Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Spirit says "Come"

Tonight at assembly...

Quick Note: I am having a dickens of a time typing tonight for some reason...

...we talked about "cults". Cults are interesting because if your view changes, what may have seemed a cult turns out not to be one. Cults look at Evangelical or Reformed assemblies as wayward cults. So, in other words, it is hard to come up with a suitable definition without making it sound something like this:

"A cult is anyone not like us."

Sounds kinda cultish.

Three particular doctrines were singled out as particularly "cultish": no Trinity, no two-natures of Jesus, no salvation by grace through faith alone. My question, though, is: were there any cults before Nicea? The doctrine of the Trinity has a long and sordid history and has never really satisfactorily been defined to an intelligible state (maybe it falls under the "description" idea I posted about earlier?). Also, does this make the Catholic faith at least a "little" far as I know the whole third doctrine above (salvation by grace through faith) was the reason for a large Church split back in the 16th century.

So how do we define a cult? A better question, maybe, is how do we define the Church? Part of what the apostles teaching on the Church seems to be that the Spirit of God fills it, much like it did the ancient Temple and Jesus. Could this possibly be the test of what the true (and therefore what the false) Church is: the presence of the Spirit? I don't claim to know, at this point, what the "presence of the Spirit" is, but at times past it seems that God has made it very clear: fiery theophanies, a dove alighting on a wet Messiah, and odd tongues of fire appearing over people's head who were uneducated but speaking several languages fluently (I feel that I missed that part in my former language training).

I've said before here that I think we need pray about the division of the Church into so many parts because it doesn't necessarily show a divided emphasis (which is fine and different places need different things at different times), but because it shows a divided allegiance. God is not at war with Himself, but His Church seems to be at war with itself continually.

I guess that I'm kind of hoping for an Elijah-Mt.Carmel experience for the Church: we need to know who truly has the Spirit of God. Not, of course, that one denomination need have a monopoly on God's Spirit. There are certain beliefs, though, that I'm sure carry the divine imprimatur instead of others.

Come, Holy Spirit, guide us to unity in the faith and to unity of purpose together as God's people.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Over there...

Over at my other blog, DavarLogos I have posted a "Biblical Liturgy of Psalm 107" and an introductory explanation of my purpose and method. Please tell me what you think.

Dialogical Worship

My tradition has a strong belief that every church worship service needs to have "the word preached" by a seminary ordained man. Historically, this has been very important to Calvinistic Protestantism. One of the few symbolic things established (and somewhat maintained) by the Reformers was that the Bible would be on a raised lectern (almost altarish) to show how the Word was to be honored above all. Since the "preacher" is the bearer of God's Word, then he also is accorded a high place. (BTW, I'm not writing this post because I am angry with my tradition or my pastor, I'm writing to just get some thoughts down). I wonder, though, about the expediency of this model. In my studies at Geneva's Higher Ed program I have been introduced to dialogical pedagogical techniques and (a modified) critical realist epistemology. They seem to work well for the creational nature of learning and knowledge. Since the Church's work is to be about 'learning and knowledge' I wonder if we should try and implement these things, not just in Sabbath school, but also in formal worship.

More on this anon...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Comment and a Challenge

I originally wrote this entry with a bit of anger arrogance. I rewrite it because I want to say some things differently. Firstly, all the 'comments' that I made I want to save for a non-vitriolic blog entry in the future, they were: government as non-savior and the correct use of the Prophets. To be continued...

Next is my challenge: let us start a discussion, using the whole of Scripture, as to what the different spheres of government (individual, family, Church, State) have under their jurisdiction, their 'boundaries'. It is only by delving into our marching orders of Scripture that we can form some sort of semblance and consensus about how to go about ecclesial renewal and cultural renewal. My own analysis will necessary be sporadic, as my homework and work loads have both substantially increased.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


This blog isn't about the politics that I've been writing about in the last few posts. Honestly, I can't think of what else to say. If you can help, please post your comments in the comments section of the last entry "Christians in the Polis". I apologize, but once I put the pen down, so to speak, I lost my train of thought.


Today in assembly, the pastor talked about defining grace. He lamented the fact that he, being Reformed, could not think of an adequate definition. He asked us as a congregation how we should do it (in the pastor sort of way that tells you it is genuine, but rhetorical). As per my wont (I talk a lot during sermons), I leaned over towards my wife (Happy Song of Solomon Day, hun!) and said, "You can only define grace through a story." I did figure, though, that we were going to get a systematic definition. I was wrong, the pastor told a story about hobos to illustrate grace. He had to keep adding to the story, though, to get to where he could adequate (to him) define the concept. I wonder, though, should we do this?

When I think of grace (hesed in Hebrew, charis in Greek), I think of the Exodus, I think of the return from Exile, I think of the miracles, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus. All these stories interplay and comment on one another to form my understanding of grace. But I can't define it. I don't think I want to.

Definitions are a way of domestication. When Adam was given a job, his job was definition: taxonomy to be precise. He had to classify, to name, the animals. 'Naming' in Scripture takes on an ownership quality. Whoever names is the superior (or higher) power, to whom we owe our allegiance and faith. God gives Abram a new name. The Pharoah gives Joseph a new name. Nebuchadnezzar gives Daniel and his biz-oys (I'm hip, I'm with it) new names. Being someone (or something) under your naming power puts them under your jurisdiction, your control. It domesticates them.

When CS Lewis talks about Aslan, he is always sure to say that "he is not a tame lion". Can we define God? Can we define his grace? Traditional theology (for the first question Nicea and Chalcedon and for the second the whole corpus of Reformed writings) has sounded an astonding and deafening 'yes'. In one sense, definition is very important. That is how we have foundation cognitively and socially (Torah plays this role in the Bible--I recommend Brueggemann's "The Creative Word" for more on this and related ideas, applied to church education). But, definitions can get stagnant and distorted as time goes by and situations change. The whole Hebrew Bible is a testimony to that. That is when the prophets step in and say, "Yes, we need to know grace, but we can't know it just through definition, we need to know it through embracing it, living our lives as if we are defined by it, not the other way around. All our definitions of God will be seen to be truncated and small, all our definitions of grace will be seen to favor (grace and favor are the same word in Hebrew) our way of living and not the way God has for us to live." God cannot be domesticated.

Who is God, then? All I know is what He has revealed in His Word, but even there I see that my knowledge is partial and cloudy. When I want to know God, I end up (every single time) finding myself drawn into a knowledge of a first-century Jew, whose complexities and idiosyncracies I cannot wrap my head around. When I want to understand grace, I end up being caught up (raptured, if you will) in the stories of Exodus, Exile, and Resurrection--the story of Israel and Jesus. Instead of defining God and grace, I find them ever more defining me.