According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, 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
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Can a Contemporary Reformation Re-Awaken the Church?




Lately I've been listening to the life stories of the "Major Reformers" Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox. Though many, many other voices could be added to this list of reformers such as John Wycliffe, Theodore Beza, Martin Bucer, or Thomas More (see the Wikipedia link provided at end of this article), it is a testament to those hardy Reformers of yesteryear who sought to speak the will of God for the church of their time during what would later become known as a Reformational era of spiritual crisis.

An era before there was any Protestant church or denomination knowing only one Church Universal - commonly thought of as the "Church Catholic" - which spoke for God as His singularly appointed magistrates of spiritual administration since the days of the Apostles of the Early Church. By this time 1600 years of church history had come-and-gone revealing the church's priestly commissions to be spiritually wayward and corruptible requiring deep reform away from the practises of priestly indulgences and misguided Christian teachings. Teachings which withheld God's people from the hallowed halls of His love and grace, mercy and forgiveness, as readily seen in the spiritual practises of Christian worship becoming more form than function, more works-righteousness than true faith.

At the time, the seat of church government was under the papacy of Rome having tightly integrated itself into each regional government calling itself Christian as well as into each community parish overruled by a local bishop. This then lead to a regional system of church governance overruled by a series of church Archbishops who reported directly to the Vatican and its board of Cardinals otherwise considered the Church's protectors of the faith and fatherly regents of commission.


Into this churchly dispensation came the priests of the Catholic Church who were trained and taught in the holy halls of their commissions greatly learned and greatly read in the Bible of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some of whom began to notice that what was being judged by God through his prophets in the OT, and later by Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles in the NT, were similarly being practiced in the Church itself during the years of their calling. To wit, one-by-one, these Spirit-burdened priests began to agitate in their ranks calling for a purifying fire of deep reform.

One such priest was Martin Luther having stepped forth on the Eve of All Saints Day (still observed by many churches in deference to the "Devil's Eve" of Halloween) by announcing his willingness to debate any priest, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal over a list of erroneous teachings of the church at any given date or time. Those teachings he considered to be most egregious were later known as Luther's "95 Theses" which he had nailed to the doors of the local parish church as would any regular communication be announced of similar manner in that day to be read by the community at large. Hence, Luther's proposal was more or less a public notice to all who felt deeply as he did about the many spiritual wrongs he was noticing within the Church's ministries.

As I have said, I have been attending a very short introductory class through Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) over a four week period to learn of the lives and stories of the Reformation's four Major Reformers who were central figures to the schism breaking across the Catholic Church. In the Fall of 2018 would be another class to discuss the Minor Reformers of the Reformation era, all of whom would have a contributive influence to the reformation of the Church of God.

Accordingly, these early Reformational breakaway church groups became known as "Protest-Groups, " or, "Protest-ants," willing to leave their parish to re-align their faith and beliefs into a new kind of churchly dynamic. One they felt was more biblical, more ordained of God, more worthy of Christ's calling and Passion. One of the first of these groups to be born from this growing schism were the "Lutherans" of Germany readily following the strong voice of young monk named Luther no longer content to do "business as usual" under the rule of the Papacy.


For myself, knowing very little of the reformers spawning this post-Renaissance movement, I quickly realized it led the Church into new ways of adaptive thinking as it responded to the impact of a new cultural renaissance occurring in the fields of the arts and sciences. A renaissance which had launched a hundred years earlier and was beginning to grow at a rapid rate of change across poly-lingual societies soon leading into a major historic era of European Enlightenment and early Modernity. 

And although the Reformation was strictly a religious undertaking within the Church itself it was also laying the important groundwork for revisualizing God and the Christian faith in new and significant ways which would be later necessary to its own religious life and culture. However, when it did not, we then see an era of Victorian despair occurring across religious societies unable to grasp the depth and meaning of human industry and discovery (cf. Victorian art, poetry, literature). And by failing to envision God in new ways also failed to lead society in its responsibilities of human and ecological care as older religious systems fought resistance to necessary spiritual reforms leading to a kind of spiritual destruction and death. It also led me to realize once again the importance of contemporary Christians today who similarly labor around the world impassioned by the Spirit of God to the tasks of post-modernal contemporary enlightenment-and-reformation which are occurring 500 years later after the European Reformations.


It is here, in the 21st Century, I and others are finding it importantly significant that the church again revise its orthodoxies to positively participate in a post-industrial, post-modern reawakening of global ecological awareness, technological revolution, and scientific discovery, so that the Christian faith might live again in important ways it cannot live under old line thinking, study, worship, and service. Indeed, if it does not then Christianity will consequentially be relegated to the sidelines of mysticism, mythology, and superstition, even as we see occurring now with the growing gulf between Christian fellowships, associations, and sects, as they double down into their closed systems of religious faith and folk religion.

Rather than allow this, the Lord has tasked his prophets and prophetesses, priests and priestesses, with illuminating how the church might participate with the contemporary world in a sociological relevance that might grant significant revelation to those seeking truth and enlightenment in the multiple pagan endeavors of naturalism, cultism, occultism, and atheism, to mention a few. If the church does not then we leave an important Christ-filled mission bereft to the world around us to redact and refill in spiritualizing invigorations, forms and functions, less than Christian, but most certainly spiritual, as attested to in the four areas just mentioned.

I find then that re-integrating the Christian faith within a postmodern framework must also confront the growing post-truth despair found in churches and societal turmoil as an important witness spanning the gulf between the Christian faith and a growing number of unChristian mysticisms; unChristian reflections searching for a kind of spiritual enlightenment; or, unChristian hopes which lead away from a redemptive meaningfulness to life, ministry, work, and social behavior.

This then is the basic task set upon the hearts and passions of today's global prophets and priests of the Church called to its renewing Reformation. It is the deep need for another Christian  Re-Awakening spawning an Orthodox Reformation both Protestant and Catholic, religious and liturgical, missionary and service-oriented, into all the areas of Christian endeavor, academic teaching, worship, and understanding. Through the years Relevancy22 has identified a few of these Christian movements and leaders as attested to in its roll call of  topics, blogger links, and study resources.

Even so, God is breathing His revelations across the world in lands far away and alien to Western civilizaiton, into the lands of Asia, India, Africa, and South America. It is a Wind testifying to the need of humanity to reorder its chaotic turmoil back to the very thrones of God that it might have a witness to a world leaving the church behind to its superstitions and mythologies unless it regains an adapting theology which is willing to grow up and mature to testify of the God we love and adore in a post-modern world.

Having begun in the 1990s, there is developing a new hope for the Church being attested to in a steady stream of contemporary witnesses to the Christian faith of Spirit-filled men and women having grown and being knit together as one community advocating a new reflection of the Christian faith that may allow its much needed post-Reformation to grow and take shape into ten thousand reflections of the Divine Light of the Son of God and His redemption brought into this old earth by the guiding hand of the God of Creation, Atonement, Revival, and Resurrected Life.

As such, it is not unlike the reformers of old God has used in the life of the Church - from its very first Church Fathers of the early Christian centuries to the Medieval and Reformational Reformers of the Medieval Ages, to the Great Awakenings of the American and British eras of the 1700's and onwards, to the Revivals of South America, Asia, Africa, and Middle East both in the past and lately, as the Spirit of God lays upon the hearts of men and women His heavy hand of guidance, groaning, and passion to awaken the hearts of us who cannot see, nor hear, nor even feel the Wind of God blowing across our hearts and souls, to come taste the Divine Bread and Wine of our Salvation.


Even so blows such a Divine Wind as it tears down and uproots all old and impervious Christian faith structures resisting the Lord and having become devolved and unlovely to the name of Christ. More heathen in its forms of worship, more pagan in its portrayals of Christ, and similarly destructive to the Word of the Lord when living within their closed structures of religious systems unable to renew themselves under God's guidance unless they first be torn down and uprooted to hear again the living Sepulcher's tolling God's life-giving Altars to stand forth, repent, and be born again into the hope, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of the Gospel of Christ.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
October 28, 2017

Links to the Reformation and Reformers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformers


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Martin Luther’s Greatest Contribution
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/martin-luthers-greatest-contribution

by Thomas Oord
October 25th, 2017

Christians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Not just Protestants, even many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians are celebrating!

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on Castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Most Christians today who read the document Luther posted would find his theses bewildering. But this event and many others before and after brought great change to the world.


Luther’s Theology

As Christians celebrate the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 29, many will correctly praise Luther for his courage.

Theologians like me who study the details of Luther’s theology often have mixed feelings about his ideas. Some of what Luther said is applicable today; other things are not. Some aspects of Luther’s theology should be left in dustbins of history.

Luther was an enigmatic figure with an odd personality. He was prone to hyperbole (all those “solas,” for example) and just plain weirdness. Few today would lift him up as a moral example. But Luther is rightly praised for his courage and conviction.

Reforming

Luther’s greatest legacy and the greatest legacy of the Protestant Reformation is less about the specific theology he proposed. It’s more about the general need for changes in theology.

The Reformation reminds us that Christianity is not a static religion. It moves, adjusts, and transforms. Times change, people change, and the gospel of Christianity changes too, at least to some extent.

Some things in Christianity seem constant. Jesus is always central, although how we understand him varies over time. Love is central too, although what love demands seems to change. We could add other seemingly timeless aspects of the Christian faith.

Debates about the essentials and nonessentials in Christian faith will continue. The consensus varies from generation to generation.

Jesus may be the same yesterday, today, and forever, but the Christian faith is always in process. The Spirit is always doing a new thing!


Time for a New Reformation

It’s time again for something new. Every 500 years or so, something major seems to occur in Christian history. We’re due.

It’s time to ask ourselves, What will Christianity look like tomorrow? Who will Jesus be interpreted to be? What does love require in the present age? How should we now live?

Answering these questions is our present task. But we’re not the first. Change agents, revolutionaries, and theological entrepreneurs like Martin Luther have come before.

So let’s celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by raising a glass to Martin Luther!

ps... When you’re celebrating Luther’s birthday on November 10, light a candle for me: I was born on that same date 482 years later! - T.O.




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