When did impoverished children become products?

Monday, we learned that Christian humanitarian-aid giant, World Vision, tweaked its hiring policy to allow for the employment of anyone who is legally married; including those who are married to a member of the same sex….


Arrogant Academics and Ignorant Morons on both sides of the equation weighed in heavily, while others leaned, less sure, one way or the other. These conversations are always hard, but good and necessary. Sadly, much of the rich, challenging dialog that can happen when we share strong feelings about our tightly held beliefs spiraled into the kind of club-house circle-jerk we’ve become accustomed to on the World Wide Web. That part didn’t surprise me because I know how easy it is to come off like a real douche when we treat our feelings like they’re facts. (Been there. Done that.)


What did surprise me was how the knee-jerk reaction for many Evangelical Christians in opposition to the policy change was to withdraw their support of World Vision by canceling their Child Sponsorships….


If you are among those who don’t agree with World Vision, I get that—maybe I can even respect that—but your sponsored child did not stop needing the food, water, medicine, and education they needed yesterday. We picked these children, we pray for them, we know their birthdays, we keep pictures of them on our fridges, we talk about loving these kids and their families—How then can we so easily abandon them to make a point?


What does it say about our Faith when our response to a corporate policy change is to kick a needy child in the teeth? …


When did impoverished children become products to be boycotted and replaced with the click of a mouse?


If our “gifts” to others are actually about us, then this all makes sense; You sponsored a child to make you feel good, and you’ll unsponsor the kid if the global aid org does something that makes you feel icky….1

World Vision reversed their hiring policy two days after changing it due to backlash from supporters. Sigh….

1 Jamie Wright. “(Un)Follow, (Un)Support, (Un)Sponsor : What does our response to World Vision say about our Faith?”, from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary blog. Retrieved from http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2014/03/unfollow-unsupport-unsponsor-what-does.html.

Sacramental Orthodoxy in 2 John?

1 John seems primarily concerned with those who deny that Jesus has/is come in the flesh but 2 John is more concerned with “those who do not confess that Jesus Christ comes in the flesh.” According to John, these people are antichrist. This could be understood to refer to the second Advent of Christ. However, since this was read as the sermon within the context of the gathering of believers around the body and blood of Christ, the Eucharist seems more likely. Or perhaps there is a double meaning. Those who deny that Jesus Christ came in actual flesh in his first Advent would also deny that he comes in the flesh in the Eucharist and would certainly deny that he will come in the flesh when he returns. Even in 1 John 5:7-8, the Spirit and the water and the blood testify. John doesn’t say that they testified in the past but that they testify now.1

1 Chuck Wiese. “Sacramental Orthodoxy in the Epistles of John”, from Greco-Lutheran Wrestling. Retrieved from http://greco-lutheran-wrestling.blogspot.com/2013/03/sacramental-orthodoxy-in-epistles-of.html.

If all days are holy, then none are

“…it is possible to eliminate holy days under the slogan, ‘all days are holy’ (a common sentiment among many early Protestant groups). It is, of course, true that all days are holy. However, not long after all days are declared holy—and therefore no particular day is singled out as holy—the result will be that no day is holy. The same can be said for the abolition of the traditional priesthood. If the priesthood of all believers is the only form in which believers encounter the priesthood, before long there will be no encounter with the priesthood whatsoever…. We do not know or experience anything in general—only in particular” (p. 39).


“Just as making every day a holy day has the unintended result of making no day holy, so the generalization of God results not in the general knowledge of God, but in no knowledge of Him whatsoever” (p. 41).


“In some sense, everything is a sacrament—the whole world is a sacrament. However, if we only say that the whole world is a sacrament, soon nothing will be a sacrament” (p. 51).1

1 Stephen Freeman. Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe (Chesterton, IN: Conciliar Press, 2010).

Quotes from ‘Great Lent’

From Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann. I read this book as a devotional for Lent. It contains a lot of things that are specific to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but also has a lot of insights that all Christians can benefit from (specifically concerning the Eucharist, focusing on God in prayer, and repentance). Here are some great quotes from the book:

  • “Christian love is the ‘possible impossibility’ to see Christ in another man, whoever he is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a ‘good deed’ or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself…. There is no ‘impersonal’ love because love is the wonderful discovery of the ‘person’ in ‘man,’ of the personal and unique in the common and general” (p. 25).
  • “…Christian love is sometimes the opposite of ‘social activism’ with which one so often identifies Christianity today. To a ‘social activist’ the object of love is not ‘person’ but man, an abstract unit of a not less abstract ‘humanity.’ But for Christianity, man is ‘lovable’ because he is person. There person is reduced to man; here man is seen only as person. The ‘social activist’ has no interest for the personal, and easily sacrifices it to the ‘common interest’” (pp. 25-26).
  • “Christian asceticism is a fight, not against but for the body” (p. 38).
  • “…sin therefore is in its roots the deviation of our love from its ultimate object” (p. 66).
  • “Our modern approach to worship is either rational or sentimental. The rational approach consists of reducing the liturgical celebration to ideas…. As to the sentimental approach, it is the result of an individualistic and self-centered piety which is in many ways the counterpart of intellectual theology” (p. 80).
  • “The spiritual tragedy of secularism is that it forces us into a real religious ‘schizophrenia’—dividing our life into two parts: the religious and the secular, which are less and less interdependent” (p. 100).
  • “[The modern man is incapable of tolerating silence....] If prayer feeds our soul, our intellect also needs its food for it is precisely the intellect of man which is being destroyed today by the ceaseless hammering of TV, radio, newspapers, pictorial magazines, etc. What we suggest then, in addition to the purely spiritual effort, is an intellectual effort. How many masterpieces, how many wonderful fruits of human thought, imagination, and creativity we neglect in our life simply because it is so much easier returning home from work in a state of physical and mental fatigue to push the TV button or to plunge into the perfect vacuum of an illustrated magazine” (p. 102).

Tradition is unavoidable

Tradition. Religion. These have somehow become bad words, even though scripture uses them both in positive ways (James 1:27; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). I continually hear Christians use these terms pejoratively. Some bible translations even mistranslate it when it is used in a positive sense.

False Dichotomies

Religion vs. Relationship. ‘Religion’ is often pitted against ‘relationship.’ All relationships are guarded and preserved by rules. Imagine a wife telling her husband after having an affair, “Come on, I thought our marriage was about the relationship, not all these do’s and don’ts.” That sounds like nonsense—yet it’s precisely how most of us live out our spiritual lives (or lack thereof). So sure, it is all about the relationship with Jesus. But all relationships have boundaries for protection. Maintaining those boundaries doesn’t create nor define the relationship, but failing to keep them destroys it. Sin is not merely breaking a divine moral code, it is a personal offense against a holy God with whom Christians are in relationship.

Scripture vs. Tradition. It is often assumed that scripture is opposed to tradition. Protestants can thank those who later misunderstood the intention of their Reformation-era forebears and the consequent adoption of Enlightenment thought (modernity) for that (the Reformers’ intent was to do just that: reform the church. Not to rebel against it and reject all of its traditions). I highly recommend Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings by James Payton for more information about this.

“[For many,] all talk of tradition is suspicious. They supposedly live by the guidance of scripture alone, under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. There is an undeniable naiveté to this approach, though. Tradition is inescapable in any human society, ecclesiastical or otherwise. Whether we call it custom or habit or whatever, tradition marks human existence. Everyone operates within in this world by tradition, to one degree or another. At its barest, one can recognize tradition if one has a predictable bedtime or mealtime or some morning routines” (James Payton).

Scripture is always interpreted through tradition, whether we acknowledge it or not. Baptists and Pentecostals tend to translate verses the same way because their respective ‘traditions’ are passed down in the leaders’ teachings. Scripture developed within the tradition of the Church (and is best understood within this tradition).

Jesus vs. Religion. A YouTube video went viral awhile back which pitted Jesus against religion. It claimed that Jesus came to “abolish” religion.

“The only problem is, he didn’t. Jesus was a Jew. He went to services at the synagogue. He observed Jewish holy days. He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). He founded the church (Matt. 16:18). He established church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). He instituted a ritual meal (Matt. 26:26-28). He told his disciples to baptize people and to teach others to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20). He insisted that people believe in him and believe certain things about him (John 3:16-18; 8:24). If religion is characterized by doctrine, commands, rituals, and structure, then Jesus is not your go-to guy for hating religion….


The word ‘religion’ occurs five times in [the] English Standard Version of the Bible. It is, by itself, an entirely neutral word. Religion can refer to Judaism (Acts 26:5) or the Jewish-Christian faith (Acts 25:19). Religion can be bad when it is self-made (Col. 2:23) or fails to tame the tongue (James 1:26). But religion can also be good when it cares for widows and orphans and practices moral purity (James 1:27). Unless we define the word to suit our purposes, there is simply no biblical grounds for saying Jesus hated religion. What might be gained by using such language will, without a careful explanation and caveats, be outweighed by what is lost when we give the impression that religion is the alloy that corrupts a relationship with Jesus” (Kevin DeYoung).

Chronological Snobbery

C.S. Lewis coined the term ‘chronological snobbery.’

“The phrase refers to the all-too-common tendency among Christians to quickly discount what is old and automatically embrace what is new. We tend to think our problems are original to us and our solutions are one of a kind. We are faddish trend-watchers—ignorant of our own history, obnoxiously dismissive of the practices of our spiritual fathers and mothers, and easily duped…. The one community we seldom look to for wisdom is the community of the dead…. What’s hot and new now will, unless it is the recovery of something old and biblical, end up being embarrassingly out of date and unhelpful in just a few years” (Kevin DeYoung).

Anyone who even takes a cursory glance at the existing historical documents of the early Church will see that churches had very specific liturgies in use for their worship services, including responsive prayers, detailed instructions for the Lord’s Supper (which was viewed as a sacrament/”holy mystery”), rituals for prayer, formulas for blessing, and specific instructions for church leadership. The early Church was anything but anti-liturgical, spontaneous (something new every week), and free from hierarchical structure.

Tradition is a dynamic thing that is critical of its past voices. It is not a blind assertion that all those who came before us are always correct (it is “giving our ancestors a vote” vs. a “tyranny of the dead”).

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name” (Jaroslav Pelikan).

Every Community Has Traditions

Whether a church calls it ‘liturgy’ or an ‘order of service,’ they follow one. They may deviate from it slightly, but everyone does this (yes, even Catholics and Orthodox Christians have some variation from week to week depending on the time of year). The Church calendar centers the Church on Christ.

“Every year we tell the story again, basically because we need to immerse ourselves in it, because it is the true story of the world. It is the report of what God is doing in the world to redeem and restore all things, the proclamation of how God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We immerse ourselves in this story every year because our identities come from the stories we tell and the rituals we participate in. We immerse ourselves in this story because our culture loudly proclaims quite a few alternative stories that vie to tell us who we are, and thus claim our allegiance” (Ben Sternke).

I personally have grown to really appreciate the Church calendar more and more throughout the years. In a world that wants our lives to revolve around consumerism / shopping seasons, materialism, politics, or even sports seasons, I find great comfort in a liturgical calendar that centers the year on the life of Christ. I find that without it, I am at the whim of whatever else is clamoring for my attention.

“We live in a therapeutic age where everything is measured by how much I get out of it…. And we live in an era of rampant individualism. So in a very individualistic culture, the whole idea of being a part of a community is countercultural. And it fits perfectly in the what’s-in-it-for-me, narcissistic attitudes prevalent in American culture. Isn’t it a little bit ironic that we are publishing vast numbers of books about community, while at the same time we are publishing large volumes about dropping out of one’s church in order to ‘do relationships’ in a more organic way? We seem to be more interested in talking and reading about community than actually ‘doing’ it” (Chuck Colson, in an interview with Ted Kluck).

The reality is that there is no ideal community of faith. There is no ‘magic bullet’ method or buzzword that will fix all of our problems. Communities are filled with sinners. And where there are sinners, there will always be messiness.

A Proposal & Request For Help

Let’s start using different terms in a pejorative way other than ‘religion’ and ‘tradition,’ especially since both terms are used in positive ways in the bible. I’d rather stick to the timeless truths of scripture than the changing linguistic winds of American culture. Richard Liantonio proposes a few alternate words, including religiosity (excessively religious, often for its own sake) and legalistic (excessive emphasis on law/moralism). These words better capture the intent behind many critiques of ‘religion’ and ‘tradition.’

Disillusionment with Christian Community

The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be, and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely we must be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace God will not permit us to live even for a moment in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions, but a God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disappointment with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and a community, the better for both… He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.1

1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954).

The Wounded Healer

Who can save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames? Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” … We have forgotten that no God can save us except a suffering God, and that no man can lead his people except the man who is crushed by its sins….


Promises, not concrete successes, are the basis of Christian leadership. Many ministers, priests and Christian laymen have become disillusioned, bitter and even hostile when years of hard work bear no fruit, when little change is accomplished. Building a vocation on the expectations of concrete results, however conceived, is like building a house on sand instead of on solid rock, and even takes away the ability to accept successes as free gifts….


Indeed, the paradox of Christian leadership is that the way out is the way in, that only by entering into communion with human suffering can relief be found…. The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief. But perhaps the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond our existence…. No love or friendship, no intimate embrace or tender kiss, no community, commune or collective, no man or woman, will ever be able to satisfy our desire to be released from our lonely condition…. Thus we keep hoping that one day we will find the man who really understands our experiences, the woman who will bring peace to our restless life, the job where we can fulfill our potentials, the book which will explain everything, and the place where we can feel at home. Such false hope leads us to make exhausting demands and prepares us for bitterness and dangerous hostility when we start discovering that nobody, and nothing, can live up to our absolutistic expectations.1

1 Henri J.M. Nouwen. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (New York: Doubleday, 1994).

Sports Fandom as Idolatry

I saw an interesting article on Facebook recently entitled Just How Much Is Sports Fandom Like Religion? Here are some thought-provoking quotes from the article:

Pro sports teams are like what religion and sociology scholars call “totems”—symbols of greater entities that communities gather around for identity and unity….


The Super Bowl, professional sports’ highest holy day, is again upon us. As fans paint their faces and torsos, pile on licensed apparel, and quixotically arrange beer cans in the shape of team logos, the question must, again, be asked: Why exactly do we do this for our teams? …


Almost precisely a century ago, Emile Durkheim pondered along similar lines. Durkheim, a pioneering sociologist, … [posited that] … Whenever a society (or, here, sports subculture) worships a divine form, it is, in fact, also simultaneously worshiping itself.


For Durkheim, this all hinged on what he called “the totem.” As he wrote, “On the one hand, [the totem] is the external and tangible form of what we have called the … god. But on the other, it is the symbol of that particular society we call the clan. It is its flag; it is the sign by which each clan distinguishes itself from others, the visible mark of its personality….”


Alas, formal, organized religion in America today seems but a shell of its former self…. Faith in other institutions—family, one’s employer, political entities—is equally dwindling, though such institutions once also rooted the individual in something larger.


What totems, therefore, still survive in this culture of ours? The Red Sox. The Packers. The Lakers. And so on. The notion that sports remain our civic religion is truer than we often let on: In fandom, as in religious worship, our social connections are brought to life, in the stands as in the pews….


Others have gestured to these parallels over the years. Some have highlighted how both preserve revered spaces (e.g., Sistine Chapel, Wrigley Field) and observe seasonal rhythms and orderly ceremonial frameworks. Elsewhere, it has been claimed that with its religious metaphors, regular invocations of good and evil, and sacred vestments (The Shroud of Schilling!), sports channel a natural religious impulse—driving one, somehow, “Godward.” …


We routinely speak of being “born” into a particular fandom and treat those who change allegiances to rival teams with the same alienation familiar to heretics and apostates….

I’ve heard plenty of preachers scold their congregations about being more excited about sports games than church services. But stick with me—this isn’t another guilt trip. I personally don’t blame anyone for getting more excited about sports game than church services. Churches have a much smaller budget and let’s face it, no matter how good the band and the preacher are, they don’t beat watching a good game. There’s no competition. Nor should there be.

That’s the real issue—that churches are attempting to compete with the entertainment industry. Rather than being something unique (a called-out community that is sent on God’s mission), most churches are adding popular music, light shows, sermons designed to trigger emotions, etc. Can we blame those who attend for never getting beyond “consumer Christianity,” especially when most churches no longer order their calendar around the life of Christ but rather allow shopping or sports seasons to dictate the chronology and structure of the year? Not to mention that the average Sunday sermon often does not point to Christ….

The Church is not about entertainment. The Church is the Body of Christ, a divine-human communion of Jesus Christ with his people. It’s a Eucharistic society that gathers around and feasts on the Word of God, Christ himself. The Church is called to disciple the nations. When the Church firmly confesses who She is and doesn’t try to be someone else, then she can instill the excitement and wonder that comes from being a citizen of God’s kingdom. Rather than beating up the sheep, let’s pray for faithful shepherds.

Themes of Salvation in the Early Church

Jaroslav Pelikan wrote a great book entitled The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). In it, he discusses the varying themes of salvation in the early Church and how the theology behind the means by which salvation is achieved differed depending on which theme was emphasized (cf. pp. 141-155). But no one theme was ever considered to be more theologically accurate than another by all early Christians. According to Pelikan,

The gospel was a message of salvation; on this all Christian teachers agreed. But they did not agree about the meaning of salvation proclaimed by this message. Nor did that meaning become, in the strict sense, a dogma of the church…. While the relation of Jesus Christ to God and the relation of the human and the divine within his person became the subject for doctrinal controversy and dogmatic definition, the saving work of Christ remained dogmatically undefined. Yet it was certainly a major constituent of Christian doctrine…. [T]he doctrine of the person of Christ did become a dogma even though the doctrine of the work of Christ did not… (pp. 141-142).

Pelikan presents these three themes of salvation that can be seen in the early Church as well as the resultant means by how salvation is achieved according to an emphasis on each theme. These themes often overlap and work together, but they emerge distinctly in some places nonetheless.

Christ’s Life & Teachings

This theme of salvation emphasizes “the imitation of Christ as example and the obedience to Christ as teacher…,” but not apart from the message of the cross (else it would be nothing but a legalistic moralism as some early heretics taught, cf. pp. 143-146). Christ is the Logos who came to enlighten us and show us the proper way to live.

The means by which salvation is achieved in this theme is through the revelation of truth.

Christ’s Suffering & Death

This theme accentuates Christ’s sacrifice, although the Western soteriological notions of satisfaction and propitiation were not yet part of the early Church’s worldview (these concepts were not fully developed until after Anselm’s writings in the 11th century). In fact, the only mention of “satisfaction” was Tertullian’s use of it to describe a Christian’s reparations made to God (repentance) after sinning post-Baptism—it did not refer to something God did on our behalf at this point in history (cf. p. 147). The concept of “ransom” was often mentioned, although it is never explicit to whom the ransom was paid. Many early Church Fathers believed that Jesus paid a ransom to the devil in order to set man free from death (cf. p. 148). The idea of sacrifice was also often asserted, specifically in connection with the Eucharist.

The means by which salvation is achieved in this theme is by forgiveness and justification.

Christ’s Resurrection & Exaltation

This theme of salvation focuses on Christ’s victory over man’s enemies: sin, death, and the devil. According to Gustav Aulén, this was the most prevalent salvation theme in the early Church (it has been coined Christus Victor).

The means by which salvation is achieved in this theme is through immortality and deification (theosis).

Paradigm Shift: Salvation Language as a Parody of the Imperial Cult

It must be kept in mind that these themes often overlapped. As can be seen, the doctrine of salvation was not as cut and dry as many today suppose. Nor did the early Church rush to dogmatize soteriology (in fact, it could be argued that they never viewed soteriology and the work of Christ as a distinct category of theology that could be discussed apart from the person of Christ – this may be due to the influence of Aristotelianism / Scholastic theology).

Perhaps we’ve oversimplified salvation so that we can fit it on a PowerPoint slide (or Keynote or MediaShout, etc.) and share it with a friend in a five-minute conversation. Maybe Jesus told parables because human language can only hint at things concerning the kingdom of God (or perhaps he knew that addressing people’s intellects was not the primary objective of his ministry). This is not to say that language and words are unimportant, but perhaps only in an apophatic way that acknowledges the finiteness of our reasoning abilities.

Modern scholarship such as that of N.T. Wright has shown us that the Apostle Paul used political language to describe God’s new covenant work among his people (including the word “salvation” itself), creating a parody of the Roman imperial cult.

As various writers have recently urged, you don’t need such a strong military presence to police an empire if the citizens are worshipping the emperor. Conversely, where Rome had brought peace to the world, giving salvation from chaos, creating a new sense of unity out of previously warring pluralities, there was a certain inevitability about Rome itself, and the emperor as its ruler, being seen as divine. Rome had done — Augustus had done — the sort of thing that only gods can do. Rome had power: the power to sweep aside all opposition; the power, in consequence, to create an extraordinary new world order. Rome claimed to have brought justice to the world; indeed, the goddess Iustitia was an Augustan innovation, closely associated with the principate. The accession of the emperor, and also his birthday, could therefore be hailed as euaggelion, good news (we should remember of course that most of the empire, and certainly the parts of it where Paul worked, were Greek-speaking). The emperor was the kyrios, the lord of the world, the one who claimed the allegiance and loyalty of subjects throughout his wide empire. When he came in person to pay a state visit to a colony or province, the word for his royal presence was parousia.


With all this in mind, we open the first page of Paul’s letters as they stand in the New Testament, and what do we find? We find Paul, writing a letter to the church in Rome itself, introducing himself as the accredited messenger of the one true God. He brings the gospel, the euaggelion, of the son of God, the Davidic Messiah, whose messiahship and divine sonship are validated by his resurrection, and who, as the Psalms insist, is the Lord, the kyrios, of the whole world. Paul’s task is to bring the world, all the nations, into loyal allegiance — hypakoē pisteos, the obedience of faith — to this universal Lord. He is eager to announce this euaggelion in Rome, without shame, because this message is the power of God which creates salvation for all who are loyal to it, Jew and Greek alike. Why is this? Because in this message (this ‘gospel of the son of God’), the justice of God, the dikaiosynē theou, is unveiled. Those of us who have read Romans, written essays on Romans, lectured on Romans, preached on Romans, written books about Romans over many years, may be excused if we rub our eyes in disbelief. Most commentators on Romans 1:1-17 insist that it forms the thematic introduction to the whole letter. None that I know of (myself included) have suggested that it must have been heard in Rome, and that Paul must have intended it, as a parody of the imperial cult (cf. Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans).

The language used by Paul is no coincidence. Yet this meaning has largely been lost (largely due to the language and cultural barriers between first-century Rome and subsequent generations of Christians, as well as limited access to first-century writings). Yet early Christians made many of these connections and felt no need to dogmatize soteriology.