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Monday, January 14, 2013

Optimism and Faith

Today I'm reading Galatians 1:6-12,

6-9 I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.
10-12 Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.

A cynic would say that optimism and faith are the same thing: getting yourself to believe something you know isn’t true. Wrong. Like faith, optimism is believing in a positive future (and then acting on that belief). Human optimism is based on believing in one’s own efforts, skills, achievements, talents, abilities. Godly optimism means believing in what he can do. And Paul says his preaching isn’t just about human optimism. It’s not just a ‘fee-good, quick fix’ for the weak minded. In his defense of his ministry Paul says his message came straight from Jesus Christ. That claim, and the Church’s affirmation of that claim, is why his letters are considered to be ‘scripture’ – divinely superintended by God for the instruction of the Body. If it were not so then Paul’s letters would just be Paul’s opinion, nothing more - which is what liberals and progressives believe about the Bible. It’s an interesting book from an historical perspective but it really doesn’t have any authority over us today. Our experience of the ‘divine’ has equal or even more value. And that’s why even churches today set aside the clear teaching to scripture to accommodate he whims of culture.

I’d rather stake m claim with Paul.


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