Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A friend asked this question of me knowing my promiscuous appreciation for Robert Capon…

What do you think Robert Capon would say about Matthew 5:13-20?

(Thinking about Sunday’s sermon)

L.

I don’t find at this point anything that RC has said on that text.  I’m sure that he homilied  it more than a few times.

The Beatitudes are not simple.  I’m constantly being challenged by what Jesus is recorded to have said in this setting.  I’m constantly in flux relative to what I think it means to me and us as “church”.

Be that as it may, let me start with what Dallas Willard says about the Beatus;

“The Beatitudes, in particular, are not teachings on how to be blessed. They are not instructions to do anything. They do not indicate conditions that are especially pleasing to God or good for human beings.
“No one is actually being told …that they are better off for being poor, for mourning, for being persecuted, or so on, or that the conditions listed are recommended ways to well-being before God or man. Nor are the Beatitudes indications of who will be on top ‘after the revolution.’ They are explanations and illustrations, drawn from the immediate setting, of the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus. They single out cases that provide proof that, in him, the rule of God from the heavens truly is available in life circumstances that are beyond all human hope.”
-Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

I think that Willard is correct that in the parables Jesus isn’t telling us to do anything—they are not moral stories, rather stories that give us some insight into what the Father (and at times the Son) is like and how radically is the oikonomia of the Kingdom of the Heavens from the powers and principalities of the present age.  I know from my extensive reading (even a superficial reading would serve) that RCapon wrote the same kinds of things and had the same understanding of Willard in this.

To establish the context I’ll copy/paste Eugene Peterson’s take on the passage;

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down 2 and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. 12 You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15 If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. 17 “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. 18 God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.

Knowing full well, as we do, that RC’s shibboleth of Grace rest on the lost, the least, and the last—I’m now forced/constrained to view the Gospel narratives through that systematic lens.  How do we–the down and out at the end of our ropes, we who have lost everything we once thought indispensable (especially our own egoic pride), we have ceased from taking ourselves seriously, have entirely different “appetites” than what is considered “normal” by our competitive and sex and violence addicted society, we who would rather spend time in contemplation than amusing ourselves to death with “reality” TV, and have more appetite for constructive relationships than trying to figure out who’s in and who’s out with God…Yeah, us “nare do well’s”  who just don’t get “how this world works”, so to speak.

So, how are we, the Failures in the sight of the world (everybody are losers, it’s just that some admit it and some don’t…in the final analysis none of us have the power to hold our life intact) who apparently spend our lives in the “lost and found” section of Sears, how is it that Jesus says we are “salt and light”?

My short answer?

By being willing to be viewed as “failures” and “dog dirt” (I Cor. 4:13) by the powers that be (“The World”). In doing that—in reality allowing that to be in us—we are to the world sacraments of Jesus, the Light of Life which has come into the world.  Being vulnerable to others will at the surface look like a total failure.

Maybe I can “channel” RC with a paraphrase…

“Jesus is the penultimate loser of a god dying on a loser’s cross—a loser right to the end when he prays, “Father, FORGIVE THEM….”

Nietzsche didn’t criticize Jesus as a failure or loser, rather his criticism was directed toward those who claimed to be Jesus’ followers while at the same time buying into a “tame” successful life in the present which is a repudiation of Christ and thus the “death of God”.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these.

Is. 45:7 KJV

 

“ In God’s world good and evil are an ecology. The whole world is an ecology of opposites dancing with each other.  And God loves their dance.  The real sin at the tree of knowledge of good and evil was man trying to manage good and evil as God does not manage them.  God lets evil be.  Given the actions of people God does not, except in very rare circumstances, in the business of preventing their consequences.”

Robert Capon

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=-ueqWpyKOvo#t=1213

 

“Faith is not something that is rewardable.  Faith is the illumination of our darkness.  Faith accepts whatever is there already.”

Capon

Mark 10:

46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

John 5:

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4 - – - 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Bartimaeus ask for sight and gets it.

The invalid when asked by Jesus if he wants to be healed only complains about how he can’t drag himself into the water ahead of others—and Jesus heals him.

As is common with all systematic theologies—a particular truth is treated like a horse then ridden until the poor beast can’t go another plodding step, and then shot in the head.

What is true is that if we’re left totally to our own devices we’ll never come close to what God desires for us.  We’ll continue to operate in our fallen, egoistic way (“The World and all that is of it”; might makes right; I can figure out on my own what’s right and wrong [Tree of Knowledge thing]; if I just get the right formula and try harder I can make things work out for me, etc.) That is the broad road that leads to perpetual destruction.  However, because God is loving toward us his creatures he took the initiative to rescue us by seeking the lowest level–in becoming one of us and identifying with our predicament.  God doesn’t love us by beating the bejubus out of himself (the Son), rather he loves us so much that he’ll allow us to have our way with him by venting our anger and frustration and allowing us to kill that which we fear the most—our (mis)perception of a god who is opposed to us.  “I love you so much that I’d rather you killed me than that I should harm you.”  When we come to a place of trusting God we do so because we have had some experience of his trustworthy-ness.  We have begun to realize that this God really does have our best interest at heart.  He is so beautiful that even if he slays me—for whatever reason I cannot understand—I continue to trust that he always has in mind for me what is truly good and right.  Systematic theology always breaks down at this point because there is no reasonable explanation for this trust.  This kind of trust can only be experienced relationally.  Love cannot be weighed or decanted—only experienced, enjoyed, and possibly rejected out of distrust–which is the essence of fear.

When we cease from our fearful provision for ourselves (aka—Sin) then we have entered into “the mind of Christ”.  (Phil. 2:1-13)

(I guess I’ve made a good start at writing systematic theology….)

Four words are used in the book of Acts (and in the rest of the NT) which our translations almost always render as “preach”.  They are; (excuse the transliterations for the sake of speed)

1.  dialegomai (Acts 20:7) to discourse, argue, reason.  From this word we get our word “dialogue”.

2.  euaggelizo (17:18) to tell, proclaim, good news.  This is the source of our word “evangelize”.

3.  karusso  (8:5) to cry or proclaim as a herald.  (Wasn’t there an opera singer with the name Caruso?)

4.  laleo (8:25)  to talk, discourse.

Numbers 2 & 3 could be construed to mean that they delivered a “monologue”, but that understanding is not inherent in the Greek words themselves or necessary to the context where they are used.

“Preaching” as understood today (and as understood since about the 4th or 5th century in hierarchal ecclesiological practice) describes the activity of a single person having the attention of all other persons while he/she monologues.

That was definitely NOT the practice in the church for at least two centuries…and for good reason.  From what we read in Acts and the Epistles, Believers received instruction through dialogue forms, whilst those outside the Body were “proclaimed” (evangelized) to.   

Monologues may have some usefulness, but when it comes to edification and spiritual maturation of the Saints, at best it is of limited usefulness — nor is it particularly Biblical.

 

 

“To prophesy” means “with speaking” (the inference is to do so publically), or in the NT application of the word, “to speak forth the mind of God”.  So, if an individual in the body of believers is to speak forth the mind of God (as in I Cor. 14) then of necessity that would be some kind of short monologue.  However, prophesying and preaching are not the same breed of dogs.

 

 

Magnificent lines from Barth:

“Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his own unbelief too seri­ously. Only faith is to be taken seriously; and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices, for the devil has lost his game.”

—Dogmatics in Outline

 

This is one of the great intuitions of Protestantism. And, of course, from a critically Catholic viewpoint, one can find fault with it: but why? To say “only faith is to be taken seriously” can be understood in the light of that Christian—and Catholic—humility which puts all its trust in God. Our “good works” are necessary, hut they are not to be “taken seriously.” The Catholic dogma of justification never told anyone that he had to take his good works seriously in the sense of trusting completely in his own righteousness, but to take one’s good works seriously is to be a pharisee. Only faith is to be taken seriously because only the mercy of God is serious. And if we put too much emphasis on the seriousness of what we do, we not only make the judgment of God the most serious reality in our life, but we are in fact judged: we are judged as men who have taken seriously something
other than His infinite mercy. He who takes mercy seriously will hardly sin seriously. He who takes his own works seriously will not be kept, by that seriousness, from sin. It is pseudo-­seriousness. It is not good enough.

What about unbelief, then? If faith is to be taken seriously, it follows that unbelief is also serious. No, because in taking faith seriously it is God whom we take seriously, not ourselves, not our faith. I do not take faith seriously as something which I definitively possess, but I take seriously God Who gives me faith und renews that gift, by His mercy, at every moment, in spite of my unbelief. This I think is one of the central intuitions of evangelical Christianity, and it is some­thing which we must all learn. It is something, too, which many Protestants have themselves forgotten, becoming in­stead obsessed with faith as it is in themselves, constantly watching themselves to see if faith is still there, which means turning faith into a good work and being justified, conse­quently by works. “To believe is to be free to trust in Him quite alone” and to be free from every other form of de­pendence and reliance. This is true freedom, and from it springs the capacity for every good work, for it removes all obstacles to love in our hearts.

Barth stresses the fact that God must not be regarded as “pure power’ in the sense of unbridled and arbitrary potentia. His power, potestas, is the power of love and truth. It is not the infinite, arbitrary will that flies into action unchecked by any responsibility to anything but its own whim: He is re­sponsible to His own Love and His Truth. His power is the power of love.

“Absolute power,” power responsible only to itself is the program of the devil—it becomes the ideal of man who thinks that the “power” to sin is essential freedom.

Barth’s concept of evil: that which has been denied exist­ence by God, and which we affirm by our own choice, thus attempting to give it existence in spite of God.

The world is the theater of God’s glory—says Calvin, following Augustine. Man is the witness of the great acts of God, and “has to express what he has seen.” It is a great concep­tion, but it is inadequate. I like better St. Irenaeus, who brings it even closer: man himself is the glory of God, but this glory in himself is not a spectacle which man contemplates. It is something that he lives. Gloria Dei vivens homo. I think it is most important today to get away from the idea of Cod, God’s glory, God’s attributes merely as “objects” which man contemplates, and then praises. Even though man may see nothing whatever of God, his life may still be filled with God’s glory. To say that he will “know” this in another world is all right, as long as we remember that we do not know precisely what we are talking about.

 

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pages 333-4

If morality is simply following a written or commonly accepted code, then that is more like religion or conformity. In this sense morality makes life somewhat easier by keeping people’s actions within certain boundaries—societal “guardrails”. It’s a useful way of protecting ourselves from the aggressions of others.

I think the Pope Emeritus expressed the meaning of Christian spirituality well;

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

When we really do “encounter” The Person, then our entire perspective about what it is to live will be changed. That Person will affect us dramatically. Paul referred to this as “fruit of the Spirit”. That Spiritual fruit transcends “morality” and moral living. Personally, I think that perhaps the “bedrock” change is that my mystical encounter with Christ has allowed me to be more open and present with other people. I’m really beginning to understand that we’re all brothers, not just theoretically, but experientially. I’m beginning to understand and be able to practice (haltingly); “love one another just as I have loved you.”

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.