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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Thursday
Oct072010

Is God a heretic?

In Mark 2.13-17 to we read one of the many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus was judged by the Pharisees for fraternizing with sinners.

There is little doubt that the religious establishment of his day thought that Jesus was a heretic!

I was reminded of this today as I was speaking to a friend about one of my little books 'Christ at the centre - discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths'.  We were remarking how different Fr Bede's Christology was from that of his friend CS Lewis.  In fact, Fr Bede's theology developed in a very different way to CS Lewis' - I think that it may be because each of the men honoured the context in which they served Christ.  Lewis formed his faith in the University City of Oxford, while Griffiths formed his faith as a missionary monk in Southern India.  Both were committed to Jesus, yet that commitment found expression in quite different ways.

I was milling over our conversation as I was driving to a meeting at the University of Stellenbosch (where I was to give input into a new Master's degree for ministry practitioners).  My thoughts turned to two rather strange questions:

1)  I wonder how the contemporary Church would 'judge' God's radically gracious theology?

2) Would we, like the pharisees of Jesus' time, consider God to be heretic?

Here's a video I recorded while driving.

In the December 2008 volume of the Journal STUDIA HISTORIAE ECCLESIASTICAE I did a review on Richard Burridge's wonderful book 'Imitating Jesus: An inclusive approach to New Testament ethics' - Burridge makes an interesting point in his book, one that I tend to agree with.  He notes that if we read the words of Jesus (his teaching) we will see that he had a rather stringent ethic, a high set of moral standards.  Yet if we observe the actions of Jesus we will find that he acts far more graciously.  It is not a matter of incongruence, or cognitive dissonance, rather it is that the teaching of 'the law' finds it's fullest expression in a life of loving grace.

Perhaps the contemporary Church, and many Christians, have become too caught up in the stringency of 'the law' and have not held on to a lifestyle of loving grace.

Perhaps we would consider God to be unorthodox, maybe even a heretic? What do you think?

As for me, I am trying to be a little more like Jesus every day! I want His love for this world to run through my speech, my thoughts and my actions.  Some may find the company that I keep difficult to bear, the may even call me unorthodox, perhaps even a heretic!

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Reader Comments (3)

Dion with regards to many faiths you may want to read Ephesian 4:4-7

There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--5 one Lord, one faith,, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Oh and about people who can have faith and not know it:

Romans 10:9-10

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

I think you will agree that it would be impossible to have faith and not know it based on what scripture teaches and that there is only one true faith.

Regarding the Pharisees, Jesus did not come to abolish the law, remember He came to fulfil the Law. The problem with Pharisees was that they thought they were keeping the Law but as we know that is impossible as Christ is the only one that could. Did they regard him as a heretic? Yes. Were they correct? No, they were the heretics.

Matthew 5:17-20
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

You gave a false definition of the Good News. The Good News that God accepts all Faiths and is large enough to do so. That makes the need for Good News obsolete. In order for there to be Good News there must be bad news. The bad news is that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. The Good News is that God in Christ has made a way of salvation for those that believe. It's open to all yes but only through Christ

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

You say that you are trying to be a little more like Jesus every day tell me have you done any of these things:

1) Made a whip out of a chord and cleared out a temple John 2:14-16
2) Called people hypocrites and whitewashed tombs
3) Turned away a person looking for salvation by putting obstacles in his way Matthew 19:16 - 23

I mention these because you allude to being like Jesus means being soft and accepting of sin but that is not the case and is and incorrect representation of the facts. If you truly loved people as Christ did then you would not overlook their Sins but challenge people to repentance and teach them the truth.

Don't get me wrong we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Mix with sinners but don't become like them be Salt and Light and that means teaching them the truths of Scripture, that God will judge theirs sin and call them to Repentance and Faith.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrant

>What do you think?

I find it hard to concretise what you're saying, Dion. We deal with a lot of behavioural issues in our Church, the latest being (a meeting tonight) a case of paedophilia. How would your post apply, for instance, to that, bearing in mind the call for loving grace on the one hand, yet the damage caused on the other?

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

Hi friends,

Forgive me for the slow reply - we're right in the thick of the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town.

I'd like to reply in detail later. But for now, just to say, Grant I am not a pluralist (I don't believe any faith leads to salvation). However, I an Christocentric - in other words, I believe that Jesus is bigger than Christianity! Christianity is our religion, I am grateful for it, it frames my faith life, but God is always bigger than a religion! I must also mention that I love your comments, but I don't agree with the way in which you use selected passages from scripture to 'proof text' your ideas. I could quite easily pull a few texts out to say that incest should be acceptable, or the ownership of slaves, or a host of other things that we know to be wrong. I find the temptation to 'proof text' ideas a little dangerous. Yes, please do use the Bible, and use it with conviction, but please use it in the context of the whole of God's power and love expressed throughout scripture.

Thomas, I believe that Jesus' ethic is gracious and inclusive - at times grace needs to be quite direct and hard (as when Jesus drove out the money changers in the temple, which was for their own good and for the good of the 'ochlos', (the very poor) that they were abusing). So, a Christian ethic will challenge things, and will even censure some acts and people. But it must always be done in love and with the aim of transformation, restoration and salvation.

Of course it is difficult to concretise what I'm saying, that's the point (in my mind) - we live in a relational, love orientated context as Christians. That requires sacrifice (it cost the Lord His life!), it requires complexity and it requires courage. It is messy to be in a 'love relationship'!

Rich blessing to both of you - I so appreciate the time and interest you invest in me and this blog!

Together with you in Christ,

Dion

October 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterDr Dion Forster

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