The Gospel and the Catholic Church by A.M. Ramsey: An Appreciation and Discussion Part Two Michael Newnham and Duane W.H. Arnold

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  1. Shawn says:

    Part 2
    Maybe part of the problem is that we as a church, generally speaking, ascribe virtue to a variety of ideas that are of questionable value (especially in regards to actual virtue). In turn the church aspires towards these paltry substitutions for virtue and pats itself on the back as being the bastion of assurance in an ever-shifting world. Whether we applaud ourselves individually or collectively it is nothing but self-congratulation. I sometimes wonder does God really say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” to these aberrant expressions of the faith? It seems to me that everyone thinks that what they are doing to defend or propagate the faith will without a doubt hear those words from the Heavenly Father. But will they?
    I liken it to a friend and co-worker worked with my wife in accounting. This friend was always behind on her end of the month reconciliations. The reason for this may actually be very instructive. This business took in hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue in a month (millions in the busy season). There are always discrepancies that need to be noted. She would literally spend hours upon hours trying to reconcile the most menial differences. In most cases literally pennies. There were other receipts where the discrepancies totaled between 25-40k each. There were always at least three or four others. She was a star at majoring in the minors. This went on month after month and year after year regardless of how many times she was advised to work on the larger reconciliations.
    To her credit she was usually on time and dependable not to mention that because of her past she had a high tolerance for abuse. This work environment was highly abusive so they kept her despite of her preponderance for pennies. The point is that the church as culture is doing the same thing chasing politics and every perceived outside attack while missing the greatest receipt in their accounting books that needs to be reconciled, namely, sacrificial love and suffering.
    As for the idea of death as a normative expression of the Christian faith through sacrificial love and suffering this is something I am always processing. This is a very distinctive feature of Christ’s life and ministry. I think I could easily make an argument that death as a means of living, whether literal or metaphorical, is found consistently all throughout the Scriptures. One only has to think of the Prophets and the Apostles to make a strong case for it. Yet, the question remains, “Why does the church at large mainly ignore this vital aspect of faith despite the overwhelming Biblical evidence for it?” It is a question not easily answered though the answer is quite simple.
    It is a sad day when, “The message of the cross becomes foolishness” not only to those who are perishing but even to those who are being saved. I need to let that thought marinate for a minute. I once preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:18 and came to the conclusion that the cross is counterintuitive. In other words, for all intense purposes (lol!) the message of the cross is moronic or stupid. It definitely was for the Greek and the Jew. How much more would it be then to take something so culturally and physically appalling and positively appropriate it? When we understand the history and the context of crucifixion we know how radical a statement like, “pick up your cross and follow me,” really was/is. Then for the Apostle Paul to write, “I am crucified with Christ.” I am pretty sure that no one but God saw that coming.
    These statements requiring imitation and identification with the act of crucifixion could possibly be considered clinical insanity. We still do it today though with varying degrees of commitment or understanding. Take the old hymn that Chris Tomlin popularized, “Oh, the wonderful cross! Bids me come and die that I might live.” It is sad that many of the same Christians who sang/sing the words of that hymn are now caught up in these less than virtuous pursuits. It may not be the actual pursuit that is problematic in the light of virtue rather it is the practice and expression of it, that is alas cognitive dissonance at its finest.
    So where do we find ourselves at this point? Oh yes, I remember. While the message of the cross may be counterintuitive to all logic and reason. It is nonetheless the kernel that falls to the ground and dies to produce life afterwards. It is here that both the wisdom and power of God are found not only soteriologically but also as a means, the primary mean, of sanctification. It seems that imitation of this principle toppled more kingdoms, individual and collective, physical and metaphorical, than all the political positioning could ever hope to do. And we wonder why the meaning and place of the church is in Flux? The mirror reveals. Reflections reflect just who we are.

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