Sunday, April 22, 2012

The threat of biblicism...

"The reason why a strict and narrowly understood biblicism is intrinsically impossible is that it does not take account of this situation, that is to say, of the essential historicity of proclamation and theology.  Such biblicism supposes that the only suitable method of proclamation and theology would be 'simply to hold fast to the language of the Bible.'  I do not wish to deny that such a requirement attempts to give expression, in an unreflective way, to a desire which must altogether be affirmed.  If, however, we are seeking clarity in our method, our efforts are threatened by biblicism as a principle because it limits itself essentially to the language of the Bible and fundamentally ignores the historicity of proclamation and theology.  Biblicism in this sense poses the most serious kind of threat..." (Gerhard Ebeling, "The Problem of Historicity")

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

the frailty of the body...

Is anyone else like me, a bit put off (and embarrassed to admit it) by all the trendy theological talk of 'incarnating' ministry and 'lived' theology and the 'earthiness' of the Christian life?  I mean, I know that Christ was fully human, and that we ought to value our humanity as something good, created by God... and I get that the result of being a follower of Christ who thinks this way ought to be that we reach out in love to other human beings, in the midst of their humanity.  This is all a wonderful expression of our faith.

But, I gotta say, there's also a big part of me that still thinks there's something really valuable in the view that this world is not our home, and there awaits something much better after this life is over.  I mean, maybe it's just an immaturity on my part, but the idea of not having to live in this frail body, with all of its limitations, is extremely appealing.  Perhaps if I had a really "successful" life, and was an amazing physical specimen, I'd feel differently.  But, I suspect that there are very few people who are really content with this human life, if the truth be told.

I mean, imagine what it would be like to never have to deal with the physical and mental limitations we have to put up with in this life.  Imagine, no allergies of any kind!  hehe... a silly example, I suppose, but it's just to make the point that I think most of us get used to living lives that are far less than what we really want, but we convince ourselves that our lives 'aren't that bad', because the alternative is being depressed about it.  Of course, in comparison to many people, my life isn't that bad, and I know the scriptures say we should rejoice in all things.  Still, life could be a LOT better.  Doesn't everyone think that, deep down?

I guess my little rant here is just to say, in the midst of sharing life, and being loving to others, and learning to bring hope and healing to the world, I hope Christians aren't forgetting that the primary revelation of Christianity is still precisely that there is a new life, a life beyond death, and a new world, that we believe somehow exists.  And, earthiness and language of incarnation aside, I am really hoping for that.  Because if all we have to look forward to is a world similar to this one, just a little better due to human endeavors, that doesn't seem very appealing to me.  I wonder how to find balance between living for Christ in this life and looking forward to the afterlife.

Maybe you disagree?  Perhaps I'm just not seeing things the way I should?  Curious to hear the thoughts of others.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Culmination of a Scandal...

Easter is the day when Christians celebrate the decisive point of God's victorious action for the created world: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is the central event of our faith, and the 'firstfruits', as Scripture explains, of what is to come, on the day when all creation will be reconciled to God.  How this happens, we don't really know, but, after all, we don't really understand how the resurrection happens either.  We simply trust that the resurrection of the dead is a reality, and that it finds its archetypal expression in Jesus' resurrection.

But Easter is also the culmination of a scandal - the scandal of Christ's passion, wherein he was betrayed, abandoned, tortured, and finally killed... all because human beings couldn't understand what God was, and is, trying to do.  And, it seems that things really aren't that different today.  Often, most people -- including we who call ourselves Christians -- really don't understand just what God is trying to do.  We develop all sorts of systems and patterns by which we attempt to figure things out, but at the end of the day, we are still left with a lot of uncertainty as to how the plan will actually unfold, and even as to what the plan actually is.

This is one reason why I love Easter: it reminds me that I don't have to know all the specifics of God's plan, or how it works.  What God asks of me is to place my faith in the hope of the resurrection.  It's a bizarre thing, to be sure, a belief that all death will be overcome through the victory over death of a Jewish man who lived 2,000 years ago, but it is also a source of immense transformative power.  For, after all, in a basic sense, that is the plan -- to see all of creation transformed from that which is slowly dying, and becoming chaotic, empty, and nothing, into that which is alive, restored, full of all that is true and good.

And this, I believe, is the answer to the question: 'What is God doing?'  God is, somehow, transforming reality from death to life -- even though death is unavoidable.  The hope of such transformation may seem wishful folly, but I am continuing to hope in it nonetheless, in part because it reminds me that I also have a part to play in the process of transformation.  I can bring the resurrection into people's lives each day.  I can treat other human beings (indeed, all of creation) as worthy of restoration and life, and I can impart hope, even if only in small ways, to the world.

It is not easy, and it is not always easy to believe that any transformation is taking place.  But on Easter, I am reminded of the hope that I profess, a hope that says new life is possible, and that it is available to everyone, and I can provide a taste of that life when I live as Jesus lived.  My prayer for this Easter, and every day of my life, is that I will be, by God's grace, able to share a glimpse of resurrection with everyone I meet.  Amen.