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I posted this quote on Facebook this week “ The Faith began as a relationship. In Athens, it became a philosophy. When it went to Rome, it became an organization. In Europe, it became a culture. When it came to America, it became a business.” 

my friend Russ Pierson (who has started a world traveling Dmin of Global Leadership at George Fox) and I had an interesting conversation about Ecology. He had asked the twitterverse why the giant split between Theology and Ecology.  I replied that  i thought it was a natural consequence of the Greek Dualism inherited by western European thinkers and over the centuries morphed into the present worldview. 

my friend Nathan Detweiler (who just started a Mdiv at Alliance Theological in Nyack – where my dad teaches) and I were talking about the Didache – or Teaching of the 12 –   and we were both gobsmacked at how much Christianity changed after the year 300. (Tony Jones wrote an accessible guide to the Didache if anyone is interested [link])
my friend Joe Paprone (who just so happened to recently begin a world traveling  Masters in Global Mission with Fuller)  and I were catching up after his return from Big Tent Christianity and the  topic of the Gospel’s relational nature came up.
when I talk or email with friends and family from Albany to Alberta, from Kalispell, MT to Claremont, CA … this theme of relationship in the gospel comes up over and over again. 

    I have heard Dr. Larry Shelton (my first seminary professor) say that it is “relationship all the way down” . This has impacted me greatly.  Shelton’s book Cross & Covenant: Interpreting the Atonement for the 21st Century Mission [link] is a tour de force on the historical development of thought and direction for the future. 
   I have a number of quotes that I thought about using here 
– but let me get right down to it: 
Stated in the Positive:  Here is why I think that Relationship component of the Gospel is so important. I am convinced that relationship is essential (it is central) to Gospel. I am suspicious that the gospel IS relationship. 
Stated in the Negative: after 300 C.E. the focus of the Gospel seems to have moved from relationship and shifted to A) substance and B) status.  This was the Greek & Roman  shift (influence) on Christian thought. 
    Let me just say that it is not my intention to be critical of the Greco-Roman period  but simply to point out that 1) it is very different than what came before it and specifically the  Hebrew influenced writings of Scripture. 2) That if one, in the Post-modern conversation , wanted to return to a more relational reading of the scripture that person would not be unfaithful to Christianity. 
    Without getting bogged down in heavy arguments and endless details (that will come in subsequent weeks) let me just point out four examples: the Trinity, Jesus, communion and salvation. 
Trinity: after 300 there is great concern to get straight the Order & Structure of the Trinity. Who comes first and who is the origin of who.  This is Status.  But this does not seem to be the concern of the writers of Scripture who, in fact, didn’t even use the world Trinity. In fact, their concern seems to be the relationship between the divine actors and the form is narrative – not creed or formula. I think that this is important. The Bishops and Councils of the threes, fours and five hundreds seem to want much cleaner lines and much clearer flowcharts than the writers of scripture provided in the narrative. (If you want to see how important this turned out to be – just look up the Filioque [link] in a Church history book and look at the brew-ha that followed.) 
Jesus: after 300 there is a great concern over the Ousia – the substance of Jesus.  Was he of the same substance “homo-ousia” as the Father?  This is where our classical “Fully God – Fully Human” formulation comes from.  That’s fine.  I just want to point that the Gospel writers seem much more concerned with Jesus’ relationship to God than the nature of his substance. 
Salvation: the whole Calvinist – Arminian debate , besides being exhausting and endless, is a product of a set of questions that the Bible does not seem to be concerned with and thus does not even attempt to answer.  In what way is God sovereign? and how does that mix with Human free will? can someone lose their salvation (status)? and what is the nature of someone who is saved in this life but continues to sin (substance)?  The reason those are debated round and around is that the writers of the Bible are not concerned with them.  They seem to be concerned with a believer’s relationship to God and relationship to others. 
Communion: Notice the modern fascination with what is communion (substance) and who is allowed to take it (status) and who is allowed to serve it (status & substance). The Bible never says.  In fact,  Jesus actually has the meal with someone that he knows will turn on him.  But Jesus invites him to the table and breaks bread with him – in relationship – seemingly not concerned with his status or his substance…. 
    My only point in all of this is that even if someone did not want to go all the way intoRelational – Process thought [link] like my school does, they are not going against traditional Christianity to step away from focusing on Status and Substance and instead focusing on Relationship.  They are just getting back to their roots. 
Like I said I am not advocating a new type of Christianity, as much as  I am acknowledging that  Christianity is always being made new.  Well, in this case – everything old is new again. 


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