Tradition is Our Mighty Fortress

When Athanasius finished speaking on the Splendor of Tradition we headed right back over to the Seafood Buffet. We were as contented as can be! When someone suggested “Let’s get some more!” the idea was hailed as true genius. Some thought “more” meant more King Crab. The more spiritual types among us figured it was a signal that we should hear more about tradition from Athanasius! After some lively discussion we decided that these were both great ideas! Ath was always agreeable to speaking his mind so he quickly agreed to do another session. Then we all loaded up on more seafood! Everyone was excited to know that we were going to hear another great talk by Athanasius!

A Mighty Fortress Rocks the House!

It was an unforgettable experience to hear the majestic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” coming over the loudspeakers. Those magnificent bass notes shook us right down to the bone! It was just like having a huge pipe organ in the room! Pipe organs weren’t even used in churches until the 14th century so that made it even more impressive!  “A Mighty Fortress” wasn’t written until the 16th century and everyone loved the sense of majesty and awe it inspired. Finding out that it was written by Brother Marty (Luther) clinched it for us! It would be hard to imagine a more perfect beginning for what was to come.

Moderator:  Brethren could it get any better than this!? We have already had some great sessions, we have enjoyed great food and we have even played the strange game called golf! I don’t know about you but I wish this could go on forever.

Audience:  Let’s stay here! Let’s refuse to leave! We don’t want it to end! We love Las Vegas!

Chanting:   “We won’t go! We won’t go! We won’t go!”

Moderator:  I’m afraid God has other plans Brethren! The reunion committee that negotiated with God to get us here says that we have to go right back where we came from as soon as this Reunion ends.

Audience:  What a bummer! Booing. That’s not fair!

Athanasius… Our Doctor of Dogma!

Moderator:  It looks like we are stuck with the destinations we earned in our lifetimes but since we still have some Reunion time left we should make the most of it! Here tonight to help us do just that is our Doctor of Dogma and Top Dog of Triune Tradition, Athanasius!

Audience:  Enthusiastic applause, clapping, and shouts of welcome back Athanasius!

Athanasius:  Greetings dear friends! Let’s dig right into our topic. I plan on covering a lot of ground but don’t worry!  We’re going to make it back to that great buffet in plenty of time so you can all relax!

The Kingdom Belongs to God! Tradition Belongs to Us!

Everyone knows that God intends to protect His Kingdom! Many people have learned the hard way that we intend to protect and defend our traditions! First of all, let’s review some of the factors that can make traditions succeed or fail. Just remember that God protects His Kingdom and we protect our traditions! The Kingdom is His but the traditions belong to us!

We have learned some valuable lessons from the flawed traditions that caused Israel so much trouble. You can rest assured that we have wisely avoided those flaws with the traditions we have created. Two good examples of Jewish traditions that ultimately flopped are the prohibition against working on the Sabbath and the need for ceremonial handwashing before every meal. Let me explain!

Jesus Openly Challenged Tradition!

Jesus took His disciples through a field of grain on the Sabbath and they started plucking heads of grain (which was work). They started eating it with unwashed hands (because it’s hard to wash your hands in a cornfield). The religious authorities cried FOUL! but Jesus let them know their traditions didn’t measure up. His disciples were hungry and He cared more about them than a few rules. Jesus intentionally broke their tradition again by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath! He did it in a synagogue right in front of God and everybody! Many people realized that Jesus was right and the way they observed traditions was wrong. A whole new religion was being established right in front of their eyes! Jesus had openly challenged their traditions!

Traditions Can be Contrary to God

Jewish traditions were so concrete it was easy to see how they resulted in calloused decisions down here on earth. Sometimes those traditions were totally contrary to what God wanted!  Higher quality traditions could have saved the nation of Israel a whole lot of trouble. We have carefully avoided the mistakes that caused Israel so much distress! I am about to show you the secrets of building traditions that can withstand the test of time! Trinitarian Dogma is without a doubt the greatest religious tradition of them all and is indeed our Mighty Fortress!

Audience: This is good stuff Athanasius! Tell us more!

Good Traditions Intimidate Average People!

Athanasius:  One secret of our success is that the tradition we built was not easy or even possible to understand! In fact, it is so incomprehensible that we don’t really understand it ourselves and we created it! Average people are so intimidated by our scholarship and intellectualism that they hardly ever challenge us! We easily overwhelm people who question us with arguments they are unable to understand much less resist. Confounding and incomprehensible complexity is our ally, our strategy and our friend!

The Greatest Traditions Are Abstract and Mysterious

Another secret of our success is that our trinitarian tradition is not the least bit concrete! It is so abstract that it can’t even be envisioned even though learned scholars say otherwise! Is that great or what! It is almost impossible for people to see how our theological tradition could be contrary to God’s wishes. The Trinity is an ethereal mystery that has virtually nothing to do with what we say or do down here! Nothing we do will never make the trinity itself look bad. People will adhere to the tradition we bestowed on them in spite of our behavior! That my friends is the hallmark of a truly great tradition! Israel may have blundered by developing concrete traditions but we got it right!Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Think about it! We have constructed a secure fortress for ourselves out of next to nothing and it has lasted nearly 1800 years! No one knows how to break down its walls and we are safely surrounded by theological traditions that few dare challenge or question! We are experts and we are in the majority! If anyone even thinks about disputing our teaching we laugh them to scorn, call them heretics or eliminate them! It is plain to see that we  have won the day! Behold what we have built!

From somewhere up above a voice was heard saying, That’s all well and good children but you should have built on something more solid than the sand of your own thoughts. Building on the words of Jesus would have been far better. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But no one seemed to pay much attention.

Pomp and Rituals and Great Architecture!

Athanasius continued: Yes, yes, I know what some of you are thinking! “What about our pomp and architecture and rituals and hierarchy? Aren’t they important too?” The answer is “Yes! of course they matter!” These are things people get very attached to. They are useful  accessories that decorate the walls of our Mighty Fortress and make it look genuinely religious. We like them because they add a certain “Wow factor” to the tradition we have built. As far as all these other things are concerned, I say the more the better!

Now I want to make an honest man of myself and finish my remarks while there is still plenty of time to get back to that terrific buffet. Thank you all for your respectful attention! I’m sure going to miss these meetings when we have to leave this town.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 

Nicene Council Staff

The Janitor and the Servant Girl were both at the First Great Church Council (in Nicea 325 A.D.) and the much later All Stars Reunion in Las Vegas. Since they were already dead they felt they could talk about things freely. The Scribe just wanted to listen and write it all down for posterity. 

The Janitor, the Servant Girl, and the Scribe

Pragmatticus (the Janitor)  was a practical sort of guy who only cussed when provoked. He struggled to avoid swearing too much at church councils but sometimes all the nonsense just got the best of him. Historical accounts suggest he cussed a lot in Nicea.

Sally (the Servant Girl) witnessed the ecclesiastical combat and maneuvering going on in Nicea. She was injured in the legendary social hour brawl that took place just after the welcome prayer. Sally is still afraid of Churchmen and stutters whenever she tries to say words like denomination, tradition or creed. Theological terms are especially hard for her.  Medication has failed to control her twitching when she hears the words, “Let us pray.” She still feels uncomfortable around Christians and tries to avoid religious types.

Meticulus (the Scribe) was a clear-eyed reporter who tried to see as much as he could and write it all down. He was known to be pretty serious in a light-hearted sort of way and was called Ticulus by his friends.

Church Councils Don’t Bring Peace

Pragmatticus and Meticulus met at the first Council a very long time ago and realized they had a lot in common. We found Pragmatticus cleaning up the social hall and getting things ready for the Reunion. His encounter with Meticulus and Sally follows in its entirety.

Meticulus:  Well Prag you old cuss! It’s good to see you! This promises to be quite an event.

Pragmatticus: Only time will tell Ticulus, only time will tell. I sure hope things turn out better than last time they got together. I never saw a crowd who could make a bigger mess out of things! I thought they were supposed to straighten out all those big religious issues they were so worked up about! You know, stir up some harmony and peace, but all they did was fight! They sure despised each other.

The Nicene Council Was Divisive

I wonder if they knew or even cared how bad they looked to the rest of us. They were excommunicating each other left and right and then things really started getting ugly. That old Athanasius has a mean right hook and Arius could kick like a mule! They were kicking and scratching and gouging like nobody’s business. The brawl they started left the whole place in shambles. It took all the strength I had to keep from cussing a blue streak in Greek. They didn’t even try to clean up the mess they made. Sally was so put off by all their bad manners she figured the best thing was just to avoid Christians altogether, especially the ones who think they’re important.

The Meek Inherit the Earth

Meticulus: Hey isn’t that Sally setting up the punch bowl over in the corner? She sure looks nervous about something!

Pragmatticus:  You probably shouldn’t call it a punch bowl around her Ticulus. Sally was just starting to serve punch when the first brawl started in Nicea and she took more than a few stray punches by the time it was all over.  She still flinches when anyone even says the word punch around her. Might be a good idea to call it the beverage bowl when she’s in earshot. Poor girl still twitches a lot even on a good day.

Meticulus:  Servants aren’t much good in religious fights are they Prag?  They probably shouldn’t even be in places like this. Meekness is just fine most of the time, “inherit the earth” and all that but around here it’s not worth a plug denarius. I think we should get her a set of earplugs. I worry about the poor girl Pragmatticus. The more she hears the more she twitches.

Pragmatticus:  Those hi-tech noise-cancelling headphones are nice but they’re pretty conspicuous. I’d hate to see her get thrown out of here just for trying to cut down on all the noise coming her way.

PS: The Reunion is just getting ready to start and there’s lots more to come! Come back soon to see what happens next… and if you have a few moments please share a link to theologyallstars.com with someone you know.

Copyright 2022 by Bob Shutes

Continued…Click for Part II

Emperor Constantine Arrived

Things Got Exciting at Caesar’s New Palace!

There was a lot of excitement at the front desk when the Emperor checked in. It all started when the desk clerk asked him how he wanted to pay for his room and then asked for a major credit card. Constantine was mightily offended that anyone would ask him to pay for lodging in his own palace and things went downhill in a hurry!

Constantine Was Weary From His Travels

Desk Clerk:  Good afternoon Mr. Constantine! I see the Imperial Suite is reserved for you for all week. You just need to sign this form and provide your credit card in case there are any incidental charges. By the way, that’s a terrific costume you’re wearing! You look like a real Roman Caesar!

The Emperor: Have your servants escort me to my quarters immediately and whatever else you have said is of no importance. Make haste for I am weary from my travels and will have no more patience with your impertinence!

Desk Clerk:  I’m sorry Mr. Constantine but this is hotel policy and there are no exceptions. It only takes a minute and then we’ll be happy to take you to your suite.

Constantine Threatens the Desk Clerk!

The Emperor:  One more word young fool and I will have your head! I command you to kneel at your Emperor’s feet and your life will be spared.

Desk Clerk: Oh my goodness Mr. Constantine! Are you really threatening to kill me? That would be a real mistake even if you are just joking.

The Emperor: Enough! Emperors do not make mistakes! Guards! Slay this impudent wretch before my eyes. Do not let another breath or another word pass her lips!

Desk Clerk: (Over the hotel PA system) All Hotel Security report to the front desk immediately! Code Crazy in progress! Repeat… Code Crazy in progress. Do not delay! Suspect is deranged and threatening violence!

WARNING: The following events were captured on video tape and may be disturbing to some viewers. (Copies of the DVD are currently sold out but will be available soon.)

There were costumed casino employees on the scene looking just like Roman soldiers with fake spears and swords. When Constantine ordered them to kill the desk clerk they laughed and said, “Sure thing Connie! We’ll get right on that as soon as we finish our coffee break!” That made the Emperor so mad he commanded everyone in the room who was loyal to Rome to kill everyone who wasn’t!

Emperor Constantine Was Foaming at the Mouth!

Hotel guests couldn’t tell whether the scene was real or staged for their entertainment. The “Imperial Guards” were laughing their silly butts off. Constantine started foaming at the mouth when hotel security guards (the real ones) handcuffed him and told him to be quiet. When the Emperor commanded everyone to kneel again the lobby erupted with laughter and applause. The timing seemed perfect when the Reunion organizers and casino owners showed up and whisked everyone away to the absolute delight of the onlookers.

The Casino Wanted to Hire a  Roman Caesar!

We can only imagine the conversations that took place behind closed doors but the desk clerk seemed relieved, the “Imperial Guards” finished their coffee break and the hotel guests who witnessed it all went home with a great story to tell their friends.

Reliable sources later reported that Casino management was so impressed with Constantine’s performance that he was offered his own show at a very handsome rate. Unfortunately, for us it never happened and we must be content with these fond memories and thoughts of what might have been.

Well, that’s a true and accurate account of what happened at the Theology All-Stars Reunion when Emperor Constantine arrived. It still makes us smile just to think of it. You can share a smile with someone today by sending them a link to theologyallstars.com. Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes