CTSC, Ecumenism, Ethics

Ecumenism and Jesus Christ

G’day faithful readers.

Well, last night I filled out the feedback form for the first half of this conference, and they seem to have read it. My central concern was, and remains the central problem I see with the ecumenical movement. The problem, however, engenders multiple responses from followers of Jesus Christ.

In the first place, the problem. The ecumenical movement is an attempt to bring together the many disparate belief structures that all call themselves Christian, and provide a forum where they can discuss their differences. As I found out at yesterday’s session, however, most involved in the ecumenical movement fail to see eangelical perspectives generally, and definitely do not see the minority positions in evangelicalism. Many assume that the issues we discuss are at least based on a similar paradigm of belief, which they clearly are not.

I see all people as naturally in rebellion to God, constantly seeking a spirituality that can fulfill the hole in our own souls left by that rebellion with whatever we can. While we have in our hearts the imprint of God, we most often seek to go against that. Jesus came and lived a sinless life, taking the punishment I so richly deserve for MY sin, and leaving me standing in His righteousness instead,

Many people who self-identify as Christian simply do not believe this. In large measure they seem to see the problem as one of education, believing that if we see the right things, we will naturally choose to do the right. They deny that we are blind, and willfully sinful unless God somehow opens our eyes. They claim that all humans are created God’s children, while I would say that those who are in Christ are adopted as God’s children. These differing views of the human condition, of the pervasiveness of sin, and of the central role of Jesus Christ all make dialogue very difficult between what are termed (for lack of better terms) liberal and conservative members of the earthly institutions we call Church. I think that the planners of the conference I am now attending have forgotten how difficult that is (if indeed some ever knew). That lack of understanding of the depth of the disagreement means that some, like the learned keynote lecturer of last evening, begin to make statements based on assumptions that may not be held by those in their presence. Indeed, some would even say that people like me are the oppressor, and must change my ways.

But what is a believer in Jesus Christ to do? As I attend this conference, and engage in dialogue, some may come to believe that I affirm the Christianity of those who accept Jesus as a prophet, or a minor part of Christianity, or a major part that is present in other religions through their central figures. I don’t believe that, and indeed, I believe that an ecumenical conference like this one is already an inter-faith dialogue. I simply do not affirm that all those present here are Christian, and while I do not openly tell them to repent and believe the Gospel in so many words, that is what I believe in many cases. There seem to be two religions (at least) at play here. One is Christianity, where I am saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the mercy God purchased for me in Christ. The other is a slightly baptized belief in salvation by works, of justice by the work of humanity, this latter religion is not Christian, regardless of the fact that many who believe it self identify as Christian.

So do I continue to apparently reaffirm the delusion that this false religion is Christianity? Well, there’s another thing to consider.

The people who believe these things are people created in the image of God, and to be frank, I love them. I believe that the wrath of God continues on those who do not accept the Jesus of scripture, so that means that they will perish in their own sin. Unless they turn to Jesus, these people with whom I laugh and speak and discuss will die. And how will they hear unless someone preaches?

Of course, there is the problem that it is the fees my school pays to send me here that leads to the speakers that seem to deny Christ, and focus on derivative parts of the Gospel to the point that they ignore the central point of the Gospel (God). Do I support that evil for the sake of being here to preach truth to those around me? All the while, unsure of how they would take it if they read this blog entry that denies that some of them are Christian. Does this somehow go against the minimum level of respect for ecumenism?

At the basis, I guess my question is simple. Is ecumenism the willingness to talk between different groups who claim the name “Christian”, and share and learn from one another, hopefully thus bringing us all closer to God, or is ecumenism the meeting between people who are willing to see each other as already unified in Christ, whether we claim Him as Lord or not?

The latter is, to me a lie, while the former is an opening to preach the Gospel.

Any thoughts?

CTSC, Ethics, Mission, Montreal

Love, Sin and Prophetic Witness (From Rue St. Denis, Montreal)

Again, let me restate my liking for Montreal. This is an awesome city, and the people seem quite interesting (even if the cute girl behind the counter didn’t seem to know much about Newfoundland).

Anyway, today was a quite full day. As you know, I was on my way to Church here when I last wrote. I went to the People’s Church of Montreal, a moderate sized independant evangelical Church (English congregation). I really enjoyed the welcome we got, and I enjoyed greatly the ability to sing some great old hymns of the faith to the top of my lungs. I was also pleased to note their wall of supported missionaries in the basement. Unfortunately, some of my companions had a more negative experience of the Church. Admittedly, there was some warrant, as the pastor clearly seemed unable to come to a point in his sermon. I guess this was a side effect of what he called exegetical preaching, but among a group of people with differing faith perspectives, coming to a point, even as you exegete scripture, would be beneficial.

That said, as I left I noted that a young man was asking about being baptized. In many of the Churches represented at the conference, that would be rare, though apparently this church has a class for baptism running every couple of months.

I also got a chance to discuss emergent with some girl at the conference who’s presently reading “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell. Erik, if you’re reading, I can’t thank you enough for sending me that one (even if I disagree) it meant I could at least hear some of what she said.

The afternoon was nice, we went to a cabane a sucre. Nice and all, but I think I shall be on a sugar high for a week.

The evening session was the first keynote by Dr. Jenney Plane Te Paa. She’s a bigwig theologian in the Anglican communion, from New Zealand. Needless to say, since she’s a speaker at a largely ecumenical conference, her position is slightly different from my own. The talk left me a little disturbed (I will repond to it directly after I have heard all she has to say).

Afterwards, I was mad, and not in the kind of righteous anger that stays away from sin. God knows what he’s doing, however, and in his providence sent a brother in Christ. There is a couple here from Regent College (who seem to know Russell and Cara, BTW). Now, I’m not sure how well they like talking to me (as I get bombastic when I’m nervous), but the husband, was a credit to his college and his Lord as he simply listened to my concerns about the talk, and gently turned away my judgement and bitterness, while still building up what he saw as appropriate. Christian community preceeds me, as it’s based on Christ, not on my own ability. It also makes me feel bad that I didn’t choose to attend Regent if it produces pastoral people like that.

Through the experience I’m learning the way in which my heart, still sinful in many ways, can often turn a good understanding of something, and use it to place bitterness in my heart. It reasserts to me, how much I am still in need of Jesus, to be my righteousness, and to sanctify me into a better person than I could be by myself. When the Bible says that we should speak the truth in love (Eph 4:16, Phil 1:14-16), I think it’s noting that some of us (me) can use the truth as a method if getting judgemental, bitter and self-righteous. While that doesn’t change the truth, the resulting heart it produces in the truth teller is deadly. So as we speak prophetically (which we must do, silence of the truth and justice is not an option), we must be careful that we do not sin, and so do it in love for the person you speak to, and about.

Perhaps the best wording of it comes from Dr. Te Paa herself, in her talk of this evening: “Live on earth as you would in heaven”. As I imagine heaven to be a place of love, where we speak the truth of God’s greatness to one another, I can only say “Amen”.

Coffee, CTSC, Mission, Montreal

A Coffeeshop on St.-Denis

Hey Everybody,

Another in a long list of “travellog” blog posts. This Sunday I’m sitting in a 24 hour coffee shop down the street from the Hostel we’re staying in for the conference.

A few words on the conference. I enjoyed last evening, where a couple of us, after the sessions were done sat down to talk about the difficulties in the Angican Church (Me, a guy from Emmanuel-St. Chad, and a delegate from Vancouver School of Theology). I gotta say, all the trouble getting here and the possibility I’m going to have to sit through some pretty objectionable Theology, and the strange dismissive looks some people give to conservatives (not to mention strange arguments concerning the sinfulness of the marriage of hermaphrodites), if I get a bunch of conversations like that one. There’s something to be said for the fellowship that comes from honestly and openly talking to each other, and possibly disagreeing.

Montreal is an amazing city too, by the way. It’s beautiful here, but I keep thinking they need more churches. Maybe this would be a great place to plant one someday. I’d just have to get back to speaking French better. One of the other delegates (who’s actually from Ville de Quebec, but spends a lot of time here) was wearing a kuffiah and a bullet belt last evening (political quite a liberal guy), but had a lot of questions about the Bible and what conservative Christians believe. It was an awesome conversation, but it broke my heart a little more for a city this great with (seemingly) very little Christian witness. I’ll have a better idea by tonight’s entry, as I’m going to a nearby evangelical Church tonight.

Anyway, those of you who are into praying, could you pray a little for Montreal, and that Jesus Christ find this city in a big way?