Tuesday, 25 August 2009

More Total Church

Some final thoughts from this wonderful and highly commended book.

On discipleship and training:
Others should learn truth not only from preaching but from lives that display the truth that has been preached!
Keep saying the obvious or people will forget.

On spirituality:
"Biblical spirituality is not about contemplation; it is about reading and meditating on the word of God. It is not about detached silence; it is about passionate petition. It is not about solitude; it is about participation in community. ... It [biblical spirituality] is centred on the gospel and rooted in the context of the Christian community." (p. 137)
Yes, a necessary corrective to too many forms of spirituality which are self seeking and self serving. See also Peter Adam 'Hearing God's Words', Apollos (IVP) 2004.
Union with Christ is the beginning of Christian spirituality, not it's goal!

On prayer the suggestion is made that we should prioritise prayer with others over prayer alone. So long as we are not saying that one is better than the other, there is truth in our learning to pray together, and our times of prayer shared with others encouraging and strengthening our times of prayer alone.

On theology:
"Theology must be in the service of teh church and its mission. Authentic theology must be shaped by what we might call a missionary-hermeneutic. Theology divorced from this context is essentially barren, self-referential and indulgent." (p. 152)
There is no theology apart from or outside of the community of faith. This position, while true, needs to be rigorously defended today.

On apologetics: (I really like this comment)
"The rejection of revelation is only a symptom of an underlying problem. ... The underlying issue is not a rejection of the possibility of revelation, but a rejection of the actuality of revelation. In other words, the underlying problem is not revelation per se, but what is revealed - our need for a Saviour." (p. 161)

An accurate analysis of the malaise afflicting the church in our days. This surely is what Romans 1:18ff is about, the rejection of God, the rejection of the gospel because we don't like it.

On a theology of the cross:
"We begin to see the relevance of the theology of the cross when we start to consider what forms a theology of glory takes today. Liberalism can be labelled a theology of glory, for it argues that God is known through human reason. Sacramentalism claims we encounter God through the symbols and rituals of the church. Creation spiritualities can also take the form of theologies of glory whether it is the sentiment expressed in 'nearer to God in a garden' or the more developed theology of someone like Matthew Fox. Power evangelism, too, looks for the revelatino of God in acts of power, arguing that miracles are an essential part of effective mission. And mysticism says that God is known through spiritual experiences or contemplative exercises." (p. 167)
Against all this, we know God through the message of the cross. Human wisdom does not recognise divine wisdom.

I think it is good that my last word on this great book is on the cross of the Lord Jesus, which so powerfully and clearly shapes and influences the authors and their experience of church. If only the cross were more clearly at the centre of our church life.

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