From: Jim Breen[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: January 23, 1998 1:21 PM
Subject: Moderator What else?
My concern is that much of the discussion about Jesus' divinity and humanity has been put in such technical language that is is inaccessible to most laity. So I ask is this statement an accurate simple summary of what is at stake?
If Jesus is not God then WE have to save ourselves and the world from our problems. But if Jesus is God then HE will save us and the world from our problems. Which is Good News?
What do you think? ... following is an article built upon this assumption for my annual report and the next Presbytery News Letter. Please give feedback ...
What's The Big Deal?
The Importance of Jesus Being Fully God and Human
A lot of ink and words have been flying back and forth over the new moderator' s beliefs about Jesus Christ. In the midst of this I saw a very intelligent man Mike Duffy on Sunday Edition admit his difficulty in making head or tail of the argument and their importance. I figure if he is having trouble understanding so are many others. However not wanting to use worship time to discuss this I thought the annual report might be the best place.
So what is the big deal? Well if Jesus is only a human prophet then WE are left on our own to save ourselves and the world from its problems and sin. But if Jesus is God become a real human then Jesus can save us and the world from our problems and sin.
The scriptures clearly talk about Jesus as saviour. In order to be saviour he must be God for no human could do what his Biblical resume.
1. Galations 2:20 talkes about Christ living in believers empowering us to new life. As humans we cannot get inside the heads of our spouces to make changes so if Jesus is not God then we are on our own. He is also described as making us alive to free us from sin to do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10). These acts which I have personally experienced in my own life and seen in others cannot be done by even the greatest human being.
2. Jesus death on the cross is understood to be different than the countless millions who have died throughout the ages in that his death made forgiveness of sins possible. The Bible never explains mechanically how his death does this but it repeatedly describes a New Covenant in Christ's blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28; Romans 5:12-17; John 1:29 etc). There is nothing unique about the death of a human but the death of God, as the Bible describes that's unique. Since sin is an offence to God only He can forgive and deal with it. Thus only if Jesus is God could he bring about forgiveness.
Finally John's gospel records Jesus saying, "He who has seen me has seen the Father". The only way Jesus could reveal information about God is if he is divinely God. For if Jesus is only human (like us) even if he is the greatest man who ever lived his statements about God are not qualitatively different than your or mine. So unless he is God, Jesus should be not followed any more than you or I.
The alternative that Jesus is a human who shows us God as a window is not good news. First the information he shows as a human is suspect. How could he know any more about God than the rest of us? Secondly in this view even if we accept the suspect message of how to live from Jesus, we are left to figure out how to achieve such a life (Kingdom of God) on our own. This is what worries me about Rev. Phipp's position. In listening to his talk about social action it betrays this kind of an approach. The United Church Observer Oct 97 pg 15 in his first press conference following his election quotes him as saying that despite the United Church's move from a mainline to a sideline denomination with other marginal groups "WE can change society from the margins WE have to learn to take bigger risks." Phipps does talk about the need for God's grace (help) (pg 29 UCC Observer Dec 97) but then he goes on to talk about us doing all the work and "hoping with all your energy that what you are doing is helpful but you don't know". It is significant that he never mentions God doing anything concrete! So Phipps wants to make the world a better place ... (no one would disagree with that) but he talks about OUR need to make a difference ..."WE can change society". Well the fact is that we can't change human nature in oursleves much less anyone else. Only Jesus as God with the Holy Spirit can change people from the inside out.
What's at stake is the very message and hope that we share with each other and proclaim to the world around us. The message that WE can save ourselves and the world from our problems is not good news and as futile as believing that World War 1 was the war to end all wars. The message and hope that we can and must proclaim and live out in concrete actions or the poor and pressed is that Jesus is Lord and is saving us and the world." This is gospel (Good News)! This is the big deal!
Rev Jim Breen
From: email@example.com (Tony Copple)
Subject: Bill Phipps TV Alert
Date: Thu, 22 Jan
According to an Ottawa radio station, Bill Phipps is interviewed tonight,
Thursday 22 Jan on CBC Newsworld (Ch 26 in Ottawa) by Pamela Wallin at 10pm.
I am trying to get confirmation from the CBC, and will send it through if it comes.
From: Gail Reid[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: January 23, 1998 5:35 PM
Subject: Victor Shepherd's sermon
Dear Net Friends:
Victor Shepherd, minister at Streetsville United Church preached this sermon in response to the moderator. I thought you might find it interesting. [please click on link above]
I would also like to comment on Jim Breen's message to his annual meeting. Jim, you articulated exactly what I was feeling after viewing Bill Phipps, yet again, on CBC Newsworld with Pam. Wallin.
Perhaps it was the contrast between 45 minutes of Phipps vs. 45 minutes of Nicki Gumbel on the second Alpha tape, but it all hit me in a rush.
Bill's God had so little to offer--He was indeed "present in all situations." But other than that the load was on us to mend and change the world. The viewer was left facing Phipps and an enormous task.
In contrast, Gumbel presented a God who loved us so much He would go to any lengths to save us, who understood our helplessness to help ourselves, and had figured out a perfect plan since the beginning to work it all out. Here was a God that loved everyone and died for them so we could all be free from our addictions, our self destruction, our warped way of thinking etc. Here was a God who HAS saved us. We need only claim it and grab onto the healing power to be different. Gumbel's message offered hope and it pointed away from himself to a transforming loving Christ who acted and continues to act in supernatural ways in us and through us.
Yes, Jim, "only Jesus as God with the Holy Spirit can change people from the inside out." and He is doing it one person at a time. His transformation of us truly mends our own lives, our families and our community. When He is at the centre it works.
From: Gail Reid[SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: January 20, 1998 12:38 AM
To: Copple, Tony
We started our third Alpha group again last week also. I had the same response as you --I couldn't believe how clear and powerful Nicky Gumbel's answers were to Is Jesus Divine? Every verse, every story was crystal clear I loved it!!
You must be so glad to be back! I'm listening to it for the third time and I didn't miss a thing--wonderful. My husband is also back for the second time and excited.
How can we get more people out to this??? I wish the Observer would do something on it--that might do it. Do you know if there is any list somewhere that has all the names of every member and adherent in the United Church? I sure would like to reach out more. This Phipps thing shows how vulnerable and ignorant we are. The United Church doesn't link up enough with the Global Christian community.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org: Re: UCC Moderator Debate
Sent: January 20, 1998 6:04 PM
I'm with you Tony in your comments about - "Who is Jesus," the first in the Alpha Video series. I too am a helper/leader on my second Alpha course at Saint Thomas Anglican church in Stittsville and we just viewed "Who is Jesus?" last night - the repackaged lecture in the "new" shorter and punchier series of Alpha videos. I strongly urge anyone concerned by this debate to have a listen to what Rev. Nicky Gumbel has to say about this vital question.
- - M. Bryan
Sent: January 18, 1998 9:54 PM
Subject: Moderator debate snapshot
This message goes (blind copies) to all
the names on my UC Moderator e-mail list.
The e-mail correspondence during the last week, triggered by the Christian Week editorial, has been inspiring and significant in the cause of a better understanding of the historical context and the forces at work. Personally I thought Doug Koop's take on the UCC was perceptive, and he certainly triggered some hot dialog between David Shearman and Steve Clarke.
This dialog can be reviewed in chronological sequence on the web site that I maintain to track this saga: www.igs.net/~tonyc/mod.html, under response to the site & e-mail correspondence for Jan 16. May make it a lot easier for you to study than picking up on a series of e-mails from different sources.
None of the messages listed are edited in any way. Steve Clarke's writings in particular (I felt) deserved a permanent platform.
I have commented before about the relevance of the Alpha Course to this debate. The Video program that is shown on the first week of the course, "Who is Jesus", answers most of the questions that Phipps seems to be uncomfortable with. I'm a helper and group leader on this, my second course, but seeing this tape again last week I realized that it was this video the first time round that gave me the background and stomach to involve myself in helping get Bill back along the right lines. My advice: beg, borrow, or even buy this video from your local Christian bookstore, or how about coming on the Alpha course and getting this and a whole lot more! There's one somewhere in your neighbourhood.