There are a growing number of Christians (and non-Christians) who are asking the question of whether mainstream Christianity can, or should, be "reframed" to reflect modern interpretations and scholarship. Today as part of a series that explores the reframing topic, we asked Rev. Larry Anderson M.Div, CSW, MA, lic. Psychologist for some of his thoughts on what Christianity might look like for those who no longer fully identify with today's fundamental interpretations. We asked what the term "saved" might mean in light of modern scripture scholarship, and whether that term can (or should) be re-defined in a way that continues to have relevance for those asking the questions? We also asked how one might continue to process their own Christian paradigm as their understandings of creedal cornerstones evolve? Maybe you agree with Rev. Anderson, and maybe you don't, and we look forward to your thoughts about why or why not.
Here's Rev. Anderson's response:
The first thing I notice is that identifying as a Christian often requires that we disagree with all those other "Christians," both those down the street as well as those in the pew with you. This is the history of European thought, and now also among Latin Americans, liberating theology from its western log-jams. Through Charles E Fuller and Billy Graham redoing what Wesley or Luther or Calvin did, who redid what Aquinas did, who reframed what Augustine did, who reframed what Paul did. Paul specifically, who never knew Jesus, began the process of reframing the Jesus story to suit Roman politics and Greek philosophy from the very start, which was duly continued and expanded by the gospel writers who followed him.
Therefore, "Biblians" is a better label than Christian for those who take the Bible as their authority, and "Jesusians" is a better label for those who claim to follow the actual Jesus and his teaching. So from this perspective there has never been a Christianity except as an ever changing group identity reframed to suit the science and politics of the time.
Further, as someone pointed out, Christians have never been real fond of Jesus or of doing as he did. So Jesus had to be domesticated into a "friend" (Jesus loves you), a Lord or Master, or a Savior (who can do all the suffering in your stead and save you the trouble). Several accidents of time seem to point me to the only sensible reframing I can see: that a Christian is one who is open to the ever changing "truth" as evidence and experience support it.
I like the little "hymn" some scholars say was popular at the time with which John opens his "gospel," where the chant is that the Logos (or truth/love/spirit/christos) was in and through and as all that exists....and "without it was not anything made that was made". Christ/logos is everywhere. Love is everywhere. "All you need is love," according to St Paul and St John -- the one's from the 60's.
So I count you (and me) as a Christian (Christos/truth affirmer) if you courageously explore the science and experience of your time. If you seek to be the best creation you can be, and seek to understand what the hell is going on....and has been going on the past 13.7 billion years - then you are in the club. I am open to exploring the life of Jesus (even challenging the politics of my time) and affirming his witness in the tradition of Abraham, Moses and the prophets, but that is not necessary to be a Christian.
Jesus was "Christos" that is, a living expression of eternal love/truth/spirit. But that spirit is in, and through, you, me, and everything that is. You don't have to "believe" anything in particular to be a Christian, and you certainly don't have to believe in or about Jesus.
So let's see what is! If you are open to that "identity" you can be a Christian, even if you also want to be called an atheist. Being "saved" in the Biblical tradition means being set free. If you can be set free from your former identity, any and all former identities, again and again, you are on the path. "To be born again is to let go of the past---and look without condemnation upon the present" (Course in Miracles). And "Forgiveness is letting go of all hope for a better past." (Lilly Tomlin). What do you think?
by Rev Larry Anderson MDiv, CSW, MA, lic. psychologist.
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