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Greg P

15 Reasons Why I Left Church

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Generational labels are a handy, stereotypical way to divide people. I read Rachel Held Evans' Millennial Laundry List above and found  myself nodding in agreement, and I'm either one or two generations removed from the Millennials, depending on whether X and Y really count as two, or one. But I'd like to see the same things Rachel Held Evans would like to see.

 

Although I appreciated Evan's article, I've actually found the responses to her article more revelatory. Brett McCracken, a Mllennial, characterizes his colleagues as

 

"today’s #hashtagging, YOLO-oriented, selfie-obsessed generation." If you can't join 'em, insult 'em, I guess. In Christian love, of course. Jake Meador wants to relegate the likes of Evans, Frank Schaeffer, and Matthew Paul Turner, as "outside the Church," even though all of them are membered in Christian churches. Artur Rosman wants to characterize Evans' critique as "accommodating to Americanisms," as if an abhorrence of the culture wars and a desire to be challenged to live lives of holiness originated with the Declaration of Independence. Whatever. Set up those straw men and knock 'em down if it makes you feel better.

 

My only critique of  Evans is that it is too easy to pawn this off as a generational catfight. It is not. I'm sure it makes for compelling copy and elicits a lot of clicks, but it's not really accurate. There are many Christians, across multiple generations, who resonate with her words. I want my Church back. You know, the one Jesus founded. Those are intentionally provocative words, just as they were in Evans' article. But some of us -- even Boomers -- are still too selfie-obsessed, and would like to be in a place that teaches us how to die to self, even if we don't know what YOLO means.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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There seems to be a large amount of backlash going back and forth between those who are criticizing "Millennials" and those who are attacking older churches from the "Millennial" perspective.  The problem is I'm now repeatedly hearing this discussion dismissed with the casual "every older generation looks down its nose at the younger generation, and every younger generation rebels against the older generation" explanation.

 

I think the casual explanation that is being resorted to is true, but it doesn't go far enough.  Different generations are different because of how they've been raised, what worldwide events and life experiences they've gone through, what they have specifically learned to cherish and to resent.  This being the case, every older generation's critique of a younger generation is going to be a little different than the last critique before.  Every older generation has wisdom that has only been gained because they are older.  Every single one of these generation critiques ought to be listened to.

 

I strongly share Held Evans' passion for seeing some serious reform in the contemporary church.  Her best point, imho, is that there are simply some changes and understandings that the younger generation now wants to advance inside the church - and this is not, ultimately, going to mean leaving the church.

 

For those of us who are younger, this means getting off our asses and getting actively involved.  And if we are going to critique the current state of affairs, one the best ways to do that is going to involve looking deeper and farther into the past to see what had been changed or diminished or rejected decades ago that perhaps shouldn't have been.  This doesn't mean that we are rebelling against the old ways of doing things as much as we may decide that we are interested in returning to even older ways of doing things.  This may also mean adjusting and accomodating truths within the present age that American Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism before it) has refused to deal with - equality of women, recent advances in science, the study of psychology, a less ideological approach to social issues, a better understanding of what it means for a person to be gay, the fact that too many churches have cut themselves off from the wealth and the riches of the past, from the arts & humanities, from serious scholarship in other fields, etc.

 

Those of us who are serious about active participation in the church are (a) not interested in leaving the church nor in involving ourselves in some nebulous "only Jesus"-centered loose "intentional" or "missional" association that needlessly tries to protest that it isn't a religion, and (B) not interested in needless accomodation to the always changing fads and fashions of our own age.

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mrmando wrote:

: Oh dear, look who's weighing in:

: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/08/the-new-religious-fundamentalists-millennial-christians/?wpsrc=AG0002957&clsrd

: Jefferson Bethke? I guess 25 million YouTube hits are an acceptable substitute for the ability to frame a cogent argument.

: Although Mr. Bethke seems terribly confused . . .

No kidding. I couldn't read more than a few paragraphs of that, his grammar was so difficult to comprehend. Heck, even the paragraph you quoted approvingly still had statements like "my generation is not just repelled to some of those concepts". Repelled *to*?

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No kidding. I couldn't read more than a few paragraphs of that, his grammar was so difficult to comprehend. Heck, even the paragraph you quoted approvingly still had statements like "my generation is not just repelled to some of those concepts".

You should try reading something like this.  I read it.  The fact that it made a New York Times bestseller list made it twice as painful to read.

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There seems to be a large amount of backlash going back and forth between those who are criticizing "Millennials" and those who are attacking older churches from the "Millennial" perspective.  The problem is I'm now repeatedly hearing this discussion dismissed with the casual "every older generation looks down its nose at the younger generation, and every younger generation rebels against the older generation" explanation.

 

I think the casual explanation that is being resorted to is true, but it doesn't go far enough.  Different generations are different because of how they've been raised, what worldwide events and life experiences they've gone through, what they have specifically learned to cherish and to resent.  This being the case, every older generation's critique of a younger generation is going to be a little different than the last critique before.  Every older generation has wisdom that has only been gained because they are older.  Every single one of these generation critiques ought to be listened to.

 

I strongly share Held Evans' passion for seeing some serious reform in the contemporary church.  Her best point, imho, is that there are simply some changes and understandings that the younger generation now wants to advance inside the church - and this is not, ultimately, going to mean leaving the church.

 

For those of us who are younger, this means getting off our asses and getting actively involved.  And if we are going to critique the current state of affairs, one the best ways to do that is going to involve looking deeper and farther into the past to see what had been changed or diminished or rejected decades ago that perhaps shouldn't have been.  This doesn't mean that we are rebelling against the old ways of doing things as much as we may decide that we are interested in returning to even older ways of doing things.  This may also mean adjusting and accomodating truths within the present age that American Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism before it) has refused to deal with - equality of women, recent advances in science, the study of psychology, a less ideological approach to social issues, a better understanding of what it means for a person to be gay, the fact that too many churches have cut themselves off from the wealth and the riches of the past, from the arts & humanities, from serious scholarship in other fields, etc.

 

Those of us who are serious about active participation in the church are (a) not interested in leaving the church nor in involving ourselves in some nebulous "only Jesus"-centered loose "intentional" or "missional" association that needlessly tries to protest that it isn't a religion, and (cool.png not interested in needless accomodation to the always changing fads and fashions of our own age.

Yes. Ironically, it is the Millennials (certainly moreso than the Boomers, whom I rode in with, and who wanted to tear it all down and start over again, circa AD 30 or so) who seem to have more reverence for the past than previous generations. The Christian Millennials I know are all about responsive readings from the Book of Common Prayer (without desiring to be CofE/Episcopal), fixed-hour prayer and the contemplative life (without desiring to be Catholic or Orthodox), social justice (without desiring to be mainline Protestant), the work of the Holy Spirit (without desiring to be Pentecostal), and adherence to the Word of God (without desiring to be Evangelical). They're all about the historic faith. They just happen to mix it up in previously unforeseen and unimagined ways. Actually, it all looks pretty healthy to me.

The problem, at least from the perspective of those who approach the Church from long-established models and paradigms, is that the Millennials opt for e) None of the Above. But they borrow liberally (and even conservatively at times) from a, b, c, and d.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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For those of us who are younger, this means getting off our asses and getting actively involved.  And if we are going to critique the current state of affairs, one the best ways to do that is going to involve looking deeper and farther into the past to see what had been changed or diminished or rejected decades ago that perhaps shouldn't have been.  This doesn't mean that we are rebelling against the old ways of doing things as much as we may decide that we are interested in returning to even older ways of doing things.  This may also mean adjusting and accomodating truths within the present age that American Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism before it) has refused to deal with - equality of women, recent advances in science, the study of psychology, a less ideological approach to social issues, a better understanding of what it means for a person to be gay, the fact that too many churches have cut themselves off from the wealth and the riches of the past, from the arts & humanities, from serious scholarship in other fields, etc.

 

Those of us who are serious about active participation in the church are (a) not interested in leaving the church nor in involving ourselves in some nebulous "only Jesus"-centered loose "intentional" or "missional" association that needlessly tries to protest that it isn't a religion, and (cool.png not interested in needless accomodation to the always changing fads and fashions of our own age.

From a millennial evangelical pastor: amen to this.

 

I'm writing a piece for Leadership Journal on the shifts that need to happen in our church leadership models, particularly allowing the millennial leaders to actually...you know...lead. Instead of having millennials sit on the sidelines or create hip neo-Reformed church plants in reaction to their elder generation's models, what if the younger generation did the hard and tedious work of making intelligent and discerning reforms to the church as a whole, while the older generation did the hard and tedious work of mentoring and empowering the next generation of leadership?

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J.A.A. Purves said:

 

 

:what had been changed or diminished or rejected decades ago that perhaps shouldn't have been.  This doesn't mean that we are rebelling against the old ways of doing things as much as we may decide that we are interested in returning to even older ways of doing things.  This may also mean adjusting and accomodating truths within the present age that American Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism before it) has refused to deal with - equality of women, recent advances in science, the study of psychology, a less ideological approach to social issues, a better understanding of what it means for a person to be gay, the fact that too many churches have cut themselves off from the wealth and the riches of the past, from the arts & humanities, from serious scholarship in other fields, etc.

 

 

 

I think this is right on the money.  There are people doing this, I've been attempting this in my own limited way, for several years now.  Looking to the very ancient Ante-Nicene Christianity and their ways and thought (the ancient paths), but also considering modern advances in science, psychology ect. and what these things are telling us about humanity and God's world.

Edited by Attica

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Yes. Ironically, it is the Millennials (certainly moreso than the Boomers, whom I rode in with, and who wanted to tear it all down and start over again, circa AD 30 or so) who seem to have more reverence for the past than previous generations. The Christian Millennials I know are all about responsive readings from the Book of Common Prayer (without desiring to be CofE/Episcopal), fixed-hour prayer and the contemplative life (without desiring to be Catholic or Orthodox), social justice (without desiring to be mainline Protestant), the work of the Holy Spirit (without desiring to be Pentecostal), and adherence to the Word of God (without desiring to be Evangelical). They're all about the historic faith. They just happen to mix it up in previously unforeseen and unimagined ways. Actually, it all looks pretty healthy to me.

The problem, at least from the perspective of those who approach the Church from long-established models and paradigms, is that the Millennials opt for e) None of the Above. But they borrow liberally (and even conservatively at times) from a, b, c, and d.

It's fascinating because borrowing from a coherent structure can produce very incoherent results. This is why church history and Scriptural hermeneutics is so important. In order to really borrow something and incorporate it into church practise, you ought to understand what it is that you are borrowing. I can speak from experience that Millennials (including myself) have already experimented with borrowing things we don't understand. But this is a realization that isn't going to arrive overnight. It's taking time for more young believers to realize this and to decide to move beyond mere rejection of the last generation (as typified by authors like the Shook brothers, there are plenty of Millennials too who are taking the tear it all down & start over approach).

I have had some long and passionate discussions, late into the night, with other like-minded friends about how much we are attracted by the idea of joining a Catholic or Anglican church. But, to us, that would also mean quitting. It would mean giving up on churches have the potential to be something so much more. It would mean taking a point of view out of the hodgepodge of somewhat confused evangelical/emergent/missional crossbreeds when the historical point of view is most what they need right now. This is my struggle, and it's leading to the introduction of a Church History & Hermeneutics class at my church.

 

I'm writing a piece for Leadership Journal on the shifts that need to happen in our church leadership models, particularly allowing the millennial leaders to actually...you know...lead. Instead of having millennials sit on the sidelines or create hip neo-Reformed church plants in reaction to their elder generation's models, what if the younger generation did the hard and tedious work of making intelligent and discerning reforms to the church as a whole, while the older generation did the hard and tedious work of mentoring and empowering the next generation of leadership?

It is hard and it can often be tedious. Especially when I have been given no education at all in order to do it. I'm having to seek out and study the likes of Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, Philip Schaff, Jaroslav Pelikan, etc. all for the first time. Convincing a young church that this is something they need to incorporate into their teaching is hard. Hammering out how there are modern day practical applications to how we live our daily lives is not easy. But, so far, I am finding that it is also richly worthwhile.

 

There are people doing this, I've been attempting this in my own limited way, for several years now.  Looking to the very ancient Ante-Nicene Christianity and their ways and thought (the ancient paths), but also considering modern advances in science, psychology ect. and what these things are telling us about humanity and God's world.

Oddly enough, I was reading Camille Paglia critique feminism for being too ideologically closed - so that serious scholarship on the arts, on psychology, on science were being ignored.  I couldn't help thinking at the time that this is also exactly what the church does.  In different ages it seems like it takes quite some time for the church to incorporate serious and new advances in different intellectual fields.  But, if what the apostle Paul and Aquinas and other theologians say about "general revelation" is true, then there are truths contained within, for example, psychology, that have yet to be taken advantage of.  Even in the Ante-Nicene age through the Medieval Age, there were churches that strongly resisted the study of Greek philosophy because it was secular, not religious.  It took the hard work of a number of theologians to point out that there is actually "general revelation" to be found within philosophy.  (Likewise with Galileo, likewise with the Renaissance Humanists, likewise with advances in modern science, etc.)  This can be dangerous, but it is also necessary.

 

I appreciate all your comments, but in my experience I don't think what I'm advocating for is something accepted by the majority of Millennials yet.  But it could be with time.

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Um, if you're only 32 (i.e. born in the 1980s, and still definitely in elementary school when Nirvana and Douglas Coupland hit the big time in the early 1990s, etc.), I'm not sure you count as Generation X.

But she's not purely a Millennial, either. In several of the books I've read on this topic (and I've read more than a few), authors tend to use the phrase "Fringer" for people born on the cusp of two generations. I'll be 32 by the end of the month, so I'm one of them. Fringers often have traits from both generations.

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"Fringer"? I thought all the teenagers who went to the teensploitation movies around the turn of the millennium were called "Generation Y" at the time -- and it seems to me that some people distinguish between "Generation Y" and "Millennials".

The next question, I suppose, is whether "Generation Y" or "Millennials" gets to claim the term "Echo Boomers". Or maybe they both do, given that the term "Baby Boomers" spans 1946 to 1964 (and thus includes not only Clinton and Bush, who were born in 1946, but also Obama, who was born in 1961; although, hmmm, come to think of it, Douglas Coupland, the man who coined the term "Generation X" way back in 1987, was born in 1961 too...).

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"Fringer"? I thought all the teenagers who went to the teensploitation movies around the turn of the millennium were called "Generation Y" at the time -- and it seems to me that some people distinguish between "Generation Y" and "Millennials".

The next question, I suppose, is whether "Generation Y" or "Millennials" gets to claim the term "Echo Boomers". Or maybe they both do, given that the term "Baby Boomers" spans 1946 to 1964 (and thus includes not only Clinton and Bush, who were born in 1946, but also Obama, who was born in 1961; although, hmmm, come to think of it, Douglas Coupland, the man who coined the term "Generation X" way back in 1987, was born in 1961 too...).

Which is yet another reason why I wish this discussion wasn't framed in generational terms. Yes, at a very broad and largely inaccurate level, generations have defining characteristics. But I'd rather focus on the issues at hand rather than debating whether Rachel Held Evans is Gen Y or a Millennial or a Fringer. I know that's the way RHE framed it. But I think that's unfortunate, and detracts from the serious points she's made.

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J.A.A. Purves said:

 

:so that serious scholarship on the arts, on psychology, on science were being ignored.  I couldn't help thinking at the time that this is also exactly what the church does.  In different ages it seems like it takes quite some time for the church to incorporate serious and new advances in different intellectual fields.  But, if what the apostle Paul and Aquinas and other theologians say about "general revelation" is true, then there are truths contained within, for example, psychology, that have yet to be taken advantage of.  Even in the Ante-Nicene age through the Medieval Age, there were churches that strongly resisted the study of Greek philosophy because it was secular, not religious.  It took the hard work of a number of theologians to point out that there is actually "general revelation" to be found within philosophy.  (Likewise with Galileo, likewise with the Renaissance Humanists, likewise with advances in modern science, etc.)  This can be dangerous, but it is also necessary.

 

 

Yes.  The church often finds these things dangerous, because they can upset the theological system.  But there comes a point when people see that some things in the church just isn't right, and that the stance is becoming foolish and offputting due to the overwhelming evidence.  

 

Galileo, as stated, is a good example.  The church of his time was **very** threatened by the idea that the sun and planets didn't revolve around the earth, and used scripture to argue against it because they thought that it was clearly contradictory to the Bible.  We now would think that not believing that the earth revolved around the sun is completely nuts.

 

So then what of science that is a "theat" to the church now, and the art and culture that is threatening because of its relation to this science?  Many Christians are completely rejecting the findings connected to evolution and an old earth/universe, when the evidence it so overwhelming (in all of the sciences) that not at least looking into it is foolish.  Christians who are regarding this and other aspects of science are coming up with some really interesting thought and theology that the church at large is not interested in, and it is very positive, portraying God, humanity, and the faith in a much more positive light than some believe.

 

For example the writings of the anthropologist Rene Girard and "mimetic theory", and those who are building an understanding around his discoveries is very interesting.  I've been reading some of this of late.  Linked with this is the discovery of "mirror neutons" whereby we are hardwired to imitate others to a certain degree.  This works to build compassion and empathy, and learning, but it also can lead to destructive behaviour.  It's like we are hardwired to love and imitate God, but this can and does become corrupted by bad influences.

 

What Girard is saying gives a very interesting insight into how the Bible can be compatible with evolution, what we are finding in historical and sociological studies, and in human nature.  But it also leads to a *much* less cruel and voilent view of God in the Bible.  It's exciting stuff, that has yet to be wrestled with by a lot of Christianity.  Not that I agree with every conclusion.

 

 

I also agree that the churches involvement with these things can be both good and dangerous.  The Western church incorporated some aspects of Greek philosophy, mainly platonism and some gnosticism, that has messed us up to a large degree.  But it is certainly true that those outside of the "Christian fold" have discovered truths.

 

There is actually elements in far Eastern thought, especially Taoism, as well as some aspects in aboriginal thought that is more compatible with how the early Jewish Christians understood the faith (back when they called themselves "the Way"), than a lot of the Greek thought that the church (especially in the West) has been influenced by.

 

But of course, as Christians most can agree that there are also beliefs and understandings that are not compatible with Christianity.  But that doesn't mean that nothing they are saying has value.

 

 

I'm with Andy, in that I'm far from being a millennial, but I also see that there is some things wrong.

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J.A.A. Purves said:

 

:I'm having to seek out and study the likes of Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, Philip Schaff, Jaroslav Pelikan, etc. all for the first time.

 

 

I'd also try digging into what Clement of Alexandria was saying.  He had some great insights into the use of the Greek literature and culture amongst other things.  Also the Cappadocian fathers such as Basil the Great (his book On human nature is a great read) and Gregory Nazianzus.   As well Gregory of Nyssa and Origen.  Origen fell out of favour mainly because of "origenism" being kind of like a Christians version of reincarnation.  But this is only a very small part of what he wrote.  The guy was a writing machine, and there be gold in them hills.  He was genius.

 

Also, I'd dig into the Didache and the writings of the apostle Thomas that are not considered gnostic (the writings that are, are the most touted).  

 

Also.  There is the Ethiopian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Celtic churches that were not influenced by Constantine and are pretty much the same as they were since the start, including different New Testaments.  Even if one doesn't agree with all that is in these groups practice and theology, it certainly is fascinating to look into their perspective.  Here is a great read.

 

In this light of canon, the book Constantine's Bible is a great book and would help to explain some of the possible reasons for scriptural differences, amongst other things.

 

Several years ago one of my Bishop friends said to me.  'Would you rather drink from a stream farther downstream where it has gathered up all kinds of gunk, or go to the source where the stream is still pure".  A good book that goes back to the source and looks at how the early Christians understood scripture and the faith is "the Jesus Driven Life".  It also touches on the hows and whens that significant changes were made.

Edited by Attica

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I appreciate all your comments, but in my experience I don't think what I'm advocating for is something accepted by the majority of Millennials yet.  But it could be with time.

It's not, sadly. It's also not something advocated by the majority of Christians, regardless of generation. It takes a significant amount of time and work and thought and stillness and patience and grace. It requires a community of people who value those things too.

 

And I'm with Andy, Attica, and others who see the problem beyond generational issues. I think those do exist, and that there are particular struggles my generation will have to overcome that are different from previous ones (e.g. how millennials view and practice reading and writing is very different than 20-30 years ago). But I also think the answers to these aren't found in abandonment from church community or creating churches populated by only 18-32 year-olds. It's found in a myriad of generations looking to the past for solid foundations and patterns and rhythms--the ancient Christian authors mentioned, as well as the wisdom from Scripture--in a dialogue with the ever-changing cultural revelations of the current era. Robert Webber called it "ancient-future faith." I like that designation.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Galileo, as stated, is a good example.  The church of his time was **very** threatened by the idea that the sun and planets didn't revolve around the earth, and used scripture to argue against it because they thought that it was clearly contradictory to the Bible.  We now would think that not believing that the earth revolved around the sun is completely nuts.

 

So then what of science that is a "theat" to the church now, and the art and culture that is threatening because of its relation to this science?  Many Christians are completely rejecting the findings connected to evolution and an old earth/universe, when the evidence it so overwhelming (in all of the sciences) that not at least looking into it is foolish.  Christians who are regarding this and other aspects of science are coming up with some really interesting thought and theology that the church at large is not interested in, and it is very positive, portraying God, humanity, and the faith in a much more positive light than some believe.

 

 

 

 

I had this very discussion about the 17th and 18th century Church and geocentrism, with a friend over the past week.

 

We are at a stage in human history when science is once again saying some things that run contrary to certain ( in this case, Evangelical) interpretations of the Bible. In regard to evolution, the genetic or epi-genetic origins of sexual orientation and the notion of "reparative" therapy (the particulars of which the scientific community is speaking emphatically on) Evangelicals continue clinging to select Bible verses and kicking back mightily. This inability to be flexible with traditional interpretations of peripheral social/moral taboos and/or Bible stories is a weakness the Church has had from the very beginning and is perhaps the crux of RHE points of contention. Of course this rigidity of thought and unwillingness to adapt is being aggravated over the past few years by so many social taboos exploding simultaneously--  the overwhelming national acceptance of gay marriage, support for legalization of marijuana and a greater acceptance of evolutionary science; to name just a few. The easiest way for Evangelicals to handle this tension is to fight back and compensate by raising the level of conservatism.... You know, in an attempt to stave of the massive liberal apostasy and whatnot. Obviously, many folks in their 20's, 30's and 40's are reacting to this and seeking greener, more open-minded pastures. They DO exist and this is scary to the old guard.  

 

 But I also think the answers to these aren't found in abandonment from church community or creating churches populated by only 18-32 year-olds. It's found in a myriad of generations looking to the past for solid foundations and patterns and rhythms--the ancient Christian authors mentioned, as well as the wisdom from Scripture--in a dialogue with the ever-changing cultural revelations of the current era. 

 

"[Abandoning] the church community", can be a rather loaded judgement, dontcha think? 

 

There are so many ways people in the 21st century experience "community"-- the most important being civic and social involvement in their neighborhoods and places of employment, in my opinion. These are the areas in life where we spend the most time. So unless someone stops going to church and becomes an unemployed hermit, they are almost certainly not abandoning "community", in the strict sense. There are many, old evangelicals like myself, who simply came to the realization that attending weekly sermons and giving/receiving handshakes in the parking lot did not in any sense constitute a viable "community" and my decision to stop going, simply freed me to do other things-- many of which DO constitute real community interaction. But then again, everyone is different and some people like sermons and praise bands. For them, attending a service on Sunday IS community, and I don't take that away from them, even though the courtesy is almost never extended in the other direction. People who go sermon-free are typically viewed by Evangelicals as "Lone Rangers" and it's utter nonsense. 

Edited by Greg P

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My problem isn't with Christians going "sermon-free." It's with Christians going sacrament-free.

So should I assume you have a problem with small groups sharing the sacraments? Does it have to be administered by a priest in your tradition?

 

On that note, RHE always seemed to imply millenials departing Evangelicalism (which i assumed was the tradition she came from), but her follow-up mentioned the Eucharist and Confession in a manner which implied a lean towards Catholicism, no? My very Catholic girlfriend read it and said "Oh. She's a Catholic?" so it wasn't just me. Or maybe that was just her "return to our roots" millenial hipness 

Edited by Greg P

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"Fringer"?

Yeah, it's lame. But I also wish the eBow wasn't called eBow.

Anyway, Andy is speaking with wisdom.

Edited by Jason Panella

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 But I also think the answers to these aren't found in abandonment from church community or creating churches populated by only 18-32 year-olds. It's found in a myriad of generations looking to the past for solid foundations and patterns and rhythms--the ancient Christian authors mentioned, as well as the wisdom from Scripture--in a dialogue with the ever-changing cultural revelations of the current era. 

 

"[Abandoning] the church community", can be a rather loaded judgement, dontcha think? 

 

There are so many ways people in the 21st century experience "community"-- the most important being civic and social involvement in their neighborhoods and places of employment, in my opinion. These are the areas in life where we spend the most time. So unless someone stops going to church and becomes an unemployed hermit, they are almost certainly not abandoning "community", in the strict sense. There are many, old evangelicals like myself, who simply came to the realization that attending weekly sermons and giving/receiving handshakes in the parking lot did not in any sense constitute a viable "community" and my decision to stop going, simply freed me to do other things-- many of which DO constitute real community interaction. But then again, everyone is different and some people like sermons and praise bands. For them, attending a service on Sunday IS community, and I don't take that away from them, even though the courtesy is almost never extended in the other direction. People who go sermon-free are typically viewed by Evangelicals as "Lone Rangers" and it's utter nonsense. 

 

I'm not sure how it's loaded, as I'm not arguing for a "sermons and praise bands" form of community. What Ryan said: sacraments (communion and baptism).

 

I'd add "Scripture" or at least an adherence and pursuit of the apostolic teachings; "holiness" or a sense of a unique kingdom-of-God micro-culture; "Spirit," as in submitting to the Holy Spirit's guidance and the practice of spiritual gifts in the context of community; "mission," as in an awareness of what God is actively doing in the world around us, and the active pursuit of making disciples, baptizing them (there's sacrament again) and teaching them (there's Scripture again) what Jesus commanded; and "sacrifice," or suffering love for God and our neighbour.

 

I think that's a bit more strict and particular than Christians simply getting together for coffee or dinner and having an uplifting theological conversation. Not that anyone here is promoting that; I'm just pointing out that my statement of "abandonment of church community" means abandonment of those things.

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But I also wish the eBow wasn't called eBow too.

 

 The eBow! Now that's something one cannot live without! 

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The main reason I began attending an Anglican church is because of their understanding of the eucharist, which I believe is close to the Ante-Nicene understanding, being that Anglican is to a large point a blend of Catholicism and the Old Celtic Church (which remained (s) close to Ane-Nicene tradition and thought).  So I agree with Ryan that the sacraments are much more important than many Christians think.  As well, I was baptized as a child and then later had a believers baptism.  There was **something** that happened then... I know it.

 

The very early church *did* hold their eucharist in their homes, although baptism was held in other places and was a bigger ritual and deal than is commonly found now, at least in Western Christianity, I'm not entirely sure what the Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox do with it.  In the Celtic and Anglican traditions the baptism is usually administered by clergy, but if there is no clergy available, then it can be administered by a layman and still be appropriate.

 

The extended sermon preaching that is commonly found in the modern church came out of the pagan sophists and wasn't found in the early church.  They would often have a shabbat meal on a Friday night according to the Jewish traditions (because their Sabbaths were still on Saturdays) then have a teaching afterwards.  So learning about the faith would be important, I'd think, but it certainly doesn't have to be according to the sermon style that is in much of Christianity.  

 

The church I go to does have short sermons in and amongst the liturgy, but I find more value in talking things through with the priest over lunch, or chatting with people about ideas on the phone.

 

 

Greg P said:

 

:We are at a stage in human history when science is once again saying some things that run contrary to certain ( in this case, Evangelical) interpretations of the Bible.

 

 

Yep.  Not just evangelical thought.  What I've found interesting in my research is that around the time Darwin wrote his "origin of species" which started the whole evolution ball rolling, archeologists had found the "Enuma Elish" Babylonian creation account, which is very similar to the two Hebrew Genesis accounts.  Scholars now believe that the Genesis accounts were written while the Jews were in exile in Babylon, and that they are inspired and have value according to their meaning at the time, as a response (refutation) to the Enuma Elish story that the Jews would have been esposed to, but not that they are to be taken as literally true.

 

What many are saying, and which many are missing, or are bucking against, mostly in Catholic and Protestant circles, is that these things very much argue against the doctrine of "original sin" as Augustine, then Calvin and Luther understood it.  The Eastern and especially the Celtic Churches had always rejected this doctrine (at least according to how Augustine understood it), so these discoveries aren't as much of a threat to them, and might actually argue that they were right.  During the Pelagian/Augustinian debates one of the arguments against the doctrine of original sin, for how humanity came to have bad behaviour, was that we imitate others in their sin.  Within the last 10 years or so science has discovered the mirror neuron, by which, yes, we imitate others.  The interesting thing is, is that this serves a basically good purpose, to learn, grow in empathy and thus compassion, but can/does also cause problems through wrong imitation.

 

These, and other things, are also leading many Christians to question the view that the Bible is innerant, which wasn't held in some traditions.  For instance there's archeological evidence that Jericho fell long before the Jewish accounts in the Bible said it did.  We don't have to believe that God commanded genocide anymore, we can truly look to Jesus as being the full representation of God, and not have to find ways for some of those OT accounts to align with Jesus (which they never can - not really).

 

So.  Science is forcing the church to reconsider in many ways, and is causing major shifts, which is scaring people, certainly.  But I think that many of these shifts are actually towards earlier Ante-Nicene Christian practice and Biblical interpretation.  

 

I think the church is struggling to move ahead, but also to get back on track in many ways.  We can throw out our pagan influenced theology and get to see what God is really like in his relationship to humanity.  At least the "emergent church" and the "millenialists" (at least some) are not in denial of some of these shifts, although they are/will make their fair share of mistakes.  But I think their intentions are largely good and they are working to sort out this mess.  It's mostly a sign of passion ( I'd think.)

Edited by Attica

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I think the church is struggling to move ahead, but also to get back on track in many ways.  We can throw out our pagan influenced theology and get to see what God is really like in his relationship to humanity.  

I like the main sentiment here. A lot.  

 

To me it's a matter of stripping the religious trappings away, to find what really matters to me-- what in actuality gives life and hope, inspires. Not necessarily what people say i need, which happens all the time in Evangelical Church circles, but which practices actually help me. "You need Church, brother", "You need worship", "You need Bible Study", "You need communion"... After many many years in Church it all began to to sound a bit like the chiropractor snake-oil rhetoric to me (You'll NEED years of weekly adjustments" "How long, doc?" "Can't say really... maybe the rest of your life!")  

 

If I extract myself from "religious debate" mode here, I can honestly say neither baptism nor communion ever meant much to me. I practiced them because I thought God said I had to, so that was the end of the matter for me. That doesn't mean I didn't practice them with the utmost sincerity-- I did, without question. Twenty years of practice with a perfect attendance badge. This is where well-meaning people will chime in, "Ohhh! that's because you didn't do it this or that way or by a priest in this Church under such and such conditions". And on and on they valiantly attempt to tell me what I missed, and what I really need.

 

So I did what Rachel Evans didn't. I made an executive decision that went against the grain of all Christian authority and control: I simply stopped doing the things that held little or no significance for me and tried to stop worrying about how the Church would marginalize me. It worked, to a large degree. I feel much more engaged and energized in the Christian faith and apt to share with others, than I did when I was a regular church member. 

 

So when I hear Millennials are leaving the church, no surprise, I don't find it so tragic or scary. People who believe will find their way. Human beings are incredibly resourceful and determined. They will find meaning, significance and the things that truly endure. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'd also try digging into what Clement of Alexandria was saying.  He had some great insights into the use of the Greek literature and culture amongst other things.  Also the Cappadocian fathers such as Basil the Great (his book On human nature is a great read) and Gregory Nazianzus.   As well Gregory of Nyssa and Origen.  Origen fell out of favour mainly because of "origenism" being kind of like a Christians version of reincarnation.  But this is only a very small part of what he wrote.  The guy was a writing machine, and there be gold in them hills.  He was genius.

Clement of Alexandria, the Cappadocian fathers, Origen, Athanasius, Vincent of Lérins ... Oh, I'm on it. And yes, their thought and both challenging and rewarding.

 

In this light of canon, the book Constantine's Bible is a great book and would help to explain some of the possible reasons for scriptural differences, amongst other things.

 Thanks.  This looks fascinating.  I'll give it a try.

 

So unless someone stops going to church and becomes an unemployed hermit, they are almost certainly not abandoning "community", in the strict sense. There are many, old evangelicals like myself, who simply came to the realization that attending weekly sermons and giving/receiving handshakes in the parking lot did not in any sense constitute a viable "community" and my decision to stop going, simply freed me to do other things-- many of which DO constitute real community interaction. But then again, everyone is different and some people like sermons and praise bands. For them, attending a service on Sunday IS community, and I don't take that away from them, even though the courtesy is almost never extended in the other direction. People who go sermon-free are typically viewed by Evangelicals as "Lone Rangers" and it's utter nonsense.

I don't think very many people would define religious community as merely attending a service on Sunday. I've stopped getting anything at all out of praise bands, and I get almost nothing out of the sermons at the church I've been attending for the last 3 years. But I've also discovered that, as far as being active in the local church is concerned, the Sunday service is just really a side-show. It could be better. It will take certain changes to improve it. But many of those who are most active at the church only make half the services anyhow. The question, I think, is whether there are any ceremonial or symbolic traditions worth keeping. If so, then what happens on Sunday morning is one of them.

 

On that note, RHE always seemed to imply millenials departing Evangelicalism (which i assumed was the tradition she came from), but her follow-up mentioned the Eucharist and Confession in a manner which implied a lean towards Catholicism, no? My very Catholic girlfriend read it and said "Oh. She's a Catholic?" so it wasn't just me.

No, she's not Catholic. She absolutely grew up in the evangelical world.

 

The extended sermon preaching that is commonly found in the modern church came out of the pagan sophists and wasn't found in the early church ... So learning about the faith would be important, I'd think, but it certainly doesn't have to be according to the sermon style that is in much of Christianity.

I've heard this before, but the more church history I read, the more convinced I'm becoming that it isn't true. "Preaching" isn't a pagan practice anymore than "speaking" is. If by preaching one means standing up in front of a crowd and explaining the Gospel or what Scripture means and how it can be applied to contemporary problems, etc., then Jesus did that, the twelve apostles did that, Apollos did that, the apostle Paul did that. It's simply the Christian application of the art of rhetoric. There is nothing inherently pagan about good public speaking, and if Sunday morning is when you are going to have your largest crowd of your Christian community together, then it makes perfect sense to have some good public speaking/teaching/preaching on Sunday morning.

 

What many are saying, and which many are missing, or are bucking against, mostly in Catholic and Protestant circles, is that these things very much argue against the doctrine of "original sin" as Augustine, then Calvin and Luther understood it.  The Eastern and especially the Celtic Churches had always rejected this doctrine (at least according to how Augustine understood it), so these discoveries aren't as much of a threat to them, and might actually argue that they were right.  During the Pelagian/Augustinian debates one of the arguments against the doctrine of original sin, for how humanity came to have bad behaviour, was that we imitate others in their sin.

I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the idea of original sin as not found in the early church either. Some of the earliest debates about Christ's nature included full explanations of what it meant to have the sin nature (because they were were distinguishing Christ's nature). I don't think Pelagius is the best thinker to hold up against Augustine's theological problems. He's the one Calvinists prefer to compare to Augustine, but Augustine had far better and more orthodox opposition.

We can throw out our pagan influenced theology and get to see what God is really like in his relationship to humanity.

Unless, there is general revelation to be found in Pagan thought, like, for instance, where even the very word "theology" originates from.

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So unless someone stops going to church and becomes an unemployed hermit, they are almost certainly not abandoning "community", in the strict sense. There are many, old evangelicals like myself, who simply came to the realization that attending weekly sermons and giving/receiving handshakes in the parking lot did not in any sense constitute a viable "community" and my decision to stop going, simply freed me to do other things-- many of which DO constitute real community interaction. But then again, everyone is different and some people like sermons and praise bands. For them, attending a service on Sunday IS community, and I don't take that away from them, even though the courtesy is almost never extended in the other direction. People who go sermon-free are typically viewed by Evangelicals as "Lone Rangers" and it's utter nonsense.

I don't think very many people would define religious community as merely attending a service on Sunday. I've stopped getting anything at all out of praise bands, and I get almost nothing out of the sermons at the church I've been attending for the last 3 years. But I've also discovered that, as far as being active in the local church is concerned, the Sunday service is just really a side-show. It could be better. It will take certain changes to improve it. But many of those who are most active at the church only make half the services anyhow. The question, I think, is whether there are any ceremonial or symbolic traditions worth keeping. If so, then what happens on Sunday morning is one of them.

 

Agreed. I think people bring their own meanings and sense of importance to the various traditions and ones "need" of them seems to depend entirely on this. However, there are certain Evangelical traditions for me, so bereft of a sort of base-level depth or so obviously manipulative, that bringing and attaching even the most basic significance to them became an act of blind, herculean effort. 

 

The concept of the Lord's Supper could be incredibly meaningful and significant to me. At least in theory. In Evangelical services it never was. I've been attending Catholic services since my divorce (and as I mentioned earlier my girlfriend for the past year is an active Catholic) I have to say, the celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass is even less meaningful to me. However, I've enjoyed several of the homilies given by visiting priests. Music-- always fantastically boring. Unimportant. Public prayers- eh. Friendships- awesome. But, then the times of fellowship where I felt tremendously uplifted, encouraged, part of a "family" have always been private gatherings where the intended purpose was to just hang out, not "get close to God". 

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J.A.A. Purves said:

 

:I've heard this before, but the more church history I read, the more convinced I'm becoming that it isn't true. "Preaching" isn't a pagan practice anymore than "speaking" is.

 

 

No preaching isn't a pagan practice per-say, this is true, at least in the sense of teaching.  But preaching in a loud forceful and angry way, such as is often found in Christianity has those influences, I believe.  There's a difference I'd say.

 

 

:I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the idea of original sin as not found in the early church either.

 

 

Yes.  The idea of original sin was in the early church.  But their understanding of it was closer to what is found in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.  But if one was to read Basil the great's book on human nature and other books from the Greeks their view was different from post Augustinian understanding.  Even in the East, by the time of Maximus Confessor, there was a bit different viewpoint, at least from what I've read of his writings as compared to the earlier Greeks.

 

 

:I don't think Pelagius is the best thinker to hold up against Augustine's theological problems. He's the one Calvinists prefer to compare to Augustine, but Augustine had far better and more orthodox opposition.

 

 

Actually, I've read Pelagius' actual writings, as compared to what Augustine wrote about him and accused him of.  His stance is pretty much the same as what Basil the Great, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, the Gregories and other Greek fathers were saying.  Also very close to Ireaneus.

 

Pelagius was very close to the Eastern Orthodox idea of synergy.  Pelagius gets thrown in with the pelagian movement, but he actualy wasn't saying the same thing.  At the time of the controversy he was also brought to trial at several synods and declared to be orthodox.  

 

From one of my books.  "Augustine tried twice in 415 to have Pelagius convicted of heresy - on both occasions Pelagius was exonerated in Palestine.  In 416 Augustine and the African bishops convented two diocesan councils to condemn him.  In 417 the Bishop of Rome called a synod to consider the conflict, and declared Pelagius' teaching entirely true, and urged the African bishops to love peace, prize love and seek after harmony.  They ignored this, and in 418 they persuaded the State to intervene and banish Pelagius from Rome for disturbing the peace.  The church then was obliged to uphold the emporer's judgment."

 

 

Augustine was reading from the Latin Vulgate and was the first major founding father to not really know Greek.  There were significant errors in the Latin Vulgate in several places, which can be seen in Augustine's thought and writings.  He understood the world aionos as being "eternal" when the early Greeks understood it as being "an age" related to the Greek septuigant using it to translate the Hebrew world olam, which means something akin to "in the far distance".  As can be seen at the Ancient Hebrew Research Centre .  He also understood the word basanizo as being "tormented", but that's not the proper definition of the word.

 

 

Strongs online concordance says this about the greek word "basanizo" which has been translated into the English word "tormented".

 

Cognate: 931 básanos – originally, a black, silicon-based stone used as "a touchstone" to test the purity of precious metals (like silver and gold).   See 928 (basaníz?).

 

[in the papyri, basanos also means, "touchstone," "test" (so P Oxy I. 58.25, ad 288).

 

931 (basanois) was "originally (from oriental origin) a touchstone; a 'Lydian stone' used for testing gold because pure gold rubbed on it left a peculiar mark. Then it was used for examination by torture. 

 

Taken from the Webster dictionary:

Definition of Touchstone

1: a black siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal.

 

2: a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing.

 
 
 
 

As well, related to Augustine's understanding of "original sin", it in part also comes from the Latin Vulgate.  From one of my mentors.

 

 

The doctrine of  Original Sin was based on a poor translation of the Greek into the Latin  Vulgate by Augustine’s colleague, Jerome.  That passage is Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned”.  The Latin Vulgate renders this passage differently as “because of Adam in whom all have sinned” – the Latin, “in quo omnes peccaverunt”, is a poor translation of the Greek, ‘eph' O pantes emarton’ which actually says because all men have sinned.   Scriptural support for this doctrine of inherited sin arises out of a misinterpretation of the Greek into Latin in the Vulgate bible. 

 

 

Augustine's understanding of these words were different than the Greek fathers, and this is part of what led to differing thought.  The other branches of Christianity, such as the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox church's were separate from some of these debates and Biblical interpretations for years.  Remember the Eastern Church was largely Greeks who were speaking in the Greek language, while the Latin's weren't.  Pelagius was saying basically the same thing as the Eastern and Oriental Church's were saying, it's just that in the West this thought seems kind of foreign to us.  As I mentioned, I've read his writings and he never denied grace.

 

There is often a more angry and punitive view of God in the west because of these and other influences.

 

 

I believe that the early Church did talk about what it meant to have a "sin nature", but that this was something that one developed, linked to the problem of death, not something one was born with.  When the "sin nature" is thus linked to "death" (connected with the fear of death) it then isn't incompatible with evolutionary science.

 

 

 

 

Clement of Alexandria (195 A.D.)  Taken from the book "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs".

 

 

 

"Now he who is bad having become sinful by nature because of evil becomes depraved. He has what he has chosen.  And being sinful he sins also in his actions.  Likewise the good man does right.

 

"Sin then is voluntary on my part".

 

 

 

 

 

In the book entitled "On the Human condition - page 73" the Christian father, St. Basil the Great, says:

 

"Read the account of the material worlds creation and you will find there, "all things are good, and very good (Gen 1: 21.)  Accordingly evil was not created together with good.  But neither was the intelligible creation having come to be from the fashioner, mixed with wickedness when brought into being.  For if bodily things did not have evil co-created in themselves, how could the intelligble things, bearing such purity and holiness, have a common subsistence with evil?.........

......And likewise God created the Soul but not sin.  Rather, the soul is made evil through a perversion of what is according to nature.  But what is the good set before the soul?  It was attentiveness to God and union with him through love.  Once the soul has fallen away from this, it is made evil by various and manifold weaknesses.  But for what reason is it entirely capable of receiving evil?  Because of the impulse of free choice, especially befitting a rational creature.  For having been freed from all necessity, and receiving self determined life from the creator, because it came into being according to the image of God, it understands the Good and knows his joy and possesses authority and power, abiding in the contemplation of the beautiful and the enjoyment of spiritual things, guarding carefully in itself the life according to nature.  Yet it also has the authority to turn away from the beautiful at any time.  And this happened to it when it received a satiety of blessed delights and was as it were weighed down by a kind of sleepiness and sank down from things above, being mixed with the flesh through the disgraceful enjoyment of pleasures............ But why did we not have sinlessness in our structure one may ask, so that the will to sin would not exist in us?  Because indeed it is not when your household slaves are in bonds that you consider them well disposed, but when you see them willingly fulfill your wishes.  Accordingly, God does not love what is constrained but what is accomplished out of virtue.  And virtue comes into being out of free choice and not out of constraint.........

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

In and around 225 Origen wrote: 

 

"Certain men who hold different opinions (i.e. heretics) misuse these passages.  They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation (choosing salvation).

 

"This is also clearly defined in the teaching of the church (the church at large not just Origen), that every rational soul is possessed of free will and volition and that it has a struggle to maintain against the devil."

 

"There is no rational creature that is not capable of both good and evil"

 

 

 

In comparison, here's what Wikipedia says about Augustine's thought (and I know it's a simplification.)

 

 

 

 

Augustine's teaching on original sin is shown below.

 

Having committed this particular sin human nature was henceforth transformed. Adam and Eve, via sexual reproduction, recreated human nature. Their descendants now live in sin, in the form ofconcupiscence which makes the original sin pass from parents to children, is not a libido actualis, i.e. sexual lust, but libido habitualis, i.e. a wound of the whole of human nature.  Augustine's view (termed "Realism"), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace

Grace is irresistable results in conversion, and leads to perseverance

 

 

Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom

 

 

 

 

In relation to this.  The following is taken from a modern Eastern Orthodox writer on the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

The following is taken from the book "Reconsidering Tulip" by Alexander J. Renault.

 

The crux of the matter is this:  if Christ did not have a human nature, then He cannot save us.  If Christ was fully human, but not fully God, then He cannot bring us up to God.  If He is fully God but not fully human, then He cannot come completely down to us and bridge the gap between us and God.  The first several ecumenical councils of the Church all dealt wit this issue.

 

It is generally agreed among the Reformed that Christ was fully God and fully human.  Unfortunately, the implications of this are not always understood by the Reformed.  For if Christ is fully human, then He must have a human soul, a human will, a human mind - in short a human nature.  He was without sin.  This tells us that sin is not an integral part of human nature, and that one is still human apart from sin.  Otherwise, wither 1)  Christ was just as sinful as we are, or else 2)  Christ wasn't fully human and can't really save us.  Heb 2:  11, 17..... This Hebrews passage is especially significant regarding Christ's human nature.  It says that "in all things" He had to be made human.  And yet He was without sin.  This would suggest that "sin nature" is in fact foreign to true human nature.  (page 12)

Edited by Attica

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