Thursday, April 09, 2009


Here: What you MUST believe to be saved!

Summary of various doctrines, essential, cardinal and otherwise.

The funny thing is I much believe -- that is, I assent to -- some version of the "essentials":

Salvation by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone

Christ's Vicarious Atonement (The Penal Substitutionary View)

The Bodily Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the Dead

The Unique Deity (and Humanity) of Jesus Christ

Christ is fully divine and fully human. He has two complete natures.

The Trinity. Within the nature of the one eternal God there are three persons (Gk. prosopon, L. persona): the Father, the Son, and the HolySpirit. They are coequal and coeternal. Moreover, they are of thesame substance or essence (i.e., their nature being divine), and share the same glory.

Here I've edited the above to fit more close my own thinking at this time:

Salvation by Grace Alone ...

Christ's ... Atonement

The ... Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the Dead

The Unique Deity (and Humanity) of Jesus Christ. Christ is fully divine and fully human. He has (at least -- ER) two complete natures.

The Trinity. Within the nature of the one eternal God there are three persons (Gk. prosopon, L. persona): the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are coequal and coeternal. Moreover, they are of the same substance or essence (i.e., their nature being divine), and share the same glory. (OK. I guess. I don't worry about the details. -- ER).

Now, while I do assent, more or less, to those propositions -- especially the first Gracey one -- I don't think adhering to them has very much to do with whether one is saved.

This is my "essential": I trust God through Christ, and try to live accordingly.

It's pretty clear that's not enough to satisfy the preparer of the linked summary, which I found linked to HWMNBN's blog with this little lagniape appended, he said, at the last second: "Deny the essentials all you like as well. Just use some intellectual honesty and don’t call yourself a Christian. And if you think I’m talking about you, you’re probably right."

Talk me down, y'all. Or up, as the case may be.



What you MUST believe to be saved:

... that you must try with all that you have to love unconditionally.
Anything that does not serve the above imperative is a non-essential.
I have no sympathy for those that want to turn Christianity into some sort of restricted country club.

I know what I must believe, but what would make me think that I know what *you* must believe. Isn't our relationship with Jesus supposed to be a personal one? I don't expect everyone I know to have the same relationship with me. Some folks I know are coworkers, some are friends, some are family, etc.

So why should the articles of my faith be identical to yours? I'm guessing you've got different issues in your life than I do, different temptations, different moments of grace, different gifts...

So then, for me, the question becomes, are there aspects to this faith that are so deep or broad that that they are an element of everyone's relationship with Christ? If I were to hang my hat on anything it would be the oldest creed, Jesus is Lord. After that, the golden rule. And that's about it.

Now I believe all sorts of other things too, of course, but my hope isn't in believing that any of those things are right. (Since my understanding of any of them is most certainly flawed.) Instead, my hope is knowing that it isn't about what I choose to believe as "essential". My hope is in knowing that faith comes through grace, and grace is from God. So God will instruct me in what to believe. God will decide what is essential for my faith, and yours.
What is HWMNBN?
He Who Must Not Be Named. :)
ER:"The ... Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the Dead"

Physical body resurection from the dead?
i concur! i'm with you in these statements!

anytime we recite creeds and such in worship, i always edit.. like we believe in the ...birth of Christ.

i don't need to have some constructed and systematic version of my faith. it is what it is.. but it's helpful to know the systems and to be able to identify various parts and their historocity... but it's altogther unhelpful if it's not based on some sort of praxis and practical application.
Saved = salvation?
Salvation from Sin?
Sin is defined by Law (see Paul).
Without the law there is not sin?
No Law No sin No need for salvation from sin?
Jesus superceeded law with grace?
By grace are ye saved.
To get grace you have to accept it?Grace is freely given?
Hinduism looks attractvie some days.
If we cannot cease thinking of belief as akin to the computations for gravity, then Christianity should die and Brahman or Buddha should prevail. For we are consigning ourselves to be anachronistic seventeenth century empiricists when we think of believing as resting on the scientific or historiographical bases mapped out by one epoch of human intellectual endeavor: the Enlightenment.

Belief is not derived from the experimental method. The virgin birth is not astrophysics. It is a deep sermon -- therefore a lesson on spiritual truth -- about the gracious life of the eternal to choose relationship with the created, and that the eternal chooses to do so unconditionally, in freedom, and power. It cannot be understood using calipers. It should be understood as defining our inherent worth in the scheme of timelessness, and our ability to agree.

In the same way, the notion of the resurrection of the body is meant to protect the idea that God would not fool us in appearing as one of us and undergoing death like we do and then promising us new and eternal life in Christ.

If he did not die as one of us and rise as we will, then it may be thought of as a mirage, and the whole spiritual truth that eternity gives profound meaning to our spiritual conscience crumbles irreparably.

Can we make sense of this according to internal combustion? brain function?


But then we are dualists. Let's have the courage of our convictions or give up what would then be only a language game.

Faith is love. If you need love to be proved by chemistry, then you are a Christian only by custom.
OK. So we have a lot of stuff you MUST believe. What if I want to believe in the Trinity and the Penal Substitution Atonement but for intellectual or other reasons can't (right now). Am I barred from salvation? What if I die in between my want to be saved and coming to terms with later developed Christian "belief" of the Trinity? Do I go to hell. Sorry, I suck because I have questions?

Rhetorical, in case it needed to be said.
I have a friend who served in Iraq 364 days as a Reservist. The Army refuses to give him cedit in order to obtain his GI-Education benifits because the regulations say he had to serve one year (365 days). Now that is the human way of doing things.

Within the Grace of God I personally believe that any Soul that longs for God will receive the Grace of God without ticket punching any human religious regulations. That's the kind of God I worship.
There is no hell. Salvation lies in loving as one lives.

The questions about second by second faith and the second by second threat to Christian hope is a watered down sixteenth century protestant anxiety inherited from Augustine's dismay about the human body and human desire.

As far as living a life of faith that is faith and not anxiety:

There are trails up the mountain of love to the summit of communion with the divine.

Those trails have been cut with the diamond hard edges of generations of adherents to love as the truth.

Each path has strengths (really smooth, well-worn passages that make one feel like they are flying rather than climbing) and weaknesses where the going is tough.

If one chooses a known trail and wants to experience the moments of transcendence and trial that trail has in store, then one must fully walk it with courage, dignity, thought, and devotion.

This, however, is against the modern western character of wanting comfort with cheap transcendence.

Going it alone has far fewer lessons learned about overcoming this kind of ennui with the climb.

Suck it up and find the glory of Christianity, Buddhism, Brahmanism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, acknowledging that one is a member of the human race or settle for modernity and its passive cool.
DrLobo, re: "ER: 'The ... Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the Dead.' Physical body resurection from the dead?"

Note that I edited out "Bodily" from the original. But I have no problem with those who believe in rususcitation-plus. I do have a problem with those who insist that I concur with their belief. My own notion is that the resurrection of Jesus, and our own constant regeneration, is best understood by thinking of what happens to a seed when it germinates and sprouts new life. The seed did nothing but die. I think that's a Pauline idea, isn't it?
Luke: I finally looked up "praxis." I concur. And thanks for teaching me a new word.

"One God is three" is backwards and has resulted in problems for the west.

We should have kept to starting with the Three and always thinking how they are one.
DrLobo, re:

"Saved = Salvation from Sin?"

From Self(ishness).

"Sin is defined by Law (see Paul).
Without the law there is not sin?
No Law No sin No need for salvation from sin?"

That worked for Paul, a Jew's Jew. I'm not Paul, nor a Jew.

"Jesus superceeded law with grace?
By grace are ye saved."

Paul again, and his entanglement with the Law.

"To get grace you have to accept it?"

I don't think so. But maybe you can reject it, which is different, but probably not.

"Grace is freely given?"

Let me edit that: Grace is.
Pecheur, did you detect the facetious nature of my headline, and did you see my remark here?

"Now, while I do assent, more or less, to those propositions -- especially the first Gracey one -- I don't think adhering to them has very much to do with whether one is saved."
Feodor, re: "We should have kept to starting with the Three and always thinking how they are one."

I like!
For me, Grace is god's life, not a boxed present. We live more proximate to God's living or less so. We can feel the closing or increasing distance. We can reflect on those spiritual and experiential feelings. We can theologize, criticize, and reshape our understanding as we live (praxis), grow wise, grow elegiac...

To refuse to do so is to make oneself happy with the world's baubles.
RE God as One (in the West), I often think DrLBJ would have far fewer objections to the metaphysics of the Christian church if we were Eastern christians.

The problem, though, would be the even heavier patriarchy, even if only by so many more degrees.
I like Frederick Buechner: "Life is grace."
He got it from Aquinas, more or less. As did I.

Yes, sorry about the sarcasm. I was unclear which has been occurring more and more lately. I call it laziness in writing and thinking.

Yeah I was not saying you are saying this, I am reacting to whoever says, "you must believe all these 'doctrines' before you can be 'saved' (still trying to figure out what that means)"

Thanks for making the clarification
Never would I want to interrupt a good dialogue between Feodor and ER (or anyone else, Dr. Lobo) hahaha

but I did think Feodor's non belief in hell was directed to me. So, I wanted to respond, if you don't mind me interrupting y'all.

You are not alone in your belief. But what happens if someone decides not to take any path to the top of the mountain of whatever comes next? What if you or I decide not to love as I live. Are there not consequences of some sort? Why do we punish lawbreakers? Now, not saying I think this proves hell. I am not going to prove it because I can't. we'll all find out on the other side. I just want to know what the consequences are to not loving as we live?
Dr. Lobo,

You are a wise man. And I mean that.
Bracketing out crime and punishment conceptions and psychological conceptions, are there other kinds of felt answers to...

What are the consequences of cheating... stealing... betrayal... assault... murder?

What are the consequences of warring... hating... labeling... judging... ignoring?

What are the consequences of choosing not to be vulnerable to one's most intimate partners? Over time in difficulties and joys? What are the consequences of closing one's heart, refusing risk with the one sleeping next to you or the only one you can remotely think about trusting with your honest and humanly fallible thoughts? What happens when we let ourselves get into a hole of shame or a protecting cocoon of privacy?

Without the language of law or psychology we are empty of ways of thinking about such questions. Christian pastoral reflection has several shelves of discussing theses things, but the volumes are little known.

Still emptier are we for language about the consequences of risk, of opening up, of loving, of the mystical experience of being one with another, whether partner or friend.

Law, psychology has absolutely nothing and most of theology has little celebration of what this is like. And yet, there are voices. Gregory of Nyssa, Aelred. the Victorines (Hugh and Richard), Denys, St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Elie Wiesel, Richard Wright, Ishmael Beah.

But in the emptiness, our own lies whisper to us about the experience of hell. Our own demons show us the way that could be followed if ever we decide to choose it. The intuition of consequences can felt as a heavy and heavier weight on our conscience if we dwell with our own frailty.

The consequences for those who refuse love are forceful. They quickly or slowly drag a person downward or efficiently, sometimes abruptly, inspire someone to turn sharply upward.

But we do not have enough language about all this. It cannot be codified to satisfy protestants or priests. It is too close to where the soul and bone live together and too real for human reason to distinguish, and too counter culture to our modern way of living and thinking. But I think we can recognize it with those other faculties of the human sensory template that we in the west have ignored for a long time.

And I think we see the inchoate examples of final consequences when gunmen kill their mothers and wives and children -- and themselves which, to me, always seems an odd, incongruent and illogical kind of mercy.

We see hell happening then.

It is not eternal, it does not exist like the good and the holy, but it is experienced. The consequences can be seen here and now, and the feeling even hinted at in the right circumstances.

Here in Holy Week, last night I went to Tenebrae, a service of the gradual extinguishing of ten candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted (usually Gregorian) and recited. After the last and eleventh candle is hidden behind the altar, a great noise is made, and in my church the organ raises an increasing and chaotic horror movie, bass non-chord sound, shaking the building and sounding demonic.

What came to mind, unbidden and unwanted, surprising me in its specificity, was that this must be what it was like inside the head of Michael McLendon, Jiverly Wong, Kerby Revelus, Isaac Zamora.

They were in Hell.

What more do I need to know? What more can I say in words?

Madness is not linguistic. Neither is Hell.
Sorry, I think I pitched that too dramatically.

The gunmen are easy targets.

But the bleeding of love that goes in all our lives. The missed time, the missed word, the really, really, really wrong word at such a crucial time, the things that haunt us haunt others who are far less desirous of being good.

The bad actors are haunted, make no mistake. They don't show it, but we know the tenderly lacerating operations of our own consciences. Those who refuse to love have bandages that cover the wounds. Those who hate have reams of gauze wrapping their souls, helping them get through the day and weeks on whisky, season tickets, sex, coke, shopping, silently torturing partner and children, lending their dreams, unwanted, but forcibly imposed on their fourteen-year-old.

The world has a survivor instinct that plays a dangerous match game with its ideals. Many, many times, the game is played with survivable loss.

Sometime not.

Most of us play with the matches only at downtimes, only sometimes, able to limit the damage because of our relative privileged position compared to nine tenths of the world.

And we slowly grow up and limit our reach and take joy in our children's golden season of promise. And this is a human way to limit the damage.

But sometimes, some people can't and their little public hell is the movie of our little private one.

There is a better way, of course, of not only stopping the damage but growing whole gardens of living things that climb walls and spread to the neighborhood.

So, so, so rare.

So, as Paul would say, "wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death? Who but God? Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

This is my faith. And my faith in God is strengthened by the face of Jesus I see in the elements on the table and the elements of the world.

So, while I am sometimes afraid in the world and for the world and sad, too, sometimes about many, many things... I am not worried for it. I want to be involved.
So you do believe in hell, but not a place and not necessarily after death. But even if you don't believe in hell at all, again you are not alone.

At this point I can only say that I am satisfied with your answer. We both believe in hell just how we define it may be slightly different. Even Jean-Paul Sartre defined hell as others in his play "hui clos." Can I say we both believe that somehow, someway "hell" is to be avoided and that somehow someway we are in need of some sort of "salvation" from it?

I would not use the phrase "saved from hell" except with those who have a similar background as I (not suggesting you do have just stating a simple proposition). The words "hell" and "salvation" get in the way of the bigger picture.

Sounds like a great sensory service. I would have been scared to death albeit intrigued by the experience.
This is why my Dad taught me never to be late, especially to a really good party . . .

On what "MUST" be believed . . .

I think I'm at the point where I no longer see a connection between God's work - salvation - and our work - what we confess and profess in word and deed. Shoot, even St. Paul argued that folk out there who would never hear of Jesus were still living in faith and saved. If he could get behind that idea, I suppose I can as well.

At the same time, there are some things I can affirm in a general way, about the character of belief without feeling myself committed to any particular definition thereof - in particular the issue of Trinitarian belief and bodily resurrection.

I believe I stand with Feodor on the whole grace=love equation, but would amplify it by insisting that everything else (and I want to emphasize that EVERYTHING) is negotiable. What he has to say about the threat of love is also true - and our retreat from that threat due to our fear of vulnerability. All stuff I have said myself, many times over.

I think I would only add that one should love, and open oneself to being loved, knowing that one will fail miserably at it time and time again. The pain of failed love is very real, even traumatic (I would rather go through open heart surgery wide awake than live with real heartbreak again; too old for that nonsense . . .), but it is a reminder of one's fundamental humanity, one's being alive, which is why I will contradict my parenthetical and insist that even knowing the potential pain involved, it is incumbent upon us to embrace and celebrate that, also, because it is a sign of our true humanity.

Beyond that, well, I'll let the theologians argue over various things. That's what they're here for.

When you said "coke," I thought you were referring to Coke Cola and I was convicted of my sin. But then I felt you must have meant cocaine and I felt better about myself. =)
RE Coca Cola, Dan White claimed that twinkie obsession drove him to a point of being able to murder Milk and Moscone (which, how horrible and I'm ashamed to say, sounds like a snack itself).

Kingfisher: I find myself resisting the notion that one can believe in Hell as if it is an existent. I find I am more comfortable thinking of it as a phenomenon that is the resultant experience of a process. That such an experience has qualitatively varied degree and expression still should not lead me to think of it as a place but rather as a non-static state of being (being as in durée not as in location) or as an existential period of time. Therefore one is not saved from a place or a time, but from a way of being or from a life-world process that leads to that kind of being.

GKS: Yes, Love is the Way. And everything that serves love is essential only in the sense that human beings articulate love in their life through the media of our faculties. We are not the Holy Spirit, in other words, but corporeal beings with the capacity to participate in the spiritual.

But that cannot prescribe, in my opinion, a course of action that is itself one of constant negotiation. One should choose among the time-honored paths which necessarily limit our capacity to travel all other paths due to our finite and frail minds. Dedication to the practice and discipline of Christianity can correct a boat load of Christian crap in the world. Dedication to the practice and discipline of Buddhism can correct and a boat load of Buddhist crap.

New and individualized syncretic faith will create its own crap along its sui generis march. I'd like to ask that they clean up their own mess, but, like China, they seem to reserve the right to pile on like Christians once did.
P: "You are a wise man. And I mean that."

Then, what , pray tell am I doing on ER's bolg?

F: "New and individualized syncretic faith will create its own crap along its sui generis march."

Exactly. But that stands for all relgions as well. That's why I'm not a Hindu nor Eastern Orthodox etc., better to live in the crap you smell like than to try to get used to new stuff.
There's that wisdom! "better to live in the crap you smell like than to try to get used to new stuff." !!
Couldn't agree more with the whole anti-syncretistic argument, with one caveat.

There is no "should". It is nice to so believe and live. That others live out quite happy, healthy spiritual lives between and among the interstices of various faiths, I cannot a priori rule it out as a real human possibility.
Anyone "should" live without a coke habit.

Some "live out quite happy, healthy spiritual lives between and among the interstices" of health and addiction.

But I don't see it as a generalizable recipe for good living.

Likewise, I have known too many who have a deep feeling of drifting because the imagine mooring somewhere to be a prison. They are like refugees without a country. Restless but with a sense of escaping some imagined boredom.
You want generalizable principles. I don't think anyone can do that.

That continues to be the difference between us.

Again - there is no "should". What you call "drift" others might call insouciance. This isn't potato/potahto, this is simply "no should".
So. Is the point to make a statement of faith, a statement of the essential element of a Christian faith or write a personal creed?

Is the point to distill the faith to the essential commandments, the essential elements of a relationship with God?

The comments are all over the place. Not sure what you're looking for.
If you are asking the basic key to salvation, I would say salvation has already been provided to everyone. For those who want to be in relationship with God, all they have to do is say thank you.
On your example of a cocaine addict believing his life is cruising right along . . .

Were I of a persnickety disposition today, I would call that ridiculous on its face, for any number of reasons. Since I am not so disposed, I will deal with it forthrightly.

First, any addict - alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling - in the grip of the disease believes there is nothing wrong. What Rorty calls that individual's "web of beliefs and desires" is focused on making sure that pivot point of addiction is central. Everything else is secondary, indeed can even be inconsequential (having known many, many addicts of all varieties, I speak from much experience here).

Now, it can be pointed out as a factual matter that when an addict says, "There's nothing wrong with my marriage except my husband's nagging about my occasional drink," she believes this. Yet, when her husband says, "It isn't an occasional drink. It is a daily routine that leaves you unable to perform x, y, and z tasks. Furthermore, our relationship suffers in x, y, and z ways because of specific examples of spousal neglect/abuse." In other words, the argument ensues in which two wholly different language games are used to describe one reality they both accept - their marriage - and each can cite different facts, to a greater or lesser degree to support their claim.

As anyone who has dealt with addiction and addicts knows, it is impossible to get a drunk to clean up because she is forced to do so. The first of the twelve steps reads, "I believe that I have lost control of alcohol, and my life has become unmanageable." In other words, the very first step on the very long journey of recovery is beginning a new vocabulary, joining a new language game to describe one's life.

While you, and I, and most likely other readers of this blog would agree that it is far better not to be addicted to anything in such a way as it costs us dearly with those we love, we do so because of a prior commitment to love, and perhaps even vulnerability, and stability, which are not at all open to rational scrutiny. They are assertions based on nothing more than personal preference.

This is not to say they are whims. It is only to say they have no transcendental basis.

In other words, there is something disingenuous about your attempt to equate belief and addiction here.

You put so much more energy into your patriotism than your faith. A liberal position that doesn't make sense to me.

Should Turkey be threatened by your patriotism?

Probably not. I don't think your patriotism includes a standing policy that is aggressive posture toward Turkey.

Should Republicans feel threatened by your patriotism? Probably. Does your view of the 1st amendment contain arguments that they would disagree wholeheartedly to? I would think, given your posts.

Should any old American feel threatened by your understanding of the 1st amendment? How about an American that has not thought much at all about the 1st amendment?

Can an American be a true American and not think about the 1st amendment? I think you and I would agree that one could.

Do we think an American could be a better American citizen if they were to give some thought to the 1st amendment, to the Constitution altogether? Would we tell a tenth grade class, or eleventh, or sophomores in college that they should give some thought to 1st amendment issues and the Constitution as a whole?

I would.

Would you use the word "should" for shaping political life but not religious life?

Both are incredibly complex webs of history and thought and personal choice. One should give thought, consideration, and seek to define oneself.

It is always the more healthy psychological path, at the very least.
I'm not equating belief and addiction. I am pressing you on your taking the relativizing stand toward choices and choice-making that impact identity shaping processes.

Faith shapes identity just as much as drugs, sex, work, spending, etc. With what discipline should one decide on the role of each of these aspects of life should play in one's life?

And my answer is that healthier people tend to make these decisions with serious thought and deliberation.

Many people like to play with their faith like its a football. Those who share with me such a history are always doing it in the context of dissatisfaction, especially when children come. Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, and perhaps emotionally motivated. But it nags. And I don't tell them that they should not worry. That would be malpractice.

Yours appears to be that one need not be all that serious about how one shapes one's faith. Is this the only domain one can take it easy? Are there others for you?
I am not relativizing anything. That word already betrays the idea that there is some common vocabulary between an addict, say, and a non-addict, some neutral territory that can be used to describe both in ways with which both would believe. There is not, nor can there be. You mistake my refusal to claim the discovery of master vocabulary - for any purposes whatsoever - for a refusal to take a stand. I take my stands. I just don't confuse them with lining up with the way the universe operates.

As far as my patriotism goes, I'm not even sure what that particular bit refers to. Am I patriotic? Sure. What does it mean to be patriotic? I'm not really sure - certainly Sean Hannity and I would differ on this; there is no way to figure out which one of us is really right (even an appeal to history, say, or the Constitution, or the practical effects of our very different approaches would yield, I think, different results because we would call upon a very different set of facts based upon very different criteria) and, to be honest, it isn't a question about which I worry all that much.

As for my faith, all I can say, having just returned from a Maundy Thursday service and watched the chancel be stripped of all symbols, all color, and knowing that tomorrow the Christ-candle itself will be extinguished for the first time since Christmas, I know that these events have an emotional impact upon me. I can confess my adherence to the belief that there is some significance to them.

I would never - ever - under any circumstances I could ever conceive, pretend that this meaning is anything other than my own. That doesn't mean it is either shallow or, in fact, meaningless. It just means I am far less presumptuous in my proclamations of faith.

You keep saying that you believe the way you do because it seems to bespeak a healthier self. Bully for you. I know people who couldn't give a rat's left testicle about what either of us believe, and they are quite happy, thank you very much. They kiss their spouses when they return from work, they love their kids, they don't kick the dog, and they just happen to think that we who believe in God are so morbidly focused on some mythical proclamation that we are missing out on all sorts of things in life.

Which of us is correct? I can certainly insist that, for me, I am. I would not, however, turn around and say that a person so disposed as described above is in some way lacking something vital. Indeed, they may very well be living out the life God has created them for (and, yet, that is a faith declaration, immune to falsification). Whose to say?

Not I, said the fly.
Trixie, re: "Not sure what you're looking for."

Lookin' for whatever anyone has. Just meant to hold up the "essentials" list of HWMNBN as, well, nonessential.
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