From A Fellowship of Differents. In the first letter Paul wrote that survives in the Bible, Galatians, Paul went toe-to-toe with a group he calls the “circumcision party,” which ought to be self-explanatory (#ouch). The circumcision party claimed connec- tion to the Lord’s brother, James, and to the Jerusalem church, and they no doubt represented the pro-Torah group of Christians (#intimidating). After attempting to demolish the circumcision party’s arguments for four chapters, Paul finally lands on his feet with something altogether practical for how to live.
The Church is an institution of disappointment; it is not a disappointing institution. I have been doing full time local-church work for almost 15 years now, and I have noticed that every Sunday the same two kinds of people come up to me. One of them is overflowing with joy and gratitude for the way that they experienced a small measure of the presence of God, and the other type of person is disappointed because they didn’t have that experience.
After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings—or it is the most remarkable fact of history. Here are some of the facts relevant to the resurrection: Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, was arrested, was judged a political criminal, and was crucified. Three days after His death and burial, some women who went to His tomb found the body gone. In subsequent weeks, His disciples claimed that God had raised Him from the dead and that He appeared to them various times before ascending into heaven. From that foundation, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and has continued to exert great influence down through the centuries.
Most of you who know me, know that I did my doctoral thesis on women in the NT with C.K. Barrett at the University of Durham in England. My first three published scholarly books were on this very subject. One of the reasons I did that thirty some years ago was because of the controversy that raged then over the issue of women in ministry, and more particularly women as pulpit ministers and senior pastors. Never mind that the Bible does not have categories like ‘senior pastor’ or ‘pulpit minister’, the NT has been used over and over again to justify the suppression of women in ministry— and as I was to discover through years of research and study, without Biblical justification. Now of course equally sincere Christians may disagree on this matter, but the disagreements should be on the basis of sound exegesis of Biblical texts, not emotions, rhetoric, mere church polity, dubious hermeneutics and the like.
The notion of a moral boundary separating good from evil frames early Christian disputes about the meaning of Adam’s sin. Their reflections on the nature of sin were largely considerations of where to draw this boundary.
Was everybody evil in the same way, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suggested when he penned these memorable lines: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart”? Or did sin emerge from entirely different sources?