This Paschal Homily has been attributed to St. John Chrysostom (d.407), though his authorship of it is uncertain. It was evidently delivered at Pascha (Easter Morning) and, if in fact from his pen, probably during his tenure as Archbishop of Constantinople. It has been a tradition for it to be delivered within the Eastern Orthodox church at Pascha ever since. I propose to conduct a mainly literary analysis.
Chrysostom was the son of a high-ranking official within the administration of the Roman Empire and hence a member of the social elite. He had been well educated in the classical pattern, in rhetoric, literature, grammar and philosophy but also in Christian Scriptures. Had he not taken holy orders, this might have fitted him for a role in the higher levels of state administration or the law. This was modified however, by his Christian faith and by his life as a Christian ascetic. While Chrysostom’s background was elite, his faith gave him a viewpoint that was far from elitist.
 Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou, “The Paschal Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom: A Rhetorical and Contextual Study,” GOTR 43 (1998): 93-100, p. 93.
 Papageorgiou, “The Paschal Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom,” 96.
 Papageorgiou, “The Paschal Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom,” 93.
 A.H.M. Jones, “St. John Chrysostom's Parentage and Education,” HTR 46 (1953): 171-173, p. 171.
 D.J. Constantelos, “John Chrysostom's Greek Classical Education and its Importance to Us Today,” GOTR 36.2 (1991): 109-128, PP.111-113.
 Jones, “St. John Chrysostom's Parentage and Education,” 171.
 Fr. Lazar Puhalo, Great Fathers of the Church (Dewdney, British Columbia: Synaxis Press, 2014), 71.
 W. Mayer, “Who Came to Hear John Chrysostom Preach?,” ETL 76 (2000):73-87, p. 73.
 Constantelos, “John Chrysostom's Greek Classical Education,” 125.
* This is to certify that this journal article was peer reviewed.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25)—here is the heart of Orthodox ethics, Christos Yannaras passionately avers. This may come as a surprise to many. Surely ethics has to do with right and wrong and the acquisition of virtue, whereas this dominical counsel speaks to the spiritual life. Yet Yannaras refuses to separate the spiritual and ethical. “Morality reveals what man is in principle, as the image of God,” he writes, “but also what he becomes through the adventure of his freedom: a being transformed, or ‘in the likeness’ of God” (The Freedom of Morality, p. 24). It’s not that Yannaras does not recognize moral obligation; but he refuses to reduce ethics to law: “All the exhortations and commandments in the Gospel have as their goal love, that dynamic transcendence of egocentric individuality whereby the image of God in Trinity is realized in the human being” (p. 56). The Son of God summons humanity to a far deeper, more radical conversion:
The first thing that Jesus preaches is a message of repentance, because this is the precondition for participation in the Kingdom of God, in the Church. … Every page of the Gospels stresses the need for repentance and faith—the need to escape from imprisonment in our own egocentricity and to trust in God, giving ourselves over to Him.
"No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Luke 10:22)
"It would be more godly and true to signify God from the Son and call him Father, than to name God from his works alone and call him unoriginate." (St Athanasius, Con. Ar., 1:34)
For Vladika Lazar PuhaloFor showing me Christ,'the good and merciful and man-befriending God'
What is God like? Toxic images abound: God the punishing judge, the deadbeat dad, the genie in a bottle--false gods that need to be challenged. But what if, instead, God is completely Christlike? What if His love is more generous, his Cross more powerful, and his gospel more beautiful than we've dared to imagine? What if our clearest image of God is the self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering Love revealed on the Cross? What if we had A More Christlike God?
There are legions of books on the techniques of church growth, ways and means to be church friendly, selling the church as a commodity of sorts and the church reduced to, in many ways, an entertainment industry. Such a way of approaching the life of the church tends to demean and distort qualitative Christianity and pander to a shallow and cheap grace quantity. The sheer beauty and grace of Hopeful Realism in Urban Ministry is the way Barry Morris (with a fine foreward by Tim Dickau) offers deeper probes into a more authentic Christianity.
Hopeful Realism has eight compact chapters and Appendix A-B. Each of the evocative chapters draws the curious reader into their enticing orbit in a thoughtful and compelling way: 1) Proposal of Hopeful Realism, 2) Urban Ministry and Theology’s Enduring Themes, 3) Urban Ministry’s Dynamics and Triad Intimations, 4) Hope via Moltmann and Urban Ministry Intimations, 5) Justice via Niebuhr and Urban Ministry Intimations, 6) Prayer via Merton and Urban Ministry Intimations, 7) Longhouse Ministry and Networking and 8) Summary Considerations and Conclusions. Appendix A, in a wise and judicious manner, touches on “The Merton and New Monasticism Check and Balance” and Appendix B offers the practical “Networks‘ Viva Voce Testimonies and Inducing Central Story Line”.
The title of this must read missive makes abundantly clear the portal that must be passed through: this is not a book about naïve and untried idealism or a defeatist cynicism that collapse when the hard issues are pressed deeper and further. This book is, indeed, about “hopeful realism” (not despair or a sentimental optimism) in the midst of the urban fray (and some of the more rougher cultures within the urban context). The fact that Barry draws on such luminaries as Moltmann, Niebuhr and Merton speaks libraries about the way many of the ideas in the book have been tested and faithfully tried for decades.
Hopeful Realism is as much about the theory of hopeful realism within an urban context as it is about practical means of living from and into such a situation. This burnished gold of a book has certainly been refined on the anvil of real life and lived dilemmas that ministry must face in the trenches. In short, this is not merely yet another academic book on how to be a successful church in a city context. The obstinate fact that Barry has lived such a life and this book is his literary child and manifesto of sorts does need to be noted. The life of a minister who has been committed to one place for many years does bear witness to a life of integrity----not flitting like a spiritual butterfly (like many today) from place to place, conference to conference, retreat to retreat, guru to guru. The downtown area of Vancouver has been Barry’s vow of stability centre, family and home. Depth does emerge when stability and commitment to place becomes a spiritual discipline and Hopeful Realism amply illustrates how this is the indubitable case.
It was somewhat heartening to note how Barry mined the theological insights of Moltmann, Niebuhr and Merton, but, as a Canadian, I’d have been delighted if Barry had also given Canadian theologians more prominence. The Canadian colonial way does run deep. Barry does mention the Canadian theologian Douglas Hall in passing, but he does not mention Canada’s most important public theologian-philosopher, George Grant (who did much to shape Hall’s theology). Would it have been possible to raise Grant-Hall to the level of Moltmann, Niebuhr and Merton? It certainly would have, but overcoming a colonial tendency in which non-Canadians are valourized for guidance and a north star to the exclusion of Canadians does involve some soul searching.
I have no doubt that Hopeful Realism will not be a bumper crop seller for those who think mega-church and thin church growth notions. But, for those committed to costly grace and faithfulness to a deeper understanding of Christianity, this book should be one of the central on the shelf books.
In the city.
My body shakes as the pounding footsteps of a grotesque unending millipede army drown every surface, flowing to and from work, in the tube stations, on the buses, in the bars, in the restaurants, by the rivers. I try not to touch anything, tube bars, ATM machine numbers, door handles, in case too much invades me.
My ears constantly vibrate from the millions of buzzing urban insects in the forms of refrigerators, oven fans, green juices being blended, air conditioning, ceiling lights, bedside lamps, street lights, car horns.
My eyes clench shut and reopen to what I dreaded; a sun, moon and stars that never switch off, blessed cloud cover and darkness that never comes. The blinking street light outside my window, the first thing I sense as I drift out of unreachable sleep once more. Lights in millions of boxes piled up on top of each other. Swerving car lights, dancing fairy lights at the cafe, fridge lights at home and in restaurants, flashing coloured lights in clubs and trendy churches. Flickering candlelight by my bed in a bid to shut out electricity.
My nostrils cannot shut out the uninvited assault of greasy cafes, or buttery sugary patisseries, wet tarmac, city sewage, dog mess on deceptive grass, sweaty bodies in too close proximity.
My mouth is confused, it has been screamed at from all angles in this damn city about what it needs. Unsatisfying green sludge is quickly pushed down. Then gobbles greasy cheese washed down with regret. Blood tastes metallic as my teeth chew my lip, fighting that inner anxiety that cannot hide the chaos inside. The chaos of death.
The chaos moves inside. I can hear my blood rushing, cells dying and regenerating, imagined itches across my skin. My thoughts that cannot sit still, that race and rage. The adrenaline rushing at the slightest provocation; anger, pain, sadness, weariness. I am exhausted in my own skin, out of my own mind.
In the country
I move away. Outside the city. The chaos rages on inside. But over time, it lessens. It loosens its grip. It gets a bit quieter. I can now hear a different sort of chaos. The chaos of life. It's not silent amongst nature. It is noisy, very noisy, but it is life I can hear, it is the cycle of the seasons. Lambs calling for their mothers, cows bellowing, grass moving in the wind, rumbling thunder, and rain pounding on leaves, roads, windows. Crackling fires as wood sparks and whistles, spades crunching through dry earth. The smell of manure, trees, salt, roses. My mouth tastes sweet cherries plucked straight from their branches, warm scones baked with slow deliberate pleasure as flour is sprinkled from my fingertips, the dough kneaded through my knuckles. Sweet tomatoes crunched under the blossom of the apple tree as the sun warms my face, the wind strokes my hair and the smell of peonies drifts by.
And my breath, as it moves in and out filling every bit of me, letting me know that I am still. I am still here.
I walk through narrow lanes where heavy laden trees form a breathing living canopy overhead. I walk past a cottage with yellow roses climbing up the walls, I hear music drifting through an open window in the kitchen. An old couple sit there in peaceful contentment, sipping soup as dust floats in the sunlight through the window. Later when I walk back past them, home again, he is at the kitchen table watching something on a little screen and she is in the garden, pottering with soil. She shouts a cheery hello at me over the fence. I feel like I've been kissed on the cheek, that she's let me in to her peaceful world by acknowledging my presence. She can see me. I exist and I am alive. Life is beating and pulsing all around me.
Death in the countryside.
There is death here too. Carcasses bleed out on the roads, rotting apples sink back into the soil. People who've never left their village of birth, whose minds have stopped questioning and no longer are capable of curiosity. They don't pulse life. They barely twitch. And sometimes they seep poison out of their mouths, poison about people who are different to them. They bring death with their words. They are like a stagnant rotting pond. The frogs stay well away. Soon the pond will dry up and we'll see all the segment left at the bottom. We'll dig it out, fill it with fresh water and see if the frogs will come back.
In the city. Once again.
Fleeting visits, short enough to shock and delight my senses. The city is pulsing and breathing too. Full to the brim of sensory delights. Food from every continent dance on my tongue. Echoing libraries, museums, cathedrals to awe and inspire. Music that seeps deep inside until it has no choice but to pulse back out again through my swaying hips. And people, people everywhere, each one living their own life, with thoughts, ideas, tears and unique perspectives to share. Each life lit up like a light bulb. People from every continent, each speaking and wearing their own cultures and history, and delighted to tell me about where they've come from. I can visit India, and Poland, and Indonesia without leaving the cafe I'm sitting in. The whole world in one city. Bursting with life.
Our headlong head strong embrace of the new revolution left the majority behind. But then again the future has always been the present for the rich, and the poor have always been consigned to the past. Once quantum computing had been unleashed by an accelerated intelligent 6-year-old girl, nothing was the same again. The artificially modified version of Asperger’s had been introduced to a batch of embryos the surviving few went on to make great strides bringing the promised singularity ever closer.
Once the breakthroughs had occurred the subsequent emergence of A.I assistants made the accelerated intelligent children obsolete. So, they were celebrated before having the honour of having their organs and tissue harvested for the cellular regeneration therapies which were becoming increasingly popular. You see once the understanding that injecting younger cells into the elderly rejuvenated their cells the human testing began in earnest.
Enhanced humans tended to be older and a lot wealthier, and as more could afford to join the club enhanced humans became the norm, both aesthetically and intellectually. Everybody else became less than humans simply by standing still. The poor masses were largely redundant due to automation in the job market, so as they were no longer human, they became expendable.
Naomi Trenier is an author and speaker from the UK.
+ + + + +
The plastic cover sticks to my legs as I shift in my seat, the rain still matted on my bare legs. I try to dry it a bit with my sleeve, but it's wet too so it just smudges more water on my skin. I can see the window beside my table steaming up from the damp warmth of my body. I look around to try and get the waiter's attention, but he keeps avoiding my eyes. I know he doesn't want me in here. I guess he's the owner. Respectable. I just want some coffee. Something to keep me going for the rest of the night.
I see the doors of the church across the street open, the light inside suddenly reflecting in the rain soaked streets. Making the puddles look even deeper. The people pour out, shoulders hunched against the weather. Bit of a shock I suppose, after a warm building. And coffee.
Here she comes again. She knows I'm around here somewhere and she spots me in the window before I can duck. Well, at least I can get coffee now. And maybe I'll only have to listen to her for a few minutes before I can leave. Just a few minutes of how she wants to help, and how it needn't be this way.
I don't see her again for another week, and when I do, my defences are down. A week of build up; an old song that reminded me of a friend who doesn't speak to me anymore, an unexpected bill, PMS probably, and then a violent client. She sees me walking in the street, hiding my eyes with my fringe and my sleeve, mainly so no-one can see the tears, rather than the bruises. I should have pushed past, but like I said, my defences were down. She talked about a warm room, and a fluffy duvet, and breakfast in bed, and a roaring fire, and all my senses lit up and betrayed me. I followed her home, and it was all there, in full technicolor.
Of course the next morning came the hangover. It was so clean, and well-behaved. And now I was alone with her and couldn't really leave straight away without appearing extremely rude and ungrateful.
So I listened for a while. A sweet lady. She really thinks she wants to help, but really she wants to save her own soul, to feel useful, purposeful, to feel like she's found her calling and is fulfilling it.
The thing is, I'm sort of a romantic notion to her. Her own personal version of Jesus and the Prostitute. An italic title in a bible in a church. It's all so vague. A prostitute. She doesn't mind me being in her house now, holding her cup between my hands. But if I was specific, if I told her that these hands had gripped dozens of cocks this month, these fingers had slipped in anuses, suddenly I wouldn't seem like such a romantic notion, but a stark vivid reality. If I told her that my mouth, that now sipped her coffee, had also been filled countless times with white dripping cum, and moaned with pretend ecstasy while doing so, her sense of decency and morality would far exceed her theories of Love Conquers All. I don't really want to burst her bubble. She's a sweet lady. I'll make my excuses in a few moments and leave. I know this isn't a place for me. It's not a place for the truth.
+ + + + +
The hot wool of the chair itches my legs and I shift in my seat. Finally we stand and say the prayer of serenity together. I look around at the faces of these women I love - all of us here with one struggle or another, some addiction or compulsive behaviour. The masks we save for the outside world are carefully folded and put in a drawer as we walk through these doors. There's no room for them in here. Our hair is down by our naked shoulders in this room. Nowhere to hide. And if these walls could talk, the stories they'd tell! Enough to make your hair turn white! Looking around at women in suits, or women in knitted cardigans, you couldn't imagine they'd know what half the words being said even meant, never mind experienced it themselves!
I leave the church building, and out of habit my eyes sweep to the cafe for her. She is there, hiding as usual! Like a child playing hide and seek with their hands over their eyes, thinking you can't see them. I buy her coffee and talk a short while before her desperate twitches compel her to finally move. I know she only wants the coffee, but who can blame her? A hot coffee is one of life's greatest pleasures!
A week later I see her, in a bit of state. I invite her home, and to my surprise she agrees. That night I can't sleep thinking about her. I hope she sleeps well. I hope she feels safe. At one point I cross the room to my bedroom wall, and stand there with my hand against it, whispering silently to her that she is safe and brave and to have good dreams.
I might not know what it's like to live her life, but I know what it's like to feel desperately alone, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I want her to know she never has to experience that. I guess she reminds me of myself a bit and that's why I feel so protective of her. I know what it's like to have your family abandon you, to reject you, to be wholly unacceptable to them.
I know what it's like to have a real 'family' that you've made as an adult, people who stand by you no matter what. Who love you just because you're you. Who've seen your darkest secrets and snotty face, and still hold your hand, and then take you out dancing afterwards. People who don't turn away when you yell at them. Family that are still there the day after the night before.
The next morning, the shutters are down in her face. It's not hard to guess what she thinks of me. Naive, certainly would be up there. She assumes a lot about me, but has never asked much to clarify her thinking. She probably assumes I don't know what being a prostitute entails. Perhaps she thinks I'm under the impression it's missionary position in a flowery bedspread, with a handsome businessman. I chuckle to myself, what an idea! A lot of young people are like this, I suppose, they think us older ones are shocked by anything remotely sexual. Penises, vaginas, and sex toys were around long before she was! I should know, I utilised them vigorously. I chuckle to myself again, and offer her more coffee.
Naomi Trenier is an author and speaker from the UK.
A temple in the sky was his dwelling place, the lord of time searched tirelessly for a new Adam and a new Eve, all he required was unconditional love and a fearless embrace.'
Galloping hoofs threw up dirt on the forest trail as two men, the latest emissaries for Lord Telos neared the end of their days journey from the sea towards the slave compound. It was Summer 1773 and the slave trade had been banned in England for almost a year. Secluded coastlines however were still used to smuggle men and women across the border to secret compounds where the slaves could be kept until bought. Old habits die hard, and the wealthy, the brutal, and the pragmatic continued to buy women and men. Lord Telos was one of the latter category. He was spoken of by the suspicious and religious as a living embodiment of time who lived in the clouds. He had been traveling the country commissioning men to search out and purchase slaves with a promise of reward.
The west coast of England had a steady stream of people traffic and had a large compound. Torture and execution was provided for the spirited and the seditious slaves who had an example made of them. In a nearby forest nicknamed Golgotha one such captured escapee, a former tribal chief called Resurrection prepared to meet his ancestors. His arms were tied tightly behind his back and his ribcage felt the pinch of the untied boots, of the stocky pale man with the patchy orange beard glowering over him.
The rust bobbled axe sparkled momentarily in the dawns young rays. The one who would be his undertaker shunted his feet forward. Resurrection's compounded head pivoted against the Willow tree wedged in its roots system which provided a natural vice. Resurrection had chalk grey lips from dehydration, he prepared for his execution. One eye was bloodshot, purpled, swollen and glued shut with caked blood, spit and sweat. He inflated his lungs and held his breath knowing the out breath would be his reunion with all things. Then for the first time he had an out of body experience. All the sounds around him dimmed as he went into a state of hearing his own inner sonic universe, his heartbeat and the sound of blood rushing though his veins. Then in a split second he imagined seeing himself standing with someone behind the axe wielder looking down on himself. Then he was back in his body on the floor and the sounds of the forest came alive once more.
Today in America, Western Europe and beyond people are expressing their desire for stronger, more authoritarian leadership in a climate of increasing fear and insecurity. Many are calling for leaders who will put up walls, enforce laws with greater vigor and take stands for citizens against the rising tides of refugees, immigrants and terrorists. Jobs, borders, and benefits for us—not them.
In the days of Samuel the people of Israel tired of corruption and threats from menacing Philistines to the point of saying to him: “Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:8). Samuel was unhappy with this request and went to the Lord, who said: “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (v. 7)
Today in America we see too many of God’s people reflecting a similar fatigue and request, and it appears to have been granted them in the recent presidential election (81% of White Evangelicals and over 60% White Catholics voted for Trump). While God’s prophet Samuel went along with the people’s request for a king in obedience to God, he did not endorse the majority sentiment and choice, and neither should we.
Rather God told the prophet to solemnly warn people (v. 9) of the miseries that awaited them, which were played out in graphic detail as king after king did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the people ended up in exile. Samuel warned those who “elected” Israel’s first king of many negative consequences (see 1 Samuel 8:11-17), bluntly stating “then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (v. 18).
Samuel anointed Saul and then the Old Testament prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power stepped into high gear. Now is the time for a resurgence of prophetic ministry informed by Word, Spirit and street realities. It is critical that anyone stepping into this calling be rooted and grounded in God’s love, be informed by sources dear to God’s heart, exercise great wisdom, and are bold in speaking truth.
Scripture informs God’s prophet, who learns that the One awaited as God’s Messiah is a King not like the leaders of other nations. This King puts the poor and vulnerable at the center.
“For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight” Psalm 72:12-14
Attentive listening to the poor and marginalized in our communities will alert us to the failure of political parties past and present to address the deeper wounds, maladies and injustices that breed chaos in our streets and the high-priorities that elected officials must address.
Urgent is the need for reformation of the US prison and immigration systems, and the way law-enforcement is practiced. Our legal systems require a deep overhaul, without which vulnerable people will continue to be crushed under the weight of sanctions, requirements and debt. Effective reformation can only happen if the voices of prisoners and their families, undocumented immigrants and their advocates, those struggling with addictions and mental health disorders and their advocates are pursued, heard and responded to. Are there any signs that these are the priorities of today’s political leaders? If not, we must call for this and ourselves embody lives of reformation in alignment with the Biblical prophetic call for justice.
Without reformation from the bottom up (as well as from the top down), there will no peace in our lands—but rather growing chaos and the rise of the police State. And without the one and only Peacemaker Jesus himself-- and a growing movement of people devoted to following him, there will be no peace.
This is the One who the wise men from the East were led to by the star, the One wrapped in swaddling clothes, who the shepherds first found. Jesus must be lifted up by Christians as Commander-and-Chief in these perilous times. Jesus’ inauguration happened on the cross as was robed, crowned with thorns and crucified King of the Jews, and continues to be effective now. If you are an American consider commemorating Jesus’ inauguration as King this January 20 through reading the Gospel account, celebrating communion or affirming your own declaration of allegiance.
Unlike a strong armed, authoritarian leader Jesus came to: “break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:4-7).
Following Jesus, the Prince of Peace is about joining a movement that began long ago and must continue forward through the humble work of loving neighbors: feeding the hungry, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners. (See the Matthew 25 pledge). Stepping into Jesus’ movement is joining the only side that brings God’s government into our broken world, as Isaiah 9 beautifully prophesies.
“There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” May you be filled with zeal for Jesus and his Kingdom this Epiphany and beyond as you begin 2017.
Faith in Christ pertains to the inner content of the life of Christ. It is not just a collection of religious ideologies and moralisms which ignore Christ and His message in order to return to bondage to the law, as if we were without Grace.
It is said by the Saviour that "not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away until all things be fulfilled." How is it that anyone (even Orthodox clergy) turn to this saying, yet never, ever pay heed to the prayer we say at the Proskomedia, just after the prayer before the Amvon, and before the final blessing? It begins with the theological statement, "Thou who art Thyself the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets ..."
If Christ Jesus did not "fulfill all things," what did He accomplish?
Of course, if you believe in the 'Atonement' heresy--that Christ was tortured to death to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel and unforgiving deity, and died to save us from God--then you might not realize that Christ did indeed, fulfill all things so that every jot and tittle of the law may pass away, so that the "manuscript that was against us is torn up," as Paul says, and the "middle wall" (Eph. 2:14) is broken down.
Ecclesiology with godfather
Brad: It’s time for me to have a discussion on ecclesiology (the theology of church or ecclesia) with my Eastern Orthodox godfather, David Goa.
Though I’ve attended churches since birth and spent 20 years as a full-time clergyman (and now a tonsured Reader in the EO Church), ecclesiology is probably the weakest area of my theology. This partly stems from straddling my appreciation of the so-called ‘institutional church’ [hereafter contracted to IC] vis-a-vis my call to minister (via PTM.org) to the ‘nones and dones’ (generally post-Evangelicals). These folks general still love Christ, but for a variety of reasons (from irrelevance to spiritual abuse) have no intention of returning to congregational participation. It leaves me asking, what is church?
David: While your focus has primarily been outreach to the Evangelical world (and those who’ve left it), I more often rub shoulders with clergy on the modern liberal side.
In both cases, two levels of ecclesiology are intertwined. First, regarding those in ministry, what is our calling? What constitutes ministry? And second, what constitutes the church?
Brad: Alright, let’s take those in order. Tell me about the call to ministry.
David: What I have found that those who spend any length of time in the register of justice tend to become spiritual anorexics, burnt out and cynical.
If you’re raised in the dominant justice register, your task is social criticism, usually leveled congregation. And so, the congregation gets pissed off or they become convinced, and in either case, they leave and the church withers.
The best and brightest of them can’t sleep in sheets of 220 threads, if you know what I mean. In the place of privilege, they’re exhausted. I say to them, “Your father’s fundamentalism was never the point. Your reaction to his fundamentalism is not the point. There’s something deeper happening here.”
This becomes very vivid when working with that clergy. It’s amazing how few can rest with peace in how they minister. Are they supposed to be politicians, prophets, therapists or liturgists?
Brad: And how do you answer that?
David: What if our calling allows us to simply be present to people? What if we get to be present to our community (outside the church)? To be resources who follow the Spirit’s winds, free to speak the word of healing whenever, to whomever? And what if our calling—our ministry—is to live lives that allow us to hear that word, too?
Once we discuss what constitutes ministry, confusion often occurs around what constitutes the church.
Brad: Indeed. Pray tell, godfather … What is the church?
It was through him (Lewis) that I really discovered the meaning of friendship…. When we last met, a month before his death, he reminded me that we had been friends for nearly forty years. There are not many things more precious to me than that friendship.
Bede Griffiths - “The Adventure of Faith”
A man should keep his friendship in constant repair.
C.S. Lewis was one of the most prominent Medieval and Renaissance scholars at Oxford, initially, then Cambridge, from the 1930s until his death in 1963. Bede Griffiths was, as a young man, a student of Lewis, and, both men came to Christianity together from about 1929-1932. The relationship, as time unfolded, changed from teacher-student to, through many a trying moment, pure gold friends. It is somewhat significant that Bede Griffiths gave Lewis a copy of Aelrid of Rievaulx’s Spiritual Friendship (acknowledged by Lewis in a letter to Griffiths: May 26 1943). Aelrid was the much loved Abbot of Rievaulx and his missive on “spiritual friendship” is a classic in western spirituality. It is quite appropriate that Lewis and Griffiths (both immersed in the mother lode of the classical and western tradition with a generous openness to the East and Orient) would have held high the notion of friendship and Aelrid’s beauty of a text on the subject.
I have, for many a decade and for different reasons, been attracted to both Lewis and Griffiths, and my small book, C.S. Lewis and Bede Griffiths: Chief Companions (2016) highlights the layered friendship between Lewis and Griffiths over many a decade. Griffiths, after the death of Lewis in 1963, often came to the defence of Lewis in The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal. The fact that few Griffiths keeners know much about the many letters by Griffiths to The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal means a significant aspect of both Griffiths’ and Lewis’ friendship is not known about. The more the letters by Griffiths about Lewis to the Journal are read and pondered, the richer becomes our understanding of Lewis and Griffiths (and their friendship). And, as Griffiths noted, “There are not many things more precious to me than that friendship”.
It is somewhat interesting that many a fan of Lewis knows little about the Lewis-Griffiths friendship and, equally so, many who have the highest admiration for Griffiths know little about Griffiths’ close friendship with Lewis. Why is this the case? There are tendencies, of course, to freeze thinkers and activists within certain time frames, then reduce their complexity and nimbleness to simplistic categories. Creative, thoughtful and innovative thinkers can rarely be cabin’d, cribb’d and confin’d in such a way, but often followers and interpreters do this for the purpose of comparing and contrasting, highlighting who best reflects their agendas. Lewis and Griffiths, decidedly so, elude such caging and embalming. Lewis certainly cannot be reduced to an apologist for reformed and evangelical Christianity no more than he can be defined as a conservative/republican in politics—sadly so, this has often been done. Lewis is much more catholic and spacious than his followers and adherents make him out to be. The same can be said about Griffiths. How is Griffiths to be interpreted? Was he, at day’s end, a sophisticated syncretist or a Roman Catholic with an achingly high view of common grace? Was Griffiths merely a post-Vatican II progressive or more of a patristic contemplative theologian that applied Classical Christian meditative thought to comparative religions?
How are we to read and interpret the nuanced and subtle insights and wisdom of Lewis and Griffiths? The danger, as mentioned above, is to simplify their thinking for the purpose of too easy categorization.
I've been reading your A More Christlike God. On page 102 you discuss "Trinitarian love". I've always taken the Trinity as a "given," and never really looked into its implications. But as I've read Jason Pratt's Sword to the Heart, I've come to see that the Trinity has significant ethical implications; God Self-Begetting (the Father) and God Self-Begotten (the Son) always treat One another lovingly. If a Person of God were to rebel against another Person of God, all existence would cease. This gets around the "Euthyphro dilemma" in a way that I do not think unitarian faiths can. What are your thoughts?
Given the alarming rise of white nationalism in the United States and the ways in which it is often entangled with Christian nationalism, it is worthwhile remembering whose birth, exactly, was commemorated on Sunday.
The association of Christianity with whiteness is relatively new in history, as is the whole idea of a “white” race identified with Europe. I’ve pointed out that Benjamin Franklin saw whiteness in his own day as being an attribute solely of the British, so that Germans, e.g., were not white– in part because he thought them “swarthy” and in part because they lived under despotism. And, no, Santa Claus was not ‘white,’ either.
Likely the rise and consolidation of the Dutch and British Empires in the seventeenth through twentieth centuries contributed to the meme of “whiteness” and “Christianity,” both seen by some in the 19th century as markers of civilizational superiority. (The actual reasons for which the British were able to loot India, Malaya and Kenya, and the Dutch to loot what is now Indonesia, had nothing to do with either ‘whiteness’ or Christianity. There are, as it turns out, no meaningful biological races, since homo sapiens sapiens is such a young species, roughly 150,000 years old).
So here are some reasons for which Jesus was not white: