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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dangerous: Freedom!

One of my favorite lines in the Bible comes from the Apostle Paul's second letter to the people in the town of Corinth. He writes, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." (2 Cor. 5.17) I like it, although on a technical level, I've never really seen any of us Christians live as if it were true. We pay lip serice to such an idea of newness and freedom, "metaphysical compliments to God" as my advisor says, but do we really believe "everything" has become "new?"
We certainly don't believe "everything" is new in Christ. "Some things," maybe; "many things," possibly, but EVERY-thing? No way. Something stayed the same. And the battle lines are drawn...(They can be drawn anywhere, but in our tradition currently we're drawing the lines on heterosexuality...we argue that God disapproved of homosexuality before Jesus Christ and after Jesus Paul's wrong, everything isn't new. Our accepted sexual orientation is still the same...Paul should have known better.) By the way, it's stuff like this that keeps me from believing in anyone who says the Bible is inerrant...because if it were, either Paul's wrong here or the current persecution of homosexuals based on the revealed presence of Christ in the world is woefully sinful. Your choice, but it seems to me you can't have both...but I digress.
Secondly, we often fudge on what we mean by "new." Oftentimes "new" really means "refreshed," or "slightly modified," or "tweaked," or "not re-inventing the wheel." One of the famous Lutheran Biblical scholars always asked his students, "How new is "new?" Is it completely different, a la Monty Python's "something completely different," or is it similar, but improved?
These are legitimate concerns that you have to deal with if you believe Jesus Christ came into the world to make creation, (that's everything), new. Now, if you don't...well, then you probably have your own existential questions to deal with, but for us Christians this is the stuff that keeps us up at night. Because you see, we always have to ask ourselves, "did Jesus die for this?" Did Jesus Christ die so that the rich can do whatever they want, and the poor have to accept it? Did Jesus Christ die so that we can hate people we already don't understand and currently fear? Did Jesus Christ die so that ignorance can replace compassion, and cluelessness can be an excuse? Every situation from the most mundane to the most important presses us to that question!
I am not professing any answers here...the freedom we have as new creations of Jesus Christ precludes me from binding your conscience or your body to my way of newness. In actuality, I'm as guilty as anyone of abusing this freedom, of plotting to bind a conscience or two, but...If you're're free.
This freedom comes at cost...there are no bailouts here (if my God behaved like the US Government I think I'd have to be an atheist!)...trusting in God, trusting in the new creations God has made in Jesus Christ, provides the greatest freedom humanity can ever know or experience...both beautiful...and dangerous.


Anonymous said...

So if you think the Bible is inerrant, how do you know which pieces are "wrong" and which are "right"? Do we just pick the ones we like and ignore the ones we don't like? Even Jesus talked about Sodom and Gomorrah, but maybe He was just quoted wrong? Or maybe just not quite "right" that day? Hmmm...

Scott Frederickson said...

Dear Friend,
If you believe the Bible to be inerrant (and I do not), it seems like questions of "right" and "wrong" however they are conceived often enter the picture later. It is true,for example, that Jesus may have been misquoted; but the point is always that we have the story as it is, not as we wish it to be. Back in the day when I was in graduate school at the University of Texas (GO Longhorns!), we had a book we read called "Is There a Text in This Class?" The answer was often yes, although it wasn't always the book we were reading that was the text that day...sometimes it was a person's experience...or a world changing event...(the Challenger space shuttle blew up one day right before class)...or something else that became how we understood the book that day. I think those forces are always in play when we read, and therefore, inerrancy is much more of a dream than reality. God, after all, is the focus of the Bible, an anytime the Bible means more than God we have a problem. I mean, how many times does God have to tell us to love our neighbor? If it was inerrant, one would have been enough...and for that matter, we porbably wouldn't have needed Jesus either. Thanks for the question and the ponderings.