Thursday, August 15, 2002

Christians, Christianity

Our God is the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come most definitely revealed by the at once crucified and risen One, Jesus Christ.

Christians and Christianity make highly specific claims, which include assertions about God, creation, Jesus and the Christ and about the Church as the Body of Christ. Furthermore, Christianity affirms God’s definitive self-revelation in the ongoing events of human history as One Who is hidden yet apparent, in, with and under these events. So if a worldview or interpretation of life isn’t consonant with these claims, it’s not “Christian.” And this doesn’t mean it’s mistaken or incorrect – it may be a different or an alternative explanation of the same Truth. There is only One True God, though each and every revelation or manifestation of the Holy One necessarily is limited and partial. So when we contemplate God, meditate upon God, that God, logically and necessarily must be the Bible’s God, even when described using different words. I agree that written and spoken languages are limited and often confusing.

When I claim creation as separate and distinct from God but also the impossibility of separating creation from the Source of Life I don’t see any contradiction. Creation is fallen (yet at the same time redeemed) as the Holy One, in absolute perfection, is not, cannot be. I continue to see much of physical existence, as well as spiritual existence, as fallen and still in the control of both past and current agents of bondage and alienation and demonization. The sins, separations, asundernesses that hold creation in bondage and slavery demonstrate not only spiritual separation but also an extremely physical separation.

I may agree with you that in a sense salvation may always have been complete…though still, Jesus lived and died and was raised to new, resurrected life not only in the shadow and thrall of “powers and principalities” of all kinds and dimensions but those same forces still engage and all too often continue to shape and to define us as individuals and as a society. “And so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behinds him in his triumphal procession.” –Colossians 2:15

And then from:

But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” –Genesis 3:9

To the last page of the Bible:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, LORD Jesus! –Revelation 22:20

“Please, Aslan,…what do you call soon? “I call all times soon,” said Aslan. –C.S. Lewis, …Dawntreader, page 138

When you wrote, “In truth, we cannot be separated from the Source of Life,” you reminded me of Paul Tillich’s saying, “We’re separated and yet bound.” You said, “What is needed is unlearning, removing obstacles to knowing God.” Supremely in the Christ Event, the Christ Experience, God Himself actively and actually removes the obstacles. And then Jesus comes to us again and again to help us unlearn and remove ALL obstacles to knowing God. With the Creator, Jesus indwells all creation as Holy Spirit, in order to help us become and to be the Christ.

“God changes his mind” is such a wonderful understanding of the God with such a wild passion for creation he incessantly response to human need – our God who not only continues condescending to humanity but who even “repents,” turns around ins response to our need. God always, always begins where WE say!

Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." –Exodus 33:21-23

In other words, “You only can be aware of My Presence after I’ve been there!!! Because when I’m there, my people and I are such an indistinguishable unity, one of us looks like the other—you can’t tell us apart! In Jesus, we don’t need to wait until after the experience to be aware of the Presence, we’re immersed in God’s Presence in the ongoing activities of everyday, earthly life. And now, we’re called to recognize The Presence not in spiritual things, but in the “stuff” of common and ordinary life. In “earthen vessels,” of course!

Jesus’ physical existence is important to me because I live in a physical world. My Friend, Savior, God-Revealer, Avatar and Rabbi needs to be a Real Presence in my world. Without relating to space, time and history I’m disoriented and disrelated. I can’t find others or myself, I don’t clearly remember people or events. I’m unable to plan tomorrow Jesus asked us to remember him as he revealed the God of History the One Who creates, redeems and sanctifies in spite of time/space limitations. This doesn’t mean God is limited, only that God condescends to our human limitations. It’s not only the tensions and temptations of culture and society that drive us away from at-homeness, at-oneness in God. We also simply keep forgetting who we are, and Jesus keeps showing us the way back to our Creator, the Source of All Life and, when we are reconciled and freed from the bondage and the pain of living as a stranger, we and all those we touch become the Christ. But then we forget once again…though someday this seemingly endless cycle will end. The Gospel of the Father’s self-revelation – and self-giving – in the human son is worldly and earthbound and shows us that some day. Within history, every one of us will journey to and then arrive home in a world and a life transcending this current world and its existence.

I’m struck by God’s promise to bring this people into the land, to give them land, or the stewardship of the land on which in a sense they still remain strangers and sojourners. Slaves don’t own land. “Real” property, or at least its stewardship, is a gift of freedom, of liberation. “Land” is an ongoing and persistent scriptural theme. But when Israel became landed, settled in space, they forgot their total dependence on the God of the Exodus, the God of History, Whose supreme self-revelation is in time.

Cornel West says, “We are people of hope. Why do we party on Friday night [pay day in the working-class community]? Why do we go to church on Sunday mornings?” Because of Jesus, of course!

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