Saturday, October 21, 2017

Review of Andrew Root's "Faith Formation in a Secular Age" (Part 8)

10. The Music of Formation

Secular 3 tells us there is no living person as faith’s content. So we focus on the process of faith formation designed to secure greater commitment to our institutions. Faith formation seeks commitment with faith itself the goal. Separating faith from its content is ultimately untenable.

The Music of Ministry

“To have faith is to be in Christ; it is to have the faith of Christ because Christ lives in you. The way into Christ is not through a program, a principle, or even a doctrine. The only way “in” to this union, as Michael Gorman says, is through a death experience (the cross, negation).” (3738)

Substantiation of our death experience as union in the person of Jesus is that divine action enters as ministry.

“Ministry is more than just a generic (natural) relationality; rather, ministry is a form of action that draws spirit into Spirit.” (3753) “Ministry is the deepest form of relationality because in ministry your person is shared in so deeply that the story that gives coherence to your being is completely claimed by the new story of the love, compassion, and mercy of the minister who shares your place.” (3762)

“The cross is, no doubt, the ultimate of death experiences, but it is also simultaneously the ultimate act of ministry that stretches to the deepest of levels (to the very being of God). What makes the cross atoning is not only that Jesus takes our sin but also that he enters death so deeply that now every death experience becomes the concrete locale for Jesus to minister his being to our own, to hide us in his life of ministry, so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20) through the act of ministry that binds our being to his.” (3780)

To be formed in Christ is to be

-to give yourself to the story of Jesus in and through a death experience

-in a community that retells the stories of how the living Jesus came to us and ministered to us through negation

-like Ananias and become another’s minister entering into their death experience and sharing in the being of God.

-“in Christ by being ministered to and ministering to others through the cross of their death experience, allowing our own personhood to be the tangible manifestation of resurrection.” (3794)

Now Back to the Music

Phil.2:6-11 great song of Christian faith.

“Ananias has embodied the hymn in his coming to Paul as a humble minister, embracing Paul through his death experience. The humility of being another’s minister mediates the new reality of God’s own being.” (3827)

Being can be shared if it is wrapped in kenosis because this kenosis is the being of God.

From “Although” to “Because”

Phil.2:6: often take “although he was in the form of God” as if it meant even though he’s really cool, powerful, and mighty, he became less or other than that in the incarnation. This cuts the heart out of kenosis and faith formation. NT scholars of late though have been taking the Greek participle as “because” instead of “although.” Jesus humbles himself “because” not “in spite of” being in the for of God.

“Kenosis, therefore, does not mean Christ’s emptying himself of his divinity (or of anything else), but rather Christ’s exercising his divinity, his equality with God.” (3863).

“Faith formation from Paul’s perspective means linking hypostasis (the personal story of mystical encounter) with kenosis (to be called and sent to persons as minister). To share in the being of God is to live out of the likeness (image) of God, which is to be a person in ministry (which is to be hypostatic in kenosis).” (3863)


Freedom is central for Paul because it is relationship to a person.

Because Jesus comes to us as a person, as a minister, we come to others in the same personal, free, way as ministers. And all this “because” Jesus was in the form of God and came among us in divine freedom.

Keeping “Although” Alongside “Because”

Even with the “because” element of the Greek participle there remains a certain “although” element as well. “Although in freedom Jesus could have opted to be something other than a minister, he conformed to the kenotic being of the Father, becoming a servant, by becoming the minister to humanity by taking on the being of humanity.” (3889)

“This hymn provides a structure where the object and the process of faith are fused in the divine action of the cross itself.” (3889) The song is not only about Christ but about the way of life of his people in the world.

The Pattern of the Disciple

If ministry is not kenotic it is disconnected from the divine being. “Kenosis is what constitutes ministry as a dynamic union of being through act.” (3905)

Paul’s structure of faith formation from Phil.2:6-11: is “although [x] not [y] but [z].” Michael Gorman notes,

“As the obedient suffering servant who behaves in the pattern ‘although [x] not [y] but [z],’ Christ displays not only true divinity but also true humanity. Unlike Adam, he does not exploit his status as God’s image-bearer or disobey God the Father. Rather, he acts in obedience obedience to the Father in a way that serves not himself but others, bringing about their redemption from sin.”[1]

This formula fuses the object and process of faith.

“The process and the object of faith are linked because the ‘although’ is the ‘because’ of the Christ hymn in Philippians 2; the ‘although’ acts of humility are bound in the ‘because’ being of God. This becomes the way to seek divine action through negation, the way of participating in union with Christ through ministry itself. Kenosis can lead to a transcendent sharing in personhood (hypostasis) because it encompasses the fullness of cruciform love.”[2]


Gorman defines theosis: “Theosis is transformative participation in the kenotic, cruciform character and life of God through Spirit-enabled conformity to the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected/glorified Christ, who is the image of God.”[3]

Athanasius: God became humans so humans might become God.

“Theosis contends that union with Christ is an ontic relation that transforms us, giving us participation in the divine being—making us into God.” In other words, union with Christ is a reality that changes us.

For us to become like God is not to become a superhuman, it is to become fully human. “So theosis is not owning the essence of God but sharing in the energy of God.” (4036) “. . . we share in God’s energy as God’s very act of ministry, that a kenotic transformation of our being, through the Spirit, turns us into ministers.” (4047)

“Theosis, then, is to be drawn into the being of God through the humility of the kenotic, which sends us like Ananias to enter the death experience of our neighbor as the very manifestation of our sharing in the being of God through the ministering humanity of Jesus. Theosis is the ontological transformation of sharing in the being of God by encountering the kenotic energy of God, which seeks to share in hypostasis or personhood through the experience of death (the cross). Theosis means being a minister who shares in hypostasis through kenosis.56 Russell explains that, “as Christians transformed by Christ we become not ‘who’ God is but ‘what’ [God] is, sharing in [God’s] divine plan for the reconciliation and glorification of humankind.” (4069-4078)

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism can be counterpointed by Hypostatic Kenotic Theosis

11: Is God a Favor Bestower or a Gift Giver?

Transformation is required because we are bearing witness to God’s reality in Secular 3 which denies that reality.

“Knocking against the scaffolding of immanence, many people are compelled, ironically, to look for meaning and transformation beyond the transcendentless presumptions of Secular 3. Taylor has called this tendency ‘the nova effect.’” Those echoes of transcendence we met earlier.

Justification, Faith, and a Mad Accountant

Justification by faith is a hallmark of Protestantism. Christ’s righteousness is bestowed on us. Too often, though, this faith turns out to be sedative, tamping down any impetus to action.

Under the influence of Secular 3, faith also becomes little more than a decision to trust. Justification becomes bestowing a status without transformation. “Too see justification outside participation is to forget that the “although” is based in the “because”; in other words, it is to strip kenosis from our visions of justification.” (4527)

“But for Paul, the “although” is indeed the “because,” meaning God takes on the “although” action to justify “because” God is minister.” (4537)

“Faith in relation to justification is not just the trust to believe that our bank account is full. Rather, it is the very experience of receiving the person of Jesus Christ into our being.” (4537)

“Justification is Jesus entering into our death experience so that we might share in the life of God. Justification then signals that faith is ultimately not our own act but is the invitation to share in Jesus’s own faith.” (4546)

“Then who this God is, revealed in justification, is not an accountant or a scorekeeper but a minister who comes to your dying person with a personhood (hypostasis) that enters your death experiences as an act of ministry (kenosis) so that you might be free from serving death and be (not a clairvoyant shaman but) a minister to your neighbor (theosis).” (4554)

Justification as Ministry

Justification means that we are always in need of a minister. And that minister is Jesus for he is the only one who fully lives from the ministry of the Father. We live by his faith, thus we no longer live but he lives in us (Gal.2:20).

From Cross to Resurrection

“Justification by faith, then, is a death-and-resurrection experience.” Without the cross, the ministry of justification that brings the transformation of the real presence of Christ is lost.” (4594)

“Faith is bound in the person of Jesus, because Jesus is the person who has had his death experience so ministered to by the Father that Jesus has become life itself.” (4594)

To be justified is to be co-crucified but also co-resurrected. The transformation that comes with justification is theosis. “theosis is to share in God, not in power and might, but as a minister who shares in the glory of God by experiencing the fusion of the divine with the human through a hypostatic union—by sharing in and ministering to persons.” (4602)

A Body

Personhood cannot be disconnected from embodiment. “Rather, to experience the transformation of theosis is to have your body ministered to and sent to minister to other bodies.” (4609)

Christ is holy because he allows the Spirit to transform him into a minister, sharing in the death experiences of the other. Holiness is the willingness to enter death experiences through kenosis.

“Holiness and theosis are connected, but as such neither can ever be divided from resurrection. It is resurrection manifested in the witness of the act and being of the minister who brings the transformation of theosis.” (4627)

“This, then, is why for Paul faith is contingent on bodily resurrection. If justification is nothing more than the need for innocent blood to pay for my sin and transform God’s attitude toward me, with no transformational impact on my own being, then in the end why the need for bodily resurrection? But if justification leads to the transformation of theosis by bringing to our bodies the resurrected body of Jesus, then our bodies are sent by the justifying action of God to minister to other bodies as Jesus has ministered to ours.” (4634)

Justification and Salvation

“The work of Christ is to give to humanity his very person, so that through his person we might have the salvation of participating in the life of God, breathing eternally the air of life, wholeness, and mercy, having every part of us sustained forever through the Spirit that is the ministry of the Father to the Son.”

[1] Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, 31-32.
[2] Gorman, Inhabiting, 35.
[3] Gorman, Inhabiting, 125.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Review of Andrew Root's "Faith Formation in a Secular Age" (Part 7)

8. What is Faith?

Through the cross of Jesus Paul finds a new divine transcendence emerging from this negation. Faith is a transcendent experience born out of this negation. “Faith for Paul is something ever strange to our modern ears. Faith is actually to enter into Christ; it is to have our own being taken into the being of Jesus.” (2901) We are tied to Jesus’ faithfulness, his ministry.

“’Faith’ then, for us, ‘is a complex human experience, and Paul preserves this complexity while giving it a unique twist. While affirming its character as trust and conviction, Paul connects faith to the experience of Jesus as God’s faithful Son. Faith is more than trust; it is also fidelity, or loyalty.’” (2920)

Dreaming of Phinehas

Phinheas is Saul’s model of righteousness. Only he and Abraham are called righteous in the Old Testament.

“He was a young man with a robust, consequential, vital faith—with a personal religious commitment brimming with adjectives. He saw the Israelites losing ground to the worshipers of Baal. So with passion and conviction he acted, putting his commitment into motion. Grabbing a spear, he went to the tent of an Israelite man and stuck it through him and the Midianite woman he slept with. This act of passionate commitment purified the boundary (like in Secular 2).” (2934)


“Saul wanted his actions to be “reckoned to him as righteousness”; he was bred from earliest days to be a committed cleric, formed to be a man as committed to God as Phinehas was.” (2956) maybe this was why he persecuted the church. Yet he was accosted by the risen Jesus on the way to Damascus, “coming as a light that blinds Saul, Jesus turned him from a raiding zealot with sword in hand to a helpless blind man, needing the hand of another to lead him.” (2964)

The model of Phinehas as righteous is broken for Saul. “And particularly in our time, we would do well not to try to rebuild it. We feel the temptation to do so because Secular 2 tells us we’re in a turf war, believing that the vaccination for healthy faith formation is a deep commitment that is best delivered when we’re young.” (2978) A this commitment is parsed in terms institutional commitment.

“Commitment next to the gravitational pull of Secular 3 has a great advantage; commitment is dependent not on a transcendent force but on our own willing. But faith seen this way is more in the shape of Phinehas than that of Saul.” (2985)

From Righteousness to Righteousness

Saul-soon-to-be-Paul “had failed to be what he always dreamed of being, a zealot like Phinehas. But worse, perhaps Paul was awakened from sleep not only by his failure but by the fact that the way of Phinehas now lacked veracity after Paul’s encounter with the living Jesus.” (2992)

Phinehas’ companion in righteousness, Abraham is of a different ilk. His “righteousness, in Paul’s mind, has been won in a completely different way, in such a different way that “won” becomes an inappropriate descriptor. If Phinehas is righteous through commitment that leads to the strongest of actions, then Abraham is righteous for the weak act of faith.” (3000)

This thread of Abraham’s faith becomes the thread that Paul must and does follow in his thinking and acting serving God’s call. That faith and the career born of it can be summarized like this: “Although the fulfillment of the promise is negated at every turn and found impossible, he nevertheless gives fidelity and loyalty to a new realm from which, out of the barrenness of dead wombs, God’s act comes.” (3016)

“Abraham is righteous because he is absurd; he is willing to enter a reality where what cannot be is made possible by the act of God’s gift.” (3023)

And God’s gift in the negation makes possible the ministry of Paul’s which follows. Ananius comes reluctantly but obediently to Paul, enter his weakness/negation and becomes his minister. “Ananias becomes Paul’s minister, and as he does, he invites Paul to take hold of the gift of faith: to let go of his Phinehas-shaped righteousness, and to walk into negation (cross), where he will experience the very righteousness of the risen Christ who will make Paul’s own negation into new life (resurrection).” (3046)

Paul, Faith, and the Seculars

“Secular 3 pulls a dirty trick; it tells people to feel, to dive deeply into their experiences (‘for experience is all there is, after all,’ whispers Secular 3). But following these experiences too deeply opens you to mystery or longing that moves you to see beyond the natural and material. Secular 3 then admonishes you for these experiences, negating them with doubt.

“In response to this doubt, we unknowingly turn to Phinehas for the shape of our faith formation. We seek pragmatic steps that increase people’s level of commitment. But ironically this only turns faith into religious commitment that in the end is natural and material (and supports a transcendentless existence).” (3060-3067)

For Paul faith is not sure commitment but rather the experience of being found in Christ through the negation of his cross. “Faith cannot be vital, vibrant, or robust; it can only be as broken as negation and as slippery as transcendence in the age of Secular 3.” (3084)

From Negation to Union

“Union happens through negation, and this union is the act of ministry—sharing in the life of another. It is perceived to be weak but is actually the strongest force in existence.17 It is strongest because only ministry joins negation, turning negation from prison to communion. Ananias joins Paul’s negation, and through uniting in the ministry of shared negation, the negation is transformed into the union of shared life.” (3091-3099)

“Divine action comes to Paul as the force of negation. But this force is personal (‘I am Jesus!’). Faith, then, for Paul, is the transcendent encounter with the person of Jesus through negation, which forges a ministry of union that can turn death into life.” (3099)

9. From Membership to Mystical Union

In Paul’s thinking central place is held by the phrase “in Christ” (and variants). But what does he mean by this phrase?

-membership card: a member of the church (legal overtones)/not transformative/major effect is on God/resonates with Secular 2 (sense of spatial battle)

-mystical union: encounter w/transcendent reality (Paul on Damascus Road)/mystical but also personal

“Paul sees this as a union (a kind of participation in being) because he discovers that his own person is now bound with the person of Jesus Christ. And it is bound there through negation itself. Paul understands himself quite literally “in Christ”: his being is now in Christ’s being, as Christ is in him, because Paul has died with Christ, and through death Jesus has brought him into a new reality made through the ministerial action of the persons of the triune God (again, Gal. 2:20).” (3210-3219)

We enter this encounter with Christ through his own faithfulness because only he is able to find coherence in a collision of opposites (negation/new life through negation). This encounter “bring(s) forth . . . an all-new realm of being, a realm in which weakness is strength. This realm is called ‘Christ,’ and to be in it is to be ‘in Christ.’” (3227)

Though Secular 3 opposes any sense of transcendent reality and seeks to keep us anchored in the natural and material, we have seen that it cannot wholly filter out some “echoes of transcendence” from getting through. Experience and personhood are two places where transcendent divine action might break through.


“The experiential is central to Paul; faith cannot be divided from your own (or someone else’s testimony of) encountering the living Christ.” (3250) “This experience might be your own, like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or it might be the story told within the household of faith (within the ecclesia/church). Regardless, the only way into this realm called Christ is to follow experience.” (3259)

“And this means to enter the negation, the cross. This experience is always cruciform. “We experience the cross in our many death experiences (that is, our encounters with rejection, loss, and fear, those moments when we feel our being in question, question, alone to face the darkness). Paul seems to contend that when we confess these experiences, we find the risen Christ coming near us, giving us new life out of death, ministering to us out of God’s own experience of death on the cross.” (3259-3267)

“In the age of authenticity, we no longer give ourselves over to orders and duties (or even intellectual arguments based on some disconnected reason), believing them to be more real than our own experience. Rather, experience itself becomes the measure of what is. This experiential focus can spin us into heavy expressive bohemianism that births a radical individualism. However, this experiential attention of the age of authenticity can also move us to openness. But for this to happen, we must recognize that the world is bound not in an impersonal order but rather in a very personal one.” (3276-3283)

What legitimates this experience is that it meets us in the negation coming with a force to flatten us so we might experience the deeply personal love of Jesus as your minister.


“in Christ” = we experience the person of Jesus within our own person. Objective. Hypostatic as the early church called it.

“Hypostasis, from the perspective of the Cappadocians, is a zone where the divine and the human not only intermingle but, more so, find a deep union of distinct but mutual sharing. Hypostasis (relational personhood) is the way distinct and even opposed realities are tied, the most predominant example being the divine and human natures, which find union in the hypostasis (personhood) of Jesus.” (3291-3302)

To be “in Christ” is not to be in a religious or clairvoyant state, but it is to be in the person of Jesus, given back your own person in a communion of other persons who are loved and therefore love one another through the ministry of Jesus’s humanity.

We are persons because we draw our being by sharing in the lives of others.

To open the world to transcendence we do not need to reenchant it (return to Secular 1) but rather re-personalize it. Faith is to be loyal to the person of Jesus not to a concept, an ideology, or an institution. Thus, faith cannot be disconnected from experience, a transformative space.

How does thIs happen?


Story has deep spiritual vigor. It expresses/explains our deepest experiences. “Stories are the tentacles of personhood that reach out to share and be shared in.” (3377) And when our stories connect with one another we experience a share in the being of the other.

“Jesus invites Paul to share in his life by seeing Paul’s life through the narrative shape of Jesus’s death and resurrection.” (3377)

“From within the negation comes the person of Jesus, taking Paul’s person into his own, giving Paul the narrative arc of Jesus’s own life and breathing new life into Paul as Paul’s life now takes the shape of Jesus’s, which moves from cross to resurrection.” (3386)

By living into this new narrative of Jesus’ life, Paul can realistically claim that it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him (Gal.2:20). This is the work of the Spirit.

There is a reciprocity here. Sharing in Christ’s story is not an emotional experience. Rather it issues in a shared life of Jesus within the community.

The Echo Effect

Our sharing in Christ’s life also has an echo effect. Sharing in his life opens us to sharing the life of another who comes alongside us as our minister. To be “in Christ” is to is to be called in God’s action, ministry.

“Through Ananias’s ministry, Paul is given the gift of a new narrative arc: Jesus’s own life of ministry.”

What the is Faith?

“Faith is not something that we do or create; it is the gift given to us to share in the person of Jesus through negation, where our narrative arc is transformed and becomes Jesus’s own.”

“Faith then is always participation in the narrative arc of Jesus’s cross and resurrection by having your person ministered to and ministering to others.”

Faith is a death experience that leads to a resurrection experience.

Helping others, ministering to them in our Secular 3 age is

“. . . like Paul and Ananias, to encourage people to pray, opening their lives to the transcendent. It is to invite them to come in and, through prayer, to articulate their experience of negation so that they might be ministered to. And it is, in and through these acts of ministry in which their person is shared in, to continue to prayerfully seek the action of God.” (3506)

“To help people have faith is to help them experience divine action through the act of being ministered to and ministering to others.” (3513)

23. Mark 6:14-30: The Political Realities of the Mission     

    (I depend here on Myers’ Say to this Mountain, 72-73)

We are in the middle of another Markan “sandwich” here. 6:7-13 narrates the sending out of the disciples. 6:14-30 tells the gruesome story of John the Baptist’s death. 6:31-44 returns to the conclusion of the disciples’ mission.  

Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, tells us that Herod had John killed because he was fomenting an insurrection. And he was. Gathering the people in the wilderness under the aegis of a New Exodus against both established Roman and Jewish authorities could hardly be otherwise construed. Mark has already clued us into to that aspect of the story. Here he unveils another related aspect of it.

Herod Antipas (ruled Galilee from 4 b.c. to 39 a.d.). After he had John killed, the ruler had dreams that John was coming back from the dead to haunt him in the person of Jesus (6:14-16). Guilty conscience no doubt. But true as well. The movement he started was continuing and even increasing under the leadership of this Jesus!

Intermarriage was a political strategy of no little importance in building dynasties. When John objected to Herod’s marrying his brother’s wife (6:17ff.), the moral and the political converged. Additionally, Herod was a half-Jew who vigorously promoted the Hellenization of the area under his rule. Not surprising for a ruler dependent on Roman favor. He traded on his (half-) Jewishness only when it helped him or supported his agenda. For John to claim Herod accountable to Torah was to raise question about the legitimacy of Herod’s rule (6:18).

“Mark’s portrait of Herodian court intrigue takes on the character of parody (6:19ff.). The king throws a dinner party for the ruling classes of Galilee (6:21). Despite this impressive gathering of political, military, and economic leaders, however, it is a young dancing girl and a drunken oath that finally determine the fate of the Baptist (6:22-25).” (Myers, Say to this Mountain, 73)

How momentous events often turn on small and petty whims and grudges!

John’s death gives us a preview of what will happen to Jesus. When Mark returns to the report of the disciples on their mission, we now feel the pathos of the cost of God’s New Exodus to its participants.

22. Mark 6:7-13: The FoK Sent Out

The Story To-Date

We have seen so far that Mark has demonstrated Jesus’ authority and the scope and spread of his ministry. Opposition has sprung up to meet him, both human and supra-human, a mortal threat. Jesus gathers his New Israel and they join him in his New Exodus procession. The time has come, though, for them to fully participate in the work.

The FoK is Launched

As he teaches in the villages, Jesus summons the twelve. He pairs them up and sends them out to exercise his authority over his mission’s spiritual opponents (v.7). The Fellowship of the King is launched. Jesus sends his people out to face the real enemy behind all human ills and evils. That’s why he gives them his authority to prevail over them.

Elrond’s words to the dwarves on the eve of the Fellowship of the Rings’ departure parallel, I suspect, something of the weightiness of Jesus’ call to mission to his Fellowship of the King.

"You do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world. The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of Rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? . . . "That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world." (Rutledge, The Battle for Middle-earth:1172-1175)

Through Jesus, his disciples know God himself has called them for this work. And equipped them. And prepared them.

"The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world; small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere." (Rutledge, The Battle for Middle-earth:1410-1412)

These words encourage the FoR that though they are small and unimportant figures for the most part, it is the work of just such folk that often carries the day. And this has been just what Messiah Jesus has been teaching his FoK.

Eugene Boring observes: “The instructions for the journey . . . reflect the exodus motifs of food, sandals, tunic, and staff (cf. Exod 12:11; Deut 8:4; 29:5). Perceptive readers in Mark’s church will remember that the whole narrative is conceived in terms of the new exodus, the way (hodos) through the wilderness promised in Isaiah.” (Boring, M. Eugene. Mark: A Commentary (The New Testament Library) (Kindle Locations 4924-4927). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.)

The provision for the journey will come from hospitable folks in the villages to which they travel. Where they meet with welcome, there they stay. Where no welcome is forthcoming the disciples are to treat such people as unclean, as Gentiles. An Israelite returning from Gentile lands would shake the dust from those lands off their feet upon reentering Israel (v.11).

This may seem harsh and judgmental. That’s because it is! This mission of Jesus recruiting for God’s New Exodus is the people’s last chance. Jesus is reconstituting Abrahamic Israel. The calamity is coming. Now is decision time.

The pairs of disciples carry out their mission calling for repentance (see comments on repentance in 1:14-15). They carry on Jesus healing and exorcistic ministry. Jesus is as good as his word. The authority given them makes their mission successful.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Penal Substitution in Unavoidable – Scot McKnight

There are plenty of attempts to find atonement theories that avoid the barbarisms of some penal substitution (PSA) proponents, but avoiding PSA altogether is unavoidable. Here’s what it claims:

1. Humans sin.
2. Sin has serious, ultimate consequences before God.
3. The consequence of sin, its punishment, is death.
4. Jesus died to bear (and bear away) the consequences of sin (and sin).
5. Christians proclaim the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus. . .


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of Andrew Root's "Faith Formation in a Secular Age" (Part 6)

7: Faith and Its Formation in a Secular Age


We think of our world in terms of subtraction. For example, we taken prayer out of school, lost our moral guidelines, church attendance has declined.  More liberal folks think if we could just get rid of religion we be more rational and peaceful. Our faith formation, then, becomes a plugging up of the holes caused by this subtraction. But these pragmatic actions don’t work because the problem is not subtraction.

Charles Taylor says it this way: “Modernity is defined not just by our ‘losing’ an earlier world, but by the kind of human culture that we have constructed.”[1] It’s not the world we’ve known minus some vital components we can replace but a whole new world. “Rather than subtraction, we’ve added layers of authenticity and youthfulness, creating forms of cultural and social life where ‘the God gap,’ for many, simply isn’t there.” (2458)

“The adding of the mass society and its need for consumer want brought forth a bohemianism that turned us from duty to authenticity—making those who are full of youth the priests of self-fulfillment.” (2458) Faith, or what guide and directs our lives, has fundamentally shifted, become new. And the church has not grasped or grappled with that. “The age of authenticity has turned our conception of faith into something that more closely matches the imaginary of authenticity than it does biblical faith.” (2469)

We keep trying to shore up faith by inducing assent to various “truths” and solidify institutional participation. What cuts the nerve of faith in the age of authenticity, however, is the reality of God, the plausibility of transcendence and assumption that the world is flat. ‘In the age of authenticity, the self is buffered, the world is disenchanted, and God is always on the verge of being reduced to a psychologically created imaginary friend.” (2477)

Picketed Faith

God is still a “picket” in our North American cultural fence but the reason why for those whose still have it is now authenticity. People choose or not for their own reasons to keep or jettison the God “picket.” Subtraction stories make everything into a concept. And concepts make no claim on us. We pick and choose what we believe in the age of authenticity. Subtraction and authenticity go together.

“Faith formation as plugging holes created by subtraction plays into the logic of subtraction. The youthful priests of authenticity are willing to flatten the world, removing complexity and conceiving of life as a random bundle of concepts that can be kept or discarded as one individually chooses.” (2497)

“In the end, faith is not really “something” but rather “the absence of subtraction.” Faith is not constructive but is rather the (chosen) unwillingness to subtract a concept from your individually constituted fence (most often given to you by your parents). We don’t treat faith as a movement into a new reality or a sense of entering into the Spirit; neither does faith mean relating to God and others in some different way. Rather, we operate as though faith is simply the willingness to resist subtraction.” (2507)

Three Kinds of “Secular”

The real issue, even more than the loss of God as a concept, is the reality of God himself. The age of authenticity  has made the world flat (as we have seen) and the idea of God or transcendence unbelievable or at least much more difficult to believe in.

“More pervasive is that our culture has little room for belief in a God who is both transcendent and personal, who acts to bring forth an all-new reality, promising transformation. It is not necessarily subtraction that is our problem but rather the development of a social imaginary that gives little heed to transcendence or divine action.” (2515)

People still do experience transcendence now, but some of the support for that experience, the practices and locales that gave earlier people ways to express and experience it, have been overwhelmed by all the age of authenticity has added.

Charles Taylor tells our cultural story as one of addition rather than subtraction. “All that has been added has, in turn, blocked out the probability of a transcendent God who is anything more than people’s individual pet idea or concept.” (2534) The door to faith has not been subtracted but blocked by a pile of additions (for example, scientific positivism, materialism, expressive individualism).

Secular 1: Sacred versus Secular Planes

500 years ago the secular and sacred were two different temporal planes of reality. All sought the sacred plane. Indeed, that was the point of life. Some people were set apart to tend to the cultivation of the sacred while everyone else did the chores and necessities of daily life. But this was more a strategic separation than a real one. “Transcendence remained an ever-present reality as the farmer lived with an imaginary in which the eternal and temporal planes of existence met and often interpenetrated each other.” (2551)

“Taylor explains that the transcendent was not bound in people’s heads but loose in the world. Some things were secular (like the farmer’s pitchfork) and others sacred (like sacraments, chapels, or the bones of a saint). Some things took you into the transcendent and some did not. The zone where people could encounter transcendence was a massively open door that would dwarf you in its enormity (even to the point of fright), because it was imagined that things in the world were enchanted and the self was porous.” (2579)

Secular 2: Religious versus A-religious Spaces

The transition to the modern world redefined the relation between secular and sacred. “To say “secular” in Secular 2 meant “a particular space that was a-religious.” It was (is) a space where the willing of human minds promises to be absent religion. In turn, the sacred is now a unique space where human willing is allowed to seek the interest of the religious. It is a distinct and special location where religious belief and practice are allowed their freedom.” (2588)

Now the sacred has to invade a secular realm that really has no room for it. Trying to get prayer back into public schools is an example. It’s no longer a situation of planes of eternity and time, but rather a struggle for space in the culture.

In Taylor’s Secular 2, faith, instead of being experience of the transcendent in the permeable realm of the secular, becomes about affiliation (in belief and participation) with the cultural and societal institutions of religion.

“Faith through the lens of Secular 2 is willful affiliation with religious institutions; it is choosing to locate yourself in the cultural space of institutional religion.” (2616)

“We want young people to have faith, which means we want them to define themselves inside religious rather than a-religious spaces.” (2626)

“Divine action is much harder to encounter in Secular 2; transcendence must penetrate the buffered force field of the self and change the will of an individual. Because these spaces have become defined mostly as material, cultural, and societal, the doorway into the transcendent becomes very segregated. To encounter the transcendent, we willfully enter the religious space to open up our mind—feeling mindfully engaged in worship, preaching, and the study of Scripture. We encounter divine action when we really believe something, when we willfully commit to God by committing to religious space over secular—and transcendence itself is only possible in the religious space itself.” (2636)

Secular 3: The Negating of Transcendence

Secular 1 sees transcendence in different planes of existence. Secular 2 segregates faith to a separate sphere a religious one, within a secular, non-religious, sphere. In Secular 3 transcendence and divine action are unbelievable.

“Secular 2’s obsession with the definition of culture and societal locales and its fight over turf through the willing of human minds allow for the creation of a new frame for our social imaginary. And this frame crops out, almost completely, the doorway into the transcendent. Taylor calls this new encasing, an outgrowth of Secular 3, the immanent frame.” (2636-2646)

Secular 3 might have a little place for self-created spirituality, but only as a natural and psychological choice, only as a way of seeking authenticity, finding oneself. Spirituality, then, is bound to and even serves the immanent frame.

Because we assume we know what faith is (keeping people in church and really, really believing something), we can move on quickly to pragmatic tools that win us institutional loyalty. “If faith were truly a reality of cosmic and ontological encounter, if it brought forth into your being a completely alien ontological reality, if it swept you into an encounter with a transcendent force, then defining its shape and possibility would be necessary over and over again.” (2670)  In other words, genuine contact with God requires continual renegotiation and restatement.

“All of this means that something like MTD (which is paradigmatic for the struggle we feel in faith formation) is not the consequence of a dreary church that has subtracted serious faith formation from its mind. Rather, MTD is the direct project (and in fact the endorsed and honored perspective) of faith built for the immanent frame of Secular 3 and the age of authenticity. MTD did not grow like a fungus when we were not looking. MTD is not an unfortunate and haphazard occurrence. It is an intricate construction designed perfectly for the world of Secular 3.” (2685)

Crossed Up

The additions which make Secular 3 possible also make the age of authenticity possible. Freed of all ties, obligations, traditions, and sense of transcendence, we are free to follow our natural desires and material conditions (authenticity). “Youthfulness becomes a deeply significant endorser, for the youthful are those most free from the constraints of the superego against following the natural and material urges of the id.” (2700).

Oddly, even in Secular 3 we sometimes find ourselves sensing, experiencing “echoes of transcendence.” Now, trussed up in the immanent frame, searching for authenticity, it is authenticity itself that is the only way to return to transcendence.

It’s the age of authenticity’s focus on experience that is the path we must take. “Therefore, it may be within cross-pressure itself, between Secular 3 and the echo of the deep longings of human experience, that we can explore what faith and faith formation might be.” (2717)

Too Easy: The Road through Negation

In Secular 3, though we may indeed hear “echoes of transcendence,” these experiences come coated with doubt. We hear them and at the same time hear their negation.

“Rather, for such experiences to be anything more than hiccups of the individual and her journey of authenticity, transcendence or divine action must be reimagined within negation itself (for there is no other zone for it).” (2755)

“Our contemporary faith-formation programs seem to be one step forward and two steps back because they fail to see our issue as Secular 3 (the implausibility of transcendence), choosing rather to focus on Secular 2 (religious vs. a-religious locales). And this wrong focus keeps us from seeing that we are surrounded by negation. It is only within or up against negation that faith can be discussed at all.” (2755)

Summary and Moving Forward

Our experiences of loss, brokenness, and death, but also the liminality of joy and transformational hope that seeks for the negated to be made new may well be the path to grappling with our echoes of transcendence in ways that lead to faithfulness.

It is in Paul, and in his theology of the cross, that we may find the resources to negate the negation of Secular 3 and find access to genuine transcendence and faith formation.

[1] Charles Taylor, “Afterword: Apologia pro Libro suo,” in Warner, VanAntwerpen, and Calhoun, Varieties of Secularism, 302.


A Reflection on the Barmen Declaration in Light of Today's American Crisis

The statements in red are my reflections on the relevance of Barmen for the American situation today.
8.10 - 1. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14.6). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1, 9.)
8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation.

We reject the false doctrine that the President, the nation with its needs and pretensions, or the religion that sanctifies it, is a source of God’s revelation for the church’s preaching and teaching.

8.13 - 2. "Christ Jesus, whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30.)
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

We reject the false doctrine that there are any areas of life where we can justify actions contrary to Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and teaching by appeal to other authorities claiming to trump Jesus authority.

8.16 - 3. "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together." (Eph. 4:15,16.)
8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.
8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.

We reject the false doctrine that the church can trim its message or order itself to live for ideologies or agendas of the powers that be.

8.19 - 4. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men excercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant." (Matt. 20:25,26.)
8.20 The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the exercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
8.21 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.

We reject the false doctrine that apart from the “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers (Eph.4:11) Christ gives the church, others may be vested formally or informally with powers to direct and order the church.

8.22 - 5. "Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability. The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God's commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church's vocation as well.
8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.

We reject the false doctrine that the church has any brief from God to serve as an administrative, legislative, or “spiritual” arm of the State.

8.25 - 6. "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt. 28:20.) "The word of God is not fettered." (2 Tim. 2:9.)
8.26 The Church's commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ's stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and sacrament.
8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.

We reject the false doctrine that the church may violate the third commandment, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God,” by blessing projects and practices of our own devising or desiring with God’s imprimatur.