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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pursuant to the last post, you can read Ignatius' seven epistles by clicking on the links in sequence here. I suppose you could save yourself time by reading Bryan's selected quotations, but I'd rather read him for myself, so I did. Boy, if the Church fell into error with the establishment of the hierarchy, it happened quick. This cat died in 107. He knew John the Apostle, heard him teach. What we Protestants must explain (and our individual variations must also) is, "What is the criteria for judging truth and error?" We have to begin to see that our theological differences as Protestants are actually judgments of the Church's supposed error from distinctly different angles and emphases, (free will, sacraments, government, et al) so our actual unity consists of only one thing: anti-Catholicism, or at best, non-Catholicism. What I'm bothered by is that we presume our own ecclesiological legitimacy, wherever we are, and then, we each make arbitrary decisions about which Protestant tribes are closest to us. Talk to a different person, get a different set of "acceptable" associations. The point is this: We can't all be right. But that's the funny thing: aren't we using the same source of final authority, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments? What's the problem? You can go two routes to explain all this away--and I'm going to sum up roughly--1. Ignore the problem, reasoning that "just loving Jesus" is enough (though who is doing that and not doctrinally is itself arbitrary) and that God doesn't care; or 2) insist ever more strongly that you/your tradition is correct, rejecting all others, and embracing a naive positivism ("I'm right, and if you'd just read the Bible plainly, you'd see it, too.") I'm not willing to become Catholic on the strength of the conundrum itself; however, we have some explaining (and some uniting) to do.
(BTW, "just loving Jesus" is enough, in a certain sense, and that should be what is driving us to unity: recognizing Christ in others.)
5 Thoughts When Reading the 7 Letters of St. Ignatius

5. He certainly throws in "blood" at interesting times.

4. Is this guy nuts? The man talks as if he wants to die, as if he'll be let down if he lives.

3. It takes some brass to ask your brothers and sisters to pray that you die for Christ.

2. Ignatius sure sounds Catholic to me.

1. Why don't they call him "St. Bishop"? :) I feel like asking the Bishop for permission to write this post. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1 Cor 11, and Its Obvious Implications, Often Overlooked
I noticed the last time I celebrated the Lord's Supper that, in my best estimation, we had entirely missed the point. That is, if I had taken the pastor's words as representative of all of us, his words as a summary of what we were confessing by taking and eating, then (respectfully) we were quite far afield of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. And that was quite alarming, given that he attempted to quote the text.
[As an aside, I am sidestepping the Catholic critiques of the Protestant eucharist for the moment, despite whatever sympathies I may have toward that view.]
Leaving aside the fact that, at the very least, the text here should be read or memorized and spoken liturgically at some point, apart from any interpretive comments, I was bothered first by this: "Each time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember the Lord's death until He comes." Following this was a fairly lengthy pronouncement that our faith in Christ has rendered us soteriologically bulletproof; that is, we are eternally secure, and this is what we are commemorating. Had I not covenanted beforehand with God that I would take this in faith to receive whatever He had for me, (and had the elements in my hand before this craziness was spoken) I would have refused it. It doesn't matter where I was; you don't need to know. It doesn't matter who spoke the words, either. I'd have asked him about it before I told you. The point is, the relevant word in v. 26 there is 'kataggellete' in the Greek, 2nd person plural, meaning 'you proclaim' or 'you are proclaiming.' In other words, in the very act of celebrating, we are preaching the gospel! It's not about our individual salvations, though that's nothing to sneeze at. We are assembled to look back at Christ's death for us, but also forward. Why do I say that? It's right in verse 26 at the end, "until He comes." Therefore, aside from preaching the cross to ourselves and whomever else, it's a meal suffused with eschatological hope. Add in the seemingly crazy words from John 6:51-60, and it's about receiving grace(s) from Christ (and Christ Himself, in some sense) to make it to the end. Not that we have already received it, as Scripture says, but we press on, fed by Christ! Where was that?
I can say for a certainty that Paul did not care about Reformed atonement theology (or anyone else's, for that matter) when he wrote 1 Corinthians 11. And I'm sure that thinking about whatever assurance or confidence we receive from the death of Christ while taking the bread and the cup would really make him mad. He'd want us thinking about Christ, not the finer points of systematics at such a crucial time.
Have you ever wondered why Paul puts these words of institution right there in 1 Corinthians? And in that chapter, why does he think reminding them of this will address their sins against each other? The only thing I can figure is that Christ is actually there when you eat and drink. You wouldn't or shouldn't do wickedness right in front of Christ. [You do it all the time.--ed.] I know. I should remember, God sees everything. But the point is, sin can't abide here, because Christ is here, offering His gift of ultimate Love. (Again, here today, but once for all...hold on, I'm perplexed!) I'm just wondering why we spend time explaining why other Christians are celebrating wrongly, and exalting our theology, when we should be simply receiving Him and letting Him preach to those who've yet to receive Him. [That still sounds oddly Catholic.--ed.] Well, sue me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prompted by, I don't know, warm reflection, I thought of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. I remember thinking that it actually did sanctify me; I was glad to have watched it with a good chunk of my fellow church members. I'm sure reasonable criticisms could be made of it along many lines, but I don't blame my fellow committed Christians for praising it as they did, and being open to how God might teach them through it. I remember having several interesting thoughts at the time which I may have spoken, but never wrote down. Sounds like good material for a list o' five! And so:

5 Thoughts I Had While Watching The Passion of the Christ

5. "If this is Catholicism, sign me up." [Deeply ironic, now, perhaps.]

4. "These cut scenes to the Lord's teaching are the only thing saving me from weeping in this movie theater."

3. "I was relieved when He finally got to the cross, and I'm not sure that's how I should feel."

2. "My favorite scene is/was watching Mary watch her Son as He carried his cross. I'm not Catholic, but that's worth thinking about."

1. "I'm looking for the antisemitism, and I just don't see it."

I've only seen it that one time when it premiered. We walked out in dead silence. It could have been a Good Friday service. You might say that there wasn't enough hope in His resurrection, and that's fair, except that the movie deliberately focused on His sufferings. Maybe it's time again, or maybe I'll wait until Good Friday.

Monday, October 12, 2009

5 Signs You Are Not A Calvinist

5. If you use the word, "choice," ever, at any time.

4. If you have seen Minority Report, and thought it was a good summary of the conundrum of free will vs. sovereignty. That is, that there is a conundrum.

3. If you have ever used the word, "mystery," ever, at any time. [Note however, that a Calvinist will use the word when confronted with the philosophical determinism of Calvinism, thusly: "It's a mystery!"]

2. If you have ever complimented John Wesley on anything ever, without qualification. [Calvinist example: "That's a great hymn by John Wesley...too bad he was an Arminian."]

1. If your reaction to Calvin's 500th birthday did not border on the veneration of a saint.