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Archive for the ‘ecclesiology’ Category

“Thy Kingdom Come.”

The question of the Parousia remains the great question of Christianity: and of course in itself it is no question at all. The Kingdom is already established, but not yet definitively mani¬fest—we remain in a time of development, of choice, and of preparation.

We remain in a time of decision. A Christian is, or should be, one who has “decided for” the Parousia, for the final coining of the Kingdom. His life is oriented by this decision. His existence has meaning in so far as the Parousia is crucial to him.

But the Parousia is, it seems, indefinitely delayed. This is no accident either. It must be taken as part of the question. The Parousia by itself is no question. The delay of the Parousia is not the whole question. This delay raises the question.

The question is as follows.

As Christians we are men who have based all our hopes on the Kingdom of Christ, to be definitively manifest by final victory in the Parousia—this is the final victory of life over death.
The Parousia having been “delayed,” we have been for two thousand years left to construct for ourselves in the world a kind of kingdom, a cultural-religious-political Christendom, which is admittedly not all one would have looked for, but which has its advantages.

Now the question is—if the Parousia means the end and destruction of this provisional structure, indeed its judgment, should we really desire the Parousia? Should we not in all earnestness pray for the Parousia to be delayed indefinitely, and indeed, with all the power given to us over the will of God, by prayer, should we not rather attempt to change His plan, and forget the whole business?

Should we not rather make it our duty to ask Him to let us build the Kingdom in our own way, a kingdom consistent with what we have begun, a Kingdom of God that is at once a sacred enclave in the world and also politically in collaboration with the world?

Should we not insist that the Parousia should simply be regarded as our social, cultural, religious, and political triumph in the world, so that we are no longer an enclave, but have finally succeeded in taking it all over? We tried it once, beginning in the eighth century and going on through the Middle Ages—it was a good attempt, but some important points were overlooked. Can we not get ourselves into a position to make a better try? And this time to succeed?

Thus we find ourselves, in effect, deciding against the Parousia. “Thy Kingdom come”—but not now, not in that distressing way—but in our time and our way. Thus the Christian has learned to pray against judgment, and for an eternity that is an indefinite prolongation of time, because time is what we need: time to try it over and over again.

Suggested emendation in the Lord’s Prayer: Take out “Thy Kingdom come” and substitute “Give us time!”

But then what? What are we going to do with “time?” Make deductions from past history, devise a system—a Christian system—and put it to work? Or rather consider carefully the systems devised by others and baptize their systems, making them suddenly Christian, and discovering in them the unexpected Kingdom?

 

Mirgeler* shows how the Stoic concept of “Natural Law” became extremely convenient for a Christianity which was reconciled to settling down in the world of late antiquity and getting along without the Parousia.

* See A. Mirgeler, Mutations of Western Christianity, pp. 17-18.

(Thomas Merton, pg. 124, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

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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.

 

 

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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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Personal maturity?

I’m beginning to think that we (Christians in general) may not be speaking of or understanding “maturity” in the same sense that Paul did.  We reflexively think in terms of individual maturation whereas it looks to me that Paul was speaking in terms of congregational body maturity.   The classic passage in Eph. 4 is a good example …

 … to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Notice what and to whom the gifts to the church are for; 1. equipping people (plural),  2. that the body is built up (a body is a complex organism, not just one “member”), 3. to attain unity in faith and knowledge-– which is a functional alignment of diverse members, 4. which produces or brings into maturity and attainment of the complete stature of Christ.

This kind of maturity is more corporate/corporeal than individual.  Individual maturity is still important, but doesn’t seem to be the emphasis.  As individuals we usually have areas of our life which demonstrate maturity, but also aspects which show immaturity.  When a group of followers of Jesus share life together the “body of life maturity” has much more potential than the sum of individual maturity. 

Our over-emphasis of personal spiritual maturity is indicative of our radically individualistic culture and makes us susceptible to the Christianized “of the world” perspective of self-help, self-improvement, and the pseudo-salvation of self-satisfaction through moralistic conformity.

That is my present opinion.  What do you think?

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CHAPTER 1

THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH MEETING

 

The great Bible expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “We are living in an age hopelessly below the New Testament pattern–content with a neat little religion.” With this thought in view, I would like to begin our discussion on the practice of the New Testament church by examining why the early church gathered together. What was the purpose of the New Testament church meeting?…

(I’ve removed this post to honor Frank’s request– which can be viewed in the comments.  As time permits I’ll share from his more recent writings relative to this subject.   V )

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Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction to church    services – that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

Step 3Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God

Step 4Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Step 5Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Step 6We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

Step 7Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

Step 8Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

Step 9Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure or others

Step 10Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

Step 11Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry this  out

Step 12Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to  other people addicted to church services, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

 

(Received this from beloved brother Alan Gray.)

 

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In healthy spiritual maturity each of us will function as both leaders and followers. Circumstances and season will dictate. The Spirit will enable and give grace.

People follow a servant-leader because they have seen that servant-leader consistently put the welfare of others before herself or himself.

“Leadership” is not command authority (excousia) — only Jesus has that. “Leadership” is founded in the quality of Christ-likeness demonstrated authoritatively (as in source and origin) in the thoughts, words and actions of the individual in relationship with his or her peers.

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