Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Best Way to Read the Scriptures

The best way to understand the Scriptures is in the context of what has been handed down in the Church from the beginning. The whole Church has been given the Holy Spirit, to teach us and lead us into all truth (John 14:26, John 16:13). This does not mean that each individual may come up with his own private interpretation with which to judge everyone else. It means precisely the opposite; we must learn to read and understand the Scriptures together, as one body, the body of Christ, the Church, being of one heart and mind.

The Church is not above the Scriptures, but the Church interprets the Scriptures. Without interpretation, the Scriptures yield no meaning to us. Even if we should say, “The Holy Spirit showed me this meaning,” it is an interpretation nonetheless. The Holy Spirit certainly reveals the meaning of Scripture to the Church, but to the whole Church, and not with contradictory interpretations to contradictory people. The Scriptures are multivalent, capable of many interpretations, but not mutually incongruous ones.

There are many new and varied interpretations that have arisen over the years, and they abound today. But where they are out of sync with how the Church has consistently understood Scripture from the beginning, they should be left to the side. They are independent voices that do not reflect the mind of the Church, the mind of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church. It is important, then, to pay careful attention to how the early Church understood the Scriptures. It is the safest and best way to proceed, and will help keep us from error.

Friday, July 19, 2024

Sin is the Soul Rejecting Itself

Sin is often thought of as the infraction of a law, the breaking of a commandment. But it is really the brokenness of a relationship. When Adam turned away from God to his own way, he turned away from the very source of his life and being — he turned away from his true self, toward non-being.

From the beginning, we are created in the image of God, to be like God. That is our true self, yet we continually resist it. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, in whom all the fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form, and in whom we are made complete and become partakers of the divine nature. This is the Incarnation, and it includes us all, for Jesus Christ is the image of God we were created to be. The good news of the gospel is that God is transforming us, conforming us to the image of Christ. In turning to Christ, through repentance and faith, we become reoriented to our true self, what God intended for us from the beginning.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Gospel of Deliverance

Christ did not come to save us from God
but to deliver us from the power of death
and the darkness of sin.

“Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, Christ also in like manner shared in these same things , in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Divine Being and Human Being

There is Divine Being
and there is Human Being.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is both,
and in Him we are all united,
with God and with each other.
This is the Incarnation
and this is the Gospel.

Christ Crucified and Risen is the Incarnate One.
The Incarnate One is Crucified and Risen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Who Can Forever Resist the Love of God?

If there were a being who was eternally impervious to God, forever able to resist the Love of God, would not such a being be greater than God? Indeed, would not that being then be God? But we are created by God to be the image of God, which is to say, the image of Love, for God is Love. We were made by Love and for Love, to be loved and to love. It is inherent to our true nature, what it means to be human. The evil that has invaded the human heart cannot change that but can only obscure it.

Yet, our Lord Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from this darkness of heart, this depravity of mind, this enmity of the will against Love, which is to say, against God. This is the truth of the Incarnation, in which Christ has united divinity with humanity, God with humankind, Love with the human heart. And it is the truth of the Cross and Resurrection, by which Christ has defeated death and the devil (who held the power of death), and all of the powers that blind us and pull us away from Love. 

In self-giving, other-centered, cross-shaped love, our Lord Jesus submitted himself to shameful death by the wickedness of our own darkened hearts. And by that one death defeated death for all, for Love is stronger than death. Who, then, could forever resist the love of God?

There is no heart so hard
that the Love of Christ
cannot soften it,
No mind so darkened
that the Light of Christ
cannot enlighten it,
No will so bound
that the Truth of Christ
cannot set it free.
And so shall God
be All in All.

Monday, May 13, 2024

The Fullness of Him Who Fills All in All

And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and gave him to the Church as head over all things. Now the Church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 NET).

This passage is packed with stunning revelation. Not only that God has placed all things under the feet of Christ crucified, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Not only that God has given Christ as head of the Church, and that the Church is, consequently, the body of Christ. Not only that Christ fills everything in every way. But this: The Church is the fullness of Christ.

Earlier in Ephesians 1, Paul tells us what God’s mysterious will and good pleasure is, which he purposed in himself and which is perfectly accomplished in Jesus Christ:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

Christ has not merely come at the end of time, he is himself the end of time, the fullness of time, the meaning and purpose of time. In him, God gathers together all in heaven and on earth — everyone and everything — bringing all into union, with Christ as head (anakephalaiomai). At the end of the chapter, we see Christ placed far above every rule, authority, power and dominion, far above every name that could ever be invoked. This is the Ascension. 

God has given Christ to the Church as the head (kephale) over all things. Paul specifically has in mind the relationship of head and body. He speaks of Christ as the head of the church, and of the Church as the body of Christ. Likewise, since Christ is the head of all things, what does that say about all things in heaven and on earth but that all is, in this way, the body of Christ.

Christ fills all things, in every way, with himself, and Paul declares that the Church, the Body of Christ, is that fullness which fills all in all. Being filled with Christ in every way, everything in creation is finally revealed to be the body of Christ, which is to say, the Church. This is what the end of time looks like. Fr. John Behr puts it very well for me:

I can no longer see the Church as a select group of people called out from unbelievers. Rather, the Church is the whole of Creation seen eschatologically; from which we already see islands in the present, called out from “the world” (in the negative sense).

Friday, May 10, 2024

Christ Has Ascended — And We With Him

Forty days after our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and in the fullness of his humanity and his divinity, he ascended into heaven. Paul speaks of this in the wonderful prayer he makes for the Church in Ephesians 1: that we may know the wonderful anticipation to which God has called us, that we may know the riches of the glorious inheritance God has in us, and that we may know the unfathomable greatness of his power for us. He tells, here and elsewhere, about that great power, and we see the glory of our Ascended Lord Jesus:

That Same Power,
The Mighty Strength
God exercised when He
Raised Christ from the dead
And seated him at the
Right hand of the Father
In the heavenly realms,
Far above all rule,
Far above all authority,
Far above all power,
Far above all dominion,
Far above every name—
The Name above All Names.

God has placed
All Things under his feet
And given him to the Church
To be head over All Things
In Heaven and on Earth,
To the Church,
Which is His Body,
The Fullness of Him
Who Fills All Things

Through the Incarnation, Christ united divinity with humanity, God with humankind, and became Human Being, of which we all partake and by which we are all now defined. Because of the Incarnation, the death of Christ has become our death, too. The resurrection of Christ has become our resurrection, too. And the ascension of Christ has become our ascension, too, the ascension of All Humankind. 

Only a few verses later, in Ephesians 2:6, Paul declares, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Christ has ascended into heaven, and we have ascended with him. This is not future promise but accomplished act and present reality. It is the good news of the gospel.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Unconditional Love, Justice and Mercy

Unless we understand the
unconditional love of God,
we understand neither the
justice nor mercy of God,
for God is One.

God is Love. (1 John 4:8)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Let us first understand this: God is love. Love is not merely something God does; love is what God is. God loves because it is God’s nature to love. For God to ever do otherwise would be to cease to be God.

We must also understand that God is not a being of parts, each of which must be balanced out by the others. No, God is one. God’s attributes are one, not many. They are not held in tension, in competition with each other. With God, love, justice and mercy are not three different things but three different ways of speaking of the same thing. If we do not understand the divine simplicity, the oneness of God, we will fail to properly understand the divine love, justice and mercy.

God is love, so the justice of God is not retributive, because love is not retributive. Rather, the justice of God is redemptive, restorative. It is not opposite to mercy but is the very manifestation of mercy, and mercy is the manifestation of justice. The divine justice puts things right, which is exactly what love does. The Love/Justice/Mercy of God releases what has been bound, redeems what has been lost, restores what has been broken, heals what has been wounded.