Posts Tagged immanent
One of my main goals in writing is to discover and bring the ancient theology and doctrines of the early charismatic Christian church to the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement.
There is a clear disconnect between the doxis of Western Latin Christianity and the praxis of the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement which operates in the gifts and fruit of the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Renewal Movement certainly has the basic praxis (how beliefs are practiced, embodied and realized in conduct) of the early charismatic Apostolic church, but does not have a corresponding supportive, complementary doxis (religious beliefs, worship, doctrines, and creeds) which explains and supports that praxis.
The world needs to see lives transformed, but it also needs to know why and how they have been transformed. To do this, the world must see a complementary balance of belief and action at work. But, just as vital, the world must see something else in mutual support and balance: orthodoxy and orthopraxis– that is, right belief and right action.
A key essential in an orthodoxy which supports a Renewal Movement (apostolic church) orthopraxis is an understanding of the Essence and Energies of God and the distinction between them. It is only in understanding Essence (transliterated ousía in Greek) and Energies (transliterated enérgeia in Greek) of God that we can reconcile the seeming paradox of the unknowable transcendence of God with the universal, yet very personal indwelling presence and power of God in all humankind.
Throughout this discussion, I will rely heavily on the writings of 20th century theologians including Vladimir Lossky, Christos Yannaras, and Fr. John Meyendorff. They, in turn, refer to the authority of many early Church Fathers including St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Macarius the Great (all 4th century); St. Dionysius the Aeropagite (5th century); St. Maximus the Confessor (7th century); St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th century); and last, but not least, St. Gregory Pálamas (14th century). I make all of these citations so that the reader may understand that the theology and doctrines on the Essence and Energies of God are both ancient and continuously attested to throughout the Patristic literature up to this day. These citations also make it clear that none of what you are about to read is my original work or thoughts.
To be continued…
“In the beginning was the Logos…”
Christianity is unique among the world’s great religions in that it is the only one with the revelation of God emptying himself of his divine prerogatives to incarnate as a person in order to save all humankind from a fallen imperfect state and lead them to ultimately attain to the likeness of God. The Logos Doctrine is essential to an understanding of that revelation.
Our discussion begins with the words of St. John in the prologue to his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos (Word)…”.
The New Testament was originally composed in Greek. The Greek word which is translated “Word” in most English Bibles is “Logos”. Many English speaking Christians are aware of this fact, but very few are aware of the ancient Christian Logos Doctrine to which it refers. The Logos Doctrine is so foundational to Christian theology that Protestant theologian Paul Tillich stated emphatically that, “He who sacrifices the Logos principle sacrifices the idea of a living God, and he who rejects the application of this principle to Jesus as the Christ rejects his character as Christ.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, p. 288). With that crystal clear message from one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, let’s move on!
So, what is this Logos Doctrine?
Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus used the word Logos to describe what he envisioned as a universal force of reason which governed the universe. He felt that “all things happen according to this Logos”. Later, the philosophical school known as the Stoics expanded and popularized this idea in the ancient world.
Early Christians, including the Gospel writer John, adapted the Logos principle as a means to explain Jesus Christ in terms that the dominant Greco-Roman culture could understand and respect. In Greek Stoic philosophy, the concept of the Logos describes a universal principle. But, in the Christian context, in addition to that transcendent idea, the Logos also assumes a very personal character by being associated with the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. So, in the following discussion of the pre-incarnational Christian Logos Doctrine, every time we see “Logos” or Word, we need to mentally add to it the “Son”, the second Person of the Trinitarian Godhead.
“…according to the Logos Doctrine, Christianity is very inclusive and universal.”
The incarnation of the Logos, the Son, as Jesus the Christ is a once-for-all event. It is not the incarnation of a particular characteristic or set of characteristics of God; it is the very Logos of God, center of divinity, which becomes incarnate. The incarnation initiates a series of events in the economy, or plan of God for the salvation of humankind.
The saving economy of Jesus Christ, the Logos, are is found in his incarnation which deified the fallen nature of humankind; in his ministry which gave us direct knowledge of God; in his death by which he redeemed us from the bondage of sin; and in the resurrection, which defeated death.
Jesus Christ, as Logos, is first of all a teacher in the sense of giving us existential knowledge and power through the Holy Spirit. Justin Martyr said, “the teachings of Plato are not alien to those of Christ, although not in all respects similar. For all the writers of antiquity were able to have a dim vision of the realities by the means of the implanted word [Logos].” 2nd Apology, 13.
So, you see, according to the Logos Doctrine, Christianity is very inclusive and universal; “catholic”, if you will. It is not the exclusive club, tribe, or competing religion than humans have made of it. Ancient Christianity was inclusive of all truth, regardless of source, place, or time. It included all of humankind, without distinction.
When seen from the viewpoint of the Logos Doctrine, the seemingly exclusive claims of John 14:6 become a declaration of inclusive, cosmic, universal truth. The verse reads: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.” In paraphrase, I believe this means: “I am the Logos, the self-manifestation of God the Father. We are the same in essence, but the Father remains hidden from creation. The only possible way that humankind has to understand and know God is through understanding and knowing the Logos.” This is the cosmic Christ. This is the Way; the “finger pointing to the moon”!
The word “psychology” literally means, “study of the soul” (it is made up of two Greek words: ψυχή, psukhē, meaning “soul”; and -λογος – logos, meaning “study of”).
The fact that we are tri-partite (three-part) beings, consisting of “spirit”, “soul”, and “body” is well attested to in the New Testament (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12) and in the writings of the early Fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil of Cesaraea).
Jesus identified many psychological issues in his teachings that we now might term “denial”, “defense mechanisms”, “projections”, and “inner healing”. The Apostle Paul was certainly deeply involved in the transformation of the fallen human “soul” and “body” through the power and influence of the “Spirit” of God. There are many additional New Testament examples of psychological teachings, both in the Gospels and the Epistles.
The actual term “psychology” was first used in writing during the Enlightenment of the 16th century. The modern science of psychology is brand new, emerging in Europe in the 1870’s, with its super-hero, Sigmund Freud, starting his work in the 1890’s. I know that seems odd, given that “psychology” is such a familiar and popular part of our secular culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But, as a science, it really is brand new, relatively speaking.
The problem with contemporary secular psychology is that, at most, it only deals with two parts of a human being; the body and, perhaps, parts of the soul. With few exceptions, the secular study of psychology virtually ignores the spiritual aspect of humanity. It suffers the modern bias for what can be observed and measured through the five senses, relegating all else (such as spirit), to the intellectual dumpster of superstition and/or imagination.
And that is why I maintain that modern psychology can only help you “cope” with problems, it cannot “deliver” us from them or “cure” them. Secular psychology only deals with two of the three variables of the equation; our fallen “body” and “soul”. It arrogantly ignores the most important element of our being, the “spirit”. Therein lies the healing cure for these problems; the power of the “Spirit” to transform both the soul and the body to align and conform our entire being to the perfect will of God. Only God can truly heal, cure, and deliver us from psychological afflictions.
This is not “new” news, folks. This is ancient Christian teaching that is largely being ignored or shouted down by contemporary secular “science”.
‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’
I take these statements from Jesus in Matthew 12:25 and 23:15 and apply them to the Body of Christ in terms of its fundamental doctrines and practices. When doctrines or opinions (Gk. doxis), what you profess, and practices (Gk. praxis), what you do, do not align and complement one another, you end up with a house divided against itself and/or the hypocrisy of not doing what you say.
That’s not so much a problem with Denominational Mainline Christianity because, by and large, their Western Latin doxis of a remote, transcendent, magisterial God administering Roman justice on a fallen, sinful mankind pretty much complements and supports their praxis of guilt, bondage, control, and sin consciousness of their congregations. It is not a pretty picture of Christianity, but at least their views of right doctrines (orthodoxis) and right practices (orthopraxis) are aligned and complementary.
The problem is in the Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Their praxis is based on operating in the Ministry Gifts (Eph. 4) of an immanent, loving, involved God (the Son, the Logos, the Christ, Jesus) and individual Gifts (1 Cor 12, Rom. 12) and Fruit (Gal. 5) of an indwelling, supporting, comforting, and guiding Holy Spirit. This praxis is wonderful, empowering, freeing, loving and Bible-based, to be sure.
Unfortunately, the contemporary Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement does not have a theology, doctrine, or doxis, that supports, complements, or aligns with their empowered praxis. They pretty much brought along, whole cloth, the orthodoxis of whatever Western Latin tradition they came from; be that Evangelical, Reformed, Anglican, or Roman Catholic. At best, this causes the problem of a “house divided” in Matt. 12, above. At worst, it results in the “hypocrisy” described in Matt. 23.
Operating in the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit was the orthopraxis of the early primitive Christian church. We know that from Acts and Paul’s un-disputed letters. There was also an orthodoxis in the primitive Church that aligned with, complemented, and supported this empowered orthopraxis. It has been suppressed by the Western Latin (i.e., Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church for the last 1,600 years.
Can you imagine what might happen if we got the orthodoxis and orthopraxis of the primitive Christian Church of Signs and Miracles together again for the first time in 1,600 years?!
That is what “First Thoughts” is all about. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, clergy and laity alike, need to read this booklet so that the remnant church can get its collective “Acts” together and become the Powerhouse Body of Christ it should, and can be. Satan wants to keep it from happening, keeping us “double-minded”.
The meaning of theology is to know God as He is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
|“Theology, rightly considered, is the knowledge of God in His relation to us, the cardinal point of which lies in the truth which the old Greek poet had glanced at. “For we are also his offspring” – this is the true keynote; and theology, setting out from this kinship between us and God, we at once soar, as on wings of a spiritual intuition, across the abyss between creature and Creator.”
Theology is the study of God in relation to man. This is a First Thought. Theology is not, conversely, the doctrine of man in relation to God. That is an Afterthought born of human arrogance and pride at truly biblical levels. The adage, “There is a God, and we’re not Him”, comes to mind. All proper theology starts with God and works from that starting point to His relation to man. The order is all important. Getting it backwards has caused huge problems in Christianity that we suffer with to this day. Take the following historical illustration as an example:
If we make the mistake of making man the starting point, we immediately have to deal with him in a condition of spiritual blindness and consequent self-alienation from God. How do we explain this condition? The answer is to come up with a rationale, an Afterthought, like Original Sin. Because we have approached it from the wrong direction, this first Afterthought raises yet further questions. So, we are forced into developing a series of additional related Afterthoughts to rationalize our flawed first assumptions; the Fall, the Atonement, Grace, Predestination, the problem of evil, etc. This line of reasoning of man in relation to God inevitably leads us to a problem that has no logical solution: Either God is all-goodness, but not all-mighty, or He is all-mighty, but not all-goodness.
Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.
To illustrate the difference between First Thoughts and Afterthoughts further, let’s take an example from Romans 5. Speaking of the sin of Adam at the Fall and the corresponding Grace of God through the redemption by Jesus, Paul states in verse 15:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
And just to make sure that there was no misunderstanding that the redemption of man is just as extensive as the fall of man, the Apostle repeats himself twice more in verses 18 and 19:
Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Now, contrast this to what later theologians did to Paul’s First thoughts. St. Augustine and, later, Protestant Reformer John Calvin drew a conclusion from these verses that is very different from Paul’s clear teaching. Somehow, they inferred that man’s redemption was not co-extensive with the condemnation. To Augustine and Calvin, there is universal damnation in Adam, and only selective salvation in Christ!
Of the thoughts of the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, and John Calvin, discussed above, which do you think might be First Thoughts and which are Afterthoughts?
This is not a quiz! It’s just an example to get you thinking about, and sensitive to, the concept of First Thoughts and Afterthoughts. The differences between them had a huge impact on the development of Christian theology.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
Afterthoughts are “fossilized first thoughts”. Afterthoughts are additions, deletions, modifications, interpretations, or distortions of First Thoughts. Afterthoughts invariably rest in what God has done or said in the past. They seldom support the idea that God might have new revelations for us from His word. Afterthoughts are the building blocks of dogmatism; whose foundation is often a pre-determined conclusion backed by carefully selected texts, related or not, and from inferences when no such texts can be found. Afterthoughts lack the sense of the true authority of God and make up for it by dogmatic bluster, prescription against opposing views, and threat of punishment from the power and authority of Church or Book.
As you can see from the preceding discussion, the ideas of First Thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man do not lend themselves to precise analytical definitions. I will leave that problem to theologians, philosophers, and the like.
For our purposes, I want you to use your intuitive sense of what is true and what is of God; of how it appeals to and sits in your conscience. Don’t worry, every human being in the world has this intuitive conscience. The Greeks call it nous . The intuitive conscience I’m talking about is the positive part of the soul that tells you whether or not something is right and true and from God. It’s not the negative part of consciousness that condemns you, makes you feel guilty, unworthy, defeated, and powerless every time you do something “wrong” (sin). No, that’s the playground of Satan and “religion”.
 nous is seen as the “eye of the soul”, which some also call the heart, is the center of man, where reason resides, and where true spiritual knowledge is validated.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
First Thoughts appeal to our intuitive conscience and have the aire of genuine authority. First Thoughts reveal Christ, have a sense of permanence, dispel and diminish our sense of unbelief, and sit well in and satisfy our conscience. First Thoughts, as opposed to Afterthoughts, are relatively few in number and invariably address life and conduct from the standpoint of godliness. First Thoughts do not address subjects which the human mind can figure out for itself. First Thoughts break into our consciousness to teach us universal and timeless divine knowledge. For example, this quote from Job 28 contains First Thoughts; “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding”. First Thoughts are best when there is one step between premise and conclusion. First Thoughts reflect the profound yet simple nature of Jesus and His teaching. If a thought conforms to our intuitive sense that “God is love” and “God is good and doeth good”, it is likely a First Thought.
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“
Understanding the ideas of the First thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man provides a baseline from which we can assess current Christian theology, understand how and why it got where it is, look at alternatives and perhaps figure out what an optimal model might look like.
I have been searching for the theology that animated the spirit-driven, miracle working primitive Christian Church for 40 years. In that quest, I have read dozens of books ranging from early Christian writings, the New Testament itself, as well as associated commentaries, textual criticisms, and books on theology. In the course of reading a rather obscure 19th century book on theology, I came across the idea of the First Thoughts of God and the Afterthoughts of man from its author, 19th century English cleric and theologian, John B. Heard. While discussing the starkly contrasting paths of “the way of life” and the “way of death” contained in the early Church writing called the Didaché (Gr. didaxή, “teaching”), Heard observed:
“A lifetime has taught me the same sharp contrast between two theologies, the one setting out with the first thoughts of God, the other with man’s interpretation of these thoughts which I describe as second thoughts or afterthoughts. The first thoughts, which are God’s thoughts, all address themselves to the conscience – they enter in, and they lodge there.”
His insight struck a chord of truth and intrigued me. It made increasing sense to me the more I thought about it and tested his ideas mentally and spiritually.
 Alexandrian and Carthaginian Theology Contrasted by Rev. John B. Heard, T.& T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1893
Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts“