Keep Out!

Restricted Area

If we spend all our energies defining what we AREN’T and vehemently defending our side of the line, we will not only alienate ourselves but also find it difficult to define who we ARE.

And if we’ve been so militant in our description of who we AREN’T, given our behavior, will there even be anyone within range to hear us or desire to be with us?

Summer Camp was SOOOO Long Ago!

Camp Marshall

Why is it so difficult to rouse children from their beds during the year for school, yet they spring out of bed and dash outside quicker than you can say “Jack Sprat” during the summer months?  There is an enthusiasm for summer:  freedom!  New adventures to be had, vacations to take, visits with grandparents, playing outside past sunset and long past “bedtime.”

With summertime comes the opportunities for trips that children and youth can take away from family, school teachers, and the humdrum of “normal” household routines.  Those trips can be day camps, overnight or week-long camps, and vacation Bible schools.  These trips are wonderful opportunities for children to learn about Jesus, learn new skills, explore different places, overcome old fears, make new friends, and renew friendships from previous summers.

Camps can be a wonderful part of what “summer” means for a child.  I have such fond memories of summer camps.  Even though my parents were Baptist, my grandparents were Pentecostal preachers and church planters, so I went to summer camp with the Church of God every year.  The first year I went, I was miserable for the first two days as I missed my family terribly.  It was difficult to make new friends, adjust to the different routines and activities, and be away from my own home and in a strange place.  I had a wonderful camp counselor who talked about Jesus with me.  She gently nudged me out of my comfort zone, and I began to see that I could learn about God through different ways and activities.  By the end of the week, I did not want to leave camp with our singing, praying, making crafts, playing games, and reading the Bible.  I returned to camp for six more years and had opportunities to mentor those first- and second-year campers.  Even now, thirty years later, I remember Bible verses and books of the Bible that I memorized during those summers at camp.

So how can we prepare our children for summer camps so that they have the best experiences?  You know your children and their unique personalities.  Talk with them about activities they might like to do or learn.  Have them imagine what they think camp might be like.  Also speak with them regarding what might scare them or make them apprehensive to attend camp; you can begin to assuage their fears before they even begin the camp or VBS.

When they have arrived home from camp, they will be full of stories and want to share what they learned, new people they met, what kinds of food they ate, and the activities they participated in.  Their enthusiasm and energy might be overwhelming, but how wonderful it would be to have them share their decision to follow Jesus with you and their friends and their church!!  If they had any fears or apprehensions before they went away and were able to conquer those fears, encourage their triumph over those fears.  Their successes might be the part they remember, rather than the original fear, when they wish to go back again next year!

Throughout the year continue to talk about camp and help reinforce the values they learned and decisions they made.  Lessons such as cooperation and sharing will be invaluable for them with siblings and friends at school.  Having the courage and faith to talk about God and ask questions about Jesus will help empower them to speak more about God to their friends when they return home.  And they will continue to sing those campfire songs about how Jesus loves them long after the warmth of summertime has faded!  I pray that as our children experience all types of camps and vacation Bible schools throughout the summertime, they will be blessed with treasured friendships, encouraging counselors and leaders, and experiences that they will carry with them not only when school resumes in the fall but for the rest of their lives as well.

Leading from the Front

Lead from the Front

While not the only theme of the book of Joshua, a strong current within the text is a handbook, if you will, regarding the qualities necessary in righteous leadership.  Joshua is not the first significant leader of the Old Testament; he follows Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron.  However, his lot is given to him from the former leadership of Moses — the one who lead the people of God out from the hands of Pharoah.  He came to leadership having apprenticed under Moses and learned the habits of leadership, and consequences of failure, vicariously through Moses.

God establishes a relationship with Joshua that is grounded in Joshua having a personal experience witnessing God’s hand on His follower Moses:  “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful where you go” (Joshua 1:7).  God restates this encouraging message a few verses later.  Joshua, in turn, speaks to his leadership regarding what God expected of them as a nation.  It is through their response to Joshua that we can see his effectiveness as a leader:  “Whoever rebels against your orders and disobeys your words, whatever you command, shall be put to death” (1:18).  They echo the words of God and encourage their leader in the final verse of chapter 1, “Only be strong and courageous.”  Joshua commands and the people act.  And God responds by exalting Joshua (4:14).

Joshua’s actions also prove a leader of an immediate nature.  We see time and time again Joshua rising early and going out to act upon the commands of God.  When he learns of Achan’s betrayal, he responds immediately and without hesitation.  He commands that his leadership get the five kings from the cave, and they do so.  His judgment upon them is swift and decisive.

Another aspect of the book of Joshua that is valuable to the building of the foundation in the Old Testament is in chapter 24.  Verses 1-13 retell the story of God’s chosen people from Abraham to Jacob to Moses and the exodus from Egypt to the 40-year wandering to the time of Joshua and the people conquering the lands.  Joshua uses this history of his people to reinforce the goodness of God, His mercy to the people, and, additionally, the judgment of God when His people turn away in sin.  The people respond correctly in that they will not turn away:  “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods…” (24:16).  It is as if Joshua needs a commitment from God’s people whom he has been entrusted to lead that they will continue to uphold the covenant and honor God as a jealous and merciful God.

Joshua is a warrior of God who leads from the front trusting in the promise of the Lord of his ancestors.  Therefore, this book is not so much about the people thriving and failing under God as it is a testament to a wise, strong, and decisive leader.

Jesus is Not my Homeboy!

What’s that you say?? You DON’T consider Jesus as your friend?!?! No, not at that point….yet!

Jesus Homeboy

I don’t consider Jesus as my friend.

What?!  You don’t??  Well, that’s just crazy talk!

No, not really.  Let me explain…   I have many people in my life who have been very dear and precious friends.  Ones who fulfilled the description of “friend” of Marlene Dietrich, “It’s the friends you could call at 4am that matter.”  These are friends, and there are but a few, who have been with me – if not physically then in thought – for many years.  And then there are dozens and dozens who have come in and out of my life.  Ones who just drifted away and ones I intentionally pushed off the ledge.

It’s this latter group of “friends” that I am using when I think of Jesus.  I don’t think of Christ as that type of friend:  the fair-weather friend.  Quite the contrary!  But if I call Him my “friend,” He inherently assumes both definitions of friend:  the loyal, tried-and-true, through-thick-and-thin-to-the-bitter-end type of friend AS WELL AS that fly-by-night kind.

Christ is not someone I want to turn my back on.  And I’ve turned my back on some friends.  I’ve unfriended friends on Facebook because I just didn’t want their *insert any adjective here* comments popping up on my feed or on my posts.  And some friends and I just parted and went separate ways.

No, that’s not how I think of Christ.  So I have a difficult time calling him my friend because I don’t want to think of Him as the latter type of person in my life.

Until my thinking changes, I’ll just keep my friends as friends and keep Christ as everything else.

Without Ceasing…

Angelus

The Angelus tolls in the crisp air, and I am reminded of the gift of God bestowed to the Virgin Mary.   As the bell continues its patterned ring, I speak my prayers and offer my heart to the Lord.  May this pause offer an opportunity to be mindful of Christ in my life and to keep Him present throughout my day.

The Angelus is one of many reminders we have throughout our busy days to stop and pause and pray to God.  We say grace at meals.  We pray before going to bed.  We pray when we get up.  We pray before taking a test.  We pray during church.  We pray at the flag pole.  We teach our children what prayer is and when we should pray.  We teach them specific prayers that we say at certain times of the day.  As we get older, we have memorized prayers that we rely upon for strength, peace, guidance, temperance.  These words offer us comfort, help to calm us, give us courage when we need it, reconnect us to our Father and God.

Fr. John-Julian, the Order of Julian of Norwich, designates a certain type of prayer, a “still” prayer, as “a state rather than an action.”  We pray at certain times and at events throughout our days and during our lives.  Fr. Julian takes our understanding of prayer deeper from that of an act that we do to a way that we are.  Prayer is a moment of sharing a conversation with God.  Prayer can also be more than just a moment; it can be a way of being that transcends the ticks on a clock.

God longs for us to speak with Him, to spend time with Him.  In the beautiful lyrics from musician Larnelle Harris, “I miss my time with you, those moments together, I need to be with you each day, and it hurts me when you say you’re too busy, busy trying to serve me, but how can you serve me when your spirit’s empty.”  God calls us to be with Him, and I believe He delights when we respond to His call and share moments of our life with Him.  I also believe that He aches to be with us during ALL moments.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 prompts us to “pray without ceasing.”  According to the verse, we are to be in a constant state of prayer.

But what does “pray without ceasing” look like?  No, perhaps we don’t get on our knees, clasp our hands together, close our eyes, and speak our prayers to God.  While some of our daily prayers may have that specific posture, God does not require that structured action.  Still, or contemplative, prayer is a quiet from within that fills the spaces and centers our minds and hearts on God.  Much like we can have a jar of pebbles that might represent our more formal prayers throughout the day, still prayer could be like the fresh water we pour into the jar that fills the spaces between the pebbles.  In still prayer we are open to God’s voice and direction; we are thinking of “what is true, noble, righteous, and lovely” (Philippians 4:8).

As the final echo of the Angelus fades from the air, my thoughts and attention resumes on the tasks at hand and the business of the day.  However, my heart and spirit remain connected with God through the Holy Spirit.  May we seek God and respond to His voice not only in the specific moments during the day but also within the quiet spaces as well.

St. Teresa of Avila

St Teresa of Avila

Before the days of cell phones and texting, many children knew when it was time to go indoors in the evening by the sunset.  When that last sliver of the sun sank into the horizon, we knew we had to stop playing hide and seek or riding our bikes or fishing for crawdads at the creek.  Before that sun completely went away for the night, we had to be in the yard and on our way through our front doors.  When I was little, about 6 or 7, I wanted to play outside past dark.  Jimmy and Shawn, my next door neighbors, and Clint, the kid across the street, could all stay outside and play, but my mom was a meanie and made me go inside.  I’d hear them screaming and laughing in the street while I had to get ready for a bath and bed.  Ugh!

So, in protest one night, I got out my Big Chief Tablet and a crayon and wrote a letter to my mom saying I was going to run away.  I didn’t get to play like my friends could, so I was going to run away, and I’d be able to stay outside and play all night long if I wanted.  I decided I’d run away during the night so she wouldn’t know.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make up my mind to take either Julie, my stuffed dog, or Rosie, my baby doll, and since I didn’t have enough room for both of them in my satchel, I crawled in bed with both of them and went to sleep.  Apparently, the thought of leaving one of my treasures behind caused me more torture than my mean mom’s rule of having to go inside at dark time.

Teresa of Avila, our saint for this day, also found herself caught between what she wanted to do and where she was placed.  A young girl born into the turmoil of the church during the Reformation, her very devout and pious father placed the rebellious and boy-crazy Teresa in a convent.  There she learned the methods of a life of prayer, yet it was years after her entrance into the convent and an illness so severe that she was left paralyzed for three years that she finally discovered what a penitent life meant and how prayer could truly change a person.  Tormented throughout much of her life, she felt caught between a carefree, uncommitted life and that of a pious, devoted relationship with God the Father.  Feeling the pull of humanity that could draw her away from her prayers and devotion, she believed she constantly walked the fine line between Christ’s grace and hell’s temptations.

It was clear that Teresa was given a unique gift:  passion.  enthusiasm to found new convents, desire to learn more of Christ, devotion to God’s mercy through the burning power of prayer.  She believed that through prayer God was able to touch the human soul and potentially transform the spirit and body.  Shunned by many of her peers as diabolical rather than divine, she often wandered the Spanish countryside establishing a church and then being forced to leave after only a short time.  Her passion was so strong and consuming that she felt a physical change after each encounter with God.  Fr. John-Julian says that it is only when one makes a relentless and unswervingly concrete commitment to prayer that it becomes possible for God even to begin to act significantly in that life.

Similar to Saint Teresa, we too can feel the pangs of the touch of God.  Additionally, we can feel conflicted between the pull and temptations of this life and the intense peace and passion of God.  For me and for us all, I hope that we desire such purity and union with our Creator that can only come from a life devoted to unceasing and transformative prayer.

I’m suffering… Where’s the protection??

guardianangel

1 Peter 13-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

There are a couple of phrases that stand out to me  The first is, “you…who are being protected by the power of God through faith…”  What does “being protected” mean?  I question this because, at the time that the gospels were written after Jesus’s death and resurrection (about 60-70 AD) , Christians were being persecuted for their faith.  We study the lives of the martyrs who suffered for their faith.  So that brings me back to this idea of “protection” and what it means if there are so many who were being persecuted.  It doesn’t seem, in OUR language, that the word protection means the same thing now as it did then.  I mean… we wear a seat belt in our cars for protection.  Kids wear helmets when riding their bikes for protection. Some people carry guns for protection.  So what does Peter mean when he says protection?

I think to help answer this, we need to look further in the text.  He says, “in this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith…is tested by fire – may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  So…looking at the beginning of this passage, Peter talks about protection, and now he speaks of suffering.

Sorry, but now I’m REALLY confused!!

I think back to what I’ve been studying in my Church History class.  We recently studied the first Fathers, hermits, and martyrs from about 100-300AD.  These men and women suffered for the devotion to their faith.  The were tortured for days, months, and some for years.  The Diocletian Persecution was one of the most brutal events against Christians in the 300s.  So if these Christians were persecuted and suffered for Christ, how were they protected?  And what does that mean for us?

We, in this country, don’t suffer persecution for our faith as they did.  But we do suffer.  We go through illnesses and death of friends and family and feel that loss; we endure our own illnesses; we go through divorce; we go through financial hardships; we endure tragedies much like Arkansas and the south is suffering now in the wake and aftermath of these tornadoes.  There are all kinds of suffering going on, and not all of them physical and for the sake of Christ.

I believe there is a distinction we should make here that the protection Peter speaks of is not a protection of our bodies but a protection of our spirit, our soul, that part of us which is connected to God.  That is what He protects.  Though our bodies may hurt and our feelings, our emotions, can be devastated by pain and loss, that connection we have to the Risen Christ is never broken or harmed.  As Peter says, it is protected “by the power of God through faith.”

Now.  We know our spirits are protected by God and are kept safe.  So now that brings me back to suffering.  When we endure hardship, pain, loss, confusion, we forget all the trivialities in our lives and are consumed by what we are going through.  We forget about and ignore the gossip and whisperings happening at work.  We forget about which teams are playing in the next baseball game.  We don’t give a second thought to the details of the next booster club event.  All the recognize is that we are hurting, and that suffering brings clarity.  An analogy I can think of is going to the gym.  When a person first starts working out at the gym, they might be able to do 5 or 6 push ups.  The more they work out, they stronger they become.  After working out for 6 months, they can probably do 40 or 50 push ups.  That number might have been unheard of 6 months prior.  Another analogy is think back to when we were in our teens and twenties.  Some of the issues we faced then seemed insurmountable at the time.  Now, in hindsight, those problems might be a drop in the bucket compared to things we’ve seen or endured since then.  And to hear a teen or twenty year old speak of their “problems”, well, we just might want to scoff at them and say, “Trust me, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”

But that suffering that we physically or emotionally endure, according to Peter, strengthens our spirit, strengthens our faith in God.  Suffering in our lives and realizing our faith is becoming stronger also does something else for us.  The martyrs that I spoke of had narratives, information that they wrote about in their letters to their friends and families.  These letters were also shared with communities and passed down from generation to generation.  The anguish that the martyrs felt and their faith that remained strong despite their persecution helped to give guidance and strength to others.

We participate in this offering of strength now.  As we suffer through various trials in life, we share those burdens with one another.  We pray for one another.  We offer counsel to one another.  Because one person whom we love is facing the illness of a child or going through the loss of a parent or enduring a difficult divorce, we suffer with them.  We hurt with them and cry with them.  We pray for them.  And our spirit, I would hope, is also strengthened as well.  Our cries to God on their behalf protects our spirits and helps us to understand and remember the grace of God and the salvation of Christ.

While we do not want pain and suffering, I pray that when we must endure it, we remember the love of God and sacrifice of Christ, forget those trivial portions of our lives that really do not matter, and seek the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ who will love us and pray for us.  And when we see someone hurting, I pray we follow in the steps of those who have come before us and share their burdens by offering counsel, love, and prayer.

“Hello! My name is Chad!” squawked God.

African Grey

Last week, when I was doing a residency week at Nashotah for my next course, some friends of mine and I were invited to share supper with a resident and her husband.  When I walked in, I immediately heard the phone ring several times and wondered why no one attempted to answer it. As I walked through the living room, I saw a gigantic cage and realized why no one was answering that crazy ringing phone.

The phone was a bird.

A big, grey, African parrot named Chad.

And Chad was trying to get our attention by perfectly imitating a ringing telephone.

And like kids in a candy store, we hovered around the cage and “Ooohed” and “Ahhhed” at this beautiful bird.

Chad loved the attention by dancing and flirting and showing us that he could eat cornbread and blow raspberries at the same time.  Once he realized we weren’t going to harm our hosts and were going to hang out for a while, he went through his repertoire of sounds and eventually lapsed into preening himself for his nightly rest.

Until we went into the dining room to eat our wonderful supper.  And Chad chirped and crooned and buzzed and meowed and zurbured as loud as possible to get our attention.  He couldn’t see us anymore and was concerned we’d left him alone.  He could still hear us sharing the meal together, but he couldn’t see us.  He was doing all he could to get our attention.

“Come back to me!  Where are you?  You left me alone!  Where are you?  Come back to me!”

I imagine this is what God does to us when we get busy or distracted or preoccupied or stressed or lazy or ….  I imagine God is much like Chad doing all He can to get our attention focused back on Him.  He sends us love through a precious friend.  He shows us grace through the hug and laughter of a child.  He reveals His power through the changing of the seasons.

There are so many ways that God makes Himself known to us throughout the days.  There are some days when I am so in tune with His presence, and there are also some days when I am so busy and distracted that I wouldn’t recognize His attention on me even if He were a parrot that landed on the top of my head!

Thank you, dear Lord, that your eyes never leave me and your hand never moves from me!  Forgive me when I forget and forgive me when I fail.  And thank you for using a beautiful African grey parrot for illustrating your relentless, never-ending love!

Ouch!

Busyness

“But busyness may sometimes be an excuse for laziness.  As Eugene Peterson observes, busy people are too lazy to take control of things, so they fit themselves into other people’s demands.  Activities can be an excuse for spiritual inertia or acedia, an unwillingness to accept God as God, that is, his absolute claims on our lives.  It is easier to be physically active in order to be spiritually indolent.  A fast-paced life may also hide a pernicious boredom.  According to Lyman, ‘the theater of industrial drama conceals a subtextual tragicomedy of grotesque acedia‘ that gives rise to the overpowering demon of lust.  Modern leisure (or the problem of what to do with it) is just as beguiling as the daemon meridianus (noontide demon) that hounded the desert monks.”

~~Simon Chan, Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life.

Last McGrath and a Smidge of Eschatology

Christian Theology

In completion of McGrath’s Christian Theology, he discusses the doctrine of the church and the sacraments, Christianity against the backdrop of world religions, and eschatology.

First, McGrath presents the populations of the church through the ages.  Isidore states the church is “‘the assembly of saints joined together by correct faith and an excellent manner of life’” (377).  Donatus expresses that the church is a body of “holy” believers “contingent upon the purity of the church and its minsters” (380) and that schism is “totally and absolutely unjustified” (379).  Conversely, Augustine posits it is a “mix of saints and sinners” (379) in a “hospital” for healing and “renewal” (381).  Calvin distinguishes the visible church (community of believers both “elect and reprobate”) and invisible (pure elect known by God) (383).  Reformers such as Simons echo Isidore viewing the church as righteous (384).  McGrath discusses Christ’s presence in the church (385-388) and illustrates the work of the church through the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic (391-399).

Next, McGrath discusses the sacraments: what constitutes sacrament, why celebrate it, and what does that celebration do for the believer?  Augustine states “that sacraments do not merely signify grace; in some way, they evoke or enable what they signify” (401).  McGrath submits Hugh’s criteria of sacrament: a “material” component, a “likeness” to the referent, “authorization to signify,” and ability of the sacrament to benefit the participant (403).  Ultimately, the sacraments must offer grace, strengthen faith, unify the church body, and inspire God’s love to the believer (407-411).  Discussion and debate ensued regarding the presence of Christ at the Eucharist (414-420) and similar discussion regarding the age of baptism, triggering the underlying discussion of original sin and, according to Augustine, its guilt and disease (421).

McGrath reviews religion in society (necessary or irrelevant) and where Christianity resides alongside other religions.  Religious consideration can be either through a detached or a committed approach (426).  McGrath states “religions show a marked tendency to depend on the particular purposes and prejudices of individual scholars” (427).  He illustrates purposes of religion: Feuerbach’s “divine predicates are thus recognized as human predicates” (428), Marx’s “‘religion is the self-consciousness…of people who either have not found themselves or who have already lost themselves again’” (429), Freud’s “religion arises through inner psychological pressures” (431), Barth’s criticism of religion as a human institution (433), and Bonhoeffer who argues for “‘religionless Christianity’” (433).  McGrath concludes the chapter identifying salvation through exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism with other religions (435-443).

McGrath completes the text discussing eschatology.  Joachim posits three ages: Father (Old Testament), Son (New Testament), and Spirit (renewal of the church) (448).  McGrath illustrates the positions of eschatology: the Enlightenment, Bultmann, Moltmann, Thielicke, dispensationalism, and Benedict XVI (451-456).  He also discusses the “places” of the end of days: hell, heaven, purgatory.  He also offers the theories of the millennium: amillennialism, premillennialsim, and postmillenialism (457-462).  He concludes by addressing the Christian resurrection body: in earthly form or in spiritual form (462).

Ultimately, McGrath offers evaluation of the body of Christ, how that body corresponds to the faiths, and non-faiths, of the world, and the hope that the body awaits.

Skeezer wants an Abe of Kibbles and Bits

Drugs

Are you addicted to religion?

As some may know, I have become disillusioned (Ha! interesting word considering what I’m about to say…) with evangelical, emotion-laden, mega church environments that seem to be taking over the Christian world in these last several years.  I do not agree with a church environment that attempts to illicit an emotional response to a phrase, a prayer, a motion much like a director cues an actor to enter the stage in a play.

Allow me to illustrate my point.  During a church service, the pastor/preacher is talking and seems to be driving home a point s/he wishes to make.  The pastor then begins to slow down the pace of his speech and lowers his tone.  His…pauses…are…more…spaced…apart…to…add…effect…  Then, as if on a rehearsed cue, a piano begins playing ever so softly and slowly.  The pastor continues to speak and is no longer pacing the stage but is still, again for effect.  The piano continues to play as the pastor brings the point of the message home.  All of a sudden, the people in the audience/congregation begin to tear up because they KNOW he’s speaking to them.  The music.  The tone of voice.  The quiet of the church.  It’s an emotional event.

Another illustration.  The music of the church:  band, small orchestra. piano, organ, etc etc etc.  Hymnals aren’t used.  A screen, or multiple screens, are used to flash the chorus being sung.  Hands begin to raise in the air.  Swaying ensues.  Chorus sung over.  And over.  And over.  And over.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Emotions are flying and tears are streaming.  Upheavals in the music.  Crescendoes.  Diminuendos.

And if you want another performance (read:  fix),  there is/are one service on Saturday evening,  3 services on Sunday mornings, one on Sunday evening, and another on Wednesday evening.  Each of these just as powerful as the last.

Church has evolved to an orchestrated event for the express intention of evoking an upsurge of emotions that will be directly contributed to the power of the Holy Spirit’s movement within that place and that person.

Those in attendance to witness and to participate in this pageant of emotions will define their connection to God for that day in proportion to their emotional involvement within the performance.

“For Feuerbach, Christian theology has tended to interpret the externalized image of ‘feeling’ of self=consciousness as a wholly other, absolute essence, whereas in fact it is a ‘self-feeling feeling’:  human religious feelings or experience cannot be interpreted as an awareness of God, but only as a misunderstood self-awareness.  ‘If feeling is the essential instrumentality or organ of religion, then God’s nature is nothing other than an expression of the nature of feeling.  The divine essence, which is comprehended by feeling, is actually nothing other than the essence of feeling, enraptured and delight with itself — nothing but self-intoxicated, self-contended feeling’ ” (McGrath, Christian Theology, 429).

Christianity has “devolved” into a sound bite of religious histrionics devoid of, or at least seriously lacking in, Biblical content.  When congregants leave the service, how they judge whether the service was “good” or “bad” is how affected they were by the performance.  Those said congregants have over time become addicted to this religious drug and will continue to attend, not because of the spiritual truth that they receive at each service, but because they’ve drained through their supply of spiritual medication and need a fresh hit.

(I’m neither implying or outright stating that the Holy Spirit doesn’t move in powerful ways.  What I AM stating, loud and clear, is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help.  From the pastor.  From the musicians.  From the choir.  The Holy Spirit is strong enough and capable of enough of speaking to and moving within the individuals of that service on His own.  He doesn’t need the scripted performance to facilitate or even enhance His actions.)

And if you doubt my assertion, divorce yourself from the sentimentality the next several times you attend your church.  Separate yourself, if you can, from the music, the changes in tone of voice from the pastor, the facial expressions of divine rapture from the choir and congregants.  Observe the service as an outsider, a sceptic.  Truly listen to the content of the sermon.  How much does he read the Word and preach from it, or is he merely offering his commentary to the Word, or worse offering story after story to illustrate his point?  (Those aren’t the same thing, by the way!)  Is he presenting the Word for what it is or for what he believes it is?

” ‘If feeling is the essential instrumentality or organ of religion, then God’s nature is nothing other than an expression of the nature of feeling.’ “

Hangover from Superstition?

Stained Glass 5

 

In the next chapters of McGrath’s Christian Theology, he covers substantial topics including salvation, sin, grace, and predestination.

While McGrath does not focus on political or sociological concerns, historical events appear as an underlying thread influencing soteriology in this chapter.  He explores Kahler’s idea regarding the role that Christ plays in salvation.  Did Jesus accomplish what already existed, or did He do something entirely new (317)?  Following Kahler, Wiles states, “Christ is here understood to reveal the saving will of God, not to establish that saving will in the first place” (317).  Wiles’ statement reflects Matthew 5:17, “Do not suppose that I came to throw down the law or the prophets — I did not come to throw down, but to fulfill.”  McGrath posits salvation as either an event or a process by discussing justification, sanctification, and salvation (318-319).  Additionally, the cross is a representation or a substitution for humanity’s sin (328-329).  McGrath next explores the question: to whom did Christ pay this ransom? God? The Devil? (326-327).  Anselm proposes that the critical components for man to be saved were both the incarnation and the exaltation (326).  Next, the Enlightenment brings a rationalist approach to the relationship between God and man and reduces the cross to only a demonstration of love (333) and perceiving sin, “as a hangover from superstition, which the modern age could safely dispense with” (335).  McGrath points to the Pauline approaches to salvation (338-339) and to deity and holiness existing within sinful man (339-342).  He concludes the chapter with three theories: only believers will be saved, only an elect will be saved, or all will be saved (344-346).

Next, McGrath explores man as the image of God versus the likeness of God (348-350).  McGrath then explores free will from Augustine versus those akin to Pelagius and Luther.  Augustine states that man exercises a free will directly distorted by sin, and he requires divine grace for restoration (351).  He posits that man is born “contaminated” by sin at birth and is dependent on God for salvation; grace is internal (352-354).  Conversely, Pelagius, and later Luther, states that man is born sinless, and “humanity is justified on the basis of its merits” (354-355).  Grace is external (354, 361).  These conflicting approaches inspires Aquinas, Ockham, Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Trent.  The Reformation brings Luther to the forefront regarding sin, grace, and redemption.  Justification, at this time, is viewed as what must man do to be saved and is contrary to the answer given from Paul and Silas, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).  McGrath continues by discussing predestination.  Regarding the chosen, he cites Godescalc, “if [Christ] had, he would have died in vain, for their fate would be unaffected” (366).  McGrath concludes with evolution, young earth creationism, old earth creationism, intelligent design, and evolutionary theism (371-374).

Ultimately, these theological concepts were significantly impacted by both the historically powerful Enlightenment and the Reformation movements.

Down with Enlightenment!

no-candles

Alister McGrath, in his Christian Theology, spent the last two chapters discussing the doctrine of God and of the Holy Spirit.  It stands to reason that his next chapters discuss the doctrine of Christ and Christ in history.

Christology, the doctrine of the person of Christ, seeks to understand what Christ reveals in an historical context.  It also attempts to evaluate the implications of Jesus as savior, as a man fully human, and as a being fully divine.  Before McGrath delves into the various aspects of Jesus’s nature, he points out the rationalist approach to Christ: Jesus had nothing new to bring to the table of moral and reasonable human interaction and therefore had no true value.  Arguing against this rationalist approach, Ritschl stated that what Jesus did exemplify was, “a new and hitherto unknown relation to God” (267).  Man could know God differently than before the incarnation because of the incarnation.  McGrath briefly defines New Testament terms given for Jesus: Son of God, Savior, Lord, Son of Man, and Messiah (268-271).  Within the idea of Jesus as God, Arius posited, “as a creature, the Son was changeable and capable of moral development, and subject to pain, fear, grief, and weariness.  This is simply inconsistent with the notion of an immutable God” (275).  Thus, two opposing schools of thought arose:  the Alexandrian and the Antiochene.  These schools debated the extent of the duality of natures within Jesus (271-279).  Theological concepts of Christology and soteriology gave rise to kerygma or the “proclamation of Christ” that will transmit the soteriological content of the Christ-event” (284).  How Christ responds is how God is revealed to us and how He bears the Holy Spirit to us (286-291).

Next, McGrath posits the problems of historicity, namely the Enlightenment movement in the 18th century.  The Enlightenment saw no purpose for history in that it was inherently flawed by perspective and subjectivity.  The incarnation, divine miracles, the resurrection, and even the person of Jesus Himself were called into question (295-304).  Theologians and philosophers questioned the life of Christ from three aspects: chronology, metaphysics, and existentialism (297-299).  Gotthold Ephraim Lessing stated: “What can the relevance of such an outdated and archaic message be for the modern world?” (299).  This “life of Jesus” movement  attempted to reshape the values Jesus proposed to fit with new evolving generations.  However, Martin Kahler refuted this historical approach to the person of Jesus.  The gospels were not to be read as historical documents, but rather as “accounts of the faith of believers” and, “Christian faith is not based upon this historical Jesus, but upon the existentially significant and faith-evoking figure of the Christ of faith” (304-305).  As Strauss, Bultmann, Barth, and Pannenberg debated the validity of the resurrection, McGrath concludes, “it must be appreciated that the resurrection of Jesus serves an additional function within Christian theology.  It establishes and undergirds the Christian hope.  This has both soteriological and eschatological implications” (310-314).

Daughter of the House

Nashotah

“Bless, O Lord, this House, set apart to the glory of thy great name and the benefit of thy Holy Church; and grant that thy Name may be worshipped here in truth and purity to all generations.  Give thy grace and wisdom to all the authorities, that they may exercise holy discipline, and be themselves patterns of holiness, simplicity, and self-denial.

“Bless all who may be trained here; take from them all pride, vanity, and self-conceit, and give them true humility and self-abasement.  Enlighten their minds, subdue their wills, purify their hearts, and so penetrate them with thy Spirit and fill them with thy love, that they may go forth animated with earnest zeal for thy glory; and may thine ever living Word so dwell within their hearts, that they may speak with that resistless energy of love which shall melt the hearts of sinners to the love of thee.

“Open, O Lord, the hearts and hands of thy people, that they may be ready to give and glad to distribute to our necessities.  Bless the founders and benefactors of this House, and recompense them with the riches of thine everlasting kingdom. for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.”

Where Are You Going?

Leaving the Church

“Donald Miller”

This name has spawned a bit of backlash recently.  Why?  He wrote a blog post about why he doesn’t attend church much, if at all, anymore.

I read his original post here.

I then read his follow-up post here.

I then read some responses to is blog here …

and here …

and here …

and a really good one here

and another one here

Clearly, this Donald Miller has struck a nerve.

But if we abandon all that we don’t like or remain with those who align with us 100%, we will end up alone or, worse, lukewarm.

Sorry for all the jumps.  This Donald Miller, I admit, has struck a nerve with me as well.  It’s personal.  And it’s important.

And just like I was for 16 years…he’s wrong.

“And Job died, an old man, and full of days.”

Pain

My Systematic Theology class had an online discussion thread going last week regarding the reading for Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology.  The thread began with a question of natural catastrophes on the planet and where God is (if anywhere) in that event.  McGrath speaks of “influence and persuasion” regarding God’s nudging man to righteousness.  Numerous examples were posited in the thread:  Moses, Noah, Lot, Job, etc.  We also discussed “natural evil” and what that term means:  can a volcano BE “evil”?   Evil implies a motive to perform an action contrary to good.  But the aftermath of a tsunami or Hurricane Katrina or massive tornadoes certainly aren’t a good thing, right?

On the heels of that discussion for my class, I came across this post from “Christianity Today”.  The article discusses the concept of pain and a theory of why God allows it to happen.  Of course C.S. Lewis discussed pain and its purpose in his The Problem of Pain.  In that work, Lewis writes, “If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty he would be able to do what he wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either the goodness, or power, or both.”  As shocking as this brief passage is if we take it at face value, Lewis continues in support of God’s plan, that He isn’t a masochistic puppet master.

I find the article comforting and encouraging.  I also, selfishly, appreciate the author’s view of pain when I reflect on my classwork because I find I’m not so far from the mark.  It’s a good gauge to reinforce that I’m on the right track.

That’s a “Win!” in my book!!

(title comes from Job 42:17)

I’m Liking This Guy

life

I’ve been following a pastor out of Canada on his blog for a while now.  Carey Nieuwhof.  He makes excellent points regarding church growth, connecting with one another, how to look at your church without a filter, (more importantly?) how to look at yourself without a filter, and so much more.  What he says, though, resonates with me.  His posts are brief, numbered, and direct.  He admits that he fights burnout.  He admits there are people he simply doesn’t like.  He admits that he can get fired up about a project that the congregation just may not be ready for.  He’s honest.  And he has a home life…he has a life outside of his church.  Church doesn’t define him.  It’s where he shares himself, his passion, his awareness and knowledge.  It’s not all about him, but he is certainly a part of the whole.  I like that.  And I thought I would share one of his blogs about discipleship in the church…in some denominations we call it Christian formation, but the concept is the same:  raising, guiding, teaching, growing people in and for Christ.  Formation doesn’t just happen with confirmation classes or when the individual is young.  There are people who are in their 50s and 60s and have been Christians and in the church all their lives, and they NEEEEED formation.  Carey’s blog hits the marks of discipleship with #3 being a biggie for me.  Click the link and check it out!

Can You Say That a Bit Slower This Time

trinity

Two chapters from Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology: An Introduction focuses on the doctrines of God and of the Trinity.

The first concern addressed is the doctrine of God.  McGrath offers the minor theory that God might not be male and quickly moves forward.  He identifies the “personhood” of God through such philosophers as Tertullian, Spinoza, and Buber.  These offered what God’s love towards man looked like while retaining His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence (199-203).  McGrath discusses the emotions of God, namely the possibility for God to suffer.  Aquinas and Moltmann provides McGrath’s two examples.  Aquinas: “Mercy is especially to be attributed to God, provided that it is considered as an effect, not as a feeling of suffering” (204).  Conversely, from Moltmann, “a God who cannot suffer is a deficient, not a perfect, God” and “God willed to undergo suffering.  The suffering of God is the direct consequence of the divine decision to suffer and the divine willingness to suffer” (206).  McGrath briefly offers Patripassianism, God suffering with Jesus, and Theopaschitism, “one of the Trinity was crucified” (207); the latter, superficially, implies modalism.  Next, McGrath discusses God’s power through omnipotence, need for self-limitation, and influence and persuasion (209-215).  In this section, McGrath implies the age-old question of “Why bad things happen to good people?” using the theory of process theology (214-215).  McGrath addresses the “goodness” or, conversely, the benign nature of God’s creation and shares theories from Tertullian, Irenaeus, Augustine of Hippo, Barth, and Plantinga (215-227).  He admits that the Holy Spirit deserves a dedicated chapter and yet briefly offers aspects and functions of the Spirit within the life of man (227-233).

Next, McGrath discusses the Trinity and how each part of the Trinity fulfills his nature.  Homoousios and homoiousios are both features of God and Jesus that McGrath identifies (235-236).  McGrath notes, “the proper subject matter of the doctrine of the Trinity is the encounter between divine and human persons in the economy of salvation” (236).  The “hypostasizations…point to a pattern of divine activity and presence in and through creation, in which God is both immanent and transcendent” (239).  McGrath notes the difference between persona of the Trinity from the substantia (240) and discusses two heresies of the Trinity:  modalism and tritheism (244-246).  The Cappadocian fathers discussed the filioque controversy as understanding the relationship and movements of the Spirit and Jesus to God (247-249).  McGrath concludes this chapter by offering perspectives on the Trinity from:  Augustine, Barth, Rahner, Macquarrie, Jenson.  Of note from Rahner, “the way God is revealed and experienced in history corresponds to the way in which God actually is” (254).  In other words, God will not reveal Himself contrary to His nature, and man may discover His nature through history.

Ultimately, Karl Barth best addresses the power, ability, and function of God and the Trinity:  “For revelation to be revelation, God must be capable of effecting self-revelation to sinful humanity, despite their sinfulness” (253).

Water & Spirit

baptism

Abstract:

The project will reveal the significance of the sacrament of baptism in the work of the church, both regarding the baptismal candidate as well as the catholic church.  Jewish history reveals purification ceremonies that, with the baptism of Jesus, have marked a critical moment of the believer in a bath of both water and Holy Spirit.  This moment crosses denominational lines to be an ecumenical awareness of God’s grace for His people.  However, the sacrament of baptism does not involve the candidate alone but is an opportunity for the church to reaffirm its baptismal covenant at each event.  For liturgical churches, there is a vow within the baptismal covenant promising guidance and partnership from the church to the baptized.  That vow has been forfeited over time and has caused the process of Christian formation to be lost; thus, the church has failed the church.  However, there is hope for the body of Christ to reclaim its vow and restore its commitment to this most holy sacrament.  Fred P. Edie in Book, Bath, Table, and Time illustrates that baptism is an acknowledgment, a movement, of “being” for the baptized into “doing” for both baptized and church body.  This acknowledgment is the pivot point for the growth and future of the church.  Simon Chan in Liturgical Theology rightly noted, “Strong martial language is used, for baptism is part of a cosmic struggle to reclaim humanity and the world for Christ” (118).

 

Watch out

HeresyStamp.1

Continuing with Allen’s and Springsted’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology, the last two chapters discuss the issues within postmodern philosophy as well as its ethical concerns.

A working definition of “postmodern” cannot be framed without first a foundation of what “modern” philosophy is.  Modern philosophy must be objective and universal, and it must have guidelines defining reasonableness.  Two issues arise regarding postmodern philosophy, according to the authors.  One is the discussion to retain or eliminate sensory perception when searching for meaning (209-217).  The second is the nature of language as Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Derrida are the forefront of the discussion (218-230).  The final chapter engages morality within philosophy.  Neopaganism, tradition, “quandary ethics,” and “virtue ethics” are concepts that are prompting theologists to discern how Christian doctrine and science, society, and environment behave together (237-246).

Switching gears to a new text, Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath, the author outlines the basic definition of theology and expands with the branches of theology: historical, systematic, philosophical, pastoral, and mystical (101-109).  Two key points of note are Barth’s rejection of natural philosophy with, “God was perfectly capable of revealing himself without any human assistance” (111), and Anselm of Canterbury’s, “faith seeking understanding” to which McGrath elaborates: “To study Christian theology as a purely academic subject, from a disinterested standpoint, is to lose sight of the fact that Christianity is about proclamation, prayer, and worship” (112).

McGrath reinforces this previous statement with, “Christianity is not just about beliefs; it is about changed lives” (121).  With the various sources for Biblical text, McGrath echoes Hegel’s historical revelation with his narrative theology (129).  He sheds light on frequent discussions regarding the the Old and New Testaments:  the exclusivity between Old and New Testaments, overlaps of the texts, and the New Testament fulfilling the prophesies in Old Testament writings; he outlines methods for Biblical interpretation:  literal, allegorical, logical, or historical (131-135).  Fundamentally, Erasmus declares original text must be accurate in order to build additional interpretation (134).

How we know God and how He reveals Himself to us follows.  We know God through doctrine (the Bible, the church), His presence (a teleological approach), experience (feeling), and history (153-157).  A sticking point for many theologians, natural theology is discussed and discredited with Barth’s, “It is an attempt to know God in a manner…which [is] determined by humanity, not by God” (164).  Necessary in postmodern study is the negotiation of theology and science:  “continuity”, “distinctiveness”, and “convergence” (168-169).

McGrath seeks original philosophy by outlining Platonism’s  Forms and Aristotelianism’s unmoved mover.  McGrath continues with appropriate questions such as:  can God be proved? and, can Christianity be a valid position? including Thomas’ “Five Ways” (173-184).  McGrath, rightly, discusses the language of theology as analogy, metaphor, and accommodation (188-193).

Ultimately, Karl Rahner correctly posits, “that things begin to go wrong when scientists start playing at being theologians, and vice versa, in that they refuse to respect the distinctive characteristics and limitations of their respective disciplines” (169).

Just Under the Wire!

Philosophy-vs.-religion

In Allen’s and Springsted’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology, chapters 7 through 11 builds upon the established philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Barth.  They move to modern philosophies as methods for understanding how man assesses his relationship to The Divine.

The authors illustrate in the seventh chapter through several approaches:  moderate realism, humanism, hierarchical methodology, and mechanical philosophy.  In moderate realism we understand an object by assessing its knowable essence.  Interestingly, Ockham rejected natural philosophy and based his awareness of God on faith as opposed to “philosophical demonstrations” in nature proposing that nature is “sheer fact” and contingent upon God, thus, contradicting Aristotle’s process (117-118).  Humanism aided the philosophical evolution through the Enlightenment as it defined a structural hierarchy, macrocosm and microcosm, and established man’s place in that universe.  Newton was aware but did not fully ascribe to the Deist theory in that he used God as a stop-gap for those occurrences in nature which could not be explained.  His checkered illustration could be unraveled as we see later in the text (124-127).

Next, the authors illustrate the notion of modern philosophy and the demise of natural theology.  In modern philosophy there is more to experience than sensory experience; Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” postulation arises and concludes with three ontological realities:  mind, extension, and God (129-133).  Disturbingly, morality is contingent upon logic, and matter determines viability (134-138).  Additional is Bayle’s notion that Christianity does not inherently equate to morality, thus, arises a “rational, enlightened religion” (142).

In the following chapter, the authors focus on Kant’s terms of knowledge:  a priori and a posteriori.  The authors also illustrate Kant’s branches of metaphysics:  “self (rational psychology), world (rational cosmology), and God (rational theology)” (160).  The authors note that Kant needs qualifiers to the third branch to distinguish practical reason from pure reason and to allow an aspect of faith to prove God’s existence (163); he posits that we would seek morality for itself, not for the pursuit of happiness (167).

Hegel then proposes that God manifests Himself historically and that our awareness of His inclusiveness is a continual process, “self-unfolding and self-realization” (169).  Hegel’s criticism of philosophical theology was that it is too narrow; his emphasis on reconciliation of finite man to the infinite God embodies his theology in an historical context (179).  Furthermore, we cannot comprehend reconciliation without the foundation of the incarnation.

One of the main threads in the last chapter is the intentionality of consciousness.  We become aware of God as we recognize the chasm between man and The Divine.  Existentialism reveals that we believe in God but are without God (191); phenomenology and hermeneutics offer the approach to know God through matter and the interpretation of events (201-203).

A subcurrent of the text is the relationship between God and Christ to man’s morality:  Christ does not guarantee moral actions nor does morality, when stripped away, reveal a Christian.

 

thisisnotasitappears

Bee

Okay!  Here’s the deal!

Do you REALLY care…

that I’m not from Montana; that I went to a Baptist university; that I don’t like my foods touching each other on my plate; that I’m heterosexual; that I love dogs and not cats; that I have two finches named Drambuie and Benedictine; that I am Republican; that I like tomatoes and spaghetti and tomato basil soup but can’t stand ketchup………

So!

Do I REALLY care…

that you are from Oklahoma; that you are Atheist; that you prefer cats; that you are homosexual; that you are Liberal; that you like milk chocolate; that you put ketchup on everything; that you don’t ever rinse the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher; that you drive 5 miles an hour under the speed limit all the time……..

I don’t understand this notion of qualifying ourselves, attaching labels on ourselves.  While in the intent it might appear to be inclusive and encouraging dialogue, in reality it is divisive and exclusive.  Like Robert Frost’s “good fences make good neighbors”.  I am baffled by this concept that we all have to categorize ourselves and then identify those that we like and dislike and THEN tell everyone else what those decisions are.

*shaking my head*

I just don’t see the need for labels.  I see you.  I see how you are and react and respond to others.  I see how you carry yourself.  I’m intrigued.  So I go and talk to you.  In our conversation I learn, OH GOOD GRIEF!!!  You like brussel sprouts???!!!!  You.  Are.  A.   Loser.!!!  I can’t be associated with you any longer.

*again shaking my head*

People:  here’s the deal:

Just BE!!!

Just be who you are without the need for labels or interpretations or qualifiers or footnotes or exceptions.

Just be.

What You Don’t Know

Cousin's Cabin

John Donne penned:

“No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main…”

There is so much negativity in the world and in the community.  There can be so much that can come against us that seeks to tear us down, hurt us, diminish our confidence and self-worth.  Sometimes it’s a struggle just to survive the next few hours of the day.  Benign situations that are guised as sweet sincerity morph into sarcastic condescension.

Run!  Run away, my instinct screams!

Close the door and shut out those demons!

It isn’t that easy.  There are bills to pay.  Meetings to attend.  Facades to maintain.  Promises to keep.  (Sounds like a Robert Frost poem.)

No, I’ll retreat in my mind where you can’t touch me.  I will build a sanctuary where you cannot see and you cannot claim.  When you attack and criticize and claim and control and seize and justify and manipulate and chastise, I will retreat to my sanctuary.  You are not allowed there as it is mine.  You are not welcome.  Actually, you are not welcome in my life, but I tolerate you.  But the day will come when you will be out and my sanctuary will be real.

For now, I must read John Donne’s words with knowing frustration.  He’s right, but I don’t have to like it.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Philippians 4:8.

“My thoughts…your thoughts…”

Logic vs Emotion

 

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  1 Corinthians 13:12 NRSV.

We arrive with knowledge of God, the One, through Aristotle’s methods:  “…as is possible for us in connection with sensible things” (29).  Alternately, we begin to know God as Augustin posits “only insofar as God illumines the intellect” (29).  Awareness, knowledge, of God comes to us through logos and rationale or faith and self-revelation.  There is a third possibility of knowing God, according to the Middle Platonist, which is only achieved in the next life (47); this concept echoes Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”

Because we cannot fully know the mind of God, we adapt our analysis and study and look to analogies or metaphors.  In our finite, limited understanding of an infinite Being, we see what God is not, so we might arrive at what He is.  Our analogies may be flawed:  “They are comparable to reflections of objects seen on the surface of water, with the distortions and limitations of reflections” (83).  However, “logic teaches us to reason rightly so as to gain knowledge” (86).  Application of a metaphor assists us to comprehend the One.  As we gain clarity, that clarity is in two distinct categories:  practical matters and theoretical knowledge (99).  When aptly combined, we achieve theoretical wisdom or sophia where “the highest part of [our] nature is fulfilled” (100).

However, this fulfillment cannot occur until the self is emptied or purged through kenosis.  We must employ “the procedure for getting rid of our lower souls…to gain knowledge.  We presently are between our higher souls and our lower souls” (54).  “There is no intimate knowledge of God without such moral…change in the knower” (29).  We must be changed first by faith, then the acquisition of knowledge will continue to purge self so that faith in knowledge will grow.  Justin Martyr stated, “that such knowledge is not possible for anyone using only one’s natural capacities.  It is only by faith in God’s revelation by the incarnate Word that such intimate knowledge of God is possible…”(27).  Justin’s concept is contrary to Aristotle’s understanding of sensible things.  However, it was Epictetus who envisioned the kenosis process:  We have by nature been endowed with the faculties to bear whatever happens to us without being degraded or crushed…One can complain about such misfortune or bear whatever comes without degradation by seeing its necessity and yielding to it courageously and magnanimously” (43).

Ultimately, to achieve the theoretical wisdom or sophia and behave as the Cynics, “the wise person in action” (41), we must empty ourselves, use rationale as well as faith, and employ metaphors to comprehend what the mind cannot conceive.

Allen, Diogenes and Eric O. Springsted.  Philosophy for Understanding Theology.  Louisville:

Westminster John Know Press.  2007.  2nd ed.

 

Fill ‘er up!

Half-full or half-empty

“Fill me with your Holy Spirit.”  “Make me more like you.”  “Show me your way.”

These are all phrases that I’ve said in my life at some point or another.  Heartfelt.  Impassioned.  Sincere.

But these are inaccurate.

In order to be like Christ, the divine, I must be empty.  Void.  Bare.  Nothing.

If I ask to be filled with the Spirit, it will be adding pure snow to a toxic wasteland.

Instead, I must search those parts that are wrong, purge them, and He will have room to fill.  I have to get out of the way.  There are no conditions.  No rationality.  No opportunity to say, “You can take this but not that.”

It doesn’t work like that.

“Seek, and you shall find.”

There is no limit to what Christ can do if I am nothing.

I should study Aikido…

Kenosis

brain-fog

It’s Tuesday, right?  My mind is a jumbled mess!  Dimensions of theological study.  Sacred theology.  Natural theology.  Spiritual theology.  Philosophical theology.  Nothing moves outside of God = unmoved mover >>> Aristotle.  Recidivism vs. Relativism.  Fukuyama.  Adler.  Barth.  Solzhenitsyn.  Nietzsche.  Aquinas.  Lewis.  Pannenberg.  Jungel.  Plato.  The “mystery” of faith.  Wisdom of God (Truth).  Holiness of God (Good).  Glory of God (Beauty).  Salutis.  Cognoscendi.  Essendi.   Incarnation of the Word.   There is no conversation without mutual acceptance of exaltation.