Archive for July, 2010

30
Jul
10

Typology of Views on Charismatic Movements: Conclusion

To recap, I’ve been presenting a series of posts on charismatic movements, outlining a typology of views, as follows:

  • Charismatic more fundamental than institutional (Leonardo Boff).

While this survey shows that there is a significant body of literature on the theology of charisms and charismatic movements (and a wide divergence of viewpoints), I would argue that numerous questions remain which need to be addressed.

Significantly, for the most part, the literature on charisms has not been significantly incorporated into discussions of unity and diversity.   Of course, Cullman’s argument attempts to do this, but I would argue that he has disassociated the biblical idea of charisms from its original vocational context and applied it too liberally to all confessions, thereby inappropriately justifying continued separation across the board.  Also, it is apparent throughout his argument that his major concerns are with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and magisterial protestant traditions, but he offers no criteria by which we should distinguish these separations as “legitimate” as compared with more recent protestant schisms.  Would he support, for example, the continual splintering of pentecostal and independent charismatic churches on the grounds of protecting their particular charism?

Further, his model suggests that there is a charismatic gift at the root of all church divisions.  While I believe there are many confessions or denominations in the Church today that began with such a misapprehension of charisms, this is certainly not the case in every situation.  It seems nonsensical to speak of the English reformation, for example, being rooted an unrecognized charism.  We might speak of Anglican charisms that developed in the subsequent history of Anglicanism, but if the separation of the Church of England from Rome was not rooted in a charism, we must question the validity of using such post-division gifts as a reason for continued structural separation.

Other uses of the idea of “gifts” as a way of discussing diversity in ecumenical documents have not delved into the biblical theology of charisms, nor asked questions about the appropriateness of applying the term to traditions / denominations / confessions.  Though the idea of “complementary gifts” has been a helpful way to build ecumenical bridges, it should not be used to construct a positive vision for ecclesial unity which justifies continued “separation.”

Where the idea of charisms has been incorporated in a more sustained way into a vision of the unity of the Church is in Catholic literature on the religious life, but little work has been done in attempting to apply the insights of this perspective to protestant reform movements. The comparison has sometimes been made, but not explored in much theological depth (See, for example, Outler’s remarks on Methodism as an “order,” in That the World may Believe, 54).

The weakness of some Catholic approaches, especially those which stress the complementarity of charism and institution, is that they are not helpful in interpreting the divisive history of renewal and reform movements in the life of the Church.  The question is of paramount importance, particularly for the many evangelical protestant denominations which began as reform, renewal, or missionary movements, with no intention of starting new “churches.”  In evangelical circles, partly because of the prevalence of free church ecclesiology, the tendency has been to emphasize the significance of the movements and downplay the importance of historical continuity.

All this is to say that I think significant work needs to be done on the topic of  “group” charisms, and how this concept  fits into the larger discussion about the limits of legitimate diversity in the Church.

15
Jul
10

Typology of Views on Charismatic Movements, Part 7: Charisms as Justification for Separation

One final perspective on charisms which needs to be discussed here is found in Oscar Cullmann’s 1986 book Unity Through Diversity.  Cullmann’s fundamental thesis in this work is that “every Christian confession has a permanent spiritual gift, a charisma, which is should preserve, nurture, purify, and deepen, and which should not be given up for the sake of homogenization” (Unity Through Diversity, 9).  Cullmann is concerned that the frustration of some with an apparent lack of progress towards unity is based on a “false goal” and a false hope of homogenization, which has no basis in the New Testament (14). The goal of unity should rather be a “union of all Christian churches within which each would preserve its valuable elements, including its structure” (15).

In making this argument, Cullmann claims to be drawing upon Paul’s understanding of the Church, which is “entirely based upon this fundamental truth of the variety of charisms” (18).  Basing his argument on the Pauline texts that deal with the charismatic gifts, he argues that unity can exist through diversity, rather than in spite of diversity.  The function of the Spirit in Pauline community is to create diversity, and yet “this does not cause fragmentation, since every member is oriented to the goal of the unity of the whole body” (17).  While he acknowledges that the Pauline image of the body and its parts was not originally intended to apply to churches, he argues that it is consistent with the meaning of Paul’s charismatic theology, and that Paul does, in other places, ascribe various “gifts” to different churches.

I expected to hear more from Cullmann on this point, but his sole support is a reference Romans 1:11 as an example of Paul ascribing a “particular mission to each of the different churches.” He goes on to argue that Paul views the one church to be present in each local church, a point which he believes underscores the idea of a “union of churches” where all are given equal ecclesial status (17).

Cullmann insists that he is not suggesting that things should simple remain as they are between the churches.  He suggests that relations between the churches should proceed on the basis of attempting to speak frankly to one another about the charism or charisms that we see in each other’s traditions (19).  He also notes that there are often “peculiarities” or “distortions” of the charismatic gifts that need to be weeded out by careful self-examination (16).  For example, Cullmann identifies essential charisms of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions as “concentration on the Bible” and “freedom,” but notes that these are often found in their corresponding distorted form biblicism and anarchy (20).

What clearly sets Cullmann apart in his proposals is that he speaks of a charism as being at the root of “every confession,” and that he argues that separation and autonomy might be necessary in order for these charisms to be safeguarded. The sinful element in these historic divisions is not the fact that churches are separate, but the fact that the separations have been hostile, rather than peaceful.

But in order to preserve certain charisms in their pure form, it was perhaps also necessary hat completely autonomous churches came into being (the Orthodox and the churches that derived from the Reformation). This would not necessarily and as such have led to a hostile separation which would have excluded every kind of fellowship (koinonia), the “right hand of fellowship” could have been extended here too, despite the aspect of continuing separation, as at the apostolic council (cf. Gal. 2:9; Acts 15:1-31) (31).

What Cullmann is arguing for, then, is a unity in continued separation, in which churches would remain autonomous but share in fellowship through a council or other structure of some kind.

The main thing is the achievement of a koinonia that is a true unity through diversity.  However it is developed as a conciliar organization, it should, without itself being the church as the body of Christ, guarantee unity through the fact that it brings to expression and awareness that in each of the individual churches that belong to it, and with its particular charisms, confessional structure, faith and life, the ONE universal church is present (64).

I’ll finish off this series (finally!) with some concluding thoughts on the typology in my next post.

08
Jul
10

The Good Samaritan, by John Newton

Further to my previous post, here is a hymn by John Newton, reflecting on the same idea – that the parable of the Good Samaritan points us to Christ.  Taken from Olney Hymns (1779), Book 1, Hymn 99.

*

How kind the good Samaritan

To him who fell among the thieves!

Thus Jesus pities fallen man,

And heals the wounds the soul receives.

*

O! I remember well the day,

When sorely wounded, nearly slain;

Like that poor man I bleeding lay,

And groaned for help, but groaned in vain.

*

Men saw me in this helpless case,

And passed without compassion by;

Each neighbor turned away his face,

Unmoved by my mournful cry.

*

But he whose name had been my scorn,

(As Jews Samaritans despise)

Came, when he saw me thus forlorn,

With love and pity in his eyes.

*

Gently he raised me from the ground,

Pressed me to lean upon his arm;

And into every gaping wound

He poured his own all–healing balm.

*

Unto his church my steps he led,

The house prepared for sinners lost;

Gave charge I should be clothed and fed;

And took upon him all the cost.

*

Thus saved from death, from want secured,

I wait till he again shall come,

(When I shall be completely cured)

And take me to his heav’nly home.

*

There through eternal boundless days,

When nature’s wheel no longer rolls,

How shall I love, adore, and praise,

This good Samaritan to souls!

03
Jul
10

Christ as the Good Samaritan

In preparing for a sermon on the Good Samaritan, I came across some classic interpretations which see the parable as pointing to Christ.  Here are selections from three ancient doctors (courtesy of the Ancient Commentary on Scripture), and a 20th century giant:

Ambrose, from his Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.73-84:

Jericho is an image of this world. Adam, cast out from Paradise, that heavenly Jerusalem, descended to it by the mistake of his transgression…He was greatly changed from that Adam who enjoyed eternal blessedness.  When he turned aside to worldly sins, Adam fell among thieves, among whom he would not have fallen if he had not strayed from the heavenly command and made himself vulnerable to them…he received a mortal wound by which the whole human race would have fallen if that Samaritan, on his journey, had not tended to his serious injuries. 7.73]

…Here the Samaritan is going down.  Who is he except he who descended from heaven, who also ascended to heaven the Son of Man who is in heaven?  When he sees half-dead him whom none could cure before, like her with an issue of blood who had spend all her inheritance on physicians, he came near him.  He became a neighbour by acceptance of our common feeling and kin by the gift of mercy.

…”And bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” That Physician has many remedies with which he is accustomed to cure.  His speech is a remedy.  One of his sayings binds up wounds, another treats with oil, another pours in wine.  He binds wounds with a stricter rule.  He treats with the forgiveness of sins.  He stings with the rebuke of judgment as if with wine.”

Since no one is closer than he who tended to our wounds, let us love him as our neighbour.  Nothing is so close as the head to the members.   Let us also love who is the follower of Christ, let us love him who in unity of body has compassion on another’s need.

Origen, Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 34.3,9:

One of the elders wanted to interpret the parable as follows.  The man who was going down is Adam.  Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers.  The priest is the law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ.  The wounds are disobedience.  The beast is the Lord’s body.  the pandochium (that is, the stable), which accepts all who wish to enter, is the church.  The two denarii mean the Father and the Son.  The manager of the stable is the head of the church, to whom its care has been entrusted.  The fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Saviour’s second coming…

…the Samaritan, “who took pity on the man who have fallen among thieves, is truly a “guardian,” and a closer neighbour than the Law and the Prophets.  He showed that he was the man’s neighbour more by deed than by word.  According to the passage that says, “Be imitators of me, as I too am of Christ,” it is possible for us to imitate Christ and to pity those who “have fallen among thieves.”  We can go to them, bind their wounds, pour in oil and wine, put them on our own animals, and bear their burdens.  The Son of God encourages us to do things like this.  He is speaking not so much to the teacher of the law as to us and to everyone when he says, “Go and do likewise.” If we do, we will receive eternal life in Christ Jesus, to whom is glory and power for ages and ages.

Augustine, Sermon 179A.7-8:

Robbers left you half-dead on the road, but you have been found lying there by the passing and kindly Samaritan. Wine and oil have been poured on you.  You have received the sacrament of the only-begotten Son. You have been lifted onto his mule.  You have believed that Christ became flesh.  You have been brought to the inn, and you are being cured in the church.”That is where and why I am speaking.

…This is what I too, what all of us are doing. we are performing the duties of the innkeeper.  He was told, “If you spend any more, I will pay you when I return.  “If only we spent at least as much as we have received!  However much we spend, borthers and sisters, it is the Lord’s money.

Augustine, Christian Instruction 33:

God our Lord wished to be called our neighbour. The Lord Jesus Christ meant that he was the one who gave help to the man lying half-dead on the road, beaten and left by the robbers. The prophet said in prayer, “As a neighbour and as one’s own borther, so I did please” [cf 1 Cor 6.15]. Since the divine nature is far superior and above our human nature, the command by which we are to love God is distinct from our love of our neighbour.  He shows mercy to us because of his own goodness, while we show mercy to one another because of God’s goodness.  He has compassion on us so that we may enjoy him completely, while we have compassion on another that we may completely enjoy Him.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, III, §18, pp 418-419.

The question with which Jesus concludes the story is which then of the three (i.e., priest, Levite, and Samaritan) proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among thieves? And the teacher of the Law himself had to reply: “he that showed mercy on him,” i.e., the Samaritan.  This man as such, as the one who showed mercy, is the neighbour about whom the lawyer was asking.  And that is the only point of the story, unequivocally stated by the text.

For the lawyer, who wants to justify himself and therefore does not know who is his neighbour, is confronted not by the poor wounded man with his claim for help, but by the anything but poor Samaritan who makes no claim at all but is simply helpful.

It is the Samaritan who embodies what he wanted to know.  This is the neighbour whom he did not know.   All very unexpected: for the lawyer had first to see that he himself is the man fallen among thieves and lying helpless by the wayside; then he has to note that the others who pass by, the priest and the Levite, the familiar representatives of the dealings of Israel with God, all one after the other do according to the saying of the text: “He saw him and passed by on the other side;” and third, and above all, he has to see that he must be found and treated with compassion by the Samaritan, the foreigner, whom he believes he should hate, as one who hates and is hated by God. He will then know who is his neighbour, and will not ask concerning him as though it were only a matter of the casual clarification of a concept.  He will then know the second commandment, and consequently the first as well.  he will then not wish to justify himself, but will simply love the neighbour, who shows him mercy.  He will then love God, and loving God will inherit eternal life.

…The Good Samaritan, the neighbour who is a helper and will make him a helper, is not far from the lawyer.  The primitive exegesis of the text was fundamentally right.  He stands before him incarnate, although hidden under the form of one whom the lawyer believed he should hate, as the Jews hated the Samaritans.  Jesus does not accuse the man, although judgment obviously hangs over him. Judgment is preceded by grace.  Before this neighbour makes His claim He makes His offer.  Go and do likewise means: Follow thou Me.




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