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Why Remain Christian?

“Christianity alone, because it is the articulate presence of Christ, the future of mankind, cannot (however hard it sometimes seems to try) wholly betray its mission.  As it seems to me, like St. Peter and the twelve, we remain Christians because there is nowhere else to go: if Christianity is not the revolution, nothing else is.”

–Herbert McCabe, Law, Love, and Language (Washington D.C.: Corpus Books, 1969), 172.

20 Comments

  1. I disagree. If there exists anything like “christianity”, which I doubt, it is a system that is fundamentally opposed to the way of Jesus. You can be a follower of Jesus and have a profound disrespect for christianity.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 2:30 am | Permalink
  2. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Amen . . . to McCabe on that point.

    I think Jonas should read Acts, it says something about followers of Jesus being named “Christians”, or something like that ;-) .

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 3:02 am | Permalink
  3. Bobby, we are not in Acts (in a sense), we find ourselves in a situation where the teachings, life-style and practices of what is often termed christianity is opposed to the way of Jesus. “Christianity” has become something different. Either “christianity” in the text above refers to this system (and then I disagree with it), or to some mental construct of the author, an ideal, which would make it hard to know what he is talking about. As it now stands, it appears as the mixture of the two things, which makes it, to my ears, sounds like a fraud or naive idealism.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  4. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Jonas,

    I knew what you meant, I was being a bit of a smart alek . . . sorry :-). I don’t think McCabe is probably naive . . . I would imagine that McCabe was referring to the “Golden Age” language of Christian. But if you look at the quote, all he is saying is exactly what Peter said to Jesus:

    66. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67. You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. 68. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jn 6:66-69

    Isn’t this the most basic tenant of being Christian? Fleeing to Jesus, i.e. at His mercy. If [Christ]ianity is actually a person, and our union with Him is what makes one “Christian”, and if this is “ideal and naive”, then let me be naive. In other words, I don’t think McCabe is projecting some pious construct up when he uses the term Christian . . . rather I am inclined to think that He is referring to the Person of Jesus, and humanities’ relationship to Him.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 3:55 am | Permalink
  5. Bobby. If the quote had been “Jesus alone…” etc, than I would have been shouting hooray and waving my hands. But that was not what he/Halden said. The question is why.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 5:34 am | Permalink
  6. Freder1ck wrote:

    Jonas,

    Didn’t Jesus tell Peter that the gates of Hell wouldn’t prevail against the Church (i.e. Christians)? A promise of corporate fidelity that may perhaps be a remnant: the remnant that clings to Jesus (see Soloviev’s Tale of the Antichrist).

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 5:48 am | Permalink
  7. Mike Higton wrote:

    I’ve been blogging a bit about a similar question myself recently – see http://goringe.net/theology/?p=119 and especially http://goringe.net/theology/?p=129 and http://goringe.net/theology/?p=131. I’m deeply suspicious of any tendency to say, ‘Me and my remnant (or, worse, me and the *idea* of a remnant that I carry round in my head), we’re where real faith is to be found: that great mass of so-called Christians over there – with their compromises and their hypocrisy and their bad faith – they’re nothing but a betrayal’. What’s the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 6:53 am | Permalink
  8. roflyer wrote:

    That’s right. Thanks for the quote. Keep up the Herbert McCabe quotes. You can never post to much of him.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 8:47 am | Permalink
  9. Mike/Frederick. I would say that the church is the people that follows Jesus (especially in their gathered aspect). I am deeply suspicious of every theology that says that it is ok with some christians following Jesus and obeying his teachings, while some don´t. So would you think that one can be a christian and belong to God´s church while not following Jesus? I simply cannot see any base in the scriptures or the early tradition of the church for accepting the idea that you can be a part of God´s people without being faithful to Jesus.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    Jonas, is not Israel always refered to as the people of God, even in their unfaithfulness? God never breaks his covenant, even when we do. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  11. Halden. As I understand it (being a (ana)baptist), in the renewed Israel of God, people are not incorporated into the people without obedience to God´s Messiah. Birthright, ethnicity or even the right confession won´t do it. With Jesus, things have changed… Even the one belonging to Israel is cut away if they reject God´s messiah, at least till the day when the heathens has come in in full number and all of Israel will be saved.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  12. Halden wrote:

    Doesn’t such a position then require you to define who’s in and who’s out of the people of God purely on the basis of their moral effort rather than on God’s act of grace in Jesus? Any definition of the church that require the sinless perfection of the people of God seems incompatible with the message of grace and with the Bible’s insistence that it is the faithfulness of God rather than our faithfulness that saves us and preserves us as one body.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  13. Mike Higton wrote:

    I’m with Halden.

    Look at those so-called Christians over there – they’re hypocrites. Well, so am I. They’re compromisers. Well, so am I. They’re full of bad faith. Well, so am I. They’re unfaithful. Well, so am I. They’re betrayers of Christ. Well, so am I.

    I tried to convince myself this was not true, but then the cock crowed a second time.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  14. Freder1ck wrote:

    Roflyer is right. The McCabe quotes are great.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  15. Christian wrote:

    I’m with Halden and Mike here: the sentiments that Jonas is putting forward are trite and naive. It is irritating just reading him.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  16. Christian. Do you have the same feelings when you read the sermon on the mount and the gospel of Matthew?

    Halden (and the rest?). I have never spoken or thought about “sinless perfection”. Repentance is not perfection, it is about turning ones back on satan and the system and moving in another direction (God´s coming kingdom). It´s about being a disciple, one following Jesus and having him as the only master.

    I believe that God´s act of grace in Jesus didn´t make everything allright. God in Jesus opened up a new world and begun a new creation. But everyone is not (yet) included into the kingdom.

    I don´t know where you all come from, but I don´t presuppose the lutheran teaching on sin, grace etc in my understanding of the gospel.

    A question: Is your position that you can belong to God´s people and God´s kingdom without following Jesus?

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 1:23 am | Permalink
  17. Mike Higton wrote:

    No, Jonas, I don’t think you can belong to God’s people without in some sense following Jesus – but your following of Jesus might be weak, vacillating, mistaken, crude, hypocritical, death-dealing, compromising and sinful. It might even lead to great betrayals of him – turning to other masters, turning back to satan. And the same Gospels that tell us that all that is sin, and that God hates it, and that it separates us from Christ, also tells us that Christ’s own disciples were like that, and that he didn’t let them go. They were held onto by Jesus’ strange tenacious mercy, not kept at his side by the quality of their own discipleship. Indeed, sometimes when they were closest to his side, they were mistakenly building their own version of the kingdom that had little to do with his. Jesus managed, somehow, to combine sharp, stark seriousness about all this sin, and a strange mercy that would not give up – even on that arch-apostate, Peter.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 1:52 am | Permalink
  18. Mike. Well spoken, I agree of course. But I still think that there is a visible difference between the church as the community of disciples, and the world. The church is a city on the hill and a light in the world. You cannot belong to God´s kingdom if you neglect the teachings of Jesus. As most people bearing the name of christian does. As I see it.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 4:40 am | Permalink
  19. Freder1ck wrote:

    Jonas,
    I don’t think folks are entirely at cross-purposes here. I’ll just say that the first obedience is to bear the merciful gaze of Christ. Everything else follows from this. I would add that God shows a preference, an election, and that this preference is for the good of the whole. For example, Joseph the Patriarch received a preference from God (and his earthly father too); but this preference saved all the sons of Jacob – and Egypt also.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 5:37 am | Permalink
  20. Freder1ck. Yeah, good point. I might add that I am universalist in “my” eschatology but exclusivist in “my” ecclesiology. To me this seems to be the most useful way to interpret the NT scriptures. The church is/should be a community of Jesus-lovers with practices that trains every believer to obey all the teachings of Jesus. We are not perfect, but we are truly changed by God´s grace. If not, it´s not the church. The church should not be a mixture of disciples, false christians and heathens. If the world will be lighted up, the light needs to shine clearly. Only then will the world believe. The church is the beginning of the new creation, a fore-taste of what the world will become.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Why Remain Christian? on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 12:26 am

    [...] 419 Scams wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt “Christianity alone, because it is the articulate presence of Christ, the future of mankind, cannot (however hard it sometimes seems to try) wholly betray its mission.  As it seems to me, like St. Peter and the twelve, we remain Christians because there is nowhere else to go: if Christianity is not the revolution, nothing else is.” –Herbert McCabe, Law, Love, and Language (Washington D.C.: Corpus Books, 1969), 172. [...]

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