Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.


Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.


Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)


About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.



The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.




Saturday, November 19, 2011

Something I Wrote about 20 Years Ago

Here is the Preface for a proposed book entitled the Unproclaimed Gospel. I wrote this preface when I was in law school around 1992 or 1993. There are some rough notes after this preface setting forth the topics I intended to cover in this book.

Preface:

“In my teenage years I began to experience a contradiction between my attraction to both the life of the church and the life outside the church’s faith. I experienced God as somehow free to move in both realms, equally at home on this earth within or without the church. I felt the goodness and mystery of God with believers and with unbelievers, but found that there was no place to express such a feeling.

“In highschool, I attended Younglife meetings, but the character of the fellowship simply mirrored the social structure of high school. Besides, I was particularly offended at the way they packaged and sold God to suit young people. I attended revivals where preachers tempted me to distrust God and “be saved.” But, I trusted God and I loved God. I was looking for a way to please God and to know God more fully.

“In college years, I was told by those who considered themselves ‘spiritual’ Christians, that I needed to attend their Bible studies and forsake friendships with atheists and worldly people. They told me that I needed to live a disciplined life for God. But, their discipline demanded that I close myself off from much of God’s creation that is good, and to close myself off from much of the mystery of God. I knew God to be an incredible, surprising and wonderful God. And, I found that the more I experienced God’s presence and calling, the more I was drawn to all sorts of people, including believers, unbelievers, moral and immoral persons.

“Those who knew nothing of the church’s teaching and renounced the faith often seemed to me closer to God than many believers. Of course, I began to develop my own clear set of beliefs about God, and I am sure at times that I began to think that my beliefs about God were quite infallible. This confidence in my own beliefs was eroded again and again by experiences of God’s judgment and grace. Deep down, what I would not let go of was my experience of God as lover of humanity and as mysterious and wonderful ruler of all life.

“Through Biblical study, relationships, and struggles, I have taken hold of a powerful and deep experience of faith especially through contact with the Reformed tradition of Christianity. In this historical expression of faith, I have found expression for the wonderful longing, love and hope that God has touched me with. “To glorify God . . . – that is the purpose of human life within which human beings realize who they are and what type of community they can be. As I see so many persons running far away from the church, I am struck once again with a seeming contradition: many of these non-church people seem to be exactly those who are ready to celebrate the God I know – the God who wills the salvation of all people, and the God who brings the princes down from their thrones and raises the needy up to places of honor. Of course, there are many non-church people who do not want God’s kingdom of mercy and justice to come. But, there are a great number of “unbelievers” who do hunger and thirst for righteousness, and I believe that it is God’s will to satisfy this hunger and this thirst – and, so I write The Unproclaimed Gospel. Perhaps, it will be of some help to believers in clarifying the nature of Christian faith. I have given thanks to God for the kindness and integrity and love of so-called “unbelievers” for years. And, now I am determined to express as clearly as I can – the living faith in God which I believe is already at work in the hearts and minds of all those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, whether they confess Christ in word or not. For all who yearn for goodness and justice and mercy in human life, Christian and non-Christian, I write this to celebrate the hope we share. For all whose hearts have lost such desires, I write to reawaken such hope. I write to emphasize Jesus’ teaching over against the confused “evangelism” of our day. Jesus said: “Not all those who say, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven.” Sadly, we in the church have often twisted the truth of God so much that the gospel we have proclaimed is not the gospel revealed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The beginning of evangelical faith is the sure and certain belief that all human beings are one in Jesus Christ. There are no outsiders and insiders, only those who celebrate this unity in Christ through showing mercy and love and those who deny it by showing condemnation and hatred. Through Jesus Christ, each and every person is claimed by God to live in his kingdom. In this faith I write. In repentance and hope, I offer this.”

Below are Notes for an Outline of a Book to be Called “The Unproclaimed Gospel: How the Church has Changed the Good News into Bad News” (notes written around 1992, 93, and never developed further). The preface explained why I was interested in writing this book. Problem is I can’t write too well once what I am writing gets any longer than six or seven pages. But, I may see if I can write something longer someday.

Notes:

1. “Making the good bad?” (challenging the theory that everyone has to be brought to the point of a groveling, nasty sinner before he or she can experience the grace and claim of God). Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenges this and refers to this type of evangelistic practice as “Methodism.” See Letters and Papers from Prison. Also, if I only know God’s grace when I’m in the pit, perhaps my religion leads me to the pit over and over again.

2. “Selfishness raised to an eternal plane” (challenging the idea that my own personal salvation is the primary issue of faith, and setting forth the Biblical emphasis on the glory of God). Westminster Shorter Catechism 1st Q and A: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The emphasis on the kingdom of God is a thoroughly communal vision of salvation, the salvation of this creation of which I am a part. Rudolf Bultmann (German Theol.) summarized the freedom of the Gospel as “freedom from self-concern.” It is very important on this matter to realize that the Biblical hope is for the kingdom of God to come as this creation is redeemed. As the Blumhardts never tired of saying: the gospel is not about us leaving this world for heaven but about God and heaven coming to this world.

3. “God, the enemy” (challenging the evangelistic practice of portraying God as our enemy, Christ as friend, as if God and Christ were/are at cross-purposes). The evangelism of Billy Sunday epitomizes this, but I think it is still very popular on the evangelistic circuit and in conservative churches. The “God is out to get you and is ready to send you to hell,” but Jesus stands between you and God and satisfies God with his blood sacrifice. Now, I know the judicial imagery is present in the Bible, with Jesus’ death set forth as propitiation for our sins. But, the Bible is quite clear that Jesus is sent directly from God, is actually the presence of God, reconciling the world to God, etc. And, as John Calvin so clearly proclaims: “God so loved the world that he sent his only son . . . .”

4. “God, as a means to our ends” (challenging the role of religion as a help in achieving human goals, as the icing on the cake of human culture, with a lack of reverence for God and God’s name). The practice of thinking God is always in our camp, on our side, for our team, and tacking God’s name onto everything we do. The misuse of God’s name for nationalistic purposes, etc. is involved. The violation of the third commandment is at the heart of this. The Barmen Declaration of Faith (written to oppose Nazi take-over of churches).

5. “Morality that produces hatred” (challenging the teaching of Christian morality in such a way as to make oneself feel superior to others, and as a way to judge, condemn and control others). This ethical stance creates a strong ‘insider-outsider’ outlook. Also involved is the feeling that “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” and a little uncleaness contaminates a lot of cleanness which is the opposite of the teaching of Jesus in which holiness has the power to mix with unholiness and sanctify.

6. The Unproclaimed Gospel/The Liberty of the First Commandment (The freedom of the gospel begins and ends with praise and reverence for the One Living and Holy God of all creation) The first three commandments contain the power of freedom from all oppression within human life. It is the particular force of the first commandment – politically, socially, theologically, psychologically – that sets free human beings, internally and externally. I have expressed this faith in protest and anger often, in defiance of those who arrogate authority to themselves. “The Lord alone is God,” is always part battle cry against unjust authority. It is this one allegiance and the destruction of all false allegiances, and the demotion of all other allegiances that paves the way for human freedom and dignity. This is a positive expression of the theology underlying the critique in other sections set forth above. I have not really developed this theme, except that I have written a preface which gives a summary of the positive themes I wish to express.

* I suppose the whole theological point could be summarized as “Christology begins and ends with the Doxology,” i.e., The first three commandments find their supreme expression in Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection which leads to praise and honor and glory to the One Holy God of all creation.

Present Note: Now that I read this over in 2011, I see that my mind and heart haven't changed too much, but I would say that my theological views have been much influenced over the past couple of decades by the Quakers. There was always a latent Quakerism in much of my thinking anyway - it is becoming more pronounced as I get older.

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