…the Christian infinite belongs to an ontology of original and ultimate peace, and as a consequence allows a construal of beauty and peace inconceivable in terms of the ontology that Christian thought encountered first in various schools of pagan metaphysics, and encounters again in the thought of Nietzsche and his heirs.”
Both the charismatic Evangelical and the Eastern Orthodox have a mutual tilt, that is, a bent toward disenchantment. Either seeking more concrete and direct revelation by an ecstatic oracle or a room filled with wood, stone and canvas as instruments both liturgical and pedantic, the outcome is the same. And what it displays seems to be a dissatisfaction with the mundane appearance and nature of the simple Word and Sacrament, which is more mystical and incarnational than either the charismatic or the iconologue may claim to be. (more…)
There has developed in effect a kind of corpus which practically all Christian groups accept but which has nothing in common with the biblical message, whether in the Hebrew Bible that we call the Old Testament or the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. All the churches have scrupulously respected and often supported state authorities. They have made of conformity a major virtue. They have tolerated social injustices and the exploitation of some people by others, explaining that it is God’s will that some should be masters and others servants, and that socioeconomic success is an outward sign of divine blessing. They have transformed the free and liberating Word into morality, the most astonishing thing being that there can be no Christian morality if we truly follow evangelical thinking. The fact is that it is much easier to judge faults according to an established morality than to view people as living wholes and to understand why they act as they do.
~ Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
The reduction of Christianity to a mere belief, to simple immanence, barren of the transcendent, leaves christians of any people or nation easy prey to the carnivorous nature of political ideology. And this disenchantment of creation also fundamentally changes the way in which christians conceive of and pray to, God himself. The supplication, adoration and worship that are the elements of prayer are cast off and replaced by a conversation. A conversation with, because of the loss of transcendence, a deity that is always near, always immanent. So near, in fact, so as to be indistinguishable from oneself; prayer does, in fact, become just a conversation with a voice in your head. (more…)
As I’m reading through How (Not) To Be Secular by James K. A. Smith, some things just stick out as being both relevant and radical, yet comfortingly orthodox and in need of remembrance. What he says here is simple but being forgotten by wide swaths of Evangelicalism, if they even knew it. Highly reminiscent of Michael Horton, he says,
But to reject God’s personhood and agency entailed rejecting an entire fabric of Christianity that revolved around religion as communion…To depersonalize God is to deny the importance of communion and the community of communion that is the church, home to that meal that is called “Communion.”
Coram Deo is a phrase little heard today — at least in my experience — among Christians of the protestant variety. Truthfully, it is a reality which strips away the defense of arrogance and freedom that is so inimical to humanity, it unmans a person; stripping us of the comforting delusion of the anonymity of our desires and actions. For those two, simple words of Latin come together to bind us to the truth that our lives, all the little pieces of love and hate, honor and betrayal, are done so before the face of God. That in concert with his transcendence he is intimately immanent, inescapable and that we are laid bare before his righteousness, all our machinations the feeble plans of petty creatures. It is a reminder of our need of not simply regeneration, but of the reformation of our hearts and will. And to live Coram Deo in conscious regard of its reality is both humbling and terrifying. It is the very light which shines upon the incredulity of our deluded goodness and demands that we recognize our redemption, of a reconciliation to God that is only possible as an external, transcendent act for us, that our salvation from the lives we lead in broken covenant with our creator must come extra nos, it must come from outside of us, beyond the ability of our captive and conditioned wills.
Our lives are on display…and what a mess we make of them. I find comfort in this,
60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
Ours is a secular age. While the conditions of secularity — the nonaxiomatic nature of belief in God, the contestability of all ultimate beliefs — are not unrelated to the prescriptive project of secularism, there is no necessary connection between the two. A secular society could undergo religious revival where vast swaths of the populace embrace religious belief. But that could never turn back the clock on secularization; we would always know we used to believe something else, that there are plausible visions of meaning and significance on offer. We would also believe amidst the secular condition; indeed, conversion is a response to secularity, not an escape from it.
— “How (Not) To Be Secular” ~ James K. A. Smith
Thomas Watson wrote, in 1660,
Good words are but a cold kind of charity. The poor cannot live as the chameleon upon the air. Let your words be as smooth as oil, they will not heal the wounded. Let them drop as the honey-comb, they will not feed the hungry. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of angels and have not charity, I am but as a tinkling cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1). It is better to be charitable as a saint than eloquent as an angel. Such as are cruel to the poor, let me tell you, you unchristian yourselves. Unmercifulness is the sin of the heathen (Romans 1:31). While you put off the bowels of of mercy you put off the badge of Christianity. Saint Ambrose says that when we do not relieve one whom we see ready to perish with hunger, we are guilty of his death. If this rule hold true there are more guilty of the breach of the sixth commandment then we are aware.
Christians, our social conscience should flow from our Faith, from our Christianity, not from political ideologies that glorify the self or from economics which have been stripped of all morality.