I have nothing new to say. That is why I have stopped writing for the most part.
I ventured to and fro in my mind recently, and read many books, and yet never thought much about this blog. I felt like in some sense it had run it's course. And I think in many ways it has....
But this volume is far from complete, and with that, I will attempt to comment on one of those many Apostolic Projects which will not let me lay down peacefully and forget about this blog. Specifically, the recent and ongoing proclamation of the necessity of having an Apostolic Identity. (Warning: I will not be partaking in the usual comedy routine that has become so ingrained in this blog. Instead you will get a rant. Apologies.).
From what I have gathered in my years in the UPC, the neat thing about us, is that we are A-historical in our Christianity. That is, we reject the history of the Church and it's influence on the interpretation
I have no problem of our proclamation for an Apostolic Identity. My difficulty is how we define Apostolic Identity. If being Apostolic is that of living the Christianity of the Apostles, then it is an Identity that does not look to history nor tradition. We reject the claim of the Church Fathers such as Justin, Origin, and Tertullian as they dogmatically ritualized the Christian Faith, and our rejection is rightfully so. It was the Church fathers after all that defined the trinitarian formula.
If anyone is trying to live out the definition of Luther's protestant proclamation of sola scriptura ("By Scripture Alone"), it is us. But yet somehow, A.I. (Apostolic Identity) has become a tradition of it's own looking to our own movement's pioneers as a resource for our faith. In other words, our definition of Apostolic Identity is one that looks to our 20th century Apostolic heritage. Is this not the same as what the Catholics and most other protestants have done with the early church fathers (whereby religious pioneers are preached as a reference point for authoritative theology)?
And to this idea of an Apostolic Identity that looks to an Apostolic Heritage, I loudly say NO! If to be APostoilc is to reject history, even if that means our own recent history. The Apostles quickly learned in the book of Acts to reject their own Jewish tradition as authoritative for Christianity. It is not that Paul or Peter stopped living the Jewish tradition, for surely they did keep on observing the law past Christianity. But as Paul said, he counted all authority via tradition of the Law dung. To be Apostolic for Peter and Paul meant not imposing tradition itself on non-Jews.
How was a Greek to convert to Christianity if the Apostolic Identity was fully embedded within the Bible and not solely through the cross whereby the Bible was to be believed in past conversion? The Bible was not a source of authority for the Greek, but rather the salvation experience and the message of Christ crucified & resurrected was the basis for faith. Only after conversion was a believer to believe in the authority of the Bible. This is the blessed opportunity of our time for our movement: In the past the Bible was assumed to be true throughout culture and thus the Apostolic Truth could be displayed through the Bible. However, for secular culture, the Bible is not authoritative. Most people see this as a sad state of reality, but I say it is entirely good as it allows us to live more similarly the world of the Apostles whereby the only message that may be believed is the Love for each human being by God based on God dying on the cross.
Thus for me, an Apostolic Identity is precisely an identity without an identity. When I see someone say they are "proud of their Apostolic Identity" then they are completely contradicting the words of the Apostle Paul who said, ""As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died." Galatians 6:14"
Or to put it in other words, the means of defining ourselves through any labeling outside of the Cross is a compromising of the foreign nature we now possess (I like the idea that once we become Christians we are more so aliens from out of this world living as foreigners in a world that is valueless). To say I am Irish, Jewish, white, middle-class, etc....are shortcuts that define me as if I am something. But all of these imply that I am something with an identity. To be Apostolic like Paul is something entirely different, wherein a label or shortcut to who i am stops the pressing on towards the cross that we are to live out on earth....We are never Sufficient or enough in our Christianity here on earth. We must press on as Paul says, "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." (and many Apostolics do indeed live this insufficiency in ourselves out)
To pride ourselves in an identity outside of Christ or the Cross then, is entirely unApostolic. This is especially true if it looks to an Apostolic Heritage or Apostolic Culture as a point of pride as well. How dare we try to set up an identity based on the Apostles when the Apostles themselves wouldn't do so.
Don't get me wrong, I am not doing some anti-legalist, liberal hodge-podge about the Grace of God, as surely in coming weeks i will show how much of what liberal Apostolic is entirely deplorable. But what i am arguing that in our preaching of Apostolic Identity, we are treading on dangerous ground that seeks to build a neo-Judaism that isolates it's people from the world and in the process builds it's own Tower of Babel that proclaims a people above the Cross.
Here is the question...in function, what is the value of the Cross for many of us other than the means of a point of bribery, whereby if we do as the Bible instructs (Acts 2:38, holiness, etc...), we don't go to hell and instead go to heaven. Thus the cross is the point whereby we can be bribed into being Christian as to avoid eternal damnation. But yet is this what the Cross is proclaiming? Is this what being Apostolic is about?
To be Apostolic isn't scary. It is wonderful. It is a chance to live out the love of Christ for us on the cross. But it also says we won't pride ourselves in label of being Apostolic. But I would argue Apostolic Identity as we know it in our movement is traditionally an escape to not live in the never ceasing work of making ourselves servants to the forgotten of the world. Rather for those who boast of possessing an Apostolic Identity, and proclaim the need of holiness with such an identity, they do such boasting as a means to do nothing other than displaying a certain attire in public, thinking about witnessing, praying, and reading the Bible.
The reality is the Apostolic Identity as it's traditionally defined is the EASY THING. Standards are not difficult. Praying can be done here, there and everywhere. Bible reading is the best place to Find God's message to us, and telling people about Acts 2:38 maybe slightly embarrassing for some, but it is not impossible.
Professing the Cross and trying to somehow display it's seemingly impossible message through love, living without an identity and never stopping short of this reality is the entirely Apostolic thing and we cannot stop short and act like it is something that we have a firm grasp of. In summary, being Apostolic is acting like we don't "have it" and thus since we don't "have it" we work endlessly trying to "get it" by means of reaching out to others to invite them into such a loving struggle.