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Archive for June, 2008

The Incarnation is aimed at man’s transformation through the Cross and to the new corporeality of the Resurrection. God seeks us where we are, not so that we stay there, but so that we may come to be where he is, so that we may get beyond ourselves. That is why to reduce the visible appearance of Christ to a “historical Jesus” belonging to the past misses the point of his visible appearance, misses the point of the Incarnation…

Iconoclasm rests ultimately on a one-sided apophatic theology, which recognizes only the Wholly Other-ness of the God beyond all images and words, a theology that in the final analysis regards revelation as the inadequate human reflection of what is eternally imperceptible. But if this is the case, faith collapses. Our current form of sensibility, which can no longer apprehend the transparency of the spirit in the senses, almost inevitably brings with it a flight into a purely “negative” (apophatic) theology. God is beyond all thought, and therefore all propositions about him and every kind of image of God are in equal proportions valid and invalid. What seems like the highest humility toward God turns into pride, allowing God no word and permitting him no real entry into history.

–Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp 123-124

In other words, God is not unknowable, He has revealed Himself, not only in history, but through all time and desires that we worship Him in the fullness of all of our senses, not merely the internal workings of our thought life.

In just a few paragraphs, Ratzinger takes down those theologians who spend their lives trying to reconstruct the “historical Jesus” which leads ultimately to reducing or minimizing worship of the living Son of God, Jesus Christ; as well as those who spend their lives trying to raise Christ to such an exalted position that we cannot know Him or experience Him in this age unless that knowledge or experience is subjective. It seems for both, worship becomes mere rational exercises in restating propositions already known.

Sitting through a worship service where the deconstruction of the Gospels in the hunt for the “historical Jesus” is the attempt to communicate the Gospel to the 21st century or a worship service that is all singing or preaching in a standard-issue, multi-purpose assembly room are apparently not all that far apart in Ratzinger’s thinking.

This may help explain why mainline denominations such as The Episcopal Church are withering while at the same time evangelicals are often observed in worship with their eyes closed. Too much rationality and not enough aesthetic will send us looking for the aesthetic, even if it is only behind our closed eyes.

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“If we don’t start paying attention to the realities … by the year 2030, we will be proud to have 20,000 rather than 44,000 Southern Baptist churches.” That’s a quote from outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page recently.

“You’ve got massive numbers,” he said, “maybe not a majority but massive numbers of evangelical churches out there, yes, Southern Baptists also, who are small groups of older white people holding on till they die.”

Ed Stetzer, head of Southern Baptist affiliated LifeWay Research, says that growth rate has slowed in recent years.

Now, he says, the convention has started a downhill slide.

“If you look at the demographics, the trends are not positive,” Stetzer said…

“It’s hard to kill off a church,” he said. “I do think the convention will be smaller in the future. My hope is that we will be smaller and stronger.”

From here.

“Smaller and stronger.” These guys might want to be careful. They are starting to sound like some of the things leaders of The Episcopal Church have said about the glorious future of that church.

HT: BHT

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