Some expressions of Christian faith need a corrective from a narrow individualistic focus on ‘me and my salvation’ towards a broader vision in which individual salvation is in the context of God’s cosmic work of redemption and new creation.
Having said that…
The opposite of an individualistic focus also needs correcting.
Without a healthy personal and local spirituality at work, ‘saving the world’ is a thin, hollow facade. As they say on jet flight safety announcements, “put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”
The world, the flesh and the devil.
These three entities have been said to be the three sources of sin and temptation for Christians. That is to say that when we get it wrong, we can point to the influential lure of culture (the world), the weakness of natural desire (the flesh), and the overarching conspiracy of evil (the devil).
I say ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ because I don’t see these three as mutually exclusive. When a person does something wrong – let’s say: gossip at work – they can point to a) the culture of gossip at their work or in the ‘world’ generally, b) their own tendencies to want to stay ‘in the know’ about what’s going around the workplace, and c) a trans-historic, trans-cultural, quasi-personal gravity gently and subtly pulling people away from healthy and honest communication.
If we neatly point to just one of these three, we open the door to a) victim-hood (“Poor me, it’s so hard to be good in this world/workplace…”), b) shame (“Why am I such a horrible gossip?”) or c) blame (“It was an outright spiritual attack…”).
Acknowledging all three can help us to appreciate afresh the need to stand apart from culture (Romans 12:1-2), the need to acknowledge our culpability for our actions (1 John 1:9), and to be on guard against the old serpent up to its typical schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Kim Fabricus recently offered twelve ripostes for ‘militant atheists’, one of which was about prayer.
—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
—Thank God! ((Garth Brooks had a similar insight: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”))
On a spectrum of immature to mature, understandings of Christian prayer will range from the anthropocentric and mechanistic ((not to mention idolatrous and pagan – I even hear pantheist types talk about putting thoughts ‘out there’ to the universe)) notion that prayer is about us invoking God to do something we want for our world, to the more theocentric and relational conviction that prayer is about God involving us in what God wants to do for God’s world.
On this note, I wanted to post an example of this I heard last night in the last Romans lecture at Carey Baptist.
There are three agents ‘groaning’ in Romans 8:18-27; a) creation groaning as with birth pangs, b) the church groaning awaiting redemption, and c) the Spirit groaning in intercession for us and the world.
The world is not as it should be (creation groaning). God grieves that this is so (the Spirit groaning), and moves us to grief (church groaning) and action.
This parallels a scene from the Gospels.
Jesus’ groaning prayer in the Garden, overcome with grief. The triune God involved in groaning prayer – the Son praying to the Father in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ words ‘not my will but Thy will’ reflects that his prayer is about the divine will for the world and Jesus’ human obedience to it.
And Jesus also had invited his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ with him. As George Wieland said last night, “To pray is to keep Jesus company as he agonises in the garden.”
I really enjoyed the research on this one. My continual struggle is starting early enough on an assignment so that I have time to drown myself in research and actually write the essay. There are 34 items in the bibliography (dictionaries, commentaries, journal articles and some topical monographs), and I really only dipped into things. Pretty late in the piece I was wow-ed by Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans 5:12, and really want to look into that more.
Anyway, hope it’s interesting reading (warning, it’s 4,000+ words)!
The ‘proper’ basis for the personal identity of any given human is a hard thing to derive… if you’re limited to the tools of, say, science. Science wonderfully (and tragically in the case of murder, hate, discrimination, etc.) describes what humans ‘do’ (human doings), but not what/who humans ‘are’ (human beings).
I’d want to affirm that ‘doing’ (as well as ‘knowing’ and ‘feeling’) is a necessary component of what a human ‘being’ is, but not the whole composition. Any identity based on only feelings, actions and intelligence alone is incomplete and leaves out something. Continue reading “sex & identity”