Diana Bass’ book A People’s History of Christianity tells the story of Anthony who wondered into a local church. Anthony had recently become wealthy because of his parents’ untimely death. There he heard a sermon on the Gospel of Luke 18:18-23 which tells the story of another rich young man. “A certain ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" “You know the commandments,” Jesus responded, 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.”
Unlike the rich young man of the Gospel story, Anthony left the church and did just what Jesus asked. He gave all he had to the poor and retired to an ascetic life in the Egyptian desert. When I read the story, it occurred to me that those who read the Bible literally usually don’t give everything they have to the poor and those who read it allegorically think Anthony is a hero!
Such are the ambiguities of Bible study. It’s the genius of the Bible that its inherent contradictions make it difficult property to be claimed by either us liberals or those conservatives. Part of God’s design is that this book is a rather thin reed with which to win an argument. God intended it to be a collection of writings that would cause us to think and reflect rather than argue.
Bass reports on a recent poll of youthful churchgoers. A third of them thought Christians to be boring, exclusive, judgmental, hypocritical and out of touch with the real world. Contrast that with the Romans who fed our ancestors to the lions only because they thought we were naïve! I don’t know about you but I would prefer being fed to the lions over being irrelevant to these vibrant young people.
All of that is my way to interest you in a book study. We are going to have an energetic dialogue about Bass’s book. It begins tonight (March 1st) at 6PM and will continue March 8th and conclude March 15th. Sessions run from 6-8 PM at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne.
Join us as we look for our friends in the early church to teach us how to make friends for the contemporary church.