The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Two halves, no conclusion

[Note: Read one or both halves]

There is a universal confrontation of men and women by the divine Spirit, invading all cultures and all individual lives.

The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Carl F. H. Henry

The beauty of the divine activity in the life of Jesus apprentices is its complexity. It works both in history and personality, through men and through man.

During Jesus days in timespace, religious leaders wanted to simplify this activity and usurp God's role as director. They were bent on discovering and practicing a boilerplate of repetitive actions--rituals--to insure personal redemption. They created a list of steps to follow systematically and habitually. This regulated the activity of the "religious" and simplified it so as to be quite convenient; it didn't require a high level of focus or intensity.

Oh, sure, they were ardent and devout. They were loyal and commited, but they missed the intent of the divine activity: a change of heart.

That was then, this is now. We've learned from their mistakes, right?

We have, some of us, given up on the rituals, which they believed, errantly, established right living. We recognize that man considers men by status, success, and sight, but God considers each man's heart. So we work to change our hearts by thinking nice thoughts and believing right religious ideas. We have systematized our thinking into lists of basic tenets. And we say, "Believe this, this, and this; sign here and here; agree with these, and you will be saved." We've made it simple for people to know just what their hearts should think and believe and feel. We are trying to regulate the beliefs of the hearts of the religious and to distill those beliefs so as to be quite convenient, to require no high level of focus or intensity.

Oh, sure, we're ardent and devout. We're loyal and commited, but we're missing the intent of the divine activity: a change of heart.

[for the die-hard]

The fact is that in our reaction to the ritualists we have become the mentalists. They relied on activity, we rely on belief. But we are both wrong. God doesn't look at the outward appearance, nor the brain bank of beliefs.

He's looking at the heart, and until that changes, our thoughts and our actions are meaningless.

We have perhaps struck closer than the religious leaders during Jesus' tenure on the planet by thinking about man's heart as important in personal redemption. We have complicated it by moving from visible action to invisible belief (a commonality it shares with the invisible heart). But we have merely traded systematic activites--rituals--for systematic beliefs--dogma.
As I began, the beauty is in the complexity: it is not simply saying, doing, or believing the right things, systematizing it into a boilerplate, and pulling everyone else in. We must give back to God His work. He is working both in man and in you. He has both a big picture and a small one, as Henry said.

This is no a simple matter.

There is no formula for the life of Jesus' followers. There is no recipe or finite process or static procedure, physical or spiritual, practical or psychological. It is an ongoing exchange between God and man. A well-summarized theology is not enough, nor is a set of rituals. It must be a thorough intertwining, of concious and subconcious effect. It must permeate both action and belief, thought and emotion, every corner of man's being must be lighted by it.

The emphasis on ritual and the emphasis on dogma both miss the mark, which is the heart. Both began as genuine attempts to accomplish the same task of developing right hearts, but both break down. Some will say that one or the other gets closer or does a better job, but that's horseshoes and hand grenades. What it comes down to is cultivating a heart that beats like God's, developing a family resemblance to the divine Father. It takes both knowledge and action, but those are results not causes. To think as God does, to act as Jesus would, to desire what God desires is the result of having a heart like God's.

And I do not yet know how to have that.