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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Off Road Mishap

Seeking God 2

The sacramental world view affirms that the invisible God (spirit) communicates in and through material reality. It is hard to explain how the spiritual is at work within and through the corporeal. [Like the mystery of body and soul] However, the ‘fact’ that reality is constructed in such a way opens the possibility of the foundation of Christian Church life, namely Word and Sacrament).

The Bible is the Word of God. Yet it was written by men. The written documents have a history. There were events, these events were remembered by participants and passed down orally to others. At some point in time the oral tradition was written down. We believe God is at work in the people, in the events, in the remembering, in the telling and retelling of the story. He is present in the preservation of the memories. He works in and through humans as they construct narratives to explain the ways of God. We believe that God reveals Himself in and through these written words which are fully human yet divine documents.

Balancing the concrete and spiritual has never been easy. Churches and people tend to lean one way or the other. We like things simple. We prefer either/or. It is why we construct theological systems--we desire clarity so we filter out whatever does not fit into our system. Seeking to be spiritual we can end up in the ditch. We deny the concrete and ignore the human. Perhaps it is expressed in anti-procreation, or amoral sex, ignoring the needs of the poor to save their souls, or calling the Bible infallible (but defining that in a way foreign to the Scripture). We seek “only” God and the human disappears from the equation. Salvation is about escaping the material universe; justice does not matter much. They believe that knowledge (Gnosis is Greek for knowledge) saves. If you know “something” (it is usually secret) then you can escape and be part of the “special group.”

On the other hand, there are those who see only the concrete is real. The materialist disdains whatever cannot be measured, counted and seen. In their mind, the “spiritual” is a fantasy.

Then there are the pagans. The concrete is divine for them. They worship stone and star. They are into “magic” i.e. rituals used to control the ‘gods.’ Everything is god they say (in the pantheist version). There is not God above and beyond it all.

The apocalyptic (un-veiling) world view of Jesus assumes a veil. The concrete world is a veil which hides the invisible God. Yet God acts in time and space, with time and space as tools. So the world can be used to hear God and encounter God. Bibles and baptism, eucharist and church members are all the means in and through which we catch of glimpse of the veiled God, It is a mediated presence, but real none the less.

Obviously, Catholic and Protestant faith can go off the road as well. Holding them in tension is hard, and as we veer right or left we end up off the road. Too often we have a clear vision of the error of “the Other,” but fail to see our own tendencies. Yet in avoiding going “their” way we probably are prone to overcompensate and go off the other side. The sacramental world is a balancing act, a middle way of tension. It is a struggle to avoid going off the road, but it is where truth and love reside.

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