Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1932) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post continues the series from a section of my forthcoming Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C S Lewis that argues monasticism is part of our “usable past.” Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.
To recap, my argument in this chapter has been that we will continue to be both disinclined and incapable of the effort necessary to practice ascetic disciplines unless we, first, have something of the passion for Christ that animated the monks and, second, have a strong traditional foundation on which to build our practice. I have been trying in this book to describe the foundation the medievals had, in their passion for theological knowledge, their understandings of Incarnation and Creation, the balance they held between Word and world, their whole-person devotion, and so on. We need both the passion and the tradition if we are to do the discipline.
In particular, the morality chapter speaks to the argument of this one: If we, like my pastor whose question is described at the beginning of that chapter, do not know how to put a Christian ethic into practice – that we are paralyzed by grace—or rather, by misunderstandings of Reformation teachings on grace. We are kept from applying the practical insights of medieval monasticism by a dimly understood sense that whatever the Reformation was about, it was about destroying monasticism (and it did end up doing that in some European countries). But with nothing to put in place of that practical monastic wisdom—though the Pietists tried to replace it, as did the Puritans—we will fail to practice spiritual disciplines as the monastics did.
Deep down we have counter-rationalizations, arguments in our heads that say “Oh no, that’s not something we need to do. We can achieve virtue in other ways besides spiritual disciplines. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged affective theology, Alasdair MacIntyre, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, emotion, ethics, Jonathan Haidt, monasticism, morality, orthodoxy, orthopathy, orthopraxy, sanctification
Love this reflection on the relationship between right action and right belief by Franciscan Richard Rohr. It is available here.
Orthodoxy over Orthopraxy
A Christian, or any holy person, is someone who is animated by the Holy Spirit, a person in whom the Spirit of Christ can work. That doesn’t have to mean that you consciously know what you are doing, or that you even have to know, or that you even belong to the right Jesus group. As Paul said to the Athenians, “The God whom I proclaim is in fact the one you already worship without knowing it” (Acts 17:23).
In Matthew 25, the dead say, “When have we seen you hungry? When have we seen you thirsty?” And the Christ says in return, “Because you did it for these little ones, you did it for me.” In each case, they did not know, at least consciously; that they were doing it for God or Jesus or even love. They just did it, and presumably from a pure heart, without any obvious religious affiliation or other motive.
It never depends upon whether we say the right words, or practice the right ritual, but whether we live the right reality. It is rather clear to me now that the Spirit gets most of her work done by stealth and disguise, not even caring who gets the credit, and not just by those who say, “Lord, Lord!” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus seems to be making this exact point in his story of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). The one who actually acts, even if he says the wrong words, “does the Father’s will,” and not the one who just says the right words.
Adapted from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go, p. 193, Day 206
Before you Reformed types dismiss the thrust of this reflection as universalist, check out this article on Jonathan Edwards’s willingness to think of the Stockbridge Indians as “noble pagans,” where Edwards scholar Gerald McDermott insists that “Edwards praised these Indians not for the truth of their ideas but the quality of their lives, just as Luke had commended Cornelius for the quality of his practice.”
And once and for all, NO, Francis of Assisi never said “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” Or at least, there is no evidence that he did. See here.
As one who has heard, read, and appreciated Peter Leithart over the past few years, and who has recognize that Leithart values tradition and values a strong ecclesiology, I was particularly fascinated to read his account of why, in light of those values, he will not become Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox). I find this, on the face of it at least, a valid objection to a Protestant joining one of these older, closed communions. It seems a reason to pause, however much a Protestant (especially of the frustratingly amnesiac, hyper-pragmatic “evangelical” variety) may wish to affirm the greatness and integrity of much historic catholic theology and practice.
The executive summary of what Leithart argues here is this: true ecumenism is incompatible with joining either Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
Here’s a sampling of his thought on this score:
“Here’s the question I would ask to any Protestant considering a move: What are you saying about your past Christian experience by moving to Rome or Constantinople? Are you willing to start going to a Eucharistic table where your Protestant friends are no longer welcome? Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Catholic Church, Catholicism, conversion, ecumenism, Eucharist, evangelicalism, orthodoxy, Peter Leithart, Protestantism, Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholicism
Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea
Over at The Christian Humanist, a good, meaty conversation is developing about how we should define “heresy” and how we should assess the role of the ancient creeds today.
A week or so ago I worked through these questions on this blog in my series on early theological controversies (part I of that series is here).
Here’s a bit of the conversation on The Christian Humanist (but I recommend heading over to that blog to reading the rest of Nathan Gilmour’s post and the responses that ensued):
Michial’s working definition of heresy is that which stands against the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, while my own definition was that which, if taught to a generations of Christians, would result in something other than the Christian church. Continue reading
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