A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

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A good “soldier of Christ” starts in boot camp, then moves to Advanced Individual Training

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Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI’ve been listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House(Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.)  I skipped the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  See e.g., 2d Peter 3:18.  In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’”  On that note, see not only Deuteronomy 19:16-19, but also the Pulpit Commentary for 2 Peter 3:18, cited above:

Growth is necessary for steadfastness;  we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith (comp. 1st Peter 1:5-71st Peter 2:2).

Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog:  That open-minded growth is a necessary part of any good Christian’s journey through life. See also 1st Peter 2:2:  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  Which is another way of saying that too-conservative Christians seem happy to stay “newborn babes,” Biblically speaking.

And incidentally, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  (So if you accused someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, then you would be punished as if you were real Antichrist, shown at right.)

Which brings us back to Billy Graham, who started out himself as a Bible literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  Described at pages 2-4 of The Preacher and the Presidents book, you can see it online at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists.  Basically, Graham said, “When I take the Bible literally … my preaching has power.”  The thing is, Moses likely said the same thing when he started telling the Hebrews in the Wilderness how they got there and where they were going.  And had to “dumb it down.”

All of which led me to the following thoughts:

In Conservative Christian – “Career buck private,”  I noted what Paul said in 2d Timothy 2:3-4 “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (Emphasis added.)  And I agreed that the best place to start “Bible training” is to take it literally:

Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”  But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private [during] his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few [“soldiers of Christ”] who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

In turn I concluded that this blog is for and about those Christians who want to develop into something “more than just someone who knows the bare ‘fundamentals.’”

See also Spiritual boot camp, which said that with the right way of Bible study we get “more adept at living life in all its abundance,” as promised in John 10:10.  And that you could say it’s a bit “like spiritual boot camp (but with ‘humor and compassion’).”

Which brings us back to Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.

For one thing, Templeton said, “Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe” the Bible account of creation.  But Templeton overlooked that Moses didn’t write the Creation account – and the rest of the Torah – for modern scholars.  See Moses and Paul “dumbing it down.”  That post noted that if Moses had said things like “the earth we live on actually revolves around that ‘big bright thing in the sky’ … he would have gotten stoned, burned at the stake or worse.”

Templeton also overlooked that when Graham preached the Bible literally, he wasn’t trying to recruit generals.  (To use the soldier metaphor.)  He wanted to recruit people for basic training, where they could go and “learn the fundamentals.”  In plain words, Graham was recruiting Army “privates,” many of whom would choose to stay privates in the Army of Christ.

So I was wrong in saying there are “some few ‘soldiers of Christ’ who enjoy having no additional responsibility.”  As in any army, “privates” make up the bulk of personnel, not “some few.”  That is, I’ve reconsidered “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  (Including the image at right.)  Because whatever the branch of service there are far more “privates” than officers or other advanced personnel.

Depending on the branch, the ratio of officers – who you could say did “Way Advanced Individual Training” – can range from 4.1 to one (Air Force) to eight to one (Marine Corps).  But regardless of the differences, each service depends more – numerically – on its enlisted personnel, including “career buck privates.”  For one thing, they help recruit other career privates and so keep the army – here, the “Army of Christ” – functioning at a high level.

And so with the Army of Christ.  It – like our other armed services – could well be based on a having most soldiers choosing not to go much beyond “learning the fundamentals.”

And if all that’s true – and I believe it is – then this blog is designed for those Soldiers of Christ wanting to advance beyond basic training, beyond learning the fundamentals and beyond being a “career private.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s wrong to claim that’s the only way to succeed as a Soldier of Christ.  Some of us want to explore our full potential.  Some of us want to develop our talents.  Some of us want to explore life “to the full,” and so go…

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The upper “boot-camp” image is courtesy of cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review.

The Antichrist image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Luca Signorelli‘s 1501 depiction of the face of antichrist, from the Orvieto Cathedral.”  The term is “usually seen as marking out a certain category of persons, rather than an individual.”  Compare the “similar word ‘pseudochrist’ (Greek pseudokhristos, meaning ‘false messiah’).” 

Continuing the soldier metaphor: After Basic Training, the good soldier – and by extension the ‘Good Soldier of Christ’ – has a chance to go on to Advanced Individual Training, ‘where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS.’  For example, a new soldier could go to the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill Oklahoma.  (With all of the Freudian implications appertaining thereto.  Or to the Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama.  Or even to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.”  Or perhaps even go off to Officer Candidate School

Re:  The ratio of privates to officers, etc.  See What is the typical ratio of officers to enlisted soldiersWhy are the Ratios for officers and enlisted so different, and In the US Navy, what is the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel?

The “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian … image at right” had the caption, “Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?”

The lower image is courtesy of To Infinity And Beyond – Image Results.

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