Important Notice: WonderCafe has Closed

The United Church has sadly come to the decision that WonderCafe needed to close and all new discussion ended June 2014. Read More...



Banquo's picture

Banquo

image

Worship without God? Unio Mystica or Unio Homo?

In the most recent issue of the United Church Observer (February 2011) we have a feature article about the so-called “Post-Theistic” churches that have begun to spring up from within the greater United Church polity. These congregations are taking down their crosses, closing their Bibles, and trying to re-imagine themselves as spiritual beings in their own right.
 
To re-quote the Rev. Ken Galliger, “We’re trying to create a safe place for people to develop an authentic spirituality, without a guy in the sky.”
 
Say what?
 
I’m not certain where the people who espouse a spirituality devoid of God think they are going, but if you believe in the Gospel, it’s going to be a place much hotter than here. At its heart, this is nothing less than a belief in the Great Lie that Satan foisted upon Eve – that it is possible to know as much as God Himself. That human beings are, in fact, basically good, and in order to have good human beings, we need only build good communities.
 
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs meets its final conclusion: self actualization as the ultimate goal – no God required. Nor does there seem to be any requirement for scripture. Sola scriptura (by scripture alone) becomes nolo scriptura (no scripture at all).
 
This flies in the face of the basics of the Protestant Reformation: the four “solas”.
 
Sola scriptura: by scripture alone
 
The post reformation church is founded on the principle that scripture is both the sole source of our knowledge about faith and God, and also its own referent. We are to accept the truth of scripture by its internal standards and by those standards alone. The instant that we attempt to subject scripture to human reason, assessing its “reasonableness” by some outside human criteria, we lose the point and fall into error.
 
Sola Christus: by Christ alone
 
Christ is the sole reason for our faith. He has told us this himself in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christ, himself, standing before Pilate said, “For this reason was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
 
To deny Christ is to deny our faith.  As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:  “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
 
Sola gracia: by grace alone
 
We are saved, not by our own efforts, but by the action of God’s grace alone, purchased for us by Christ’s blood spilled at the cross.  As human beings, we are not basically or naturally good. We are born spiritually dead in our sins. And as sinners, we are incapable of doing anything to save ourselves.  Born spiritually dead, we must then be reborn, by water and the Spirit, into eternal life.  Such rebirth is not of our doing, but by the action of God’s grace alone.
 
Sola fides: by faith alone
 
By the standards of the world, the Gospel does not make sense. Particularly in the United Church, we have a tendency to try to explain away the miracles, doubt the virgin birth, and make apologies for the historical and logical inconsistencies in the Bible. In the end, none of this really matters. It is by faith, and by faith alone that we accept the Gospel; that we accept God’s Word on the basis of his word as set out in the scriptures.
 
Unio Mystica: We are the Body of Christ
 
In John 14:19-20 Christ tells us, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
 
This is the Unio Mystica – the mystical union between God and us. Christ has said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
 
By the definition of the New Testament, the church is the Body of Christ. We are the eyes and the ears, the face and the voice, the hands and the feet of Christ in the world. Take away Christ and, again by definition, you are not the church. As a group of like-minded people you can gather together in community for mutual support and promote happy feelings and any good cause you like, but without Christ you are merely a social club.
 
You are not a church.
 
-- Banquo
 
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
 
-- T.S. Eliot “The Hollow Men” 1925
Share this

Comments

Arminius's picture

Arminius

image

Hi Banquo:

 

Doesn't it all depend on how one defines "God" and "Christ?"

 

If, as you say, the Unio Mystica—the mystical union between God and us—is the "Christ," and one defines God as the self-creative totality of being, then "Christ" is a metaphor for an experience of universal unity or at-one-ment.

 

Abraham Maslov's ultimate goal of self-actualization means much the same.

 

"God" and "Christ" are metaphors. Is it not more important to explore the meanings of these metaphors rather than unquestioningly believe in the doctrines about them?

 

Isn't the Unio Mystica an experience rather than a doctrine?

InannaWhimsey's picture

InannaWhimsey

image

Banquo,

 

what of those who think of G_d as all believers practicing unconditional agape and working together for a better world?

Banquo's picture

Banquo

image

This is the doctrine of the United Church of  Canada as set out in the Basis of Union:

 

Article I: Of God. We believe in the one only living and true God, a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being and perfections; the Lord Almighty, who is love, most just in his ways, most glorious in holiness, unsearchable in wisdom, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion, and abundant in goodness and truth. We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory.

 

Believe other than this, define God differently than this, and you may be a person of faith, but you are not theologically within the United Church.

Arminius's picture

Arminius

image

Banquo wrote:

This is the doctrine of the United Church of  Canada as set out in the Basis of Union:

 

Article I: Of God. We believe in the one only living and true God, a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being and perfections; the Lord Almighty, who is love, most just in his ways, most glorious in holiness, unsearchable in wisdom, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion, and abundant in goodness and truth. We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory.

 

Believe other than this, define God differently than this, and you may be a person of faith, but you are not theologically within the United Church.

 

So, with my unitheistic definiton of God, I am not theologically within the United Church?

 

But I am a member of the United Church.

 

When I joined the United Church, I asked our Minister whether I could take Article I metaphorically. She said I could, otherwise I would not have joined.

Banquo's picture

Banquo

image

Sola Scriptura:  It is important to remember that our denomination is founded on the principles laid down in Scripture.

 

Article II Of Revelation states: We believe that God has revealed Himself in nature, in history, and in the heart of man; that He has been graciously pleased to make clearer revelation of Himself to men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; and that in the fullness of time He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person. We receive the Holy Sriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by the inspiration of God, as containing the only infallible rule of faith and life, a faithful record of God's gracious revelations, and as the sure witness of Christ.

 

With that said, your minister is quite correct in finding a metaphorical interpretation of scripture as an acceptable method of exploring our faith. Northrop Frye in The Great Code speaks of the evolution of language from metaphor to metonymn to descriptive. Descriptive language, the way we use language to-day, only came into being at the time of the Renaissance. When the works that make up our modern Bible were written, language was only metaphor and metonym. This is a poetic use of language. An over-literal interpretation of scripture, a descriptive language interpretation, is therefore prone to error.

 

A clear example of this is the phrase: "He is a lion".

 

At the time of Homer, this phrase would be interpeted metaphorically meaning that a warrior, like Odysseus, was the embodiment of a lion in human form.  At the time of the middle ages, "lion" was a metonymn for bravery. To say of King Richard I "He is a lion" meant that he was a very brave man.  By the time of the Italian Renaissance, the idea of an objective truth provable outside one's own experience resulted in the development of the descriptive use of language. Now to say, "He is a lion," means we are talking about Clarence on the old TV show Daktari.

 

The phrase itself, "He is a lion," has not changed. The way we commonly intepret that phrase has changed considerably.

 

The central question of the story in the February issue of The Observer is whether a church without God is, in fact, a church. On the basis of scripture, the church does not exist outside of Christ. Therefore, a church without God, is not a church.

 

- Banquo

 

 

InannaWhimsey's picture

InannaWhimsey

image

So, since

Banquo wrote:

"An over-literal interpretation of scripture, a descriptive language interpretation, is therefore prone to error."

Then how do you take Article I?  Metaphor, metonymn, or descriptive?  How does the meaning change depending on which method you use?

Banquo wrote:

"Article I: Of God. We believe in the one only living and true God, a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being and perfections; the Lord Almighty, who is love, most just in his ways, most glorious in holiness, unsearchable in wisdom, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion, and abundant in goodness and truth. We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory."

So, G_d could be metaphor?  "Infinite", "eternal", "unchangeable" all could be metaphor?  What did people think of G_d back then?  Did they take it so literally as some of us do today?

I posit that since your notion of G_d is so vague and meaningless (I write this not to insult, but to point out that the word itself, "G_d", I find meaningless; but meaningful to you, because you have given the concept certain meanings, attached tales to it, attributes and so forth that don't exist independently of you, but you take it on faith), then there are notions of G_d that aren't as vague and meaningless.  There is a Sola Negativa (if that is the right term), things G_d isn't, that recognizes that the beings who do the acting on the world is people, the beings who do the thinking, who do the feeling, all for a greater cause, yes, all of us, working together (which includes creation as well).  Humanity + creation working together we can take on justification through faith as being full of mercy, compassion, abundant in goodness and truth, where Christ = the Way, the Way of achieving all these wonderful things.  Nowhere in Article I does it state that G_d or Christ or the Holy Trinity actually has to be anything more than words, but words are very powerful and as real as you or I.  Ideas as well.

What it comes down to is all UP TO YOU to include or not to include others in your beliefs.  It is your responsibility and no one else's :3

The world is changing and one of these big changes is we are going back to, I think, a more metaphorical interaction with the world (we are in constant interaction with the world, co-creating it), instead of taking it descriptively (we react to the world passively and have no say in it at all).  You have a choice, m'dear, but whatever you choose to do, to call for a schism or whatever, it is your choice and not your G_d's or anyone else's :3

Arminius's picture

Arminius

image

Thanks for this, Banquo. Looks like I won't have to quit, or be thrown out of,  the United Church after all.

Banquo's picture

Banquo

image

InannaWhimsey wrote:

What it comes down to is all UP TO YOU to include or not to include others in your beliefs.  It is your responsibility and no one else's :3
... You have a choice, m'dear, but whatever you choose to do, to call for a schism or whatever, it is your choice and not your G_d's or anyone else's :3

 

I disagree. I am a Calvinist. I believe that none of us, by his or her own will, is capable of anything good in our own right. We are utterly and completely dependent on God in everything. I believe what Christ has taught us in John 15:5 where He said: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (emphasis added)

 

In Article V Of the Sin of Man you will find:  "We believe that our first parents, being tempted, chose evil, and so fell away from God and came under the power of sin, the penalty of which is eternal death; and that, by reason of this disobedience, all men are born with a sinful nature, that we have broken God's law, and that no man can be saved but by His grace.

 

We are not born tabula rasa (with a clean slate) as a theological Pelagian would believe, nor are we born spiritually sick, where we must make a decision to co-operate with God, as a Semi-Pelagian would believe. We are born spiritually dead which is the Augustinian position espoused in Article V.

 

To draw an analogy: If you are born spiritually "well", you only need a teacher. If you are born spiritually "sick", you only need a physician. But if you are born spiritually "dead", you are in need of resurrection, and that is something that we, as human beings, are utterly incapable of doing.

 

 Solo gracia.

 

- Banquo

Arminius's picture

Arminius

image

Banquo wrote:

I am a Calvinist.

 

 Solo gracia.

 

- Banquo

 

Hi Banquo:

 

So you're a Calvinist. Saved by God's Grace alone.

 

I hope you find IT, or rather IT finds you.

 

 

Unio Mystica,

 

Arminius