Thursday, January 31, 2008

Creeds and divisions

I'm currently reading 'The End of Religion' by Bruxy Cavey. I'll post a longer article on the book when I'm further into it, but its raised a few issues in my mind which I'll comment on in a few posts here.

In the chapter I read last night, he spoke about the council of Nicaea, the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed in passing. And made two points which I'd never thought of before.

I'd always thought that the point of the creeds was to affirm the common beliefs of Christians, to reinforce our unity in Christ. And I suppose both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed do this, but go back to 325AD. There were many Christians, each trying to follow Christ in some way or another, and they had some form of communion with each other. OK, so they may not have agreed on every point, but they were all Christians and (as far as I can tell) generally viewed themselves and each other as such. Then the creed was devised and agreed by the majority of folk at the council. This instantly marked a minority of those present as heretics. All of a sudden, two Christians who agree on almost everything relating to how to live and how to worship their Lord are divided. One becomes a heretic, the other is affirmed. Is this a good thing?

Are any of the creeds good things if they underline divisions and separate Christians into two groups, the orthodox and the heretics?

If someone is seeking to follow the example of their Lord, live according to his teachings and is filled with his Spirit, does it actually matter if they consider him to be not of the same substance as the Father or not? I suspect not. And yet, this was one of the things which separated the orthodox from the heretics back then.

Another thing that I had never really noticed about the creeds is that they say nothing about what Jesus said or did during his life on earth. They jump straight from 'born of a virgin' to 'suffered under Pilate' - nothing about Jesus's life at all in there. That seems a bit lacking to me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Our concept of God

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech."
A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (Chapter 1)

On one level it all comes down to this - How do we view God - because that perception will influence everything in our life and worship.

And yet, I can't help but think that the other perception is more important still - How does God view us?

"Well done good and faithful servant" or "I never knew you"?

The Wrath of God is revealed...

I've blogged about the Wrath of God before (nearly two years ago, doesn't time fly), but I still have doubts and questions about the whole subject.

This morning I was listening to a podcast from Liquid Church (in New Jersey, USA). It was the first in their 'iGod' sermon series from a couple of months ago. One of the main passages that was quoted in this sermon was Romans 1.

Romans 1v18-25:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

I have heard this passage preached upon before. I have read it several times. And yet I saw something new in there today.

How is the wrath of God revealed?

You see, I come to this passage with a preconceived picture of what 'wrath' means. It involves anger, it suggests violence, it certainly implies punishment. But that is the wrath of man, not the wrath of God! We can't see what any characteristic of God is like unless he reveals it to us. His love is different from our love, his kindness is different from our kindness, his mercy is different from our mercy and his wrath is different from our wrath. We cannot know anything about his wrath unless it is revealed to us.

And how is this wrath revealed?

With anger? No. With violence? No. Smiting? Nope. Destruction? No. Punishment? No.

God reveals his wrath by withdrawing himself from people and giving them over to do what they want to do. That is the wrath of God. That is so unlike our wrath that I'm actually surprised that the concept is translated using the same word.

God's wrath is the loving Father regretfully turning his back and saying 'well, if that's the way you want to live, I'm not going to stop you...'