Thursday, October 11, 2007

95 (+3) Theses for Today

I was wondering what the theses for a new reformation would look like and came up with the following list. They aren't as well thought out as Luther's and I actually ended up with more than 95, but I thought I would run these up the flagpole. They all address what I perceive as real problems in various parts of the church. There may be some overlaps, and maybe even contradictions among them, there are certainly large gaps. Your comments are, of course, welcome.

  1. Expecting the Kingdom of God to be established through right-wing politics is idolatry.
  2. Expecting the Kingdom of God to be established through left-wing politics is idolatry.
  3. It is men and women, together in a body, that constitute the imago Dei.
  4. The church, the Body of Christ, is not just a collection of individuals.
  5. Men and women can both be called to any position within the church.
  6. The church is in the business of establishing the Kingdom, its primary purpose is not to repair the damage wrought by governments, corporations and empire.
  7. The church should not be an instrument of empire.
  8. The world exists for the church, not the church for the world.
  9. It is not the church’s job to critique the world, the church’s job is to create a new world.
  10. The history of Christianity didn’t start with a) the Reformation, b) when your denomination was founded or c) when your congregation was started.
  11. The Bible is not a modern book and shouldn’t be read as one.
  12. Since beauty is the only valid apologetic in a post-modern context, the church should strive for beauty in its life and doctrine.
  13. The Bible is not a jigsaw puzzle, it needs to be read as a whole.
  14. The Bible is, first and foremost, a story, a story that we are called to participate in, not just a collection of propositional truths.
  15. The church no longer needs a hierarchy to function, modern communications and transportation provide everything we need to establish orthodoxy and cooperation.
  16. Orthodoxy is important only if it leads to orthopraxis.
  17. There is no such thing as the “secular”, as “secular” is commonly understood.
  18. Christian ethics are about more than sex, alcohol and tobacco.
  19. The church should make disciples, not converts.
  20. There is no such thing as “just war”.
  21. Questions should not be asked of the Bible that the Bible doesn’t attempt to answer.
  22. Revelation is the only hope we have of obtaining certain knowledge.
  23. Theology is the Queen of the Sciences.
  24. We are called to love all of creation, including homosexuals, democrats, and Sam Harris.
  25. It is not the government’s job to care for the poor, but the church’s.
  26. There are spiritual disciplines other than Bible study and impromptu prayer.
  27. Our identity as Christians is only defined by our relationships within the body of Christ.
  28. Our only defense against the empire that surrounds all of us is each other, the Body of Christ.
  29. The sacrament of communion is more than symbolism.
  30. The cross and resurrection can only be understood in terms of the incarnation and of the life of Jesus.
  31. The purpose of church services is not entertainment.
  32. Our God soiled his “diapers” as an infant.
  33. Our God should be pictured by us as hanging on cross.
  34. Our God can, and did, and does suffer.
  35. We are not saved by what we know, we are not Gnostics.
  36. The church affects the culture by changing the people, not changing the politics.
  37. Abortion is not the issue, a culture that fears and worships death is the issue.
  38. The church should prepare Christians, especially young Christians, for dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.
  39. Christendom is dying, if not already dead. It should not be revived.
  40. Knowledge is not the enemy of faith.
  41. Faith is not the enemy of knowledge.
  42. Knowing the Bible is not the same thing as knowing God.
  43. Free market capitalism is not God’s own economic system.
  44. Neither is socialism.
  45. The US Flag is not a Christian icon or symbol.
  46. The US, particularly the US government, is not Christian.
  47. Roman law is a poor framework for understanding the atonement.
  48. Greek philosophy is a poor framework for understanding a Hebrew text.
  49. Material wealth does not imply God’s blessing.
  50. Poverty does not imply God’s curse.
  51. The depth of one’s knowledge is not a measure of spiritual maturity.
  52. America is not great, America is powerful.
  53. The church's job is not to improve America.
  54. The mark of a Christian marriage is mutual, sacrificial submission to each other.
  55. Christian leadership is marked by sacrificial servanthood.
  56. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing.
  57. Christian art should be the best art, not insipid paintings of cottages and sappy music.
  58. Paul should be interpreted in light of Jesus, not Jesus in light of Paul.
  59. Theology should not be ideological.
  60. Every Christian should be a theologian.
  61. America is not God's favorite country.
  62. Evangelism is a community activity, people are attracted to Christianity by the beauty in Christian lives and community.
  63. How we deal with illness and death is a matter for the church, not just "medical professionals".
  64. Christianity is not a veneer to spread on top of secular lives.
  65. Christianity has something to say to all areas of our lives, all areas of creation, nothing is out of bounds, including business, politics and education.
  66. It is more important to be good than to be right.
  67. Part of the gospel is mystery, we don’t have to have all the answers.
  68. If a pastor needs bodyguards to deliver a sermon, he is most likely not preaching the gospel.
  69. The church should not mimic the world when it comes to employment practices, the church should be a model to the world.
  70. The Constitution of the United States is not the fifth gospel.
  71. “Just War” doctrine is a failure, something better is needed.
  72. The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.
  73. Gates, as in “gates of Hell”, are defensive in nature, for them “not to prevail” means they first must be attacked.
  74. The gospel is not about sin management.
  75. Economic systems should benefit all who bear the image of God.
  76. Patriotism is not a Christian virtue.
  77. We are at least 2000 years overdue for a Jubilee.
  78. When the church stops reforming, it dies.
  79. It is the duty of every Christian to resist imperialism.
  80. Marriage is a rite of the church, it is not any of the government’s business who participates.
  81. Justification is not by faith alone.
  82. The church is not a community, it is a body, an organic whole.
  83. We need to recover the theology of James (and Jesus).
  84. Marriage is a covenant that the couple makes with the community, it is not a do your own thing institution.
  85. It is through suffering that we become more like God and Christ.
  86. The eschaton started about 2000 years ago.
  87. It is every Christians duty to resist colonization, anybody’s colonization.
  88. Evangelism, properly done, is not colonization.
  89. It is the church’s duty to provide ethical guidance to science, which cannot supply its own.
  90. Evangelism is not marketing.
  91. The church’s response to terrorism should be mercy and missionaries, not support for bombs and invasions.
  92. The size of your church is not a measure of your faithfulness.
  93. Christians should strive to live simply, not to save the whales, but to save their souls.
  94. It is time for a new exodus out of “Egypt”.
  95. The next reformation should undo the damage and separation wrought by the first.
  96. The gospel of Jesus is truly radical, now no less than in the first century, it in no way supports the current status quo.
  97. In God’s economy it is better to be a gay (homosexual) person who loves their neighbor than be a straight (heterosexual) person who does not love their, possibly homosexual, neighbor.
  98. Sola Scriptura has failed, as witnessed by hundreds of denominations all claiming to be Sola Scriptura.

15 comments:

Tim Keel said...

Hey Larry,

Nice work on these. I can tell they represent a whole lot of thought. While I might make some variations to some of your theses, overall I like what you have to say.

Tim

thimscool said...

I will be back to discuss some of these theses.

For now I just wanted to acknowledge that I have read them and that I think there is a lot of gold in them hills.

As always, I am very appreciative of your approach.

Now I must sleep, and tomorrow will be another long day. I will return when I can. Good night.

Larry said...

I look forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

# Since beauty is the only valid apologetic in a post-modern context, the church should strive for beauty in its life and doctrine.

--What does this look like to you?

# Abortion is not the issue, a culture that fears and worships death is the issue.

--So true, and look how many ways it manifests.

# Every Christian should be a theologian.

--Many of us are too simple to articulate much to others' satisfaction and benefit, but we are able to show through love and right living what God has done for us and thereby attract additional souls to God.

# Gates, as in “gates of Hell”, are defensive in nature, for them “not to prevail” means they first must be attacked.

--Can you explain more on this or offer some references for further understanding?

# The gospel is not about sin management.

--Haha! I love it. Unfortunately convicting to me, too often.

# Sola Scriptura has failed, as witnessed by hundreds of denominations all claiming to be Sola Scriptura.

Larry said...

# Since beauty is the only valid apologetic in a post-modern context, the church should strive for beauty in its life and doctrine.

--What does this look like to you?


Community, simplicity, integrity.

# Gates, as in “gates of Hell”, are defensive in nature, for them “not to prevail” means they first must be attacked.

--Can you explain more on this or offer some references for further understanding?


I think too many Christians spend too much time huddled in their churches, rather than advancing the Kingdom. Many have been infected with a bad, almost gnostic, theology that tells them that the world is evil and is going to get dumped on the ash heap when Jesus returns. I think the church is guaranteed a victory over the forces of hell, but needs to engage those forces before it can actually win.

Anonymous said...

"I think the church is guaranteed a victory over the forces of hell, but needs to engage those forces before it can actually win."

Engage the forces or engage the humans who are being influenced by them?
I think I understand your comment otherwise, thanks. :)

Larry said...

Engage the forces or engage the humans who are being influenced by them?

Both, bearing in mind Walter Wink's analysis of "principalities and powers", which are often systems (the "world system") that we created that pervert and warp good intentions. Not all, or even most, spiritual evil has horns and a pointed tail. Interestingly enough Wink's analysis parallels that of the economist Hayek in many ways.

The Aardvark said...

Outstanding, sir.

We appear to be twin sons of different mothers.

Or, another way, different sons of the same Father.

digitalcowboy said...

I have a few stark disagreements but they pale by relativity.

I mostly agree with most of your list. I wish we had the time and the facility to spend a few hours discussing this list.

Perhaps someday we can meet and discuss them. If not here, surely in eternity. (Though most of this list will likely not matter then.)

Dave said...

Summary: A relationship with Christ cannot be boiled down to a formula, platform, or list. How ironic, in a postmodern sense.

Equus Pallidus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Equus Pallidus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Equus Pallidus said...

I'll be commenting sporadically as I think about these Larry.

6 The church is in the business of establishing the Kingdom, its primary purpose is not to repair the damage wrought by governments, corporations and empire.

I never really though about this as the Churches job. I always thought that the Church's mission was to prepare the people for the kingdom.

Please don't see me as just a critic, because if I say nothing it means I agree with that part of the list.

I had to delete the last two, for some reason they contained a password of mine.

Jesse said...

"I have a few stark disagreements but they pale by relativity."

Same here. Overall that's a great list and reflects considerable thought and intelligence. It's certainly worthy of a link at my own blog and maybe some musings on select theses as well...

thimscool said...

Hi Larry,

Sorry I've been delinquent. Life has been very busy lately, and I've kept my blogging down to quick sorties.

Anyway, I just wanted to say Merry Christmas.

I think that you more than anyone are the one I can count on to represent a concise defense of your faith, without attacking your attackers. You reliably help others too, and you always defend the truth with wit and grace. Really you are an inspiration for me, as well as an excellent source of ideas and references.

Keep it up, Larry... and thanks again.

God bless you.