Re: Seely's Views 2

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sun Sep 12 2004 - 13:15:45 EDT

Mmm, as you'all have kindly pointed out, I didn't represent the history
quite right (always appreciate those realignments, folks!), nor
articulate the point all that well. The "filoque" business was really
what I had in mind (differing views as to whether the Son preexisted or
was a new entity when begotten), asking whether these differences in
understanding was sufficient to warrant a conclusion by one group that
the God of the other was idolatrous. The question is rhetorical, but is
intended to raise the issue of degree - how different does the view of
God need to be to become idolatrous. What throws the switch of distinction?

Though my question is broader, I am particularly troubled by a readiness
by many in the Christian community to declare that Allah (for example)
is not, cannot be, the same one true God we worship. I argue that this
perspective is inappropriately and unnecessarily insulting and
alienating , given that our Abrahamic roots are the same, however much
our understandings and practices may or may not have diverged (arguably
a matter of degree). Who changed along the way - God, ...or our
(universally imperfect) understanding of Him? And where was the tripwire
representing a change to a sufficiently altered, and thereby idolatrous
practice? If one thinks about the tripwire being the birth of Jesus,
note that the core beliefs of the Jews and Muslims did not change! From
the outside, some might (and some do!) conclude that increasing emphasis
- particularly in our time - on the elevating the name of Jesus is more
likely to represent such a profound change than those which may have
occurred in other faiths of Abrahamic origin. As y'all have pointed out,
we have staked our tent in the conclusions of various early councils and
such that narrowed and brought definition to the foundations for the
beliefs that we hold today (as have other traditions). We hope they got
it right, but some of us revisit those conclusions - as have many before

At the end of the day, I believe that we should at least be very careful
not to confuse stewardship with ownership. For some reason, our desire
to be (the holder and definer of) right seems to transform too easily
into a situation where two stewards shout angrily over the fence at each
other, each declaring the superiority and supreme authority of their
respective masters, never realizing that they serve at the pleasure of
one and the same master. Would that master be pleased and experience
satisfaction in this behavior, even though it was intended to be on his
behalf? I don't think so.

OK, OK. I freely admit that this relates to a larger issue that is
particularly troubling to me, the remarkable and unbecoming propensity
for contention within the Christian community and in its interactions
with those outside it (even our relatives). Not only does that
contention fail to bring honor to the one whom we serve and whose name
we claim, it seems to ignore and even betray essential elements of the
teachings and example of the centerpiece of Christianity, ...perhaps
particularly that of reconciliation. It sadly contradicts and
compromises the central positive and relational message of love and healing.

 ...or so it seemeth to me. JimA wrote:

>---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
>From: "Jim Armstrong" <>
>Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 21:57:05 -0700
>>Unless I am mistaken, the eastern branch of Christianity feels that the
>>western branch has created "a form of idolatry" (heresy) by deciding to
>>worship one begotten of God rather than God Himself who preexisted the
>>begotten one. Many/most western Christians take exception to that, but
>>would we say the eastern branch is practicing idolatry because their
>>understanding of God and man's history with Him differs in this way?
>My wife was going to the Eastern Orthodox Church when we met. Her sister and brother-in-law still attend. In 30 years of discussions with them, I have never heard this. A friend in whose life I had a little influence and who in turn has had a lot of influence in my youngest son's life is Greek orthodox and in the 25 years I have known this fellow, he has never given me any hint that he thinks we shouldn't be worshipping the Son. Now, I certainly wouldn't want to claim that I know everything about the eastern church and I know that tradition plays a larger role in their theology but not worship the Son? Never heard that one.
Received on Sun Sep 12 13:50:24 2004

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