Index Chapter 4
CHAPTER THREE. ra radical CHANGE IN THINKING?"
Can the Christian religion change direction? Does it want to change? For the Christian Church this is a vitally important question, as it is for all religions that are "being"-based! To change from a Being-based theology to a Spirit-based theology requires a radical reversal of thinking! So, if that is not forthcoming, can what appeared in history to be the rejection by God of his chosen people, Israel, appear again in history in God's rejection of the Christian Church? Is the present Church, in doctrine and structure, dying? Can we imagine a THIRD People of God?
Tullie Vinay wrote: "You know Dr. Muller Ganghoff wrote an idea about the THIRD People of God. The first people of God was Israel, and they betray the Lord. And in His freedom the Lord chose another people, the Church. But the Church is now betraying the Lord. And the Lord is free to choose other men, without name, as His People." (?)
Will God/Spirit throw over the Christian Church to form another People for His Purposes? Is the Church as now constituted the last and only People of God? Is there to be another people "without name" chosen by God/Spirit?
There is an innate conviction within Christian thinking, reinforced by its leaders and theologians, that the Church is ultimately indestructible. This is because the Church, usually regarded as the Church Universal, is God's chosen, or "called-out" People, and "built upon the Rock" so therefore will survive. Though it has its weaknesses, being "Christ's Body" gives it an ultimacy that assures its survival. So both ontological and spiritual images are involved.
However, while the Church's spokespersons speak of the finiteness and frailty of all other groups, religious, political, and social, it never seems to envisage its own demise! It appears to believe that it has the Truth within it, though yet to be fully revealed - "The Spirit will lead you into all truth". However, it has not accepted, to any great degree, that it could be subject to radical change, or even death! In our human conditioning we tend to be wedded to institutional forms.
Perhaps the Church's methods, liturgy, evangelizing, and theological stances may change, but it all may occur within the same orbit. Does it yet understand that it may need to change orbits? This orbital change into awareness of a non-substantial sense of God/Spirit, is, I believe, so radical that it will require courageous thinking and action. It will require honest thinking about what really is the "Rock" on which the Church is built, and against which the "gates of hell shall not prevail"?
In using words and images that are of the material order such as "orbit", it is recognised that none really fully explore the meaning of "Spirit". But even so, "Spirit" and its meaning can be sufficiently grasped, even if sometimes the very words and images used seem contradictory. Of some help, will be the use of Spirit, God/Spirit, or His/It, and not "the" Spirit, where seeking to preserve the crucial nature of God as Personal, non-substantive Spirit.
To change to this crucial, radical perception of Spirit being the true nature of God may prove too daunting! It means a critical move from the "controlled" application of the Spirit to life, to an acceptance that God/Spirit is IN, OF, BY, ABOUT, EVERYTHING, in some sense! At times, theology gets very close to this stance, but never passes over into it.
When Nels Ferré brought the concept of the Ultimacy of Spirit before academics in England, it is difficult to understand why it was not followed through to any great extent that can be observed. After "Honest to God" theologian, John Robinson, created a furore in the early 1960's with his ideas about God, in l966 Nels F. S. Ferré came to England and lectured on his ideas at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Glasgow. He was advised to come back to Oxford with the finished manuscript of "The Universal Word." This he did, and the faculty at Mansfield College had ra real go", as he said, at his ideas, being both critical and receptive of them.
But now, in the 90's, what of his ideas appear in present theological thinking? It is incredible that what appears to be a very vital clue for solving some of the theological problems encountered regarding the "being" of God, has been forgotten! While John Robinson's "Honest to God" ideas were reviewed in a book some 25 years later, the ideas of Ferré, which were so much more "honest to God", are buried, awaiting resurrection!
Along with Ferré, there are the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. These aroused a great deal of interest when first published. Of particular interest here, are his Pensees from the "Hymn of the Universe." Many Pensees appear to be saying something similar to the emphasis of Ferré upon God's Identity as Spirit. Chardin's emphasis upon the centrality of Christ in, or identity with, all creation, needs only the substitution of "Spirit" for "Christ" in his writings, to make his ideas and those of Ferre coincide regarding the inclusive nature of Spirit. ("The Lord is the Spirit", "the Lord who is Spirit". 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
This substitution of "Spirit" for much of Chardin's identification of Christ with Matter makes a lot of sense. Will the future, somewhere, confirm his and Ferrés analyses? Were these such breaks with the theology and philosophy of the time, that they could not be absorbed by its culture, thinking, and experience?
Dr. Muller Banghoff`s note of warning above reminds us of the dangers confronting us, if we forget our human fragility and vulnerability, and imagine that we have arrived at a plateau of final truth!
History is marked by changes where individuals have challenged and changed thought and spiritual perceptions. The long eras before thinking man were slow, but the later eras of history where significant changes in thought and life occurred were swift! Today the rate of change is still accelerating. Thought and its practical expression is constantly creating many changes. Whether such change is necessarily "good", remains to be seen! It would depend upon whether it is still ontically-based, or whether it is "God/Spirit"- based! For the Christian Church this is critical!
If we turn to Jewish History, with its accepted relationship to Christianity, we find that Jewish Faith was in a God who was considered to be a creating and working God, inseparable from Israel's life and history, and was interested in, and used, other national individuals and peoples. Israel's faith was of a totalitarian nature. It did not "have" a religion, it was wholly religious! Jewish reflection saw history as the Act of God, thus its historians wrote: "God brought his people up out of the Land of Egypt!" This refusal to atomize life was not carried over into the birth of Christianity and beyond, despite the witness of Jesus confirming it. Later the influence of Greek and Roman thinking developed the present dualism of thought in which we live.
The Reality of the Ultimacy of Spirit challenges our mode of thinking, which is secular plus sacred, and so deeply embedded ontologically, that to move out of it, seems humanly impossible.
The continuing debate between existentialism and transcendence remains a philosophic interaction which continues the dualistic thinking which is alien to the Hebraic concept of the Totalitarian Rule of God, but further refined by Jesus by his insistence upon God as Spirit!
Is this dualistic thinking, plus the strong streak of conservatism in this and every age, which reacts against and rejects change, still too strong for the truth of "Spirit" theology to be accepted?
Some of the reaction to the inclusiveness of Spirit will be questions like: "How can ALL be Spirit? If one agrees that the Ultimate is Spirit, what is the meaning and purpose of Creation? Why does the Ultimate Spirit make anything at all?"
We need to pose these kind of questions, but we must be ready to check the substantive mode of our minds, which will be all too ready to answer in terms of "being", and thus fail to realise God/Spirit's multidimensional, unavoidable, Presence and
This all-inclusive activity and Presence of God/Spirit means that He/It works, or acts, with, in, about, (whatever terms one uses) everything and every person, to what degree, and in what sense, that His unconditional Love decrees! Indeed, God/Spirit is in all humans, experiencing their joys, pain, suffering, rejection, sinning, and earthly demise! Is the whole gamut of existence, then, God/Spirit experiencing it, and us? The answer can be a joyous "Yes"!
Why? Because the categories of Spirit, Love, and Personal, understood against their background of contrapletal logic, are most real when they are accepted as the most valuable, the most relevant, the most ideal "Trinity" for our deepest understanding and illumination of humanity's total experience!
But, can we really change to such a faith stance? Nearly 30 years ago, Ferré challenged academics with the Ultimacy and Immediacy of Spirit, and nothing significant happened then. This present writing adds to his brilliant exposition of the Total Inclusiveness of God/Spirit, the logical consequence that God/Spirit must and does experience humanity in personal, close terms!
Maybe the change to such a stance and awareness will not be immediate. However, sometime humanity WILL change, by further exploration and experience, for to God/Spirit's Immediacy and Ultimacy, and eternal control, changes are inevitable!
If humanity's bias to materiality continues, with "spirituality" regarded only as an option, perhaps generation after generation will pass, such is God/Spirit's patient long-suffering! Even in our so-called advanced civilization, there is so much stupid wastage of life and potentiality, that one wonders whether humanity will ever learn!
God/Spirit is Eternal Love, and has all the time needed, but how many generations will it take before a generation arrives which has learnt Love? Or, - here is a thought! - will God/Spirit start again? There are those who believe that this planet Earth shall cease sometime. That may be, but God/Spirit is not a loser, that is, lacking final omnipotence with regard to His Creation.
Humanity can be the loser by lack of response to God/Spirit's Love, and His image of Spirit within human lives. God/Spirit has within Himself all the distinctions of non-being, being, and cessation of being, so, in a human sense, ranything could happen"! But, in the end, all the Love-Purpose of God/Spirit in Creation, in Humanity learning Love, will ultimately be achieved and/or absorbed in the Personal Spirit of Love! What that can mean, only its realization will reveal!
Index Chapter 4