Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mystery of God

The first time I heard “Praises” in Tone 2, one of many mellifluous, age-old Christian chants, it felt as if my soul was a restless sea and Christ had calmed the waters through its melody and meditative words. Arrogantly thinking that maybe I could improve on this simplistic style of music, I began searching the internet for more chants. My searches kept landing me on Eastern Orthodox websites, the ancient paradigm of Christianity known in part for its icons, incense, intense regimen of prayer and fasting, and emphasis on union with the mystical and ineffable God as the means to salvation.

I had only vaguely heard of Eastern Orthodoxy before this search for chants, but I immediately identified with its all-encompassing lifestyle of Christian spirituality. Several times throughout each day, prayers and Psalms are offered up in remembrance of Christ’s hours on the cross and of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. Each day of the week carries its own biblical and spiritual theme, and twelve times throughout each year, a major feast, commemorating the things God has done on the earth, is celebrated. For me, this saturation in the things of God is important, as well as the framework of discipleship, accountability and support which are inherent in the fabric of Orthodoxy. So, I gladly joined their ranks to experience it all first hand.

Converting from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy is challenging because I am being stretched not just by the Bible, but by a Church Tradition complementary to the Bible which has been passed down through the generations. I am being formed by a different understanding of the faith which states God’s grace is more than just His favor, but is His divine energy vivifying and permeating my being for good works, and it is through His Life, His Energy, His Grace that I am saved. I think ultimately, it is the emphasis on the mystery of God, and the going beyond reason and intellect to connect with Him that sustained my interest in Eastern Orthodoxy. It is now more than ever a faith walk as I march ever forward in the divine light of God’s eternal life in Christ.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Outer Fringe

Nothing in all of creation makes me blush in wonder and awe like the magnitude, glory and majesty of the heavens. I think about how much power is in just one star - more power than my mind can possibly conceive. Multiply that by the trillions upon trillions more that are out there. Then realize that God himself has far more power than all of these combined.

I think about the brightness and splendor that our star produces even though it is 93 million miles away. I need shades to drive to subdue the power of its brightness. No one can can even look directly at the sun it is so bright. I then watch a show called "The Universe" and learn that the active center of a quasar galaxy is a trillion times brighter than our sun. A trillion times brighter!!! How can we possibly imagine something so bright? It is beyond my comprehension. God Himself, however, the Creator of this majestic wonder, outshines them all!

When I want to ponder the greatness and power of God, I leaf through a book my wife gave me for my birthday called "Powers of Ten". It is a visual journey from the inside of an atom to the edge of the galaxy. You can also take this journey online at Molecular Expressions.

To top it all off, one of my favorite Bible verses reminds me that no matter what I see in all of creation, no matter how great it is, it is simply the outer fringe of His works - ponder these galactic thoughts and read this passage from Job. Hopefully, you too will blush with wonder and awe.
And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power? (Job 26:14 - NIV)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Word of God

I just recently listened to the Our Life In Christ broadcast in which they went on an evangelical radio station to talk about sola Scriptura. Wow, what a courageous act! It made me investigate further some of the other materials they have on their website, particularly the program notes from April 17, 2005. In those notes they quote CRI (Christian Research Institute) as saying:

The fact that apostles sometimes referred to "traditions" they gave orally as authoritative in no way diminishes the Protestant argument for sola Scriptura. First, it is not necessary to claim that these oral teachings were inspired or infallible, only that they were authoritative. The believers were asked to "maintain" them (1 Cor. 11:2) and "stand fast in them" (2 Thess. 2:15). But oral teachings of the apostles were not called "inspired" or "unbreakable" or the equivalent, unless they were recorded as Scripture.

The response of Bill and Steve was quite good, but I couldn't help but think of an additional scripture that I thought would be perfect for this. As a matter of fact, I am surprised the folks at CRI are not aware of this verse:
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (I Thess 2:13 - NKJV).
Would this oral teaching Paul is speaking of not be more than just authoritative? Is it not the Word of God? Is the Word of God ever less than something that has an eternal quality? Does it not always come from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit? Does it not accomplish that which God has sent it forth to do, whether written or spoken? It would seem as if there is a blind devotion to the written text, as if the written Word is somehow more powerful.

Let's not forget, Jesus didn't write down a single word of His teachings either. Are those invalid because they weren't written down until some 40-50 years later? What about the words Jesus spoke that are not written in the Bible, are they not the Word of God? These are just some of the thoughts that came to mind when I read this surprisingly provincial statement made by CRI. I don't claim by any stretch of the imagination to have their credentials, but it doesn't take a genius to observe that the entire Christian faith was delivered orally, first from Christ and then from His apostles. Even though it was not written down, I am certain they were declaring and delivering the Word of God.