Studying Theology for Effective Ministry

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Topics - 1.) The Trinity 2.) Universalism

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Location: Caledonia - aka "Cali", Wisconsin, United States

Born in 1980, I was raised in Wisconsin, but lived in Oregon for my most formative years, 17-24. I was homeschooled from K-12 and went on to college like any other "normal" kid. I'm passionate, a sponge for information, sporadic. I read insane amounts of news. USA Today, local paper, then when i get home from work I read everything you can imagine online


Challenge: Can Three Faiths "Co-Exist"

More on this later, but here is the posting that inspired this month's topic, courtesy of the discourse on The OCC blog.

Universalism: can we "Co-Exist" as U2's Bono believes?

Regarding "Christian" bands, it is a point to make that many bands, when placed inside this etymological "box" of so-called "Christian" become more subject to people's own paradigm of morals; no one definition of the word can truly serve every adherent to Christianity. Musical groups find themselves in positions of influence, and their backgrounds will have some of an effect on what they write, say and excersise their free time in doing. U2 hasfound itself in the center of this debate for a long time, since 1981 when their liner notes first began appearing with references to international aid organizations. Nonetheless, while Bono has made an effort to come to the middle with numerous groups, so that he may achieve his greater goals, he has come under scrutiny for his statements attempting to equalize the adherents of very different faiths; Islam, Judaism and Christianty, mostly.

Examples of those bands that have attempted to throw off this heavy mantle: Jars of Clay, Lifehouse, Switchfoot, DCTalk. As for Lifehouse, the band members were a youth worship band that went pro with their poetry; "Falling even More in Love" and "Breathing" are clearly love songs about God and heaven. Christian labels rejected their metaphorically redemptive music while Christian industry embraced "Lord of the Rings". That seems a little hypocritical. U2 has never claimed to be, nor has marketed itself to the "christian" buying crowd, but rather has been hijacked by the good-intentioned music lovers that are Christians, and labeled as such in their writings and musings. It is not U2's intention to be at the center of this debate, but rather to draw our attention to international Debt, Africa, Trade and AIDS; the organization they created to channel their efforts is called "DATA."

Anyway, back to Bono.
Read the new issue of "Persons of the Year" by Time. Phenomenal cover story on Bono's work, and his influence with world leaders. Also, the New York Times (Statesman) had a great piece on him. He is the only major pop culture figure that has been able to walk out of the United Nations building into a Christian magazine, take an interview, visit with George Clooney, do an online chat with people like Moveon . org then go visit President Bush at the White House in one day. And all the while bringing those parties together on one issue: helping the poor, serving the underprivileged, spreading health and wealth and forgiving crushing debt on the poorest nations. I applaud his "heart", though I may differ with his underlying beliefs.

Raised in Hell
On that note, we must remember where Bono came from. Raised Paul Hewson in the 1960's and 70's in the midst of his hometown torn apart by religious and philisophical civil war (literally bodies in the street), he was raised by a Catholic father and a Protestant mother and embraces many tenets of the faith that Catholicism would deify, however loosely he holds them. From this background, he built a band of highschool playmates and the first thing they told their tour manager in 1977 was, "we're Christians". His four children attend Episcopal school and he believes first in equality and common ground, and keeps his own personal faith very private. While some of his antics are not something I aspire to, his dedication and belief in the power of love and sacrifice to change people IS something I aspire to.

A history of "Co-Existing"
There's the backstory on Mr. Hewson (Bono), but what is at stake here in our discussion is the concept that you can coexist, even blend the ideals of three faiths into one. This is universality, and is considered heresy. However, to discount U2's intentions as "bile" and "antichrist" is going a bit far, I think. Other founders of equality and unity made waves in our world and even our own American heritage. Thomas Jefferson was a Universalist. Ben Franklin believed that biblical morality was the highest order, but embraced other religion as beautiful expression, and a birthright of every human being. Paul Revere was a universalist. Abigail Adams, Daniel Webster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Woodrow Wilson (WW I president)... all Universalist. We study them, revere them, yet hardly know their faith or morals. Does their lack of biblical purity discount their good deeds? Could God through common grace actually use them to accomplish his greater goal of bringing men unto himself?

Men in their flesh hold high ideals, and we often translate the truth of THE Bible into OUR cultural perspective. I must correct the common assertion that our Christianity can transend any culture, while Islam cannot. While I believe this can be true of Christian faith, we don't really believe that as a Church, do we? "Islam defines familial relationships, hospitality, modesty, and more. For a Muslim to reject the fundamentals of Islam for 'coexistance' would sacrifice their way of life."And our Christian faith DOES NOT? Does it not define our familial relationships, hospitality, modesty and more? From what every one is saying here, the fundamentals of biblical faith would reject "coexistence" as well. So be true to yourself when you ponder these things. The blogger made a good point that Bono may have been speaking of the three faiths being representative of the "sons of Abraham", because it's true; they did descend from his seed. And if that's the only point that Bono is making, then I'm cautiously accepting of that thesis. But we do not know; I don't feel I need to.

The Harm of Our "Boxes"
While I believe that the spreading of the Gospel ought to be purely carried out and the love of Christ alone be taught as the only way to truly lift man out of his depravity, I believe the cause does not rest only in our little "boxes". I believe we do more harm to the cause of the Gospel by judging and throwing away the common grace we see around us. While I recognize that homosexuality is sin, I do not view it as more deserving of hell than my pride or my hatred. Therefore I will stand in faith, but embrace and accept everyone who the Lord brings into my life. Jesus was a friend first, a healer second, a then a teacher.

And you want to talk about ambiguity? The many parables of Jesus sound a lot like the songs we call "vague". He grabbed people's attention with something they could all relate to, then gave them truth. And I feel like the church does itself a great diservice when it pushes the world away and hides in it's corner and declares that we cannot "co-exist" in a world with hedonism, humanism, islam and every other man made religion. Modern Christianity itself was man-made. When we exit our box, embrace the world as Christ embraced us before salvation, they will see and feel and know the power that changes man permanently. It's become that the American Church believes IT must bring the world to salvation, not God himself. We are to be the salt and light, but disunity and judgement will only assure that history will show the Holy Spirit had to do all the work, because we refused do our part... and tried to do his.