A new blog friend of mine referred me to this article by Todd Hunter, which I have found encouraging and intriguing. The search for holism is dangerous because you might just find it if you look hard enough!
Hunter's thesis is "that something went drastically wrong when a reductionistic rendering of the Gospel got married to the American marketing machine" and that the way we live out and understand the Christian meta-narrative is directly related to what our churches will be like. In many ways this article reminded me of Robert Jensen's classic essay, "How the World Lost Its Story." One of the questions that unites the two is how do we recover an authentic story, one that allows us to participate in it?
Here are some great quotes from the Hunter article and a few observations:
"The church is in serious trouble when discipleship (apprenticeship to Jesus) is viewed as extracurricular or optional."
I was talking with a Protestant friend the other day who asked, "Why is it that nobody in my church seems to be getting better? Why is it that once we "get saved" nothing else ever needs to change in our lives?" It is the heartbreaking nature of questions like this that prove why soteriology matters. This is why theology matters. What we believe will shape who we become. And vice versa.
"On the cross Jesus is Lamb, but also model and teacher for the servants of God. He is humanity (Adam and Eve), Israel and the church as God intended it. For all the last 400�500 years of trying to nail down a theory, we missed that Jesus himself�virgin birth, life, ministry, teachings, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and present day ministry at the right hand of the Father�the Christ event�is the atonement, not merely one thing he said or did. This is important because it gets to the root of our lack of imagination for walking in the Kingdom on the other side of conversion."
This is why keeping all the Great Feasts is so important for the Orthodox. It helps us enter into and truly participate in the entire saving life of Christ, not just the last 12 hours of his earthly life. In the homily last week, my priest noted that there was not a single word, thought, or action of Christ's that was not for us and our salvation. Truly mind-blowing to think about....
"there is something for us to do [in the Christian life]; but it is simple cooperation. It is not meritorious."
If there is anything in western Christianity that needs transfiguring it is our slavish addiction to the judicial (Anslemian) models of atonement that are the roots of so many heresies. Union and communion with God can never be "merited" either by us or by Christ! Although not in so many words, the article certainly supports the more synergistic model of Orthodox soteriology.
"The Gospel is not, of first importance, all about us. It is of God. It is about his ever�unfailing plan for man. It is not another consumer item to acquire, securing us a blissful happy�ever�after eternity. It is about the present reality, through the person of Christ (not simply something he said or did), of the Kingdom�the rule and reign�of God."
This is a truly Orthodox sentiment. This reminds me of why we Orthodox need to be careful not to get caught up in trying to "sell" Orthodoxy. I'll be the first to confess this modern tendency. While we may not dress it up with big stadium seats, dramatic skits, and slick advertising, we American converts still try and sell the Church in other, more subtle ways that may in fact neuter the very story we are trying to live out. We would do well to remember St. Philip's classic and simple, yet firm evangelistic message: "Come and see."