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Historical Christianity

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Not to relegate the subject of my first post in the new faith forum to a reply in the "Progressive Christianity" thread, I think it is worth highlighting a key point that the title of this new thread expresses in two different ways.

By "historical Christianity" I mean two things. First, I mean to invoke the actual phenomenon of Christianity as a datum of history -- a phenomenon with, certainly, considerable heterogeneity and fuzzy boundaries already in its early days as well as in subsequent ages, but also a phenomenon with a distinct character about which meaningful things can be said.

Second, I mean to invoke the character of the Christian worldview as a historical worldview, a worldview fundamentally bound up in a view of history, of historical events. The defining, shared conviction of Christian proclamation is that something has happened, that Christians have news for the world.

We can speak about many important things about the Christian worldview with respect to beliefs about God, man and the world: its demanding, sometimes counter-cultural moral norms, from radical equality across social divides to an inflexible devotion to God first and human authority second; its absolute refusal to condone evil combined with scandalous mercy and forgiveness for the worst of sinners; its inviolable respect for human life combined with startling willingness to embrace suffering and even martyrdom; its elevation of love, rooted in a unique vision of the mystery of divine being, as the highest reality, embracing even love of enemies.

Yet all of this is predicated on and inextricable from a shared conviction that something happened -- something radical, apocalyptic, world-changing. A world had passed away, and a new world had been ushered in. To be a Christian was to be a citizen of this new world. It was something much more precipitous than merely standing in a particular philosophical, moral or even religious movement, or belonging to a particular movement or culture, or tracing one's thought or social milieu to a particular teacher or prophet.

This new world was not one of human making -- it was the work of God. Not just a work of God among many, but the apex or climax of the divine work on behalf of all mankind. Not on behalf of a particular people, comparable to similar works among other peoples. The missionary zeal of the early Christians, one of the most characteristic aspects of early Christian praxis, does not reflect a belief that the Christians had found something that was true for them.

More to come.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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So we can't call this thread "Regressive Christianity"? :)

(Lest there be any confusion, I mean that in the spirit of, e.g., C.S. Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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