According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer [.pdf]

 
 
 
One of the first theology books I came across in my college years was by A.W. Tozer who spoke warmly of God and all that God was in the Bible. It was not an easy read as I remember it mostly because Dr. Tozer packed a lot of ideas into a single sentence and paragraph (now-a-days we call these "dense reads"). And to get through a couple pages, let alone a chapter of five or six pages, seemed nearly impossible to me each night during devotions as I tried to work out his exquisite theological expressions of our Almighty God. And yet, as I learned to adapt to Tozer's style of writing, and to think like he was thinking, I became deeply inspired by God's passionate devotion to His creation, His praise-worthiness, and incredible love for us. It drew me nearer to God and nearer to His Word. I discovered a deep awareness - an overwhelming majesty - about God previously unthought and inexperienced before this time in my life.

Consequently, I would like to share this devotional booklet online as a very well-written example of Classical Theism (CT) so that at a later date, when we investigate Process Thought (PT) - which is the polar opposite to CT - we would have a more solid basis to compare each theological system to the another. Overall, it is my wish to synthesize each system towards a third alternative. One that I've been calling Relational Theism (RT), with the hope that in the journey we may discover that somewhere someone has already completed this eclectic effort. To some degree I've already uncovered a few theologians who have moved towards this positional theology affectively but am still not sufficiently acquainted in their backgrounds to fully determine how completely their teaching might be in-line with what I have in mind. Nor am I convinced that this middling RT position might be satisfactory to myself as I learn more about it... perhaps I may wish to shade it more-or-less towards one direction or another* (based upon my background it may lean more towards CT than PT I'm afraid).

However, whatever develops, it must assist in the holistic foundation of Emergent Christianity. To the degree that it does this, then to that degree I will find it more palatable. For I'm afraid that I cannot take the more pious position of saying, "I have no position but that of God's," because that can never be true of any informed theologian or biblical teacher. Every theologian develops their theology within a given frame of reference which later becomes colored-in by critique and historical movement. And if a theologian lives long enough, they might experience a movement that may directly challenge any prior theological commitments, thus forcing a reconstruction either to, or from, their current position. You see this even in the reading of the Old Testament as the various books transition from era-to-era within Israel's constructed history of herself. And not only within the books themselves, but within their very passages, from passage to passage. And so, theological reflection and critique, movement and assessment, does - and well - change, even today as it did in biblical times. Why? Because God is that big, that awesome, that our finite perception of God must also evolve even as we evolve ourselves (this is the idea lying behind "Open Theology").

By way of personal example, when first starting out in the faith of Jesus I entered into a moderately conservative, Fundamental, Christian movement (the General Association of Regular Baptists, otherwise known as the GARB) that understood God and His Word within certain cultural, and theological, traditions -  mostly warm, pious, reverent, etc. Later, I transitioned for various reasons (mostly marriage and teaching opportunities) towards a conservative, Evangelical, Christianity that was less judgmental than my former church traditions, and more progressive in the ways of the world (my wife could work and pursue her career and not be seen as disobedient to God). In subsequent years I have transitioned again into yet another theological position which I would describe as an Emergent form of Christianity. A form that was even more progressively minded than my past, previous, church traditions. (This latter move occurred when my current church naively begat a more youthful, radical form of itself, not understanding how drastically different it would become... much like our own families as our kids take possession of themselves and radically re-express their lives on their terms and vision.) Apparently, with age and temperament, an informed student of the Word (and, for that fact, a trained theologian) may purposely change their viewpoint - sometimes radically, or moderately, or perhaps not at all. (Sometimes these are academic but more often they result from a life experience, or from societal revelation, a death, birth, marriage, injury, or burden.) But in order for transition to occur one must also have a historical awareness to any fundamental shifts occurring within the Church and society itself. For without an outside "criticizing" (or dissenting) disruptive force, a theologian will have no advantage in judging the pertinence, completeness, or sufficiency of his enculturated church tradition's academic reach, validity, or even social relevancy. Or, in lay terms, whether he or she should change-or-not from prior positional commitments.

Moreover, whenever I hear of change occurring in a theologian's (or pastor's) academic position, I lately have taken the additional step of being more generously compassionate to that mindful theologian "caught between the traces" of a particular philosophical or theological debate or movement. In an earlier life (or version of myself) I would not have been so generous, nor so graciously permitting, for my traditions had taught me to be wary, critical, and unduly judgmental. Not necessarily good traits in broadening one's perspective of God, or of learning of His mysterious ways. Although in a positive sense, it did seek to lean on orthodox Christian tradition (but in a way that was selective within its perceived notions of orthodoxy), and to stay true to one's historical roots. While at the same time not realizing that orthodoxy must-and-will change even as the philosophical movements within society change (as Charles Jencks' diagram below shows, societies usually are dealing with more than one type of change within themselves). And as we change, so too will God's Word and commands change in measured response to societal perspectives and historical human transition and development:
 
Click to Enlarge
 
"The Century is Over" - Evolutionary Tree of Twentieth-Century Architecture with its attractor basins,
by Charles Jencks, Architectural Review, July 2000, p. 77 - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/10/charles-jencks-look-at-modernism.html
 
What does this mean? That a Greek-based, Hellenistic (as versus Semitic) orthodoxy, grasped by the early-to-late Church Fathers through to the Medieval periods, can give rise to an anti-Catholic, pro-Lutheran understanding in the Reformation Age. That then transitions again under the Reformed and Enlightenment movement of the 16-17th Centuries into a variety of Modernistic expressions of orthodoxy today. Pick any biblical theme, or any subject matter, and perform a historic study of that theme and subject matter, and you will quickly understand how people's perspective of God's Word changes from era-to-era, culture-to-culture, respective to the deep changes occurring in their own lives. This is not new news. Only new news to those traditionalists who assume man stays the same - and his God with him. And if we change, then we err, because it is assumed that God cannot change... that He stays impassively the same from generation to generation. Which would be to confuse His divine attributes with His economic relationship with the world. And even then, to naively assume we have said all we can say after 2000 years of church studies and confessions about this Redeemer-Creator God we think we know. Statedly believing that God must always remain the same as defined by our "classically-reinforced" descriptions of Himself (whatever those may be dependent upon the era-and-culture you may find yourself in).

Consequently, whether at one time the church may have spoken effectively to one generation or not, it now may be speaking even less effectively if it does not first adapt and synthesize its "biblical" message. But more-often-than-not, churches lean on their traditions to interpret their view of the world - and God's pre-supposed response to it - not realizing that those views can be unnecessarily restrictive to the urgent needs of their generation languishing for lack of a relevant gospel message. Instead, we give to society our selective version of the gospel that makes us feel comfortable with ourselves, rather than tempering our traditions and dogmas so that God may speak both to us - even as He does to this lost world we live in. Change must be embraced, not refused and condemned. And with change will come changes to traditions and dogmas - which in the church's case, it fears most, making of it a religious institution rather than a living faith fellowship.

And yet, in reality, change is the hardest thing to do - especially for a pastor or an academic scholar - dependent upon funding for life and ministry. If they change, then they may lose their ministry. Especially if that change is perceived as too radical. (I recently listened to a faithful Christian friend declare with religious zeal-and-fervor her perceived rightness of a Christian professor's tenured dismissal from a local Christian college for his heresy to God's Word.... A heresy I might add that we support here at Relevancy22. The heresy? Evolution and Science.... I am constantly amazed how benighted we can become by our own dictates and whimsies all in the name of God). So that, because of one's training and background; the brevity of academic life or ministry; the stubbornness of one's pride, or previous commitments, or accomplishments; or the awkwardness of public scrutiny ill-favoring any type of fundamental change; or even because of one's resume, status, or location, each of these social warrants may inhibit the necessary growth-and-change required to make a transformation forward towards theological relevancy - and away from the irrelevancy of one's favored interpretations of God's Word.

For some reason, as humans we don't like change. And when we do change it can disrupt us, sometimes greatly. But if the pace of societal shift has become so aggressively pronounced, then our former position may have to change as aggressively as well lest it die altogether in the streams of yesteryear's fast-fading eve of well-intentioned thoughts. Thus ideas and observations by classicists like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; or philosopher's like Nietzsche, Kant, and Kierkegaard; or even theologians like Augustine, Calvin, Barth, or N.T. Wright; will ebb-and-flow from century-to-century, era-to-era. Sometimes arriving as a heavy-handed disruptive event. And sometimes with hardly any disruption at all. Admittedly, nothing stays static. Not even theology. Though we piously quote to ourselves "God's Word never changes," while all-the-while suggesting by this fickled statement our firm resistance to change. And although we may think this to be true, we neglect to comprehend that it is we ourselves who are the one who must ultimately change. For if we do not, we become legalistic, or religious, and die to the living Word of God as it moderates our understanding with God's own understanding of His revealing Word. Moreover, our language and communications with one another must grow and adapt if God's Word is to live. And even our collective perspective as a church in its living witness within this world's ever-turbulent events and ideas must also evolve and accommodate lest that church dies as an irrelevant (if not irreverent) institution rather than as a living body of Jesus followers . For if we do not learn to re-learn, than we are judged to have failed, to be naive,  judgmental, unloving, or in grievous personal disrepute with the Word itself as it reaches out to save all men - and not just some according to our own religious rules and dogmas.

In summary, please enjoy these classical readings by A.W. Tozer, and through them become more accommodative to the necessary adaptation to ideas about God towards a more updated form of Christianity known as Emergent (or Postmodern) Christianity. A transitionary form that will carry with it its own disciplines of theology, doctrine, and dogma (as much as I hate to admit it). Why? Because we are symbolic beings whose ideas must become visualized and enacted. And as much as I would like to encourage abstract theology it is without practicality to the masses dependent upon regionally translated form and shape. By which we get doctrine and dogma. But, the key to all of this is to be always willing to allow God to reshape our doctrines and dogmas as His Word must demand in order to speak afresh to the masses of the world around us. Should it not, than all of our creeds and confessions will become meaningless rather than timeless. And timeless because we each live within a generation or two of growth where our effectiveness slowly must change with the changes of humanity. Nothing can last for long, as evidenced by the names of the movements I have mentioned above (not even Reformed, Evangelical, Christianity). But that does not mean that we don't appreciate the importance of the Church set in place by God to minister to that time-and-era. But to keep in remembrance that all things change. And it is mostly ourselves, and our societies, that gives to us our finite incompleteness before the Holy One of Israel become our Redeemer Savior.

Consequently, it's important to know your theological history. To know how theology has changed and adapted through the eras of the Church. And to discern what is to be kept and not kept. Not simply by degrees but perhaps by envisioning whole new ages - which is what I suspect is now happening within the Church today as it transitions from denominational Christianity to an Emerging form of Christianity that may be denominational. Or regional. Or even pluralistic and multi-cultural (I think all of the above). Historically, fundamental theologic change seems to occur every 500-1000 years: the Reformation would be one such event; the Middle Ages another such event. But as this world grows older and closer in our communities with one another, we should not be surprised if this were to occur again today as we transition from the 20th to the 21st century - caught in the swift-and-deep currents of public policy, trade, and societal uplift and transformation. These are the fundamental shifts that we are witnessing and caught up within. Shifts that come-and-go with amazing rapidity (cf. Jencks' philosophical map again for the breadth of change these past 100 years as brought!) but can be fundamentally described and understood through an evolving apprehension for their broader movement.

And yet, it is vitally important that the Church knows how to speak God's word afresh to the world around us. However set in its ways. However unpersuaded, or doubtful, of its timely forward movement. Or however uncertain and threatening it may feel. Still, as leaders and shepherds of the Church, as good and faithful guides to Jesus' flock, as patient disciplers and mentors to the future generations of leadership, the Church must be willing to bend and change while ever remaining faithful to God's message of love and grace unto salvation and good works. We are not bound by law. Nor bound by tradition. Nor by men's ideas. But we are bound to be pleasing to God's open heart of love and mercy to all men so that peace, justice, and goodwill be present everywhere. Let this temperance then be our ready guide and ever faithful companion. And until that day let us pursue a growing, discerning theology that would not hinder God's revelation to man. Amen.

R.E. Slater
October 21, 2012
revised, August 6, 2013

*Postscript: Relational Theology expressed within an Open Theology
has become very satisfying as you will discover as I write about each
in the months and years ahead. - res, 8.6.2013

 

The Knowledge Of The Holy
by
A.W. Tozer


PREFACE

CHAPTER 1 - Why We Must Think Rightly About God

CHAPTER 2 - God Incomprehensible

CHAPTER 3 - A Divine Attribute: Something True About God

CHAPTER 4 - The Holy Trinity

CHAPTER 5 - The Self-existence Of God

CHAPTER 6 - The self-sufficiency Of God

CHAPTER 7 - The Eternity Of God

CHAPTER 8 - God's Infinitude

CHAPTER 9 - The Immutability Of God

CHAPTER 10 - The Divine Omniscience

CHAPTER 11 - The Wisdom Of God

CHAPTER 12 - The Omnipotence Of God

CHAPTER 13 - The Divine Transcendence

CHAPTER 14 - God's Omnipresence

CHAPTER 15 - The Faithfulness Of God

CHAPTER 16 - The Goodness Of God

CHAPTER 17 - The Justice Of God

CHAPTER 18 - The Mercy Of God

CHAPTER 19 - The Grace Of God

CHAPTER 20 - The Love Of God

CHAPTER 21 - The Holiness Of God

CHAPTER 22 - The Sovereignty Of God

CHAPTER 23 - The Open Secret


Quotes by A.W. Tozer
 


"If there's anything necessary to your eternal happiness but God, you're not the kind of Christian that you ought to be. For only God is the true rest." A.W. Tozer, Attributes of God, (c) 1997, pg. 30"
 
Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self- existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused propensity to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under disapprobation" A. W. Tozer, "Knowledge of the Holy", pg. 93
 
Sometimes I go to God and say, "God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already. " God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 24).
 
Looking at what John wrote, I wonder how so many present – day Christians can consider an hour of worship Sunday morning as adequate adoration of the holy God who created them and then redeemed them back to Himself…
 
God is please with His people when His praise is continually and joyfully on their lips. The heavenly scene John describes is the unceasing cry of the adoring living creatures, "Holy, holy, holy!" They rest not, day or night. My fear is that too many of God’s professing people down here are resting far too often between their efforts at praise. (Jesus is victor! 67, 68).
There is a point in true worship where the mind may cease to understand and goes over to a kind of delightful astonishment---probably to what Carlyle described as "transcendent wonder," a degree of wonder without limit and beyond expression!….
 
It is always true that an encounter with God brings wonderment and awe! (Renewed Day by Day, Volume 1, Feb. 8).
 
It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbling. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 4,5).
 
I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven. (Whatever Happened to Worship? 13)
 
In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people. (Keys To The Deeper Life, 87 & 88).
In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear. (God tells the Man who Cares 4,5).
I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men…
 
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. (The Knowledge of the Holy, viii, viii).
 
Now we were made to worship, but the Scriptures tell us something else again. They tell us that man fell and kept not estate; that he forfeited the original glory of God and failed to fulfill the creative purpose, so that he is not worshipping now in the way that God meant him to worship. All else fulfills its design; flowers are still fragrant and lilies are still beautiful and the bees still search for nectar amongst the flowers; the birds still sing with their thousand voice choir on a summer’s day and the sun and the moon and the stars all move on their rounds doing the will of God.
 
And from what we can learn from the Scriptures we believe tat the seraphim and cherubim and powers and dominions are still fulfilling their design – worshipping God who created them and breathed into them the breath of life. Man alone sulks in his cave. Man alone, with all of his brilliant intelligence, with all of his amazing, indescribable and wonderful equipment, still sulks in his cave. He is either silent, or if he opens his mouth at all, it is to boast and threaten and curse; or it’s nervous, ill-considered laughter, or it’s humor become big business, or it’s songs without joy. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 6,7).
 
"The Chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."…
 
Yes, worship of the loving God is man’s whole reason for existence. That is why we are born and that is why we are born again from above. That is why were created and recreated. That is why there was a genesis at the beginning re-genesis, called re-generation. (Whatever Happened to Worship? 56, 57).
 
The purpose of God in sending His Son to die and rise and live and be at the right hand of God the Father was that He might restore to us the missing jewel, the jewel of worship; that we might come back and learn to do again that which we were created to do in the first place – worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to spend our time in awesome wonder and adoration of God, feeling and expressing it, and letting it get into our labors and doing nothing except as an act of worship to Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ. (Worship The Missing Jewel 7,8).
 
But a man who has passed the veil and looked eve briefly upon the holy face of Isaiah’s God can never be irreverent again. There will be a reverence in his spirit and instead of boasting, he will cover his feet modestly. (The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 1 Book 1 57,58).
 
But thinking is not enough. Men are made to worship also, to bow down and adore in the presence of the mystery inexpressible. Man’s mind is not the top pea, of his nature. Higher than his mind is his spirit, that something within him which can engage the supernatural, which under the breath of the Spirit can come alive and enter into conscious communion with heaven, can receive the divine nature and hear and feel and see the eneffable wonder that is God….
 
The wise of the world who have not learned tow worship are but demi-men, unformed and rudimentary. Their further development awaits the life – giving touch of Christ to wake them to spiritual birth and life eternal. (The Set of the Sail, 59).
 
Ultimately Abrahma discovered that only God matters….
 
Abraham was completely satisfied with God’s friendship. He becomes to us a faithful example in his willingness to put God first. With Abraham, only God mattered…
 
In Abraham’s encounter with God he learned why he was here upon earth. He was to Glorify God in all things and to continually worship… (Men who met God, 29, 30).
 
There is a necessity for true worship among us. If God is who He says He is and if we are the believing people of God we claim to be, we must worship Him….
 
Oh, how I wish I could adequately set forth the glory of the One who is worthy to be the object of our worship! I do believe that if our new converts – the babes in Christ—could be made to see His thousand attributes and even partially comprehend His being, they would become faint with a yearning desire to worship and honor and acknowledge Him, now and forever. (Whaterver Happened to Worship? 118).
 
God wants worshippers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will.

Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship com first. (That Incredible Christian, 37).
 
 
 
Continue to -
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Allowing One's Theology to Change and Grow, Adapt and Adjust

 
 
 
One of the first theology books I came across in my college years was by A.W. Tozer who spoke warmly of God and all that God was in the Bible. It was not an easy read as I remember it mostly because Dr. Tozer packed a lot of ideas into a single sentence and paragraph (now-a-days we call these "dense reads"). And to get through a couple pages, let alone a chapter of five or six pages, seemed nearly impossible to me each night during devotions as I tried to work out his exquisite theological expressions of our Almighty God. And yet, as I learned to adapt to Tozer's style of writing, and to think like he was thinking, I became deeply inspired by God's passionate devotion to His creation, His praise-worthiness, and incredible love for us. It drew me nearer to God and nearer to His Word. I discovered a deep awareness - an overwhelming majesty - about God previously unthought and inexperienced before this time in my life.

Consequently, I would like to share this devotional booklet online as a very well-written example of Classical Theism (CT) so that at a later date, when we investigate Process Thought (PT) - which is the polar opposite to CT - we would have a more solid basis to compare each theological system to the another. Overall, it is my wish to synthesize each system towards a third alternative. One that I've been calling Relational Theism (RT), with the hope that in the journey we may discover that somewhere someone has already completed this eclectic effort. To some degree I've already uncovered a few theologians who have moved towards this positional theology affectively but am still not sufficiently acquainted in their backgrounds to fully determine how completely their teaching might be in-line with what I have in mind. Nor am I convinced that this middling RT position might be satisfactory to myself as I learn more about it... perhaps I may wish to shade it more-or-less towards one direction or another* (based upon my background it may lean more towards CT than PT I'm afraid).

However, whatever develops, it must assist in the holistic foundation of Emergent Christianity. To the degree that it does this, then to that degree I will find it more palatable. For I'm afraid that I cannot take the more pious position of saying, "I have no position but that of God's," because that can never be true of any informed theologian or biblical teacher. Every theologian develops their theology within a given frame of reference which later becomes colored-in by critique and historical movement. And if a theologian lives long enough, they might experience a movement that may directly challenge any prior theological commitments, thus forcing a reconstruction either to, or from, their current position. You see this even in the reading of the Old Testament as the various books transition from era-to-era within Israel's constructed history of herself. And not only within the books themselves, but within their very passages, from passage to passage. And so, theological reflection and critique, movement and assessment, does - and well - change, even today as it did in biblical times. Why? Because God is that big, that awesome, that our finite perception of God must also evolve even as we evolve ourselves (this is the idea lying behind "Open Theology").

By way of personal example, when first starting out in the faith of Jesus I entered into a moderately conservative, Fundamental, Christian movement (the General Association of Regular Baptists, otherwise known as the GARB) that understood God and His Word within certain cultural, and theological, traditions -  mostly warm, pious, reverent, etc. Later, I transitioned for various reasons (mostly marriage and teaching opportunities) towards a conservative, Evangelical, Christianity that was less judgmental than my former church traditions, and more progressive in the ways of the world (my wife could work and pursue her career and not be seen as disobedient to God). In subsequent years I have transitioned again into yet another theological position which I would describe as an Emergent form of Christianity. A form that was even more progressively minded than my past, previous, church traditions. (This latter move occurred when my current church naively begat a more youthful, radical form of itself, not understanding how drastically different it would become... much like our own families as our kids take possession of themselves and radically re-express their lives on their terms and vision.) Apparently, with age and temperament, an informed student of the Word (and, for that fact, a trained theologian) may purposely change their viewpoint - sometimes radically, or moderately, or perhaps not at all. (Sometimes these are academic but more often they result from a life experience, or from societal revelation, a death, birth, marriage, injury, or burden.) But in order for transition to occur one must also have a historical awareness to any fundamental shifts occurring within the Church and society itself. For without an outside "criticizing" (or dissenting) disruptive force, a theologian will have no advantage in judging the pertinence, completeness, or sufficiency of his enculturated church tradition's academic reach, validity, or even social relevancy. Or, in lay terms, whether he or she should change-or-not from prior positional commitments.

Moreover, whenever I hear of change occurring in a theologian's (or pastor's) academic position, I lately have taken the additional step of being more generously compassionate to that mindful theologian "caught between the traces" of a particular philosophical or theological debate or movement. In an earlier life (or version of myself) I would not have been so generous, nor so graciously permitting, for my traditions had taught me to be wary, critical, and unduly judgmental. Not necessarily good traits in broadening one's perspective of God, or of learning of His mysterious ways. Although in a positive sense, it did seek to lean on orthodox Christian tradition (but in a way that was selective within its perceived notions of orthodoxy), and to stay true to one's historical roots. While at the same time not realizing that orthodoxy must-and-will change even as the philosophical movements within society change (as Charles Jencks' diagram below shows, societies usually are dealing with more than one type of change within themselves). And as we change, so too will God's Word and commands change in measured response to societal perspectives and historical human transition and development:
 
Click to Enlarge
 
"The Century is Over" - Evolutionary Tree of Twentieth-Century Architecture with its attractor basins,
by Charles Jencks, Architectural Review, July 2000, p. 77 - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/10/charles-jencks-look-at-modernism.html
 
What does this mean? That a Greek-based, Hellenistic (as versus Semitic) orthodoxy, grasped by the early-to-late Church Fathers through to the Medieval periods, can give rise to an anti-Catholic, pro-Lutheran understanding in the Reformation Age. That then transitions again under the Reformed and Enlightenment movement of the 16-17th Centuries into a variety of Modernistic expressions of orthodoxy today. Pick any biblical theme, or any subject matter, and perform a historic study of that theme and subject matter, and you will quickly understand how people's perspective of God's Word changes from era-to-era, culture-to-culture, respective to the deep changes occurring in their own lives. This is not new news. Only new news to those traditionalists who assume man stays the same - and his God with him. And if we change, then we err, because it is assumed that God cannot change... that He stays impassively the same from generation to generation. Which would be to confuse His divine attributes with His economic relationship with the world. And even then, to naively assume we have said all we can say after 2000 years of church studies and confessions about this Redeemer-Creator God we think we know. Statedly believing that God must always remain the same as defined by our "classically-reinforced" descriptions of Himself (whatever those may be dependent upon the era-and-culture you may find yourself in).

Consequently, whether at one time the church may have spoken effectively to one generation or not, it now may be speaking even less effectively if it does not first adapt and synthesize its "biblical" message. But more-often-than-not, churches lean on their traditions to interpret their view of the world - and God's pre-supposed response to it - not realizing that those views can be unnecessarily restrictive to the urgent needs of their generation languishing for lack of a relevant gospel message. Instead, we give to society our selective version of the gospel that makes us feel comfortable with ourselves, rather than tempering our traditions and dogmas so that God may speak both to us - even as He does to this lost world we live in. Change must be embraced, not refused and condemned. And with change will come changes to traditions and dogmas - which in the church's case, it fears most, making of it a religious institution rather than a living faith fellowship.

And yet, in reality, change is the hardest thing to do - especially for a pastor or an academic scholar - dependent upon funding for life and ministry. If they change, then they may lose their ministry. Especially if that change is perceived as too radical. (I recently listened to a faithful Christian friend declare with religious zeal-and-fervor her perceived rightness of a Christian professor's tenured dismissal from a local Christian college for his heresy to God's Word.... A heresy I might add that we support here at Relevancy22. The heresy? Evolution and Science.... I am constantly amazed how benighted we can become by our own dictates and whimsies all in the name of God). So that, because of one's training and background; the brevity of academic life or ministry; the stubbornness of one's pride, or previous commitments, or accomplishments; or the awkwardness of public scrutiny ill-favoring any type of fundamental change; or even because of one's resume, status, or location, each of these social warrants may inhibit the necessary growth-and-change required to make a transformation forward towards theological relevancy - and away from the irrelevancy of one's favored interpretations of God's Word.

For some reason, as humans we don't like change. And when we do change it can disrupt us, sometimes greatly. But if the pace of societal shift has become so aggressively pronounced, then our former position may have to change as aggressively as well lest it die altogether in the streams of yesteryear's fast-fading eve of well-intentioned thoughts. Thus ideas and observations by classicists like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; or philosopher's like Nietzsche, Kant, and Kierkegaard; or even theologians like Augustine, Calvin, Barth, or N.T. Wright; will ebb-and-flow from century-to-century, era-to-era. Sometimes arriving as a heavy-handed disruptive event. And sometimes with hardly any disruption at all. Admittedly, nothing stays static. Not even theology. Though we piously quote to ourselves "God's Word never changes," while all-the-while suggesting by this fickled statement our firm resistance to change. And although we may think this to be true, we neglect to comprehend that it is we ourselves who are the one who must ultimately change. For if we do not, we become legalistic, or religious, and die to the living Word of God as it moderates our understanding with God's own understanding of His revealing Word. Moreover, our language and communications with one another must grow and adapt if God's Word is to live. And even our collective perspective as a church in its living witness within this world's ever-turbulent events and ideas must also evolve and accommodate lest that church dies as an irrelevant (if not irreverent) institution rather than as a living body of Jesus followers . For if we do not learn to re-learn, than we are judged to have failed, to be naive,  judgmental, unloving, or in grievous personal disrepute with the Word itself as it reaches out to save all men - and not just some according to our own religious rules and dogmas.

In summary, please enjoy these classical readings by A.W. Tozer, and through them become more accommodative to the necessary adaptation to ideas about God towards a more updated form of Christianity known as Emergent (or Postmodern) Christianity. A transitionary form that will carry with it its own disciplines of theology, doctrine, and dogma (as much as I hate to admit it). Why? Because we are symbolic beings whose ideas must become visualized and enacted. And as much as I would like to encourage abstract theology it is without practicality to the masses dependent upon regionally translated form and shape. By which we get doctrine and dogma. But, the key to all of this is to be always willing to allow God to reshape our doctrines and dogmas as His Word must demand in order to speak afresh to the masses of the world around us. Should it not, than all of our creeds and confessions will become meaningless rather than timeless. And timeless because we each live within a generation or two of growth where our effectiveness slowly must change with the changes of humanity. Nothing can last for long, as evidenced by the names of the movements I have mentioned above (not even Reformed, Evangelical, Christianity). But that does not mean that we don't appreciate the importance of the Church set in place by God to minister to that time-and-era. But to keep in remembrance that all things change. And it is mostly ourselves, and our societies, that gives to us our finite incompleteness before the Holy One of Israel become our Redeemer Savior.

Consequently, it's important to know your theological history. To know how theology has changed and adapted through the eras of the Church. And to discern what is to be kept and not kept. Not simply by degrees but perhaps by envisioning whole new ages - which is what I suspect is now happening within the Church today as it transitions from denominational Christianity to an Emerging form of Christianity that may be denominational. Or regional. Or even pluralistic and multi-cultural (I think all of the above). Historically, fundamental theologic change seems to occur every 500-1000 years: the Reformation would be one such event; the Middle Ages another such event. But as this world grows older and closer in our communities with one another, we should not be surprised if this were to occur again today as we transition from the 20th to the 21st century - caught in the swift-and-deep currents of public policy, trade, and societal uplift and transformation. These are the fundamental shifts that we are witnessing and caught up within. Shifts that come-and-go with amazing rapidity (cf. Jencks' philosophical map again for the breadth of change these past 100 years as brought!) but can be fundamentally described and understood through an evolving apprehension for their broader movement.

And yet, it is vitally important that the Church knows how to speak God's word afresh to the world around us. However set in its ways. However unpersuaded, or doubtful, of its timely forward movement. Or however uncertain and threatening it may feel. Still, as leaders and shepherds of the Church, as good and faithful guides to Jesus' flock, as patient disciplers and mentors to the future generations of leadership, the Church must be willing to bend and change while ever remaining faithful to God's message of love and grace unto salvation and good works. We are not bound by law. Nor bound by tradition. Nor by men's ideas. But we are bound to be pleasing to God's open heart of love and mercy to all men so that peace, justice, and goodwill be present everywhere. Let this temperance then be our ready guide and ever faithful companion. And until that day let us pursue a growing, discerning theology that would not hinder God's revelation to man. Amen.

R.E. Slater
October 21, 2012
revised, August 6, 2013

*Postscript: Relational Theology expressed within an Open Theology
has become very satisfying as you will discover as I write about each
in the months and years ahead. - res, 8.6.2013

 

The Knowledge Of The Holy
by
A.W. Tozer


PREFACE

CHAPTER 1 - Why We Must Think Rightly About God

CHAPTER 2 - God Incomprehensible

CHAPTER 3 - A Divine Attribute: Something True About God

CHAPTER 4 - The Holy Trinity

CHAPTER 5 - The Self-existence Of God

CHAPTER 6 - The self-sufficiency Of God

CHAPTER 7 - The Eternity Of God

CHAPTER 8 - God's Infinitude

CHAPTER 9 - The Immutability Of God

CHAPTER 10 - The Divine Omniscience

CHAPTER 11 - The Wisdom Of God

CHAPTER 12 - The Omnipotence Of God

CHAPTER 13 - The Divine Transcendence

CHAPTER 14 - God's Omnipresence

CHAPTER 15 - The Faithfulness Of God

CHAPTER 16 - The Goodness Of God

CHAPTER 17 - The Justice Of God

CHAPTER 18 - The Mercy Of God

CHAPTER 19 - The Grace Of God

CHAPTER 20 - The Love Of God

CHAPTER 21 - The Holiness Of God

CHAPTER 22 - The Sovereignty Of God

CHAPTER 23 - The Open Secret


Quotes by A.W. Tozer
 


"If there's anything necessary to your eternal happiness but God, you're not the kind of Christian that you ought to be. For only God is the true rest." A.W. Tozer, Attributes of God, (c) 1997, pg. 30"
 
Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self- existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused propensity to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under disapprobation" A. W. Tozer, "Knowledge of the Holy", pg. 93
 
Sometimes I go to God and say, "God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already. " God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 24).
 
Looking at what John wrote, I wonder how so many present – day Christians can consider an hour of worship Sunday morning as adequate adoration of the holy God who created them and then redeemed them back to Himself…
 
God is please with His people when His praise is continually and joyfully on their lips. The heavenly scene John describes is the unceasing cry of the adoring living creatures, "Holy, holy, holy!" They rest not, day or night. My fear is that too many of God’s professing people down here are resting far too often between their efforts at praise. (Jesus is victor! 67, 68).
There is a point in true worship where the mind may cease to understand and goes over to a kind of delightful astonishment---probably to what Carlyle described as "transcendent wonder," a degree of wonder without limit and beyond expression!….
 
It is always true that an encounter with God brings wonderment and awe! (Renewed Day by Day, Volume 1, Feb. 8).
 
It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbling. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 4,5).
 
I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven. (Whatever Happened to Worship? 13)
 
In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people. (Keys To The Deeper Life, 87 & 88).
In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear. (God tells the Man who Cares 4,5).
I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men…
 
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. (The Knowledge of the Holy, viii, viii).
 
Now we were made to worship, but the Scriptures tell us something else again. They tell us that man fell and kept not estate; that he forfeited the original glory of God and failed to fulfill the creative purpose, so that he is not worshipping now in the way that God meant him to worship. All else fulfills its design; flowers are still fragrant and lilies are still beautiful and the bees still search for nectar amongst the flowers; the birds still sing with their thousand voice choir on a summer’s day and the sun and the moon and the stars all move on their rounds doing the will of God.
 
And from what we can learn from the Scriptures we believe tat the seraphim and cherubim and powers and dominions are still fulfilling their design – worshipping God who created them and breathed into them the breath of life. Man alone sulks in his cave. Man alone, with all of his brilliant intelligence, with all of his amazing, indescribable and wonderful equipment, still sulks in his cave. He is either silent, or if he opens his mouth at all, it is to boast and threaten and curse; or it’s nervous, ill-considered laughter, or it’s humor become big business, or it’s songs without joy. (Worship: The Missing Jewel, 6,7).
 
"The Chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."…
 
Yes, worship of the loving God is man’s whole reason for existence. That is why we are born and that is why we are born again from above. That is why were created and recreated. That is why there was a genesis at the beginning re-genesis, called re-generation. (Whatever Happened to Worship? 56, 57).
 
The purpose of God in sending His Son to die and rise and live and be at the right hand of God the Father was that He might restore to us the missing jewel, the jewel of worship; that we might come back and learn to do again that which we were created to do in the first place – worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to spend our time in awesome wonder and adoration of God, feeling and expressing it, and letting it get into our labors and doing nothing except as an act of worship to Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ. (Worship The Missing Jewel 7,8).
 
But a man who has passed the veil and looked eve briefly upon the holy face of Isaiah’s God can never be irreverent again. There will be a reverence in his spirit and instead of boasting, he will cover his feet modestly. (The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 1 Book 1 57,58).
 
But thinking is not enough. Men are made to worship also, to bow down and adore in the presence of the mystery inexpressible. Man’s mind is not the top pea, of his nature. Higher than his mind is his spirit, that something within him which can engage the supernatural, which under the breath of the Spirit can come alive and enter into conscious communion with heaven, can receive the divine nature and hear and feel and see the eneffable wonder that is God….
 
The wise of the world who have not learned tow worship are but demi-men, unformed and rudimentary. Their further development awaits the life – giving touch of Christ to wake them to spiritual birth and life eternal. (The Set of the Sail, 59).
 
Ultimately Abrahma discovered that only God matters….
 
Abraham was completely satisfied with God’s friendship. He becomes to us a faithful example in his willingness to put God first. With Abraham, only God mattered…
 
In Abraham’s encounter with God he learned why he was here upon earth. He was to Glorify God in all things and to continually worship… (Men who met God, 29, 30).
 
There is a necessity for true worship among us. If God is who He says He is and if we are the believing people of God we claim to be, we must worship Him….
 
Oh, how I wish I could adequately set forth the glory of the One who is worthy to be the object of our worship! I do believe that if our new converts – the babes in Christ—could be made to see His thousand attributes and even partially comprehend His being, they would become faint with a yearning desire to worship and honor and acknowledge Him, now and forever. (Whaterver Happened to Worship? 118).
 
God wants worshippers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will.

Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship com first. (That Incredible Christian, 37).
 
 
 
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