Friday, January 18, 2008

Who Are You?

Definitions, as I have pointed out before, are different than Circumstances. For the sinner, it is of some moment and relief that Christianity changes the definition of a man rather than his circumstance. The rest of the world's religions (and much of Christendom) stress the religious circumstances of the life they recommend. The New Covenant has made a man's nature different. He is redefined. Whatever his circumstance, Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, his definition has shifted and he is now filled with the Holy Spirit. This is necessary to even call yourself a Christian for "you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." Romans 8:9

Many churches give a list of circumstances (from wet the baby to walk the aisle) perhaps because the circumstances of a Christian's life do change. You can't change the definition of something without it changing the world the new being inhabits. This will be so much that, as St. James says "I, by my works, will show you my faith." He didn't say "I will create my faith."

The worldly mind takes this continuum between who you are and what you do and switches where the definition resides. "I'll make a faith," says he, " from my ritual to moral to cultural deeds and it will be the biggest, grandest Christian faith you ever did see." He thinks that the definition is made by the circumstances not vice versa. He looks at the change described by the apostles and falls into the same slavery that he came out of.

If a man is defined as a featherless biped and believes wholeheartedly that that circumstance is what makes him a man, two errors are eventual. One, a plucked chicken is a man and, two, if he loses a leg, he lost his humanity.
Applied, we see that someone who insists that a Christian will be defined by x-ritual observance and by x-cultural condition, the church will soon (and has been) cumbered with those who meet the external definition who have not Christ and some who have Christ will be left wondering, should they lose access to x-ritual, if they are Christians.

The Christ says, "You must be born again."
Let Christ make a new man of you.
"whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith." I Timothy 1:5


Matthew N. Petersen said...

I'm confused: Isn't being born again a circumstance?

And second, where does that faith come from? Is faith the one thing we must do?

What must we do to become men? The harder we try to become men the sillier we are being--the harder we try to believe we are men, the sillier we are being. We must be born, we must eat. We must live around other people, and talk with them. (Otherwise we become ferral.)

Similarly, it would seem, we cannot do anything to become Christ, we cannot even believe to be Christ. We must be born, and we must eat. And there can be no argument that food cannot be physical--Colossians and Galatians are completely aside the point, because they say whatever food we have it must be Christ, which only proves it is not physical if we assume Christ is not physical.

Moreover, Hebrews says we must be sprinkled with the blood that speaks better things than the blood of bulls and goats. The Blood that speaks better things than bulls and goats is not aphysical blood, but the physical human blood of God. As the Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of bulls and goats, so we must be sprinkled with the blood of Christ (and by the way, this is again a circumstance).

Now the Blood of Christ is physical, and we are physical. So far as I can see, if physical me is sprinkled with the physical blood of Christ, I am sprinkled physically.

Unless of course you want to claim the blood that sprinkles is not the blood of Christ shed on the Cross, or we are not saved by the blood of Christ.

Matthew N. Petersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew N. Petersen said...

And of course there is the opposite problem to the one you mention at the end of your post, that if we make Christianity something entirely from inside us--or from outside us in invisible untouchable ways--people will be troubled by whether they are saved. "I think I trust Christ, but I keep on... But no one who has been born of Christ keeps on sinning. Therefore I am not born of Christ."

If you make the mark of salvation something entirely inward, then you tell people "look to your good works to see if you are saved." Adn anyone with an ounce of humility looks to their own good works and says "not nearly good enough."

No rather, the Christian answer is "Stop worrying if you are well, and go to that man who makes you well. (Please note that being lowered through a house roof, or having physical mud placed on your eyes, or washing seven times in the Jordan are all physical circumstances.) You do not look clean? Trust Him. This food is Him, this bath is his promise to you. Stop looking to your own righteousness to see if you are saved, look to Him alone. Look to this Bread--it will make you whole, for it is He. Look to this bath--it will make you whole, for in it you die with Christ."

If someone does this they are looking to Christ, and it is simply lying to pretend it is not.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Or I suppose you could phrase my criticism like this:

Of course something that merely happens outside me cannot save me. If I am blindfolded, and someone opens a Bible before me, I gain nothing. If I am deaf and someone preaches the gospel to me, I gain nothing. And similarly, if I am blind, and someone opens a math text before me, I learn nothing.

But the problem is that things that happen outside us are not merely outside us. If a girl takes my hand, her physical external act affects me, and changes who I am. And at times physical external actions can have a profound effect on our very person, changing us significantly, internally. A first kiss would change me from a man who has never been kissed, to a man who has kissed X. As long as I live, I would be a man who kissed X, and that experience, rather that person, would stick with me the rest of my life. And I think we both agree that the rod of discipline when applied to the external of a child's ass at proper times, can have profound changes on the person who happens to have the circumstance of corporal punishment. I think I could even argue that the fact that external actions are not merely external is the basis for sin and charity. We can actually hurt someone because our external action hurts them internally, and we can actually help someone, because our external act can actually help them, internally.

So the real question is not whether external, physical, circumstances can change me (they manifestly can), but whether they can change me that much.

Your whole point turns on the question of whether external circumstances like baptism and the Lord's Supper can have a fundamental effect on us. You the critical point is merely glossed over--or not even glossed over, but merely assumed. You assume without argumentation that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are circumstances that cannot have a fundamental effect on us, and from that proceed to prove that they are not God's means to fundamentally affect us.

I suppose that point depends on your reading of Hebrews, Colossians, and Galatians. But a reading of those passages that excludes Sacraments is dishonest both to the passage, and to your opponent's position. It is dishonest to the passage because the passage contrasts fleshly with Christ, which is only an argument against the Sacraments if you 1) assume Christ is not physical, or 2) assume the Sacrament is not Christ. But the first is obviously non-Christian, while the second is assumes a dishonest representation of your opponent's position.

Moreover, to argue that the fleshly/Spiritual (or flesh/promise or flesh/faith) dichotomy is actually a physical/not-physical dichotomy is distinctly un-Christian for two reasons. First, God Himself is physical, and the Physical man Jesus Christ is is Spiritual. Thus we see clearly that physical and Spiritual are united in one Man, Jesus Christ, and thus are not at all opposed. Second, Galatians says that Ishmael was the son of Abraham according to the flesh, but Isaac according to the Spirit. But if Isaac is not physically Abraham's son, the promise to Abraham is void. And therefore again, fleshly is not a synonym for physical but for Old Covenant.

Finally, Hebrews contrasts the blood of bulls and goats with the blood of Christ. But the blood of Christ is physical blood. If we disparage the physical, we are disparaging the blood of God, and if the blood of God is disparaged, neither the heavenly sanctuary, nor you and I are cleansed, and we remain in our sins. Rather, it is by having the physical blood of Christ on us, blood which is shed for you and for many that sins may be forgiven, that we are saved.