Prophesy, Visions, Dreams


Pentecost

May 20, 2018

Once again we find encouragement in Acts of Apostles: “ I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.”(Acts 2:17)

One Spirit, enlightening all people, across all ages. A cause for Pentecost celebration and again the source of our challenge. To speak out. To have a vision. To dream.

We live in strange times, when truth has become do-itself fantasy, violence has become a value, and the people who should speak out close their eyes, turn off their brains, and turn their backs in silence.

A fellow blogger, whom I greatly respect, Joris Heise (https://jorisheise.wordpress.com/about/), said it so clearly a few days ago:

“So much distrust, anger and hatred rise like weeds from our ignorance of one another. We see someone whom we don’t know – and who might look or talk different – and, too often, because our instinct is to fear what is different, to become uncomfortable with what is strange, we turn off the love of God. On the other hand, someone who follows Jesus – and who tries to be Jesus in our present world – sees another person of whatever kind as someone loved by God, and kept in existence by our loving Creator…..the love that God has for our world is within—inside ourselves, our conscience, and our mind, waiting to emerge. Only the habit of prejudice, the failure to grow up, an environmental culture of caution and fear – these keep us from feeling and expressing the love of God for our neighbor.”

So yes… in our prophetic witness, in our visions, and in our dreams the Spirit beckons. We are indeed human beings, made in the image and likeness of God. We have dignity. We have self-worth. We are multicultural brothers and sisters…not immigrant “animals,” as a Western head of state said last week. (First step down the road to genocide? It began that way once before.)

The signs of the times should be prophetic eye-openers.

Extreme Israeli violence against Palestinian protestors on the day the U.S. Embassy was opened In Jerusalem? At least sixty dead and thousands wounded. Many children and young people. Justified because the Palestinians are terrorists?

Meanwhile, some 40 miles away there was Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s closest evangelical advisers. He offered a prayerful reflection at the U.S. Embassy ceremonies in Jerusalem. Pastor Jeffress has strong religious convictions. Can one reconcile them with the message of Jesus? Or with historical American values? According to the Reverend, “God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.”

In my own RCC tradition, the signs of the times are historic. On Friday, May 18, every Roman Catholic bishop from Chile offered his resignation because of sex abuse and the cover-up scandal. Indeed, the biggest shakeup in the Catholic Church’s long-running sex abuse saga. At the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis in Rome, all thirty-one active bishops and three retired bishops signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope.

And that same Friday, as I was writing this reflection, nine students and one teacher were killed at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, South of Houston. Since 2000, there have been 213 school shootings in the USA. The highest number in other countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, and South Africa) 5.

Challenges abound. The Spirit has not abandoned us. It appears however that a lot of believers have abandoned the Spirit.

Warm regards this Pentecost.

Thanks for traveling with me!

Jack

Jadleuven@gmail.com

P.S.

I am not running away from the challenge. This week end, however, I am again stepping away from my blog for a while. Going on a kind of R&R retreat with my wife. A time to relax and escape to a quiet place. Time to reflect. Lots of thoughts going through my aging head; and I enjoyed a busy year, still teaching three classes a week. I hope to log in again towards the end of June. Another Voice is not gone. Just dreaming dreams.

Christian Humanism


Sunday 13 May 2018

The Path to the Divine, at the heart of Reality, is through Christian Humanism.

Erasmus of Rotterdam (c1466 – 1536) explored it already when he wrote in his Enchiridion Militis Christiani (1503) that God is simply the life of the human soul. Much earlier, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo (354-430) could write to God in his Confessions “When I recognize myself, I recognize you!” For Augustine, God is the inner illumination of the mind, which propels the self beyond itself into the Divine. God is the light of the world reflected in the human soul.

Augustine of course was echoing the Apostle Paul: “The God who made the world and everything in it is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands….From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God —though indeed God is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-28)

Christian humanism affirms that at the core of authentic human existence there is some revelation and experience of the authentically Divine.

Here then, for reflection and discussion, are ten affirmations about Christian Humanism:

1. Human beings possess capacities to sense, understand, and respond to events of transcendence manifest in everyday existence.

2. The sense of the transcendent, or what one could call ‘an instinct for the Divine,’ responds to real disclosures within the natural, historical, and lived experiences of Reality.

3. “God” names what is actually present in the power, depth, scope, intensity, and claim of life.

4. These disclosures of divinity within the natural and historical lives of peoples need to be read and interpreted like one reads a text. Sometimes one needs to learn the necessary language….

5. Human beings can gain real intimations of the Divine via signs of sacredness in the world around them. Some people are vision impaired……

6. A Christian humanist freely decides to sense, attend to, and reflect on those intimations of Divine presence in human lived experence.

7. Critical thinking remains a necessary moment in the interpretation of Divine disclosures.

8. Christian humanism demands that we develop a conscience that is self-critical. And to become people of conscience we adopt spiritual and religious practices that actualize our capacities to be aware of and open to the fullness of life.

9. Christian humanism aims at inculcating a vigilant faith, a resolute hope, and an abundant love as modes of openness to the Divine.

10. Christian humanism fosters attitudes and feelings of heartfelt gratitude, steadfast humility, and demanding compassion.

Disciplined attention to Christian humanism discloses that in spite of sorrow, pain, and agony, human life is nevertheless saturated with worth and that responsible human action is to draw together that goodness into a complete vision of life with others and for oneself.

That my friends is our big challenge.

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

A Constructive Contemporary Theological Agenda


Sunday — May 6, 2018

As I stressed last week: TODAY, we need to find a way to articulate the human experience of the Divine that reduces it neither to the extreme secularity of the “post-theistic theologians” nor to the unthinking and closed-minded certitude of the static believers. We need to find a way to understand the positive, substantive and normative meaning of transcendence as it makes a claim on human beings within contemporary historical existence: within contemporary culture.

We need to find a new theological language. As Paul Ricoeur had prophetically noted already in his “The Symbolism of Evil” (Beacon, 1967, p.349), “It is not regret for the sunken Atlantis that animates us, but hope for a re-creation of language.”

Contemporary people want the security of answers – yet much official contemporary religion seems to give them answers from a place far away from their daily lives. Indeed religious fundamentalism and static belief theology seems motivated by this longing for the sunken Atlantis!

I suggest five principles for the contemporary theological agenda:

(1) The AIM of theology cannot be a kind of nostalgic retreat to recover a lost mode of being in the world. (I often think about this when I see some conservative cardinals prancing around in their colorful late medieval costumes. And their language fits their red dresses.)

(2) Theological thinking today needs to feel and experience the “call” of the Sacred (the Faith experience) by interpreting and thereby re-creating the meaning and power of religious language.

(3) We also look for the resonance and dialogue with tradition: with the theological expressions of earlier cultures. We resonate with them not just repeat them again and again….

(4) A truly authentic theology can never be simply the expression of individual, subjective experience. We belong to a community of believers…the Body of Christ.

(5) Theology therefore relies on culture but can never become locked within a particular culture. Nor can it venerate exclusively any particular culture….. One should not expect, for example, that African believers should use Western European language and rituals nor should their Christian cousins in China. And none of us should feel comfortable with the thought categories of a Neo-Platonic creed from the fourth century. We live, think, and speak today….

All cultures perceive reality through their own particular lenses; and these lenses are shaped and adjusted by shared human events and great movements in human history.

Every healthy theology (because its focus is what lies within and yet beyond culture in all of its historical manifestations) is continually engaged in a critical reflection and a critique of the contemporary and previous cultures.

When a theology becomes so locked within a particular culture that it is hardly distinguishable from it, we are on the road to idolatry: when the words, symbols and rituals of a particular culture no longer communicate and connect people to the depth of the human experience but become objects of worship in themselves.

The road around both regressive static belief and exaggerated humanization is an authentic Christian humanism. And that is my focus for next week!

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com