Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

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Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mysticism and the Emergent Church - Or, What I Did NOT Say Against WOTMR

Festival of St. Dionysius (martyred ~303AD): First Bishop of Augsburg, Germany
Old Testament: Job 21:1-21
Psalms: Morning - 34
Evening - 25; 91

"At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely: "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written 'he who through faith is righteous shall live." There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered Paradise itself through open gates." - Martin Luther
Alright. For the record: Here are some things directed towards WOTMR which I did NOT say with regard to mysticism. I did not give assent to all forms of mysticism and decry all forms of rationalism. Such was not and was never my intention. Let me be, perhaps, more clear. We cannot use our reason to know God, we know God through our faith. To confuse the two is to confuse gnosis and pistis. Too often I hear (or have heard) statements from not just Mr. Todd Friel and WOTMR, but from many Evangelicals who think that there is a certain amount you have to "know" to be saved, or some amount of concret knowledge. Why? If you can learn and are not mentally retarded, an infant, or elderly and infirm, you should learn about God because that is one of the things your brain was designed for. However, the problem comes into play with regard to this confusion of pistis and gnosis in Evangelical circles. We are to have faith like a child and as such, children are to grow, but does this mean that you are saved by spiritual puberty???
Here is an example of what I mean: Billy and Jean have a child. The child lives till the age of 2 when suddenly he dies of a genetic malady. You as a pastor tell the parents that the child is in Heaven, because he was not yet at the "age of accountability"(apparently God's justice and the child's original sin are inconsequential). Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing church, your members are keen to ask you great questions...Billy asks you where in the Bible the "age of accountability" is. What do you tell him? It of course, is not in the Bible (at least not explicitly), and thus is a matter of tradition, particularly western rationalism. You have no way of assuring Billy and Jean their child is in Heaven because you as a solid Bible-believing church do not practice infant baptism because it is not clear in Scripture. ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: Why did you trust the "age of accountability" tradition and not the "infant baptism" tradition?
Another example: Your high school youth group is learning about the Bible and one of your bright students asks why you don't take the Words of Institution literally. Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing church, you have no room for pesky grammatical nonsense in God's Word that contradicts plain reason, so you explain, in a manner that would make John Locke proud, that the "finite cannot contain the infinite." ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: Is John Calvin the 13th Apostle? How does his view of the incarnation seem to match in idea (though not necessarily in wording) the doctrines of the heresiarch Nestorius? Why did the church condemn his teachings in 431AD? Are you basically limiting God's omnipotence to enter into His creation?
Another example: Francine has had an abortion, and has been devastated by the experience. She comes to you, the pastor, with tears in her eyes and sorrow in her heart. She asks how she can be sure God has forgiven her. Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing REFORMED church, you have no guarantee for her forgiveness, because you cannot be sure she is in the elect (in fact, her teen pregnancy would be a sign of sin, and a shunnin' would be in order). Because of her sinful actions, you are almost certain that she is not in the elect, and therefore you preach to her, but wonder if such would do any good as she has attended your church all of her young life. ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: How can you wish her the peace of Christ? How are the actions of a merciful God apparent if an act of extreme sin indicates that someone who has been under the continual influence of the Gospel is not actually saved by your theology? How does this square with how Christ treats those who have sorrow for their sin, regardless of whether they know the truth or not? Is your attitude of justice with little compassion towards those who sin a possible reason she got the abortion in the first place (don't laugh this last one off, I think you'll find it occurs in these situations).
All three of these examples demonstrate a fundamental point in my last post. All three deal with ways Christians mystically interact with God by faith. The first deals with Holy Baptism, the second with Holy Communion, and the third with Holy Absolution. Such actions are mystical rites that are done by the whole church in communion with one another. Simultaneously, there are other, appropriate mystical and ascetical practices Christians can and should do. What do I mean by this? If mysticism is the interaction with that which is ultimately mystery, than anything involving interaction with God is mysticism. Prayer is itself mystical....why? I know a Christian's prayer is answered by God and that He hears it....why? The Holy Spirit intercedes for me....why? "He just does." That "He just does" is itself a silent assertion of a mystery (in other words, you aren't going to figure it out with your gray matter) which we interact with as Christians...and is hence, "mysticism." An ascetic practice which has become quite big in the Evangelical churches is fasting practices. Fasting though is something that the "Roman Catholic" or "Eastern Orthodox" churches do...hence they are bad because they are works righteousness. If that is your attitude, such shows your utter inability to actually use the reason you would esteem so highly, as Christ Himself says that it is not if you fast but WHEN you fast (Matthew 6:16-17)
The fact is that for many Evangelicals, the quote I used from the "Berean Call" in my last post emphasizes a fundamental point. God is transcendant (true) and totally "separate from His finite creation" (there are those interesting words "separate" and "finite" again), which is only a
half-truth. In actuality God is transcendant and separate with regard to His essence...but He shares His energy with His finite creation in the Godman Jesus Christ. This same Christ we are connected to by faith and whose blood we find the forgiveness of sins in. To view this any differently is to see God as a judge in eternity deciding who He will have mercy on and who He will consign to Hell....since we have no free will in spiritual matters before conversion, your lot in eternity is a crapshoot with the majority of mankind burning in Hell for eternity all because God decided to be merciful to only a much for a loving God whose glory is shown in salvation! In all, such a view is similar to Zeus who has human passions and foibles, yet who is random in who he favors. If you're a're set...if your a Promethius, watch out!
Such views of God as an angry judge are what drove St. Martin Luther to desperation amidst the works righteousness of the Middle Ages which saw God as completely unmerciful....even Jesus Christ was an awful judge with no get to Him you had to go through the Virgin who had to appease her angry son. Such a view of both God and the Virgin are appalling when you stop and think about it. Yet without the Virgin's role in prayer in Evangelicalism (who say they honor her yet I've seen Judas get more mention) still have the view of God as an angry judge who is wrathful towards sin and who shows mercy on those who either are in the elect or who please Him by their actions (depending on which heretical view you go with). What, are Protestants afraid that if we focus on God's love first and His wrath towards sin second that people will go around being hippies? I'd rather have someone who is confident in God's love as revealed at the cross than I would with a return to the superstitious Medieval theology of God's tempertantrum and unmerciful nature.
Similarly though...what I said was not a defense of the Emergent Church. The Emergents pursue mysticism with little or no insight into the nature or theology of the mysticism they
embrace. They use the eastern liturgy...but do they acknowledge the Real Presence or a clergy?
If not, then they're being illogical and are only doing it to emotionally "feel" God...not mystically
or "sacramentally" feel or feed on God. They use lectio divina, but do they know the ultimate meaning of the text in the reference to Christ, or is it still about "what God is telling me?"
It somewhat surprises me that Christian universalism is not rampant within Emergent circles...though I could be wrong about this. The problem with them is two-fold: 1. They lack a clear confession of doctrine within the historic framework of the church. and 2. They are political or ideological and they bring this to Christianity which they thus change so that suddenly Christ has absolutely no justice with regard to sin...but He'll punish those hateful Republicans between bong puffs.
Both extremes of Christianity are bad...if I had to take my pick, I'd be an atheist! On the one hand Protestantism generally pushes for fundamentalism...a view of Scripture as the literal Word of God (funny, I thought Jesus was the Word of God...should I worship my Bible??) and thus place scripture on a pedestal even the Reformers weren't willing to give it....that of being above God. Of course a general background in the history of the canon and our tranlsations somewhat shoots down the idea of fundamentalism...but hey, it's all they have since they reject the efficacy of the sacraments! For fundamentalists Sola Scriptura is the sole source and norm for doctrine (with reason thrown in there to, though not mentioned explicitly) and anathema to all tradition, because tradition is Roman Catholic, and that means funny hats, and hence, evil (come on, the Pope wears a hat INDOORS!). On the other hand you have the Emergents who are the blind trying to drive the racecar during the Indie 500...devoid of direction or goal, they wander aimlessly, using jargon from philosophy or politics that sounds snazzy. They'll use rhetoric while the Evangelical Protestants use logic....neither, when taken to their extremes are good for Christians who are supposed to live with paradoxes (i.e. God is three in one, Jesus is true God and true man, etc.).


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