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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

THE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS [W, 1-10-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…


John Wesley kept a detailed journal through almost all his life. Since he is the originator of my theology and my church, I read a little of his journal each day.

At one point he lists three things that will always be necessary for Christian belief. One is a belief in a future life of reward and punishment. In other words, heaven and hell.

You’d have to shake a lot of bushes these days to find any Methodist who believes in a future life of reward and punishment. Most of us have a vague belief in something more to come, but we have rejected heaven and hell, mostly because it developed, and is still used, to keep the downtrodden in line. “It’s okay for you to be poor and miserable now, because if you are good, meaning doing what we powerful people tell you, then you’ll get a reward after you’re dead and can’t enjoy it. If you’re bad, though, and don’t obey us, you’ll roast in a fiery furnace forever.”

The absolute essentials, that must be believed at all places and all times, change with some regularity.

When I graduated from seminary and was appointed to be the Methodist campus minister in Terre Haute, IN, serving IN State U and Rose Polytechnic [now Rose-Hulman], the Sisters of Providence, under the “fresh air” approach of Pope John 23, decided they needed to be ecumenical, and reach out to non-Catholics. For some reason, they decided the proper way to do this was to have me give a theology lecture to their assembled student body, faculty, and nuns in residence, an all-female convergence.

In the discussion that followed, elderly [meaning sixty] history professor Sister Mary Jane, who became one of our good friends, started by saying that ecumenism was fine, as long as everybody believed the essentials, such as seven sacraments. Even then, that idea was fading. The younger nuns, realizing that to insist on ecumenism that included all of traditional Roman Catholic theology was not exactly ecumenical, jumped in to try to ameliorate.

The absolute essentials, that must be believed at all places and all times, change with some regularity.

The problem is that we become so attached to absolute essentials that we don’t realize they are neither absolute nor essential. We cling to them even after we have discovered their feet of clay, both because we have nothing else to trust in, and because we’ll lose face if we admit our essentials are not essential. I think that’s why Jesus said there are really only two commandments: No other God [no other essential] and treat everybody right.

JRMcF

I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.



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