05 October 2007

Hallmarks of one sort or another

The Irish rugby team must be fierce embarrassed about how their faces are plastered everywhere you look nowadays. I can't help feeling pretty sorry for Ronan O'Gara, who must blush whenever he sees a picture of himself emblazoned with the legend 'I'm converted' or 'cometh the hour, cometh the man'.

Andrew Trimble seems to have fallen into a discreet silence in his blog. A shame, as I was enjoying it. I'm still rather intrigued by one line in his first blog entry, when he remarked that his teammates probably think he's a bit of a weirdo because he's a Christian. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Is he saying that he's the only member of the squad who actually practices the faith he confesses, which is sadly all too possible?

Or that he's the only professed Christian in the squad, which although possible, seems kind of unlikely?

Or is he doing that Evangelical thing, effectively equating the terms 'Christian' and 'Evangelical Protestant', so if you're not an Evangelical, you're not really a Christian? I really hope he's not. . .

A couple of years back I almost gave a talk at a Christian Union event in Manchester, but in the end didn't, mainly because I couldn't quite sign up to their 'doctrinal basis', which was described as just being the basic truths that all Christians believe.

The UCCF website describes the 'DB' as outlining 'the central truths of the gospel'. Leaving aside how it's something to which only a tiny minority of Christians throughout history could have subscribed, this rather raises the question of what marks these eleven points as the central Christian truths?

Just for argument's sake, why is there no mention of the Eucharist, say? It is, after all, the only thing the Bible records Our Lord as having asked us to do for him. Seriously, look at Luke 22.19 and 1 Corinthians 11.24.

Why isn't this identified as a central truth of Christian belief?

Take a look at the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch, written on his way towards martyrdom in Rome in 107 AD. Ignatius had headed the Church in the city where the term 'Christian' had first been adopted, and is believed to have been a disciple of the apostle John.

For Ignatius, recognition of the Eucharist as true body and blood of Christ was the hallmark of the true Christian. In his letter to the Smyrnaeans, he identifies heretics by saying:

"They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in his goodness afterwards raised up again. Consequently, since they reject God's good gifts, they are doomed in their disputatiousness."

Which isn't to get into an argument about the Real Presence, just to note that for the first Christians evangelised by the Apostles, this was the defining characteristic. So why doesn't this factor in the 'doctrinal basis'?

Is the UCCF claiming it knows better than the Apostles?


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