Tuesday, June 17, 2014
From My Book: On Moral Atheism
These are some selections on the subject from CONVERSATIONAL THEOLOGY
'We should be wary whenever we try to box in too tightly the way the Spirit might be working. But we also have license from that same spirit to hold fast to what we believe to be the truth, and to proclaim it as the unique and special revelation it is. A good way to look at other religions may be to see them similar to the religious eclectic that we cast a somewhat skeptical eye upon, but who we reject at the peril of losing a possible avenue to a deeper comprehension of God's Will for us. Finally, we can see how the atheist can be a part of God's redemption without relegating belief in Christ to pointlessness. The atheist may respond to Christ when he or she helps the suffering person. Christ's self-identification with the lowest and the weakest opens up a door to the non-believer. By responding to that person, at that time, they are responding to Christ. To respond to Christ is to be moved by the Holy Spirit, God is Christ over us, Christ is God with us, and the Spirit is Christ and God within us. When we respond to Christ, we are moving as an extension of God. A person can do this without understanding the full implications of what they do. What is always denied them is the knowledge of the fellowship they are being involved in and thus the joy and confidence that comes with such knowledge. God moves through them but they never gain the knowledge of His relationship to them. I imagine a father separated from his child, arranging that Childs life from afar. Such a father may love and help the child, without that child ever even realizing it, the child never knowing how much of his life is really an extension of his missing father, but the child still may responding to that love, that help, by living a good life. "Bless them Father, for they do it without even knowing what it is they do".'
'The Hidden Church is the Holy Spirit alive within the world, various people and realities becoming Christ for others because God is moving within them... the institutional church should operate in the hope and even the belief that the hidden church is behind the veil there, within that institution, but it can never know it. If it did, it would violate its call to be a community of penitents and thus cease to be the church in any form. It must work for the betterment of the world, never knowing if its deeds are right, but simply making the best moral insights it can with its own sin-stained processes, and throwing itself on the mercy of God, confident only that in Christ God saves us from our sins. If it can do this it can preserve its job, and perhaps do more. There will be, ideally, moments, places, adventures where the church seen will become a visible sign of invisible grace, an outward veil of the hidden church, within which God's Kingdom really is advancing. Individuals may dimly perceive these moments, but the church can rarely lay claim to them, and then only in hindsight. Here I come in and create a bridge between the Pauline and Gospel commentaries on the church community. The church must always work for God's Kingdom, but it can never create it by its own power. Only God can transform any act into an act of grace, only God can make the profane Holy. God's call may lead even to proximate defeat and suffering, the church must accept this defeat confident that in God's hands it is always a doorway to victory. God often must temporarily be defeated in the world in order to bring about ultimate victory.
In the same way that Jesus' remnant was more like a supernatural door through which God by His power would step, rather than some vehicle whose actions would build God's kingdom itself, the institutional church must do its duties only in the trembling hope that God will use those duties to make of this old world, a new world (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Any simplistic progressive formula, or any deification of the church’s activities, must be roundly rejected. Paul's emphasis on the individual activity of the Holy Spirit, and his rejection of the institutional church, gives us an enlightening glimpse into the ways of the hidden church. The institutional church must be aware of the possibility that the hidden church, that is, God's continuing salvific activity, may manifest itself anywhere, at any time, depending on God's abilities and desires. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) The true church may be in the home of a person watching a televangelist, or in the cup of the homeless man on the street, or within other religious communities, or in the heart of the atheist. Mindful of the fact that it can have no confidence of its own holiness, it must continue to do its duties, and if it does so, in contrition and without the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, more often than not that hidden church will appear within its walls, and many Sundays will be Pentecost Sundays.'