Wednesday, March 16, 2005

why are we christians?

There are a number of possible answers the question of why I am a Christian. One is that I was born a Christian. But that answer just pushes the question back: why, then, do I remain a Christian? I suppose the answer is that I have come to believe Christianity is right. By "right" I mean that I believe it describes the cosmos accurately. If one were to come up with a core list of propositions that describe Christian belief essentially (maybe the three great Creeds or soemthing), then all of those propositions would be true.

Thinking Christianity to be RIGHT assumes that Christianity is a metaphysical scheme; and in a sense it is. But more than that, I think evangelicals are onto something important when they say that Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP. In a very important sense, Christianity is essentially a relationship of the individual creature with God in Christ. And as with any relationship, the indiidual Christian's relationship with God in Christ ought to have fruits, or consequences, in the life of the Christian. That is certainly true of my life. That is, my life, my activities, my outlook, the little things I do each day, are all diffferent in virtue of my being a Christian, of being in a relationship with God in Christ. Moreover, the DIFFERENCE in my life reenforces the act of intellective belief. And the stronger the faith, the more I feel I am able to see how different my life is in virtue of the Christianity as a relationship. In an important sense, therefore, I AM a Christian -- or maybe I have remained a Christian -- because being a Christian has made a difference in my life.

10 comments:

Johnny Awesomo said...

Christianity does not have a metaphysics per se, rather, it is a religion in search of metaphysics.

Signed,
Ettiene Gilson

Joseph said...

Good question to be asking. I think one of the great failings of the mainline churches is the general sentiment that many folks have about being "born a Christian". I think it comes from great failure to adequately teach about baptismal regeneration, and the difference between the natural life and the life of grace.

Which leads to the second part of evangelicalism's emphasis in the idea of relationship. One is a Christian because the relationship was initiated by God, not by oneself. It the difference between a modernist understanding of a religious position ("I choose freely to believe X, based on Y") and what evangelicals would refer to as the basic re-orientation of the person to Christ as response to a previous and present call to follow.

While Christianity is "a relationship of the individual creature with God in Christ", I think that too often evangelicals and others have stressed the "individuality", and have neglected to mention that we are saved as a church, to live in a heavenly city - that there is something essentially communal which evangelical practice has missed out on. What do you think?

blessings

father wb said...

Joseph --

Very true.

The emphasis (in my case) on the individuality, stems from my inescapable awareness of myself as a finite particularity. When I think of Christianity, I think of Catholic Christianity. To be a faithful Christian therefore means to be catholic -- "kata holos" or "in accord with the whole."

There is no salvation apart from the Church. What this means, exactly, is for the Church herself to answer, yet the fact remains. As individuals, we are saved in virtue of our encorporation into the Body with which our Lord relates as Lord, as the Bridegroom. We are paid for, redeemed, because SHE is paid for, redeemed, and all the rest.

But the reason I emphasize individuality is because it is not for me (or any of us) to get behind the faith of the Church and question motives (if that even makes sense). We can do this for ourselves though. Because our particular memberships in the Body are things we can resign. That we (as Christians) do not resign them, raises the question: why not? What's the point?

WB

Anonymous said...

Joseph,

Baptism is a remedy for our perverted will (from Adam's sin). While Baptism is neccesary for individual salvation, continued participation in the seven sacraments brings "regeneration."

WB, while I admire you a tremendous thinker, I am alarmed at your sudden embrace of enlightenment individuality and autonomy.

Philip

father wb said...

Yeah. I haven't really embraced enlightenment individuality and autonomy. I suppose I have embraced individuality, just because we are all individuals ["I'm not!"]. And "autonomy" must be understood as divine heteronomy. Similarly, our individuality is only fully actualized corporately, as a member of the Body.

Its all just another instance of the Gospel's standards changing everything. Nothing is what it seemed.

Johnny Awesomo said...

WB,
When did you first get saved?

Anonymous said...

WB,

My worry is that you do not have the proper view of the sacraments. That is how the Catholic community has a relationship with God. It is mediated through one of his blessed servants, a Priest.

Properly understood, Evangelicals do not have a relationship with God. Instead, they buy into the cult of personality surrounding their pastor. Their worship is perverted because the homily takes center stage, instead of God's grace as mediated through the sacraments.

Philip

father wb said...

Phil,

I think your right, generally. I don't, however, think its an "excluded middle" situation. Rather, I imagine their is a significant middle zone between the uber sacramentalism of Pusey House, and the lower than a snake's belly evangelicalism of Free Will Zion Baptist, or whatever. I reckon grace functions in, e.g., "freestyle praise and worship" -- its just not the full sacramental grace of the Eucharist. If I remember the CCC correctly, this is Rome's view as well.

Anonymous said...

WB,

I am familiar with Rome's general acceptance of freestyle praise and worship. However, one must not forget their context. In my understanding, this worship is only filled with grace when the participants when the people submit to the authority of the succesor of St. Peter (Mt 16:18). I believe that this ruling represents a fresh understanding of our African brethren, who are much more charismatic than us Anglos.

I would dispute any relativism that would claim that since grace may be imparted in freestyle praise, than the sacraments are unneccesary.

Philip
P.S. I hope your break has been most fruitful.

Joseph said...

Re: Philip's earlier comment;

I would be more inclined to say that baptism effects regeneration, and participation in the sacramental life effects sanctification. Terminology being what it is, regeneration I see in the singular act of baptism, while continuous participation in another sacrament for all Christians (communion) moves one in the process of sanctification. But tomorrow is Palm Sunday, so I'm going to bed without saying any more...