We tend to wonder what Jesus Thinks of such "in-fighting" among His various Christian followers! We suspect that He might be a little disappointed. Imagine trying to explain to Him why one feels the intense need to rip into other Christians!
Our Church thinks that nearly all these many Churches believe the same "core beliefs" regarding Christianity, Salvation, Atonement, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, those sorts of things. Virtually all of the Dogma has been developed (BY HUMAN CHURCH LEADERS) to try to address many less-central issues, especially those where the Bible itself is silent. We suspect that if those many Churches could somehow momentarily overlook those non-central issues, they might see that they are actually all one-and-the-same Christian Church!
For these reasons, our A Christ Walk Church might be considered to be a "Primitive" Christian Church! In general, we attempt to concentrate on the fairly small number of central Christian beliefs. Related to this, we look to the Bible's examples of Jesus' behavior to gain insights into how He responded to various situations of people around Him. It might seem surprising, but we see significant differences from the way most modern Christian Churches act and react.
There are remarkably few examples of when He gave generalized "rules" or criticisms. Those examples were virtually always when He was defending the Old Testament "Law". In other words, He actually presented very little in the way of Dogma! Rather, in most of His interactions with a wide assortment of people, He generally began by patiently LISTENING to their explanation of a situation. Then, after reflection, He acted or Spoke. That seems to us to imply that He made a point to consider the unique circumstances of each person and each situation, rather than looking for universal rules to be able to apply, and then He determined a response specifically for that. Again, very little Dogma. No generalized "pronouncements" about what clothing or behavior was permitted or banned. See the point?
Of the New Testament, we certainly recognize that He provided us the example of the Eucharist (meal) and He seemed to imply the merit of (Spirit) Baptism. His Sermon on the Mount provided some new insights, but the Laws He was expressing were all from the Old Testament. An Old Testament Commandment instructed us to treat neighbors well, and Jesus certainly saw that we often did not do that adequately, so He tried to Teach us better behaviors in those areas. If THAT is Dogma, we are in!
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Many Churches have official position documents, where they ban such things absolutely. Some even go farther, and don't even allow Congregation members to even discuss such matters! Such Churches may not be entirely in touch with the modern real world!
Interestingly, from our view, is that most of those same Churches are quite familiar with another Commandment about some banned sexual activities, but then strongly endorse and encourage homosexual behaviors! How do they do that? It seems to us (a small ignorant Church!) that they are trying to walk both sides of that street!
A lot of Churches choose NOT to have such official position documents, but they present just as harsh a position. Apparently, they think that by not having a document, that somehow keeps them from getting negative press coverage.
Other Churches that don't have an official position document just seem to act as though the problem doesn't actually exist. Like the military's don't ask-don't tell policy. Pretend that there is no problem and then you don't actually have to address it.
Yet other (very liberal) Churches also don't have official position documents, but they privately allow or even encourage such activities. Again, such Churches seem to keep their actions private so they don't have to respond to difficult Reporter's questions.
We are pretty sure that each of these positions is wrong! Does this mean that we encourage all manner of aberrant behavior? Not at all! What does it mean?
How would the Loving, Patient, Compassionate Jesus have dealt with her? We guess that He would take her somewhere private, maybe out in the country, all alone. He'd say, please sit down and let's talk. And then He'd LISTEN to her story, with no interruptions and no judgment. At some point, she would be bound to say "I know I did wrong" (after all, she's talking to Jesus!). After she would make that admission, He would see no reason to damage her further. We think He would calmly point out that the past is the past and cannot be changed, and we think He would comment on her recognition of sin.
His Love would just be spilling out all over the place! She would come to be calmed by His Gentleness and His Compassion! The two of them would eventually walk back toward town and see if they could do damage control. At no point would He ever rail on her, and He would have been infinitely Patient with her, and she would absolutely know she was Loved. (Note that we are considering the situation where she ACKNOWLEDGES sinfulness. If she had a different attitude, Jesus would surely respond very differently.) And she would probably have Him near her when she confronted her parents, so she wouldn't have to face THAT experience alone.
OK. So she comes out of almost any Church and is thinking about suicide, because of the Church's reaction (which she expected). And she still has to face her parents, and she will feel mighty alone there, too. Pretty different from a smiling, confident girl who was counseled by Jesus. Seems to me that many Churches currently do a pretty poor job of (sometimes) representing Him. (a personal opinion.)
A Church either can or cannot justify its thoughts and actions, such as the example above. Denominational Churches often have to explain to a hierarchy up above, and that is unfortunate. And, we can all imagine the news reports that would arise if a Church gave that sort of counsel to a pregnant young girl! But note that Jesus would never have condoned what had happened, but instead noted that the FUTURE is where we are all going. However, it would be so good if a member of the Clergy would rightfully have had to answer only to the Lord for the decisions made if offering such counsel.
Of course, none of us are actually Jesus, so a Church could sometimes foul things up. Churches are collections of human beings, who are capable of errors. The centrally important part we see is that each Church strive to do as that Church believes Jesus might have done in a similar situation. That almost never would involve quoting some generalized Dogma. Sometimes, that period of introspection allows amazing clarity in murky situations, like with the pregnant girl. How would your Church have responded if a girl approached with that very traumatic situation? Certainly, a very tough question, as many personal situations are.
It is unfortunately very common for Churches to immediately respond in some legalistic, pre-programmed way. But that was a scared, hurting young person, in a life-changing crisis of a situation. Before jumping to any degrading response, just consider the thoughtful way Jesus might have handled it. Then say and do what is appropriate for that unique situation.
Actually, our Church's approach on many such subjects is actually even MORE strict than that of many Churches, BEFORE the fact. We are VERY CONSERVATIVE! There is no doubt that Jesus would have been very stern in His teaching of the Lessons of the Bible. For example, can you imagine His reaction to the large numbers of "lazy" Christians, who only go to Church and "waste" their time there, because it is supposed to be compliance with the "minimum requirements" expected of him/her. Such people's actions are empty, and virtually meaningless. The main hope for any Church is that, potentially, regular exposure to Christianity might some day get through to them. Just going through the motions won't cut it. Actual Faith and Passion are necessary!
Our significant variation demonstrated in the above scenario is in the dealing with a person who has already committed some sin, AND WHO SHOWS EVIDENCE OF REMORSE ABOUT IT. In such a case, there is no doubt that Jesus would have been Divinely Compassionate.
The result is that our approach is not necessarily any more "liberal" than other Churches in our Teaching. The difference is in applying Compassion in dealing with human situations, where Compassion is called for.
Our Church developed this approach in 1996 for counseling regarding marital disputes and disputes between neighbors. The following is a reasonable description of the process.
Our approach is apparently rather unique! We prepare an office (inside the Church) with four chairs, the standard one of the Minister behind the desk and three others. Two are rather generic, and usually are folding chairs, which are placed about 5 feet apart, near the middle of the roomm, both facing the same direction, and we generally place a "privacy screen" (a portable partition) in the space between those two chairs. The two seated people cannot see each other. In front of the two chairs, around ten feet away, we place a nice upholstered chair (from a living room) (facing the two folding chairs). The husband and wife are greeted and then asked to sit on the folding chairs, where they actually cannot see each other but can clearly hear each other.
The Minister starts out the meeting by standing near the upholstered chair. The Minister then always notes that we are in a Church, which is a House of the Lord. The Minister then tells them that the Lord Jesus has been Invited to assist and participate in the discussion (in His Own House), and that we provided the upholstered chair for Him, in the event that He chooses to participate in resolving their issues. The Minister then asks them to never speak to each other but to try to only speak to the Lord Jesus.
Once this is understood, the Minister then asks each of them, in turn, to describe to the Lord Jesus what the situation is. It is amazing how polite and pleasant people are when they are speaking to a chair in which the Lord Jesus may be Sitting! There are virtually never any harsh words or anger in any comments, but instead quite carefully chosen and concise and clear descriptions of how each sees the situation. The Minister's function is in principle as a "referee" in case anyone would ever say anything that might not be appropriate in front of the Lord, but that never yet happened! The Minister is also a traffic cop to ask when one person has completed comments to the Lord, where the other person then has the same opportunity.
There have been some people who have felt that they needed to kneel and/or bow down before the Lord, but most people simply sit in the chairs. One man once asked if he was supposed to stand up (I guess like in a school classroom) in order to speak to the Lord and I just answered by suggesting doing what he felt the Lord might wish him to do.
The Minister's other function is to ask a few very simple questions, specifically "Please describe to the Lord the current situation", (one then the other); "Please describe to the Lord what changes you think would improve your situation" (one then the other); and "Please describe to the Lord what changes you are willing to make toward improving the situation" (in that order).
It has been astounding at how effective this has been! There are NO harsh words or nasty comments, and our Ministers have only rarely had to even say "Ummm" when someone started to say something that might not fully be respectful of the other person.
This is in contrast to the usual "evil looks" at each other, the accusations, the anger, and the rest that generally exist in a confrontational atmosphere of standard marital counseling sessions. And that traditional "standard" approach rarely has the two leaving in much better mood or attitude than they came in, each often just wanting to have a chance to "vent" at the other!
There is no comparison between the two! Some couples leave arm-in-arm, and MANY leave hand-in-hand! I am not aware of any other Church that uses this approach, but I think they certainly should try it!
Don't we all claim that Jesus is Gentleness? These examples are intended to suggest that modern Churches could and should attempt to duplicate that. Some do, but seemingly far too few.
It is our belief that virtually ANY existing Church could choose to incorporate our Compassionate emphasis. It may require a slight downplay of their Dogma occasionally, but otherwise we think Churches should seriously consider attempting to be more Compassionate to their Congregation members, i.e., more like Jesus probably would be! (I have trouble imagining Jesus giving a hellfire-and-brimstone Sermon to followers!)
There have been many historic cases in other Churches, where such young girls as discussed above had been raped, and the Church absolutely insisted, demanded that she not only have the baby but raise it as her own. There have been women whose entire lives have been destroyed as a result, and the resulting baby suffered as well. It is hard to imagine that every young girl forced into that situation would put a full life-long effort into loving and mothering a baby symbolic of the most horrendous event of her life. What ultimate good could ever come from that? Both mother and child are irreparably damaged, and much of that damage came as a result of a Church expressing an absolute dogmatic position.
Now, it might happen that a thoughtful and compassionate Clergyman, after listening to her whole story, might conclude that she had the strength of will, and sufficient self-image, and a limited memory of horror, might conclude that she should have the child, and possibly even raise it. However, if that thoughtful Clergyman realized that she was an ultra-sensitive child herself, where nightly nightmares kept her from ever sleeping, or that she had no functional parents or family of her own to help out, or if it was very clear that she would forever hate the baby as a symbol of her horror of rape, we think he should realistically consider the possibility of encouraging adoption or, extremely rarely, possibly even abortion.
This approach probably means that in 99.8% of cases, the Clergyman would deny support for her getting an abortion, because it represented a "convenient" solution for her after irresponsible activities. But in the remaining 0.2%, he would actively support her in proceeding along that path. We don't think he should get any more involved than in giving his Blessing and in regularly staying in contact with her so she knows she is never alone, and always Loved.
Just what that percentage might be is irrelevant. The point is that every individual situation should be considered separately, based on the merits and circumstances of the person and situation. A very strong Church position against abortion would be Preached, but the possibility of dealing with an "exception to the rule", after the fact, should remain.
We think that Jesus would consider this to be common sense!
After that presentation, rather than then expressing some official position, we try to think of Socratic-type questions to ask. (This is often the toughest part!) The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is described as a teacher, but he seldom taught anything! He generally asked insightful questions, where a companion would then need to think through some train of logic in order to formulate a response. In a case like the girl above, a few such questions are obvious: "Would you want to continue with High School?" "Will you be able to get an education and an eventual job to support the two of you?"
Depending on the personality of the person, it may not even be necessary at all to express disappointment, anger, or punishment. They may be able to work through all those things themselves, and then your responsibility is to be supportive, and Compassionate.
We have been concentrating on the "immediate" types of situations. The less immediate situations, like the possibility of a tattoo or conversations regarding gay life-styles or pressures toward pre-marital sex, should be handled in appropriate similar ways. Again, there can be very strong "standard" positions on such issues, but the positions should always have a small amount of flexibility for unique situations and/or unique individuals.
Such is not the case. There certainly are many Versions, and they don't always read the same. But that has nothing to do with knowing the words! The New Testament was originally written in a Greek dialect, and nearly all of the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew, later translated into Aramaic. All of those words are very accurately known. Better than that, the various possible meanings of all those words are also known. There is a reasonably popular book, called the Strong's Concordance, which lists every one of those original words, with all their possible meanings, as translated into English.
That's where a major problem lies, in translating those words into English. Many words and phrases can be translated more than one way into a different language. Remember that Bueños Dias or Aloha can mean either 'hello' or 'goodbye'. For each popular translation of the Bible, many dozens of talented translators were involved. And they all regularly faced words and phrases that have that hello/goodbye aspect to them. They used their best judgment as to what the Original text actually meant, in order to select the best translation. THIS is actually the source of virtually all the variation among Bible Versions. Virtually all serious Bible students keep a Strong's handy, to look up the original source word when the slightest uncertainty seems present. We highly recommend that.
As to the accuracy of those original words, modern research has accomplished much. As it happens, researchers have discovered over 15,000 scribe-written copies of various Books of the Bible. Enormous amounts of effort have gone into comparing every single character of all of them, and a variety of research methods have been used whenever any differences have been found, in order to determine the actual correct character. With so many existing scribe Manuscripts and such massive analytical efforts, the current original texts are essentially 100% accurate. No significant errors could still exist in any of the Books of the Bible.
There is a related issue. Some Christians have come to feel that they are free to believe or question anything they wish in the Bible. This has given them the impression that they have great liberty regarding what they are required to do and think in order to be a Christian. They are certainly wrong.
A person is certainly free to decide whether the Bible has any value or not. A central issue in that matter is usually regarding whether God "inspired" the Bible's human authors. Consider the possibilities.
IF a person does NOT think that God inspired the Bible, or that God doesn't even actually exist, then the Book would seem to have very limited value, and it would certainly not deserve to be the central focus of Faith.
On the other hand, if one accepts the idea that God participated in inspiring the Bible, it becomes an important Book. Technically, there would still be three possibilities to consider.
For these reasons, it seems inappropriate to feel that a person could pick and choose various parts of the Bible to accept and obey. If you accept ANY of it as being valid and valuable, then you are implicitly accepting that God participated in its creation. And if God participated in the Bible being composed, that seems to necessarily imply that ALL of it was Originally precisely correct and accurate, in its Original language.
These observations do not make such claims regarding any specific modern Bible translation. Given that we see the inconsistencies between Versions, we should certainly be somewhat cautious at totally accepting any one of them. Either use two or more different Bible Versions in your studies, or have a Strongs handy, or both! As long as you can get to an understanding of what the Original texts said and meant, you will have the true meaning!
We realize that that is not a traditional "proof" but we consider it our defense for the importance and accuracy of the entire Bible. We strongly disapprove when any Christian starts to "selectively" obey bits and pieces of the Bible, as we feel that this argument soundly proves that ALL of it must be honored and respected and obeyed.
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