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“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.

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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

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What I get from Jn. 3:16-21 is NOT “believe in Jesus or go to hell”, rather, “you’re in hell now and I’m (Jesus) here to deliver you from that.”

The context is the conversation with Nicodemus. Nick is approaching “the Christ” from the perspective of the hundreds of laws that stand between him and the Kingdom of the new age. Jesus is rather telling him that entrance into the Kingdom is like being born—something that is done totally outside of his choosing and that it is both hard and easy.

“Salvation is hard, therefore, and salvation is easy – and the hardest thing about it is its easiness. It uses such cheap, low-down methods that only the last, the lost, the least, the little, and the dead will ever cotton onto it.” (Capon)

The real issue, then, is not how strong we are, or how pious we are, but rather how open we are to the Good News that Jesus is bringing to us. Entering in through the “narrow door” is very simple, but trying to get there by way of the wide road is so terribly complex.

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The entirety of creation is “recapitulated” in Christ;

 

3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will – 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. 9 He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ – the things in heaven and the things on earth. 11 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory. 13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

Jesus didn’t leave it to our “choosing” when it comes to summing all things into Him;

“When I am lifted up I will draw all people unto myself.”

Paul understood what Jesus meant by that and it is why he was able to write in Romans 8;

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

—-and there’s just nobody who isn’t in the Word by whom all things are made.

 

 

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Two Natures?

At Kingdomscribes Emil and Shell Swift posted an interesting discussion about Christians and “dual nature” (God is Usually NOT Subtle). Very good stuff. Here’s my response…….

Emil,

Great post!

I concur that people who have trusted in the righteousness of Christ are one person with one nature which has been “renewed from above”. Dualism of nature is out the window.

This fallacy of a dual nature has been sustained in recent Christian thinking even by bad translation. In Romans 6 the NIV translates (emphasis added);

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

What the NIV translates as a verb — go on sinning — is not a verb but a NOUN — ἁμαρτίᾳ. The phrase is ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ — “we shall be on remaining” “to the sin”. “Sin” as a noun is not a state of “doing” but rather a state of being or residing – just as you live in the state of California and I live in Arkansas, so to live in the country of “Sin” is an impossibility because “death” has removed us from that jurisdiction of Sin.

The older translations get it right, even though people still didn’t understand the subtleness of Paul’s argument against his detractors and accusers of antinomianism. ASV;

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?

You rightly draw attention to the contrast of “old man” and “new man”. The place where Paul makes most of that contrast is Col. 3:9-10;

…lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him:

“Old” is easy to understand—old, in the way and worn out.

“New” is νέον – recently born, young, youthful – from where we get the prefix “neo-“ as in “neophyte” or “neologism”.

νέον is an adjective of an idiosyncratic word to further define “new” — ἀνακαινούμενον – a derivative of καινοs – to be changed into a new kind of life in opposition to the old and former.

OK, I’ve got the word-nerdiness out of my system for now…

I also agree that God’s major M.O. is usually not very subtle, and, related to that reality is that our distinctions can often be too subtle. We find ourselves in this present age living the life of the Spirit with a significant reality of ambiguity. We are certainly “new men” and “new creations” which have been transported out of the domain of Darkness and into the Kingdom of the Son – yet we are “new men” in the same old bodies. What we truly are has yet to be fully revealed and made manifest. We do have the power to choose not to sin, and we do have the freedom to choose to sin.

The question put to us each day by the Uniquely Human Son of God is, “What will you do with the freedom I have delivered you to?”

V

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The Cross is certainly a compelling fact.  Facts describe what and when and at what rate, but facts don’t necessarily offer a why, which in terms of the Cross constitutes mystery.  Mystery doesn’t necessarily mean “un-knowable”, though it always means hidden from normal view or perception.  A thing may be a mystery—hinted at yet hidden in the present or past—then when the mystery is demonstrated and revealed it is yet referred to as “a mystery”. 

The most ready example is the genre we call “mystery novels”.  In our reading the story begins as a collection of facts that don’t seem to fit together in a reasonable way.  By the time we arrive at the end of the narrative most, if not all, of the facts make sense and the mystery is not mysterious.  However, the story is still called a mystery.

Paul uses “mystery” in a similar way when he refers to the conjoining of Jew and Gentile together “in Christ.”  He also uses “mystery” in Eph. 5 when he compares Christ and the church to the marriage relationship of husband and wife (and personally I think Paul understood the Christ/church as less a mystery than husband/wife ;o) ).

It’s necessary to understand some facts before a mystery makes any sense.  We can know a lot of facts about what happened between noon and three on that notorious Friday outside Jerusalem circa 30 A.D..  Knowing those facts removes some of the mystery, yet even the facts produce in us over time more not-knowings and deepening mystery.  We are saved by the facts, yet the mystery draws us to the outstretched arms of senseless, wasteful, desperate, determined Love.

The facts are simple.  The Love is complicated.  It’s our tendency to make the mystery uncomplicated by using one simple motif in our explanation of that Love — that “we sinned, justice demands death, therefore Jesus died to pay our sin-debt.”  That is true, but if that is our sole explanation and understanding, then the rich mystery of the Cross is denuded. 

A well chosen single word can be a wonderful symbol.  “Life” is synecdoche for all that embodies living.  “The Word” is a mysterious way to speak of the logos who came to us embodied.  Paul said to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

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Sin is like cancer. It begins to grow deep in the body unseen, sends out tendrils to capture blood supply, then metastasizes by sending bits of itself through the blood stream into other organs.  To save the person from the ultimate effects of cancer the rogue mass and it’s cells must be put to death (and this is accomplished in one or more ways so this is where this metaphor breaks down but don’t loose it because of that).  However, if the ONLY objective is to kill the cancer then the probable result will also be the death of the body in which the cancer resides as a parasite.  So, care is exercised in going to the necessary extent to kill the cancer but not the body–however, the body does inevitably suffer from the cure.

 Having a cancer is not the “normal” condition of the human body, rather, it’s an aberration.  However, until the aberration is killed or removed the human body will continue to cease being “normal”.

 One of the big problems relative to our human condition is that we have become accustomed to the “aberration” so we think and function as if the “aberration” is “normal”.  The “cure/healing/salvation” was accomplished in Christ on the Cross.  We enter into that “cure” and experience the “healing” as we repent — go out or beyond our normal mind and see that our “normal” was the “aberration” and then put our confidence and expectations in the One Who is the cure for our “normal”.

 It is about sin, but only to the extent that sin is the underlying problem of our “wholeness” (holiness).  Jesus took care of the sin issue.  We are now freed to enter into a life of “well wholeness” which is what it was all about from the beginning.  To continually dwell on or reminisce about sin is like being in a room of people who don’t have anything to talk about except their surgeries and illnesses. 

 We, however, can go into that room of people and interrupt their sick introspection by saying, “Hey! I’ve been healed by the best doctor in the world.  His success rate is 100%.”

 Jesus holds within Himself the reality of who we are.  We are brought into resurrection life by his anamnesis of us…When Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread and said, “Take eat, this is my body given for you, do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me” then took wine and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” is our anamnesisof Him.  In the resurrection we will be His anamnesis, and that in the full wellness and vitality of His memory — the way He sees us and not the way we see ourselves.

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