Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Divine Embrace 3

The crisis Christian spirituality faces is how it came to pass that spirituality became separated from the divine embrace. This is discussed by Robert Webber in chp 2 of The Divine Embrace.
Webber summarizes lots of history in a few pages and I’m trying today merely to whet your appetite for his discussion and that larger history. The disconnection of spirituality from the divine embrace occurred through Platonic dualism. The connection was there, but it was lost. I cannot emphasize enough the value of this kind of exposure for how we need to understand the Christian life. The gnostics haunt far too much of Christian thinking.
The Gnostics challenged God as creator. It denied the body in order to release the soul. The Church responded, say in the Apostles’ Creed, was to affirm creation.
The Arians challegned the Incarnation of God in Christ. Athanasius defended orthodoxy (one might say he created orthodoxy) and this is all bundled up in the creeds from Nicea to Chalcedon.
The divine initiative was challenged by Pelagius and Augustine met the Pelagian challenge with the teaching of God’s grace.
The union of God and the human was challenged and the only fair resolution was to say that Jesus was 100% God and 100% Human.
The human will of Jesus was challenged: did he have a human will? Once again, the Church agreed that it was two wills perfectly united.
Theosis was the early church teaching: “participation in God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit” (41). This teaching has been the teaching of the Church from the beginning and it respects a proper human and a proper divinity so that a proper spirituality can arise. The earliest spirituality was a robust theological spirituality.
Two shifts messed us up — both occurred in contemplation: the Platonic dualism frame and the medieval mysticism frame. God shifted from subject to object and we seek to attain to his location by escaping from this world. He finds traces in both eastern and western monasticism, including some extravagances in the desert fathers. Some of late medieval mysticism got too much into the self journeying and of the interior life. The focus needs to be on God.

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posted November 30, 2007 at 12:55 am

As with NT Wright, I have been longing to read Webber…and this just increases that longing! Sigh…. :(
Yes, the frames of dualism and medieval mysticism were turning points in the wrong direction. The focus on the love of God and others is critical for the proper balance and, indeed, motivation for proper spirituality.

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posted November 30, 2007 at 10:52 am

When I read your last lines: “Some of late medieval mysticism got too much into the self journeying and of the interior life. The focus needs to be on God.” I thought in line with previous posts & comments, “and God will lead us to those right next to us.” As others have mentioned, the Christian “spirituality” is earthy.

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posted November 30, 2007 at 11:04 am

I’m curious about Webber’s take here on monasticism. I haven’t read maybe as much of their writings as some, but I know monks and those in other religious orders certainly stemming from these traditions. My first reaction wouldn’t have been to lump them in with dualism. Just the opposite. I’d love to hear more on this Scot. Did Webber actually speak to any monastics in writing this section?

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posted November 30, 2007 at 11:30 am

For a great dialogue between justification and theosis, read Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s One with God. This book does a great job negotiating the tension between Lutheran (I think this could be called “Western”) perspectives on justification and Orthodox perspectives on deification: and really does justice to each one’s questions about the other without watering down plausible responses. It really bent my mind and heart in some fresh ways: which also influences my spirituality.

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posted November 30, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Would like to expand why i feel recovering a passionate spiritual life is both wise and mature. With some trepidation i ask you to look at the “pesky” thread and notice the overall angst.
Webber’s strength is linking the future with the past, staying on the narrow way(“trail”), and leading to a better relational group.
It is this latter deeper ecclesiology that is so important for us today; and may i say for the bride to make herself ready. For the bride to manifest the oneness that is true.
With Peggy, i long to read this book, am seeking out other’s stories of passion with our Lord, and i believe we are moving to a new era in church.

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