Who Am I?

What To Blog Through Next?

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , | Comments Off on What To Blog Through Next?

I have several things already in mind to write, but since I’ve finished On The Incarnation Of The Word, I was wondering if there were any ancient Christian writings that anyone who reads what I write might like to see next? There are many things I’ve read over the years, but I’ve never really recorded my thoughts on those works in writing the way I’ve been doing here.

I was leaning toward the catechetical lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Dating from the fourth century, they capture the basic teachings and practices of the Church as it first emerged from its initial centuries of persecution. In many ways, these are those same practices the Church developed during that initial persecution. His lectures form one of the most concise windows into that part of the history of the Church.

Or I’ve considered exploring some of the recorded homilies or sermons of St. John Chrysostom. They remain as illuminating today as they were then in many ways, though of course some of the details of life have changed. Still, people are people, so less has changed than you might imagine.

I’ve thought about stepping back further and stepping through the apologies of St. Justin Martyr from the second century. Or perhaps even further back to St. Ignatius of Antioch.

If anyone reading has a particular preference, let me know. Personally, they all have works I have loved reading in the past. I would not mind writing on any of them (and more).

I wouldn’t be comfortable writing at length through any of the writings of Tertullian. I’m aware that he ended his life a schismatic and he held some pretty strange beliefs in places. I’ve read much of his preserved works and I’m simply not comfortable trying to parse what is or is not a reasonable representation of the orthodox thread of faith and practice from which Tertullian strayed.

Similarly, though I’ve read St. Augustine and am aware of the places he differs (sometimes markedly) from the overall theological tenor of his times (probably at times spurred by an over-reaction to Pelagius), I wouldn’t really feel comfortable trying to write publicly about his works. Perhaps I would be more comfortable at some point with St. John Cassian, who seems at times to be offering a corrective to St. Augustine, though he never explicitly says so.

Anyway, if anyone does have a suggestion or particular interest, I would like to know.

Thanks.


On the Incarnation of the Word 57 – An Honourable Life Is Needed

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 57 – An Honourable Life Is Needed

Read the closing section of Athanasius’ treatise for his final doxology. I’m going to reflect on his opening in this section, though.

But for the searching of the Scriptures and true knowledge of them, an honourable life is needed, and a pure soul, and that virtue which is according to Christ; so that the intellect guiding its path by it, may be able to attain what it desires, and to comprehend it, in so far as it is accessible to human nature to learn concerning the Word of God. For without a pure mind and a modelling of the life after the saints, a man could not possibly comprehend the words of the saints.

Note that, unlike much common modern usage, “Scriptures” and “Word of God” above do not refer to the same thing. Hopefully by now, on the 57th post on this treatise, the distinction in usage is clear. We often put too much emphasis on what you think about God or our ideas about him. It’s not that these things don’t matter. They do. Rather, the point is that we are only able to understand and practice what the Scriptures and the saints teach to the extent that we live lives like they lived. We know God by doing life with him.


On the Incarnation of the Word 56 – When Christ Appears Again

Posted: December 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 56 – When Christ Appears Again

This penultimate section looks forward to the “appearing” of Christ in glory.

And you will also learn about His second glorious and truly divine appearing to us, when no longer in lowliness, but in His own glory,—no longer in humble guise, but in His own magnificence,—He is to come, no more to suffer, but thenceforth to render to all the fruit of His own Cross, that is, the resurrection and incorruption; and no longer to be judged, but to judge all, by what each has done in the body, whether good or evil; where there is laid up for the good the kingdom of heaven, but for them that have done evil everlasting fire and outer darkness.

Much of the language commonly used in English discussions of Jesus today implies that he has gone off somewhere away from the world and will one day “come” back to it. That’s a distortion of the language of Scripture. “Ascension” describes royalty coming into their power. And that’s obviously the case with Jesus as he “ascended” to the throne of God to be seated at his right hand. “Clouds” or smoke are the imagery of the presence of God throughout the OT. I think we miss that as well.

But Jesus isn’t somewhere far away. He is with us always. He is our head and is the wellspring of the life of the Church. He is now veiled, and when he “appears” in glory that veil will be dropped and all creation will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord that already fills it. But Jesus is not coming back from some distant place. He is here now. He has already ascended to the power of his kingdom. It’s just a kingdom that operates very differently from any other kingdom we’ve ever encountered.

I also want to point out what Athanasius describes as the fruit of the Cross. (Certainly not the only one as the work of the Cross surpasses our imagination, but the main fruit.) It’s not forgiveness, which it would be if the primary problem was that we had done wrong by violating a law. Nor is it payment for a debt that could not be forgiven (as some put it instead). No, the fruit of the Cross is life. The instrument of death becomes the source of our resurrection and incorruption defeating the power of corruption and death that had before ruled man.

And, as Scripture always says, we will be judged for the works we have done in our body. We are our bodies and the things we do with them matter. Oh, they don’t change God’s attitude toward us. God has made that as clear as it can be made in Jesus of Nazareth. But the things we do in and through our bodies shape who we are as human beings. Are we becoming the sort of people able to experience the fire of God’s love as comfort and warmth? Or are we making ourselves into the sort of people who will experience that love as pain and torment when we can no longer feed the destructive passions we have written into our flesh? Through the grace and power and love of Christ, may it be the former!


On the Incarnation of the Word 55 – Idolatry Diminishing?

Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 55 – Idolatry Diminishing?

I read Athanasius’ summation of much that he has already written and my first reaction on this reading, probably shaped by my earlier reflections on my pluralist formation, is almost one of confusion.

This, then, after what we have so far said, it is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away: and demons, so far from cheating any more by illusions and prophecies and magic arts, if they so much as dare to make the attempt, are put to shame by the sign of the Cross. And to sum the matter up: behold how the Saviour’s doctrine is everywhere increasing, while all idolatry and everything opposed to the faith of Christ is daily dwindling, and losing power, and falling.

It is true, when you study history, that Christianity spread like wildfire through ancient pagan lands, overturning long-standing and oppressive gods and religious practices. By the time Athanasius writes the above, even the Empire is beginning its turn from its pagan gods.

But my life experience has been almost the opposite of the above. I absorbed the experience of one spirituality after another. And while Christianity was a part of the mix, there was often little in it to distinguish it from or elevate it above the rest. Indeed, some of my experiences with Christians were pretty negative and made it less attractive. Even now, Christianity is fading in lands where it was once the default, where the pagan religions had seemed to almost end.

Why?

That’s the question that comes to my mind. For Jesus of Nazareth is no less compelling now than he was when Athanasius wrote those words — at least, not if you really encounter him. And nothing else I’ve lived or experienced really compares with the vision of reality we see in Christ. Not the unending cycle of death and rebirth found at the core of nature worship. Not the karmic cycle on the wheel of samsara trapped in maya. Not the strict path of discipline of the Buddha seeking enlightenment. Not the vision of a reality devoid of deeper or lasting meaning that lies near the heart of many materialistic perspectives. I’ve explored and lived many of those along the course of my journey and I find that when I compare them to the God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth, I agree with Athanasius’ sentiment. And I understand why the ancient pagan world turned so dramatically.

So then why are so many turning back to pagan paths? Why did it take so long for me (and others) to really begin to see this strange Jesus and be drawn to him? What is different in our world today?

That’s a complex question and there are undoubtedly more threads weaving the present tapestry than I can ever fully grasp. Nevertheless, I think part of the problem is that the Church has ceased to even try to be one. And in the morass of Christian pluralism, many of the pictures painted of Jesus and God, many of the ideas, many of the theologies are actually repellent.

It’s harder today to actually see Christ than it was when Athanasius wrote his treatise.


The Saturday Evening Blog Post – December Edition

Posted: December 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Misc | Comments Off on The Saturday Evening Blog Post – December Edition

Today marks Elizabeth Esther’s monthly Saturday Evening Blog Post! It’s a fun collection of self-submitted posts by her readers. This month I submitted my post, A Pluralist Lost In Christian Pluralism, for no special reason. When I tried to think of my favorite post from November, that’s the one that came to mind.

Spend some time looking through submissions over on her blog. There are usually quite a few quality posts each month.