the #rosary as symbol

Irish penal rosary

Irish penal rosary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The monotony of these repetitions clothes the poor old woman with physical peace and recollection; and her soul, already directed on high, almost mechanically, by her habitual gesture of drawing out the rosary, immediately opens out with increasing serenity on unlimited perspectives, felt rather than analysed, which converge on God.… What does it matter, then, if the humble orante does not concern herself with living over again the exact meaning of the formula she is repeating?… often she does better, she allows her soul to rise freely into a true contemplation, well worn and obscure, uncomplicated, unsystematized, alternating with a return of attention to the words she is muttering, but building up in the long run on the mechanical basis they afford a higher, purified, personal prayer.1

  1. J. Maréchal, Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, Eng. trans., p. 158.

Hans Urs von Balthasar on the #Rosary and Life of Mary

Quadtych with scenes from the life of Christ a...

Quadtych with scenes from the life of Christ and Mary – Resurrection of Christ and Nativity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary’s life must be regarded as the prototype of what the ars Dei can fashion from a human material which puts up no resistance to him. It is feminine life which, in any case more than masculine life, awaits being shaped by the man, the bridegroom, Christ, and God. It is a virginal life which desires no other formative principle but God and the fruit which God gives it to bear, to give birth to, to nourish and to rear. It is at the same time a maternal and a bridal life whose power of surrender reaches from the physical to the highest spiritual level. In all this it is simply a life that lets God dispose of it as he will. From that life Christ chiselled the form he needed: unsparingly he took it, used it and squandered it to the limit, and then, with the greatest consideration, he honoured it and glorified it. The situations of this life are inimitable, unforgettable, both unique and universally valid, universally significant. The three cycles of the Rosary offer these situations to the anamnesis of the Church and of Christians, in strictest unity of form with the life of Christ. And, in fact, Mary’s life possesses no detached form of its own; it is the most intimate possible accompaniment of the Christ-form; it stands in the shadow and in the light of Christ’s form alone. But Mary’s form is not simply outshone by the form of Christ; rather, precisely because Christ exploits Mary, precisely because she bears the Cross with him, her form is inundated in a light radiating from him.1

That, my friends, should be enough to anger just about every one of you.

  1. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics I: Seeing the Form (trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; San Francisco; New York: Ignatius Press; Crossroads Publications, 2009), 548.

Universalism* in Sodom and Gomorrah?

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not like the term “universalism” for several reasons.

  • It smacks of (Reverse) Calvinism
  • It smacks of white privilege
  • It doesn’t do justice to the wrath of God, judgment, and sin

However, I can’t think of a better term right now. So, universalism* it is.

In reading the notes in The Jewish Study Bible, I caught several statements (drawn from Jewish Tradition) that helped to highlight the text.

  • In Genesis 18.24, forgiveness and preservation for the several cities lead by the Twins is not found in the act of the sinners, but in the righteousness of the innocent.
  • This hope from God is found in Jeremiah 5.1 as well.

We can look at 1 Corinthians 7.14 in the same manner.

So, if a small measure of righteousness can ward off the wrath of God and save a city, what then can the wholly righteous act of the death of Christ do if in the Church the Body of Christ and the Spirit remains?

Austin Farrer on the #Rosary

how to pray the rosaryIf I had been asked two dozen years ago for an example of what Christ forbade when he said ’Use not vain repetitions,’ I should very likely have referred to the fingering of beads. But now if I wished to name a special sort of private devotion most likely to be of general profit, prayer on the beads is what I should name. Since my previous opinion was based on ignorance and my present opinion is based on experience, I am not ashamed of changing my mind. – Austin Farrer, Lord, I Believe, 1958. p. 80

 

Orthodoxy for those living without creeds

Disciples of christ logoI grew up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
If you’re not familiar with this group, the organization began in the late 1790’s in what could described as the first “non-denominational” movement. Many settlers were coming to America back in that time with beliefs and creeds they have learned in the “old world”. What happened in Europe in the 1600’s when the Church of England sought to break free from the grip of the church in Rome would extrapolate to this new country called America. People came here with the idea that the church or denomination or organization they had grown up in, of course, taught them the right things to believe. The eventuality of those beliefs would cause many a folk to argue or fight with their neighbor over the right things to believe. The Disciples organization began with the idea that creeds were divisive and man-made. All we needed was the bible.

Having grown up in this system of thought, it has been an incredibly long journey, it seems, in finding what it is that we truly are to believe. Later in life, after having pulled myself out of church for about 3 years after high school, I found myself following my best friend out to the church he grew up in, the Church of the Nazarene. Boy, you talk about culture shock! Where the Disciples lacked structure and cohesiveness the Nazarenes made for in explanation and quantity. I had never heard much of anything in the way of doctrine. Even though our church was right next door to an ELCA congregation, I really had no idea there were other churches out there and there were different explanations about things. I knew the name, “Jesus”. I remember he was referred to as the “Son of God”, whatever that meant. I finally had my moment of epiphany in June of 1992 when Jesus made sense and i understood who He was and why he was so important to our lives. On top of that, I jumped head first into a Nazarene system of thought that explained everything and anything you could want to know. This had it’s good and bad sides. I didn’t know anything. I was hungry to learn and I ate up everything they gave me. In retrospect, the bad side of that was, I had nothing with which to gauge the information coming at me. I hadn’t ever learned anything concerning creeds and heresy and doctrine. So, was i actually getting the truth or was I getting a biased answer based upon someone else’s opinion about other churches and denominations?

Orthodox. Orthodoxy. What is it? From my standpoint, I really want to know what it is.
If you feel the ideals and standards set forth from a Nicene creed are “the way” to look at things, then can you explain why you feel that way? Can you tell me in a heartfelt explanation or does your explanation come out in robotic fashion, simple because someone else told you to believe it that way?

I tend to have one of those mindsets that I want to do the right things and believe the right things. Human beings tend to get that way sometimes. Maybe you’re that way about football or your sports. Maybe the world of politics drives you crazy because people don’t do or say the right things. For me, its the world of religion. I want to understand what exactly we are supposed to believe and why we should believe it.

This student is listening. What can you teach me about what we are to believe?

(You are free to break the internet now.)

Learn How To Be an Exorcist in Tulsa OK

I guess that, in the Charismatic capital of the World, this seems to be a very appropriate place for the practice of exorcism. Perhaps Charismatics are not the target, but, I think they should! From the local AM/FM Tulsa station KRMG

Read here

 

Apophatic theology is alive (at least on the blogosphere)

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This isn’t going to be a long post.

First, I read this by Stephen Webb this morning. I was left with the distinct impression that Webb did not know what he was talking about, or wrote in such a way to be more polemical than enlightening. Why? He mentions apophatic theology and calls it “more historically grounded now than in the postmodern eighties.” He means the 1980’s, not the 380’s and the Cappadocian Fathers who helped to “mainstream” negative theology. Further, he reaches to tie it to the liberalism of the last few decades, as if they are one and the same. Webb notes, “Negative theology is a sign of a crisis in theological authority.” Given the great writers who used it, Sts John of Damascus and Maximus the Confessor, among others, I doubt they were so troubled in their faith as to shrink into “cowardice.”

When I went to search for Webb, to see who he was, I discovered that this Roman Catholic holds close affinities for Mormon theology. In fact, he has adopted some of their theology about the nature (i.e., matter) of God. As one reviewer summarizes Webb’s theology states,

God is material, knowable, embodied, “not radically different from everything else that exists.” As spirits, human intelligences are eternal, existing before mortality in the presence of heavenly parents. That God is “one of us” does not impede Mormon wonder, awe, or love of the divine. Human beings can become more like God or even become gods, but in a universe of eternal progression God is also “ever becoming more Godlike.” Per Webb, Mormon materialism fosters a healthy, optimistic understanding of God, human beings, and the universe. Other Christians, Webb suggests, have a “breathtaking opportunity” to discover “the full intellectual richness of the Christian tradition” through Mormonism.

Essentially, Webb holds to a Mormon view of God and matter, eschewing the Platonic side of orthodox Christian theology. This shades his view of apophatic theology, as much as apophatic theology (and church history) shades my view of Mormon theology.1 Webb not only fails to give apophatic theology its proper historical context, setting, and tradition, but fails to include its role in Eastern Orthodoxy and even in the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

Finally, there is this view.

Apophatic is only one half of full theology. You have to have the positive side as well.

  1. Like the reviewer above noted, there is much to be admired in Mormonism, but I believe their theology of God is wrong (just like I hope they believe I am wrong!

some reflections on theodicy

All About Evil

All About Evil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I leaned towards the soul making theodicy as explained by John Hick, but I would go further than that. I am still toying with it, but I am leaning to calling something like entropic theodicy. Here are the basic principles:

  • “Evil,” “good” and “love” (along with other concepts) presuppose a moral order. Even “suffering” and “well-being” are concepts presupposing a pre-existing order. If God pre-exists order and is outside of all systems, then likewise he is outside the moral order. Therefore, such human concepts cannot easily apply to God.
  • God and the Cosmos are not separate (panentheism) albeit the cosmos is physical whereas God is not.
  • God and evil are not separate (Isaiah 45.7).
  • Evil is cosmological. (It exists in all corners of Creation).
  • Evil is entropic (hot water (unstable) growing colder (stable) due to entropy). Thus, evil leads to good, even if eventually. Thus, evil is defined as a cosmological state of instability whereas good is a cosmological state of stability. As with other entropic systems, there has to exist a separation and a difference. This allows for the transformation (theosis).
  • There are natural laws established by God; science has shown that in places these laws are not always strictly enforced; therefore, God is not completely bound by natural laws. Therefore, if God decides to intervene, this is to further the course of evil which will lead to good.
  • We can cooperate with God in the course of evil which leads to the eventual transformation.

Alright, there you go. It is still raw, but thoughts?

the con game of Christianity

The Sting

The Sting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do any one an injury, and lest we should sin against God.1

The early Christians not only would not expose their children, deformed or otherwise, but they would rescue the exposed and make them a part of the community.

I have, lately, seen a lot of articles about attracting others to Christianity. Everyone is worried about number$. We need to do X to attract demographic Y to us or else we will die. No doubt, this is what has led to the extremes forming. The Conservatives are becoming more entrenched, almost to the point of fundamentalism* because they fear the changes (from technology to any form of biblical criticism) while Liberals have nearly completed their march to the great oblivion of inconsequentiality. Why? Because too many seem focused on attracting new members.

Christianity has become something less than a hope for a grand do-over (the cosmic conflagration), ethical impulses, and philosophical considerations about our place within God’s plan all made possible because of the death (and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Rather, it now focuses on megastar pastors (and, more importantly, their downfalls); the latest theological trend (or lack of theology); and the number of people in your bean=bags, folding chairs, or other cool, hip seating circles. We focus on ourselves. Or, worse, we focus on the perceived sin of our neighbor because somehow the only verse we take super-literal and super-missional is James 5.20.

This is the great con of Christianity. We need members to make congregations grow — we measure vitality not by the immeasurable (i.e., the good we do) but by numbers. We need new members; we need new buildings — we need bigger buildings to attract new members to give us new buildings to attract members. It is a vicious cycle Mainliners, Evangelicals and others have fallen into. Fundamentalists, such as independent fundamentalist Baptists and oneness pentecostals, do not focus on this so much as focus on saving souls from the pit of hell using every ounce of fear they can muster. Neither of these approaches work. Instead the approach we must relearn is the method of the early church, something Wesley I believe saw and try to implement.

This method is very simple. We work. We work at correcting the ills of society where we can — depending not on the Law of Empire but on the Law of Grace. When the church was powerless it had the most power. It was not protected and thus it protected. The church led the way in changing morality in the Roman Empire. When the old religions fell, when immorality was worse than we can imagine today, when Christian was persecuted for doing these things it was the faith and religion it should have been. Creeds, doctrines, and our finely expressed theology all matter and must be taught. However, if we are only there to attract people into our buildings rather than serving as a means of delivering God’s reconciling and reforming grace to those around us, we are nothing more than a less successful Amway with prettier, more stationary market stations.

BTW, my local UMC church is awesome at service projects for the sake of service. I’m not bragging. I’m boasting. 

 

 

  1. Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe; vol. 1; The Ante-Nicene Fathers; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 1172.

Protestant Double Talk?

DOUBLE TALK? Reason with me for a second:

We Protestants, giving honor to our name protest against relics, the preservation of statues and statuettes (the statues wives), shrines, or anything that remotely resembles idolatry or the glorification of men. Why then are we so outraged, enraged, fuming furious, about the destruction of… relics statues, statuettes (again, the statues wives) and shrines perpetrated by I.S.I.S in Iraq?   This Calvinist believes in preserving history, but how can we preserve relics, and historical monuments without crossing the line of idolatry? Calvin also said this in relation to the same issue: “Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols!”

Oh God, you devil – the overly simplistic god

I found this floating by on Facebook…

god is a not a liberal

Here was my answer in reply:

  • Vengeful – Deuteronomy 32.35, 1 Samuel 15.3.
  • Temperamental – Exodus 32.10
  • Blood thirsty – 1 Sam 15.3, the Book of Joshua and Judges
  • Bible thumping – Exodus 19.5, the Torah. All the times he says obey my book/commands/law
  • Male – Jeremiah where he laments the divorce from his wives, Israel and Judah
  • Barbaric – Um, Joshua, Judges.
  • Genie in the Sky – John 14.13-14

The problem with this view of God, or any view, really, is that it tends to overly simplify what is by far the most complex _____. There is simply no way to finish that sentence because God is not in our universe and not in our world. To simplify God, then, into human traits such as the ones listed in both lists, is to do a grave injustice not only to that which we seek to name but so too ourselves.

This simplicity is detrimental to our faith because when we realize we were wrong, or not all right, we are going to get rocked.

If you are basing your view of God on Jewish and Christian Scripture — you have to be honest with it and yourself. You have to acknowledge that the reason we have people like Marcion is because people saw a vast difference between the two testaments (unjustly). So why try to force our view, if it is really Scriptural, to into one pattern.

Wouldn’t it be better to say, “I don’t know?” sometimes.

Again, this is why apophatic theology draws me.