Biblical docetism

It's been quite a week, and I have next to nothing to show for it... so let's pick up where I left off.

Sometime around the discussion of Gnostic Christianity, I stumbled across Defeating the Dragons (courtesy of Slacktivist), who posted this:
There is a term for what happened in those two examples, and it has actually been referred to as “the evangelical heresy” (and no, I’m not talking about individualism). It’s called biblical docetism, and it is an extension of gnosticism, dualism, and Arianism...
And I wound up having to respond to it..


Best 101ing ever

The annotated version of this story runs as follows:
(She) I just realized my faith was kinda Gnostic. Wow. This changes things.
(He) Why do Christians worry so much about being heretical?
(Me) Because heresy leads to horrible consequences.
(He) I get that, but why are horrible consequences bad? Even liberal Christians seem to reject them for no good reason.
There's always a relevant xkcd.
There's always a relevant xkcd.
 And by the time I finished responding, it was nearly sunrise the next day.


In the world, but not of it, but for it

During the rampage of theological gushing I went on this week, I passed through Slacktivist's "NRA: Not of this world," a kvetch about the author's interpretation of "worldliness."

It wasn't the best post in the series. I've followed Fred Clark's vivisection of L&J since its Typepad days, in fact since the first book. Where it shines brightest, to me, is where it's not just a takedown but a witness: where Fred, pointing to the darkness of the World's Worst Books, makes a statement about what it is to be Christian well. (There have been several, in the past. The last one I remember clearly was an aside in which he observed that Rapture theology leaves the church with no purpose, nothing to do.) And there wasn't really any observation like that today.

So when I found that I was gonna be a first-page commenter, I decided to add one in:
I'm not gonna knock the language of  "worldliness." Call me a Johannine fanboy, but I love that rhetoric of "the world," enough that I want to live it. I grok that we aren't to be of the world, even as we're in it over our heads. And I get why, too. It's right there in the unread followup to John 3:16. God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 
That's the beauty of the Johannine NT. We're called from the world so we can live in-and-out the story of its salvation. In the world, but not of it, but for it, in Christ's name and for Christ's sake.
And that's the horror of the World's Worst Books. That every Friday we witness anew L&J forsaking that. Believing, and assuming, and proclaiming that to be Christian is to be in the world, but not of it - but against it. Not to save, but to condemn.
That first-page comment I blockquoted up there? Got 20 likes and a response from a total stranger. I was stunned. The only post I've ever written that got that much response was a one-liner about Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes in the same thread. That got 24 likes.

Fourth Sunday in Lent

The weather was fine today. Too fine; too warm. A month ago this Wednesday, I decided to give up driving to church on Sunday. I will finally succeed at this starting next week: the final NOOMA video ("Rich") was shown, and I no longer have to be there before 10:15. For the last two Sundays of the season, I'll be able to walk it with no problems. I was, in fact, tempted to walk it today; and I have mixed feelings about my decision not to.

The NOOMA film was predictable; the discussions about "God Bless America" and money, which led to... predictable results. (One of the eternally awkward parts of reading as much critical theory as I have: you can sit in a room full of committed progressives and still kvetch about how far to the left you are of the parish in general. It's not really a fair thing to complain about, but it's still a thing.) I was able to raise my voice this time, to remark on a thought about how Rob Bell juxtaposed "grace" and "deserving" at one point (and the greater three-part relationship between grace, dessert and mitzvot, although "grace" only came up once); asked to elaborate on that, I said I'd need a week or so.

(These last few days have had a lot of thoughts about grace. Not totally sure why.)

And so, an hour and a bit later, the 10:30 service started. It was amazing.


On confession

Originally posted here:
Each prayer of the Daily Office has a prayer of confession at the start; in theory you could say five a single day (plus litanies.) None of these are sacramental in the sense that James was talking about; and while we *do* have a rubric for Reconciliation, the refrain about it is that "Any can, some should, none must."

When their time comes, I'm sure that I'm not a murderer or a heresiarch. I'm sure that my sins are small stuff. I say the prayer of confession anyways. To confess is to humble ourselves, to own that we can be wrong. To confess is to word our weakness, to learn words to confront it as we must.

To confess is to create a time and space when we can learn to sorrow, to regret, to come before a God of mercy needing mercy. And that's ultimately why we do it: confession is the hard work of learning to appreciate grace. Pardon the cliché, but as long as I can confess my sins I can celebrate that Jesus died for them; that He is mine, and I am His.


When you write something that breaks you

It's the third week of my first Lent, and I'm feeling it. Oh, am I feeling it. This is a raw season, and I am going to come out of it a very different person than when I went in. It's a scary feeling, at once sobering and intoxicating, feeling myself dissolve in the chrysalis of time and waiting to see what will emerge when the stone is rolled away in three Sundays.

I've lost a bit of weight. More than that, I've been having moments. One after the next. Several of them back-to-back. And they're starting to get scary.

Take the one that happened last night, when I wrote this:
Neil's a softie. I'm a Christian here, and I *do* have problems with what you do in church. Because by the time somebody has to tell you to "keep it in church," your theology's gone very, VERY bad.
There were two likes, and one comment which I replied to, and that was that. Except that it wasn't.


Second week of Lent

In my last post, one of my Lenten fasts was from driving to church. Today marks ten days since Ash Wednesday (eight not counting the Sundays, as is proper) - I'm 20% of the way through the season. And I have not honored that fast once.

I tried, today. I even got off to a decent start, waking up at the right time to get out the door... and then promptly rolling over to go back to sleep. Dragged myself out, got into the shower, and was out the door... about fifteen minutes too late, so I hopped in the car to go...

...but as I was leaving, I was asked, very abruptly, if I could run across the street and pick up ten (10) rolls of paper towels and cranberry juice. Why didn't they get them last night, when they were at the grocery store? Bugger if I know, but it's never the day to argue this stuff.

So I ran the hell across the street, picked up the ten (10) rolls of paper towels, and eight-pack and two loose ones, and the bottle of cranberry juice, and made haste to church, letting them know that the change was in the bag.

By the time I arrived, I was fifteen minutes late. Just late enough to completely miss out on the video that was being discussed, and to sit in silence as my fellow parishioners discussed grace, the past catching up with us... prison. And I dwelled on the gracelessness of that night in Miami, when I came on vacation and left on probation.

For all that I contributed, I could've - should've - just walked it like I was planning to.