Friday, October 26, 2007

Stop the Presses ...

Archbishop Tutu says God is not a Christian!

According to the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Archbishop:

... threw down a theological challenge on a doctrine that the worldwide Anglican Communion is threatening to split over. In his sermon, he poked fun at the belief that only those who accept Jesus as their savior can enter heaven.

"Can you imagine that there are those who think God is a Christian?" he said to laughter from a mostly appreciative audience. "Can you tell us what God was before he was a Christian?"

So there you have it. And the usual suspects are making much of it. At Stand Firm the first comment pretty much sums it up:

What a shame that Desmond Tutu is not a Christian
Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-26-2007 at 08:29 AM

For the record, I agree with the titusonenine commenter who said, "I should live so long that I become as "not a Christian" as Desmond Tutu."

And for all you preachers out there, can you say "Gold Mine" of contemporary illustrations for the Gospel appointed for Sunday which begins, "Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt..."

But since I am NOT preaching on Sunday, I'm going to get back to my regularly scheduled day off! Later, alligators!



Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

So what does this say about those of us who worship Jesus, believe he is the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, was cruified, died, was buried and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven?
Bp. Tutu is a wonderful man, but does he not believe in Jesus and that he is the only way to the Father?
If he doesn't, why does he continue to wear a collar and pretend to be a Christian bishop.
I say that will all respect for what he has done and what he has been through, but what is the point of being a Christian, if we don't believe it is even relevant.
I am totally confused by any Christian's support of his position.

A sinner saved by God's Grace.

Jim from Michigan


jim ... in a nutshell I believe it's following Jesus that matters more to God than worshipping Jesus AND I believe that my conviction that Jesus leads me to God as a Christian does not preclude other paths to God.

Not time to do this justice in a quick comment but you might find"this sermon" I preached earlier this year illustrative.

M.J. said...

God is above human denominations. God was before all things and will exist long after humanity has ceased its existence. When you think of it you can take the question or comment even further - did Jesus think of himself as a Christian? I would say the answer to that is unequivocably "no."

I think sometimes we as a body of people who believe rush too quickly to judgement on what others say before we give it good consideration and thought.


Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

Unfortunately, I will not be able to read your sermon until I get to work Monday (on a break, of course) because I'm having trouble opening pdf and Word files at home (arrrrgh!).
I know we talk across a divide, but how does one (maybe you cover this in the sermon) get past Jesus words that "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me."
Understand I'm not saying other religions are bad, but if you truly believe in Jesus how does one disregard his own words.
I will look forward to reading your sermon on Monday.

A sinner saved by God's Grace

Jim from Michigan

Jan said...

Susan, I linked this in my blog, as I am most impressed with Bishop Tutu's words. I believe God is bigger than any religious idea of God. For me, Jesus shows me the way to live and a way more suited to me to God than other ways. But I believe God provides many ways to find him. And you expressed all this much better than I have. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan+,

I read your sermon and I respectfully acknowledge your profound faith in Jesus. But both in your sermon and in your response to Jim, you neglected the Trinity. In being the Son of God, the incarnate Logos, Jesus has revealed that God is Trinity.

If we confess that the true nature of the Godhead, as revealed through Jesus, is Trinity, then any faith which does not confess the reality of who God is, must perforce be lacking truth.

I would agree that other faiths can be paths to God, as long as that path leads them to the reality of God as Holy Trinity, one in essence and undivided.

Although I am liberal on social issues, I am one of the many Episcopalians who are concerned that our theologians and clergy have lost the fervency of their confession of the Trinity.

What do you think?

P.S. Desmond Tutu is an infinitely better Christian than I can ever hope to be. But, no single human is infallible, and he's wrong on this one.

Perry Lee said...

Susan wrote . . . .
"in a nutshell I believe that it is following Jesus that matters more to God than worshipping Jesus AND I believe that my conviction that Jesus leads me to God as a Christian does not preclude other paths to God."

Well, then why bother on Sunday morning? Why fuss with getting out of bed early, going through the motions and giving all of that money? Because if ALL ways lead to Christ, then no way leads there as well, and we are all going to Heaven regardless of what we do; right? We have Universalism, and we are all saved, because God loves us that much, right where we are. As long as I live my life according to Jesus's precepts (and he never mentions attending services) then I am okay.

Good news indeed.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the theological issue of how one is "saved," I cannot help but ask whether God can be "a Christian" anymore than the Queen can be her own subject.

What is scary are all the folks who think they have the right and ability to determine who and who is not "a Christian." Just more of the who's like us and who isn't mindset.

Just a thought.


jim ... the sermon is also online at:

stuart ... I'll drag out a Trinity Sunday sermon for you ... stay tuned. (Long story short, I'm think the Trinity is swell)

pilgrim ... I think I make that point in "Jesus Saves." There are 100 reasons I get up on Sunday morning and give my life to Jesus and try to follow him and work to make the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. But none of those reasons have anything to do with Jesus being the "only" way to live a life of faith.

I just don't "get" the obsession with in order for Jesus to be our Lord he has to be everybody else's.

(And this is NOT an invitation to start throwing Bible verses at me ... for every "I am the way" there's a "I have sheep in other folds" and since I do not understand the Bible to be the literal "words" of God anyway, the God said it, I believe it, that settles it" argument doesn't settle it for me.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

Thanks for the link. I did get to read the sermon and much of it I agree with, helping the poor, bringing heaven to earth, but - as you probably knew already - I'm still not persuaded that Jesus was not clear about how to "get to the Father."
Like you, I believe - as revealed in Revelations - that others will have the opportunity to embrace and accept Jesus as Lord and will also be embraced into heaven following Jesus's return to earth. "Heaven on Earth."
I simply can't make the leap that any old way to God is acceptable to God. If that were true, I could make a nice donation to the Kiwanis Club and spend my Sunday's golfing or boating.
What the Episcopal Church is starting to sound like is simply a benevolent political organization that is out to do good works. No problem with that, but in my understanding of the Bible we are not saved by good works. We are only saved through the blood of Jesus.
I have made five trips to New Orleans, I help provide rides to people to doctor's appts, etc. I bring street people into our rented church each Sunday for service, or simply to give them a meal and find out what other help they need. I'm sure many of you do those things as well, but none of that qualifies us for heaven. That gift only comes from God's Grace.
Now I know a lot of sophisticated people will scoff and deride that belief, but it is what I, and many of us, truly believe.
You are a gifted writer and preacher, but as we both knew from the beginning of this discussion we will simply have to agree to disagree. But thanks for the discussion and the sermon.

A sinner saved by God's Grace.

Jim from Michigan

Anonymous said...

What, God wakes up every morning and decides Zie is a "Me-an"?

It all comes down to maps for me. Say, you want to go to Key West from Florida. Now, you can do the obvious and easy, and drive, walk, pedal your way down the causeways. However, others might choose to get there by motorboat, helicopter or airplane, or the very hardy might swim from key to key or paddle an inflatable dinghy. The whole space from Florida to Key West, land, air, and sea, is Jesus, but He provides a most usable path in the form of the causeway (His teachings as reported in the Bible). He won't turn away folks who decide to boat, swim, fly their way to Key West - they are all using paths He has sanctified, even if the seafaring etc folk don't see it.

Lousy metaphor, I know.

Jesus as instrumental, rather than Jesus as brand name path.

BTW - why get up on Sunday morning? Fellowship! The "2 or 3 gathered". Not to mention, "Eating Jesus". :)


joemar said...

Thank you for posting this awe inspiring moment. Bishop Desmond Tutu is a great man, who walks with Jesus. God is and Jesus is the one I want to walk like, walk with. I also would say that Jesus probably did not call himself a Christian as he was a Jew.

Peace, Joe

DanFarrell said...

.."that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe." 1 Tim 4:10

On the one hand there is nothing that should cut the nerve of evangelistic effort to reach out in the name of Jesus to those who are not Christians. On the other hand we dare not limit God's mercy. We have a revealed religion, and it isn't revealed just what will happen to those who, for instance, have never had Christ presented to them in a reasonable way, but we can assume that it's consistent with the mercy of an all-loving God.

Jack Sprat said...

Tutu has it right. Period.

Thanks, Susan!


Anonymous said...

There you have it folks. Archbishop Mouneer Anis' assessment rings true with Susan Russell. + Mouneer said to all of our bishops: "Some of us believe that you are another religion".

Since when does one follow and work for Jesus without adoring, meditating upon His claims, and subjecting our will to his? Sounds cute to "follow" and not "worship", but Jesus doesn't work for the Department of Social Services. He commands us to answer, "Who do you say that I am?"


allen ... with all due respect, read what I said, not what you think I meant.

And then read the prophets to challenge us to forgo empty sacrifices and instead to do justice.

And then remember that our own Lord and Savior names "inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these" as the criterion for heavenly-ever-after ... not "inasmuch as you have worshipped me properly."

And finally, read again the Gospel appointed for yesterday when the Bishop ... I mean, the Pharisee ... stood up in the Temple and thanked God he was the one with the "right religion" while the tax collector relied solely on the mercy and compassion of God.

Then let's talk about "Who do you say that I am."


Jim said...

There has always been substantial doubt that Jesus said, anything found uniquely in John. No, I do not think He made that claim. I think a Johnanian community that was big time angry at the Jewish community of its day, made that claim.

Elevating one verse in John to a definition of faith is idolatry.


Anonymous said...

Dear REv. Russell:

As long as some of us are tearing pages out of the Bible we don't like perhaps jimB would allow me to rip out the part about drunkenness so I can go back to my major sin.
Sorry, just don't think ripping the pages out of the Bible we don't like, or are inconvenient to our personal beliefs, is what Jesus had in mind.

A sinner saved by God's Grace.

Jim from Michigan

psalm37 said...

So what do you do when the church lectionary calls for a reading from John?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe anyone is saying that being a Christian is not relevant. For us, Jesus is the way the truth and the light. But who among us chose the faith tradition in which we would be brought up? What kind of God would condemn all those who were born into other traditions?

Anonymous said...

How did such lousy theologians get to lead this Church?!?

We deserve this anarachy.

Jim said...

In no particular order:

1) It might be instructive for the bible idolaters to read some of the early conflict over the inclusion of John. This is not modernism, the issue has been around since the beginning. In fact, it was 'compromised' by distinguishing between John and the, 'synoptics.'

2) The lectionary makes the same point in a way, the three years of the lectionary are Mathew, Mark, and Luke. ;-)

3) I did not say that John had no value or should be 'ripped out' because I 'don't like it.' Straw man argument is a tactic of intellectual weakness by the way.

Saying, and this is true, that the validity of John's 'quotations' has been in doubt for about 1800 years (the life of the NT) is simply observing the truth. That fundamentalists have not gotten it simply suggests a REALLY long learning curve.


psalm37 said...

So, do we read John on Easter 5 in Year A? I count more than 30 weeks in the church calendar where John is read in the Daily Office (and that is just Year One.) Which ones are untrue? I ask this not argument, but to understand how to discern the truth.

Anonymous said...


Any way you twist it you cannot divorce proper discipleship of good works from adoration of Christ, meditation upon Christ, and subjecting the will to His own. It's ludicrous to imagine that God is more interested in good works than worship. They cannot be separated or placed in a hierarchy. That's the problem that I have with this sycretism where one claims that all religions have validity and Christ is just one way to the Father. The labor of the Christian (clergy or lay) is to lift up Christ as the supreme revelation of God and not compromise that say, for instance, the millions of Hindu deities have equal place. Yes - for those who have not been touched by the Gospel, our loving God will embrace them (just as the ancient Church fathers claimed). They are accountable for the light that they have received - as are we.


allen ... (repeating) ... listen to what I say -- not to what you think I mean.

"I believe theological inquiry calls us always into greater understandings of the infinite love of the God whose ways are not our ways – the God who inspires such awe and wonder in us that at times all we can do is stand dumfounded like the clueless disciples staring up in the sky – there are moments when all we can do is contemplate the mystery of the cross.

"When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."

I want to suggest today that the pride we are called to pour contempt on is the hubris to think that any single living breathing one of us or collective of us … much less a Council or a Conference of us … can decree that our faith having reached a particular understanding – developed a particular theology – has the power to end the conversation for all people for all time. I want to suggest that there’s a theological term for that – and that it’s "hogwash."

Here endeth the quote. You can hear the whole thing "here" if you're so inclined.

Jim said...

1) I agree with Rev Susan.

2) I did not say we should stop reading John, once again, a straw man argument is a sign of intellectual weakness. You want to disagree with me, at least disagree with me!

3) The synoptic gospels tell us about what Jesus did, said, preached. John tells us what the second century church thought about that.

The later is important certainly, and the early church decided we should hear it. I am not saying they were wrong.

But(!) realize that sometimes there are conflicts within the books. I resolve such in favour of the synoptics, James and the authentic Pauline.

Jesus was interested in what we do, "in so much as you have done it to the least" and clearly was in the inclusion business.

I don't know if any of the disciples was gay, but then neither do you. I don't know if any of the women who were with the 12 was a lesbian, but then neither do you. I do know that by allowing gentiles to be in the faith, both Jesus and Paul were radically inclusive, unorthodox and probably not welcome by Nigeria and certainly not by CANA or the Network.

I believe the conversation with God goes on, that God does things I do not understand, can not comprehend and offers miracles I do not see or get. That is who and what God is. So be it.


Anonymous said...

We are to love God with all of our hearts, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. I take the firt part to mean worship Him and the second to mean serve Him by serving others. It is possible to obey (i.e serve) without loving but it is both that we are called to do. (Done with the right spirit, service is not entirely separate from worship).