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Reflections on the Faith
by Dr. Bill Anderson
Religieux Pensees Introduction
Religieux Pensees (Part 1)
A Prologue: The Foundation of our Faith
As we reflect on our Christian faith, it is incumbent upon us to examine our a priori, i.e. our fundamental principle, foundation of all we believe. And, since we are reflecting on the Christian Faith, our starting must be Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom we call the Christ. Jesus is the sine qua non, that without which our faith is meaningless!
The Christian faith, and therefore Christianity in all its forms, is not simply a set of beliefs; it is not simply an ethic; nor is it just an ecclesiastical organization, regardless of its community stripe. Rather, the Christian faith is a response to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Beliefs arose when those who responded in discipleship began to reflect on the meaning and implications of their actions. In this manner, both the scriptures we call the “New Testament,” i.e. the Christian Scriptures, and the organization we call the church came into being. It is our contention that these scriptures, beliefs, and organizations (of which there are many different forms) must, of necessity, be subjected to the most rigorous testing and critique in light of our starting point. This is one of the most basic principles of our Reformed Tradition, one which places into practice the operating motif of the reformers: reformata, sed semper reformanda, i.e., having been reformed, but always being reformed.
Religieux Pensees (Part 2)
Reflections Two: On Peace
Over a quarter of a century ago, The Reverend Dr. Clinton Marsh was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. At the close of the assembly, he dismissed the commissioners with this moving blessing and benediction. This benediction was not only appropriate for the time he was Moderator, but is very much needed today in our cruel and ragged world. It is beneficial for us to meditate upon these words on an occasion such as this; at a time we are reflecting on the gift of love in the death of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we call the Christ. Read these words carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully in their paraphrased form.
Religieux Pensees (Part 3)
Reflection Three: On the Core of the Faith
As we celebrate this most significant time of the year in the Christian calendar, namely, those events surrounding what we refer to as Holy Week: from the poignant entry of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a beast of burden, to his trial, beating, execution and death, followed by the joy, grace and love of the resurrection, let us open our hearts, spirits, and minds to the power this faith may have in a world in desperate need today. Let us remember these events as the essence of our faith, the core of our belief, and that which gives our lives hope. Let us remember these convictions provide the basis for our ethic of love, a love which reaches out to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, status in, or style of, life. We reach out and care for a world which needs compassion, integrity and love.
Religieux Pensees (Part 4)
Reflection Four: On Our Interconnectedness
One of the most famous phrases in all of English literature is the phrase: “No man is an island, entire of itself;” its fame was no doubt influenced by its facilitation when Ernest Hemingway cited it in his great novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The phrase itself comes from John Donne's Meditation 17 written by the great poet and churchman in 1623. Donne was a poet, who had the gift of marvelous insight, a metaphysical thinker of great depth, and a writer whose rich imagery touched and even yet touches the hearts and lives of many in the English speaking world. Placing this phrase in the larger context from which it comes, we read:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”