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Re: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

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  • DT2748@AOL.COM
    Hi Everyone, We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in: -- Revised Standard John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in
    Message 1 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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      Hi Everyone,

      We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in:
      -- Revised Standard
      John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave
      power to become children of God;

      Therefore it is simply accepting Christ and believing on his name.

      Denny


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Rogier @ E-Claire
      Hi, I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different. Rogier
      Message 2 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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        Hi,

        I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
        proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

        Rogier
        www.thejourney.nl



        [Rogier Bos] -----Original Message-----
        From: DT2748@... [mailto:DT2748@...]
        Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 20:06
        To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?


        Hi Everyone,

        We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in:
        -- Revised Standard
        John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave
        power to become children of God;

        Therefore it is simply accepting Christ and believing on his name.

        Denny


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


        Yahoo! Groups Sponsor



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      • Eland, David R
        Before we start discussing specifics essentials , is there agreement that there are essentials? Would it tell us something different about God if there are or
        Message 3 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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          Before we start discussing specifics "essentials", is there agreement
          that there are essentials?

          Would it tell us something different about God if there are or are not
          essentials? What kind of God requires some essential beliefs, rituals,
          etc., in order for us to have a relationship with him? What kind of God
          does not require any of these?

          Dave

          -----Original Message-----
          From: Rogier @ E-Claire [mailto:rb@...]
          Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 1:34 PM
          To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

          Hi,

          I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
          proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

          Rogier
          www.thejourney.nl



          [Rogier Bos] -----Original Message-----
          From: DT2748@... [mailto:DT2748@...]
          Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 20:06
          To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?


          Hi Everyone,

          We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in:
          -- Revised Standard
          John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he
          gave
          power to become children of God;

          Therefore it is simply accepting Christ and believing on his name.

          Denny


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


          Yahoo! Groups Sponsor



          You can visit the Finding Faith Yahoo groups web site to modify your
          delivery settings and review former messages @

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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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        • DT2748@AOL.COM
          In a message dated 5/20/2003 2:56:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time, david.r.eland@mail.sprint.com writes: Hi Dave ... You probably won t get agreement on this issue
          Message 4 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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            In a message dated 5/20/2003 2:56:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
            david.r.eland@... writes:
            Hi Dave


            > Before we start discussing specifics "essentials", is there agreement
            > that there are essentials?

            You probably won't get agreement on this issue

            >
            > Would it tell us something different about God if there are or are not
            > essentials? What kind of God requires some essential beliefs, rituals,
            > etc., in order for us to have a relationship with him?

            Probably the same type of personality as a husband that expected a wife to
            have some responsibility in the marriage relationship.

            What kind of God> does not require any of these?
            >
            > A God who has NO requirements will have to save ALL mankind. I am not
            > denying universalism, but was playing it safe by espousing the higher road with
            > the shortest path.
            >
            > Denny



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Arden Gilmer
            He certainly gave an essential in John 14:6. ... From: Eland, David R [mailto:david.r.eland@mail.sprint.com] Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 9:05 AM To:
            Message 5 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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              He certainly gave an essential in John 14:6.

              -----Original Message-----
              From: Eland, David R [mailto:david.r.eland@...]
              Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 9:05 AM
              To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

              Rogier,

              It's funny that you would describe the words of a 4th century pastor as
              "modernist," how far back does modernism go? (I'm not well versed in
              the definitions of modern vs. post-modern.) Wasn't it Greek
              philosophers who said everything has a true essence? And that it should
              be possible to strip away the outward appearances and find the true
              essence. I think one example I heard was that there are many kinds of
              chairs but each one contains the true essence of "chairness" and without
              that, it would not be a chair.

              Was Augustine saying that there can be great varieties of Christian
              communities of faith but all are united by some essentials. I'm also
              pretty ignorant of Augustine--did he describe these essentials?

              You said>> the will to power is part of our desire to define the
              essentials.

              Always? Is it possible to look for essentials in order that I can be
              liberal towards my neighbor in non-essentials? I wonder if the story
              of Jesus and the woman at the well relates to this [thank you
              www.biblegateway.com]

              John 4:19-24 ----------------
              "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers
              worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we
              must worship is in Jerusalem."
              Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will
              worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You
              Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for
              salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when
              the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for
              they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his
              worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." [note: I have read that
              calling her "woman" was a sign of respect.]
              --------------------

              I don't want to go too far, but is it fair to say that Jesus was saying
              the location of worship is not an essential. But what is essential in
              worship is that we "worship the Father in spirit and truth." Without
              trying to define "spirit and truth," is it fair to say the Jesus was
              separating essentials and non-essentials?

              So, can we say that Jesus identified at least one essential? God's
              worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." Are there more? And
              how do we understand this one?

              Thanks,
              Dave


              -----Original Message-----
              From: Rogier @ E-Claire [mailto:rb@...]
              Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 9:07 AM
              To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

              Hi,

              This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a forum
              next
              month that asks a very similar question: 'what is the gospel we
              preach?'.

              (I work with a Christian missions group that seeks to plant churches
              ('communities of faith') in major European cities, and in so doing we
              hope
              to contribute to the start of a new grassroots movements of people
              following
              Jesus.)

              I can't get around the fact that, while totally understandable, the
              question
              actually seems a little modernist, in that it seeks to reduce our faith
              (or
              the Biblical story, for that matter), to it's essence. Reductionism is a
              trade-mark of modern thinking.

              As I have been preparing for this forum I have been studying and reading
              Jesus' teaching, and it seems to me that Jesus' gospel is 'situational'
              -
              it's different in every situation he encounters. Hence it is possible
              for
              Nicodemus and the rich young ruler to get different answers when they
              ask
              'what must I do to be saved?'.

              Augustine's quote is great, but many religious wars have been started
              about
              the essentials. What are the essentials? Who defines them? What happens
              when
              I deem one essential more essential than another? What happens if we
              disagree on the essentials in the first place? Can we still break bread
              together? How much tension can we cope with before we disassociate
              ourselves
              from one another? Here is a sociological observation: he who defines the
              essentials, holds the power. Historically you can make a case that in
              some
              cases people defined essentials not so much because they really cared
              about
              the essentials, but because they really cared about holding the power
              that
              deciding the essentials brought them. To put it simply: the will to
              power is
              part of our desire to define the essentials.

              And yet I have struggled with the question of the essentials myself very
              much. How could we ever be one (as Jesus prayed in John 17) if we could
              not
              reach agreement on the essentials?

              I have this novel idea I am playing with: what if God never intended for
              us
              to agree on all the essentials. What if the variation he has so cleverly
              and
              skillfully brought out in the natural realm is the same variation he
              would
              like to see in the church? What if he never intended us to be the same,
              look
              the same, talk the same, or (dare I say it?) believe the same? What if
              he
              always intended for a high degree of ambiguity to exist? I know this
              raises
              many questions, such as: 'how can we be one?', and 'how can we organize
              ourselves?' and 'how do we know we can fellowship together (when are you
              too
              far removed from me for us to still cross the chasm between us?)?' - but
              humour me, okay? I'm trying to make sense of God and life and ministry
              after
              relinquishing my desire for control and institutionalism and monolithic
              groups and order and ...

              What would happen if each local community would decide for itself what
              its
              essentials are? If all over the place each community of faith decided on
              its
              own identity and values and emphases? I know, there would be some groups
              that would probably go of the deep end - but then again, those groups
              have
              always existed, haven't they? It's not like our modernist drive for a
              clear
              definition of the essentials ever cured that problem. Actually, I reckon
              that in this day and age, in our global village, our many cross-border
              contacts would keep us in check, at least to a degree (call it
              cross-fertilization).

              I imagine that what would emerge would be a lovely varied quilt of
              communities accross our local maps, each with its particular attractions
              and
              particularities - come to think of it, not all that dissimilar to nature
              itself: varied, colorful, organic, interacting with its context,
              growing,
              struggling a bit here and there, producing fruit, each after its own
              kind)...

              Come to think of it, it's not so different from what has happened
              accross
              history already - but it's very different from what we desired when we
              built
              our systems and organizations and institutions, when we fought our
              religious
              wars, organized ourselves, spoke out against each other, called each
              other
              heretics (I live in Europe where these religious wars are a major factor
              in
              the secularization of my continent)... I cannot escape the conclusion
              that
              the ideological and organizational unity we sought is just not going to
              happen!

              What if, in the meantime, God has been building his church, just like he
              intended, without agreement on the essentials, but with the variation,
              the
              color, the quirks, the oddities, the differences, the strengths, the
              weakenesses, the fruits and the flowers?

              I'd be interested in your thoughts!

              Rogier
              www.thejourney.nl



              -----Original Message-----
              From: Eland, David R [mailto:david.r.eland@...]
              Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 15:12
              To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?


              Looking over some earlier postings I found this:

              >Augustine's tried and true "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials,
              liberty; in all >things, charity (love)."


              What are the essentials?

              And how do you know they are the essentials?

              Thanks,
              Dave



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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            • Arden Gilmer
              They haven t all been different. In essence John 1:12 and John 14:6 are the same. Jesus and a personal relationship with him are at the center in both.
              Message 6 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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                They haven't all been different. In 'essence' John 1:12 and John 14:6 are
                the same. Jesus and a personal relationship with him are at the center in
                both.

                Pastor Arden Gilmer
                Sr. Pastor
                Park Street Brethren Church
                Ashland, OH 44805

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Rogier @ E-Claire [mailto:rb@...]
                Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 11:34 AM
                To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

                Hi,

                I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
                proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

                Rogier
                www.thejourney.nl



                [Rogier Bos] -----Original Message-----
                From: DT2748@... [mailto:DT2748@...]
                Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 20:06
                To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?


                Hi Everyone,

                We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in:
                -- Revised Standard
                John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave
                power to become children of God;

                Therefore it is simply accepting Christ and believing on his name.

                Denny


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


                Yahoo! Groups Sponsor



                You can visit the Finding Faith Yahoo groups web site to modify your
                delivery settings and review former messages @

                http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingfaith

                Delivery Options: individual emails, 1 digest email a day, or no email
                (all emails avail @ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingfaith)

                Want to unsubscribe? Just send a blank note to
                findingfaith-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

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                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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                http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingfaith

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              • Chris G Criminger
                Hi Rogier, I don t think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials rather
                Message 7 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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                  Hi Rogier,
                  I don't think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can
                  get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
                  rather than whether we have them or not. Or for a church to say we have
                  no essentials? Is that an essential? Maybe like a wheel, it would be
                  better for churches to speak about the center and those things that
                  encircle it recognizing diversity here among churches but all or most for
                  example have beliefs and practices that center around worship, teaching,
                  communion, etc. Just like there is unity and plurality in the Trinity,
                  maybe stressing both unity and plurality among churches would be healthy
                  and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                  Just a thought - Chris Criminger
                  Vallonia Indiana



                  ********************
                  On Tue, 20 May 2003 16:07:11 +0200 "Rogier @ E-Claire" <rb@...>
                  writes:
                  > Hi,
                  >
                  > This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a
                  > forum next
                  > month that asks a very similar question: 'what is the gospel we
                  > preach?'.
                  >
                  > (I work with a Christian missions group that seeks to plant churches
                  > ('communities of faith') in major European cities, and in so doing
                  > we hope
                  > to contribute to the start of a new grassroots movements of people
                  > following
                  > Jesus.)
                  >
                  > I can't get around the fact that, while totally understandable, the
                  > question
                  > actually seems a little modernist, in that it seeks to reduce our
                  > faith (or
                  > the Biblical story, for that matter), to it's essence. Reductionism
                  > is a
                  > trade-mark of modern thinking.
                  >
                  > As I have been preparing for this forum I have been studying and
                  > reading
                  > Jesus' teaching, and it seems to me that Jesus' gospel is
                  > 'situational' -
                  > it's different in every situation he encounters. Hence it is
                  > possible for
                  > Nicodemus and the rich young ruler to get different answers when
                  > they ask
                  > 'what must I do to be saved?'.
                  >
                  > Augustine's quote is great, but many religious wars have been
                  > started about
                  > the essentials. What are the essentials? Who defines them? What
                  > happens when
                  > I deem one essential more essential than another? What happens if we
                  > disagree on the essentials in the first place? Can we still break
                  > bread
                  > together? How much tension can we cope with before we disassociate
                  > ourselves
                  > from one another? Here is a sociological observation: he who defines
                  > the
                  > essentials, holds the power. Historically you can make a case that
                  > in some
                  > cases people defined essentials not so much because they really
                  > cared about
                  > the essentials, but because they really cared about holding the
                  > power that
                  > deciding the essentials brought them. To put it simply: the will to
                  > power is
                  > part of our desire to define the essentials.
                  >
                  > And yet I have struggled with the question of the essentials myself
                  > very
                  > much. How could we ever be one (as Jesus prayed in John 17) if we
                  > could not
                  > reach agreement on the essentials?
                  >
                  > I have this novel idea I am playing with: what if God never intended
                  > for us
                  > to agree on all the essentials. What if the variation he has so
                  > cleverly and
                  > skillfully brought out in the natural realm is the same variation he
                  > would
                  > like to see in the church? What if he never intended us to be the
                  > same, look
                  > the same, talk the same, or (dare I say it?) believe the same? What
                  > if he
                  > always intended for a high degree of ambiguity to exist? I know this
                  > raises
                  > many questions, such as: 'how can we be one?', and 'how can we
                  > organize
                  > ourselves?' and 'how do we know we can fellowship together (when are
                  > you too
                  > far removed from me for us to still cross the chasm between us?)?' -
                  > but
                  > humour me, okay? I'm trying to make sense of God and life and
                  > ministry after
                  > relinquishing my desire for control and institutionalism and
                  > monolithic
                  > groups and order and ...
                  >
                  > What would happen if each local community would decide for itself
                  > what its
                  > essentials are? If all over the place each community of faith
                  > decided on its
                  > own identity and values and emphases? I know, there would be some
                  > groups
                  > that would probably go of the deep end - but then again, those
                  > groups have
                  > always existed, haven't they? It's not like our modernist drive for
                  > a clear
                  > definition of the essentials ever cured that problem. Actually, I
                  > reckon
                  > that in this day and age, in our global village, our many
                  > cross-border
                  > contacts would keep us in check, at least to a degree (call it
                  > cross-fertilization).
                  >
                  > I imagine that what would emerge would be a lovely varied quilt of
                  > communities accross our local maps, each with its particular
                  > attractions and
                  > particularities - come to think of it, not all that dissimilar to
                  > nature
                  > itself: varied, colorful, organic, interacting with its context,
                  > growing,
                  > struggling a bit here and there, producing fruit, each after its own
                  > kind)...
                  >
                  > Come to think of it, it's not so different from what has happened
                  > accross
                  > history already - but it's very different from what we desired when
                  > we built
                  > our systems and organizations and institutions, when we fought our
                  > religious
                  > wars, organized ourselves, spoke out against each other, called each
                  > other
                  > heretics (I live in Europe where these religious wars are a major
                  > factor in
                  > the secularization of my continent)... I cannot escape the
                  > conclusion that
                  > the ideological and organizational unity we sought is just not going
                  > to
                  > happen!
                  >
                  > What if, in the meantime, God has been building his church, just
                  > like he
                  > intended, without agreement on the essentials, but with the
                  > variation, the
                  > color, the quirks, the oddities, the differences, the strengths, the
                  > weakenesses, the fruits and the flowers?
                  >
                  > I'd be interested in your thoughts!
                  >
                  > Rogier
                  > www.thejourney.nl
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > -----Original Message-----
                  > From: Eland, David R [mailto:david.r.eland@...]
                  > Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 15:12
                  > To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
                  > Subject: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?
                  >
                  >
                  > Looking over some earlier postings I found this:
                  >
                  > >Augustine's tried and true "in essentials, unity; in
                  > non-essentials,
                  > liberty; in all >things, charity (love)."
                  >
                  >
                  > What are the essentials?
                  >
                  > And how do you know they are the essentials?
                  >
                  > Thanks,
                  > Dave
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  > ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
                  >
                  > You can visit the Finding Faith Yahoo groups web site to modify your
                  >
                  > delivery settings and review former messages @
                  >
                  > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingfaith
                  >
                  > Delivery Options: individual emails, 1 digest email a day, or no
                  > email (all emails avail @
                  > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingfaith)
                  >
                  > Want to unsubscribe? Just send a blank note to
                  > findingfaith-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                  >
                  > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                  > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                  >
                  >
                  >


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                • Stephen Shields
                  Hi David! dr: Augustine s tried and true in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love). ss: I do think that we need to
                  Message 8 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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                    Hi David!

                    dr:

                    Augustine's tried and true "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials,
                    liberty; in all >things, charity (love).

                    ss:

                    I do think that we need to differentiate between what we must believe before
                    God deals with us (I imagine that list is a bit short and God is mainly
                    looking at the direction of our heart) and what we would teach in a Worshop
                    entitled "The Essentials."

                    I grew up Methodist, in college went to a Presbyterian Reformed church, then
                    a Bible church. In graduate school I went to a Plymouth Brethren assembly.
                    Since then I've attended two non-denoms. I suggest that one can make a good
                    beginning at the essentials by determining what beliefs all of these
                    different yet truly Christian churches held in common.

                    For what it's worth!

                    Stephen Shields
                    sshields@...
                    http://www.faithmaps.org
                    http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                    "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

                    ---
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                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Eland, David R
                    Chris and Stephen, I wonder if we are using the word essentials in the same way. For example, ... Does that mean churches should have unity in essential
                    Message 9 of 17 , May 21, 2003
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Chris and Stephen,

                      I wonder if we are using the word "essentials" in the same way. For
                      example,

                      Chris said:
                      >Just like there is unity and plurality
                      >in the Trinity, maybe stressing both unity and
                      >plurality among churches would be healthy
                      >and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                      Does that mean churches should have unity in essential beliefs? Or are
                      you saying they have unity in love, mutual respect, etc. but can have
                      different even contradictory beliefs?

                      Stephen said:
                      >I suggest that one can make a good beginning
                      >at the essentials by determining what beliefs
                      >all of these different yet truly Christian
                      >churches held in common

                      I wouldn't think that sharing common beliefs means those must be
                      essential. However I would expect essential beliefs to be shared by all
                      Christians.

                      I am using "essential" in the sense of what is "required and absolutely
                      necessary." To remove something essential means that the first thing no
                      longer exists and it becomes something different. For example Christ is
                      an essential part of the Trinity. Remove Christ and there is no
                      Trinity. A god that is not triune is a different god from a trinitarian
                      god. That does not necessarily mean that everyone must believe in the
                      trinity. It just means that one belief is true and the other is false.
                      God may or may not require that people believe that he is 3 persons in
                      one being. He may graciously accept many people with incorrect beliefs
                      about his nature. Certainly God cannot require that we have a perfect
                      conception of him because finite beings cannot fully understand an
                      infinite being.

                      On the other hand, is it likely that God requires some minimal
                      requirements for what we believe? Certainly Paul expressed this at the
                      Areopagus in Athens. Acts 17:16 says, "While Paul was waiting for them
                      in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of
                      idols." If all conceptions of God are equally acceptable then why would
                      Paul be distressed? Paul goes on to tell the story of Christ and his
                      resurrection. Then he states in Acts 17:30, "In the past God overlooked
                      such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For
                      he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he
                      has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from
                      the dead."

                      "He commands...he will judge...has given proof..." those are strong
                      words. If we do not have minimal correct knowledge of God then is it
                      possible we are really worshiping an idol rather than God? If there are
                      essentials then it would be good to know them.

                      Thanks,
                      Dave
                    • Stephen Shields
                      Hi Rogier! It s been a while! r: This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a forum next month that asks a very similar question: what
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                        Hi Rogier! It's been a while!

                        r:

                        This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a forum next
                        month that asks a very similar question: 'what is the gospel we preach?'.

                        (I work with a Christian missions group that seeks to plant churches
                        ('communities of faith') in major European cities, and in so doing we hope
                        to contribute to the start of a new grassroots movements of people following
                        Jesus.)

                        I can't get around the fact that, while totally understandable, the question
                        actually seems a little modernist, in that it seeks to reduce our faith (or
                        the Biblical story, for that matter), to it's essence. Reductionism is a
                        trade-mark of modern thinking.

                        As I have been preparing for this forum I have been studying and reading
                        Jesus' teaching, and it seems to me that Jesus' gospel is 'situational' -
                        it's different in every situation he encounters. Hence it is possible for
                        Nicodemus and the rich young ruler to get different answers when they ask
                        'what must I do to be saved?'.

                        Augustine's quote is great, but many religious wars have been started about
                        the essentials. What are the essentials? Who defines them? What happens when
                        I deem one essential more essential than another? What happens if we
                        disagree on the essentials in the first place? Can we still break bread
                        together? How much tension can we cope with before we disassociate ourselves
                        from one another? Here is a sociological observation: he who defines the
                        essentials, holds the power. Historically you can make a case that in some
                        cases people defined essentials not so much because they really cared about
                        the essentials, but because they really cared about holding the power that
                        deciding the essentials brought them. To put it simply: the will to power is
                        part of our desire to define the essentials.

                        And yet I have struggled with the question of the essentials myself very
                        much. How could we ever be one (as Jesus prayed in John 17) if we could not
                        reach agreement on the essentials?

                        I have this novel idea I am playing with: what if God never intended for us
                        to agree on all the essentials. What if the variation he has so cleverly and
                        skillfully brought out in the natural realm is the same variation he would
                        like to see in the church? What if he never intended us to be the same, look
                        the same, talk the same, or (dare I say it?) believe the same? What if he
                        always intended for a high degree of ambiguity to exist? I know this raises
                        many questions, such as: 'how can we be one?', and 'how can we organize
                        ourselves?' and 'how do we know we can fellowship together (when are you too
                        far removed from me for us to still cross the chasm between us?)?' - but
                        humour me, okay? I'm trying to make sense of God and life and ministry after
                        relinquishing my desire for control and institutionalism and monolithic
                        groups and order and ...

                        What would happen if each local community would decide for itself what its
                        essentials are? If all over the place each community of faith decided on its
                        own identity and values and emphases? I know, there would be some groups
                        that would probably go of the deep end - but then again, those groups have
                        always existed, haven't they? It's not like our modernist drive for a clear
                        definition of the essentials ever cured that problem. Actually, I reckon
                        that in this day and age, in our global village, our many cross-border
                        contacts would keep us in check, at least to a degree (call it
                        cross-fertilization).

                        I imagine that what would emerge would be a lovely varied quilt of
                        communities accross our local maps, each with its particular attractions and
                        particularities - come to think of it, not all that dissimilar to nature
                        itself: varied, colorful, organic, interacting with its context, growing,
                        struggling a bit here and there, producing fruit, each after its own
                        kind)...

                        Come to think of it, it's not so different from what has happened accross
                        history already - but it's very different from what we desired when we built
                        our systems and organizations and institutions, when we fought our religious
                        wars, organized ourselves, spoke out against each other, called each other
                        heretics (I live in Europe where these religious wars are a major factor in
                        the secularization of my continent)... I cannot escape the conclusion that
                        the ideological and organizational unity we sought is just not going to
                        happen!

                        What if, in the meantime, God has been building his church, just like he
                        intended, without agreement on the essentials, but with the variation, the
                        color, the quirks, the oddities, the differences, the strengths, the
                        weakenesses, the fruits and the flowers?

                        I'd be interested in your thoughts!

                        Rogier
                        www.thejourney.nl

                        ss:

                        Thanks for this!

                        Rogier, I would say that balance is the watchword here. The NT docs do seem
                        to clearly differentiate those who are in the kingdom and those who are not.
                        And surely there is some essential set of facts that **derive** from a real
                        relationship with God. (I phrase this carefully. A modernized
                        evangelicalism would posit the facts themselves as the foundational thing).
                        So we would do well to avoid the Scylla of requiring complete agreement on
                        every point of theology and the Charybdis of saying "Hey, it doesn't matter
                        what you believe." Surely there are some non-negotiables about which we
                        would be held accountable if we did not make earnest effort to share these
                        with others.

                        That being said, I tend to be an agnostic inclusivist. I simply don't know
                        what God's gonna do with the possible category of folks that are genuinely
                        seeking God but haven't yet been exposed to these nonnegotiables. All I
                        know for certain is that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ (and I use "belief"
                        in both its propositional *and* transpropositional senses) brings one into
                        the kingdom. So this I proclaim and leave that which I don't know to God.

                        Thanks!

                        Stephen Shields
                        sshields@...
                        http://www.faithmaps.org
                        http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                        "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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                      • Stephen Shields
                        David Eland commented: It s funny that you would describe the words of a 4th century pastor as modernist, how far back does modernism go? (I m not well
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                          David Eland commented:


                          It's funny that you would describe the words of a 4th century pastor as
                          "modernist," how far back does modernism go? (I'm not well versed in
                          the definitions of modern vs. post-modern.) Wasn't it Greek
                          philosophers who said everything has a true essence? And that it should
                          be possible to strip away the outward appearances and find the true
                          essence. I think one example I heard was that there are many kinds of
                          chairs but each one contains the true essence of "chairness" and without
                          that, it would not be a chair.

                          Was Augustine saying that there can be great varieties of Christian
                          communities of faith but all are united by some essentials. I'm also
                          pretty ignorant of Augustine--did he describe these essentials?

                          ss:

                          I think this is a good point, David. It does seem sometimes that those
                          writing in the pomoChristian thoughtspace equate a modernized approach to
                          propositional truth with all categories of truth (I'm not accusing Rogier of
                          this, btw).

                          thanks,

                          Stephen Shields
                          sshields@...
                          http://www.faithmaps.org
                          http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                          "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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                        • Stephen Shields
                          Rogier commented: I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different. ss: Yes!
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                            Rogier commented:

                            I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
                            proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

                            ss:

                            Yes! Larry Crabb recently said that repentance is idiosyncratic. We might
                            suggest that the same thing is true of what traditionally has been called
                            "saving faith". If we accept that there is some set of nonnegotiable
                            truths, surely the exact way I explain them and hold them in my mind in
                            paradigm will vary from others. And so our wise Lord is the one that
                            determines the acceptable degree of correspondence between our paradigms and
                            objective truth.

                            'Course I realize I"ve opened another can of worms! But I suggest that a
                            full appreciation of the subjective nature of truth doesn't vitiate its
                            objective nature. The variable and highly differentiated subjective
                            experience of truth can coexist with its objectivity. You might be bored by
                            my comments and can't wait for me to shut up as the minutes creep by. Or
                            you might find this moderately philosophical discursive highly stimulating.
                            But the quartz in your watch still vibrates at a defined number of times per
                            second irrespective of your subjective experience of time. So also God and
                            His truth.

                            fwiw,

                            Stephen Shields
                            sshields@...
                            http://www.faithmaps.org
                            http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                            "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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                          • Stephen Shields
                            Chris opined: I don t think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
                            Message 13 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                              Chris opined:

                              I don't think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can
                              get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
                              rather than whether we have them or not. Or for a church to say we have
                              no essentials? Is that an essential? Maybe like a wheel, it would be
                              better for churches to speak about the center and those things that
                              encircle it recognizing diversity here among churches but all or most for
                              example have beliefs and practices that center around worship, teaching,
                              communion, etc. Just like there is unity and plurality in the Trinity,
                              maybe stressing both unity and plurality among churches would be healthy
                              and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                              ss:

                              I like it!

                              Stephen Shields
                              sshields@...
                              http://www.faithmaps.org
                              http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                              "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"


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                            • Stephen Shields
                              Dave differentiated with: Chris and Stephen, I wonder if we are using the word essentials in the same way. For example, ... Does that mean churches should
                              Message 14 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                                Dave differentiated with:

                                Chris and Stephen,

                                I wonder if we are using the word "essentials" in the same way. For
                                example,

                                Chris said:
                                >Just like there is unity and plurality
                                >in the Trinity, maybe stressing both unity and
                                >plurality among churches would be healthy
                                >and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                                Does that mean churches should have unity in essential beliefs? Or are
                                you saying they have unity in love, mutual respect, etc. but can have
                                different even contradictory beliefs?

                                Stephen said:
                                >I suggest that one can make a good beginning
                                >at the essentials by determining what beliefs
                                >all of these different yet truly Christian
                                >churches held in common

                                I wouldn't think that sharing common beliefs means those must be
                                essential. However I would expect essential beliefs to be shared by all
                                Christians.

                                I am using "essential" in the sense of what is "required and absolutely
                                necessary." To remove something essential means that the first thing no
                                longer exists and it becomes something different. For example Christ is
                                an essential part of the Trinity. Remove Christ and there is no
                                Trinity. A god that is not triune is a different god from a trinitarian
                                god. That does not necessarily mean that everyone must believe in the
                                trinity. It just means that one belief is true and the other is false.
                                God may or may not require that people believe that he is 3 persons in
                                one being. He may graciously accept many people with incorrect beliefs
                                about his nature. Certainly God cannot require that we have a perfect
                                conception of him because finite beings cannot fully understand an
                                infinite being.

                                On the other hand, is it likely that God requires some minimal
                                requirements for what we believe? Certainly Paul expressed this at the
                                Areopagus in Athens. Acts 17:16 says, "While Paul was waiting for them
                                in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of
                                idols." If all conceptions of God are equally acceptable then why would
                                Paul be distressed? Paul goes on to tell the story of Christ and his
                                resurrection. Then he states in Acts 17:30, "In the past God overlooked
                                such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For
                                he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he
                                has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from
                                the dead."

                                "He commands...he will judge...has given proof..." those are strong
                                words. If we do not have minimal correct knowledge of God then is it
                                possible we are really worshiping an idol rather than God? If there are
                                essentials then it would be good to know them.

                                ss:

                                Thanks Dave, a helpful distinction.

                                Stephen Shields
                                sshields@...
                                http://www.faithmaps.org
                                http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                                "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in
                                postmodernity"

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