Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What follows are two short theological-historical reflections on our daily work that ended up on the cutting-room floor when I handed in 6,000 words for a 3,500 feature on Christian thought about vocation that will appear in next month’s Leadership Journal. Since I still like these, I’m posting them here. The first is on what the Incarnation means to our work, with special reference to vocations in the arts. The second is on how God is present and communicating to us in every part of the created world in a way analagous to, though not the same as, his real presence in the sacraments.
Resources on work in early and medieval Christian thought
Luther and other Reformers certainly did advance Christian reflection on work and calling. But if we turn again to the early and medieval church and look beyond the clerical and monastic usurpation of the term “vocation,” we will find some important theological resources for thinking about ordinary work—resources that Protestants today are in danger of losing entirely.
The appearance of Christ on the scene as a human being, with all the physical needs, skills, and temptations we all share, inserts a crucial principle into our thinking about work. The Incarnation meant that the church could not fall into the error of the Gnostics, calling the material world evil and thus leaving God out of consideration when we interact with the material world. In the second century such pastor-teachers as Irenaeus led the charge against this error, leading the church to reject Gnosticism as heresy.
Today we are in danger, not of viewing the material world as evil (most Western folk are little tempted to that error!), but of marginalizing our time-bound material existence as “non-spiritual.” Continue reading →
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Work with purpose
Tagged Abraham Kuyper, arts, divinity of Christ, Gnostics Gnosticism, Gregory the Great, humanity of Christ, icons, Incarnation, Nestorianism, Nestorius, sacramentalism, sacramentality, visual arts, work
These are brief excerpts and quotations I marked while reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300), Vol. 3. in his series The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978).
As with the David Bell “glimpses” posted yesterday, I thank my t.a., Shane Moe, who transcribed these and inserted brief contextual tags where helpful. Page numbers are at the beginning of each excerpt. The designation “Q” means I wanted to save the text as a quotation, for use in teaching and writing. “D” means a definition of a term. “Use” means I want to use an idea or statement in my teaching:
Q, 3: “The Middle Ages may be seen as the period when the primary focus of Christian thought about Christ shifted from what he was to what he did, from the person of Christ to the work of Christ.” Continue reading →
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged Abelard, Anselm of Canterbury, Augustine of Hippo, authority, Berengar of Tours, Bernard of Clairvaux, Christology, Christus Victor atonement theory, divinity of Christ, doctrine, Eucharist, heresy, humanity of Christ, Jaroslav Pelikan, Medieval, Middle Ages, sacraments, Saints, soteriology, the crucifixion, the Victorines, the Virgin Mary, Theology, Tradition, Trinity
I suspect this post will make some readers mad. Good! Respond to the post, and let’s talk about it! My own parents disagree with it too. But today’s world of gentle, neighborly, non-doctrinal churchmanship (sorry, churchpersonship), in which you can believe almost anything and still be considered a member in good standing of most churches, has missed a very important point:
In matters of belief, souls are at stake.
If we don’t believe that, then we may as well pack it in. Because as Paul said, if the resurrection (to take one important example) hasn’t happened, then we Christians are of all people most to be pitied. We’re just fooling ourselves. There’s no logical reason we shouldn’t stay home every Sunday, crack open a cold one (or a case of cold ones) and enjoy ourselves in front of the TV set:
Tangling with Wolves
Why we still need heresy trials
Originally published in Christianity Today, summer 2003.
United methodist bishop Joseph Sprague publicly denies that Jesus rose bodily, that he is eternally divine, and that he is the only way to salvation. He has been charged four times with teaching heresies, and four times denominational representatives have acquitted him.
This is not a lone incident. Continue reading →
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Arianism, Arius, church discipline, divinity of Christ, ecumenical councils, heresy, heresy trials, Inquisition, orthodoxy, resurrection, Trinity