Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 25th, 2016 by Joel Watts

Ratzinger v. St. Augustine, in light of “commissions”

There is something to be said about dialogue. But dialogue is a two-way street, right?


If “religion” is supposed to be a reality that concerns everyone, and if God makes the same demands on every person, must it not be the case, then, that every person has direct access to God? Must there not be, then, a full, “equal opportunity”, and must not the same certainty be available to everyone? But it will, perhaps, be clear from our approach to the question that it is unanswerable. God’s dialogue with us occurs only through our dialogue with one another. The variety of religious gifts that divides men into “prophets” and hearers compels them to speak to and for one another. The goal of the early Augustine, “God and the soul—nothing else”, is not realizable; it is also not Christian. In the last analysis, religion consists, not in the solitary way of the mystic, but in the community of proclaiming and hearing. Our conversation with God and our conversation with one another require and condition one another. Because it can never be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, the mystery of God is, perhaps, from the beginning, the most compelling challenge to men to engage in the dialogue which, however obstructed and disturbed it may be, allows the “Logos” to resound, the true word from which all words come and which all words are constantly trying to express. But there is still no genuine dialogue when people speak only about something. Their conversation attains its proper character when they no longer seek to express something but rather themselves, when dialogue becomes communication. But when that occurs, when people bring themselves into the conversation, then the conversation is, in one way or another, a conversation about God, who has been, from the dawn of history, the real subject of controversy among men.
See: Introduction to Christianity, pp. 60–61

I’m not going to get involved with UMC politics anymore — namely because I withdrew my membership last Monday — however, I will continue to gently remind people that sometimes, things are just for show — a little bit of social engineering rather than the Gospel goes a long way, I guess.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

12 Responses to “Ratzinger v. St. Augustine, in light of “commissions””
  1. Stephen burkhart says

    Mourning losing you from the UMC tribe. But I continue to praise God to meet you and pray you land well where your exceptional Spiritual Gifts will continue to be used in ministry and mission.

  2. Joe Tognetti says

    I’m sorry to see that you left the UMC. What led you to make this decision, and where will you be worshipping going forward?

    • I will stay at my local UMC for now. I am, I think, a Wesleyan at heart, but I cannot be a part of the UMC any longer.

      I do not believe it is operating within any sort of historic definition of a church; I want a Church, not a denomination. I believe that the CoB is perpetuating spiritual abuse. I believe there are too many political agendas, et al, going on and frankly, I do not want to be associated with any of it.

      • Gee…Man.
        Peter denied Christ three times. That could have been taken, by Jesus, as a breaking of covenants. But Jesus just ignored it – like ok… Trivial in the big picture of things. Chill out.

        Joel, I’d suggest staying in UMC that you know and love (your local church), as a non-member. All the benefits, including sacrament, without the legal hassles of membership. And, the added benefit – the pastor, every single week, starts the service with a special welcome to visitors, that the regular members don’t get. How can you not like that!

      • Besides, just because we don’t like Congress, Clinton, or Trump, doesn’t mean we get on a boat to El Salvador, and get a banana farm (which could be interpreted as becoming a baptist).

  3. Joel,

    Transition points that significantly alter our spiritual trajectory and affiliation are not common, but when they occur, it can be quite unsettling to say the least. You have done this before–and it appears you are about to do this again. I sense this has been a most difficult decision for you. (Is not Scott Fritzsche at the same junction as you?)

    But true to your blogsite name, your current ‘unsettling’ may be like Saul’s who in his encounter with our Lord, began a new and more informed/fruitful ministry. And so, we know him as the apostle Paul–but I’m guessing his extended reflection on the implications of this new calling were most challenging even as they were exciting–as they will be for you.

    Did you see the work of God in both simple and profound ways in your recent missionary trip? I doubt you have forgotten the profound impact of that encounter on your heart. Do you want to be a part of God’s mission like that in the states?

    What are you looking for? Perhaps some of us who have done some ‘course corrections’ in our own faith walk in days past can walk with you in this new direction. What are you wanting to move away from? What is it that captures your heart’s desire right now?

    I’m praying for clarity of desire and discernment for truth and wisdom for specific changes. I’m also praying for discussion partners that will assist you in that transition, wherever that leads you. (Phil 1:9-11)

    Blessings!

    • Did you see the work of God in both simple and profound ways in your recent missionary trip? I doubt you have forgotten the profound impact of that encounter on your heart. Do you want to be a part of God’s mission like that in the states?

      Steve, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

      Simply, I am tired of the political agendas, hidden nuances, and the such. As I said, I want a Church — full of the power of the Holy Spirit, demonstrated in the saints and they strive for perfection — rather than a denomination. I am taking this time to discern what to do next. I am a Wesleyan at heart, and the more so after recent trips and experiences. So I cannot stray too far. Yet, I cannot remain as a member with the UMC exactly because I cannot live into my vows, and I take them seriously.

      • Do you believe that our God takes seriously the desire of one who wants to take his vows seriously? Will God lead one who is searching for a committed, Holy Spirit empowered people in a way that allows discovery of a faith-body like that? Are you open to what lies ahead–even if it’s not what you expect or anticipate? I am confident your Lord is well aware of the desires of your heart, and in time–as you listen to His calling and direction, He will direct your path. I look forward to watching this journey unfold as you share with your blog family from time to time.

  4. I am a lifelong member of the Methodist and then United Methodist Church and right now I would love to be classified as a “done”. I cannot believe how lost it is as a denomination. I cannot believe the weird turns my local UMC took several years ago. I too want a “new church” but when push comes to shove, I realize I have no other place to go because I never chose this denomination, it was simply part and parcel of the life I received. I was in the early stages of my disillusionment when I monitored GC2012; it was then I realized two things: First, the church is nothing more than a gianormous raft with umpteen oars paddling the best each knows how. Second the number of people following on twitter who chimed in with why they left the UMC, what a better church they found but yet there they were keeping tabs of what was going on. I found myself wondering if things would have been different if they had stayed. So here I stay because I do not want to always be looking back; also hoping that somehow my presence will help and make a difference in its future. After GC2012, I kept poking around for 4 more years and discovered there is a Wesleyan revival lurking “out there” within the denomination, especially Discipleship Ministries and GBHEM. A younger generation of people are becoming absolutely intrigued with Wesley and what it really means to be a Methodist. Currently the Bishops are not being effective because they have become too used to maintaining the status quo by trying to keep everybody happy under what has become Big Tent Methodism. But I have hope that the WCA in alliance with the African delegation have the political clout to steer this lumbering denomination into a bright new future. And yes, I am not thrilled that politics is part of how we function but right now, that is the structure we have. God can and does work through our messy processes. How else can you explain how many times General Conference has consistently stood its ground on the sexuality question? When the question re sexuality was first raised the culture was in the midst of the sexual revolution, the church had no clear response to the sexual revolution. But yet here was the General Conference of The United Methodist Church stating the truth: homosexuality is incompatible with 2000 years of Christian teaching. And it has maintained and even clamped down on that stance as the years have gone by; even in the face of two or three other commissions that have been assigned to examine the question; their recommendation was the church needed to change its stance! But here we are and the initial 1972 answer still stands! Yes, it is messy and it will get messier yet, but I am going to hang around and see what 2018 brings!

    • “the church is nothing more than a gianormous raft with umpteen oars paddling the best each knows how”…

      But as a passenger, not a rower, I just go with the flow. The problem is, that everyone else seems to want to be the Captain of the raft. My personal opinion, of the silent majority – none of whom go to a General Conference, none of us pay attention to what happens there (few, anyway), none of us are called to marry anyone, gay or straight. None of us are asked to judge someone else who might be gay, straight, or marrying the same. So we go with the flow, and let everyone else worry about it, as they boil in their own juices of worry and despair. Some jump off the raft. And go to another raft that looks better. But all the rafts still end up going down river with the current.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: