Why you need the church to read your Bible

'Shady Characters' by Keith Houston

It's easy to bash the church, and there are many that do. Of course most bashers are blithely unaware of the countless things they owe their battered victim, everything from doctrinal formulations they mistakenly assume are plainly explained in the Bible to holidays. What makes December 25 so special, anyway? You'll need to consult the church on that.I grew up around Christians who thought that all they needed for their spiritual life was a Bible. Not all of them, of course. But there … [Read more...]

America’s divided faith: More sectarian than Christian

In thinking today about Christian division, I recalled this thought from James Fenimore Cooper's book, The American Democrat:In America the taint of sectarianism lies broad upon the land. Not content with acknowledging the supremacy of the Deity . . . the pride and vanity of human reason enter into and pollute our worship, and the houses that should be of God and for God, alone, where he is to be honored with submissive faith, are too often merely schools of metaphysical and useless … [Read more...]

How not to read the Bible

How Not to Read the Bible

"All scripture is . . . profitable for teaching," according to Paul's second letter to Timothy.The apostle tells the young bishop that the scripture is useful for correction and preparation in righteousness and good works (3.15-17). But how? When we look to the story of Jacob, for instance, are we to walk away with the belief that cheating one's family, sorcery, and polygamy are acceptable behaviors?Just because something occurs in the scripture does not make it scriptural -- not in the … [Read more...]

Dependent on the body of Christ

Body of Christ

Paul speaks of the church as being the body of Christ, and he's rather literal with the metaphor."The eye," he writes, "cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Cor 12.21). The Christian life depends upon other Christians. Ours is a contingent existence. Only in communion with each other do we find the means to live our faith.I reflected on that fact while recently reading about the death of √Čtienne de la Bo√©tie. On A … [Read more...]

Divorcing Jesus from religion

Divorcing Jesus from Religion

Like all divorces this one is going to be messy.You're the judge, so try sorting this out: The complainant files papers saying she's trapped in a loveless marriage. There's neglect and even some abuse. The complainant wants full custody of the kid and certain rights and privileges to the house and the bank accounts -- none of which would exist if the plaintiff hadn't built them in the first place. This is roughly where we sit as people try to divorce Jesus from religion.The complainant … [Read more...]

Why Christians need the church

Blind men and elephant

There's an old story about several blind men who try describing an elephant after touching various parts of it. Because the elephant is quite large, each man can only touch a limited portion. So the man touching the leg says the elephant is like a tree, while the one touching the tail says it's like a snake, and so on, each man coming to a different, incomplete conclusion about the beast.That story comes to mind as I reflect on the increasing number of people who claim to be Christians yet … [Read more...]

Consumer Christianity

Consumer Christianity

How was your church service last week? Were the songs good, the pastor polished, the message on-point?In the name of upping the quality of pastoral work, a new website in Germany now allows parishioners to rate their priest's performance in several categories, including worship, credibility, work with youth and seniors, and having his "Finger on the Pulse."Even without such an app, we often create our personal ad hoc Angie's Lists, evaluating the service and its various officiants … [Read more...]


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