Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life In God

The Nicene confession has enshrined the fact that all things were made through Christ. Consequently, through the Creed - Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, and the Church Councils teach us that the cosmos are the stage upon which the Triune God enacts a great drama of communion by sharing the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with persons who are not God.

At the heart of this divine act of creation, we find God’s desire to make room for created persons in the communion of the uncreated Persons of the Blessed Trinity through an adoptive participation in Christ. In short, God has made a way to share himself with those whom He has created, and thus He has constructed all things to facilitate that end. This truth should help us conclude then that the whole cosmos exist with the stage for communion with God in mind. The cosmos are designed then as a means of entry into this interrelationship God by way of an adoption by one who is part of the Trinity, the Son, and our Lord Jesus Christ. The point being that while we all walk around on the stage we call the cosmos, we never enter into the ongoing play as full participants until we become united to Christ by adoption. In other words, there are the stage hands and the actors, and the actors are those in who are in Christ.

The proclamation of the gospel is the doorway which opens the path that leads to this adoption, and thus to participation in the divine drama. By believing the gospel and thus believing that God not only is, but as the Psalmist says, that He is a rewarder of those who seek (look for) Him, we become not stage hands but true actors and participants in the life of the Trinity which allows us to know God.

It is this participation in the life of God that gospel presentation must expose to those of us in the west who have heard of another kind of salvation. The gospel should expose to us that salvation is a life lived in the drama which we know as the life of the Trinity. It is that life alone which enables us to know God experientially, and that life alone which restores us to the reason we were created.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noetic Mystery

The universal belief of all Christians is that the “one faith” originates with God the Father, becomes available to mankind through Christ the Son, and is apportioned to persons by God the Holy Spirit. However, ask the question, "for what purpose?" or, "what is this faith inteded to produce?" And the answers start to diverge. St. Paul tells the Ephesians:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2: 4-7.

According to St Paul, the purpose for this one faith is to enable us to experience God both in the present through Christ, and in the age to come through Christ. The goal of this faith is nothing less than to produce our participation in the life of God through Christ, and thus a participation in mystery. The church uses the term mystery because we have no words that adequately convey what it means to know and be known by God, this experience is something that can only be poorly described. The term for this kind of knowledge attained by our description is called cataphatic knowledge.

The goal of faith goes beyond catapahtic knowledge to noetic knowledge. Through noetic knowledge the God of mystery made known by the fullness of experience, and by the intimate interaction that can only occur between one person and another person. When this is reality is understood our theological debates take on a completely different tone. Can we debate God with someone who does not know God? Obviously not, however, many Christians have fallen no the trap and they have done so because they believe that they can make a better argument for their points than those who do not know God. Perhaps they can make a better argument, however, the problem is that no amount of knowledge transmitted by a debate can produce intimacy with another person, especially when it comes to the God who is mystery.

The sum and substance of Christianity’s one faith is the personal experiential knowledge of the mysterious God. Why do we believe? We believe because we know God and are known by God. What do we believe? We believe what God has said. All of this shifts the emphasis from the intellect to the noetic knowldge regarding a mystery. Not that the intellect serves no purpose, it does, but its importance is small by comparison.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Faith of Mystery

I began this blog page with the intention of first speaking on the oneness of God. While the subject has by no means been exhausted, I hope that it has been made abundantly clear that the oneness of God is central to the Christian faith, any misstep with regards to that great truth and we plunge headlong into a religion that is something other than Christianity.

Next, I intend to touch upon the “one faith”. The Christian faith is “one whole faith”. Add any parts to it (post-schism west) or leave any parts out (post-protestant west), and we fall into the same trap as those who fail to apprehend the one God, and end up with another religion.

The first point I want to stress is that this one faith is first and foremost a mystery. What I mean by mystery is that it begins and ends in another dimension, one for which our present dimension has no means to explain fully. Nevertheless, we are created by God to experience and know that dimension. Let us call that dimension the heavens; the place where time is marked out by kairos or eternity, and not chronos or temporality. This dimension is also the place where in the spiritual is as apprehendable as the physical, therefore the place wherein the “One God” dwells with clear perceptibility.

That faith requires both knowledge and participation, the sum of which I want to call experience. Nevertheless, the kind of experience can only be called mystical experience (an experience in the mystery of God’s realm). Unfortunately, in the post schism west we have reduced the Christian to the knowledge of dogma and the practice of virtues. Important as these two may be, they are meaningless without an experience of God. Therefore, the one faith to which I refer is a particular gift that Jesus Christ gives to mankind throught the Holy Spirit so that they can experience God in his ohterwise mysterious existence. The one faith must lead to the expereince of God.

In the blogs to follow I will address various aspects of the one faith that leads to an encounter with the God of mystery.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Energetic Participation

In the contemporary western world, salvation is too often presented by Christians to the world as merely the transferring of man from death to life delivered to man by God free of works (ergon) accomplished by the one who is saved by God. Because of this view salvation, is often presented by way of a typical metaphor that speaks of man as a dead man floating on the water, and of Christ as the savior, a rescuer who comes to the floating man, brings him in to the boat, and then once the man is in the boat He resuscitates the him. So far so good, however, the mistake that follows is that they also insist that once the man in the boat and is resuscitated, the rescue is complete.

It is fine to say that the rescue of the man begins by resuscitation; however, it is equally necessary to insist that this rescue is by no means complete. Why? The reason is because there is obviously still a problem with this man that has not been dealt with. We have not dealt with the reason that the man was in the water to begin with, or why he couldn’t swim well enough to stay alive. The fact is that the man is for the moment alive, but those two problems that initially drove the man to death were not fixed by the rescuer merely hauling him into the life boat and resuscitating him.

What then is the root problem? The root problem here is twofold. One, it is a delusion on the part of the man who walked into a deadly situation, and two, it is a misuse of the man’s energies that lead to is death. As you can see, pulling the man into the boat does not heal that problem. The problem that remains is this: how do we keep the man from jumping back into the deadly waters? What kind of therapy does this man need in order to stop his delusion, and instead to turn his energies towards the life and towards loving himself and others. What must the man do in order not to end up dead in the water again?

If the rescuer really desires to save this man it is necessary that the rescue be complete, it is going to take much more work than just pulling him into the boat. This rescuer must continue to treat this man, moment by moment of his life. Additionally; the man must willingly participate in the remaining steps of the rescue because the rescue is not complete until he makes it to the end alive. This means that the work or energy that brings this about (the Greek word ergon), is an essential part of this rescue both by the rescuer and by the one being rescued. Obviously, since the man has a problem it cannot be the man’s ergon alone to finish the rescue, it must be primarily the ergon of the rescuer working together with the man, but the man must participate in that work. The rescuers role is by no means diminished, he is and continues to be the rescuer, however, the man must co-operate in this rescue.

How does the rescuer get the man to want to participate in this salvation? He does so by working with the man destroy his self-destructive tendencies, and by working with the man to build life and love producing tendencies. Thus, the man experiences this rescue by the savior working (ergon) in His life, and also by synergistically (sunergon) taking on the work of the rescuer all the way to the end of his life. Therefore, it may be said that the one saved truly knows the one saving him by the saving work itself, and becomes part of his savior by his in the participation in that savior’s work.

Salvation then is not simply what happens when the man is pulled into the lifeboat, rather it is what happens when the man is so intertwined with the savior’s energies that he is one with the life and love of the savior so that he makes it to the end in the work of the savior.

Consider the following scriptures with the above description in mind:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet 1: 3-5

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Heb 2: 3) Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Pet 2: 2-3) Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phi 2: 12b-13) For we are God's fellow workers (sunergos). You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me… 1 Cor 3: 9-10

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Rom 13: 11b-14