Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus

Archive for the ‘Sanctification’ Category

May 24th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Aldersgate as Invitation

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. – John Wesley, forever an Anglican priest, 24 May 1738.

John Wesley was a priest, had even been on a mission — had been a pastor – a writer – and so on… but never had faith that God had actually saved him.

I view Aldersgate in several ways, always one of assurance — but as God’s invitation to accept His faith in John. We should each have that moment, when God who has already saved us through Christ opens our eyes that we might see our vain struggles. When we do, then we are ready to experience God — His presence, His signs and wonders, His authority — in all the fullness thereof.

March 6th, 2017 by Joel Watts

wasting Lent

As with any spiritual discipline, there are pitfalls to be avoided, and Jesus Himself refers to them. He warns against practicing our piety before others, so He lays down some rules for the kind of fasting He wants His followers to do. Specifically, we are told to avoid doing anything that would draw attention to the fact that we are fasting. He sure knows how to take the fun out of it. In a sermon given on fasting, St. Augustine of Hippo writes, “For in this work also we must be on our guard, lest there should creep in a certain ostentation and hankering after the praise of man, which would make the heart double, and not allow it to be pure and single for apprehending God.” If our fasting is mixed with a certain secret desire for people to notice us, we really are not concentrating on God, and our fasting will not be for the purification of our souls. This means that when you fast, you should not express irritation about fasting or what you are or are not allowed to eat, or ask others what they are doing, or come into church for Lenten services staggering as if faint from hunger. All of that just feeds the ego, and the devil blesses the effort.1

I think it is pride that causes us to loudly proclaim what we have done for Lent. Or pride that causes us to only consider giving up chocolate, as if that is a true spiritual discipline. Perhaps the best Lenten practices are those no one sees, is told to no one, and done quietly so that there is time only to hear the Voice of God.

  1. Michael Keiser, A Beginner’s Guide to Spirituality: The Orthodox Path to a Deeper Relationship with God (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2007), 62–63.
November 1st, 2016 by Joel Watts

moral judgment meant to make us think critically

Don’t worry, St. Symeon and St. John Damascene are still my favorites… but…

task of moral judgment is always to prompt the soul’s incensive power to engage in inner warfare and to make us self-critical. The task of wisdom is to prompt the intelligence to strict watchfulness, constancy, and spiritual contemplation. The task of righteousness is to direct the appetitive aspect of the soul toward holiness and toward God. Fortitude’s task is to govern the five senses and to keep them always under control, so that through them neither our inner self, the heart, nor our outer self, the body, is defiled. – ST. HESYCHIOS THE PRIEST I, ON WATCHFULNESS AND HOLINESS, SEC. 341

I was reading this and then this. So, I went to the Philokalia and looked for the Priest’s writings. There is a book connecting ancient Christian practices to CBT, for those interested.

This got me to thinking, tho, that maybe the loss of logical discourse in this country, and in many segments of Protestantism, is that we refuse to exercise moral judgment and as such, our critical thinking skills become completely mundane.

  1. Allyne Smith, Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts: Selections Annotated & Explained (trans. G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware; SkyLight Illuminations Series; Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2012), 38–39.
September 6th, 2016 by Scott Fritzsche

The Gift of What?!?!?!?!

Many_Gifts_One_Spirit_wide_t_nvI have noticed a trend, especially here in America, that has been bothering me for quite some time. I am not sure where it began, or why, but it seems to be here in full force. That trend is facilitation. A lot of what is to follow is based on observation and conversation with others. It is not at all scientific and some of your experiences may be different.

Most churches that I have attended and been a part of, even in passing, have had some sort of adult education. All of that education shared one thing in common….facilitators. I would like to propose a definition of facilitator form good old uncle Webster. “one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision”. I am familiar with the idea that by engaging in this activity the Holy Spirit has the ability to move and thus we are indeed taught. Let me ask though when was the last time that a group of people with a facilitator walked away from a Bible study with the same teaching? The Spirit is not going to lead us in divergent directions after all. Now facilitation can be a great thing as well, don’t get me wrong. For example, if discussing the consistent Biblical narrative of caring for the poor, a thing which we all agree is there, a facilitator can then help guide vastly divergent ideas and ways of accomplishing this. Where facilitation might be lacking however is if we are questioning if that is really the teaching of scripture in the first place.

I don’t see this as an either or type of scenario. There is a time and a place for everything. If a church has a Christianity 101 class for example, I speculate that requires a teacher. The purpose of the class is not to discuss what being a Christian is at a base level, it is to impart that knowledge. Same would be true of a confirmation class. That does not mean there is not questioning or some discussion, but it means that the primary purpose is to impart knowledge, not discuss knowledge already possessed. At the same time, if the church is having a class about the history of Christian development leading to the creeds, the same would be true. The primary purpose being to impart knowledge, not discuss knowledge already possessed. Likewise, if the church is having an advanced class on practical implementation of the teachings of the sermon on the mount, then, assuming all have read and are familiar with the teachings, a facilitator is in order so that the group can discern what is the best way to use the knowledge of the teachings is.

It seems to me that we have a desperate need for more who have the Spiritual Gift of teaching to be allowed to do so. Christian education in America is terrible in many areas. This is evident when you look at how few people know the theology of the church they belong to in general. It seems almost as if we are allowing facilitators to lead discussions about practical implementation of scriptural truth when we have not laid a groundwork of scriptural truth. There is certainly a need for both teaching and facilitating, it just seems like we, as Christians, are doing way too much of one and not nearly enough of the other.

This is meant to try and start a chat about this and see where it goes. As I said, these are my observations and as such are limited. Please, share yours and let’s have a chat.

July 4th, 2016 by Joel Watts

The moral metaphor?

Fletcher was Wesley’s European successor, and designer of the program that eventually became the Methodist denomination(s). His essay on Evangelical Mysticism is a must, I think.

Fletcher on the moral metaphor

Our current crop of evangelicals, and those to the right, tend to think in plain sense terms — that is, that Scripture is so plain, that it is easily understood. Yet, 2000 years of Christian Tradition should teach us otherwise. This is why we have theologians and teachers, to expound Scripture. Further, given that all words are mere symbols for larger truths, we have to understand that it takes thinking to get to the deep things of God.

Add to this the need for oversimplification in modern Western Christianity. There is no mystical element, or rather, we are doing our best to remove the mystical elements of the words of our holy books.

The challenge is this: how do you illuminate Scripture to the minds today?

Think of it is this. The writer of Ephesians uses an allegory of marriage to represent Christ and the Church. This is deep, because we can invest in it all sorts of right things, coming to understand covenant, love, and even submission.

Throughout the Old Testament, each moral command is given to us in metaphor, so that we understand that “do not murder” is something behind the taking of a life. Relate it to Cain and Abel. Understand what it means that when one is murdered, the entire cosmos groans. How precious, then, is life to God?

I could go on, but I want to encourage those who are making moral demands, to remember the words of Fletcher. The metaphor explains the why.

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