Other Christians: August 2004 Archives

TSO made an excellent point about the plethora of great Catholic Classics available for us to read. In large part I agree with him; however, I sometimes find that the Catholic Classics fail me, not because they are not good works, but because so few of them come from a time near enough to address the issues I face every day. Yes, they teach immortal principles and should be read for that reason alone. But sometimes it is good to hear a voice, like that of John Paul II who faces what I face today and who gives me some guidance as to how to deal with. For that reason, I do read a variety of spiritual works from all times, not wishing to succumb to chronological snobbery in either sense.

That said, suffice to say that I abandoned the Monks of New Skete, largely because of the company their publishers decided to have them keep. I hadn't noticed the "publicity" on the jacket and when I finally looked I noticed overwhelming acclaim from Rev. Frank Griswold and Peter Gomes. From what I have seen of other works by these two men, I find myself in disagreement with their approach to the Bible, and in all likelihood much of their approach to spirituality. (As to this latter I cannot definitively say as no single work is likely to have spelled out their complete view of spirituality. But as they tend to take the guidance of scripture somewhat lightly, I have sufficient grounds for discontinuing my reading. ) After the first shock of those recommendations wears off, I will likely return to the book. But because I had Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart at home anyway, I thought I would pick IT up in preference to the Monks of New Skete for the time being.

from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

We must make no mistake about it. In thus sending out his trainees, he [Jesus] set afoot a perpetual world revolution: one that is still in process and will continue until God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. As this revolution culminates, all the forces of evil known to mankind will be defeated and the goodness of God will be known, accepted, and joyously conformed to in every aspect of human life. He has chosen to accomplish this win and, in part, through his students.

It is even now true, as angelic seraphim proclaimed to Isaiah in his vision, that "the whole earth is full of His glory, the glory of the holy Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). But the day is yet to come when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14, emphasis added).

The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character., which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, and habits of choice, as well as their bodily tendencies and social relations. It penetrates to the deepest layers of their soul. External, social arrangements may be useful to this end, but they are not the end, nor are the fundamental part of the means.

What I liked particularly about this description is the revolution of Jesus as a revolution of character which does reflect itself in the transformation of the world, but not a revolution in the world that affects transformation of character. I think it rightly sets the matter in order. First we change, and then through our change we effect change in the world. It is one of the reasons that restrictive laws with regard to very popular things have so little effect--prohibition and anti-pornography legislation come to mind. But the focus on individual transformation in Christ seems exact. What is even better is that Willard suggests, as those of us within any Church community already know, that this transformation does not take place in isolation but in the community of believers. We are affected by what happens around us, good and bad. Witness the calamitous and still reechoing effect of the scandals a year or more ago. We will be living with the pain of that betrayal for some time to come--it inflicted a grievous wound to the Body of Christ.

We understand the communal nature of salvation and of transformation. And again, Willard uses the proper term for this when he speaks of Spiritual Formation, which can only rightly occur within the bounds of a community. (In a sense, this is where the old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child," is fundamentally true. We need a rock-solid foundation in the faith, and part of that comes from seeing different ways of being believers and still functioning in the world. The community of faith offers a great many models for us to observe and to take our lead from. Hence, the Church is especially blessed in her continued recognition of the Communion of the Saints--extending our community of models into eternity.)

I suspect that I will read this book very slowly, and I do hope to share some of the fruits of that reading with you. However, I do expect to read it exceedingly slowly. So expect reports over a fairly long period of time.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Other Christians category from August 2004.

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