…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
But the “excitement” of Easter cannot be given to man by man himself. Even more than his exinanition, Christ’s exaltation is the consequence reached by God himself through his power in action. God himself is the rector and the master and the king of this whole history which is his covenant with us. Either we understand God as master and subject of this history or we do not understand this history at all. Thus the question we have to answer now is not: “Can I admit that all this has occurred?” but: “Where do I stand vis-à-vis God the master? Do I live ‘with’ God? Do I live in keeping with God’s deeds?” And since we know these deeds mainly and primarily through the Scripture, the question of faith is first a question of reading the Bible. One cannot pray without reading the Bible, without getting a knowledge of the divine history directed by God wherein we discover what we need: faith in God the rector and sovereign and living master of Christ’s history which “comprehends,” that is, embodies, sums up, locates and fulfills our own history.
~Karl Barth “The Faith Of The Church”
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.
I hate those moments when once again I’m confronted with cowardice and ignorance that masquerades as humility and wisdom. It utterly diminishes me. I just swell up with a surging maelstrom of anger, sadness, defeat, despair and shame for my fellow man who lives by facsimiles of virtues. A life filled with nothing but moral circumspection without any cognitive direction. To believe anything without allowing its discussion or challenge is a fanaticism which abdicates something of what it is to be human, to be made in the image of God. It sacrifices our ability to doubt and reason upon the altar of assurance. And it is a sacrifice that I could never make.
This isn’t going to be a trenchant analysis of the teachings, magical powers or his televised *messages* from God that Mr. Robertson supposedly receives. Nor does he have a substantive or coherent enough theology for a critique, so there’ll be none of that either. (more…)