5 thoughts on “Are You?

  1. What does it mean to be “Christ-like”? Is Christ-like-ness a statement of exterior appearance or interior reality? Is it possible to be recreated into the image of Christ (to be made ‘like’ Christ) in such a way that the reality of Christ-like-ness exists, while the exterior appearance shows retention of sinful nature?

    I’m not asking to be silly. This is a serious question at the heart of the east/west divide going back to the 3rd century. The western view of atonement leads us to ask this question of Christ-like-ness in terms of outward appearance and particular actions, where the eastern view of recapitulation (Irenaeus of Lyons) suggests being Christ-like is a change that happens when we are received into his life.

    By eastern definition, we are necessarily Christ-like (and therefore Christian) by what Christ has done for us, not because of our outward expressions for or against.

  2. Touches on positional and progressive sanctification. In one sense we are sanctified already. Yet we are also undergoing the process of sanctification.

    The initial question is meant to challenge the trend in the Western Church of winning converts but failing to make disciples. Jesus command was to make disciples. How is it we can report record “professions of faith” and experience massive decline in every denomination in the U.S.?

  3. Yes, the old question of what we know we need to see versus what can actually do about it. I tend to think most recorded conversions aren’t much of a conversion in the first place, but a “sale”. The churches decline for that very reason, but a good number of leaders know this.

    The problem comes in what we can do about it. Most take a direct approach because it seems most obvious, but it almost requires assuming the whole thing falls to us, while we treat God as a cheerleader on the sidelines. We don’t give Him time to work His way.

  4. I think western soteriology is part of the problem. We’ve followed a theological trend from Tertullian (which is strong in both Catholic & Protestant Churches) that the atonement is primarily a legal transaction to deal with the penalty of sin. If our concept of Jesus on the Cross is that he suffered primarily so that we can get into heaven after death, then non-discipled converts are the natural result. Under this concept of salvation, discipleship really is a second-tier need.

    I don’t think we need to swing the pendulum entirely to the east, but rather hold Irenaeus’ view of the atonement in tension with Tertullian’s and accept Jesus didn’t only intend to set us free as individuals from a future hell, but to set us free as communities from a present hell. Irenaeus’ view is that the atonement changes our very nature (gives humanity a new source in Jesus as opposed to Adam).

    We live and do mission in a western, Greek, individualistic society – so we’re going to use western, Greek, individualistic language, but somehow we need to include the eastern teaching. Otherwise, we’ll continue getting people to make emotional responses to salvation pitches without truly being converted into the image of Christ.

  5. Historically, the shift in the U.S. really picked up pace in the 2nd Great Awakening. I actually wrestle with calling it that, as I see a lot of fervor without much substance. A lot of professions of faith without much true change in people. The First Great Awakening had some men like Jonathan Edwards who helped reign in the flesh and turned people’s focus to God’s glory. Consequently, the tendency to “go overboard” with the ecstatic was tempered.

    I completely agree, Caedmon, that we need to get reacquainted with Eastern Theology to provide the necessary balance in our soteriology.

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