Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Do creeds have cred?
However, my cynical take on creeds sees them as fences -- ways not only to define "what we believe" but to exclude those who do not believe as we do. That seems to be pretty historical: a creed was an expression of orthodoxy and used as a way to define heresy.
Now, as for myself, beyond the simple yet profound confession that "Jesus is (my, our) Lord," there is no creed, or statement, or summary that I would dare impose on anyone seeking God and the living Christ.
And here's my question: What other elements of Christianity, past and present, are used as measures of orthodoxy, as ways to define not only "what we believe" but to exclude others? Communion comes immediately to mind. What else?
And more importantly: Does it really matter that much?
(From an online discussion for my seminary class "History of Christianity: Reformation to Modern.")
Unfortunately in a denomination without a Pope, the far right will, ironically, do anything to get one back. In the PCUSA, for example, that has meant anointing our Book of Confessions as our Pope, infallible in all matters, to which one must swear allegiance in order to be ordained, even above Jesus Christ. (Seriously, I'm not making this up. The current wording in our Book of Order is “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church." Poor Jesus never even gets a mention.)
So, I think for the most part confessions are bad for exactly the reasons you cite: they're just used as a measure for determining who has the hocus pocus and who doesn't.
It is one version of maintaining the "Apostolic" succession in denominations that are necessarily apostolic.
Indeed litergy, itself is such a thing. The term "litergically correct" comes to mind.
The United Methodist Church is non-creedal, to the extent that there is not "United Methodist Statement of Faith" or some such. This does not mean, as the so-called Confessing Movement in the Church claims, that we don't have distinctive beliefs; it just means that we don't draw lines around our faith claims.
Some people just need to know who is in the club and who isn't.
Ordination. Baptism. Marriage. Communion. Reading the Bible in Latin to people who didn't understand Latin. You name it. If there's a way to use it to keep people out, the church has used it.
"In May 381, Theodosius summoned a new ecumenical council at Constantinople (see First Council of Constantinople) to repair the schism between East and West on the basis of Nicean orthodoxy "The council went on to define orthodoxy, including the mysterious Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost who, though equal to the Father, 'proceeded' from Him, whereas the Son was 'begotten' of Him." The council also "condemned the Apollonian and Macedonian heresies, clarified church jurisdictions according to the civil boundaries of dioceses and ruled that Constantinople was second in precedence to Rome."
We give Constantine much too much credit for the establishment of Christianity. Theodosius is the one who put the sword of the State behind the Nicean (381) Creed.
Playing outside the lines ("Reformation to Modern") I'd suggest that creeds were initially a way of understanding the components, dimensions, and unity of belief and delivering such faith for pre-literate communities.
Put that in your man cave and smoke it.
I thought we just agreed that creeds, at least pre-Reformation, were initially for condensing a lot of diffuse presentations from both the Old Testament and New Testament?
I think creeds were many things (but it takes a protestant to see only the negative - due to an inherited legacy).
1. To follow St. Paul in his several creedal formulas from Romans, Colossians, etc. in an effort to define the faith in a way that also teaches the about the nature of God, the sacrifice of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of the living and the dead.
2. To set out a philosophical defense - in a context of dominant Greek philosophy - of the Christian understanding of Christ as both God and man, God as Trinity and Unity, etc. These were important things to do: to know and present the Christian understanding of its own faith.
3. To re-present and re-center the worshipping community - in the midst of its worship - to the central core of Christian faith. This would be the liturgical function of creeds.
4. As you say, creeds are a fence. But the fence metaphor is used variously. Many of the church fathers understood the fence as collecting the minimum of what is Christian faith, not the maximum. In other words, the expanse of Christian faith may continue eternally, but it always will contain the simple things in the creed. It is also true the church fathers and mothers, over time, believed that is was just fine understanding the components of the creed in different ways than earlier times. So, the incarnation received theological treatments of many various kinds over the centuries. But the incarnation - "God from God, light from light... became incarnate from the virgin Mary and was made man" - has always been held true by the faith of the church.
5. Now obviously the creeds have also been used for destructive and vengeful purposes. But then so has the US Constitution, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the UN Charter for Human Rights.
You have experimental or statistical data for something?
The old example is: There is a chair. Believing it is there is one thing. Sitting on it is another. Believing it is there is not trusting in it. Sitting in it is.
I am sitting-resting-relying-trust in The Holy Chair testified to by those in my spiritual past and present and experienced in our now.
Fences do one of two things: They keep things out, or they keep things in. A "creed" or practice of anything else in the church intended to keep Others out is one thing. A creed meant to keep the faithful in -- or to make it difficult to get out-sneak off-become lost -- that's another.
Fences to keep people out -- that's the only context I've ever heard "fencing" used -- long-lost Pastor Tim comes to mind. Fences meant to keep the flock together, I like that idea.
Deut. 6:4: Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone.
Micah 6:8: He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly; to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Matt. 16:16: Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Matt. 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
John 1:49: Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Acts 8:36-37: And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
1 Cor. 8:6: yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist
1 Cor. 15:3-7: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Phil. 2:6-11: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Tim. 3:16: Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
Hebr. 6:1-2: Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
And then, prior to any concilliar creed, Tertullian and Irenaeus spoke of the "rule of faith" or "analogy of faith" from somewhere in Romans, and Irenaeus set it down as:
"... this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race..."
Regarding the difference between hymns and creeds, I think it depends on context and content.
Paul's hymn to love in 1 Cor. 13 is not so much a creed-creed. His hymn in Phil. 2 found above is a creed-creed and shows evidence of preceding Paul in the church community.
You would say, "surely not."
So, is the chair not necessary? Is trust in that chair only a good for those who have the trust, but not a good that others are missing out on? What avails me, then, to have that particular trust?
Or are there other chairs? Other kinds of trust? If so, they are all relative, and of what quality is a relative trust?
And at the end, there were different pens.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
I'm with Frost: when creeds are simply inherited and not re-composed in living tradition, then they are just dead traditionalisms. We have to ask what we are walling in or walling out, and to what good purpose, if any.
I am a sick man in a sick world. The creeds remind me quickly that I can be a beautiful man in a beautiful world ("maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen"). The creed helps me to frame my life in my world with a hope that has enough content to it that allows me to reflect on what I meet every day or on extraordinary days.
For me, trust in that chair, which I take to be the creedal situation of most of current, reformed liberal Western Christendom, is too amorphous, too small, too relative, and too self-concerned in a self-limiting way to help me with life in the concrete, with poverty in the concrete, with illiteracy in the concrete, with unjust dissemination of social capital access in the concrete, with newspapers and cable television and popular and political culture in the concrete.
The creed gives me just enough centering content on God in Christ - in the context of sacramental faith lived within community - to keep going inot and not to sit away from the midst of work, of need, of love, working the sickness we are into the beauty we also are.
So there's a sense, it seems to me, that creeds are people saying, "This is all supposed to make sense, and fit together even though it obviously doesn't. So I'm going to make up my own story that describes how it does so by filling in the blanks and covering over any contradictions."
"... we're not supposed to be drawing lines around our faith claims..."
"If there's a way to use it to keep people out, the church has used it..."
"creeds are people saying, "This is all supposed to make sense, and fit together even though it obviously doesn't. So I'm going to make up my own story that describes how it does so by filling in the blanks and covering over any contradictions."
"Creeds do divide. That's exactly why they exist..."
"Trust is the thing -- and it reaLLY doesn't matter whether you trust in God [of various modern Christologies] -- the asserted fact of the Christian ages is that "there's just something about" Jesus. Collapse into and onto that faith assertion and ... be saved."
and you have a very common modern creed. And Alan provides the judgmentalism of the unthought- through anti-creedal position: people make it up.
As usual, cheap bait from Feodor, but it's a nice day out so I'll bite anyway.
Yes, as a presbyterian, I've never thought about creeds and confessions before. LOL
My position that creeds and confessions are neither inspired like Scripture nor are they inerrant nor infallible is itself contained in the creeds which are part of the Presbyterian tradition. In fact, I don't know any tradition that claims that the Nicene or Apostle's Creed, the Westminster Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism were handed down from on high. So while my position may be unthought, it seems to be the dominant position of ... well, pretty much everyone but you, Feodor.
Nor am I anti-creedal. As I've already stated, but you missed in the very first comment on this thread, "In my experience there can be a positive side to creeds, confessions, and catechisms (and being Presbyterian we've got a whole book of 'em). They're useful teaching tools, for example."
To acknowledge that the situation today is more complicated than just "Creeds Good!" or "Creeds Bad!" is not unthought judgementalism. I'm noting that the situation is more complex. Strange that you, of all people, Feodor, don't acknowledge those tensions.
In fact the creeds themselves state that we just made them up. Perhaps you think just making things up is a bad thing. Personally, it's my bread and butter as a scientist, to make consistent overarching hypotheses from the evidence, while acknowledging that those hypotheses are only models for how things work, not the things themselves.
The doctrine of the trinity contained in the Nicene creed is not stated in the Bible, for example. It's made up. It might be a very good story that utilizes Scriptural evidence to support the doctrine, but that doesn't mean humans still didn't make it up.
But then, like me, the writers of these creeds themselves didn't think through it either. ;)
Second, if Alan is looking for "doctrinal statements" from scripture, then all he will find is a developed doctrine of sin, the resurrection of the dead, and, perhaps, kenosis. Everything else is the intellectual and spiritual work of the church which he inferentially despises as less complex people: this includes the doctrine of the incarnation, atonement, salvation, communion, trinity, theodicy, eschatology, and, ultimately, redemption.
Third, he wants a creed to reflect modern biblical criticism, but then he grandfathers in a pre-critical notion of "inspiration" that rules out every post-biblical consensus of the church. Either scripture is inspired via interpretive authority, thereby opening the door for similar communal adoptions of summary statements like the Rule of Faith or the Apostle's Creed (named so as in indication of its authority) or scripture is indeed the ipsissima verba of God - a position that Alan abhors, and rightly so, but unthinkingly seems to adopt here.
Fourth, he disregards the creeds embedded within scripture which evidence the existence of condensed formulas which Israel and the Church used for liturgical and spiritual purposes. (This bon mot brought to us by modern biblical criticism which Alan lauds then drops.)
To be sure, doctrinal formulations are extra-biblical. But does Alan seriously intend to call the church's deliberations, its reflections and reasoning over time into question? I understand this is the position of radical protestantism and radically conservative protestants of all stripes as well as Catholics that ignore the very traditions of Latin Christianity that mark Catholicism. But I don't think Alan wants to align himself with them. After all, one can formulate a purely biblical doctrine regarding same gendered sex that we would not uphold.
So, the question is left begging: how does Alan make sense of inspiration that is not dependent upon when and whether he wants it to be seen or not? I'm fine with saying creeds are made up - especially those that are mere restatements of scripture... as long as we also say scripture is made up. Otherwise, so far, you have a confused rationale for the difference, unless you adopt the model of fundamentalism.
As for my denomination, we do, in fact, find that two creeds are authoritative along with scripture. And, in fact, a third source of authority is included. For we long ago found scripture to not be absolutely comprehensive or interested in addressing everything. (Perhaps this is why God incarnate himself sent yet "another Counselor" after him: because the work of redemption, or even revelation, was incomplete.)
Thus, we have scripture, reason, and the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. We should note that neither creed addresses doctrinal statements either, not even on the Trinity - thus Alan is unthought through yet again on what creeds say. For a direct creedal address on the Trinity, he'd need to go the Athanasian Creed... which is usually not a source of authority. The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are simply restatements of what one finds in scripture, brought together.
I do, however, support you in your suspicions of "confessions." Note that I was not talking about confessions but about the early creeds. Confessions are, indeed, isolating bits of ideology and, almost invariably, over time, heretical for what they omit. I'll grant that, as a presbyterian, you are certainly more experienced in confessions than I am.
And by the way, Alan, there's a name for claiming that we live in a more complex time than those of the past. And it's not a good name. Frankly, I don't our time is more complex than sixteenth century Europe, for instance. Our own current wars will hardly reach the body count resting on sheer religious ideology of the Europe at that time - certainly not by percentage of population. And science and faith were struggling with life itself at the stake.
Feodor writes, "I'm fine with saying creeds are made up..."
Alan writes, "I agree neither with those in the far left of our denomination who think that our creeds and confessions should be thrown out as irrelevant artifacts that do not reflect modern Biblical scholarship nor modern scientific understanding,...."
Feodor writes, "Third, he wants a creed to reflect modern biblical criticism,..."
A: Then we agree that it's made up. Excellent.
F (earlier but ignored): "I'm fine with saying creeds are made up - especially those that are mere restatements of scripture... as long as we also say scripture is made up."
F: "but unthinkingly seems to adopt here."
A: First you say I disagree with it, then say I don't disagree. I guess at least you cover your bases.
A: (the earlier contradiction now ignored):
1. "I do think that creeds are one way to try to make a book written over thousands of years by many very different people make some sort of sense..."
2." My position that creeds and confessions are neither inspired like Scripture...
Choose, Alan: either it's senseless or it's inspired. These are your uncovered bases not mine.
F: "Fourth, he disregards the creeds embedded within scripture "
A: (earlier but now ignored): "The doctrine of the trinity contained in the Nicene creed is not stated in the Bible."
The Bible: Matt. 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I'll retract on your asking for creeds drawn from biblical criticism, but I've answered the rest of your blithe complaints which seem more intended to obscure the issues.
And what do you truly get wrong?
1. No one but Feodor finds the creeds to be "handed down from on high"? Now, assuming you don't hold the fundamentalist view of inspired scripture, then the Anglican and Roman catholic and Orthodox churches do find the creeds to be authoritative along with scripture.
2. "In fact the creeds themselves state that we just made them up." Where in the Apostles or Nicene Creed do you find this?
3. "And I've got a name for people like you who claim I have said all these things I have not said nor claimed."
Apparently you're going to have to wait a while before you can use it, because you did say those things.
That you avoid so obsessively acknowledging the lazy way you make your own arguments is actually forecast by the way in which you consistently preface them with negative and anxious carping, seeming to say by subtext that if what you are about to write is wrong, you really don't care because the participants and venue is a little beneath you. It all speaks to an inferiority complex that is pretty unattractive, and yet a seemingly fixed personality trait.
Alan: 'Feodor writes, "I'm fine with saying creeds are made up..."'
Missing: "... - especially those that are mere restatements of scripture... as long as we also say scripture is made up."
It's the missing part that undoes Alan's grounds for making up reasons to distinguish scripture from creed. But he doesn't understand his own claims much less the pointing out of their haphazard reasoning.
You got me. What it is that actually holds me up when I sit in a chair? The chair's ability to hold, which it had from its crafting? Or my sitting in it? ... When was I saved? At the Cross? Or when I trusted in the actions and Person on the Cross? ... Am I Chair Universalist? I have said repeated that I lean that way. But not all the way.
As ER says, carry on. :)
"I think the snark is about even."
He started it.
"Why does Alan lie like a teenager ..."
Now I'm done. LOL
I'm sure Alan's rigid consistency has secondary adaptive usefulness in his profession. And the lab contains the flights of fancy.
Rhetorical engagement just ain't his thing.
And then think about what replaces a creed, just not codified, within the UCC.
In all seriousness, hoping Feodor understand me this time...
Now you've got it, Feodor! You are, in that statement, completely correct.
I've tried to explain this to you before. Perhaps we just come from such different places, that either I have not been clear, or you have been unable to understand what I've said. But to be as clear as possible: I have zero interest in debating shit with total strangers on blogs. I'm happy to contribute a few ideas here and there in my spare time, which I hope people will ignore as they wish or respond to as they wish. But I honestly have absolutely zero interest in writing a treatise on everything I believe in a blog comment. I simply do not think that documenting a systematic theology or defending any of my beliefs in a blog comment to a bunch of people I don't know has any use or importance whatsoever. And moreover, I can't for the life of me imagine why any total stranger would want to read such a thing.
When discussion can be cordial, even around disagreement, then I'm happy to continue the discussion, such as it is in this limited format. But when it starts and ends with people continually calling me stupid, a racist, and even once hilariously enough, a homophobe, then no, I honestly have zero interest in honestly and thoroughly engaging a complete and total anonymous stranger in such situations. I have little interest in arguing on blog posts under happy circumstances in the first place, so you can imagine what I think about arguing with people I perceive to be total assholes.
Feel free to see that as a weakness or a moral or intellectual failing or whatever other horrible thing you wish to see it as. As I think you have figured out by now, I simply Do. Not. Care. What. You. Think. And lest you take that personally, I don't actually care what ER thinks, or GKS thinks, or Dan thinks, or MA thinks, or Bubba thinks, or Neil thinks. These are all people I've never met and will never meet. I have real friends and real family whom I really know. I care what they think. But total strangers with whom the only thing I have in common is that we read the same blogs? Meh.
With all honestly and not an ounce of snark, I hope you understand that this time. If you mean what you just wrote, that this sort of engagement is not my thing, then perhaps you do finally understand. Good. If that means that in the future you will completely ignore me and my comments. Even better.
And when you call a topic "shit" when you've spent, what, five thousand words and an afternoon on it...
Either you're a masochist and your credibility is nil, or you're lying to yourself, much less us.
At least that much is plain to see.
Now you have no reason to believe what I say, as your last statement makes clear. So you've just corroborated everything I said in my last comment.
Oh, and I can type and watch re-runs of the West Wing at the same time.
Typing 450 words doesn't actually take that much attention. :)
So, I'll try not to respond to any of your comments in the future. I wont be perfect at this. After all, we all need corners of the world where it's safe to fail. Your comments and my very occasional response to them will serve us well.
'Believe what you will. Trust is the thing -- and it reaLLY doesn't matter whether you trust in God through the Superhero Jesus from Outerspace, or the Poor Sweaty Human Jesus from Nazareth -- the asserted fact of the Christian ages is that "there's just something about" Jesus.'
I'd ask what really matters to you about the "really doesn't matter whether" part.
I think your ur-creed is being born right there.
I'm going to Rome during Holy Week and Easter. Never been to Rome - the Eternal City. I've been reading about the city, the Renaissance (always gave the Renaissance less time than other epochs), Dante, Montale and Calvino. We are staying on the Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers) where the Dominican philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, Giordano Bruno, was burned at the stake by the church for his belief in the Egyptian revelations of Hermes Trismegistus. His statue is there today. Giordano Bruno was a very interesting man, brilliant, ahead of his time in astronomy he posited the infinity of the universe and the continuum of stars, that our sun was one of them.
The Renaissance, of a sudden, is a whole new area of intense interest to me. New things, no fear.
Where I came from, fear was a strong underground reality when people thought of the great world spinning. Not that fear doesn't take many unusual and interesting forms down around where you live. So interesting and unusual that the fear is covered over. But the thought of going to Rome for Easter would raise alarms.
That's probably why all those erudite Mississippi rednecks go to Carlos 'n Charlies in Aruba and drink themselves to death. They think they're traveling.
Not exactly Giordano Bruno.
"I sincerely hope you are not going to seminary to affirm and be settled in your own opinions. That would be such a waste of money and an opportunity for tremendous growth. And at your maturity, you should fear change a lot less than younger folks; sadly, the reverse tends to be true of human nature."
You consistently mistake disagreement for lack of thinking, lack of learning. 'd say that's beneath you, if it weren't you exactly.
You're such an arrogant prick. You shot on everybody around you, eventually. Whatever else you have of value to share, and you do have a lot to offer, is covered up by that fact.
How much did you say? Not much. You didn't disagree, at least not in print. Where in this thread are your arguments? What, you made one? And when asked about that, you're tired?
Please, be honest. You're not tired, you're irritated.
Besides, I said it was a hope. Try a little emotional differentiation for a change.
There are the friends who bust your chops with your own bullshit. Or there should be.
You should look to your left and your right. Just like you.
metaphors emote something, causes you to transfer feelings from something you know to something you don't know.
then came doctrines which tell you how to feel and think. Christ is bread and here's how. Christ is two natures, one in being with the Father, and here's how. here is the dividing line, you're either with us or against us.
then come models, which when doctrines fail and cramp your brain, models are what you use to massage it out. two natures?! how does that work! well, it's like peanut butter and jelly, you can't separate the two, yet they are two distinct substances... problem with that model is you can distinguish between the two and that leads to modalism. so it goes.
so creeds serve a group in a particular time and place. helpful to obtain a communal identity. not so much if you want to be open. creeds are exclusive where Jesus, at least how i read him, was inclusive.
Anything divine can only be comprehended by human capacity in the use of metaphor.
We are no closer to truth than any other time. We fool ourselves if we think so. This does not mean we should not celebrate where we have become morally clear than ages past, particularly with the notion of individual rights. But we remain necessarily blind on where we are ignorant.
Everything that was made, all of creation, is represented and present in his human flesh and identity. Everything about the deity, the full divine nature, is present in his godhead. Both, together in communion within the one person, Jesus Christ.
God and cosmos are one in him, undivided, bridging not the chasm between us/Creation and God but also between God and his creation. This is the most inclusive metaphor possible.
And it was fourth century Greek philosophy that ironed that out.
If you want to talk about Jesus as inclusive... make sure you give the credit to the ancient Greek theologians.
you're right! all we have is metaphor. so why then do Christians hate Mulsims and Muslims hate Jews who hate... as you see, the cycle goes and goes.
are you saying all paths equal?
"the one that Jesus Christ is two natures wholly present in one person is probably the most inclusive metaphor of all."
that'd be the ontological Christ. There is the psychological and agency understandings as well (there are more, but those are what spring to mind most readily). so can we have them all? or is one better than the other? should we be the "peanut butter and jelly Jesus people" and make war on the "Christ had the mind of God people" and shun the "Christ did what God would do, therefore they are one in the same people" as well?
And, no, I don't think all paths are equal. I'm of the personal opinion that an entirely protestant faith is to Christianity like the Nation of Islam to Islam: cultural/historical by-product which leaves out a lot of material that would make it much more healthy. And I don't care much for the current Roman hegemony which shows more fear of the world than it did in the late 60s. And Orthodoxy has an ethnic fetish. Anglicanism is as elitist as ever, just no longer based on race, gender, and sex orientation.
Judaism, now there's a great path. Judaism has, by percentage, incredibly low juvenile delinquency, whether in urban, suburban, or rural contexts. And, yet, I don't find Jewish folks to be particularly repressed unless they are Hasidim.
Buddhism as practiced in democratic countries is fabulous in almost all its forms with a less favorable feeling for Pure Land.
Sufi Islam would be my choice, if I had to choose. The other two major strains are, of course, trying to deal with their own fundamentalist cancer. As is Hinduism, which otherwise is a smorgasbord of sensual/spiritual adventure.
B'nai B'rith is a mystery to me, but pacifism has to counted as an eloquent good, no? Zoroastrianism, yet again, an unknown.
It's the people who make it up for themselves that I find to be at the mercy of "best seller" publishing and spiffy hour long cable shows and rarely have something profound to say to the larger, diverse society - perhaps because their raison d'être is to reject the responsibilities and limits of communal identity.
Sorry, who is the ontological Christ? The psychological? Or the agent? What surgeon can separate my ontology from my psychology or my agency? Again, metaphors that reach a silent limit in the ultimate, but are useful for talking about aspects of an identity. Beware you use them to destroy identity - that would be an inappropriate use as evaluated by reason and ethics and spiritual discernment. (Not even God desires to distinguish my ontology from my psychology or my agency; God simply intends for me to be perfectly in com-union with all things in God one day.
If, by war, we mean to argue against theologies that are inappropriate as evaluated by reason and ethics and spiritual discernment, then, hell, yes, we go to war. Especially those who wear T-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps with WWJD on them. Because the first thing we know about Jesus is that he would absolutely not wear anything like that.
If, rather, you mean war in the sense of hate and doing violence, then, no, I'm against that. Buddhism has taught me better than the church in that regard.
Luke, if you question the efficacy of making theological distinctions, and find eighteen-hundred years of Christian intellectual history to be fruitless... then perhaps you should rethink seminary. Or, if your professors are encouraging a jaded dismissal of Athanasius, Antony, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Francis of Assisi, William of Thierry, Jeremy Taylor, Pascal, Rahner, Tillich, von Balthasar, etc. then perhaps you should consider a different seminary.
It's all about love, but since love is an extremely difficult thing to perfect on an individual basis, much less socially, it's a very long experiment of working at it and reflecting on progress. That it takes millennia should not surprise us given all the other things we've had to do and how bad at it we are in the aggregate.
Or, there are big questions you need to ask of the role of the Holy Spirit for those eighteen hundred years.
You clearly have nowhere else to rant, or think, and you come here desperate and starved -- and of the multiple venues in which I study, discuss and cuss, in seminary and out, this is the least important one, and the one I give the least of myself to.
Re, "Right now, you're the kind who will order Campari in Aruba and think you've left home."
Fuck you. Your "Black Like Me" routine is old. You've become a caricature, badly drawn.
Fuck yourself. You're already halfway done.
So, carry on. It ain't me, or GKS, or DrLobo, or Luke, or Craig that really has you aching.
Good luck, a prayer and my sincerest hopeful thoughts for you to find peace -- they're aloft.
In the meantime, take all the time and space here you need.
i was digging what you're saying but you put in small jabs and assumptions that really make you hard to take. i liked your whole break down of what religions you like and those you don't, i feel that i'm with you there.
but here's what got me: "Luke, if you question the efficacy of making theological distinctions, and find eighteen-hundred years of Christian intellectual history to be fruitless... then perhaps you should rethink seminary."
wow! that hurt. you really don't know too much about me to say something like that.. i LOVE church history, just check out my Reformation The Sitcom. but what i see is that many christians, including those theologians you listed, have different models, doctrines, and images of God, Christ, and even what the church should be. ontological model can fit well with the psychological model, but not so much with the agency model. to put it another way, Barth's Chrst is not Augustine's Christ, is not Tillich's Christ, is not Pat Robertson's Christ, is not Aquinas's Christ, and all of which are not Jesus Christ of Nazareth. hell, check out the synoptic problem and you'll see that Mark's Christ isn't John's Christ which isn't Paul's Christ. but you're a smart dude, you already knew all that.
what i'm working toward, and this is just a hunch... when we have all these Jesi around we start bickering over how they act and what to call them and we say things like "F-ck You" to our brothers and sisters in Christ (like on this very thread). Here is where a WWJD question should pop up, and although Jesus wouldn't wearit, he'd ask it.. well maybe WWGD. so how is this helping our being Christ to one another, how is it feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting those in prison. maybe the concept of Orthodoxy (right thought) needs to be disposed of.. and instead an "orthopraxy" (right action) used as well. seems that's what Christ used, you know.. the whole judge a tree by it's fruit thing.
just a thought. thanks for your consideration and responses. just wanted to see where you were coming from. i'll leave you and ER to iron out the details.
I don't blame you for not being able to avoid jumping on the bandwagon, including directly your thoughts on the use of the word, "fuck", to me when ER threw that in first.
Nonetheless, when ER and I say these things to each other, I doubt we are acting any differently than Christians have for most of Christian history. It was post-industrial corporate concerns that has so successfully strained strong language from social life, and that is because it tends to be drag on efficiency toward the bottom line. I wonder what was the extent of the many conversations between Paul and Peter. Or Paul and anybody, for that matter. Aquinas himself, Luther, etc. were robust men living and working in literally "earthy" ages.
In that vein, I have a great deal of spiritual affection for ER, built on virtual lines of communication, and when he says to me, I always feel warmly included in a full, gruff, manly circle of passionate believers. I just wish hope his theology will grow as well-grounded and whiskey drenched and smokingly mature as his psychology.
I think God wants a better world still to be more like the real world than the seminary academy, don't you?
Speaking of which, my problem is this (out of which I drew my disturbing question): if Aquinas and Augustine, Irenaeus and Naziansus, Barth and Tillich no longer serve you in your seeking understanding, and are instead impediments ("when we have all these Jesi around we start bickering"), then what could possibly be the purpose of your spending so much time and money learning the technological language of theology?
But going behind that question - before you answer it - I sincerely wonder how you intend to find the true Jesus which those luminaries failed to find?
But still before that question, what on earth makes you think that any effort on your part to picture a true Jesus for youself, much less the church, will be in fact any closer to the living Jesus than Aquinas' Jesus?
If your plan is to simply "do" (praxis) what Jesus did as a way to approach the true Christ, think how much of the Gospel you're leaving out. Parables, sermons, lectures, prophetic statements, offhand remarks... all teaching on right "worship" ('doxology does not mean teaching) of God. And can your "doing" include miracles, like Jesus and the apostles?
Worshipping in the right way stems not only from Jesus' reframing of the dominance of Saducees and Pharisees on Judaism, but is also a large extent of Paul's concern and the whole of the New Testament, no?
For me, Aquinas provided a theology which extols and honors the capacity of human intelligence to reason out right praxis. And that such operations of our God-given reason and mutual dialogue between good reasoners is, itself, explicitly doxology - thinking rightly is a kind of right worship of God, and right worship of God nourishes and steers our praxis in the world. In our country, we do not have a choice but to be, at some level, agrarian protestants. It's just too much in all the water. Richard Rodriguez talks about immigrants from his parent's native Mexico and how the sheer numbers will have an ever greater effect on America's culture in time. But he also writes about how each of them, especially as generations come and go, become, in part and unconsciously, American protestants. And part of American protestantism is a deep and biding anti-intellectualism. Aquinas is an immense antidote to the passive pessimism in the churches to the effect that we really cannot think ourselves to new levels of incredible fairness and justice for all.
Right worship (doxology) informing right working (praxis) informing right worship informing right working, and on and on. It is all a godly hermeneutic circle, so to speak (technically).
I think you are, in all likelihood, on such a track: pitting ideas of praxis and doxology against themselves and each other, looking for that combination that brings you closer to God in Christ and your part of Christ into the world.
Your part of Christ. Aquinas had his. You have yours. Yours will more powerful if you learn Aquinas' lessons. After all, God had a plan when that fat Italian was born. Or, a strong possibility, Aquinas is not your man like he and the four great Cappadocians are mine. Maybe their metaphors do do for you what they do for me. But I am convinced that we cannot do any better than most saints we can name, though we have to somewhat differently for our time. But why not avail ourselves of God's grace operating in the spiritual and rational intellect of his chosen ones? Why reject such grace? Why think that thinking is not doing? Writing is not what Jesus would do? Did he not write in the dust? And if he had come in 1690 or 2002, would he not have written, also?
Whoever may become your guides, surely you can believe that they worked in the world as well as wrote in the world. And that each part of their lives was connected to each. And that God had a purpose for them. Just like you.
i get the impression you like talking over listening. of course, this is an online discussion and it is brief and devoid of the benefits of an interpersonal conversation. but you have some assumptions that i wanna address the biggest two being that seminary just confuses people, and that i think christian history has no value.
first i've developed a fuller understanding of who Jesus is and what my call and purpose is because of seminary and the link to christian history. i've found my place in the tradition. however, it's good to note that in the tradition there is a variety of metaphors used and relationships and purposes with Christ. indeed Tillich and Barth's Christs aren't the same but this isn't something to be mourned. it's something to be celebrated.
it was my intent to celebrate this fact that we have such thinkers in our tradition, just as you state, that help people focus themselves as followers of Christ. you and ER and i are all different and have different concerns within the tradition. this should be celebrated as well, not mourned or argued over. this will only happen if we LISTEN instead of talk... which i've done too much of already, so now i'll shut up. ;-)
peace of Christ be with you all!
"when we have all these Jesi around we start bickering over how they act and what to call them... so how is this helping our being Christ to one another, how is it feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting those in prison. maybe the concept of Orthodoxy (right thought) needs to be disposed of.. and instead an "orthopraxy" (right action) used as well."
Now, if that's your version of how little the history of Christian thought contributes, then, again, I'm asking why spend the time on it? Though you protest and say you love it, your statements are not reflective of the claim.
In fact, I "listened" so close, I offered one answer to your extreme separation of orthodoxy and orthopraxy - and gave evidence from the Christ of the Gospels, no less, how much more from early church theology.
one of my profs, who recently retired, had spent his 50 some years studying various types of Christians both contemporary and historically. when asked "what do they all have in common? can there ever be just one type of Christian?" he stated "Christians are a group of people who get really excited by arguing about who Jesus was."
i find myself in the "wide-stream" the generous orthodoxy of Christianity and i love it. yet i see the faults certain traditions have. like a river, parts can be too deep, too muddy, too shallow, and some are filled with garbage. should there be some determining ethos to say "this image of Jesus should be in bounds, while this Neo-Nazi Jesus is unacceptable" yes. how can we do that? well, aren't we called to judge a tree by it's fruits. if a particular image causes people to hate their neighbor, why isn't that image out of bounds?
thank you for pointing out the specifics. taking time to say "here's where i'm getting this from" is important. also saying "i see you putting a wide gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy" is also helpful and unintentional on my part. they are connected.. yet it is my assumption that the best measuring stick of orthodoxy IS orthopraxy. people act out what they believe and what they believe is evident on how they act.
you do have good listening/reading skills. take the time to showcase it.
So, too, valuable contributors have been lost or virtually lost in history due to geographical or historical circumstances, luck, what have you. I think of Jesus' own brother, James, leader of the Jerusalem church, leader of the first foundation of a christian church, the church who knew Jesus in the flesh. And yet, James and this, First, church disappear from Christian history.
Aside from these gray matters, I find that, having studied Augustine, Nyssa, Nazianzus, Basil the Great, Aquinas, Julien, O.C. Quick, Lonergan, Rahner, de Lubac, von Balthasar, etc., I'm more equipped to recognize diseased images of Jesus or those well-intentioned but unknowingly crippled with lacuna.
Your story of your professor is cute, but I doubt he would put that as an epitaph of his work. David Kelsey, my professor at Yale, once said that if theology does not help you read and interpret the newspaper, it's not worth it. But he meant that in a very abstracted metaphor, which itself infers that one has done a tremendous amount of work to digest and integrate a lot of theological study. Thus, Kelsey's great seminars on the theologies of human nature from Irenaeus to Moltmann.
Finally, as for orthodoxy and orthopraxy, the distinction, I think, was originally drawn by Liberation Theology as a way -- it seems to me -- not to denigrate orthodoxy, but to point out how Roman hierarchy wielded power in a way that opposed even official Roman Catholic ecclesiology and even Christology. In effect, Boff, et al, were saying that the Roman hierarchy were not paying sufficient attention to the power critique within the church's own theology.
For my part, I would not want to distinguish between the "sayings" of Boff, Gutiérrez, Solle, Lamb, and such from their "doings." Is Óscar Romero's practice - even to martyrdom - to be more highly evaluated than Boff's writings?
Are not writings also praxis? As Tertullion asked in such great foresight for Christian history - and extreme relevance for our time: What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?
This is the question I hope you pursue with heroic diligence.