The Men’s Room (aka men’s group) has just finished reading Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels. The author details the diversity of beliefs that arose in the early years of Christianity and the ways various church leaders quashed beliefs that didn’t adhere to an “orthodox” belief. Orthodox as defined by particular bishops and, eventually, the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Pagels begins the book with a very personal experience. Her young son had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder (from which he eventually died). She recalled how drained she was by the experience of dealing with this. One evening as she walked home, she passed a church as the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) was being celebrated. The bonds of community, the experience of love shared gave her a sense of something holy. It wasn’t a system of beliefs or a doctrine that touched her; it was the gathering of people like her seeking solace and grace.
Calvin church has a reputation of not being “one of those kind of churches.”
The title (and content) of the book is a challenge to the Church. Christians flourished for three hundred years without doctrine and strict beliefs. What does it mean in our time that Christianity is becoming more rule-based, right-belief based, political-party based and how can the early Christians’ plight inform the Church today?
But serious questions arise: What are the “guardrails” of Christianity? Are there certain things one MUST believe to be a Christian? Is there room for a person to stake a claim of being a Christian but not affirming ALL the ancient tenets? Can a person claim personal discernment of spiritual leading even if that discernment is outside the common guidelines of Christianity? REALLY serious questions arise, right?
Calvin church has a reputation of not being “one of those kind of churches.” i.e. Calvin doesn’t prescribe belief or doctrine or exact punishment for those who don’t believe like everybody else. At Calvin, God’s grace is sufficient, and loving God and neighbor is as close to the only “rule” I’ve discovered as your Interim Pastor. And if you can’t believe in loving God and neighbor…