

I'll keep you posted ...

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Else is Wrong with Righteousness?

by Brad Duncan

I'm continuing to explore the idea that the pursuit of righteousness is the wrong priority of Christians and the Church.  It leads to all kinds of trouble.  Like the legal experts and Pharisees that Jesus corrected in Matthew 5:20, we need to be called to a higher objective than just RIGHT BELIEFS and RIGHT ACTIONS.  Also called "faith" and "works", or doctrine and practice, or orthodoxy and orthopraxy as you'll hear in theological circles.  The concept of righteousness is that these right beliefs and right actions somehow give us right standing with God (or if not, they are a clear sign and result of right standing with God).

So what kind of trouble does righteousness cause?

In the name of righteousness, American settlers committed genocide to indigenous peoples.  We all know it, and our country still struggles with the guilt of our actions.  The atrocities were endorsed by the Church and the idea of a God-granted destiny for the settlers, those whose BELIEFS made them the chosen predestined to conquer the unbelievers.  I'm not trying to exaggerate here.  In fact this type of religiously-fueled war is common throughout history and in the world today.  I'm no expert on history.  But I'm painfully aware that the cross of Christ has been and is used as a weapon.

Why?  Righteousness.  The idea that we are better.  The idea that someone is below us.  Yes, what I'm saying is that the notion of righteousness leads to elitism.  Elitism leads to prejudice and inequality.

In the name of righteousness, churches have split over and over to subdivide those that are "accepted by God" into smaller and smaller factions.  Each side thought that they are right, and that their differences were worth abandoning the others over.  Church denominations largely hold onto these distinguishing differences today and separate themselves from the other guys.  Now, again I am no church historian, and I hope that by now the riffs have been mended, but it continues to happen today.  Churches argue over righteousness.  As if they can pick a right side and be more accepted by God for their choice.

In the name of righteousness, I know that I myself have looked down on others.  I have perpetrated  institutional elitism.  I have been dysfunctionally righteous.  I have practiced faith and actions to the point that I was pretty sure God was happy with me, especially when you throw in God's grace to cover in case I did it wrong.  After all, I'm only human.  I'm doing the best that I can.  But that "other guy" is not even trying!  He drinks and cusses and surely he's going to hell.  I'd better not talk to him.  Unless he changes of course.  This type of thinking led me down the wrong path.  I didn't see the other guy.  Instead I ignored him.

In the name of righteousness, Christians feel no regret in hating gays or giving them the cold shoulder of apathy.  If we believe they are wrong, we feel entitled to belittle them in every way and reduce their rights to try to make them stop being what they are.  Or maybe ignore them and hope they'll go away. In this way, righteousness is brooding arrogance.

So, to revisit the righteousness of the Pharisees, our attempts at right beliefs and right actions lead to the same fallacy: righteousness that isn't right.  We need to seek something greater.  We need to give up on righteousness of that sort and go back to the drawing board.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Believe, Behave, or Be Free - Repost

[this is a long essay that I am now posting directly on the blog]

Believe, Behave, or Be Free

by Brad Duncan

In the age-old debate about whether salvation through Christ requires faith or requires works, what do you think?.  James Chapter 2 talks about faith vs. works, saying that faith that doesn’t lead to works like caring for orphans and widows is not really faith.  James would seem to support the theory that both faith and works are needed.  However, it seems plausible to consider a different option, an option where salvation through Christ requires neither faith nor works.  What if something else is required, and faith and works are more the outcome of our salvation?

Let’s consider each option separately: Are we saved by faith?  Are we saved by works?  Or are we saved by something else?  

As space allows I will address this question using several key New Testament passages:

  • James 2:14-17, and surrounding passages, discussion of faith vs. works
  • Matthew 25;31-46, parable of the sheep and goats
  • Matthew 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-26, the beatitudes
  • Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord’s prayer
  • I Corinthians 13: the love chapter
  • John 3:16-17, the classic gospel passage
  • Luke 4:14-21, the Messiah’s mission
  • Matthew 22:36-40, the greatest commandment
  • Matthew 28:16-20: the great commission