Happily Ever After (Part 04) – The Biblical Argument for Universalism: New Testament

The story of Jared and Tyler Duncan’s conversation about universalism continues.  This time, they will be taking a look at what the New Testament has to say about the doctrine. Continue reading

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

Book Review: “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren

This is my first book review.  I know that, technically, there is a certain way to write a book review starting with an introduction, general overview of the book, strong points, weak points, and finishing with a summary and conclusion (or something like that).  Instead of all that, I’m just going to tell you why I loved this book.  How’s that?  LOL!  You see, book reviews on the Christian Independent are going to be more like journal entries than technical book reviews, because I’m past the point of reading books simply for theological information.  I’m interested in transformation.  I did the whole “stuff my head with knowledge” thing and that ends in stale orthodoxy.  It’s ironic that those words flowed off of my fingers, because that is the opposite of what Brian McLaren is aiming at in this book.  He’s trying to get at something deeper than theological systems.  He’s trying to get at a way of life (one that includes beliefs) that is generous.  He contends that the dichotomy that exists in our thinking between orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practice or living) should not exist.  We should live out our beliefs in a generous way that transforms us, others, the community, and, ultimately, the whole world.  Believe me, I’m doing a grave injustice to Brian by writing this review, because I cannot capture the beauty of what he is proposing and directing us toward in any way that can fully articulate his thoughts.  You’re going to have to read the book yourself. Continue reading

Post-Evangelical: The Journey Explained

Every once-in-awhile I go back and read old posts in order to see the evolution of my own thought, among other things.  Recently, I went back to this post and reread what I wrote concerning evangelical Christians and why I no longer considered myself one of them.  This blog post has received the most hits of any article I’ve posted in the nearly two years this website has existed.  It has had, literally, hundreds of views since its posting in January of 2009.  I have to admit that I was a bit uneasy rereading that post.  Not because of anything I said in particular, but because of the tone.  I strive on this website to not post things that I have not let “settle” for awhile in my mind and emotions.  Clearly, that post was written in a time of high frustration with my evangelical friends in the Christian community.  The critique was a bit harsh, but not dishonest.  I don’t necessarily take back anything I said, but I do wish I had given it a little more time before I abruptly posted something that was highly emotional for me at the time.  I’ve written two posts under the series title “The Mind of the Christian Independent” which I hope have added some clarity as to my current method, but I wanted to offer this piece as a more mature version of the “Why I am no longer an Evangelical Christian” post.  I wanted to take a more level-headed approach to explain where I stand in relation to my former theological tradition.  The label I use for this position is post-evangelical (see the book review posted along with this article which will give you a fuller context for the thoughts expressed in this piece).  There has been a certain evolution in my definition of myself since leaving the evangelical community for good in 2008 and now that I’ve had more time to meditate on things (and realize the aforementioned article was more of a rant), I offer this article as a more full-grown explanation of my frustrations and spiritual journey. 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