My recent podcast discussed Christianity and evolution, and my blogfriend Sean Meade raised some issues with my understanding of the faith. It’s delightful to have this sort of conversation, and I am very grateful to podcaster Phil Jones for the discussion his work has brought. My short answer to his questions â€œPaul believed in resilient enterprises.â€ For a longer answer, read on…
Paul summarized Christianity in three words, one of which is most important
“There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
Paul was explaining Christ’s commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). But Paul didn’t just apply the commandment to the individual-level-of-analysis — teaching Christians how they should treat each other — but also the system level — how Christian groups should interact with each other. Using circumcision as an example, Paul writes
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth… The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:6-7,14-15)
Paul gives a tricky prescription for the church. Paul is insisting there are both relevant and irrelevant doctrinal questions. The relevant one is love, without which the everything is forfeited. Yet an irrelevant one is circumcision, which doesn’t matter, and which Paul wishes Christians would just stop arguing about.
In other words, Paul is insisting that Christianity be a resilient enterprise. It should be a realm of limited competition, in which affiliates are free to adapt themselves to local conditions but not free to engage in destructive competition.
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
Luther presents an always-everywhere variation of Christianity, directly aimed at Christians who disagree with him on neither faith, nor hope, nor love, but an even outer Christian belief.
As opposed to Luther’s narrowing of the faith, the Jesuits (formally known as the Society of Jesus) believed in inculturing it. For example, if faith, hope, and love — but most importantly, love — are made easier for a Chinese peasant by assuring him that the Lord of Heaven really does love him, then assure him of that. For it’s certainly true. John Paul II described this as “the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures.” This is a far more human undertaking than attempting to build culture anew.
This blog’s old masthead was “Beauty. Victory. God.” Victory is a beautiful concept — it’s what Paul talked about in his racing analogy, and what John Paul was aiming for describing a 4GW-style insertion of Christianity into existing social networks. If we bite and devour each other — if we lose — we destroy each other. Missionaries realizing the power of darwinian competition while inserting Christianity is no less Christian than missionaries realizing the power of gravity when they decide to take the stairs instead of jumping.