Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This Persuasion

I have often said, perhaps here, that there are two kinds of Christians. KIND ONE: They are the ones who believe that Christ died to save the Church (capitalized on purpose) and the individual, in his beliefs and his life of salvation is the collateral effect of that Church. KIND TWO: This other group believes that Christ died to save the individual and the collateral effect of a gathering group of so saved individuals is a church.
That is a simplification, of course, and some might wonder if it goes any deeper. I consider that KIND ONE is a deep and abiding folly and that the distinction between it and KIND TWO is the same as between the Old Covenant and the New. While there are many ways for the saints to attempt to put new wine into old skins, let us look at five broad areas which are somewhat obvious. KIND ONE is a Christianity of the external, hoping to seep in to the soul, and KIND TWO is that of the internal, unavoidably infecting its world.
Allowing the good to go first, five categories of the internal Christian life are:
LIFE, LIGHT, LOVE, JOY, and FELLOWSHIP.
Those matching in the external life are:
CULTURE, CREED, LAW, ENTERTAINMENT, and FACTION.
Do you realize, as you look at those lists, that everything you have ever complained about in the Church, at least in other churches, is of KIND ONE? Let us compare , shall we?

LIFE is who the person has been made by their earthly and heavenly nature which spontaneously and compulsively effects their culture. CULTURE is the establishment of a broad, designed end which by the force first of dictate and then, with time, tradition, hopes to seep into the nature of the individual.

LIGHT is a knowledge whose illumination functions where it was dark, your own soul. You know to what you hold fast because that was the switch you flipped that convicted you, showed you repentance and found, by its light, forgiveness. It makes all things visible to you. CREED wonders how the church will remember what is true if we don't codify it, memorize it, and chant it back to our keepers.

LOVE is generous. LAW is the tithe.

JOY cannot forget that "I am healed!". ENTERTAINMENT, acknowledges that Christians are supposed to be happy and says, "Watch this and cheer up, dammit!"

FELLOWSHIP is finding contentment with the church. FACTION is insisting on a movement.

In order to become "members of one another", KIND ONE has you sign up with them and they train you to at least wonder, if not overtly check, the membership club card of others as they enter your ecclesia. Look back over the qualities of the external "visble" church. Is it not the religion of all earthly religions? It doesn't matter that it speaks wonderfully true things about the Triune God and the work of Christ. It as if they said "We want a religion just like the nations round about but we want it to be true and bigger and better." KIND TWO considers that if you "are" Christ's you probably value what you have in Him. You recognize those that have it too.

Certainly both kinds of Christian can be deceived in false brethren. At least to fool KIND TWO Christianity, fraudulent brothers must work very hard to fake the LIFE LIGHT LOVE JOY. I know real believers who struggle with these elements of the Faith. Usually you have already lowered the bar in your own lives regarding what those mean until even a Mormon could qualify by being like the "nice, good citizen" to which you have slipped. Go back and look at how those gifts of God are expressed in the truly changed believer. Now, how hard do you think it is to fake CULTURE, CREED, LAW, and ENTERTAINMENT?

Maybe Colossians 2:16-23 will read more clearly with this distinction made.
"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh."

Or Galatians 3:1-5

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain? -- if it really is in vain. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? "

Or if God might be more direct, Hebrews 8:6-13

"But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.
For he finds fault with them when he says:

"The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away."

The Oracle, stolen from St. Paul in Galatians 5:7-9,

"You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump."

7 comments:

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Evan two questions:

If we stick merely to the beginning, wouldn't Lewis be more of a type one Christian than a type two? Moreover, aside from his sacramentology (seen in The Weight of Glory and Letters to Malcom), he says not to worry about such things as joy, or even anxiety.

Second, isn't it the Church, not the believer which is the body of Christ? Isn't it the Church which is married to Christ in Revelation? Isn't it Christ and the Church not Christ and the individual St. Paul is talking about in Ephesians?

I am not saying that we should not have internals, but isn't the whole picture more nuanced than you let on?

For instance, should we believe a creed? This could be understood in two ways. First, should we trust in the creed. No, and no one says we should. Second, should we use the creed as a sort of fence, "If you say Jim Wilson is that man married to Barbara Bush, is skinny athletic and young, and unloving (for as Williams points out in Descent of the Dove this is the whole point of the controversy with Arius), you probably don't know him. If you know him, you will believe this (at least) about him." Perhaps it is wrong to have a creed even in the second way, but your arguments are against the first. And a Catholic or Lutheran or Calvinist or Orthodox Christian would make the exact same arguments.

Isn't the real contrast between those who believe Christ is still here in the matter and those who believe Christ has left, and now matter though good, is not and cannot be specifically Christian? Orthodox don't believe in Entertainment. Catholics don't believe in factions. Lutherans don't believe in the Law. Calvinists don't trust in the creed.

The Oracle said...

First, I agree with you about Lewis. He is a very smart Christian but not very Biblical. He does recognize the religiously wistful temple observance as seemingly more "true" and more "holy" compared to Christianity's simplicity. He just doesn't see that it is a difference in kind not amount.

In your reference to the church in Scripture, I, of course, agree that it is a Biblical label for a real thing but I ask you in response, where is the "life" located in the church? Is it not we, the believers, who are living stones build into a temple for the Holy Spirit? Do the Scriptures teach that a "life" has been given to the church which it then passes on or has life been given to the Christians who pass it on. Go back an read the Hebrews quote and tell me what is the wonderful distinctive of the New Covenant. The church and all the external things ought to occur but at the end of faith not the beginning.
Regarding the creed, I know that the Catholic, etc. would say they don't and ought not rely on the creed's efficacy but they are self deceived. Each of these groups slather on the study and use of all things creedal and must be almost adolescent minds if they think the pew sitter doesn't place his hopes in the Rosary or the Our Father. These church traditions all think, of course that they are the balanced place but others can see that they have taken on "a little leaven". I am not saying that these trust in the creed to save them. They trust in the creed to be their Christian mind. They mock the "just-me-and-my-Bible" types and announce that all the heavy lifting for the church has been done. Just memorize this catechism if you please. It will give you the thoughts we expect you to have. A child memorizing is not a soul seeking. They hope that the mind of the church will seep in. God "rewards those who seek him" not those who take in "line on line, precept on precept that they may fall back, be snared and captured."
And no, the real contrast is not in whether Christ is in matter or no. That is just sacramental excuse making. As the priest told me down at St. Mary's, "It is right that we should adore the Host. It really is the body of Christ." Rank apostacy.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

That is perhaps better, but I still don't think you are accurately represening your enemies. I would enjoy debating it, but if it would annoy you I won't bother. If you want to continue a debate, just speak the word. If not, I will remain silent.

The Oracle said...

I am sure that my broad strokes don't do justice to the individuals holding the wide variety that exists on these questions. Still, I hope they accurately measure the broad question.
Debating is less desirable than chatting on topic. I am always more comfortable sitting and talking with the Word than typing. Stop by sometime.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And I more comfortable when I can stop and think and look up references. But I'll come by. I'm not sure when. Saturday I have to be in Lewiston, I am not sure after that.

jon said...

There's at least one other KIND (and probably more): Those who believe Christ died to save the world and bring in his kingdom, that the church is the sign of the kingdom to the world, that the church is the anticipation of the new eschatological humanity - the final human destiny in the
kingdom of God, etc.

jon said...

Proponents of KIND THREE would see the church as important, but not as an end in itself; rather, they would see it (among other things) as God's mission to the world. Christ didn't die to save the church, but the world. KIND THREE would likewise differentiate the church and the kingdom, arguing that the church is a type and shadow of the kingdom. But God's mission to the world - the church - is all about bringing salvation to individuals, so I'm not convinced this is as either/or as you make it out to be. Why can't it be both/and?