The Search for Original Christianity

I left the evangelical movement for good in 2008, though a great number of loved ones still reside in their churches.  I grant to each person the freedom to determine what they believe is the truth.  Since the time of my departure I have been on a mission.  I want to get back to ground zero.  I want to find the original teachings of Christ and His apostles.  I am no longer interested in debates over eternal security, substitutionary atonement, and the rapture.  These are all doctrines invented in the centuries since the Reformation and, as far as I’m concerned, are non-issues.  I am interested to know what the early church, especially those just after the apostles passed away, thought about the cross, the divinity of Christ, the nature of the gospel, the purpose of the sacraments, and its understanding of life in the age to come.  My research of the past three years has netted what is to me overwhelming evidence of the pervasive belief in universalism among the early Christians, attested to from the mouths of even Augustine and Jerome.  I am starting to see my faith in a whole new way.  I feel like I’m connecting with what the Spirit of Jesus was doing among the early disciples in what was called “The Way.”  It’s been so refreshing over the past months to dig in and find the true essence of the gospel being about loving one’s neighbor and the nature of salvation not being about getting out of literal hellfire for eternity, but about being transformed into a person of love like God the Father.  Those who live lives full of love for neighbor enter the kingdom in the golden age to come after this one while those who live selfishly and destructively will enter an age of chastisement meant to purge them of self and transform them into Godly men and women.  I’ve purchased a large volume set of the writings of the early church fathers and I intend to start reading a little bit every few days to get a feel for what was going on in the early second to mid fourth centuries.  As I have searched, I have found Eastern Orthodox Christianity to be a great resource of early Christian thinking and, except for a few hang ups I have with that church’s way of doing things, I am seriously considering what it would look like to be an Orthodox Christian.  If you are frustrated with the seeming powerlessness of today’s shallow consumer Christianity and are looking for something to refresh your faith, I invite you to join the search with me for original Christianity.

Saved from What?

“Have you been saved?” The evangelist thunders from the pulpit. “Jesus Christ desires your salvation and if you will repent of your sin and confess Him as Lord and Savior tonight then you will be guaranteed a place in heaven when you die!” The lights in the sanctuary begin to lower and the organist plays a slow-moving hymn. The evangelist calls forward those who “feel the Spirit tugging at their hearts” and people begin making their way down the aisle, kneel in front, and pray a prayer to receive Christ and salvation from eternal misery. Continue reading

Signs of the Times?

This week, in an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, the Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelistic preacher Billy Graham, proclaimed to a national television audience that signs of the nearness of the end times were abundantly apparent in an increase of wars, famines, and earthquakes. Graham asserted that, based on his understanding of Matthew chapter 24 where Jesus speaks of these very events occurring during a time of great tribulation (what he interprets to be the end times), the second coming of Christ is imminent. It is popular belief in evangelical and fundamentalist circles that the many armed conflicts and natural disasters that occur today are divine “birth pains” leading up to the main events of earth’s destruction via God’s judgment and the return of Jesus Christ physically to this world. The only problem with Graham’s assessment, besides what I believe to be a mistaken understanding of eschatology (study of last things), is that wars, famines, and earthquakes are most certainly not increasing in frequency. Continue reading

Book Review: “Love Wins” by Rob Bell

Rob Bell, author of Velvet Elvis, has produced a masterful treatment of the subject of hell and heaven from the perspective of God’s unfathomable and limitless love.  I read this book in one day!  Bell hits on all the main issues that Christians struggle with in the debate over heaven and hell.  How could God create billions of people only to save a relatively small handful of them?  Bell’s thesis is that God’s love wins in the end.  While he stopped short of endorsing universalism, keeping the door open for one to reject God’s love forever, the book was the best down-to-earth explanation of the universalist arguments that I have seen in print so far.  Most books on the subject tend to treat the subject from a scholarly theological perspective, but Rob Bell is a master of explaining things almost in a story-like manner. Continue reading

“Happily Ever Ever” (Part 01) – My Journey Out of Hell

I want you to be dead honest with me (and yourself) about something.  Does it bother you, at any level, that, according to traditional conservative theology, probably somewhere around 90-95% of people ever born on this planet are going to end up in Hell?  I mean, even a little bit?  If you really can be honest, you would have to admit that it does.  If it doesn’t, then either you don’t really believe it deep down, or you are a very cold-hearted person.  Think about it.  If you meet 100 people in the course of the day, 95 of them are supposed to spend eternity (that’s forever and ever and ever…) in a place devoid of all hope, all love, all grace, and which is the very definition of personal suffering.  How could such an idea not bother you?!?  Continue reading

The Mind of the Christian Independent (Part 02) – Rubric for Truth

The previous post under this title is the basic framework for what I call the Christian Independent position.  The “independent” comes from the fact that I do not identify with any particular denomination or theology as of this moment in time (not that I don’t have theological beliefs, it’s just that I don’t identify with any major system).  It also represents the fact that I will never allow myself to be told what the “truth” is by any person, denomination, or group and expected to accept it as such simply because “they said so” or because they can point to bible verses they purport “prove” their position to be true.  It is in this independent-minded spirit that I claim the label.  I think for myself and if there is one thing I have learned in this whole process it’s Continue reading

History Repeats Itself: Some Christians Never Learn

The following is an article that is posted at www.newreformation.org whose founder is definitely off the deep end liberal in my opinion, but I find this article so utterly brimming with the mind blowing  truth about how wrong conservative Christians have historically been on social issues in this country that I reposted it here.  This should give us all pause to think the next time we think we know what the Bible “clearly says.”

Moral Legalismby Steve Faulkenberg
www.newreformation.org/heresy2.htm

The fundamentalist evangelical church is the natural heir of pharisaism. They have a well deserved reputation for being judgemental and moralistic. Continue reading