Monday, December 29, 2014

Evelyn Underhill on Prayer

"In the first place, what do we mean by Prayer? Surely just this: the part of our conscious life which is deliberately oriented towards, and exclusively responds to spiritual reality. God is that spiritual reality, and we believe God to be immanent in all things: He is not far from each one of us: for in him we live and move and have our being."

'Prayer' says Walter Hilton, 'is nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts." It is ascent says Ruysbroeck, of the Ladder of Love. In the same spirit William Law defines prayer as the rising of the soul out of the vanity of time into the riches of eternity.

It entails, then a going up or out from our ordinary cirlce of earthly interests. Prayer stretches out the tentacles of our consciousness not so much towards that Divine Life which is felt to be enshrined within the striving, changeful world of things; but rather to that 'Eternal turth, ture Love and loved Eternity' wherein the world is felt to be enshrined. 

The whole of a person's life consists in a series of balanced responses to this Transcendent-Immanent Reality. Because we live under two orders, we are at once a citizen of Eternity and of Time. "

N.T Wrights Christian Origin Series Intro and Summary Notes by Andrew Perriman

I have been periodically reading through the first three volumes of N.T.Wright's Christian Origins Series for the past two years and now am halfway through the 2nd part. The three parts breakup as (1) New Testament and the People of God, (2) Jesus and the Victory of God and (3) The resurrection of the Son of God (the recently released volumes of Paul complete the series- I am not even beginning to think about touching Paul and Pauline studies now)- the whole series is massive and astounding and to read through Wrights tour of 1st Century Judaism, Christianity and the world of the New Testament is definitely an attempt at diving in the deep end for me. The books just feel "special" and historically speaking seems like a landmarker for all NT (and biblical) studies in the near future- they feel like the books people will be talking about and arguing about in 50 to 100 years from now. Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School, says on the back book jacket: "The sweep of Wright's project as a whole is breathtaking. It is impossible to give a fair assessment of his achievement without sounding grandiose: no New Testament scholar since Bultmann has even attempted- let alone achieved- such an innovative and comprehensive account of New Testament history and theology."

Because of the social and historical value of Wright's study, these books alone are worth wading through and at least being familiar with- not to mention the intrinsic value of Wright's presentation of Jesus and the world of the gospels. I picked these books up to help me go deeper into studying the gospels as I taught them, and it is nothing short to say it was a dynamite in my thought life and exploded the tunnels of possibly study and research wide open.

So have I built up excitement for the books enough yet??!! Well, the downfall or the stumbling block for the average laymen or bible student is that these 3 books combined are 1,883 pages (bibliographies not included!) and they aren't necessarily the "quick read" type of material- I remember when I first began to read vol.1 and it took me 2 hours to get through the 26 page introduction!! Eventually as I got his lingo and figured out who the heck "bultmann, schliermarcher, and harnack" were I started to move a little faster.

Anyways, this winter I am trying to plow through some more of this series and maybe even finish it and as I was getting back into it I was looking for a summary or notes online of the 1st volumet to help me review and I found this amazing resource... a 44 page dense and rich summary of notes, quotes of the first three volumes in the series. They are written by Writer, Pastor and Theologian Andrew Perriman whose has written books on "narrative theology" and the eschatology for the emerging church as well as women in the ministry for IVP, he posted his summary notes on his blog and you can download them as a PDF.

This is a really helpful introduction to the series of Wright, it is a 44 page summary of 1,883 he leaves a few things out but really gives great quotes and synopsis of the major points of Wright's project. I highly recommend either reading it as an intro to the project or as a replacement if you think you will never get into all the books. I am currently using it to refresh the parts of read and hopefully it will help me read quicker through the parts I have yet to read.

Last thing, maybe a more helpful introduction to the work and thought of N.T. Wright is some of his more popular books. It seems like he compresses his scholarly work into more bite-size portions- these are great for those who don't want all the footnotes, debates and extra conversations. The way I see it the following three volumes can be substituted by these more popular books:

1. NT and the People of God: How God became King
2. Jesus and the Victory of God: Simply Jesus or the Challenge of Jesus
3. Resurrection of the son of God: Suprised by Hope

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas- A celebration of the Incarnation

The last few christmas mornings I have enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis on the incarnation..this morning it really got to me and again was a great reminder of the joy and abundant life that enters into all life because of the one life of are some excerpts from him, its taken from "suprised by Joy" pg.50-55:

"The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God"

"In the Incarnation, God the Son takes the body and human soul of Jesus, and, through that, the whole environment of Nature, all the creaturely predicament, into His own being. So that 'he came down from heaven' can almost be transposed into 'heaven drew earth up into it', and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of the Deity, is there swallowed up. Where except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?"

"The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature's total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion- an invasion which intends complete conquest and 'occupation'."

Using the language Lewis uses in Mere Christianity- what I get out of his articulation of the incarnation is that the "bio" life (created natural life) is meant to be overrun/filled/occupied/covered like a blanket with the "zoe" life (uncreated creating life- God's life) and the incarnation event was the pivotal moment in all history where God dwelling as man did something to this world to enable us to share in and experience the eternal life of God! The incarnation event was the gateway to the coming of the new age and a seal/promise of a new heavens and new earth still to come!

I hope in the midst of the holiday thrills-turkey, gifts, movies, friends, get to celebrate the incarnation and reflect on what it conveys about life, reality, you and the people you get to celebrate the holiday with!