FBC Macon

Nurture. Love. Serve. ALL.

We’re proud of our Baptist history and heritage, but we’re also proud of our diversity. At First Baptist you will find a group of people coming from a variety of different church backgrounds and denominations who have found a home at the “top of Poplar.” And while our congregation comes from all over middle Georgia, we are a downtown church and see it is our mission to be the presence of Christ to our InTown and College Hill communities here in Macon.

A Summary of

Saving Jesus From the Church

By Robin Meyers

 

 

Prologue

 

Utilizing a bad dream and a subsequent Sunday afternoon walk, Meyers first depicts his perspective of the grim world we live in, the destructive things done in the name of Christianity, and raises the question “How can I call myself a Christian?”; then he turns around and challenges himself and other progressive Christians for not doing a better job of promoting Biblical literacy, but instead indulging in the same kind of “spiritual pride” that we often attribute to fundamentalists.  He raises the question “How can our faith become biblically responsible, intellectually honest, emotionally satisfying, and socially significant?”  And he poses the challenge of following Jesus as a teacher and not just worshipping him as the Christ  (“a supernatural deity on a rescue mission”).  He identifies the fourth century fork in the road “when a first-century spiritual insurgency was seduced into marrying its legal oppressor” (Constantine).  And he emphatically makes a distinction between following and believing.

 

Chapter One:  Jesus the Teacher, Not the Savior

 

Meyers asserts that he isn’t trying to prove that Jesus is not divine.  Instead, he deems it “a call to reconsider what it means to follow Jesus, instead of arguing over things that the church has insisted we must all believe about Christ.”  “Christianity as a belief system requires nothing but acquiescence.  Christianity as a way of life, as a path to follow, requires a second birth, the conquest of ego, and new eyes with which to see the world.  It is no wonder that we have preferred to be saved.”

 

He holds up the life and witness of Albert Schweitzer as a supreme example of following, not just believing.  He also reviews theological study of the Gospels, includingthose not canonized, and identifies the themes of the “pre-Easter Jesus” and “post-Easter Christ”, tracing this evolution through the chronological emergence of the Gospels and Pauline letters.  Then he asserts that “Once we understand the evolution of Jesus the teacher to Christ the Savior, we can reverse it and discover the pre-Christian wisdom of the Galilean sage.”  Finally, he poses the question “What shall we (the church) offer to those who are not believers and yet wish to be followers?”

 

Chapter Two:  Faith as Being, not Belief

 

Draws on Marcus Borg “who reminds us that there are four meanings of the word “faith” in the history of Christianity, and only one of them, assensus, has anything to do with intellectual assent . . .  the other meanings are faith as fiducia (radical trust in God), as fidelitas (loyalty in one’s relationship to God), and as visio (a way of seeing creation as gracious)”.  Myers goes on to say that “If the church does not succeed in restoring the idea of faith as “being”, and not “believing”, then the gospel story of Jesus as the heart of God in the flesh will wither and perish”.  He also asserts that “it is the incarnation that forms the most compelling and distinctly Christian teaching of all.”

 

Meyers reviews the little we actually know about Jesus’ life, especially before the age of 30.  He then explores the significance of Jesus becoming a follower of John the Baptist, and the effect that John’s preaching (“fire and brimstone”) and subsequent execution might have had on Jesus’ understanding of God and the meaning of faith.  “John Dominic Crossan speculates that the death of John caused a shift in the preaching of Jesus from an apocalyptic to a non-apocalyptic understanding of the kingdom of God”.

 

Myers goes on to say that “What the earliest layers of the gospel record reveal . . . is that Jesus was wise.  He was charismatic, a gifted speaker, and a teacher of wisdom . . . Discipleship was not about knowing new things or subscribing to certain theological statements or positions, but about the never-ending process of dying to an old self and being reborn to a new one.”

 

On being “fearless”, Meyers acknowledges that some thought Jesus was “crazy”.  Then he talks about “radical freedom” as “a life lived outside of the straitjacket of fear and anxiety that controls most of us.  It is a way of being in the world that is so fully connected to another Source of wisdom and worthiness that the person appears to be “missing” something – and indeed he or she is.”

 

“Make no mistake.  Such subversive wisdom is always a threat to law and order, to the religious establishment, and to the social hierarchy that creates and preserves wealth.  Jesus under-cut the power and purpose of religious professionals, excited the poor and empowered the powerless, and quickly attracted large crowds in an occupied territory that was smoldering under Roman occupation.  Then, as now, the solution to this problem was simple.”

 

Chapter Three:  The Cross as Futility, not Forgiveness

 

Meyers talks about the painful and humiliatingdeath by crucifixion utilized by the Romans during their occupation, and points out that “Christianity is the only major religious tradition whose founder was executed by established authority”. 

 

Paul’s writings, which were circulated earliest, establish only that the death of Jesus was “for our sins in accordance with the scriptures”, which raises the question of how much Paul actually knew about Jesus’ death at the time, 25 years after the crucifixion.  In A.D. 70 Roman legions laid waste to Jerusalem, even destroying the temple.  Meyers compares the significance of this event to our 9/ll.  It was in this traumatic context of defeat and humiliation that Mark’s gospel emerged in the early 70’s, after the death of both Paul and Peter, and for the first time there was a passion narrative which included the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Meyers goes on to hypothesize that it was Mark’s job “to compose a story that made sense of the death of Jesus long after the fact, with the Temple now in ruins and this deeply disturbing question hanging over the whole smoking mess:  How could God’s Chosen One have been so treated, and if he had been so treated, could he still be God’s Chosen One?”

 

Chapter 4:  Easter as Presence, not Proof

 

“First, we must ask ourselves whether these are three literal days or three liturgical days, like the six days required by the God of Genesis to create the universe.  Second, we must ask whether an Easter faith requires us to believe in the resurrection of a corpse.  And third, if the answer is no, then the next question is obvious:  To what can the church point as proof that Jesus was indeed the Christ?  Is it possible to rise from the dead without one’s body, and if so, how would this be verified?  Is Easter a molecular event or a spiritual one?”

 

Myers proposes that we understand the (post-resurrection) appearance stories as political rather than historical.  “In fact, the strange and often baffling accounts of Jesus sightings have more to do with conferring authority on certain disciples or leadership groups than they do on persuading the audience to believe. . . . To be a witness was to be an authority; so the gospel writers used appearance stories to commission their first officers – beginning with Peter, then James, then all the apostles, and then Paul – so that the Jesus movement could spread beyond Jerusalem and Judea.”

 

Chapter 5:  Original Blessing, Not Original Sin

 

“To claim, as Augustine did, that we are permanently infected by Adam’s sin and that this condition is incurable, save by profession of faith in the atoning sacrifice of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, is to declare that creation is inescapable bad, but selectively redeemable.  Yet thebiblical account of creation says something entirely different – that we are made in the image and likeness of God, expressed by the beautiful Latin phrase imago Dei.  It says that we are born inescapably good, as part of a good creation; and yet we lose our way by making bad choices.  We do so not because we are carriers, but because we are deluded by ego, trapped by fear, and paralyzed by insecurity.  We may make mistakes, but we are not a mistake.  This truth lies slumbering within us, as Socrates understood, and must be mined by a teacher, not cancelled or covered over by a savior.”

 

On the “deadly legacy of duality”:  “The tendency of human beings to see life as a simple choice between opposing and irreconcilable states is, at best, falsely comforting.  At worst, it is apocalyptic.  Perhaps we like things to be simple because real life is not. . . . The more anxious we are about the world and our place in it, the more we seek simple answers to complex questions. . . Ambiguity is frightening, and ‘situation ethics’ (as if there is any other kind) smacks of moral relativism.  It is no wonder that in times of fear, we follow leaders who talk tough and appeal to nostalgia.  When thinking, deciding, and doing become too painful, we surrender our lives to authority figures who have all the answers.”

 

“The pervasiveness of sin should not be confused with the inevitability of sin.  The answer to the age-old question of whether people can change is yes, they can – but not because they confess to believing in theological propositions.  Rather change occurs when people are born again to their own goodness.”

 

Chapter 6:  Christianity as Compassion, not Condemnation

 

“It is sobering to remember that one does not become gracious by reading a good book on grace.  What’s more, the incarnation itself argues against it, since by definition our claim is that theory and praxis were brought together in the pure compassion of one who wrote nothing down.  Our faith is “commissional”, not rhetorical.  We are commanded to “go and do likewise, not to go and talk likewise . . . Words can be a form of action, but they can also be a substitute for action . . . Words are not enough when people are starving and lepers are ignored.”

 

“The question for the church of the future is not, ‘Have I provided dogmatic information sufficient for salvation?’ but rather ‘Have I shown compassion to those who need it and the love of God to those denied it?’”

 

“The church is political the moment that it determines that one way of treating human beings is more compassionate than another way and then sets out to do the right thing.”

 

Chapter 7:  Discipleship as Obedience, not Observance

 

“Mostly the church-growth crowd makes joining a church as easy as possible.  With so many churches struggling to survive, the process of becoming a member is reduced to a kind of ecclesiastical dating game.  Perhaps this is the church you have been looking for?  Here are the services we provide (in an attractive physical package no less), and if you will tell us something aboutyour needs, then maybe we can arrive at a mutual decision as to compatibility.”

 

“What if we warned people against joining a church because turbulence in the pews is not ‘occasional and unexpected’, but routine?  What if more sermons could move beyond what pilots call ‘light chop,’ and more preachers would fly people right into the storm, instead of around it in search of ‘smooth air’?  What if those oxygen masks dropped down almost every Sunday, and people had to grab them gasping, instead of hearing our standard rhetorical charade that advises otherwise terrified people to ‘continue breathing normally’?”

 

“If the church is to survive as a place where head and heart are equal partners in faith, then we will need to commit ourselves once again not to the worship of Christ, but to the imitation of Jesus.  His invitation was not to believe, but to follow.  Since it was once dangerous to be a follower of The Way, the church can rightly assume that it will never be on the right track again until the risks associated with being a follower of Jesus outnumber the comforts of being a fan of Christ.  Until we experience Jesus as a ‘radically disturbing presence’, instead of a cosmic comforter, we will not experience him as true disciples.  The first question any churchgoer should be asked and expected to answer is:  What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?”

 

“Disciples today are called to rebel against the rampant individualism of American culture and to reconstitute and then empower communities of ‘dignified indignance.’”

 

Chapter 8:  Justice as Covenant, Not Control

 

“For a number of reasons, the church has become widely viewed as either irrelevant, the object of contempt, or both . . . but two factors stand out.  1) A narrow approach to the idea of salvation, as expressed in the blood atonement and with Jesus as the exclusive divine Savior, has played into the hands of a church seeking political power at the expense of the inclusive wisdom of its own gospel.  ‘Getting saved’ not only is a static and highly individualistic phenomenon but narrows and domesticates the redemptive activity of God in ways that conform all too conveniently to the worldview of the new American empire.  In a land of entitled bargain hunters, salvation becomes the ultimate bargain.  2) The notion of covenant as a collective expression of gratitude and mutuality has been trampled beneath a culture whose real devotion is to private ambition.  The religious impulse, born in epiphanies that awaken us to our responsibilities to and for one another, is fundamentally corrupted when it is reduced to an individual balm.”

 

“When a covenant is a religious one, another dimension is added to the idea of an agreement, even one that is freely entered into.  That dimension is a transcendent quality based on religious values.  A religious covenant is not a contract, which we enter into and follow mostly for self-protection or to force compliance.  In contracts, if one party fails to live up to the agreement, the agreement is voided.  Not so with religious covenants.  They are bound by the parameters of forgiveness and patience and characterized by a kind of transrational tenacity.”

 

“The truth is, one can embrace one’s own tradition, deeply and unapologetically, without invalidating the religious tradition of another.  Until we correct this most pervasive of illusions, we have no hope for peace.  Fundamentalism of all kinds is the enemy of peace.”

 

Chapter 9:  Prosperity as Dangerous, Not Divine

 

“Two heresies seem dominant in our age.  One is the heresy of docetism, the belief that Jesus was not human at all, but God masquerading on earth as a human being.  The 2nd is the so-called prosperity gospel, the heresy of believing that God wants believers to get rich and that material abundance is proof of God’s love.”

 

Chapter 10:  Religion as Relationship, not Righteousness

 

“The deeper truth is one that could save the church from its own preoccupation with sin and salvation:  it is relationships, not transactions, that hold the key to human happiness.  We are as we relate – not as we possess, control, believe, or conquer.  The most sacred space in all of creation is the space in between.”

 

“True religion is relationship, not righteousness.  It must play out ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.  For this we need clarity and self-consciousness about the nature of our relationships and what makes them authentic and life-changing – as opposed to inauthentic and death-dealing. “

 

Myers identifies and elaborates on Martin Buber’s concept of “I – Thou” as a model for authentic and sacred relating.

 

“The gospel is ‘good news’ not for adherents but rather for practioners.  And the practice of Christianity is made possible not by intellectual assent to propositions but by an existential embrace of worthiness.

 

 

WEEKLY SERVICES

Sunday
Sunday School at 9:45am
Morning Worship at 11:00am

Wednesday Evening
We begin with a meal at 5:30pm. Music and missions activities are available for adults, youth, and kids. Learn More

 

CONTACT US

511 High Place
Macon, GA 31201
Directions to FBCX

Telephone: 1.478.742.6485

Email: office@fbcxmacon.org


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