This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Drawing Circles (Exclusivism and Ecumenicism) Part 1

By "drawing circles," i mean who's "in" and who's "out"? Who's a Christian and who's not? Who's saved and who's not? Who's heavenbound and who's not? Who should i fellowship and who should i not? i think practically we're all after the same thing with any of the terms we put on that list (though i'm open to hear an objection to that assumption.)

in regards to circle drawing, i'm surprised by four things i find, and find i can't go along with them. Here's the first one.

For some people, to be inside the circle basically requires perfection. They'd never say it that way, but that's what their criteria amounts to. In order to be "in," i have to do everything right all the time. (And doing everything right could include believing all the right doctrines, or not supporting orphan's homes, or belonging to a "sound" congregation, or whatever.) The moment i slip, i'm no longer in the circle, and i have to repent and pray my way back in, and i have to be perfect to stay there. Basically then, God expects sinlessness and all Christ's death does for me is give me another crack at perfection.

i think this idea misses the point of Christianity by a mile for a few reasons.

(1) if you want to argue about whether or not some biblical characters are heavenbound or not, fine, so be it. The Bible doesn't tell us flat out who all went where after they died. Nevertheless, i think there are plenty of examples where a person who is portrayed as having God's favor was not a perfect individual, and those imperfections were never dealt with in that person's life, at least not in recorded history. What about the polygamy common among our Old Testament heroes? What about that the Chronicler tells us that David only sinned in the matter of Uriah the Hittite? Um, really? What about the census or waltzing into the tabernacle and helping himself to the showbread? And even without those examples, just think about it: REALLY? David NEVER sinned his whole life other than that? It appears many things were simply overlooked. There are plenty more characters to be considered as evidence, but i think you get the point. This circle drawing leaves "out" some Bible characters who seem obviously "in."

(2) There is a difference between sin as a struggle and sin as a lifestyle. John wrote in hopes that his readers wouldn't sin and told them that no one in Christ keeps on sinning, but if they did they had an advocate. Clearly there must be some category distinctions in John's mind for all that to be consistent. Ezekiel talks about people who turn away from their righteousness. Does he mean for us to think that every single time i fail to measure up, i've "turned away" from my righteousness? i really don't think so.

(3) This view fails to treat people holistically--namely, as existing along a time line. Every second of my life is treated as a frozen state at which i'd better be perfect if i want in the "in" circle." But what about the fact that discipleship is a journey through time? --a process by which i'm grown and tested and trained and taught? This view leaves no room for growth except possible in the realm of superogatory matters.

i'm surprised that people would have such a stringent standard for being 'in the circle.' Do they really think they're perfect? Whether they do or not, i really don't think the Bible draws circles that way.

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