Thursday, January 07, 2010
'Oklahoma' and 'biblical literacy' in the same phrase -- believe it or not!
This is the fundamental lesson I learned upon growing out of my agrarian, biblical protestant heritage: we read a priori with a theological platform. And homegrown American Christianity - liberal and evangelical - has yet to sufficiently acknowledge this. Until then, the church as a living tradition, and the patterns of the way we interpret the Bible (the two most significant pillars of protestant Christian community) will remain further from clarity and health than needs be.
In short, American Christianity is un-concious, theologically speaking, and keeps making missteps because of it.
I think it's ironic in some ways, but not really in others, that the religious descendants of those early-19th-century, American, prairie, agrarian, Restorationists you like to thump on are among the leaders in this, and in getting people to think, and not just recite.
But the solution cannot be to remain even in the legacy of a group still sectioned off. Being ever smarter, sharper, but still sectioned off... is a non-starter in the long run.
Sure, increase biblical literacy. But as you and I know, that only troubles the waters of security (a good thing) without necessarily providing the path to a vaster, more giving and loving security (not a good thing).
To me, the strongest of Protestants still unconsciously spread a privatization/isolated believer model that is - again, in the long run - very unhealthy.
Does this make sense?
I am thinking only of a larger project and general topic beyond the issues that are being helpfully and pastorally addressed by these folks there in OK.
But I am persuaded that there are only two kinds of "churches."
There is the Church, as in the church universal, atholic and holy.
And there are individual groups of believers/Christians with Christ as the head.
That's my congregational Baptist upbringing, which polity dovetails nicely into my congregational, Restorationist presentness.
Not that there's anything *wrong* with presbyteries, ecclesiastaries and such like.
The Body needs all its parts. The Body can't do with all the parts the same -- not even if it's the heart. Or the head (to blow the metaphor, Christ being the head.)
How do I get in touch with the whole Body as a reality?
[As an aside, I am thinking of incense. I like to smell my religion, thinking that, surely, at least my whole body should be involved in worshipping God and being present with Christ. When I step into a sacramental church in Galveston, Paris, Grenada, or New York, I can immediately recapture a sense of being part of a whole body. It does not matter which particular parochial setting - I know that I will bend my knees, speak my confession, hold out my hands, and receive the body and blood of Christ in community.]
The Church is the "called out," the "gathered," so called for a purpose that is not, a priori, selfless love, only teleologically. In this way, the Church is an instrument, a grace, which serves a purpose beyond it, but is not that purpose itself. Love is eternal. The Church is not, in its militant sense.
In other words, theological analysis rather than textual one.
Strange, but I am that way about the smell of Big Macs and French Fries at McDonalds. Mickey "D's" has a certain universal appeal and particiaption to it.
It is just not my way.
This is a theologically put question, but it is role and promise of worship in a community that is supposed to be, according to the Gospels and Paul, the site of certain promises made by Christ.
It would seem to me that this question is crucial since the experience of worship should be more than olfactory comfort like McDonald's, or primal social identity like southeastern Oklahoma.
Incense, for me, does not come from early experience or cultural formation. It became a signifier along with others as the sacramental experience drew me closer to a communication of God in the midst of spiritual development, change, reflection, intellectual and emotional assent that enveloped my whole self and self expression. Yes, a conversion, as it were.
This conversion encompassed long thought and gut reaction. Partly, of course, due to things I was searching for, consciously and unconsciously. But also because the wisdom of the ages of the church began early on in a realization of the theological fitness and anthropological truth of ritual, symbolism that is sacramentally embedded in being creatures.
Where is this truth located in your ecclesiology? Or can the American frontier experience, the "restoration" of rhetorical reason, reach both a cosmic and gut level reality on this Sunday in that pew?
Is the whole body, of Christ and the church, fully found there, in real experience, practically, substantially throughout the year?
And, DrLB J, I haven't ever found the most meaningful things of life to happen easily, as if the deepest realities of the truth of life were natural. This is part of our fallenness. I've had to change my ways... which seems to be the overwhelming call of the New Testament.
2."Where is this truth located in your ecclesiology?"
3. "Or can the American frontier experience, the "restoration" of rhetorical reason, reach both a cosmic and gut level reality on this Sunday in that pew?"
4. "Is the whole body, of Christ and the church, fully found there, in real experience, practically, substantially throughout the year?"
Use a Bluebook and answer all four of the questions in the next 90 minutes. Is this a conversation or a final exam?
F:"And, DrLB J, I haven't ever found the most meaningful things of life to happen easily, as if the deepest realities of the truth of life were natural. This is part of our fallenness."
I continually wonder where do these inferred positions "I" take come from?
Are questions not allowed in a conversation? Or only easy ones?
If you don't want to provide... conversation is over. Simple as that. But if you want to kvetch, the conversation becomes trite.
"But I am persuaded that there are only two kinds of "churches.
 There is the Church, as in the church universal, atholic and holy.
And  there are individual groups of believers/Christians with Christ as the head.
Well, the first surely has number of developed treatments in the NT. What about the second?
And then add on your further thought, "the Body needs all its parts. The Body can't do with all the parts the same..."
Am I not to take these as thoughts? Are these just regurgitations? If there are thoughts, can I not ask questions? Or should I only be asking questions in a certain way? Please let me know the style book being used for this blog, one I can draw upon so my following your thoughts (and I'm giving you the benefit of taking them as thoughts; it may be that they aren't at all since my questions are being scoffed at for coming out of the blue(?).
All I am doing is asking whether you have also have a thought, or can formulate a thought for where, in actual Christian experience - which alone is necessary to validate or invalidate any theological work, where in Christian experience is the body of Christ and the body of the faith in real, vital, saving communion?
You've noted the universal. You've noted something you like to call "individual groups of believers with Christ as [their?] head."
I guess I'm assuming that Christian theology, much less Christ himself, has a way of indicating that the Church is physically one and that that truth can be, ought to be, cannot but be experienced as the Church, everywhere, engages in its primary mode of being: worship.
Far from blue book, I am only following up on redneck book. Except now, it seems, I am trying to woo back redneck book from a hissy fit.
I just watched "The Last Temptation of Christ" for the first time. Wow. I knew nothing about it other than it was controversial. Didn't know Willem Fafoe played Jesus, didn't know Harvey Keitel played Judas(!), didn't know David Bowie was Pilate!
Diod not know the full extent of the "last temptation" -- thanks to all the idiots who could't think or complain with anything but their peckers in 1988 when it was new. Good God, they condemned it for a sex scene! WTH do people think temptation is anyway? Jesus. So to speak.
I think every Christian should watch every minute of it. And i fail to see how anyone with more than a flannel board cartoon superhero concept of Christ could fail to come away moved, humbled, revived and inspired all at once.
1. Where do I locate - within christian experience - the presence of Christ as promised, thereby also including experience of the presence of the whole body of faith?
Answer: In the Other, and in Others, when I am in proximity and in, well, communion with them. With other on the Way. And when ministering to the Other, whether ot not consciously "in Jesus' name." Short answer: When with others, at least one other, which is the bare mininum of "two or three." That's it. Without an other or others, God is scarce. Not absent. But more ethereal than ever.
2. Where is this truth located in my ecclesiology?
A. See above. Best i can do.
3. "Or can the American frontier experience, the "restoration" of rhetorical reason, reach both a cosmic and gut level reality on this Sunday in that pew?"
A. Ahhh, I dunno. I might could come up with a response to that, but I'm just not in that kind of a mood.
Brethren and cisterns: I got as clear a "call" from God today as ever. The first one associated specifically with seminary was "Start seminary." Today, the call was "keep going." What's an essay question about truth and sacrament in ecclesiology compared to that?? :-)
"Is the whole body, of Christ and the church, fully found there, in real experience, practically, substantially throughout the year?"
A. Where there are two or three. Or more.
I've always like the "easy ones" myself. Really prefer the T/F and multiple choice in fact.
As for "Church", as an apostate Restorationist, the further back I go, the less I see the "Church" as a Christian Institution, but rather as a secular institution that Christians have used or have been used by.
Now the word "church" is fully loaded with millenniums of meaning so I take the above stand with caveats that some meanings of "Church" I do agree with and honor.
ER, I really like the "Last Temptation..." too. The thing I liked most about it was the blood sweated by the OSU board about its content versus their students' civil liberties.
ER: "Brethren and cisterns: I got as clear a "call" from God today as ever."
Careful bro, I can tell you from past experience sometimes he is just Joshing you.
An aside: Jesus = Joshua = Josh = Josh Tatum (and his gold nickle scheme) = Joshing
Bluebook response (if allowed): This seems like a variant of "and there are individual groups of believers/Christians with Christ as the head."
So, I'm still wondering how the other of your "two kinds of 'churches'" can be seen as fully identified with the first kind above? How and where, in the first kind, is also - in the experience - the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic?
DrLBJ says, "As for 'Church', as an apostate Restorationist, the further back I go, the less I see the 'Church' as a Christian Institution, but rather as a secular institution that Christians have used or have been used by."
And this secular institution formed Holy Scripture?
Bluebook response (if allowed): This seems like a variant of "and there are individual groups of believers/Christians with Christ as the head."
Yes. It is.
Re, "So, I'm still wondering how the other of your "two kinds of 'churches'" can be seen as fully identified with the first kind above? How and where, in the first kind, is also - in the experience - the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic?"
Linquistically, I guess. The words one uses. I mean, do you have anything else? Do tell.
BTW, I'm shooting as straight as I can. If my answers are short, it's because my adherence to these kinda of ideas, no matter the depth of my thinking on them, is light.
I really did ponder my answers today yeaterday, overnight and earlier today. Long thinking does not always require long writing -- and long writing does not always indicate long thinking.
The last thing I think Jesus of Nazareth, or the Christ of our faith, intended was for one or more empires to be replaced with one or more other empires. The "kingdom" of heaven, the man said, was at hand. Here. Now. Within you. Without you.
As I said "Church" means a thousand things.
Which "Church" can be described sola scriptura?
How is it that Jesus would even use the word "church"?
Did he attend one?
How many times did Jesus speak of a church that is unambigous in context?
Maybe I should have used "Pagan" or "other relgions" rather than secular. By the 4th century it all seems to be taken over under the secular wings of man however.
Any setting where the living Christ promised to be present should be one that could not pass away - would not be "a product of human response."
Any setting where the living Christ promises to be present should be one that has a great deal of authority for and over me as an individual believer. Not sole or absolute authority because Christ's presence is a mediated one and authority has to be understood as a mediated comprised in part of the bond we each share as spiritual and thinking children of God.
Since the setting where the living Christ promises to be present in a superlative way is conditioned by there being more than one person, then any authority of a sole person, of an "I", is to be severely questioned.
In the descriptions - theology/ies - of the church so far offered, which are the standard radical Protestant ones, IMHO, I don't find the notion of real presence, real presence of the eternal, real presence of the eternal with divine authority over me, a sinner.
Now, for DRLBJ's sake, we have to say that such notions are based on a reading of Holy Scripture, which were formed by and formed in turn the early Church. So, perhaps we should be suspicious of this mutual formation. Did the historical church write in its own authority?
Or are we compelled by faith that this is bedrock faith: the Church is the body of the living Christ - as it is until consummation - and then everything will be one (the eternal Church of Heaven) for eternity?
The end result of radical protestantism is sola soul: the individual is the authoritative text, interpreter, church, sacrament, presence of Christ, cosmos. In other words, secular modernity.
I cannot find ultimate belief in any such thing. It is non-sustaining.
Why, Feodor. This is exactly why there are such things as Protestants and others. Then you may look elsewhere. I confess that even more radical Protestantism: I don't claim to be "right." Just close enough. Others of the holy catholic, etc., church/body of Christ are among other traditions, even the Roman one.
But sola soul? No. Sola souls-hearts-minds. Two or more. Not one. PriestHOOD of the believer. Not me, "a priest," standing or falling alone before the Godness of God.
More anon. I am off to drive to the Arkansas Ozarks to see my brother in a hospital.
Okay, ER, back to school. "Hood" as a suffix indicates the property of being a thing.
The abbreviation, "priesthood of the believer," is exactly the opposite of what you are saying. Not two, not three... only one conscience under God is necessary. And while there is something valuable in this notion in terms of the mediation of authority, it is destructive to approach ecclesiology this way.
And then, "This is exactly why there are such things as Protestants and others.... Others... are among other traditions..."
I read this as a static acceptance of traditions as traditions: it's just the way things are. You may not have intended such connotations.
No one is born a protestant, complete with the idea of "priesthood of the believer." Such a protestant has to be taught and has to choose more or less to agree with a range of tenets. And... has to continue to choose to assent perpetually in the open marketplace of ideas.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
2. If you think my life is going unexamined, yer not paying attention. But, I know yer paying attention, so I figure yer just bein' Feodory. Cool.
And just as an examined life discovers the deficits of being an American, a Texan, a New Yorker, etc., so being a protestant has tremendous downsides.
One, two, fifty, a billion, or a googolplex of souls, it doesn't matter. God is here.
Evaluating our theological foundations - both conscious and unconscious foundations - is about evaluating how well balanced we can be with respect to the necessary components of freedom and order in articulating how best to apprehend and approach God. From understanding human nature, human community, human participation, will, etc., divine being, divine communication... it's all about ordering ourselves in freedom with humility and accumulated wisdom.
And again, given it's ecclesiology and anthropological theology, I'm not sure that authority in protestantism ultimately rests on anything other than sola soul. And, as I said, I think this is non-sustainable.
In character, Protestant theology is a very lonely way of doing and thinking about Christian faith. Too lonely. And I think one can see it in Protestant history and the broad swaths of both its liberal mainstream and conservative evangelical children.
And counter-Reformation Catholicism has often gone down the same rabbit hole - though collecting all authority in the representative office of one sola soul only, rather than every sola soul independently.
Protestantisms are as sustainable as Protestants are willing to persevere.
Here, I note, again, that I was grown before I started to accept other's placement of Baptists within Protestantism.
"Theology is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study man and his ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise."
-Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking
First, I agree with Feodor on the necessity of both biblical and theological literacy, not just in reference to reading Scripture, but as general principles of Christian life. This was a complaint of mine in seminary, from the day one of my professors insisted that we not talk about the stuff in seminary in local churches. As a student-colleague of mine said at the time, there isn't a thing I learned in seminary that cannot and should not be shared with folks in churches.
Having said that, I find Feodor's questions amusing, because they presuppose (in my reading) that we get this stuff right before we can start calling it church, theology, what have you. When, in nearly 2000 years of Christian practice, has that happened? The Church, theology, how we talk about God, even how we talk to God is as fallen as the rest of us (thus Paul's insistence that the Spirit intercedes for and with us in prayer).
As for an answer to at least part of the essay questions assigned by Professor Feodor, I experience the love that calls itself Christian in the folks sitting in the pews, that gather on Wednesday nights, in the interactions on the internet - in short, one sees grace (which is just a specific form of a more generic idea of Divine Love) all around, as long as one decides to look for it.
While I understand the attraction of various liturgical devices - incense, the Sacraments, corporate prayer - to create a worship experience that brings the believer out of the confines of the everyday, in to the presence of the Holy, for some, experience and reason, tradition and Scripture create a different set and frame through which we see, taste, touch, and live out that moment of ecstasy.
Well. There are those differences between the North, the South, and the West, etc. But then there are those differences that make all us different from the French.
I think I, at least, am talking about those things that makes protestantism different from the French.
"Feodor's questions...presuppose (in my reading) that we get this stuff right before we can start calling it church, theology, what have you."
How do you possibly get this in any reading?
I'll ask GKS whether a much better health bill can be envisioned, and if so, and then made the law of the land, whether the United State would then be perfect in all things?
Could there be a more healthy, more fully nourishing vision of being the church, and then a developed practice that has that understanding as the goal, all while remaining fallible?
In fact, can it be any other way? How should this not be the goal of every church?
I consistently fail to see what motivation there could possibly be for GKS to hope for any progress about anything in life when he so consistently denies the use - the literal utility - of batting around ideas, which necessarily includes evaluation and criticism of them.
As for his ditty on grace, grace is not the issue of the thread. We were talking about the presence of Christ promised in a special way, when the church is preeminently performing in community what makes a church a church: worshipping the living Christ.
Yes, grace is everywhere. Not the topic.
As for the analogy in re the health care debate, obviously a far better bill could have been written, debated, and passed. My own preference, which I have stated before, would have been for Congressional members to study how various successful models in Europe and elsewhere are constructed, and take the best ideas and put them in a bill. Rather than reinvent the wheel by building a huge machine, just take what's out there and let her go.
As for perfect, hardly. Slightly better, more compassionate, to be sure. That is neither here nor there, nor is it really the issue. My own belief is the plethora of churches, of expressions of corporate understanding of the experience of God's grace, is an expression of the prodigal nature of Divine Love. None of them get it right, or can ever approach the whole of that experience. I am a weak-ecumenist. While I think ecumenism has its place, those things that create difference among the variety should never be sacrificed, precisely because the variety of human expressions of our own sense of our corporate presence before God cannot be captured in this life. Mao's dictum concerning the blooming of flowers actually fits my own attitude quite well.
Is this your position?
Is there no role, then, for critical approaches to the destructive elements in the way theology has been and can be structured?
Paul Althaus, Gerhard Kittel and Emanuel Hirsch are only among the worst examples, but resting on Luther, Augustine, and Paul.
Ratzinger and Robertson. Drawing from core theological principles that remain unchecked. That give rise to questionable things, some unhelpful, some intolerable if made conscious.
Pretty flowers? There are thorns out there, you know.
Pat Robertson, with his take on how Haiti made a pact with the devil for a freedom that has long devastated them even now. How do we not relate Robertson back to some ugly strains of protestantism that remain in the substructure of protestant theology, and that, in many camps, flower into evil?
The mainstream liberal Christian currency is way too weak, too privileged, too privatized, to understand how to contribute to energizing diversity into a real moral force.
Why is this so?
Not because of grace. Something about how structure ourselves and behave. But what exactly?
To quote yourself, too sad.
So the whole purpose of theology is to be a "moral force", not to explicate a passing understanding of the Divine message of love, salvation, and holy solicitude toward creation?
I feel bad that you cannot grasp how little I care for whether or not Christian theology become wholesome before it suits anyone's particular needs. Since it, like all our grasping and feeble attempts to shoehorn the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and, yes, even Paul Althaus, Emmanuel Hirsch, and Jerry Falwell (I guess my God is slightly more forgiving than yours), whatever we say ends up just as horrific as the slaughterhouse that was the Cultural Revolution (from whence sprang the Mao quote). The latter we judge in human terms (which, to be sure, has some meaning), but is no less awful than the preaching of the Crusades by that theologian of Divine Grace and Beauty St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I can take the good and leave the bad.
This does not mean we should not separate ourselves from the likes of Nazis, racists, and others. It is just to say that we should not confuse these decisions with some eternal moral judgment. Does Hirsch's unrepentant Nazism mean that everything he every said or did is now suspect? is his multivolume history of Christian ethics to be deemed unreadable because he made common cause with the perpetrators of vile evil?
One could ask the same question of Karl Barth, who more than flirted with an apology for Stalinism in Eastern Europe (which is why Reinhold Niebuhr was so disgusted with him after the war); he certainly didn't pursue the cause of justice in what were essentially occupied lands with the same vigor as he did in Nazi Germany. Are we to deem him, too, beyond the pale?
This whole set of questions is, really, beside the point because we can go back and forth with our own favorite examples. The point, if such exists, is that you and I have very different views on church, theology, liturgy, ethics, and many other issues. My position is clear, I feel no reason to change it, and your hectoring questions, based in a set of assumption I find either irrelevant or silly, are certainly not going to change my mind, any more than I am yours.
So, argue away, but know you only argue with yourself because, as I have said many times, I don't argue.
A wise friend of mine once told me, and I will never forget: Life is Prayer.
If life is prayer, then how can anything more or less than LIVES be the Body of Christ? The Church? Sacred? Sacrament?
Why the blatant absurdity? Surely you're not that blind to yourself.
"I can take the good and leave the bad."
That's all I'm saying. I believe I wrote above about examining our theological foundations in situ.
How and why you are using this word, "before" (in order to suggest that I am proposing we cleanse theology of all deficit before being employed) bewilders me with its lack of foundation and common sense.
It's so overdetermined and manic, that it leaves me wondering if you know what you are [not] arguing anymore. It's just a wild, mad casting about of bruised petals. Weird.
This is a fine political observation. But neither the assertion, nor any response, has jack to do with anything but politics.
It simply seems to me that you are yet unfamiliar with the practice and place of systematic theology. Certainly the norm, for many reasons, of everyone who has not gone to seminary. For you, perhaps that will change in the coming years, depending on how you build your course schedules.
You, like GKS, are now also forgetting the thread of discussion. The presence of the Holy Spirit or the ubiquitous grace of God was not what you and I were tossing back and forth.
I raised the question of what exactly, in terms of ecclesiology (perhaps not a term understood in the way I assumed), is significant and able to be elaborated from the words of your (empireless) Christ saying that he would be present in a particular way when more than one gathered in his name to worship his glory.
What can we make of this promise of presence that is parochially conditioned? Why would he promise such a thing? For what reason? Why does it depend on community? On location, too, since community has to gather somewhere?
Why church at all? What is it supposed to do? How is that goal best reached? What can get in our way?
Indeed, what is the potential for power and abuse, for using might for right, or for settling for a petty, comfortable empire of like-minded neighbors hitting the cafeteria right after?
If Christ is present, in a way different than your anti-establishmentarian, different than GKS droll grace, if Christ promises to be present in a particular way under particular conditions of time and place and intention, shouldn't something be happening? Wouldn't power of a dangerous God-like potential be available if Christ is present in a special, uniquely promised way?
You are deeply wrong, ER. The NT, gospels and epistles, are all about developing and steadfastly defending the idea and reality of the Church, and promising to it that by being the Church, we will share in God's nature and God's promises. Nowhere is the individual promised any such thing without being addressed as - in fact or inference - a constituent of the Church.
The NT is addressed to and given to the Church as a body, not to Christians as individual believers. Protestantism got off on the wrong foot almost from the get go as far as framing biblical theology.
Or, we could just ignore Christ, the NT, and the early Church and stick to Robert Bly, strains of whom can be heard in the humming of these recent posts of yall's.
Is this a character in a John Ford movie or the same guy who wore sandals and a handmade leather braid for his ponytail in the seventies?
When the work on the historical Jesus is reduced to an epithet...
Feodor: "The NT is addressed to and given to the Church as a body, not to Christians as individual believers."
I do believe that it was "The Church" that organized and defined the NT for ant to itself, albeit it very many forms depending on the part of the Christian world you are from. Historically it is also apparent the Church=Empire is a construct of the "Holy Roman Empire" starting with Constantine's effort to use it to consolidate his power.
F:"It's not God we have to worry over, but the hubris of the belief in one self."
I have long recognized that the worshipers of the church have considered the "Priesthood of the Believer" as not just a hubris but an act of blaspheme. The number of "individuals" who have died because they held to that concept is stupendous.
But that is where I am, a child of God, Loved by God, Communing with God directly, and Restored by his Grace. Today, here, I approach God as the individual that I am. I have no other way to do so.
Upon death I expect to surrender my individuality, return to God, and no longer exist.
And to follow ERs hazy note about having to toe some dividing line between Catholic and Protestant?
Has THAT much of the twentieth century really not arrived in Oklahoma still?
I do not check my brain at the door of any church, for any priest, nor for any age old division. I don't swoon nostalgic over Dixie or the Palatine. When you and ER get like this, I don't see much of the full fledged spiritual freedom you two want to claim here. I see a lot of need to tie oneself to sentimental histories and stubborn reveling in the easy feelings of subversiveness, simply because some flashy things you polish amaze others in a benighted land.
All this defensiveness because you can't handle even the hints of criticisms of our religious heritage. So goes the New South, now half a century old. Strange how that "old time religion" so corrupted.
"But that is where I am, a child of God, Loved by God, Communing with God directly, and Restored by his Grace. Today, here, I approach God as the individual that I am. I have no other way to do so."
No man is an island, DrLBJ. We are as interconnected as anything in creation. The son of God was born of a women in order to live in the flesh so that all human nature could be in communion with God and God with his creation. Communion. Common union. Being one together.
One would have thought the church had taught you these things. But then, perhaps, the church you had was weak in some things.
Being my point all along.
As I said, we are very different. What you see as a flaw and unhealthy, I see as a strength.
As for liberal theology being flawed - well, sure. That's my point. Feodor, for all his protestations to the contrary, seems to want something pure - just the right sentence, or collection of sentences that finally gets is all right. To quote Paul from Mad About You, never gonna happen, my friend.
By reiterating his question regarding how one identifies Church, yet bracketing the whole subject of grace, I wonder how, exactly, he can come up with an answer. His manic series of questions all seem to come down to questions of Christian identity, issues that he seems to think liberal theology, especially in its American variant, is incapable of addressing. Yet, if he actually read liberal theology - which really isn't one thing but all sorts of things united by a set of loose criteria barely able to be called "categories". The rediscovery of community in recent theological literature - and community as the source of our identity, not just as source of our Christian identity, but our human identity - is a marvelous testimony to the erroneous assumption that Feodor makes that "liberal theology" has, at its core and heart, an error incapable of rendering it usable. I would hardly call David Tracy, Langdon Gilkey, Elizabeth Johnson, and an earlier generation including Paul Tillich, Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, Benjamin Mays, and a whole host of others as creating theologies that are flawed.
You are correct. It could be that my adult-lifelong reading and pondering as a layman and amateur God-seeker has exposed me to just enough ideas for it to appear as if I have been exposed to more of such thinking-theology-scholarship than I have. To wit: I'm going to have to look up "systematic theology." Then, after it simmers some, I'll get back here. Tomorrow maybe.
Re, "ER, when you hear someone talking systematically about the church and the word "empire" comes to your mind?, you are aping an anti-papist scree that is a few centuries old."
No. It's an anti-Roman, and, as you noted, generally antiestablishmentarian rant. Based pretty much on glimpses of each in the N.T.
Re, "systematic theology." Seems like something about as ultimately useful as "political science," that is, a framework for discussion and a jargon to ease communication among like minds. Which can be fun. Educational even. A way for theologians and other academic-oriented Christians to perpetuate their systems(s) -- that's even part of the name. But I'm not sure I'm that much into all that.
Re, "The NT is addressed to and given to the Church as a body, not to Christians as individual believers."
I don't buy it. As DrLoboJo said, or suggested: A certain segment of the earthly church cordoned off those writings, under the guidance of their seatch for God and God's grace. To say the NT "is addressed to and given to" anybody is a statement of faith -- faith in the Church as well as the NT -- that I don't think I share. Heck fire, I think God is working among people despite the Church as much as because of it, and through people's reaction to the Bible rather than through the Bible, per se.
The rest of your exasperation doesn't warrant any serious response.
"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him."
"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him."
"They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables... The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."
"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Pardon me, ER, but I see a club of something forming. And it seems to be a kingdom... with Kings, no less. Though their roles are not traditionally defined.
I do not see him calling anyone to form anything. I see him trying to help them "see" something that already *was.* And the people's response to that was to do the ecclesiasticasl version, over time, of building another tower in Babel -- which, I am just riffing off the top of my head, my be the very reason the Spirit has been moving in divers ways among diverse people and ecclesia for, oh, what, 1960 years?
Elsewhere, the Lord exhorts his people to not believe anyone who says the kingdom is there, or there.
Another thought I had last night just as I was drifting off to sleep: Jesus did leave followers behind: the church is what emerged-evolved from them all looking at one another and saying, Oh crap. What do we do now?
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
You brought this up earlier, but you seemed to infer that different gifts of the body don't have the necessity of belonging to each other in order to express their gifts. As if the Orthodox church can do its thing and the Assemblies of God can do theirs, but not relation is needed. This, to me, is far from what Saint Paul intends. Being a hand is not enough. Being a foot is not enough. The foot only serves as a foot if it carries around the hand, and the hand only serves as a hand if it can scratch the foot and put a sock on it. Then there is the following.
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many."
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."
Finally, in re-reading Romans 11 to 15, it seems to me that a disestablishment of the theological notion of the corporate church as an embodied whole, inferentially destroys the early Christian notion - as Paul worked it out for better or worse depending how his many difficult passages are read - that the Church is not created sui generis but rests on the history of God's covenant with the Jewish people as a whole people, and that that history is embodied, incarnated as it were, in the living body of Israel, the place of God's own incarnation. So, the body of Israel serves as our trunk. The corporate body of the Church is grafted onto the corporate body of Israel, or at least the faithful remnant, and the "sap" of that graft is the appointment and conferring of power on the Apostles (all Jews) by Christ to go out into the world and offer the covenant of God to all.
You say he did not form a club. Clearly he formed the foundations of one. It had at least three circles: Apostles, Disciples, and those whom either of those two groups baptized. But they were only in the preliminary stages. A club was not needed until he was no longer with them because the club represents his body. Right?
Now you ask if he wrote the rules for the club. He did not. He appointed the leaders and conferred on them the responsibility to lead and love. It is Holy Scripture's witness that the Church (including the Apostles, women, and Jesus' family) approved and followed all these things, having the audacity to allow itself to appoint one more apostle to return to twelve. And then the additional audacity to approve of Paul's claim to apostolicity.
Apparently, there was a club enough to think that twelve leaders was a necessary thing to proceed.
(An aside, Christ did not baptize anyone either. Is baptism a imperialistic act? Christ did not marry, bury, anoint, ordain or confirm, anyone. Christ did not read or preach from a Gospel, sing a hymn. Are these all disposable behaviors? The one thing he is presented as doing is blessing bread and wine and calling them his bread and blood and asking that whenever the twelve Kings of his Kingdom of serving gather, do it like he did. I have made the eucharist the sacramental and theological centerpiece of my spiritual life, which, by virtue of how the eucharist is celebrated means that my spiritual life has to involve other people.)
Re, "As if the Orthodox church can do its thing and the Assemblies of God can do theirs, but (no) relation is needed."
I'm saying that there IS relation. And that it transcends the temporal connections of the various ecclesia. And so, under the Lordship of Christ, yes, the Oethodox can do its thing and the Assemblies can do theirs and so on ...
Re, "as Paul worked it out for better or worse depending how his many difficult passages are read - that the Church is not created sui generis but rests on the history of God's covenant with the Jewish people as a whole people, and that that history is embodied, incarnated as it were, in the living body of Israel, the place of God's own incarnation."
I'd say the Church, as a human response to new understandings, via Jesus, of God's covenant, rests on the living faith of Israel in the living God, not on the body of Israel as a people, and the only place of God's own incarnation is in the hearts of those who trust God, and very spectacularly and uniquely, in the sacred heart of Jesus.
But you don't spell out what the relation is. What is it?
What????? It is that it is! He is that he is! God is that God is! We are that we are in God!
Do you want me to point to or claim some holy and explicitly "Christian" apostolic structure? Some way to draw lines in the sand, or the dirt, or in the Blood of Christ so we, or you, or I, can determine who is IN and who is OUT??
It's nothing more or less than MY trust in God through Christ when it meets another's trust in God through Christ -- or when I, in Christ's name, offer a cup, or a kindness to another, thereby extending Christ and Christ's love and blessing in MY self to another self, thereby making TWO of us then together in His name!
That's the POWER you asked about somewhere up there. It's the power of nothing more or less than human power acting in Christ's name -- and it's strength -- holeee shit -- is in its weakness.
Theories of justice, property, rights, contracts? Phoooey. Just do what's right, just do what's right! Right!
Classroom management, multi-modal instruction, differentiated learning, scaffolding? Phooey. Just teach the three R's! R's! R's!
Who is Jesus and what can he do for me? How does he save? Who is God and what does have to do with me? Even more important, what does he have to do with Haitians.
I'm fucking pissed at God. Using the name "Jesus" as a talisman is worse than impotent. It is a disregard of the catastrophic injustice of the situation.
And then we have Christians who are blaming the victim. Haitians made a pact with the devil and it's coming back to curse them. Or, a little more humanely, Haitians are suffering their historic inability to govern themselves and build their country.
One way or another it is the wages of sin, wholly for Robertson, partly for less egregious Christians.
What answers do we have for them. Or do we ignore them? Ignoring them is tantamount to ignoring the Taliban, for protestant evangelical missionaries have been attacking Haitian culture and Haitian religion for a few decades now. Is this a fight not worth having? Are the rest of us comfortable Christians not to engage, out of toleration, out of disgust for theological debate?
Where is justice? How does the church call itself to engage in issues of justice? This on MLK, Jr day.
It takes theological reflection.
And, yes, Political Science just as much.
Studying these things gave MLK, Jr the platform, the constructs and conceptions to deliver the most profound moral vision every presented to American society. But most Americans have forgotten that he said more, much more, than "I have a dream, I have a dream, I have a dream" like some lollypop of a talisman.
Disregard of these things, of morally grounded government and intellectual holism, is a product of the Reagan political machine and their younger brothers and their children.
Popular, liberal, mainstream, reduced protestant/historical Jesus theology is weak sauce for the times... no matter how parochially comforting it may be. But it takes theological study to debate these positions. Indeed, a kind of specialized language is required. Just like in psychology, just like in law, just like in medicine and education and biology and comparative literature.
Because very serious, difficult, partial truths are the raw materials of a search for answers to violence, peace, and love.
Jesus never taught a passive way, an easy way, a way that did not pursue the toughest of notions of love. He never said, "the awakening of an individual is a cosmic event," except to say that the awakening must be about the community and serving others and never about being an individual.
Die to self, love others. For almost all of us, this requires deep thought - not to be converted (protestantism is all about conversion and then leaves the rest of life to silence - but deep thought to live out over years and decades of life in a difficult, terrible, beautiful, sacramental world.
Giving up on partial truths because history and human nature often raises up people and peoples who think they have it all right and who then carry out destruction is, at the very least, not Christian faith. Otherwise we would not worship a Jew from occupied Palestine.
But constantly working to improve our our grasp of truths, to hold new truths can be humble business and a vibrant one. This thing of his and yours that I want perfection is correct in a way. Except that I don't believe I'll get there. Just that it's there. Proleptic eschatology, I guess. Live into Paradise, until Paradise comes.
Failing to preach paradise is tantamount to a crisis of faith. And justice. And love.
Christ is risen. And "his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."
Settling is an evil desire.
So 1., get out of my face. 2., get off your high horse. and 3., just bug the hell off for awhile.