Saturday, July 25, 2009

Escape the Ordinary

The separation of Jesus from his creation, and the human race from Jesus is disastrous. This dualism leaves us assuming that our human existence is merely human, with, at best, a random, whimsical influence of the Holy Spirit. And if our fatherhood and motherhood, our work and play, laughter, music and romance are all bereft of the Holy Spirit, we are forced to look beyond our humanity for the Spirit and for real spirituality. But the Son of God became a human being, and in his ascension he did not discard his humanity as an old and useless robe. The incarnation and the continuing existence of the Son incarnate means that the Trinitarian life is now thoroughly human. Jesus spent most of his time not preaching, but working as a carpenter. Was his carpentry outside of his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit? To be sure, Jesus was anointed with the Spirit for his messianic work at the river Jordan, but that could never mean that the Holy Spirit or his Father were absent before that event. Jesus is the one who knows the Father and he is the one anointed in the Holy Spirit. The incantation means that he lived out his relationship with his Father and his relationship with the Holy Spirit as a human being, and he continues to do so now and for all eternity. The sphere of the Holy Spirit’s work is Jesus Christ, and the relationships that he has established (or reestablished) in his incarnate existence. To put this the other way around, Jesus has included the human race, and all creation in his own relationship with his Father and in his own anointing in the Holy Spirit. It is in our humanity that the Holy Spirit is bearing his fruit.

A while back there was a billboard not far from my home. It was an advertisement for a local Church. It read, “Escape the Ordinary.” There it was, Plato, Greek dualism, non-incarnational spirituality (in Jesus’ name) plastered for all to see. Jesus has been thoroughly disassociated from our ordinary humanity, the Holy Spirit is at work in some invisible, non-human sphere, so come to our Church to experience non-human spirituality. Why would we want to escape the ordinary when Jesus has embraced it and brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him? My heart hurts for the carpenters in that Church, and for the mothers and fathers, the teachers, cooks and nurses, the ‘ordinary’ workers who give themselves everyday to help make our world function. They have been duped into believing that they must come to Church (and who knows what else) to experience the Holy Spirit, when they should have been lead by the Church to see the blessed Trinity at the florist, or the gas station, or in the music, the laughter, the love and joy and service all around them.

When we don’t see it, we invent it. When the human race is ripped out of the embrace of the Triune God (in our fallen, Greek-infested imaginations), we are forced to invent a non-human spirituality, and then forced to convince people that what we have invented is indeed the real dingo. And then forced to believe that it is so, or that our boredom with this dance in the darkness is the fruit of our lack of commitment. Our humanity, our relationships, our loves, joys and burdens, our work, our play are all minimized, devalued and made to be second rate.

A pastor once came to me in tears because the Holy Spirit had ‘fallen’ on a Church across town, and left her and her congregation behind. She could not understand. They had fasted and prayed for months, yet the Holy Spirit fell on another congregation.

“Do you love your husband and children? I asked.

“Of course.”

“Do you serve them, care for them? Wouldn’t you give your life for them?”

“Of course, I would,” she said with considerable intensity, and a quizzical look as if to ask ‘what has this got to do with the Holy Spirit?’

“Well,” I asked, “are you telling me that your love and care and service for your family, and your willingness to lay down your life for them, if necessary, all originate in you? Did you create that love? Are you that good? Or could it be that the love you know and experience for your family and for others is actually the super-natural, extraordinary love of the Father, Son and Spirit already at work within you?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the cosmos. The one who follows me shall never, ever walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). To follow Jesus means, at the very least, that we raise our hands and say, ‘Jesus, I do not want to see things the way that I see them any more. I want to see your Father, and the Holy Spirit, myself and others and all creation with your eyes, the way you see them.’ As the light of Jesus shines into our darkness, we will not be yearning to escape the ordinary, we will be stunned and full of wonder at the ordinary presence of the blessed Trinity in our humanity. Heaven is not a bodiless state in an invisible place. Heaven is the life of the Father, Son and Spirit coming to full and abiding expression in our human existence, and the earth and the cosmos are filled with the life and love and fellowship of the blessed Trinity. Meantime we grieve over the self-centeredness, over the lust and greed, the social and racial, environmental and political and religious injustices that run wild around us, wreaking such havoc in our lives. And we fast and pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us in our darkness. We pray for people to be given eyes to see and that the way things are in Jesus Christ would indeed emerge more and more in our human existence.

Thank you, Holy Spirit. Without you our lives would be a miserable mess of dark sadness. We are grateful for your presence and for the fruit you produce in our lives. Help us to see Jesus and his life in others, in work and play and music, in relationships, laughter and ordinary life. We are grieved that our world is so lost in the dark imagination of the fallen mind. We feel helpless to make any difference. Shine the light of Jesus.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, '..the real dingo'.

You're sounding very Aussie there, Baxter.

I would love if, in the true nature of being Australian, you made that phrase up!!

Got any more trips to Oz planned in the near future?

Amy :)

Warren said...

A quibble I know, but Jesus probably wasn't a carpenter. More likely he worked with stone as that was the prevalent building material around Nazareth in those days. He probably worked on the building of the city of Sepphoris, a few kilometres from Nazareth. The NT word doesn't mean 'carpenter' it means 'tradesman'. So it doesn't rule out woodwork, but it's been an English invention in more recent times to translate the word so narrowly.
The key point is, of course, that he was a labourer, worked with his hands to help his earthly father make a living.
Like the apostle Paul was a tentmaker. When did the "professional" theologian enter into the picture?

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Amy, just thought I would throw that one in just to see if anyone down under was awake. We have made no plans to visit OZ this year. But you never know.

Warren, I didn't know that bit about the word. Tradesman actually works better, but I will have to look it up.

Out of the Collective said...

Warren makes a good point about 'professional theologian'...

This indicates to me that there is still alot of 'dualism' amongst even Perichoresis supporters...many of whom are entrenced in 'bible colleges' which in itself is a 'dualistic' concept.
Theology is good cos we all have a theology, however it disturbs me to see a subtle elitist attitude even amongst people who love Perichoreis.
The concept of getting bible degrees etc reinforces the dualism of western culture.

Anonymous said...

For years, I prayed that prayer, "Thy kingdom come" while seeking the kingdom of God "sometime in the future".
I also tried to "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" while expecting His Righteousness now, but not his kingdom now.

Then I began to realize that his kingdom NOW is what we need to pray for. I spoke to my group a while back and asked them "How many of you thinks Jesus Christ is your king right now?" All hands went up. I then said, "Welcome to the Kingdom of God"

When we leave out Jesus Christ, the holy spirit, that is, the Trinity, out of our lives, then we really have nothing but a lot of running around and doing with nothing to show for it.

The kingdom of God (and his righteousness) is something we seek in our lives.

Though Jesus explained, "The kingdom does not come by observation", that is, just looking for it does not make it come or look for outside signs of the coming. What we need to do is live the kingdom of God right now and experience God's love and joy of life in our otherwise, boring lives.

"I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly".


bill winn said...

Outofthecollective: Please help me understand the dualism of Formal Theological Study? Is it dualistic to take on formal study in the field of Chemistry or Accounting, Construction or Engineering, or any other form of post High School education? Is not to lower Theological study from any other field of higher academia to also participate in the sacred/ secular dichotomy that the medieval church initiated from the skewed point of view of Greek Philosophical Dualism?

And Warren the profession of Theologian is as old as or older than the New Testament. Remember that Luke was financed by Theophilus to write his gospel. We dare not demand that plumbers work for free, we dare not demand our welders, farmers, septic tank cleaners, soldiers, mechanics, builders, librarians, doctors, nurses, pavers, pilots, loggers, landscapers, ranchers, fishing guides, painters, factory workers, or preachers work strictly as volunteers. There is no secular only sacred and the possibility of spoiling the sacred from within our own darkness.

Baxter: A hearty amen! Such good news gives us all our dignity and helps us see that Jesus is the only One in the Cosmos Who is passionate about the needs of His brothers and sisters and He is indeed sharing that passion and His ministry to meet our needs with humanity- whether they carry a Bible on the dashboard of their bread truck or not! WOOO HOOO!

Warren said...

Wow, Bill, seems I touched a aw nereve there!

Where does it say that Luke was funded by Theophilus? All we know is that Luke addressed his works to that man. Could have been a gift.

The 'model' in the New Testament seems to me to have been that the pastor/teacher in each church was not paid to be a full-time 'Christian worker', but earned a living just like the congregation. That doesn't mean that it's wrong for us to have full-time professionals these days - I don't think Paul and the other NT writers ever intended their words to become 'law' for all times and generations. All I was doing was asking a factual, historical question. Since in NT times there weren't full time professional congregational leaders, when did that practice commence?

I agree with your questioning of "out of the collective" though. Studying theology is important and it's perfectly valid to have courses that focus on studying the Bible. My question about professional theologians in no way implies that I think we shouldn't study theology. I am a professional investment manager, but I also study theology. Dualism only enters in when I think of what I learn from the bible as having application only in a small part of my life rather than being overarching and applying to all of my life.

Ron said...

Hey Baxter. Man I love knowing this beautiful truth and I want more and more. Can't get enough. Do you have any suggestions to how to break away from my dualistic mindset? The truth is setting me free but I want it to be faster. I know fasting might work but I'm too sorry and lazy and it makes me hungry. Please forgive me for that. I'm reading the booklist the GCI (WCG) recommended and that is working but I want it to be faster. I feel stupid for writting this and it's probably because I am but sometimes these questions can break some more truth free. Sincerely, Ron

Mike said...

Excellent article! Dualism is so ingrained in our culture and my own heart as it relates to Christianity it becomes hard to think otherwise; its conditioning. I have a hard time seeing the Lord in the mundane but I know he is like work, being with the kids, a drive to the store the seemingly nonspiritual of life. I sometimes envision the Holy Spirit sitting back and relaxing and saying, "whew, you were getting on my nerves with all that religious praying now talk to me here" I'm not trying to sound disrespectful in anyway by saying that but I talk to the Lord best I think while driving, walking or just going about my everyday business, than on my knees or in church.
Thanks Mike

Len Joson said...

You wrote the word "incantation." Did you mean incarnation?

cjazh said...

One thing I am confused about is when you say that the joy, happiness, etc. that exists in our life is the Father, Son and Spirit living through us. What happened before Jesus became human? Was there a difference ... were these things still from God living in humanity? If so, was that not a purpose of Jesus coming as a human?

Ben said...

Baxter, I have been reading your books and have been thoroughly blessed by them. I have a ministry degree and am in the process of becoming a pastor. This is the theology that makes me excited to be a pastor. This theology reminds me that part of my role as a pastor is to remind people that God is in the ordinary, and that they don't need to fill their lives with lifeless religious rituals to get to God-that Jesus has done everything necessary-Jesus has accomplished at-one-ment between us and God. All we need to do is enjoy that truth, live out our lives in relationship with the Trinitarian family, and invite others into the same wonderful reality-and let divine love heal what sin and shame has corroded.

Anonymous said...

I think you when you say "incantation", you actually mean "incarnation".

Anonymous said...

Greetings from within the circle of love... I've been reading your stuff and Martin Davis' since seeing an interview on with Chris Young (liked the interview, haven't read the book). You bring clarity to a lot of issues, and there are so many yet to fathom!

You say," Heaven is not a bodiless state in an invisible place. Heaven is the life of the Father, Son and Spirit coming to full and abiding expression in our human existence, and the earth and the cosmos are filled with the life and love and fellowship of the blessed Trinity."

Don't disagree, but... how do you conceive of heaven - or rather, how do you conceive of life after death for those who have appropriated the whole atonement ball of wax (otherwise known as Christians)[see On Atonement]? I had a really wild thought. First, we were created for the eden earth; second, after the second coming we come back to the renewed earth. The transition lasting only a flash of a dip into eternity transition. So, do we never really get away from earth? Do we just come into awareness of our being in constant communion with the Trinity?
If I had more time for studying I would probably ask the question in a more respectable way, but since I've ceased worrying about respectability, I just throw it out there hoping for a reply that would shortcut getting to a revelation on this topic. Thanks for all your insights. Raphael

Anonymous said...

Raphael, it doesn't seem that Baxter ever reads these posts so don't expect an answer to your question, I'm afraid.