Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Integration (#1)

One of the ways to understand Christian life is in contrast to “religion” (which is popularly perceived as one compartmental aspect of a multi-faceted existence), out of which results the popular but erroneous idea of the “secular” and the “sacred.” The latter reinforces the prevalent idea of “personal faith” and thickens the wall that separates the implications of practiced Truth from the social order — which is an abstract way of saying that “faith” is more than a personal and inner (and often perceived irrational) commitment, but rather a recognition of an extended reality that embraces a total worldview. Christian Faith is a paradigm shift that turns the world up-side-down (which is the only way to understand the radical teachings such as those in the Sermon on the Mount).

This is one way to understand Paul’s words to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Eph 1:10). The Hebrews writer admits Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him (2:8). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians helps bridge these two ideas: But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power (15:23–24).

Theologians call this tension “the already and the not yet.” Christians live in that tension now. We live in a world that does not know — cannot comprehend — the integration of all life that Jesus has already accomplished by His death and resurrection, and yet we are called both to believe it and to be involved in the ongoing process (until Jesus returns) of extending that “new reality” into this unperceiving world. That is what Christian Faith is: believing the new paradigm that Jesus has already accomplished. That is what Christian Faith does: practicing the new ways of living which were set it motion by Jesus.

The implication is that those who do not practice do not believe, but it’s not that simple because believing is itself a process, and the “more” one believes the “more” one can practice. Legalism comes into play when the “practice” gets ahead of the “believing,” and yet believing sometimes comes as a result of first practicing — so we have to leave it to God.... especially in not being too quick to judge others.

This idea of integration is one way to think about the whole process and all its facets. It is huge — as big as life. Theology itself is an attempt to bring integration to Christian Faith. I have a few atypical (I think) thoughts about some of the ramifications. I’ll be posting them over the next several days.

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