Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Purpose of Authentic Light

Justin Martyr in his
Philosopher's robe
This is the fourth and final post of my beginning-of-the-year "housekeeping" series. The other three can be found here, here, and here. This one will be about what Authentic Light's purpose is, what I'm hoping to accomplish here.

In the first half of the 2nd century, there was a man named Justin whom I admire quite a lot. He was a philosopher who had been a follower of Plato until he met an old man as he was walking by the sea one day. He continued to wear his philosopher's robe but from that day on he taught what he considered the ultimate philosophy: Christianity. He once described what he did this way:

“I live over a man named Martinus at the Timiotinian Bath... If anyone wanted to visit me, I communicated the teachings of truth to them.”

That's pretty much what the Authentic Light blog is for: communicating simple, radical Christianity to interested parties. It's simple because in a way there's not much to it. The basics can be recited in under a minute. And it's radical because that simple teaching can (and does) change everything.

Brand Names

But there is a dizzying number of  brands of Christianity, aren't there, all clamoring for us to do it their way and subtly -- or not so subtly -- denigrating the competing brands. When people unfamiliar with the Movement Christ founded, or who have only heard bad things about it, or who had a bad experience with one brand, decide to look into Christianity for themselves, they are faced with a spinning, bewildering sea of claims and counterclaims. As St. Paul said about another type of confusion, "If some people come in who are without understanding or don’t believe, they will say you are crazy," (First Letter to the Corinthians chapter 14 verse 22, ERV).

At one time though, Christianity was one thing, and every follower of Jesus knew what it was. It was taught "everywhere, always, and by all". Christianity, at the beginning, was the deposit, the revelation we discussed yesterday. It's basic outlines can be seen throughout the New Testament and then, before the last Apostle had died, traced in the letters of Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna, and in the writings of Aristides, Athenagoras, and the noble Justin Martyr mentioned above. Plus a large crowd of others. It slowly expanded until the late 400's as more meat was put on the bones. But they were always the same bones given once and for all to the saints, expanding (changing the metaphor here) as they were unrolled and their implications realized.

Today, (giving up and mixing my metaphors with abandon) those same unrolled bones lie at the base of every Christian group -- Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox. In many churches creeds are read every Sunday, ostensibly to remind us of this. We hear them, but we often don't recognize what the words mean. And of course, that eventually gets boring, and ultimately meaningless.

But if you do learn the words, if you grasp the full meaning of that wildly, madly, powerfully, wondrous revelation (and no, it can never be fully grasped because it speaks of infinite things), you might just find yourself swept up in a revolution far bigger than yourself.

As one of my favorite theologians says, "I plan to present nothing new or original in these pages... I am dedicated to unoriginality." It is my contention that ordinary, garden variety Christianity is the most exciting thing in the world. Authentic Light is not here to argue or with a compulsion to convince anybody. All I hope to do, like Justin Martyr, is to "communicate the teachings of truth." This site is content to turn that message loose in all its rugged glory and let it work.

No comments: