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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….)

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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.

 

 

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.”

 

God spoke in my head. He spoke in one short sentence. It wasn’t my cogitative facility. I know the difference because this has never happened to me before. So, either God spoke to me directly or I’m losing it. I came wide awake and heard the complete sentence/statement. Here it is;
Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
?? yeah,?.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Yeah, I know.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” !
YEAH, I KNOW! Colossians 1 something. ??
Christ in you, the hope of glory.” !!!
Alright then…I’ll get up and read the entire letter!!???
I did.

I’ve been engaged in a dialogue with a Jew named Steve who lives in Israel.   Steve is intelligent, well informed, and articulate.  I’ve been learning from Steve and perhaps he’s also learning something from me.  Most importantly, we’re making an effort to understand where the other is “at”.  His last reply to me was in the form of sharing some experiences from recently and in the past which referred to as “reminiscent of the parable of the “Good Samaritan.””  Well worth reading.

 

Steve, I hope we can continue our dialogue here.  Please feel free to start up again in the comments.

guitar pee

This blog post by Richard Beck is a hoot!

<—– Here's an appropriate photo to go with it;