Protestants, Catholics, Communion–oh my! (Happy Corpus Christi!)


Today is a Christian Holy Day called “Corpus Christi” (Latin for “the body of Christ”). Today we meditate on the mystery of Communion/Eucharist/The Lord’s Supper.

I’ve mentioned some of my Communion views before and what I articulated is a synthesis and summary of the ideas of many theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. And so today, I want talk to all my fellow Protestant brothers and sisters out there.

In my opinion, the popular Evangelical idea of the Catholic view on the Eucharist is not really right or helpful (as is the popular conception of most of Catholic doctrine). Today I want to argue that Catholicism’s “Eucharist problem” is more historical and rhetorical than theological.

Some History

In the earliest decades and centuries of church history, people were able to simply maintain the simple doctrine that at Communion, they are receiving the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine (source, albeit biased). In the middle ages, though, people starting asking themselves “Wait, what does that actually mean?” Differing answers started forming and a diversity of opinion about the Eucharist began taking place. The leaders of the Church tried to bring some commonality to this. In fact, the medieval Catholic church made a few “errant” teachers affirm these statements in 1078 and 1079:
Continue reading

Advertisements

Churches & Theological Growth (on 1 Cor. 1)


peter-preaching-statue

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.21-24)

As finite creatures, we cannot fully conceive of an Infinite God in all his Truth. Even his revelation is but partial and enigmatic. His truth, then, exists less like the center of a target, and more like various spectrums and tensions in which we exist. On this side of eternity, we live and speak in dialectics where for every point of doctrine in one denomination there seems to exist a counterpoint in another. Truth is not the Lockean notion of our relating to an objective body of facts, but is the point at which two seemingly opposing or paradoxical ideas exist in tension and harmony (such as Jesus = God + Man).

Thinking of these “truth spectrums” while looking at 1 Corinthians, there seem to be two possible errors we can fall into when thinking about theological truth: “over-objectification” which makes this spectrum too narrow, and “over-subjectification” which makes it too broad.

Continue reading

Jung, Whitman, & Aquinas Walk into a Bar – Thoughts on Divine Suffering [GUEST POST]


Hans-Hartung-CompositionT-50-5

As I’ve been outlining a Male Feminist Theology, I have said there is an aspect of Suffering-Unto Life in the very nature of God. This started some conversation on Facebook. Today, along this vein, we have a guest post by one of my dearest friends (and blog contributor), Austin Ricketts.  Years ago, he wrote in favor of God’s Suffering. Years later, he took it back in a little debate we had. Today, he offers a sophisticated sort of “middle way”. It’s more dense than most things I post here, so I’ve linked to relevant articles elsewhere to help you follow along.

_________________________________

If I were to set my doctrine of God down as a scene from a play, you would see the Cappadocian fathers meeting Thomas Aquinas at table, somewhere in Tuscany, while Charles Hartshorne comes in out of the Spring air from some bird watching. Thomas eats a large chicken, all by himself, while the fathers drink wine; their arms around him. Hartshorne is taken aback by the size and quiddity of the meal—how could he eat a bird, after all—so he orders a salad and sparkling water. Soon after, the fair Charles is assaulted by a paper airplane from the end of the table, and he looks up to see Augustine, who had up to that point been cloaked and hooded. After all this, the set goes dim, stage props move to reveal a completely different mise-en-scene.

The lights brighten to reveal one, Carl Jung, waking from a dream, saying “Hmm. How bout that?”

The curtains quickly close, all goes quiet, and a voice—preferably that of James Earl Jones—says, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Then, this Quaker Poet with a long gray beard and large hat comes streaking—that is to say naked, except for the hat—across the stage shouting, “I sing the Body electric. Eidolons! Eidolons everywhere!”

_________________________________

Continue reading

Chesterton on the Atheism of God on Good Friday [QUOTE]


When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

–from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, as quoted by philosopher  Slavoj Zisek, in this article on “German Idealism & Christianity, from Hegel to Chesterton”.

Crazy thought of the day: God Died. [QUOTE]


“The task of witnessing to the gospel is to vitalize the astonishing fact of the gospel. The message “the Son of God has died” is indeed most astonishing…. God has died! If this does not startle us, what will? The church must keep this astonishment alive. The church ceases to exist when she loses this astonishment. Theology, the precise understanding of the gospel, must be seized by this astonishment more than anyone else. It is said that philosophy begins with wonder; so theology begins with wonder. The wonder of philosophy pales before the wonder of theology. The person astonished by the tidings “God has died” can no longer be astonished at anything else.”

Kazoh Kitamori, Theology of the Pain of God

The Church: Being in Becoming (a Sunday pre-game)


church-philly-bw-cross-market-eastFor my Gospel, Culture, and Church course this past week, we had to read the opening chapter of this book on the Church as mission, rather than seeing the Church as something that does mission. We also had to read some mind-blowing pages from Hans Kung’s epic work The Church. It got me thinking a lot about what precisely the “church” is and how it is that thing. I just wanted to share some disjointed thoughts today.

Throughout the readings, the (perhaps over-used) term “Being in Becoming” kept coming to mind. (For my more philosophically-trained friends, forgive me if I’m simplifying this term too much; My main exposure to this has been cursory, in the context of the Trinitarian theology of Karl Barth and how he describes God).

In others words, the Church’s very Being is in its efforts to more faithfully “Become” what it is. It is not and cannot become a static entity into which we invite people. As we are caught up in the missional plan of the missional God, it propels forward into places where the old notions of Christendom and privilege are not relevant and are shown to be the anemic frameworks they are.
Continue reading

A Brief History of Secular Discernment & Decision-Making


fall-river-philly-kelly

This is a post in our series on the Christian Practice of Discernment. 

Struggles around decision-making have existed ever since humans first had a sense that their lives had some sort of telos or purpose. Eventually, humans came to an understanding that each decision directly bears on the events and “story” that will come after it. And so they started thinking through principles that could guide this process. Later, Christians would contribute greatly to this discussion.

But before we can start exploring how the Bible and Christianity engages with decision-making and Discernment, we need to see how else it has been engaged throughout history. Today, we’ll look at a “secular”(*) history of decision-making and Discernment. Our next post will look through Church History.
Continue reading

Discernment: Making Decisions Christianly & Why It Matters


paul-city-bwMore so than other practices, Discernment is not something we try to do to enrich our lives or draw closer to God. Rather, it is a basic function of our storied existence, driven by our own internal narratives. Because of this, we necessarily find ourselves in positions where decisions great and small need to be made.

Unlike most other practices of the Christian faith, the question here is not whether or not we will practice Discernment, but rather how well we will do it, and how intentionally we will cultivate it. The challenge is not so much to articulate a vision for Discernment so much as to find out what truly Christian Discernment looks like.

series intro

That is why I chose Discernment for a research paper I wrote for my seminary program this semester. It’s essential to human life and being. This is also why I want to share many of the lessons I learned along the way of writing this paper and putting into practice. And so today I’m starting a new blog series exploring this Christian practice of decision-making, also called Discernment.
Continue reading

What IS the Bible? Let’s Discuss.


Acts-bible-lomo“The Bible is a Communicative, Missional Speech Act”

Yesterday, this quote came back to me after years of sitting in the cobwebs of my brain. It was the summary statement of my Introduction to the Old Testament class that I took during my previous seminary stint. I mulled it around for a little bit, and found that this had shaped me profoundly since taking the class, and that it still really does match how view the Bible. And so, I just wanted to take a few moments today to unpack this and how it affects my approach to Scripture.

The “Bible”, this book, is the written revealing of an otherwise unknowable God. Everything in it is centered around the person and work of Christ. The Old Testament is the testimony of who God is and how He has worked through history and the hearts of people to bring about his promised unmerited redemption.
Continue reading

Some random, contradictory thoughts on Hell. Discuss.


Rothko-untitled-2Below, you’ll find a random assortment of 30 completely disjointed musings on Hell. Each paragraph is its own statement, in no particular order. This is not meant to be a discussion of where I currently land on this issue. I’d love to just get your thoughts. Respond as you like, below.

(1) In the past 10 to 15 years, the American Church saw a new emphasis on Idolatry as the foundation of sinfulness, rather than “Law-breaking”. I’m starting to see a new re-emphasis on Law-Breaking and Hell as punishment for this. And yet, the “Law” is always connected to God’s Image and Character, and so Law-Breaking is living by a wrong law, or image, and therefore is idolatry. We have an analogy for how a Judge responds to breaking the law, and this leads to the popular view of Hell since Medieval times. But what is the analogy for the response to transgressing an image?

(2) Can any Universalist tell me what the point of missions or Evangelism is in this life, if their perspective is true?
Continue reading

“Simplistic Atheism: a final response” by Daniel Bastian [GUEST POST]


de Goya-fight with cudgels"

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

Well, it seems that we were not in fact done with this little series. After my final post, Daniel chose to take me up on my offer to have the final word (as I normally try to do in exchanges like this). He has chosen to respond, point-by-point, to my list of what things would lead me to embrace Atheism. If you feel like any of the points still demand a reply from me, or if you have any questions about what Daniel says, feel free to to comment here, on Facebook, or get in touch with me privately. For my part, though, I consider this particular set of exchanges finished. Once again, I thank Daniel for this exchange. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

Paul,

When I initially decided to compile a list of criteria that would convince me my conclusion on the question of theism was wrong, I had sincere hope that a Christian, Muslim or other person of faith would tally up a corresponding register. I am glad to see you rose to the challenge and enrolled in this dialogue. It has been a wonderfully enlightening experience for me, and I do hope that sentiment is mutual.

I read your piece the day it was posted and while at first I found much of it persuasive, the more I reflected the more I realized it was probably the list I would have drafted two years ago, before I renounced my faith. Much of your criteria seems to rest firmly on the aesthetic appeal of the Christian narrative. And this would seem to slot right in line with your epistemological moorings-a concern for the communal connection, compelling force and overall mesmerism of a worldview over against its underlying facticity.

Yet it seems this only holds true up to a certain threshold, given a few of the items on your list. You seem to be OK with affirming the faith given its impact on your life, the power of influence you’ve seen it have on history, and the way it has shaped others with which you’ve crossed paths. But if you were to discover beyond reasonable doubt that this narrative was based on so much myth, that this loosely corroborated Yeshua the gospels are based on was a mere mortal (item #1), you would relinquish the faith forthwith.

Thus it seems to me that our epistemic divergence is one of degree, not of type. With that in mind, I’ll attach some brief notes beside the items in your list. Continue reading

A Christian & An Atheist: A Discussion [a table of contents]


Schrott-Cigarettes-Bible-Jeremiah

I had the privilege over the past couple of weeks of engaging in a spirited back-and-forth with a good friend of mine, Daniel Bastian. Unfortunately, in the speed with which this exchange occurred, I know it was hard for people to keep track of the writings, the arguments, and the comments. And so, I’m writing this post in hopes of making it easier for people to follow. Here you will find a “Table of Contents” of sorts for the entire exchange, as it appeared on this blog.

Sadly, much was said over Facebook comments (and even blog comments) that cannot be sorted out and highlighted in their proper place. Comments on each post were scattered among different places and sites and posts, and so to try and consolidate them and make any sense of them for the reader would be nearly impossible. These long-form pieces will have to do, though I’ve provided the link to the Facebook comments when able, in case the interested reader wants to wade in.

____________________
Continue reading

Simplistic Atheism {4}: What could make me an Atheist?


paul-schrott-painting-11-11

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

In this series of exchanges with my friend Daniel, I’ve tried to argue that his Facebook post on why he is an Atheist expressed an overall view of the world that is too small and too simplistic. I think this is because of his empiricist method and materialist conclusion about reality–that all there is is what we can see, touch, feel, etc.

Some concluding remarks

My whole point has not simply been that Daniel’s facts or even his method is wrong. But rather, it finds its proper place, meaning, fullness, and possibility within the Christian view of reality. I have argued in each of my posts that Christianity does not “refute” reason, science, history, skepticism, textual messiness, historical difficulty, or even doubt. Instead, the Gospel encompasses it all, and each of those things find a greater fulfillment in their use, cohesion in the whole of the world, and reality within that place.

Continue reading

“The Cocoon of Unfalsifiability” by Daniel Bastian [GUEST POST]


stone-light-hallway-cave(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

Paul,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your most recent piece. It’s the best one yet in the series. You actually (finally) lay down some things we can really sink our teeth into. Something tells me you should have started with this one…

However, after the opening paragraphs my hopes were dashed as I found that much of the rhetoric here is beset by the same pitfalls that have been addressed time and again. Most importantly, (and what I will focus on in my response), is that the above piece suffers from what I will call the doctrine of unfalsifiability.

Continue reading

Simplistic Atheism {1}: a Reason & Spirituality that’s too small


de-Goya-Sleep-Reason-produces-monsters

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

Last week a friend of mine named Daniel Bastian posted a well thought-out catalog of the reasons why he is an Atheist (let me know if the link doesn’t work). This list includes items that don’t usually pop up in similar offerings, and I encourage every Christian to read this list and wrestle through the realities of what he says.

As I thought about it, though, and thought through how I would respond to some of these things, I found a consistent theme to what I would critique to each of his points: over-simplicity. In this series of posts, rather than going through each of the writer’s twenty points, I’d like to go through some broader ideas he touches on, and offer my thoughts.

By the time I was done writing everything up, I had at least four parts to this response. Today, we’ll briefly talk about how Daniel’s post represents an over-simplifying of human reason and spirituality..
Continue reading