I have been attending a "12 step" group at a church that explicitly spells out their position that Jesus Christ is their higher power. So far, so good, but I apparently have run afoul of some of the unoffiical "leaders" in the group for expanding on some of their comments with clarifications that appear to contradict what they say. I have puzzled over how to explain my purposes, and have come to the satifying explanation that what the True Church teaches from the Scriptures is true, but that the traditional terminology and word-usage is not precise.
"True, but not precise." What does that mean and how does it translate into practice?-
At the core of the phrase "true, but not precise" is the recognition that the traditional analogies and vocabulary that are used to explain scriptural truths illuminate those truths in a limited fashion because they themselves are not found in scripture. My position with regard to Scripture is similar to the Church's: It is the Word of God that communicates God's general will that are inerrant in the originals. What are not inerrant are the analogies, parables, sayings, cliches, and vocabulary of those who did not write the Scriptures, but who are trying to explain those Scriptures. These analogies, parables, sayings, cliches, and vocabulary are used by expositors to explain the complex ideas found in the Scriptures in a simple way to people attempting to understand the text who do not understand the original language in which they were written. Over time, these explanatory tools become sacred, with any alternative usage viewed with suspicion if they do not "reduce to," or better explain, the existing usage.
The problem with this mindset is that there are real problems when one insists on using imprecise language in the face of complex problems. For instance, the coordinators of the 12 step group rightly extol the Scriptures, but their approach made it appear that the Scriptures themselves accomplish their purpose independent of God's power. Certainly, when God Speaks, what He says amounts to Scripture, but the power comes from the fact that God spoke it, not inherently in the words. For instance, there is a real difference between God saying "Let there be light!" and a human being saying "Let there be light!" The words themselves are found in Scripture, but merely repeating them does not produce the same effect because the power is not in the words themselves (which would be believing in magic), but in thePperson who said them. Here is a search on the words "word perform", and you will see that it is God who "performs" His Word. There is an element of personal intervention and involvement that is missed if one focusses on what a person says that causes stuff to happen rather than on the person themselves actively following through on what they say. Focus on the words, and you get, at best, what the words promise. Focus on the person who says the words, and you not only get what the words promise, but you open yourself up to receiving personal words from that person as well as engaging in a relationship. When you hear the words "The check is in the mail", whether you feel expectation or exasperation depends, not on the words, but on your personal knowledge regarding the one who spoke them. The result will either be you feeling resignation or having patience and expectation (hope). A "Word of Faith" person would, in the face of seeming failure, expand the number or variety of promises they would utter or the style in which they say and pray them, but might miss the fact that their problem is relational or conceptual. Getting more intimate with God, or getting one's understanding of a phenomenon straight, often results in the promise being fulfilled or a desire granted as a form of "feedback" mechanism to signal approval. For decades I hated Romans 12:1 about being a living sacrifice and simply rebelled at those people who insisted that I obey the Word (mostly because it got me into a position that allowed them to wield the knife). However, the moment I got a more intimate and real relationship with the God to whom that sacrifice was going to be made, I not only obey and do it instinctively, as often as possible, and with a real sense of personal pleasure, I find God driving away everyone who has a sharp instrument and plunder on their minds. Our God is a jealous God? Oh you betcha. In fact, you won't know the meaning of the word until you see God showing it!
Another example that is more relevant to Symbiotic Christianity is the phrase "Jesus is in you". The actual fact of the matter is that Jesus is actually seated at the Right Hand of the Father in Heaven, and that it is the Holy Spirit who is actually in you, reflecting Jesus to you in the same way that Jesus reflected the Father to the disciples and us, even though the Father was not literally in Him but was in Heaven. In this case, the use of "Jesus is in you" is apparently calculated to evade any real discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit, but there's no problem keeping Jesus and the Father distinct and separate, with separate roles and responsibilities. To be certain, there are passages that tell us we are "in Christ Jesus", but the passages that tell us we are "in Christ", that do not use the word "Jesus", are also numerous. In a sense, using the looser language while eschewing the more precise language allows the user to evade the seeming contradictions in the passages that actually point to the deeper reality of Unification that I was led to see because I submitted to the discipline of using the more precise language.
Even Paul himself admitted that some of his analogies and illustrations were not precise. In 2 Timothy 2:3-6, Paul uses a series of illustrations to explain the level of commitment God required of him as an empowered worker for Him. In verse 7, he implicitly admits that the illustrations are indirect and do not precisely communicate what he has in mind, so he tells Timothy to consider the examples and invoke Illumination to obtain, by God's aid, a revelation of the underlying truth he (Paul) is finding difficult to get across.
The downside of this is that the benefits of using more precise language are (currently) accruing to to those who have a precise turn of mind that allows them to appreciate the distinctions. At the moment, I find such minds in engineers and pre-teens. In engineers, because they are already disciplined in the use of precise terminology and appreciate the need of attending to detail. In pre-teens, because they haven't acquired the obfusticatory vocabulary and preconceptions that block their elders from understanding the details of the facts given them, while having enough intelligence to process the information, coupled with a naive faith willing to attempt implementing it (and succeeding!) In fact, the pre-teens that didn't "get it" were aping adults and teenagers by copping and imitating the mental attitudes of "grown ups".
Hmm. now that I think of it, this entry suggests some tactical and strategic directions in propagating symbiotic Christianity that I had not seen when I started it...
2011-01-01 06:01:29 by Gerald