Xanga Post Wednesday June 21, 2006

If you could care less, stay tuned.  I'll post about camp tomorrow.

I agree that exegesis is infinitely more valuable than sarcasm and that levity is not a good replacement for Scripture.  I also don’t bank on inspirational trends near as much as the inspired Word of God.  Though, I certainly don’t always have it “together.”

Don’t assume that I haven’t scrutinized Christ’s teachings in John 14-16 and specifically the teachings found there concerning the role of the Holy Spirit.  In my scrutiny, I have not found that Christ’s teachings in these passages are limited as to only being for the apostles.  I certainly agree that it was initially given to them and that the role the Holy Spirit played in their lives was inspiring them to pen the Scriptures, teach with authority, and cause them to remember all that they had physically heard Jesus say.  But I don’t limit this passage, nor the others where Jesus is speaking specifically to his disciples, to an interpretation limiting the audience to those initial hearers.  Three steps involved in hermeneutics and exegesis are to seek to understand what the original author meant in writing the text, what the text meant to the initial hearers and then what it means for us today.  In practicing this discipline one realizes that the entire Word of God is also meant for us as well as the original hearers.  I know you don’t disagree with that, but I think you might disagree with some of my specific interpretations of certain passages, like this one, as I disagree with yours.  It is an interpretation, after all.

For this reason, I believe that Christ’s teachings on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles speaks specifically to His role in our lives today.  I believe the Holy Spirit fulfills His role of teaching us all things by equipping us to understand the Word of God.  I believe He fulfills His role of bringing to our remembrance all that Christ has said by helping us to remember what the Word of God says.

Now, having said that, this passage does not speak specifically to contemplative prayer, nor does any Scripture that I have found.  In fact, I’m not attempting to defend contemplative prayer to you.  What I was attempting to do was to explain that in my study of the subject and its practitioners there is a clear distinction between the Christian practice of contemplative prayer and any others from other religions.  The distinction is that it is not a goal to listen to a part of one’s own self that is divine or to empty oneself of all things, but to quiet our ever-increasingly busy lives in order to listen to what God might speak to us.  I believe that He does still speak.  I believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and does not speak on His own authority but whatever He hears He speaks.  This does open oneself up to being misled by the evil forces at work around us.  Thus, we must “test the spirits” as you have said.  I don’t value personal experience above the Word of God but do believe that the Truth of Scripture enlightens me to understand my own personal and communal experiences of God.

I see how your logic can lead you to think that my understanding leads to the Bible being useless.  I just think your logic is wrong.  There is no internal spark of divinity within us other than the truth of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  That is not us but God in us.  The Spirit of Truth does not make Bible study a thing of the past because, again, He doesn’t speak on His own authority, but only speaks what He hears, and those things He declares are the things that are Christ’s and the Father’s.

I agree that the apostolic gifts are not universal.  We know from Scripture what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for all believers.  Thus, I don’t believe that the Spirit will inspire any more Scripture.  I do not believe He equips anyone to teach with authority apart from the Word of God.  I do not believe that He will teach anything apart from Christ.

I think it is evident that your intellect is extremely important to you, and I can understand why.  You are very intellectually gifted.  So, I also understand why a teaching that seeks to bypass the intellect would throw up red flags for you apart from what other concerns you would have about it.  However, in my study of some modern contemplatives (I say some because you are certainly right about many, perhaps even most) who are Quakers and Catholics, what I think we are arguing about is a methodology and not a philosophy.  Contemplation for some is just a marriage of prayer and meditation, both commanded and taught in Scripture.  No, it is not the Lord’s prayer, but can certainly help us pray in that way taught as we are able to quiet what is in us that is not concerned with the things of God.

I don’t seek to “ascend Jacob’s ladder and attain an experience of God.”  I do have experiences with God, but you are right in saying that they are made possible through Christ and His descension to us.  

Incidentally, three of the four Hebrew words typically translated into English as “meditate” carry with them the literal meaning of “speaking, groaning, and uttering.”  So, when the Lord tells Joshua that His Word will not depart from Joshua’s mouth and that Joshua will meditate on it day and night, it literally means that he will always be speaking it, over and over.  So, a Biblical understanding of meditation is actually to repeat Bible verses.

After re-reading I think I better understand your confusion over what I meant by “the Way” in my comments about Merton.  I understand from your comments about Catholicism that it is your understanding that Merton was never in “the Way” as I think you and I both understand it.  If I’m wrong about that please correct me, but I’ll continue for a moment as if that’s the case.

I don’t believe that being a Catholic makes you a Christian.  Nor do I think that being one denies that you are a Christian.  I believe the same about Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.  I guess I do consider Catholicism to be a “denomination.”  I know that in all denominations there are those who add to the Gospel, and they are wrong.  I also know that in all denominations there are those seeking to correct those wrong teachings.  Perhaps the most vivid example of this currently is in the Anglican/Episcopal denomination where there are those having to fight against that denominations electing of gay bishops as well as the newly elected female presiding bishop.

The simple message of the Gospel to me is that all men are sinners and doomed to eternal death but that while we were in that state, enemies to God, He gave His Son on our behalf that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.  People add to that all the time.  Some add works.  Some add baptism of the Spirit and tongues.  Some add a certain mode of baptism.  I don’t believe that those who are believers in those denominations that “add” are not justified.  They still have faith in Christ.

Also, I don’t believe that denominations are God’s invention.  I believe that He desires unity amongst all believers, but our splintering into an ever-increasing number of groups is an unfortunate negative side effect of the Reformation.  With my belief along those lines, I kinda think we’re all Christians in spite of our denominations, not because of it.

So, yes, I will not judge Merton’s heart, regardless of Vatican II.

Also, I expressed my feelings to you not for something specific you said but because of the sense I get from it.  This is not the first time you and I have had a discussion like this, though others have been in private.  If you were just asking for clarification, I would expect simple questions (since asking involves those) and not diatribes about a position your at least assuming I might adhere to.  I get a feeling of aggression from you, maybe even hostile in your defense of what you believe.  That could just be my problem, and if it is, that’s fine.  I’m the one that has to deal with it.  But if you’re to continue engaging me in conversations, even when I’m just commenting to someone else, then I think it is beneficial for you to know how I feel.

Certainly I believe that discussions of the Gospel are beneficial.  And you are correct that it is not about us convincing each other but the Truth of the Bible convincing both of us.  However, we do have to interpret the Bible and I see that we both certain things differently and both believe strongly in our interpretations and that the Spirit has led us to those interpretations.  So, I’m not sure where that leaves us except that I commit to pray for you as you continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling and grow in your knowledge of the Word.  I ask that you do the same for me.

On a side note, for future discussions with me, I think it will be beneficial for you to understand some things about me, specifically my theological background, which I find to be very different from yours.  I was raised as a Southern Baptist.  I came to faith in a Southern Baptist church.  My friends asked for prayer for their friends who were Methodists or Pentecostals or Catholics because they needed salvation, not because my friends knew they did not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but simply because they went to a different church.  I didn’t find support for this in Scripture or in my own experience.  This led me to be open to learning about and from other denominations and ultimately contributed to my strong belief in ecumenism.  This is perhaps nowhere demonstrated better than in my decision to obtain my MDiv from Beeson, where over thirty denominations were represented amongst the student body and faculty.  I learned Greek from a Presbyterian.  I took spiritual formation classes from a Methodist.  An Anglican taught me Church History.  A Southern Baptist female taught me New Testament.  A Romanian Free-Will taught me Hebrew and Old Testament.  A reformed Baptist taught about the Reformation.  Pastoral Counseling was taught by a woman ordained in the African Methodist Episcopalian denomination.  My family has become increasingly Charismatic.  I have found all this learning from different traditions to be very challenging as well as extremely beneficial.  I left having learned how to not approach another with the initial goal of trying to figure out how I disagree with them or disprove them.  This influences all my practices in ministry and a life of faith.

There you go.

xangaChris Kinsley