just wondering

how can anyone who reads the bible believe that having ‘a common mind’ is either necessary or desirable in building a faith community?

12 thoughts on “just wondering”

  1. Possibly, Kimberly, because they want an evangelically successful, united, growing, lively and energetic ecclesial community, and they probably believe that the greatest model of this in the the history of Christianity came when in those far off halcyon days when the ‘brothers’ shared all things in common. And not to forget the often catastrophic negative effects on people and communities of conflict in the church, of which doctoral theses, including my own humble effort, have given ample proof.

  2. oh dear, I seem to have touched a nerve.

    The early church may indeed have shared all ‘things’ in common and lived in such a way that their witness was compelling. But that same broad phase of the church’s life led to Pauline letters which speak with a different voice and emphasis than that of Luke-Acts; Gospels which all proclaim good news, but which tell different stories which cannot always be reconciled; then there is the development of Johanine language, which speaks quite differently to the others about who Jesus is and what he accomplishes.

    And all that is before we consider the richness of the Old Testament and the genius of a community which holds both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as scripture.

    As for conflict — I completely agree that it can be deadly and poisonous. I also believe it can be creative and life giving. It depends on whether we act in love toward those we disagree with and value the opportunity other people give us to grow and to refine our thinking.

    God is too great to be understood fully by one human being or one point of view. That is part of why we need each other.

  3. Of course, you and I know that the halcyon days (in different periods of history) longed for by some idealists never really existed and that from the very beginning there has been tension, disagreement, disunity and all that other stuff which now seems such a prominent part of ecclesiastical life on every continent, that we would actually be surprised if it wasn’t there!

    As one of the books (from the US) I first read when doing my research said of the inevitability of church conflict in a memorable phrase, “Where there’s light, there’s bugs!”

    More happily, good luck on your return to St Andrews Diocese and the good people of Dunblane. My days up there are replete with so many happy memories.

  4. is not the common mind the mind of Christ?
    The common mind is surely about our relationships one with another not intellectual agreement. Mutual love – however hard that may be at times.

    with best wishes on your move

  5. thanks Hugh.

    I’m sure that if we understood the mind of Christ fully we would indeed share a common understanding — but I think discerning the mind of Christ is a process, not a fait accopli, and during that process we need multiplicity of perspectives to challenge and test what is most true.

  6. This thread could spark a potential interesting study – biblical verses on the subject of “Unity” working *out* from merely Acts 2:44 to the surrounding passage, to Jesus’ statement “where 2 or 3 are gathered” (doesn’t say *how* they’re gathered!) to Paul’s analogy of “parts of body” to Paul’s conflict *and subsequent resolution* with Peter in Acts again…

    I’d point out “halcyon days” didn’t even exist amongst the disciples in the first place, much less the early church, yet the concept of a Church continues, and it is only that concept of Church that will continue as distinct from those pulling in separatist-for-puritanical-reasons directions. One could be succinct and say unity is not the same as uniformity. Hugh’s comment seems right on the nose to me.

    And all the best with the move, too 🙂

  7. The halcyon days of the early church, when people shared all things in common and everything was laid at the apostles’ feet for distribution had a rather strong shadow side.

    Lack of conformity to the community led to shaming and instant death for Anannias and Sapphira, death that was imputed to be the instant judgement of God.

    Although that early community seems to be a utopian one at first glance, it seems to have been a totalitarian regime which was known outside its own boundaries for generating fear amongst its own members.

  8. I suppose it all depends upon just what you mean by “a common mind.”

  9. Almost certainly (I was taught by Sandy Wedderburn) the mutual life of those days led to endless collections for ‘the poor of Jerusalem’. They ended up with no money at all. The gentile churches had to support them.

    I love peace but frankly you cannot have it without justice. Yes, you need to pick your fights. Yes you need to attempt reconciliation- but no, you cannot avoid it.

  10. Rather a severe view, Kelvin. Could it be that what we have reflected in these texts is an idealised view which never corresponded to reality, with a bit of Semitic hyperbole thrown in for good measure?

  11. I repeat the common mind is the mind of Christ The Aurthorised version perhaps spells it out most clearly
    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus – who counted not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself ……….”

    The common mind is not intellectual agreement it is our attitudes of love, humility, gentleness etc which we are to display to others however much we may disagree emotionally or intellectually. It is to do with the respect that we accord others however much we disagree with them.

    I used to think truth was the graetest virtue. It isn’t love (1 Corinth 13) is. We in the west delight in hitting each other over the head with what we hold to be the truth and in so doing we miss entirely the gospel.

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