Can Christianity Be More than Simple?
devotional thought of the day
And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:4-8 (NLT)
The model of enlightened reason cannot assimilate the structure of faith. That is our problem today. But faith, for its part, is comprehensive enough to assimilate the intellectual offer of the Enlightenment and give it a task that is meaningful also for faith. That is our opportunity. We must make the effort to accept it. (1)
24 But before man is illuminated, converted, reborn, renewed, and drawn by the Holy Spirit, he can do nothing in spiritual things of himself and by his own powers. In his own conversion or regeneration he can as little begin, effect, or cooperate in anything as a stone, a block, or a lump of clay could. (2)
Despite it’s occasional plunge into the depths, this blog is entitled ASimpleChristian for a reason.
Being a follower of Jesus, trusting in Him and depending on Him for the love, mercy and peace that form our relationship is simple.
I’ve seen it as the deepest faith has been shown me by those with Alzheimer’s, who can’t remember their name or their love one. They show me that faith, that dependence as their anxiety is overwhelmed by peace as they hear the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm, or the Apostles Creed. The faith given them in their youth sustains them.
This despite not being able to parse adequately Greek, or discuss the communication of Magestial attributes, or define the difference between transubstantiation or consubstantiation as they receive Christ’s Body and Blood. They know and respond to the words, for you.
You see the depth of such faith in children, and those who have an intellectual handicap but are spiritual giants, causing many with Ph.D.’s and Th.D.’s to look like spiritual dwarfs.
Part of this, I firmly believe has to do with conversion, and bringing everything subject to the will and work of God. Including our intellect. To allow it to be renewed, regenerated, born again in the waters of baptism along with our heart and soul. That is why Paul speaks plainly, as do evangelists and those preachers who understand that conversion doesn’t happen because we are logical or reasonable enough. For that can’t be.
Reason can’t enslave faith, it can’t analyze it, it can’t conquer it. (GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy makes this point painfully simple!) Pope Benedict XVI’s quote above makes this clear. One of our challenges since the enlightenment is that we’ve traded training our pastors in meditating on scripture for analyzing it through either historical-grammatical or historical-critical frameworks. We give them systems without allowing the word to transform them; We overlook the sweat and tears that conversion (tentatio) often brings.
We want to enslave Scripture like a rat in a cage, rather than let the Holy Spirit transform us as we hear it. We create elaborate systems, and fancy definitions and terms to explain that which scriptue doesn’t explain.
Rather than meditating on it, hearing it, letting it absorb into us and transform us, as the love of God, which is beyond our capability to fully know, is revealed to us. As the depth to which He will descend to come to us, and heal and cleanse us becomes known, for he comes to where we are. That is what the Lutheran reformers were discussing in the blue quote above. Before the Holy Spirit heals our blindness to the truth, we can’t know it.
It is like the child who wants to figure out how to use their Christmas present, based on the die of the box, but who does not know what it contains. So is it with those who base their philosophy of life, the universe, and everything without considering God’s purpose. Or who determine that God’s revelation is subject to their own critical framework, simply because it is a mystery, a sacred thing beyond comprehension.
We have to start simple – with what God reveals to us What He reveals too us in mechanics of this world, and in what He very specifically reveals to us in Scripture. This is what makes up the faith of those who have lost all, and those who we think can’t gain much. Whose faith is extraordinary. Whose faith, whose trust in God is simply there.
It is then, informed by that, with horizons set by that revelation, that we can plunge into and explore His love. It is then we, as His little children learn to enjoy the presence of our Father.
Such is a spiritual life, a simple one… sitting at His feet, letting the Spirit bring us to will and do the Father’s will.
Lord Have mercy on us sinners.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 307). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. Meditation for 9/26
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 525–526). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration part II.II Free Will
Posted on September 26, 2015, in Augsburg and Trent and tagged Abiding in Christ, academics, APologetics, faith like children, Formula of Concord, Martin Luther, Ministry, philosophy, Pope Benedict XVI, Simplicity, Solida Declaration. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.