Saturday, April 25, 2009
UCC in OK: Signs of Life More Abundant
Thanks be to God. Progressive Christianity is progressing -- in Oklahoma.
Miracles never cease.
Indeed, the thread of gnostic thought seems to have traveled uneasily alongside the literal orthodox dogma up through time.
Thus the explanation of its perennial nature of growing over and over in what ever ground there may be.
The Acoma potters in New Mexico seek out shards of the ancient pots of their ancestors. The crush them into powder and add them to the clay from which they form their new pots. The physics of the act is simple, the old shards act as a binder and make the new pot stronger when fired. Any old shard could do that however. They don't just use any old shards.
The spirit of the act is continuity.
Your congregation seems to have such a thread. Do you ever see it?
Not the word "Gnostic." The Gospel of Thomas is present from time to time. Most of the peeps are way into the idea that "what Jesus said about God is more important than what the church has said about Jesus." Following Jesus, more than worshiping Christ. Not sure if that answers yer question. Elaborate?
But I wonder, Thomas and Mark and Luke are mostly composed of material that comes from the Q (Quilla) document. I recently read that the Q document may have never had the words Christ or Jesus in it.
Sometimes I think T. Jefferson was way ahead of his time. T.J.'s "bible" would be closer to the Q than the Bible if indded the Q was what it is thought ot have been.
Now ER I haven't studied Gnosticism under a "teacher" so as to understand it. All I know is what I learn in books. So here goes:
The common thread that runs through Gnostic books, teaching, dogma etc. is simply "insight". That is knowledge of who and what you are and how you relate to God.
The trappings of knowing (gnosis)are varied and often down right wierd. The core gnosis however is that are a part of God (or a part of God is in us) and that reuniting our particle of God with God is our ultimate need. Thus we are free agents and individuals seek reunion. Such is said often in John's Gospel and in Paul's writtings in various ways. We are One. Not a collective mind you; One.
Let the seminar commence.
This is historically/critically impossible.
The Gospels are works wrought by the church. What Jesus says about God is how the early church puts its oral and communal understanding of the meaning of Jesus and an interpretive couching of some kind of loose anthology of Jesus' teaching about God.
One cannot, in a textual, historically critical way, get behind the church to the original Jesus.
Q is conjecture.
For Gnosticism, the early Pauline church believed in the good demiurge and talked bad about the evil demiurge.
God was untouched, except by those who had a secret spiritual insight. Kind of like Mormons.
Which are precisely the parts TJ cut out. Along with the Resurrection material.
It may not have the superior and secret Gnostic insight as to what Thomas Jefferson really thought that must be reserved for the very few.
I didn't say, or intend, anything like that at all. Nor did I say what the church has said about Jesus is not important -- only less important than what the church says Jesus said about God.
"Why callest thou me good; there is none good but God in heaven" is precisely as critical as "No one comes unto the father but by me."
And to emphasize one is not to deny the other -- it's only to emphasize it.
One thing I do have trouble with id the gnostic notion of particular enlightment given to some but not all. But then, I don't know how that idea is that much different from Calvinist concepts of election, Baptist senses of personal coviction, or some of my liberal brethren who think they have some advanced enlightened views beacuse they have "advanced" past the views they held as Calvinists, Catholics, Baptists or what have you.
But, even the gnostic ideas of God the creator of the present realm, as one of a "race" of gods lesser than some other Major God -- or whatever -- well, whatever!
Mystery! The O.T. scriptures suggest the "court" of creator-gods, or whatever, as well as the misty, to us, concept of Wisdom -- a female-gendered side of the one deity to whom we sang a hymn this morning. Then: the Trinity!
All of which is to say: Yes, the Gospels are works of the church! Yet the Gospels themselves, especially when illumined by other biblical writings, allow much more broad thinking about the Gospel than the church, as a rule, generally encourages.
"Yet the Gospels themselves, especially when illumined by other biblical writings, allow much more broad thinking about the Gospel than the church, as a rule, generally encourages."
With the exception of the Eastern Church which claims that we can become deified in our earthly life as Christians. Body and soul (contra gnosticism). No western reading of the gospel has found this to be believable. (Pelagius was more about our ability to be good in a juridical sense, not divine in an ontological sense.)
I ain't that smart aboout these things, and I do tend to think what I think, and then see whether it fits into what I've inherited, rather than starting with the boundaries of what I've inherited and then seeing whether what I think fits.
ALL of which is to say: Do what?
NT continues to break open the liberation of Jesus Christ as witnessed in the New Testament; and historical-critical studies at their best have helped us to see its prejudices and ours in better light. This includes Gnostic material, Qumran material, Jewish midrash, Graeco-Roman moral writings, etc.
And all this cross fertilization has largely been done outside of the interests of ecclesial power both large and parochial.
Can't say more now but maybe tomorrow. Gotta go. "Dessert" is being served.
Rather than being something conjured, Q is the end product of the analysis of the parallel books and a theory of where their commonality of text came from. If there was ever a Q document it is only available now subsumed within the the gospels. (unless someone digs one up somewhere)
Reconstructing Q from Mark, Luke, and Mathew gives this kind of results: (excuse my wiki use) "The Q document, if it did exist, has since been lost, but scholars believe it can be partially reconstructed by examining elements common to Matthew and Luke (but absent from Mark). This reconstructed Q is notable in that it generally does not describe the events of the life of Jesus: Q does not mention Jesus' birth, his selection of the 12 disciples, his crucifixion, or the resurrection. Instead, it appears to be a collection of Jesus' sayings and teachings."
More radical theories of Q make it a pre-Christian Hellenistic document reflecting the sayings of the Greek "God-Man" of which there were several.
As for Gnosticism, a modern term by the way for they did not call themselves such, it was fractured as much as orthodox Christianity today. Given its emphasis on individual enlightenment and transmission of their "secretes" orally it couldn't have been otherwise.
"Gnostics" did not see themselves outside of the Christian stream, it was the literalist that move away from them. OK as time went on they probably had a mutually acceptable bu cantankerous split, much like we still do.
As for the demiurge, aions, etc. these arose in part with the christian gnostic explanation by way of explaining Jehovah, creation, etc. My favorite gnostic "image" is ABRAXAS, the rooster headed two serpent legs god. Abraxas, the name comes from the first letters of the Greek names for the seven visible celestial bodies.
ER: "One thing I do have trouble with id the gnostic notion of particular enlightenment given to some but not all."
If you have ever taught a class you will recognize the variation of "enlightenment" within a group of humans.
The Paulian gnosticism declared some are "chosen" others are "called". Sound familiar?
But he also said all can be one with Christ and God. Like all Christianity it got more complicated as it went.
F: "The Gospels are works wrought by the church."
ER: "Yes, the Gospels are works of the church!"
We couldn't agree more.
F: "And that the gospels in particular have an intertextual power, allusive, and metaphorical power (and the sacramentalist would add "communal") to re-create new hearts and spiritual truths for every age."
Succinct vision of the mystical power of the written word. Well said.
F: "....historical-critical studies at their best have helped us to see its prejudices and ours in better light. This includes Gnostic material, Qumran material, Jewish midrash, Graeco-Roman moral writings, etc.
And all this cross fertilization has largely been done outside of the interests of ecclesial power both large and parochial."
Feodor your contrarian image is slipping.
Just for reference:
Mormans rely more on the transmission of authority from a corporal God to a corporal Jesus to the corporal 12 apostles of the LDS Church. When an LDS is in the Temple (where Heaven meets Earth)they are in the corporal presence of God and his angels, it is more than a "spiritual" experience, thus their own bodies must be exactly prepared for the experience.
The LDS may be the ultimate literal relgion.
Nah. I think this is what happens when educated, open-minded but earnest people "go round and round" -- it really *is* centrifugal, and it causes agreement to separate out from disagreement.
Now, back to the ring! :-)
OK, I get that.
All that did not come to my mind last night.
As for Q's relationship to miracles, one instructive passage is Luke 11:19-20 (Q, in other words) which supplements Mark 3:22-27 by acknowledging that others can cast out demons like Jesus but that with Jesus there is a distinctive significance: the are the signs of the coming of God's rule.
My feeling is that I am not contrarian because we are all the right track here.
What was considered to be my contrarian footing was an exasperation that comments were being made about the Roman tradition that rested on received "patter" from a few centuries of "American" suspicions of Catholicism (i.e. where the variance of "enlightenment" appears to me to much more quantifiable than when we are on protestant ground).
The theological truth -- as opposed to convenient political targets -- is rather more glorious, grand, and unexamined by most WAPs.
Would we equate American gifts and vision with Bush, Nixon, Hoover, Buchanan?
Many, many do.
As for Mormons, the reference is the hermetic style of the community.
Also, DrLBJ has a habit of conflating Gnostics with gnostic Christians.
As he says now, which I said some weeks ago, gnosticism was a phenomenological movement of many commonalities being expressed in various identifiable groups. There were no strict Gnostics.
There were gnostic Christians, gnostic Jews, gnostic combos, gnostic Zoroastrians, etc.
Like "new age." There is no explicit new age group.
Only when discussing Christians.
"Like "new age." There is no explicit new age group."
Give it time. There may be such in the future complete with hierarchy and dogma.
"Love is greater than prayer."
Prayer, seen broadly as the primary activity of the church as a body, does not bring the revolution that love does. It usually functions to affirm it.
News comes back: even the Gentiles believe -- God has done a new thing.
Practice spreads as society learns that love triumphs over gender roles: women are ordained and lead the community.
Love for my brother and sister in the pew, my brother and sister who takes the sacrament, prays for me, ministers to the poor and the wounded, leads our study, my gay or lesbian or transgendered brother or sister, love teaches - yet again - the Spirit hears the prayers of all.
Love is greater than prayer.
The gospel surprises the church.
This isn't exactly protestant, but a protestant claim that scripture is an authority that may break the clan of ecclesial power is a powerful claim.
Love is action! Otherwise, it's mere sentiment!
Prayer as a form of sentiment is one thing; prayer to sustain regular, faithful action, or in preparation for specific, audacious, faithful action, is another.
Not faith *or* works. Faith *and* works.
I used to think it only worked one way: Faith leads to works. I've seen some people recently, though, whose lives were changed by their works! Which put them in places where they experienced the Gospel -- where they saw the Lord in The Other. And in them was born: Faith.
I say it depends on what you mean by prayer, which I sort of talked about.
Now, after praying that God would finish cleaning the kitchen -- I'm kidding -- I'm going to go in there and sweep and mop. :-)
So... it wasn't like he wasn't a praying fool dedicated to pour out his life in that very way.
I think he is teaching young novices the right priority for prayer.
(The other thing was when he said, in response to a mild, friendly critic, "At the end of the day, even I don't believe everything I say!" Which, to me, indicates that someone is speaking as he thinks, which I get, since I do that quite a bit.)
I slapped him for relegating ecclesiology too far down the ladder that frames one's theological prolegomena -- which then in turns frames how one goes about doing theology.
In other words, he commits the protestant fallacy, and is led into it by focusing too narrowly on the scandal of the historical-critical erosion of trust in scripture.
Resentment would be Edenic problem wouldn't it.
We've just replicated Genesis 2 and 3.
Grace may be given because of Love but it is not the same as Love .
An eye for an eye Jehova may love his people and yet punish them and/or deny them grace.
Those who receive grace are the receipts of a positive benefit that they do not deserve to receive.
It would sort of be like if ER was made Editor of a big Daily paper on the West Coast. Now that would be God's Grace.