Saturday, December 31, 2011

the village--new place, same nonsense

I guess I'm a bit behind on things, but it looks like Emergent Village has moved, insofar as a basically virtual nonentity can be said to move. Perhaps there are still hangers-on at the old site, but there's a new one up now, too.

Ok, so, but as they say, the more things change...

Mary, Joseph, and Mysticism: by Bruce Epperly

Many years ago, during my days as a university chaplain, I led a weekly prayer and meditation group. We practiced centering prayer, Quaker silence, visualizations, and lectio divina.

Well, there's a whole mess of mess right there.

First, I'll say that you should go here, The Inventor of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It is For, to learn what this is all about.

Next, read this by Thomas Keating, one of the guys who started the practice of centering prayer. The is the quote from the web page, "Father Thomas says, "If you don't want to become God, you've missed the boat. If you're too humble to think you can become God, if you think you are not worthy, that is a false humility, because it's not yours to decide." It's God's choice. According to Father Thomas, it is your duty to become God. Centering Prayer and contemplation are the only modern methods that we have to listen to God, to perceive God, and to see the world as God sees it. Listen in as Father Thomas offers you the invitation to become God."

Centering prayer, then, is a continuation of the temptation of Satan in the Garden--that you should become like God. Centering prayer is evil and blasphemy, and should be avoided.

There is no better example of this active mysticism than Mary and Joseph’s responses to God’s invitation to be partners in the incarnation.

Funny, but in the biblical accounts, there is a very distinct lack of mention that Mary and Joseph practiced any things like centering prayer or other supposed spiritual practices or mystical whoop-de-doo.

We don’t know how Mary was chosen to bear this special child. Was she the first one that the angel asked? Had others been overwhelmed or resistant, knowing the personal and social cost of an unplanned pregnancy? Did Mary exemplify certain character traits worthy of divine interest? I don’t know the answer although I think all three options have some plausibility. God’s call to Mary and us is always personal and contextual, time bound but with everlasting consequences. Our response always bears our own individual signature and creativity.

Another example of reading into what the text says.

Luke 1
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

So, see anywhere that says the angel got it wrong before? Or, let's be honest, that God got it wrong? Does it say that Mary was better than anyone else? About the only virtue she could be said to have had was that she was still sexually pure, a virgin. The passage says nothing about her being especially virtuous. She was, in fact, just like the rest of us--a sinner, in need of a Savior. The passage mentions nothing about her supposed worthiness, but she had none, it was by God's grace that she was favored to bear the Christ-child. just as it was by God's grace the He chose the exiled Moses to free his people from Egypt, chose the boy David to become king of His people Israel, and so on. It was not a matter of worth.

Well, back to the announcement to Mary. When the angel came, she was inquisitive and surprised. In words later echoed by the Beatles, Mary responds, “Let it be.” In other words, I am open to following God’s vision, embracing it in my own flesh and blood. She is no passive clay manipulated by the unilateral potter. She joins agency and receptivity as she opens to God’s movements in the birth of her child. She is an active mystic – encountering divinity and then choosing to follow God’s vision in her life. She chooses incarnation, the holiness of birthing, for herself, Joseph, and the coming child. But, it is clear that “she chooses.”

Look at the passage above. The angel declares what is going to happen. He askes no question, he seeks no permission. That Mary was willing for the child to be born of her is evident and commendable of her, but there is no hint in the passage that she chose it.

Mary is perplexed, and so is Joseph. The exact details of this child’s birth are less important than the responses of the actors involved. As many biblical scholars assert, unusual births are common in the annals of great spiritual and military leaders. They are somehow set apart by the divine for a special mission and this begins at conception. This fact does not nullify the Christian affirmation of the virgin birth, but it invites us to ask whether or not the virgin birth is essential to the story. Is the incarnation about supernatural interventions or the natural holiness of flesh and blood and the world in which God’s quest for healing and salvation take place?

So, while this guy doesn't necessarily deny the virgin conception and birth of Christ, he's attitude is "No big deal". If Mary had slept with a real guy and gotten pregnant, no big deal, either, I suppose.

The 'holiness of natural flesh and blood'? Remember what Keating said, and see how that view is polluting this EV writers views. The supernatural, things like the virgin birth, are downplayed, to the elevation of the natural.

First, we can experience God in life-transforming ways. God is not aloof, but present in cells, souls, and communities. A one-dimensional faith – defining everything according the tenets of the modern world view – robs life of beauty, wonder, and amazement. The incarnation raises all life to revelation; each moment – even tragic moments – as a potential theophany. Sleepers awake! God is with us!

So, the incarnation of Jesus become about God being somehow accessible by mystical exercises. Yikes. All life is revelation? Yeah, not in the Bible.

Second, God comes to us through many ways – personal visitations (Fatima, Medjugorje), visionary experiences, dreams, intuitions, synchronous encounters).

Apparently, though, not through His Word. Any strange and bizarre experience is ok, but looking at the biblical text and studying it, apparently that's optional.

Third, divine encounters enhance rather than diminish freedom and creativity. Graceful visitations invite us to greater agency. God wants us to be companions in healing the earth, whether in the process of conception, child-bearing, and our ongoing care for the safety of our children and all children.

Oh, yes, the emphasis on creativity. I'm almost to the point of thinking the creativity is the real god of postmodernism.

Where does the Bible say that God wants us to be companions in healing the earth? Is that what the Great Commission was about?

Oh, well, the Village has moved, but it's taken the whackiness with it. If the sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result, then shouldn't the failure of the original Village have told these guys something?

One last thing. Read this guy's article in full, see how he spends more time reading what he wants to read into the text of the conception of Jesus, and see how his method is not really all that much different than what Mark Batterson does in The Circle Maker. And see what that book is such a wreck.

No comments: