Was thinking this afternoon: what are the basics of Christianity, of discipleship, of apprenticeship to Jesus?
I’m sure everyone has their lists, so here’s mine:
- Allegiance to the risen Christ. Christ is king, to the exclusion of all other pretenders. The pretenders in the 1st and 2nd centuries were Herod and the Roman emperor(s). Christ’s lordship was revolutionary (though not political or militant) and subversive. As I’ve written before, today’s pretenders are our middle-class, consumer culture, and nationalism. Christ claims allegiance over all, and demands that we submit our decisions to his criteria or constitution.
- Service to the least of these. Best example would probably come from Matthew 25. Christ paints a pretty stark (maybe even bleak?) picture of who has served him, who has “seen him”. You can’t read the gospels (or the Psalms, or Isaiah, or the prophets) without understanding God’s and Christ’s pretty serious orientation towards the poor, the marginalized.
- Communal orientation. As one of my former pastors used to like to say, “If you are looking for a lone ranger religion, don’t look at Christianity. Community is not an option.” I was reading through Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, and over and over again he seems to be saying, “I am free to do just about anything, but if my freedom messes with a brother or sister’s conscience in any way, then I will stop it. I will look at others first, rather than assuming the primacy of my own opinions and desires.” Individualism is the currency of the west. Sometimes I’m not sure if we can even begin to understand what it means to be “the people of God.”
- One story of salvation. This is where I’d probably cause a bit of a stir, but I’m beginning to believe more and more that the “one plan of salvation” through Abraham accurately captures God’s plan of salvation. For now, I guess the implications are (1) Israel matters. You can’t read the Old Testament and just read it as a “preamble” to the New Testament. God’s plan was always to work salvation through Israel for the rest of the world, and Christ carried it to its fulfillment through his death on the cross. (btw, this isn’t new theology, just new to evangelicals) (2) Relatedly, I guess you have to take what God wants from his people, as revealed in the whole of scripture (check the prophets, especially). That’s what it means to be the people of God.
- Growth is a part of the power of the Spirit. Being a Christian means being a disciple, which means living under discipline. Which means engaging the timeless practices of God’s people. Check here and here for some ideas. It’s not negotiable.
What’s missing? A lot of “doctrine”, I suppose. Was wondering this morning (obviously, I lot of wondering today): How much doctrine is in the bible? I think for a long time people assumed that Paul (and even the gospel writers) were writing church doctrine out. I’m not so sure anymore. I think Paul was trying to keep his little “flocks” from drifting into either extreme errancy and immorality or drifting back into an exclusionary, ethnic-based “Jew-only” faith. I think he was improvising according to the needs that confronted him (based on his knowledge of God-through-Torah, his experience of Christ, and his awareness of the Spirit).
I’m assuming a lot of love. I’m assuming the sacraments. I’m assuming living under the authority of the bible, being a people of the book.
So there. More later.