1.Write an essay, which sets out as clearly as possible your present understanding of the Christian Church and the Christian faith and life. Along the way, discuss how Buechner and English have/or have not been helpful to you in formulating your own statement.
The Christian church has unique goals and purposes which, by definition, the world not committed to the Jesus, as savior does not honor or share. The church has been called to be a “people for God’s own possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14, 18, 2:19-22) – uniquely reflecting His character and striving to do those things in this world that are important to Him.
It is by the deeds that we do that we bring glory to God. These deeds may not be extravagant or spectacular works in the sight of the world—they may involve a few people or may, but they are always redemptive in nature, helping others to understand God and to experience salvation through Jesus Christ.
We who call ourselves Christians have a choice—a choice to have our lives defined by the calling to which we have been called or by some other calling. The danger today is that the choice is somewhat masked by other choices that also seem to be uniquely Christian. The politically correct academic world in which secular “political correctness” promotes an attitude of contempt for traditional Christian beliefs, the Christian churches attempts to bring all Christians into their particular fold, and the hyper-charismatic “renewal” movement—each with it’s own separate agenda.
Some offer the Christian church success in different but sometimes similar ways (by appealing to emotional satisfaction rather than sound doctrine and reason).
Dr. C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary is very open about his belief that Christian theology is determined by experience. He endorses a “paradigm shift” in which Christians adapt a view of the world more in line with Eastern mysticism.
It is the strength of each of the movements that should alert us that the convoluted thinking of our times leads us away from a true understanding of what God has given us in his written word.
The church today is undergoing a major transition period, as churches strive to innovate a worship form more inclusive of GenXers and at the same time continue to attract the baby boomers. At the same time many congregations are suffering anxiety about change. This fear of change is probably the major impediment to effective ministry in Christianity in the United States today. Some of the mainline churches, in efforts to reach the unchurched, have de-emphasized biblical teaching and watered down their Christology to the point of not being able to have any significant influence on those who attend.
A disciple of Jesus today must be determined to discover what it means to follow the calling of God in daily life. In this aspect we receive help from the Holy Spirit in learning from God’s word, spiritual teachers and in the way we live our lives for God.
The church today doesn’t have to invent her mission today, but to serve the Lord and be faithful to the mission that has already been ordained by God.
In order to correct the understanding of Christianity there has arisen a zeal for evangelism and missions. This, in part, arises from a faith that is sacred and compelling. We must remember however, that the object is not to place everything in the middle between two extremes, rather to keep everything in its own proper proportion. It may be seen from teachings of liberal Christians in the early 19th century that being “saved” or “becoming a Christian”, in the liberal sense came to mean recognizing God’s love for us or accepting God’s assistance but not the salvation of a Holy God from the eternal consequences of sin through Jesus Christ.
Many people today within the Christian community are determined to do what would have been unthinkable to earlier evangelical Christians—abandon traditional Christianity for “new Revelation”. This would imply a church today that has forgotten the apostolic testimony, the apostolic teaching, the apostolic example, and the apostolic charge; a church that has lost faith in its message.
Salvation to many has become simply a matter psychological adjustment or education. The remedy is to see God as the scriptures teach Him to be—a Holy God with goals that can only be achieved as people humble themselves.
The Christian faith and life has evolved back to the allegorical method of interpreting Scripture that was common during the time of the Protestant Reformation. When the Reformers objected to this method because those who practiced it frequently read into the Scriptures what they wanted the Scripture to say, they led the people away from the true meaning of Scripture. Today in our schools of theology and among our churches the tendency to impose an imaginative interpretation upon Scripture has become common again.
It is being practiced by those who label themselves “evangelical” as well as by “liberal” Christians who reject the full authority of Scripture.
People have come to feel that if something is successful (in worldly terms) it is morally correct and /or evidence of the blessing of God. This is a belief that forward progress in all human affairs is assured, so that anything new is automatically better than anything old. The belief that truth is verified through feeling, so that if we are comfortable with a belief, it is thus true and it is confirmed by God. We can see that if all of the above occur than chances are there will be a receptive audience. This does not necessarily mean that these three trends today are wrong, but that they themselves are not accurate measures of truth and spirituality.
In many of our churches today there is being promoted the thought to non-Christians that they can choose what happens in Christian worship. They may soon go on to tell Christians what they can and cannot preach to them. This is not God honoring or God serving. Too many of the so called “cutting edge churches”, the mega churches, forget that the goal of the church is to produce spiritual wholeness among those gathered by preaching and teaching, ad did the apostle Paul, “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:17-32).
Those in the church today and those who are seeking the church need to be aware that a real change occurs in the life of anyone who commits himself or herself to Jesus Christ. Our aspirations for God are encouraged by a sense of acceptance and perhaps by the inner confirmation of the Spirit. Authentic faith is that which follows the will of Christ with total obedience. When one is hindered from freedom by evil that can only enhance the feeling of God as the Holy One.
We as Christians can have meaningful spiritual experiences within the context of mutual love and support as found in that part of the Christian community dedicated to following Jesus. We gather as Christians in church to worship God and in the process of sharing love, spiritual guidance and the raising of social conscience, grow in the spirit. Christians must see that God’s love is not just “out there”, but rather as coming to meet us. When we can realize this aspect of God’s love for us then the future will shape our present faith. Salvation as a process is always gifted by God and is never, as John Wesley stated, the result of works-righteousness.
What is faith? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). This chapter goes on to list people of incredible faith, who were by no means perfect, but all had in common a faith in God that went beyond the visible circumstances. This faith was based on the knowledge that God Himself is faithful. The list of people was a great encouragement to us, that we were not alone in our struggles, and that the things God calls us to are not without precedent. God wants us all to have as He calls us to be a part of His great plan. We are the servants of the Lord, called to do the impossible, called to faith in God that He keeps His promises.
Faith is hard to define but easier to observe because it is only revealed when it is being acted out. Daniel was a faithful Israelite at the time of the Babylonian Empire. Babylonian peers, who tried to set Daniel up, envied him. They had the king sign a decree saying that no one was allowed to pray for a month or else they would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel 6:10 says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
He knew that he would be thrown in the lion’s den but he had faith. Although he would face death he knew that praying to God was the right thing to do, and in life or death, he would be obeying and trusting in God. He was caught, but God found him faithful and did deliver him from the mouths of the lions.
One of the thoughts that keep coming into my mind regarding Christian faith and life as I read Buechner and English was the joy they had experienced. I was reminded of Psalms 16:11 where the idea of joy is expressed in divine terms: “In Your presence is the fullness of joy.”
One ultimately finds real and lasting joy in being with the God of the universe. It is not found in the stuff of the world. It is not found in possessions, in achievement or position. It is found in a simple dependence and contentment that has its origin in him.
We all should take a few moments and take a look at the joy level of our life. First, we should not confuse joy with happiness. The comings and goings of happiness are determined by the circumstances of this life. Joy is determined by our being in his presence and is independent of the circumstances of life. Joy is attainable, but only through a relationship with our Heavenly Father, gained through Jesus Christ.
Faith is a huge part of the Bible’s notion of the good life. Faith is what saves a person; it is what enables someone to be born again. It is what makes one a Christian. Being a Christian does not mean that you go to a church. Here is what I believe to be the step to the Christian good life: To believe in your heart and confess with ones mouth that Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who was without sin, gave his life on the cross for the sins of the world, and who was raised by the power of God on the third day. That can be seen as Wesley’s old type of “faith” which he writes of as follows, “I think, verily, if the gospel be true, I am safe, for I not only have given and do give all my goods to feed the poor;” etc. He goes on with a list of good works he has accomplished, and then followed with “I now believe the gospel is true.”
The center of Christian faith is the Trinity. We believe in a personal God who is eternal and infinite. God wishes well for us, indeed, loves us. God is not an impersonal force or principle. There is only one God, a very loving and personal one. Whatever our situation, God loves us and is powerfully able to help us.
God has revealed the divine nature as a triune God – one God with three persons. This is not three gods and not just three ways of looking at God. God is revealed as our loving creator and parent in the Hebrew Scriptures; God is revealed as our savior Jesus in the gospels; and God is revealed as the indwelling Spirit after Jesus left the earth. I don’t think that I can explain it any better than that. I certainly don’t understand the trinity any better than that.
At the core of Christian faith and life, as defined by Donald English, is “the corporate and community sense within the Christian faith”. He stresses that Jesus belongs to each of us, but not exclusively to any of us.
Finally, as I understand the Christian church and the Christian faith and life, it is well and alive and in constant agitation of “being”. A struggle to do what is right and that is always a struggle.