Monthly Archives: August 2012

Teachings of the Early Church Fathers on Poverty & Wealth


These quotes were going round of Facebook, and I found some of them quite confronting… In line with the NT, but not with most of our current Christian practice (except for maybe Shaine Claiborne & Co)…

I’d like to add this John Wesley quote (source, very interesting read!)  to this though, to show that our modern Christianity has the same roots: “When I die if I leave behind me ten pounds … you and all mankind may bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” (Wesley, 1744)

You are not making a gift of your possession to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.
Ambrose of Milan, 340-397.

The property of the wealthy holds them in chains . . . which shackle their courage and choke their faith and hamper their judgment and throttle their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.
Cyprian, 300 A.D.

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help.
Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs.

John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD

Instead of the tithes which the law commanded, the Lord said to divide everything we have with the poor. And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the good but also to be liberal givers toward those who take away our possessions.

Irenaeus, 130-200 AD

The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.
John Chrysostom, 347-407

Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.
The Didache

Let the strong take care of the weak; let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich man minister to the poor man; let the poor man give thanks to God that he gave him one through whom his need might be satisfied.
Clement of Rome, 1st Century

Christians love one another. They do not overlook the widow, and they save the orphan. The one who has ministers ungrudgingly to the one who does not have. When they see a stranger, they take him under their own roof and rejoice over him as a true brother, for they do not call themselves brothers according to the flesh but according to the soul.
Aristides, early 2nd century

How can I make you realize the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?
Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.
John Chrysostom, 347-407

Like I said I think this is in line with the N.T., and with the way the first church, and a lot of men of God afterwards, lived.

Makes one thinks… I’m not going to a anti-capitalism-rants (even though capitalism and systems built on greed and egoism might be part of the oppressive ‘Powers that Be‘, working out fruitless works of darkness  which we as Christian should expose)

shalom

Bram

The revolution of the Kingdom (Greg Boyd)


Let’s go further with the idea of Christian pacifism

Christian non-violence is based on the words of Jesus in the gospel, the idea of love for our neighbor and enemy, and so on… I find it hard to read the NT without finding a lot about being called to love, not hate… The whole idea of the Kingdom of God like announced by Jesus, in which Gods will is done on earth as in heaven, does include it!

The basic idea behind Christian pacifism is the Walter Wink quote: ‘Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough‘. And indeed, Jesus brings us in his life, and in the cross and resurrection, something that goes beyond all our violence and other primitive responses…

Greg Boyd puts it like this in his book ‘the myth of a Christian religion‘. (A book that I quite like, even though I do disagree with the pejorative use of both words ‘myth’ and ‘religion’, but that’s another story…)

The revolutions of the world have always been about one group trying to wrest power from another. The revolution Jesus launched, however, is far more radical, for it declares the quest for power over others to be as hopeless as it is sinful. Jesus’ Kingdom revolts against this sinful quest for power over others, choosing instead to exercise power under others. It’s a revolution of humble, self-sacrificial, loving service. It always looks like Jesus, dying on Calvary for the very people who crucified him. (p.19)

This means more than the non-violence we are talking about, but a complete reversal of our human ways to view power, and a call for us as Kingdom people to live the reality not of this broken world, but the reality of the coming world. The current world is under the influence of the Powers of destruction and violence, but all those things will be dona away with, and the Power through which the new world will come is diametrically opposed to our human views of power:

The difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world comes down to the kind of power they trust. The kingdoms of the world place their trust in whatever coercive power they can exercise over others. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the sword.
In contrast, the Kingdom of God refuses to use coercive power over people, choosing instead to rely exclusively on whatever power it can exercise under people. This is the transforming power of humble, self-sacrificial, Christlike love. Exercising power under others is about impacting people’s lives by serving them, sacrificing for them, and even being sacrificed by them while refusing to retaliate, as Jesus did. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the cross, for the cross is the purest expression of humble,  servantlike, self-sacrificial love. (p.22)

Note here that Boyd is known to put a heavy emphasis on Christus Victor atonement: Jesus, God incarnate became human and suffered with us, and  on the cross Jesus he himself over to the powers of darkness and destruction, sin and defeated them in the resurrection… The self-giving Jesus who endures the powers is the conquering King destroying death and evil… And we are not just to ‘believe in Him’ but to follow Jesus, even in the example of the cross, which means that we are to be different than ‘the world':

Kingdom people are called out of the world to be a holy, separate people. We’re called to be nonconformists, resisting the “pattern of the world” as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. This holy nonconformity isn’t just one aspect of who we are—it’s the essence of who we are. It’s how we manifest the beauty of God’s character and Kingdom. Out of the wellspring of the abundant Life we receive from Christ, we are to live in revolt against everything in our own lives, in society, and in the spirit-realm that is inconsistent with God’s reign. This can only happen if Jesus followers refuse to get co-opted by other things. (p. 23)

I leave you with one description from Boyd of the paradox of the enormous power of the cross:

While cross-power may look weak next to sword-power, it is, in fact, the greatest power in the universe. The power of the ‘cross is the only power that can overcome evil rather than merely suppress it for a while. It’s the only power that can transform an enemy into a friend. It’s the power that God promises will ultimately transform the world. It’s the kind of power the omnipotent God himself relied on when hè came in the person of Jesus Christ to overcome evil and redeem all of creation from its grip.

what do you  think?

shalom

Bram

Some Interesting Things Elsewhere VI


edit: I accidently published this post too early, it was scheduled for wednesday but I pushed the wrong button…

The random picture today (going round on FB)  is a man ‘hugging’ a Japanese giant salamander… I always liked freaky animals, and this monster certainly fits that description…

For the interesting things elswhere:

Sarah Moon on Christian forgiveness, how subversive it is, but how Christians turn it completely wrong…

One of the important theological discussions of the moment is ‘what is the gospel’, and Peter Enns has an interesting post on that question. (I’m sorta with Enns, Wright, and McKnight in this discussion, for those wondering.)

I found this article on the orthodox view of ancestral sin (not original sin like Augustine and those who follow him) interesting.

Interesting stuff about Pentecostalism being pacifist in its early years

And since we’re doing hard theological  subjects, here is Greg Boyd on the death of Ananias and Sapphira.

What we can learn from the dying

It seems like every disaster in or around the US gives us prophetic weirdos who say that it’s Gods punishment. It’s strange that they keep silent now, with the Isaac storm and the Republican convention (except for Roger Olson in his more satirical moments)

Kurt Willems on Christian politics: Speak truth, be truth, that’s it…

Derek Flood on sojo, on gender equality and how complementarianism misses something essential in their bible reading. On his blog there’s also an interesting post about re-thinking the Wesleyan quadrilateral (in favor of experience!)

shalom

Bram

Christian pacifism in the Middle-East


I think most readers here are aware that I believe that Jesus call to love our neighbor and even enemies imply an ideal of pacifism and non-violent resistance for Christians. It seems obvious to me from the gospels that even if non-violence is not always possible in this fallen world, that we still have to do everything to live and act out of love for every human being, and that the glorification of  violence has no place in the life of Christ-followers. Not everyone does agree with this though. Even when ignoring weirdos like Mark Driscoll we can find a lot of Christians who don’t think pacifism realistic, or even feel threatened by it. One of the most common objections against it is that it is not realistic at all, and only a possible option for Western armchair philosophers who don’t have to face war and violence… Why can’t those hippies not just grow up and join the real world…

Speaking of hippies, I always found the story of Shane Claiborne in Iraq very impressing (he went there with a Christian peacemaker team while the land was bombarded by his fellow Americans) In also got the impression from his story that the traditional Christians from Iraq were a lot more serious about peace and non-violence than most Evangelicals. So I don’t see how the criticism that christian peace-loving and being realistic about violence even makes sense…

This piece is even more impressive, from Gregorios III, Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem (including a lot of places with brutal violence) about not arming Christians but calling for non-violence in Syria:

We call upon all our faithful, in all parishes, to refuse offers of arms. We remind them of the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52) And also, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth… Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 5 and 9)

We remind them likewise of Saint Paul’s teaching, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12: 18)
Our role as Christians is one of mediation and reconciliation: of being bridge-builders between the children of the same homeland. That is the finest mission that we could carry out for our country, Syria, for our brother and sister fellow-citizens of all denominations, regardless of political party, tribe, region or persuasion.

Inspiring, isn’t it?

shalom

Bram

(Shalom means peace!)

Some interesting things elsewhere V


Not much happening here, but at least I have a new SITE- list for my readers:

The ten dogmas of modern science.

The difference between theistic evolutionism and evolutionary creationism on Jesus Creed. I never liked the first term,  and even if I do tend tend to an old earth and biological evolution (as an explanation for what we can find in the material world, which is NOT AT ALL the whole story of the origins of the universe and humanity), I’d never make an ism out of any creatonal view. But I agree that for a Christian affirming the Creator is more important than affirming any scientific theory.

(The problem between ‘creation’ and ‘evolution’ is not a scientfic one, but a metaphysical and philosophic one anyway, and I do like the way in which ‘evolutionary creation’ crosses those false dichotomies..)

Morgan Guyton being provocative again and criticising Tim Keller for creating a false binary of love and holiness. It also shows where I think Guytons Wesleyanism is more in line with both the bible and the great tradition of Christianity than the reformed tradition, but I think some people will not at all agree with that…

David Flowers has a list of five books that, according to him will be very important for the future of North-American Evangelical church in the 21st century . I mioght not be an American but those are important books to wrestle with indeed:

1. N.T. Wright: Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church 
2. Scot McKnight: The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited 
3. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet: Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
4. Greg Boyd: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church
5. Christian Smith: The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture 

(I read all of those ecxept #4, which might be the book in the list that is most fit for the Americansituation specificall, but I read other things by Boyd and I quite like him)

Rachel Held Evans has a very interesting guest in her ‘ask a…’ series: Ask an Indigenous Theologian.

Justin Lee cfor the gay Christian Network has a very strong point here: Worldliness in the other direction is still worldliness!

Totally unrelated is the news that ebay doesn’t sell magic anymore. I’m not even going to comment on that one…

Richard Beck of experimental theology on the ‘hole rule‘, a good consideration for those who are into simple living…

And then there’s Todd Bentley, still on the other side of the Atlantic ocean

Shalom

Bram

Musical interlude: Step into the madness (Larry Norman)


I was listening to the grandfather of christian rock lately, and I found this song about his homeland quite scary, and parts of it might be as relevant as they were when the song was released in 1991…

I must say that I do disagree with a lot of Larry’s theology, and that some of his ideas can be quite weird from time to time, but on other moments he can be incredible spot on, like in this song…

Step into the madness of a million city streets
Where dealers sell white powder and children stand and bleed
Where local gangs are vicious and cops are so impure
That schoolboys carry Uzis so they’ll feel secure.

Where fathers rape their daughters and beat up on their sons
Until the mother tries to stop him and goes and buys a gun
Where the local church is closed except a couple times a week
And turns its face from all the homeless in the street.

This is America, land of the free
Everyone gets justice and liberty, if you got the money.

Bankers and controllers make deals on foreign shores
And the CIA ships heroin to finance their secret wars
They sell the madmen weapons then send soldiers to their land
And in the name of God we battle for all the oil under the sand.

This is America, land of the free
Everyone gets justice and liberty, if you got the money.

Step into the madness as a thousand points of light
Illuminate the warheads for the final fight.
Step into the madness, say your prayers and drink your tea
Get ready for a kinder, gentler world war three.

This is America, land of the free
Everyone gets justice and liberty, if you got the money.

Susanna Krizo on economics…


And now for something completely different: economics…

I found this an interesting quote, that was posted on FB by Jason Dye, who blogs here on left cheek. It’s from Susanna Krizo, whose new book “Essential Inequality & Social Justice in an Unjust World”, which will be out on Amazon at the end of this month, is going to be a primer on economic justice issues. The quote is on why the giving money to the pockets of the poor works better than tax breaks for the rich:

The neoclassical theory of economics (otherwise known as trickle-down) is based on the idea that demand and supply would always be balanced if the market was free to do what it does best; the gov’t is what causes the market to be imbalanced. But here’s the catch: the neoclassical theory doesn’t include human need. Those who cannot translate their need into demand are excluded from the theory, and life in general – they just don’t exist. The theory does not address poverty, old age, illness, other than with a withering announcement of the poor as lazy. By giving more money to the wealthy, our economy becomes lopsided, (since it removes demand) until supply engulfs demand, and the economy grinds to a halt – which was what happened in 2008. Human need cannot be transformed into demand without money, which is what the Keynesian theory recognized. To get the economy going, we need more people who can balance by demand the already bloated supply section. This is not done by giving more money to the wealthy, but to the poor and the middle class, who put the money right into the economy, instead of hiding the money in overseas tax havens. (via Jason M Dye)

I’m not an economist, but the whole ‘tricle down’ idea has always seemed nonsense to me, and as a Christian I don’t see any justification for favoring the rich over the poor. That’s just not compatible with the teachings of our Lord Jesus….

(Maybe running an empire isn’t compatible with following the teachings of our Lord either, I don’t have my mind made up about that yet…)

what do you think?

shalom

Bram