Nov 16 2009

Loneliness and the Church

There’s an interesting post today at Experimental Theology called Loneliness and the Church.  I’ve read it a couple of times, and I’m still not sure what I think about it.  Here’s an excerpt:

In short, we need to think of churches as moral rather than social communities. When I go to church I need to have ethics on the brain and not intimacy. This, I think, is a huge problem with many churches. People go to church to have their relational needs met. They don’t go to get morally challenged or changed. Thus, if I have a good social time at church then church is great and fulfilling. Conversely, if church is a lonely affair I stop going and think it sucks.

The goal of church, to my mind, is to be better, not to be known. Of course, in the effort to become better I become known. I’ll need to confess and ask forgiveness. I’ll need to give an honest moral accounting of myself. And so on. These things promote community and camaraderie and even friendship.

On one hand, church is not a social club. On the other hand, it’s actually more – it’s family.  Shouldn’t we feel like we belong?  Shouldn’t we feel as connected as Paul says we are?  Is church primarily about becoming more moral people?  Is Christianity primarily “sin management” or perhaps working your way to some higher state of holiness?  Even if it is, which comes first?  Are we drawn by the Spirit (present in the Church) closer to God, or do we have to get closer to God – as the author suggests – to get closer to people?

Of course, your answer will depend upon your theological foundation; at least I think so.   Lutherans, for example, hear the words of absolution within the first few minutes of the liturgy. Other traditions never hear absolution; they keep folks working till the moment they die (and Catholics keep them working even after that).  How we feel about the origins of morality determine whether we’re interested in the subject at all.

What do you think?

May 22 2009

Is salvation really free?

Marlene Winell makes a very interesting point today on the Debunking Christianity blog:

I’ve thought that there is a fundamental contradiction in the evangelical message of salvation because, according to them, it is NOT Christ’s atoning death that saves you, it is YOUR BELIEF in it. (otherwise everyone would be saved). Therefore, this is not a salvation by grace, it is another salvation by works, albeit cognitive work. You must DO several things – find out about and understand the atonement, accept that Jesus dies for your sins, feel guilt and express your sorrow for being responsible, ask forgiveness, and invite Jesus “into your heart” to rule for the rest of your life.

I’ve wandered a bit from my initial point, which was that this doctrine is a salvation by works, ie, it is the accomplishment of the believer. Maybe that is why fundamentalists are so smug.

Sometimes non-Christians are quite good at picking up on theological inconsistancies.

What are your thoughts?