DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Who is responsible for the confusion?

Written by: on January 25, 2018

You know, if I was going to be absolutely honest about part of my own character, then I would have to admit that I have always enjoyed a little conflict and controversy. Do not misunderstand me, I do not like starting it, but I do enjoy reading or watching it. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoyed Dominic Erdozain’s book “The Soul of Doubt” so much. The reality I kept finding myself in was that with each religious scholar discussed and the various theological positions they held, my analytical brain was grinding with such furious energy that I did not want it to end. This book was a theological roller coaster of religious thought that at some points I was internally shouting “AMEN AMEN!,” and yet at other moments crying out, “You must be out of  your mind!” It was that constant reminder of 1 Corinthians 14:33, which reads, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints,” and yet the curious question of “Then what did mankind do to screw this up so royally?” I still find myself amazed at the plethora of churches in the world that cling to tightly to that “christian” flag, and yet the realization that based on the various doctrines, there are a whole lot of “wrong” people out there.

I often tell people that there are two terrifying passages in the bible…I am talking about scriptures that should really make Christians sit up in their chairs and pay attention. The first is very pertinent here because the text discussed Luther’s relating of the lessons regarding the Sermon on the Mount and his interpreting of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5-6.[1] The verse is Matthew 7:21 which reads, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” The reason this is so scary is because the only people who refer to Christ as “Lord, Lord” would be Christians. The atheists don’t do it; the agnostics and the Muslims don’t do it, nor do the Buddhists; the fact is, Christ just declared that not everyone who perceives themselves to be Christians will make it to heaven. The second verse is in Revelation 3:1 when He says to the “CHURCH” in Sardis, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” What is the name that we wear that tells that we are alive in Christ? “Christian”!  So what is the point? This book was wrought with so many highly regarded men of the restoration movement, who many would say brought Christianity to life out of Catholicism, and yet, they were angry, bickering, and even condemning examples of some of the exact opposite messages that Jesus seemed to promote. If God is not the author of confusion, then we must be responsible for it.

I thought for the sake of this discussion however, I would highlight on two areas of conflict in the text that really caught my attention; the discussion of works vs. faith and the discussion on the White Robe parable.

Still following the same discussion from above, it is amazing that after over 500 years of theological study and advancements there is still such a huge debate in the church regarding works and faith only. Luther was quoted as saying, ““This is the reason why our theology is certain, it snatches us away from ourselves and places us outside ourselves, so that we do not depend on our own strength, conscience, experience, person or works but depend on that which is outside ourselves, that is, on the promise and truth of God which cannot deceive.”[2] However, Luther also presented the idea, at least according to Erdozain, that “Christ was more concerned about mind than action: the quality of faith, not the spurious beauty of the deed.”[3] The problem comes in that James 2:17-18 reads, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” So it seems more prevalent to myself to believe that Christ was hoping for both in His people. So why then does it seem that today, just the thought of discussing “works” seems to be such a cause for contention. Is it really a bad thing to encourage God people to serve Him through works?

The second, very interesting topic was the parable of the White Robe told by Castellio in his conflict with Calvin. The frustration of Castellio was very similar to my own frustration with the various views discussed in this book: “Christ is the Prince of this world. His requirement is that people love one another. Instead he finds us bickering over ‘the Trinity, predestination, free will’ and forgetting that love is the basis of all spiritual knowledge. Something had to change.”[4] This is exactly where I sit when I view the tragedy that we call the “church” today. I see so many denominations, sects, and orders that I really wonder if God is sitting up in Heaven proud of any of us. There seems to be this constant struggle to do what is right in the eyes of God as long as we can do it our way. It’s like having a Burger King on the Sea of Galilee… “Lord, I really want to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but can I only go to the tropical islands, they are my favorite? We fill our pulpits with mixed messages of love and hate, and yet feel this godliness about it because we have ordained in ourselves that if we “know that we are right, then that must prove that everyone else is wrong…and thus evil.

I mentioned that I love conflict and controversy, but not because I want to be part of them, but because I pray that the Lord will help me to learn from them. The reality of our situation is that we are supposed to be at division with the world, but God called us to be united with each other. How do we maintain the gospel of peace when His own people cannot stop fighting? I believe we better figure out soon or else we may find that Jesus was talking to us in Matthew 7 and Revelation 3.

“His engagement with the primary sources whenunearthing the religious roots of thinkers such as Spinoza and Voltaire is impressive,and certainly challenges popular stereotypes and scholarly efforts to read these thinkers as much more fully post-Christian than they claimed to be.”[5]

“He writes well and wittily throughout, explaining, for example, how Western Christianity in the wake of Augustine developed an “interiority complex”. That said, he just occasionally over-reaches himself, such as when he writes how “the raging waters of revolt were guided toward the exacting turbine of doctrine”[6]

“Dominic Erdozain is a scholar with a mission: to convince sceptics that religious doubt arises from faith, and more specifically from the religious conscience. It is when faith does not live up to what it promises, argues Erdozain, causing conflict and injustice, that it leads to doubt.”[7]

 

 

Bibliography

Erdozain, D. (2016). The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Littlejohn, B. (2016). Review of Dominic Erdozain “The Soul of Doubt”. Political Theology, 1-3.

Methuen, D. C. (2016, December). Reviews in History: The Soul of Doubt. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Reviews in History: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2031

Spencer, N. (2016, January 11). Theos. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Theosthinktank.co.uk: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2016/01/11/the-soul-of-doubt-the-religious-roots-of-unbelief-from-luther-to-marx

 

 

[1] Erdozain, D. (2016). The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 23, Kindle Edition.

 

[2] Ibid, p 21.

[3] Ibid, p 23.

[4] Ibid, p 55.

[5] Littlejohn, B. (2016). Review of Dominic Erdozain “The Soul of Doubt”. Political Theology, 1-3.

[6] Spencer, N. (2016, January 11). Theos. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Theosthinktank.co.uk: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2016/01/11/the-soul-of-doubt-the-religious-roots-of-unbelief-from-luther-to-marx.

[7] Methuen, D. C. (2016, December). Reviews in History: The Soul of Doubt. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Reviews in History: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2031.

 

About the Author

Shawn Hart

14 responses to “Who is responsible for the confusion?”

  1. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Hey Shawn, I too loved the White Robe analogy that Castellio gave Calvin. And, yes we are still having hte same struggles in our churches today.

    Are you familiar with the New Perspective on Paul? Dunn, NT Wright, and other scholars hold that Luther actually misinterpreted Paul’s teaching on justification, and thereby drew faulty conclusions about Paul’s view of faith vs works. What is your take on the New Perspective on Paul?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I read some of N.T. Wright’s work during my Masters work, and shared that view. Though I cannot site it here, one of my readings back in that day recounted not just the young age of Luther, but also the limited access to Scripture that Luther had as compared to Calvin. I believe much of what Luther taught was out of passion and out of disgust for the grievances of the Catholic church. His ministry has always seemed more as a battle against Catholicism than a highly biblical campaign. Just my opinion.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    I can already hear Mike saying, “Doubt comes from Satan. Put on the armor of God!” And, I agree.

    But when Erdozain brought the word “certainty” into the topic, that is where the confusion set in. Not wanting to stir up controversy, a better word for me is “assurance” which I believe Scripture supports. Agree?

    I think you are learning well my Brother. Let’s keep learning together!

  3. Shawn Hart says:

    Isaiah wrote, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effects of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” (Isaiah 32:17). And then, Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” So yes, I happily agree with that comment. There is a “certainty” that comes with Christ when we live and practice that which is “righteous” according to God. My concern in this text was that there were some very non-righteous things done in the name of Christianity…so does that still make it Christianity?

  4. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,
    I just arrived in the Middle East after traveling for a day or so, I am still jet lagging and found some WiFi to send out my comments before I move deeper into the country I am in.
    You are so right, only those who confess with their mouth, accept with their heart, and ask Christ into their lives will be able to enter eternity WITH Christ. Only God knows the heart-soul of humankind. The demons, which are many, can see Christ in us in the dimension that they move back and forth around the globe. We are marked, which also makes us a target for their nasty schemes and wiles of their leader, the devil.
    I hear you about faith and works. The answer, according to scripture, is A, B, and All the above. This is a classic example of how two principles, are held in a type of supernatural tension, which work together, and become more effective in the Christian’s life as he or she becomes more sanctified, Christ like.
    You did not mention anything about secularism’s relationship to religion. Any thoughts?
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  5. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Shawn,
    I too enjoyed the section on the White Robe discussion. I myself have always sensed one of the worst things we as Christians do to disappoint God is to separate amongst ourselves on silly issues. I bet if we focused more on loving God and loving people the outcome would not be denominations. By the way, Loving God(faith) and loving people (works) seem to be how Christ lived while he walked here on earth, what do you thing?

  6. Shawn,

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

    I’m glad the early Church Fathers (who were Catholics, by the way) saw fit to include the book of James in the canon. Luther struggled; it seems he had a problem accepting both/and situations.

    Interesting thoughts on the Book of James:

    A. This was Soren Kierkegaard’s favorite book in the New Testament because it emphasizes practical, daily Christianity.
    B. This was Martin Luther’s least favorite book in the New Testament because it seems to contradict Paul’s “justification by faith” emphasis in Romans and Galatians (i.e., James 2:14-26).

    Taken from: https://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-james

    The nature of our humanity is that we will each see things distinctly and not always agree. Even in the church. The skill to learn is of living with the ambiguity and the knowledge that we are all sisters and brothers in one family, and yet we don’t see eye to eye.

    I sat with some family members five hours ago for Sunday lunch. We were five people from three widely divergent denominations. But the care and love in the room was beautiful, even when we began discussing theology.

  7. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Shawn! I love your admission that you enjoy conflict and controversy. I’m thankful that while we as a cohort – or you and I personally – may disagree in some of our beliefs we continue to respect each other and discuss the “tough stuff”. I personally appreciate being challenged in my beliefs – it helps me discern if I’m in the right place spiritually. You raise some interesting points in your blog. One in particular – “How do we maintain the gospel of peace when His own people cannot stop fighting?” resonates with me. I agree – Christians have gone done the antagonist, aggressive, judgmental path rather than a path of peace – demonstrating faith through love, patience, kindness, and gentleness. We can argue all day about our beliefs but the true test comes in loving action. Your thoughts? (I’m guessing we may see this differently lol?)

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      correction from above “gone down”

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Actually, we see this very much the same. I believe there is a great struggle with maintaining true love of Christ in the church today. I know for instance that you and I have some differences in biblical interpretation and some topic perspectives; however, I love the fact that I know how passionate you are about your relationship with Christ. I am always thrilled to see people that desire to share the gospel every chance they get, and feel united by that that desire. The struggle comes when the differences show their face and we must decide how we are going to handle them. I am grateful that in spite of the various views held in this class, we all show love and respect in the discussions and study we share in. I hope we are not condemning each other under our breath, but rather see the mutual love for Christ and seek to grow together through that. I believe that is the effort to perfect the love of God in our lives.

  8. Greg says:

    Hey Shawn.

    Some of us do naturally embrace conflict more than others. I too have enjoyed that in our cohort their exist a love for Christ and one another that allows us to discuss and hear one another. There are times I too enjoy talking about spiritual things that challenge me. Doubt can be a healthy thing if we are willing to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Do you find that there is a openness to discuss the difficult questions or even challenging theologies in your denomination? I know that in mine there are trusted individuals that could handle this and others that could not.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I think there is this fine line between our desire to share our faith, even if it others don’t agree with it, and the point where we do not want to come across as offensive. Some of us draw that line in different areas. I have never had a problem sharing my views, but I always want to do it with love and scripture. I hope that this is the technique that always wins. However, I struggle with discussions that are based outside of the bible realm of rationality.

  9. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Shawn,
    Thanks for the post– as always, I can hear your voice coming through in the writing, and in the admission that you enjoy a little conflict and controversy now and then 🙂
    At the very end of your post, you get to the kind of prime point of Erdozain’s book, about religious doubt arising out of a “religious conscience”. This seems to be a really well-sourced historical argument, but I wonder what your take on it is for today. In your experience, would you give that same kind of generous outlook to the skeptical or secular today? Why or why not?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I feel as though the world has moved from “religious conscience” to “religious desire”. Though I know doubt is a huge factor in our struggle today, because Satan is sowing doubt through false religions, evolution, and even human philosophy. I actually believe that we could grow the church again if Christians themselves would work to get back to the concept of “religious conscience.” We need to start asking ourselves, “What did God really call us to be?” We need to remove preference and opinion and instead go back to biblical authority as the pillars of our faith.

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