I was reminded of Soren Kierkegaard’s famous and oft misunderstood phrase, “leap of faith,” when I heard an Orthodox acquaintance talking about faith. The generally accepted starting point for an Orthodox understanding of faith is that it is a mode of perception. This is often a problematic starting point for us Romance Language people because our typical starting point is influenced by the Latin word fidere, which primarily means “trust.” Let’s just set aside “trust” for a moment; we’ll circle back to it momentarily.

God is not physical, so when we say, “God spoke to me,” or “I know God dwells within me,” we must necessarily mean something different than what would typically be understood as the literal meaning of those statements. God cannot “literally” speak and so you must mean that metaphorically, says the critic. And yet, our communion with God is far more than metaphor, or it is not Christian.

Ah, but we moderns have tended to reduce the world to that which we can study with the scientific method broadly defined. The physical world is subject to scrutiny with the scientific method and that study has been amazingly fruitful, so it is understandable that many assume that the physical world is all there is.

And indeed it is if we limit ourselves to touch, taste, smell, sight, etc. But the fathers have argued that there is yet another seat of perception that is mostly overlooked because it has atrophied as a result of sin. This is the mysterious inner being that we might call the heart, or soul, or innermost self. It is capable of perceiving and communicating with reality that is not physical, but real all the same.

Since faith, as a mode of perception, is atrophied (a consequence of spiritual death) it takes specific and intentional effort to develop it and to recognize what it is that the heart is perceiving. This is, by the way, where the spiritual tradition of Orthodox Church excels, and why there is such a heavy emphasis on the monastic life – not that everyone should be a monastic, but rather that monasticism be wide spread enough that everyone can engage with its fruits.

Once we begin to learn to perceive this otherwise hidden reality with our hearts, all the other facets of faith come into focus. We can trust because we actually know God, and are not merely hoping that he’s listening. We can hope – not blind hope, but Christian hope – because we know the actual faithfulness of God. Actual revelation of the Living Word of God (the favored title of the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Orthodoxy) to us occurs because we have an actual mode of perception to to receive such revelation.

This is the stuff that Kierkegaard intuited and tried to express in his writings. His context was Lutheran pietism, and that severely limited his language set. Pietism spoke of the warming of the heart, the personal (and arguably, the emotional) attachment to God. But without a thorough knowledge of faith as a mode of perception, Kierkegaard recognized that the movement was built on shifting sand.

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard said,

When we objectively investigate the truth, we reflect objectively about the truth as an object to which we are related. We do not reflect upon the relationship, but upon the fact that it is the truth – the truth to which we are related.

This is where his language set falls short. He recognizes that truth is not experiential in the Lutheran pietistic sense, but it has an inevitable and necessary relationship to experience. Because the Truth is living, it is not merely an idea that we incorporate, it actually changes us. And because this entrance into a new sort of truth that is not rationalistic or empirical is an utterly foreign experience for those of us whose (and here I must fall back on Orthodox language) mode of perception for such this is utterly atrophied, the first step is, in a sense, a leap into the unknown.

But it is not that it is actually “unknown,” it is rather that it is unknown to our tried and true modes of perception, which we can categorize as empirical evidence. So the leap is not into something utterly unknown, but rather a leap into something that we know not how to know. As Mary said when Gabriel told her that she was pregnant with our Lord, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” The leap of faith is really just a matter of acknowledging that which we know, but we cannot know through “normal” means. It is a matter  of saying, “yes.”

Long before Kierkegaard, Anselm figured out the same thing. He called it “faith seeking understanding” (an active form of faith as a mode of perception). His explorations of this phrase proved to be bedrock for those that understood that Kierkegaard was on to something (Barth, the Torrance brothers, Alasdair McGrath, etc.). As an aside, Anselm’s slim book Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man) is brilliant exposition of this theme. His expositions unquestionably led me to doubt the whole foundation of Protestant epistemology … the consequence of which was my eventual move into the Orthodox Church, which embraces precisely what Anselm was trying to say on this specific subject. (His theory of salvation was not nearly as insightful.) It is sad that nearly all my Orthodox brethren condemn him vociferously and viciously. They’re reading the wrong the parts of the book! … but I digress.

It’s one of those sublime places where east and west meet: Faith is best understood as a mode of perception. That is the starting point into this mysterious way of knowing, an acceptance of what is and an acknowledgement that we don’t instinctively know how to get there from here. I would argue that “leap of faith” is not a particularly good way to describe it, but it seems that this is the direction Kierkegaard was headed when he said it. It is certainly what Anselm had in mind a few centuries earlier. It is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of faith.


Considering Our Own “Works of the Law”

Yesterday’s Epistle in the Daily Common Lectionary was Gal 3:1-14, which is Paul’s diatribe against the Galatians concerning their “works of the Law.” As a brief aside, I have covered at great length through the years the fact that the Pauline corpus as a whole isn’t opposed works. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We should adorn ourselves with good works (1 Tim. 2:10). He commends others to “be rich in good works” (6:18). And of course, there is his warning about people who “profess that they know God, but in their works they deny him …”

Paul’s beef is with a very specific problem: “the works of the Law.” The culture in which Christianity began was Hebrew culture where the Old Testament system of life and sacrifices, as dictated by the Law, had become the means of appeasing God. (As Paul clearly points out, this wasn’t authentic Hebrew religion, which was actually one of faith in God, it was a bastardization of Hebrew religion.)

Reading this text yesterday I couldn’t help but think of the standard things that my fellow travelers in men’s group say about what they have to do in order to maintain their faith. If they don’t go to church … if they don’t come to men’s group every week … if they don’t take time read the Bible and pray every day … then they are no longer close to God. That’s the stuff that makes their relationship with God tick. (This is not limited to men’s group, by the way. This same attitude goes back to many years of pastoral ministry.)

It’s what Paul is talking about, except it’s clothed in a different religious culture. One might call it “the works of Feeling Good About God” or “the works of My Spiritual Pick-Me-Up.” It niggles at me that when we live this way, we’re not living by faith at all, we’re living by works (or in this case feelings) that support a sense that I’m okay with God.

I’m not okay with God because of the Hebrew Law, men’s group, daily prayer, etc. I’m okay with God because of Jesus was incarnate, lived with us, died for us, and offers life to the world. It simply requires faith to believe that fact and accept it. Don’t get me wrong. We are “created in Christ for good works,” but all of that other stuff doesn’t make me good with God; God has taken care of that. All that other stuff should be aimed very specifically at incorporating this God-given life into my being so that I am transformed into the divine life to which I’m called, or, in Paul’s words our “upward calling.” It is in Christ Jesus (and nothing else) that the blessing of Abraham comes upon us, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (v 14). Amen.

On Allowing Virtue to Minister to our Faith

I have always been fascinated by 2 Peter.

Well, “always” being as far back as when we translated portions of it, along with 1 Peter, in Advanced Greek in Bible College. The first chapter has that wonderfully scandalous (from a Protestant perspective) verse about actually participating in God. When translating it became painfully obvious that the two epistles had different authors. This latter problem was the very reason Mr. Parkhurst made us have a go at translating portions of the two Peters. I have always wondered what he actually made of the book, because he would never say; he would just smile his sly smile and remind us that it is in the New Testament, after all. (The official position of the college – a position that could get one kicked out of school if student, faculty, or janitor dared to disagree – was that the Apostle Peter wrote both epistles that bear his name.)

These difficulties – and the fact that we dared not talk about them outside of class, given the rigid conservative views of Big Sky Bible College, thus creating a sort of secret knowledge club among those of us in Advanced Greek – made me a passionate lover of the epistle. Bible College students are by nature of the Bible College experience a conservative bunch, and so it was that 2 Peter was a key part of what might be called my college rebellion experience.

The downside of this history is that it has always been difficult for me to talk about 2 Peter without descending into a “gotcha mentality” or using the book as a springboard for argument rather than a text of scripture. With the Feast of Transfiguration being recently celebrated (Aug.6) my attention has once again focused on 2 Peter because the first chapter is one of the great Transfiguration texts, but this year I wondered what would happen if I could somehow set aside my long history of 2 Peter as a college rebellion text and take a fresh look at it as scripture.

Even when attempting a new mindset, I am struck by how odd the letter is. It is less a well thought out missive and more a rant and therefore doesn’t lend itself to an outline. It is broadly divided into three sections: (1) Minister to your faith by practicing virtue. [1:1-11] (2) There is good teaching and false teaching; avoid the false teaching – and let’s say lots of bad things about the false teachers. [1:12-2:22] (3) God is patient with our foibles and this should spur us on to zeal in doing good. [3:1-18]

The second section, his rant about and lurid description of false teachers contrasted to his own holy experience, makes up more than 53% of the epistle. The first section is less than 16% of the letter and the last section is less than 31%. In that long section ranting about false teachers, the only thing we find out about them is that they somehow deny the second coming of Christ. It’s not even clear what form that denial takes. It’s a very broad stroke against a rather shadowy opponent.

This middle section is great grist for the mill of college age rebellion. It is vague enough that it can be applied to a large number of perceived enemies, and the language is so colorful and mean-spirited that it provides great sound bytes for any rant that a college radical might want to concoct on his own – not that I ever did anything of the sort. 🙂

But it occurs to me, now that I’ve mellowed with middle age, that this is one of the great strengths of the book. False teaching is very creative and ever changing. If the author were to define his opponents too narrowly we might miss the fact that the type of false teachers he’s talking about are always with us. The specifics may change, but they are typical in that they always deny or distort some fundamental truth of the Gospel. The problem isn’t just these false teachers in particular but false teaching in general.

Similarly, the author spends little time defining our faith, our call, and our election. He has a profound trust in the Church; although it is not stated explicitly, it is implied that there is a place in which one can find trustworthy witness to the Truth. Certainly the truth can be found in Peter and Paul (although  there are things that are hard to understand in Paul according to 3:16), and by implication that line of witnesses and leaders that have remained faithful to this revelation; in other words, the true Church.

In this day and age that is admittedly problematic. There are at least five great traditions of Church life (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Scholastic Protestantism/Evangelicalism, and Pentecostal/Charismatic). Each group supposedly has cause to find heresy in the other four groups (as well as in their own broad traditions). So it is critical that we seek to remain zealous and faithful to both the Living Christ and to the tradition in which we believe that the Living Christ is best expressed — “Lone Ranger Christianity” is simply not an option because we are too prone to interpreting scripture to our own advantage, leading to our being carried away by the siren song of the same self-indulgent false teaching of which 2 Peter rails.

The thing that 2 Peter does, possibly better than any other single book of the New Testament, is to describe how the relationship between faith and works should actually work in our lives. This brilliant description is found in the first section of the epistle.

He begins by stating emphatically that faith is given by God. We cannot manufacture it within ourselves. We obtain faith in the righteousness of God (1:1). This righteousness is revealed emphatically and with great glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, to which Peter (as well as the unnamed James, and John) were eyewitnesses. They didn’t make it up; they saw it. As witnesses, they reported it. And as we become “partakers in the divine nature” we too experience and know it, not as some feeling or intuition, but as a given reality in which we know through participation.

And then we are called to do something very specific with that faith: we are to minister to that faith that has been placed into our being. Here I am not talking about ministers as “Preachers” or “Priests” or “Ministers of  Word and Sacrament.” Instead, the word “minister” is more akin to servants or people given a specific task. Members of the Canadian cabinet, or as they call it, “the Ministry” (as in many other countries) are “ministers of the crown.” The “Minister of Foreign Affairs” is given the task of ensuring that Canada’s foreign affairs are in order and that Canada’s place in the world is enhanced through his ministry.

In the same way 2 Peter tells us to minister to our faith. That is, we should do things that strengthen, enhance, and deepen our faith. The RSV translation is a bit misleading. In 1:5 it says, “For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue …” The Greek word translated “supplement” is a little used (in the New Testament) Greek word, epichoregeo, which means “to minister to or to assist.” This is what nurses and household assistants do. It is why secretaries are often considered more critical to an effective office than their boss. “Ministers of Finance” don’t have the money, nor do they control the money; but their action or inaction can cause the money supply to expand or contract  in such a way that can make an economy grow or fail.

Similarly our works do not create faith nor are they the same thing as faith, but they do minister to our faith and are so important that they can make that faith grow or fail. Second Peter offers up a list of works or virtues that come straight out of Greek Stoicism: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Paul has similar lists. I suspect the point is not to exegete each one of these terms, but rather to recognize that the things we do in order to minister to our faith must be pretty broad based and involve every part of our lives and thinking. It is not enough to just read spiritual literature, neither is it enough to go out and build houses for the poor. Each of those are excellent activities, but our efforts must be holistic rather than narrow. In the Orthodox Church this effort is summed up by the three words “prayer, alms, and fasting.” The Roman Catholics are especially fond of Paul’s seven virtues. The Presbyterians are especially known for their work in the world, the Mennonites and Methodists for the holy life, and the Evangelicals for their missionary service. All of these are expressions of this singular idea that we must minister to our faith if our faith is to flourish.

James says “that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:25). Paul was not especially good at explaining how the two are related. He says that salvation is by faith alone in Romans and Galatians, but in Ephesians he observes that we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (2:10). It always feels like Paul struggled with a dichotomy between the two. It is the author of 2 Peter who manages to explain how faith is utterly preeminent and yet completely powerless without the virtues. Our works minister to our God-given faith, making it something useful and salvific.

Striking that chord, which rings from ancient times into eternity, of the perfect harmony of faith and works is one of the great gifts 2 Peter offers Christians through the ages. In this most recent consideration of the book, that is this glorious truth I saw and I revel in. Thanks be to God.

Is the Christian Life All About Knowing God?

My brother called me a couple of months ago and asked, “What is Gnosticism?” Well, that’s an open-ended question, given the diffuse character of the Gnostic mindset, and so I gave a rather diffuse and open-ended answer. I should have questioned him further because it turns out that a speaker at his church had accused contemporary Evangelicalism of being Gnostic. That’s something that is far easier to nail down. This essay deals with the side that’s easier to nail down and leaves the question of the vaguely gnostic mindset that permeates our society for another time.

In the context of contemporary Evangelicalism, it is simplest to say that one of the main things that made Gnosticism a heresy was its assumption that salvation was a form of knowledge. (By the way, if you didn’t make the connection, the English word “know” is something of a transliteration of the Greek word gnosis. A “Gnostic” is literally a “knowledge person.”) It is therefore easy to accuse Protestantism of the Gnostic heresy because in Protestant (and especially Evangelical) shorthand, salvation is knowing. (Remember J.I. Packer’s runaway best-seller, Knowing God?) Salvation is believing Jesus Christ and accepting his message by faith. Protestantism, because of it’s emphasis on the Bible, and because it matured alongside the Enlightenment, is a very rational sort of approach to Christianity. The simplistic approach is to say that since Gnosticism is a heresy, and Protestantism is a lot like Gnosticism, Protestantism is therefore a heresy.

And let’s face it, that’s overly simplistic … and simplistic is usually dangerous.

Accusing some denomination or flavor of contemporary Evangelicalism of being Gnostic (very popular at the moment) is sort of like accusing a political movement of being Fascist. First and foremost, both are emotional rather than rational arguments because the actual meaning of either “Gnostic” of “Fascist” is rather vague but fraught with emotional freight.. Second, both are anachronistic, because the things that made Fascism what is was were specific to the the time between the two wars, just as the things that made Gnosticism what is was were specific to the intersection of Jewish, Hellenistic, and Christian thought of the second and third centuries C.E.

But back to the original issue: How is knowledge of Jesus Christ related to the Christian life? there is a beautiful passage in Philippians 3 where Paul piles image upon image, indicating some of the faces of the multifaceted jewel that is our goal in the Christian life:.

8 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Notice that “knowing Christ” is emphasized twice in this passage: “The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” and “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” But “knowing” is not the goal. Paul not only wants to know him, he wants to “be found in him” (v 9). He wants a “righteousness from God” (v 9). Verse 10 sounds like building blocks, beginning with knowledge and then moving beyond that to “the power of his resurrection,” sharing in his suffering,” and “becoming like him in his death,” all of these building blocks leading to a specific kind of life: “that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

It’s the last part of the passage that gets at what I suspect makes it so easy to accuse Protestantism, and Evangelicalism  in particular, of Gnosticism. Paul is working hard; he’s an apostle, and he’s not even sure he will attain the resurrection. In other words, the Christian life is hard; it’s expensive; it’s action oriented.

From the beginning the Protestant movement has had a weakness toward what Bonhoeffer (a WWII Protestant pastor killed by the Nazis) called “cheap grace” and what is often called “easy believism” today. (I mention Bonhoeffer to remind us that this is not a brand new phenomenon.) It also needs to be noted that easy believism is rampant all across the Christianity of the wealthy, industrialized Western world. Orthodox priests rail against it regularly. The lack of life-changing commitment in the Roman Catholic church is scandalous. But conservative Protestantism, with its unique emphasis on empirical knowledge in conjunction with easy believism, almost always takes the brunt of the Gnostic accusation.

True salvation, the real Christian life, is not knowledge, it’s experience or activity. It’s “gaining” Christ and then being “in him” (to borrow Paul’s phrase from vv. 9-10. It is knowledge, but it is knowledge that leads to suffering, death, and resurrection. It is not bringing the message of God down into my head, it is moving upward toward God (v. 14).

Of course this message is not foreign to mainstream Evangelicalism at all. The particular way that Evangelicals (especially those with some Reformed sensibilities) emphasize Christ alone, scripture alone, and faith alone can obscure the the Apostle Paul’s strong emphasis on “the obedience of faith” (Romans) and pressing on toward the prize of Jesus Christ (Philippians) as well as the more mystical sense of being “in Christ” (or as John puts it, being “one with Christ” and Peter’s “partaking in the divine nature”). But let’s be honest, that’s rather different than being an outright Gnostic.

In review: What was Gnosticism? In this context, it was a world view and eventually a Christian heresy that believed in a special knowledge (in contrast to activity or transformation) that was salvific. Is Evangelicalism Gnostic?  No. But since much of contemporary society has many Gnostic tendencies and Protestantism and Evangelicalism have a particularly knowledge-oriented relation to the Bible and their understanding of salvation, it is certainly easy to understand why the accusation pops up so frequently.

Singing and Sulking

This is from a lecture by Dr. Christine Mangala Frost, a venerable resource person at the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge, UK. She is referring to the poetry of the hymns in the divine liturgy.

In poetry, “faith” is standing happily among the angels and singing – whether in or out of harmony is irrelevant – but to sing, and not to fuss about it all being unseen. And not to have faith would then mean to stand among the angels (because one cannot escape that) and to sulk. It’s your choice. Are we going to sing or are we going to sulk?

All this raises a question beyond that of singing or sulking: Do you have a sense of “standing among the angels” when you are praying the liturgy? As Dr. Frost says, “it’s unavoidable.” And it’s one of the beautiful aspects of Orthodoxy.

A follow-up of faith, exercise and striving

I’m still thinking about my last post where I called the following statement an Evangelical platitude: “In order for one to have faith, a person must exercise it.” I think some clarification may be in order. I call this a platitude, not because it is platitudinous in its essence, but rather that it has become one of those things that we Christians tend to say without considering the gravity of it.

Whoever first said that true faith requires us to exercise it said something profound and necessary. This is James’ point when he says that faith without works is dead. The point of all this is that faith is more than mental assent; it’s an attitude (or a posture) which inevitably leads to action.

Over and over the church has rediscovered that the talk is easy and the walk … well, not so much. That’s why there’s been a very long line of Christians taking it the extra step beyond what most of the rest of the Christians were doing. We could go all the way back to those first ascetics who left Jerusalem and Alexandria for the desert, in order to strive against sin and strive in the direction of God. And in that same tradition would be contemporary Protestant movements, such as the Navigators (at least as they were 20 or 30 years ago) who understood it wasn’t good enough to merely assent. Faith required action.

“In order for one to have faith, a person must exercise it,” is a platitude only so far as it is a profundity that we tend to take for granted. That’s why hearing the same sentiment from a different tradition … in this case, a monk from Mt. Athos … is always helpful to wake us from our slumber. As the deacon says several times throughout the Divine Liturgy: “Pay attention!” He says it because more often than not that’s what we need to do.

Exercising One’s Faith

The Greek word “askesis” is equivalent to the English word “exercise.”  The English word athlete comes from this same Greek word “askesis.”  It is transliterated into English as “ascetic” or “asceticism.” With this in mind, we can realize that the following two sentences use the same terms in much the same way, although it seems they have a very different force. The first is a common American Evangelical platitude:

In order for one to have faith, a person must exercise it.

The other comes from the Introduction to Archimandrite Sophrony’s book St. Silouan the Athonite:

Faith entails ascetic striving.

A Word on Works

I don’t know if this was intended or one of those odd little mistakes that manages to make profound sense, but Fr John Morris, pastor of St George Orthodox Church in Vicksburg, said the following this morning, in relation to the Dormition Feast:

Those who do good works will go to heaven while those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell to await the final judgment.

Let me be clear that Fr John doesn’t believe you go to heaven by merely doing good works. The statement about good works could have been a slip of the tongue because the Gospel text he just quoted (Mt. 25:35ff) referred to salvation in terms of good works rather than the more “traditional” (in the Pauline qua Protestant sense) faith in Christ. But it juxtaposes two biblical ideas in precisely the right manner.

What saves us is belief in Christ. But belief is not merely an idea or an attitude, it is something that starts in the heart/mind/will and necessarily works its way out into the actions. Claiming to believe Christ (and thus deserve salvation) and not do good works is still a rejection of the real Christ.

I’m writing this on a high school campus in the Presbyterian tradition, so I need to add that good works in and of themselves are no better than embracing an idea (even a good idea like “Jesus saves”) in and of itself. In other words, naked belief is no better than naked works. The two intertwine and ultimately coinhere when either expresses true commitment to Jesus Christ. So whether spoken by accident or intentionally, I believe Fr. John got it just right:

Those who do good works will go to heaven while those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell to await the final judgment.

Faith and Theology

On the way to looking for something else (about Anselm) I ran across this definition from Daniel Migliore:

If Christian faith is basically trust in and obedience to the freely gracious God made known in Jesus Christ, theology is faith asking questions and struggling to find at least provisional answers to these questions. [Faith Seeking Understanding, p. 2]

Now that is a classic Presbyterian/Reformed definition of faith and theology. (And this slim volume is one of the great introductions to Reformed theology, by the way. A must read for anybody that wants an alternative the excessive rationalism of the Westminster divines.) I especially like Migliore’s Trinitarian emphasis (echoes of Barth at this point) that faith is not faith in Christ, but rather faith in God through Christ (or as Migliore says it, “faith in God made known in Jesus Christ”).

That being said, I was struck by how far I’ve moved from this classically Presbyterian posture rooted in Anselm and championed by Barth, and then especially the Torrance brothers. (I’m not trying to drop names by the way, but rather provide readers with my theological mentors and intellectual trajectory.)

Following Anselm’s lead (ie, “faith seeking understanding”), this approach is a very intellectual pursuit. True faith produces questions (ie, intellectual dilemmas). Active faith, in turn, seeks to answer those questions (Anselm’s “faith seeking understanding”).

But today I was struck by how far off the mark this posture is. True faith, I would argue, produces, not intellectual dilemmas (at least not primarily intellectual dilemmas), but rather relational and moral dilemmas. What I am drawn to and dance around as a result of my faith is not a struggle to find answers, but rather a struggle to find my place in this love affair I have with God in Christ. The question isn’t, “What does this mean?” it’s “Why in the world ought I do this rather than that?”

And the choice of postures profoundly affects one’s understanding of theology as intellectual pursuit or response of the heart (or more technically, response of the nous).

The Anonymous God Blogger recently linked to an article about Kierkegaard by Jamie Moran. In the second paragraph Moran observes of Kierkegaard,

“Like all existentialists, he says the distinctions that matter in life are not hard to make so much as hard to face. Facing up to faith is extremely difficult: most human beings, especially the religious, falsify faith because they want to avoid what faith asks of them in their action, what it asks them to give in their living.” [from “Faith as a ‘Leap of Passion'”].

This is the difference between the intellectual posture expressed by Migliore and the relational posture that imbues Orthodoxy:

When we come face to face with God in Christ, the posture of faith is not hunching over a desk frantically searching to find out, “What does this mean?” It’s rather falling on our face before the Master crying, “I am unclean!”