more about this sight

"you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen"...'Walk On' by U2

WATERSHED: A voice in the wilderness. DARYL UNDERWOOD.

 

The concept of Centerpoint Christianity briefly stated is:

Christianity from the centerpoint outward.

Christianity from the climax forward.

This blog constitutes concepts for a new view of Christianity that begins with what is foundational and moves forward from that point. It is based on the assumption that we are being pulled towards something unseen and pushed from a place that once was.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points.

It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

When we begin at the life of Christ and move outward as from the centerpoint of a web, rather than in a linear timeline of history, another wide picture emerges.


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« faith and belief modified | Main | the new trinity of faith »
Friday
Apr092010

faith and belief

Belief and faith are interrelated in the New Testament. They are words used in all but two of the twenty seven books in the New Testament. We must understand that ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ has four meanings. This is the crux of this debate between varying traditions of Christianity and one of the driving forces propelling emerging Christianity.

There are four words that each contribute to a mature faith or belief system. Each word is supported by a rich meaning.  The first word has to do primarily ‘with the head’; the other three ‘with the heart’

 The first word is 'assensus'.

Faith can be derived from the Latin assensus which is related to our English word assent. When seen this way faith or belief (which I will use interchangeably throughout) is about giving mental assent to a preposition. We believe these are true statements. The churches I have been a part of these many years use this as a touchstone for being Christian. You believe these “suppositions” and you are in. You can be a rather nasty person (you shouldn’t be—but you could be) and still be a Christian. Even Hitler on his death bed could 'get in' by believing these suppositions and simply giving assent to them. Much debate was stirred in the church in respect to the 'final hour' repentance of serial murderer Ted Bundy who confessed to forty murders. Does his 'prayer' stand? Will he be saved?

It is the major definition of evangelical churches today and inextricably intertwined with the priestly story. We believe in the sacrifice of Christ as pardon for our sin. Unfortunately, this is as deep as it may go for many who claim Christ because this is the message told repeatedly in the gatherings. These communities 'believe' Jesus died in order to cancel their debt. Jesus died for my sin. They assent to the priestly story. This is enough to be saved. The question for many churches living out of this story primarily is, 'now what?' The answer often given and understood is--bring this news of being forgiven by the priestly sacrifice to others that they might believe and be saved. The cycle then repeats again and again. Many churches give themselves over primarily to this goal.

The second word is feducia.

The closest English word we have has to do with fiduciary which has to do with trust. “A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence.” To use this term in association with belief means we put ourselves in another’s hands. On the cross Jesus puts himself into His father's hands. He entrusts himself and 'commends his spirit' to another. This was, of course, a way of life for Jesus. His walk with God was one of complete trust and unwavering faith. In my understanding the one we trust is Jesus. I have faith he will deliver me, I have faith that He is able. I trust my life to him.

The third word is fidelitas.

The best English translation is ‘fidelity’ and has to do with loyalty and faithfulness ‘as in a marriage covenant’. It is the heart of a commitment or covenant. When understood for all it’s worth this ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ is at the heart of love. In the movie 'Braveheart' a moving ceremony takes place called handfasting. It portrays the meaning of fidelity. When the bride is murdered William Wallace remains faithful to his bride. He lives and eventually dies for her.

Finally faith or belief can be viseo.

It has to do with ‘seeing the whole’ with vision. I feel this meaning is related to our understanding of a ‘Christian or God like worldview’. When we commit to viseo we are saying that we want the ‘kingdom as Jesus envisioned it’. This leads to a radical trust generating a willingness to ‘spend and be spent’. We step into the ‘dream of God’. We live out of this dream. Christ was poured out for the sake of this vision. He saw something and gave himself to that. We in turn are called to ‘be spent’ for that vision. Paul modeled that beautifully when he writes things like:  

Philippians 1:21 ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better’

or

Galatians 2:26 ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

What I believe the ‘emerging church’ is saying (or at least this is what I am saying) is that we are weary of an emphasis on the first meaning predominately. The Christianity I grew up with said you must believe to be saved and the other stuff…fiducia, fidelitas, and viseo are seen as add-ons or options. We would never say that directly but our practices reveal what we value most. We might say 'you ‘should’ be about these things' but if you are not then, well…you’re still saved because of ‘assensus’. The evangelical motif is actually built on this foundation. We have to get people ‘saved’ by persuading them to ‘say the prayer’.

This way of faith and love is portrayed in the movie Braveheart during the handfasting scene and then throughout the remainder of the film. 

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic custom, especially common in Ireland and Scotland, in which a man and woman came together at the start of their marriage relationship. Their hands, or more accurately, their wrists, were literally tied together. The phrase 'unto you and no other' was exchanged as a promise, vow, and covenant. It is what the terms 'assensus, fiduciary, fidelity, and viseo' are all about. Lovers are bound together so that they might always remain by each other's side. So much symbolism. So much depth.

This is why the faithfulness of Jesus to God is a source of deep delight for God. This is the meaning behind the wedding at Cana. The best wine is poured out in the end. The unfaithfulness of Israel is 'made right' in this last day by the faithfulness of the true Israel, who is Jesus. It is the wine of Jesus blood of the covenant, the promise kept, the vow honored that was binding. Jesus sacrificed His life for God as a fulfillment of the requirements of the covenant. Jesus did what Israel in her unfaithfulness did not, or could not, do. God does not delight so much in His (Jesus) death, as he delights in the tremendous resolve of fidelity under an enormous pressure to renounce, fold, capitulate to the pressures that surrounded him. Jesus did not fold, he held fast. This is the 'tie that binds'.

Who could not love this story?

We are to be one just as He is bound together in One. Two persons as such with a spirit that binds, holds, and bundles their love together.

When God says "I hate divorce," through the prophet Malachi (2:16) he is not speaking from some austere far away objective place. It is personal. He had a beloved.

And there is a reason why God despises divorce. Divorce tears apart all that binds us together, rips apart One. Breaks promise. Annuls covenant. Acts faithlessly. The text here is the prophet Malachi speaking about the faithlessness of Judah. This violation of the covenant, the handfasting, the vow, was a deep sadness in the heart of God. The wounded heart is expressed vividly in Lamentation.

8 Jerusalem has sinned greatly
       and so has become unclean.
       All who honored her despise her,
       for they have seen her nakedness;
       she herself groans
       and turns away.

9 Her filthiness clung to her skirts;
       she did not consider her future.
       Her fall was astounding;
       there was none to comfort her.

The phrasing of 'her filthiness clung to her skirts' is a descriptive literary phrase. Can anything be more descriptive? An affair is devastating...continual unrepentant infidelity is heartbreaking. God was faithful and desired a faithful partner that he could 'hold fast'. He found One.

This is what God shows us. This is what love is. One lies down for the other. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his (or her) life for his friends.

At the close of the Old Testament, referred to as the Tanakh from the translation of the Jewish Scriptures, I imagine God as a bit weathered by the weight of the world and his ongoing unresolved conflict with His chosen people Israel. He is all tied up on the inside, stomach in knots, quiet, a bit withdrawn. What He was in the initial stages of the lower story was so different. What He used to be, brash, confident, and young—He’s not anymore. The walking of the road has beaten him down. He sings the song to Himself and They listen together. Then He turns and speaks to Himself--actually to the One we know as Jesus, for God is One, saying in the poetic words of a song by Don McLean;

'Can you remember who I was? Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? Can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now

And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again.'

And the Other, which is always at His side, a faithful friend, responds and rises up voluntarily in support of His Soul mate. He is a friend like no other. He is a lover. He is in the spirit of Braveheart. He is unlike Job’s friends who accuse and place blame on the broken vessel that sits here with them. No, this One is unlike any other friend. He understands the wounded God and will touch Him and “complete Him”. So intimate this relationship.

In the final scene of "Pretty Woman" starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, Edward Lewis, the prince turns to 'Cinderella' and asks Vivian:

"So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?" To which Vivian replies; "She rescues him right back."

This is the best ending for all true love stories. We rescue and save one another. We need one another--male and female. I imagine this exchange and relationship between God the Father, more male than female as we will see and God the Son, perhaps more nurturing, female, as we will see. He is not she but carries some of the sacrificial qualities so prevalent in the feminine face, and I believe, if culture had permitted, could well have been a she. And Jesus comes 'out of' the bosom of the Father God much like Eve came out of the side of Adam.

So for the sake of imagination let's envision God as the wounded, weathered, character in the film, Edward Lewis. He has made a name for himself by conquering others. He is a conqueror but He is so unsatisfied. He really wanted to be a builder, a creator, and never dreamed of being a rogue. One who plans takeovers and sells off others for profit. He is at a difficult stretch in life and needs a change; his successes have a steep price.

And let's imagine for a moment, realizing the shortcomings of analogy, Jesus as Vivian. Vivian comes and lays her hands on Edward to relieve the tensions. Edward, like God, is renewed, given new life, new perspective. He is for all intents and purposes 'born again' by her touch. He opens up. He takes his shoes off and actually walks in the wet grass.

And yet Vivian is rescued by the prince. She is also set free, raised to a new place. This is a love story lived well.

In the same way I can see Jesus. He lays his hands upon God and heals the wound, He lays His hands upon us and heals us, He lays His hands upon creation, upon all things and casts the darkness from our souls. Coming from God, He is God, and He is about the “setting God free” and unraveling His wounded heart. He is close to God, the begotten Son of God, the final faithful friend of God, and of man, and of me, so close He and God are actually One. One came out of the bosom, the side of the other, so close as to be One.

He is Jesus. Healer of wounds, repairer of the breech. Hero. The rescuer and rescued One, all at once.

He alone can make God whole once again and restore life in God’s beautiful creation. And only God can 'save Him right back' which, of course, He does when he raises Jesus from the grave itself.

In Him, Jesus, new life comes forth. New creation begins. And new starts are filled with grace. We can enjoy God's creation with new perspective and like Gere's character Edward finally walk barefoot in the grass and feel good. And God needs Jesus and Jesus needs God.

And I need Him, too.

Because I’m 'all tied up on the inside and no one knows quite what I’ve got'. It's true and I know it. Call it mid-life crisis, or what ever you please, I just know that the road I’ve taken in life to set me free hasn’t delivered. You see, the journey has weathered me and what I used to be—I am not—anymore, either. I am no longer so brash and confident in my manner. Instead I am a bit more tentative and thoughtful. And it’s true for us all. We hit this quiet crisis and try to work it through. Our plans have not gone as planned. Like God as he sits in the crisis of the silent close of the Old Testament we need another to lift us up.

 

This isn't a fairy tale.

This is the story seldom told.

Because it has to be felt in order to be heard.

Once again, Hollywood gets it right. It often does.

 

References (6)

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  • Response
    Superb Web-site, Keep up the great work. With thanks!
  • Response
    Response: Frank Dellaglio
    you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen" U2 - Journal - faith and belief
  • Response
    you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen" U2 - Journal - faith and belief
  • Response
    Response: Dr. Patel DDS
    you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen" U2 - Journal - faith and belief
  • Response
    you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen" U2 - Journal - faith and belief
  • Response
    you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen" U2 - Journal - faith and belief

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