worship through the ages

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A little while back I had the opportunity to write a little bit about worship for a good friend. Taking my bit of background in church history I wrote five narratives, each illustrating how a Christian in different times in history would understand and appreciate and value his worship experience. As part of my new cawing, I now present for your perusal Worship Through the Ages.

Security? For Eternity?

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For whatever reason I finally feel like posting this, something I finished earlier this week. It was for a student project, not for me, but for another student who was gathering together a collection of essays on the topic of Eternal Security, gathering together from a variety of resources, I seeming to be the least officially educated of the lot.

So, here’s my consideration of Eternal Security, whether we are saved for all time or not, as it touches on Colossians 2:13-15. To be honest, prior to this I was leaning against eternal security, as I always regarded the Hebrews verse with some weight, and thought that our moral choices did have an impact, maybe even to a certain point a crucial impact.

The position for the project was to support the idea of Eternal Security, so that I did, and in doing this I think I may have pushed myself to the other side of the fence. Interesting. I enjoy it when that happens. Though, I think a more substantial treatment might pull me back a slight bit, as I think there might be one road out of heaven, but just the one, and that is not unintentionally taken.

Or maybe it just goes to show that I can succesfully argue even myself into a position because that was the assigned position. That old potential lawyer in me coming out again, I guess.

So here it is, my bit of semi-exegesis for the week. And you know what? It’s not about us.

You might also note the new section. It’s just this wee bit now, but it will grow over the next few weeks. I realized I have a lot of writing in a sort of computer limbo, not doing anything worthwhile. So, if I’m not going to send it out to be published, I might as well post it here, in whatever state, on whatever topic it finds itself.

Someday soon I might also get back to that topic of Emerging Church stuff that seemed to so entirely disappear from the dualravens.com radar.

good theology

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From Jürgen Moltmann:

The all-important thing is to seek harmony with God afresh every morning, and to hold on to it a whole life long. It is in this harmony that the truth of a human life is to be found. But people who sanctify their lives in this way come up against the ethics of the society in which they live, for God’s will is more important to them than the demands and exactions of the people who have the power.

Harmony with God means confronting and confuting a world which runs counter to God and itself. For Christians, sanctification means the discipleship of Jesus and an inwards coming alive in God’s Spirit. The Beatitudes and the requirements of the Sermon on the Mount are orientation points for a life in sanctification. These are not arbitrary stipulations. Life in sanctification has to do with a kind of simultaneity with Christ, and this fellowship with Christ has to do with realizing the image of God from our own human side.

Harmony with God is called sanctification. Harmony with ourselves as God’s image and his children is called happiness. In this sense sanctification leads to true self-realization. People who are in harmony with God and themselves are holy and happy. They seek harmony with other people too, as God’s image and children, and harmony with everything living which God has created and in which his Spirit is present. Trust in God, respect for our own lives and the lives of others, as well as reverence for everything living, in which God is present: these are the things which characterize and determine the sanctification of life.

Judgment

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When we think of judgment on the nations we tend to jump right to those other people. We think in terms of everyone else causing the sin that we have to then wrestle with. This is, of course, not outside the Biblical narrative, for sin is pervasive and those trapped in sin persist with chaos.

However, judgment in the Biblical narrative is not just about Egypt and Babylon. The prophets speak of those nations, and others, but they entirely more speak about Israel, the nation called and covenanted. Because it was called by God it had a specially weight in its responsibilities. God paid special attention to Israel, when it was good it was very good, when it was bad, well, there was suffering all around.

With this in mind I note Wolfhart Pannenberg’s thoughts (ST III, p.516):

The history of the church is not just a history of the missionary expansion of the Christian faith. Nor does it just record the way in which a lasting fellowship has been set up that transcends the frontiers and differences of peoples and races and finds political expression as well ain a a comprehensive order of peace. This is how we might have depicted it in the age of the Constantinian transition. Eusebius viewed it thus.

But already in his day the rift of the Arian controversy was taking place that would have momentous consequences for years throught the conversion of important Germanic tribes to the Arian form of the Christian faith, not to that of the orthodox church.

Then in the 5th century came the schisms resulting from the christological controversy. These developments contributed considerably and perhaps decisively to the breaking apart of the Roman Empire and to the collapse of the Western half in the storm of barbarian incursions, but especially in the 7th cnetury to the loss to Islam of Christianity’s original territories in Syria and Palestine, along with those in Egypt and North Africa, with the loss of Spain to follow.

We cannot integrate these events into a concpt of church history in terms of the thought of mission alone. They cut right across this thought.

From the standpoint of a theology of history they come only under the category of judgment. As regards their connection with the dogmatic divisions of the church, and especially with the attempts at purification by force, we might indeed regard them as the expression of a historical judgment of God on his church.

The category of judgment is essential also if we are to understand theologically the history of the church in the medieval West. It applies to the part played by the East-West schism in the loss of Asia Minor, Constantinople, and the Balkans to Islam. The inner decay of Western Christianity as a result of the swollen claims of the papacy, which shattered the concept of a harmony of the spiritual and secular powers in the life of Christendom, and later made the Reformation divisive, can also be evaluated theologically only from the standpoint of God’s judgment on his church.

We are also to see as an expression of God’s judgment in history the alienation of the modern world of Western culture from Christianity inasmuch as its secularism is ultimately derivable from the results of the church’s 16th century divisions and the Wars of Religions that they occasioned in the late 16th and 17th centuries.

The shattering of social peace by the intolerance associated with confessional differences, as more recent historical investigations of the 17th-century history tell us, was the decisive reason for the abandoning of what had hitherto been the prevailing view that the unity of religion is an essential basis of the unity of society. The emancipating of society with its political, economic, and finally its cultural forms of life from all ties to relgion has produced teh secularism of the modern world of Western culture. But the results of the schism in the Western church were the starting point.

With this then may be the tendency to throw the whole of Christianity out, as many are apt to do either in action or in watering down the theology. This isn’t quite the response. For as with Israel, judgment was not an act of abolishment but one of refocusing. When the unified nation could not be a reflection of the Divine to this world, God split the kingdom. When this didn’t work he abolished the kingdom, making the people no longer unified under a king, but rather a nation in the diaspora, spread about all the nations, unified only by their renewed faith.

When looking at the mess of Western society we, after two thousand years of efforts, have only ourselves to blame for that which we so heartily condemn. And in this is also the hope and solution. It is not to recover the power and influence which incited societal rejection and God’s judgment, but to instead restore in each of our lives the qualities of the faith that is affirmed by Christ and empowered by the Spirit to become a domain of holy resonance which encounters each person, not with judgment or control, but with love and transformation.

It is to God we must turn with all our being, and seek the power of the Spirit for the transformation we, apart from the Spirit, only bring to ruin.

Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” (Joel 2:12-14)

In this blessing is the hope of the Nations, which has already been left, but so often entirely forgotten. We are, as a Church, restoring the walls having been reminded by judgment the nature of God, and in this we are like King Josiah, able to take a new stand as a people and take an approach to this world which forsakes our commitments to our own powers and begins anew to rely on the power of the Spirit which formed the Church, and maintains the Church, under the headship of Christ.

May peace truly be with us from now on.

Random, obscure, yet eminently important, theological conclusion

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I’ve wrestled with it for a while, coming first to understanding it, then holding off until I get a good feel for the various arguments.

But, I think today is the day. This is it.

I do not believe in, and will not profess, the filioque clause.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

So there you go. With this I break loose of the bounds the Western Church has created, though I suspect I will still not be accepted in the East. I dance somewhere in the middle now, a heretic on all sides, except in regards to the Triune God, who matters the most in these sorts of concerns.

I guess I could explain why I arrived at this conclusion… but where’s the mystery in that. Suffice it to say that this connects with my understanding of Church in this world and my approaching a stronger understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not limited to Christ. The Spirit is a unique person, a unique and distinct person in the Triunity, and has a mission in this world which is intimately related to Jesus, yet has a style and form and approach that differs from what we see of Christ. Christ and the Spirit work in diverse unity, neither having priority, both sending and being sent by the other.

The filioque clause is a limitation on the work of the Spirit, which then encompasses the work of the Spirit within the context of those who seek to manage the message and work of Christ. As it is Christ who sends the Spirit, so also it is the Spirit who sent Christ, and as it is Christ who founded the Church, so also it is the Spirit who constitutes the Church. The Spirit is both the content and the creator of the Church, not limited to the Church but instead working broadly to bring all creation back towards redemption.

The filioque clause is an obscure discussion, except in certain circles, but I think it has profound influence on how we approach this world, and how we understand our communities in this world. Essentially, this late addition to the Nicene Creed has enabled the power structures of the Church, as supposed representatives of Christ, to maintain power and control over the Spirit, declaring what are the bounds of the Spirit, and who the Spirit works through. These limitations, then, create an anemic picture of the Spirit’s work, a picture painted by particular men, with particular interests, rather than a full reflection of the Spirit’s work throughout the total Body of Christ.

To see the Spirit and Christ as co-senders opens the doors of our participation, demanding a humility even in our doctrinal assertions, and definitely within our domains of authority. We do not control the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who forms us and our message and our power, and only in freeing the Spirit from the bounds of the filioque clause, can the Spirit be free within our communities to express the fullness of Christ.

At least that’s what I think. I know you’re keeping track of such things and will make a note of this movement in your report.

goodbye and all that

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That’s it. I’m leaving.

Well, not really. Or, maybe kind of. At least a little bit, if not totally, and not forever, just for a little while, and maybe not even that long.

I’m going away. Rather, I’m going back.

Some of my friends work for people who send them away for stretches of time in exotic locations. Or if not exotic locations, at least the sort of locations which seem exotic because in order to get there one has to fly over a very, very, very large body of saltwater. I mean London really isn’t considered exotic, especially to Londoners, and likely very few people in this world would consider Eastern Europe to be exotic. Thailand, however, and other places thereabouts has a bit of the exotic about it. Maybe exotic has to do with the weather as much as the culture.

So, I could say my friends go to different places, but that sounds like they have decided to go to Burger King for a croissanwich breakfast instead of to McDonalds for an egg McMuffin. That’s clearly not strong enough of a word, being they have to fly for roughly a dozen hours in order to get to their oftentimes non-exotic, yet entirely different location. I mean, no one in their right mind would wait a dozen hours for a bit of sausage and egg on a soggy croissant, even if it is marginally better than a bisquit. And since, according to my estimation, my various friends are in their right minds, there must be something about going to where they go that while not exactly exotic, has at least an exoticness about it.

All this to say that I’m going away, and while when some of my friends go away the appropriate question is “which continent?”, my going away entails the more mundane question of “which freeways?”. But it’s a going away, or at least a going back, since I’m going to stay for a couple weeks or so where I used to spend virtually all my time for a number of years.

I’m going to Pasadena. And while this may sound intriguing to those who know this city as the place of the Parade and the occasional college football National Championship. I’m going to take a class, I think. I think, because I am… auditing the class. This means if there are paying students, I don’t get to take the class. However, by auditing the class I also can participate, without being required to do those pesky parts of class called assignments. Though, if I can, I think I might have a go at some of the assignments. We’ll see.

It’s a class on the Emerging Church in the 21st Century, which is sort of like Buck Rogers in the 25th century, except for the rocket ships, silver jumpsuits, robots, maniacal dictators and scantily clad space-babes. So, really, there are likely very few things in common. I suspect, though, there will be a nice selection of variously groomed men and women, displaying all manner of exotic, or at least different, approaches to personal public display. That’s something I guess.

According to the course description, “this course meets daily for two weeks. Pre-reading is required. The course utilizes lectures, discussions, interaction, small group work, blogs, wikis, and podcasts.”

Blogs, wikis and podcasts, oh my. Now if this class were in fact a lot more like Buck Rogers than it actually is, these would clearly be the names of three helpful robots. It is not, and these are not. Instead they are ways for people to say stuff online. Their fancy names hide their significantly more mundane reality. A blog is what I think about all sorts of stuff. A wiki is what a group of people think about more official things. A podcast is basically like a blog, but instead of writing about stuff, you say it, record it, and people listen to it online.

Now, all this the case I have a confession to make. I don’t really like computers. I spend a decent amount of time in front of one, for the convenience and for a bit of vocation, but I don’t like them. I have another confession to make. When it comes to church I am a back to basics sort of guy. My thinking is that the problem with church these days isn’t that we don’t know what it is the young people are wanting out of a religious experience, it’s that we spend a lot more time on peripherals, and hardly any time on the essentials. I’m a full believer that a church should be, maybe primarily, a place where people pray. I think knowing Scripture is the key to a Christian view, and I think people go to church in order to meet Christ, not to see how trendy the new wave of Christ followers might be.

Now, as you can tell I’m going away, and I’m going away to be enthusiastic and meet people, and share thoughts, and listen to those who really know what they are talking about. But, there are vestiges of grumpiness in things related to Church for me. I need to be thankful, and delightful, not critical and doubtful. This isn’t a going away for me to prove myself, or establish myself, or reveal myself. It is not “my time has come” or “look what I can do everyone”. Indeed, I have no expectations. I go because it feels right for me to go, and listen and hear.

Part of this class is keeping a blog apparently, which is what this is, so that won’t be something new.

However, if I can’t post here, or don’t post anywhere, or no posts are seen at all, it’s because I’m going down the mountain to Pasadena, and am not bringing my computer with me.

It took me a very long time to get to saying that last sentence.

If I do post it will be from a library, or borrowed computer, and will most likely have to do with churchy things.

For those who keep track of things, this means there will not be a picture of a junco, or a chickadee, or a coyote, or a tree, or a jay, or a sunset, or a chipmunk for a couple of weeks. But, after this class is done Present Manners will resume its normal schedule.

So there you go.

theology and cars

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For whatever reason I’ve been basking in assorted versions of theology these days. Maybe it was because of my recent, and temporary, assertion of Protestant rights over at Mere Comments, which is really the home of assorted theologies gathering and uniting together in opposition against Evangelicalism. Most of the time it was a nice conversation, but then there were a few folks who felt it necessary to renew the Reformation debates and declare me and mine apostate for not being part of the True Church (the True Church being either the Catholic or the Orthodox depending on the debater of the moment, this wasn’t settled so I don’t know which it is). Curiously, in both contexts the person was a former Evangelical who found Truth in the Mother Church (which is either the Catholic or the Orthodox church depending on the debater of the moment).

Part of my doing this was to get at the heart of the conversation with people who really believe what they are arguing for. I have little interest in apologetics as commonly developed, partly because I don’t trust commentators who form the argument on both sides. Playing chess against oneself is a tricky business and rarely comes off with success.

That all being the case I woke up this morning (in the living room, on the couch) thinking about the complexities of the various historic churches and how their theology affects their ecclesiology. In other words, cars and churches seem to have a lot in common.

The Baptists own a chevy pickup. It’s not the full size version, and really can’t tow that much, but it’s practical, useful, can be beat up, and driven into the ground. You are popular with a pickup because you can move couches, and refrigerators, and haul sand. The baptists use their pickup and help out where they can. But it’s not a good looking vehicle, and doesn’t drive fast, and the handling isn’t very good, and it has a terrible turning radius. Plus, a pickup isn’t an expensive car, and so anyone can own one and start driving. They come in automatic and stick shift, with various other options making the pickup as complex or as bare bones as desired. Some even fill the back with a really good sound system and have the best music around. Some don’t have any stereo at all, cuz listening to music is for pansies.

The Catholics own a limousine. It is a long car, a very eminent car. It is a rich car, with a very, very well apportioned interior and tinted windows. There’s a mini bar, a dvd/tv, a very nice, if not very loud, stereo, and some of the bigger ones have a jacuzzi in the back. Nothing beats a limo for either celebrating a momentous occasion or for mourning a sad moment. Limos are just as appropriate at a prom as they are at a funeral, and that’s saying something. However, you can’t drive a limo. Your friends can’t drive a limo. No one you know is allowed behind the wheel. Limousines use chauffeurs. These are men wearing black suits, hats and gloves who take you right where you need to go, and worry about all the details of driving so you don’t have to. You are a passenger along for the ride, and it is a good ride indeed. The Chauffeurs fill up the tank, know the maps, fix the engine, and keep the chrome shiny. Limousines aren’t generally fast, and they’re very unmaneuverable but when they go, they go in style and comfort and luxury. Not as good for daily concerns but at those treasured times in life they can’t be beat.

The Presbyterians own a Mercedes SUV. They are stylish and popular, well apportioned and really safe. It’s a masterwork of fine engineering, and all your respectable friends own one or want one. It’s a wonderful car, if not particularly interesting to look at. It’s nice to own, nice to drive, safe in an accident, all without standing out.

The Eastern Orthodox own a 1961 Ferrari 250GT. It is a beautiful car, an amazing car, fast, stylish, and it makes your mouth water. It is a dream car really, and those who own it have what almost certainly is the best car in the neighborhood for all around dreaminess. It’s so nice, they keep it in a garage, and know exactly what the mileage is, and hardly ever drive it, let alone use it for day to day commuting. It’s a race car that never races, because it is so nice, it’s too precious for actual use, and thus no one really knows how amazing it would be if it were only allowed the freedom to really test its limits. Instead, it’s kept under lock and key, and those with the keys are very, very protective, saying some people have driven it and it’s even better than we can imagine, but we’re not allowed to talk to them.

The Methodists drive a Model T. It was originally made as the “everyman’s” car, and helped make car sales take off in this country. It could be adapted to all sorts of situations and built this country in a way. But, times have changed, and now the only running Model Ts are owned by old collectors who take great pains to keep their old car running and looking sharp for the occasional car show. They were great cars, life changing to countless folks, but there are not too many on the road today, and the ones still running likely won’t be around for too much longer.

Pentecostals drive a 1973 Volkswagen Van. It’s a great car, lots of fun, able to fit a lot of people who can have all sorts of wild adventures. You can paint it as wacky as you want, and take it to work, or camping, or out for a great road trip. It’s affordable, and has a reputation for being especially loved by hippies past and present. It’s a great vehicle, that is, unless you look at the engine. The great thing is anyone can work on a Volkswagen engine, and it’s a wonderful exercise to learn automotive skills, but it’s not really dependable now, and there’s just not that much to them. Own a Volkswagen Van and expect to get your hands dirty. But that paint job, it’s groovy.

Non-Denominational Churches drive a mini-van. There’s no flash, nothing really stylish, and anything good inside is really a feature nicer cars had five years ago. But, they hold a lot of people, are quite dependable for getting to the soccer game, and to work, and to the supermarket. They hold all the kids, and their friends, and their sports equipment, and the dog. They are affordable, and so if you don’t mind how bland they are, they are quite a good thing to settle on for their wonderful practicality. Lots of people make fun of mini-vans, but when they have two kids of their own, and a mortgage to pay each month, they generally will go out and buy a mini-van, even if they secretly wish to have a convertible Mustang. They learn to hide their disappointment by railing against the young bucks in the Emerging Church and their fancy red sports cars that go way too fast and are often the causes of accidents.

Quakers drive a Toyota Prius. It’s kinda boxy, and doesn’t look that interesting but despite all of that it’s also very trendy, because it reflects the kind of sensibilities we should all have in this era. It’s good for the environment, and it says, “I care.” Lots of other cars are influenced by the technology, so while Prius ownership itself will never be huge, they will have a great deal of respect and the key features will be copied by other manufacturers. You have to pay a little more for its features, but despite that it’s not really an exclusive car, just a car that reflects certain priorities and values. It also has carpool privileges in several states.

–This is all I can think of now. Feel free to add your own suggestions.

what’s your theological worldview?

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You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God’s grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

86%

Neo orthodox

75%

Emergent/Postmodern

68%

Classical Liberal

54%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

54%

Reformed Evangelical

46%

Roman Catholic

39%

Fundamentalist

36%

Modern Liberal

14%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

This seems about right. However, I’m not sure how they would categorize Emerging, nor do I know exactly what they mean by neo-Orthodox. If this relates to the mid-20th century movement which included such folks as the various Niebuhrs, then I would protest, as I have little in common. Maybe my answer that Barth is theologically important was taken as saying I’m in perfect agreement.

My impression is that Emerging is not necessarily a theological as much as a liturgical approach, with the specific theological questions bringing different answers if you could get such folks to answer these kinds of questions.

For instance, on more than a few I would qualify my answer if given the chance. I also think they may over-emphasize the Holiness aspect of Wesleyan theology while de-emphasizing the reality that Wesley was a significant social reformer. Thus agreement with social action isn’t necessarily a sign one goes right into the “liberal” category, even if it would tend to push one out of the Fundamentalist category.

Ah well, we can’t expect too much from such a wee quiz. We are given our box, and that’s about it.

Very Interesting

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Ben Witherington has a blog. Even better he has comments and he replies to the comments, something I really respect and appreciate.

Wright about Paul

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We may be in the early stages of the most significant internal change in Christianity since the 16th century–an exciting prospect. But Dr. Wright suggests that the key question for interpreters of Paul in the 21st century “may well turn out to be a matter not so much of comprehension,” as an onlooker following the intricate debates over justification might suppose, “but of courage”–the courage to live as a follower of Jesus.

So John Wilson ends his recent article in the Wall Street Journal. He primarily focuses on the work of NT Wright, but speaks about a much broader activity in the life of the Church, seemingly pitted between those who are pressing forward and those who think things are just fine the way they are.

Oddly enough, much of the broader conversation is about practices and forms. What is clear is this is really a battle over theology. Everything we do is a theological statement, the only question is whether it’s good theology. Personally, I think it grand.

There’s just no reason we in the 3rd millenium should be dependent on thinkers from the mid-2nd millenium to interpret for us the beginning of the 1st millenium. The church has been emerging towards perfection since the day of Pentecost, and it has not stopped doing such even if many a theologian or pastor would wish otherwise.

The wind blows where it will.