Following ‘the Way’
This is repost of some reflections from a couple of years ago. In the midst of anguished world where there is much debate and disagreement around matters of belief its important to remember that being Christian is not simply adherence or belief in certain propositional truths. Being Christian is following Jesus, having a Jesus-shaped life and Scripture-shaped beliefs.
I met yesterday with the Committee on Examinations and the Committee on Ministry of Salem Presbytery, one of the final steps to being ordained in the Presbyterian Church. It was a pleasant experience. Committee members asked insightful questions and I hope that I provided at least some measure of insight in my responses.
These last two years have provided much opportunity to learn and discuss theology. What is a sacrament? What do you believe about baptism and the Lord’s Supper? How does this differ from the other Christian churches? Good questions.
In the midst of the question asking and answer, I came across this quote from Orthodox Bishop Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I found it encouraging and a helpful reminder that the essence of the faith is deeper than intellectual assent.
Christianity is not merely a philosophical theory or a moral code, but involves a direct sharing in divine life and glory, a transforming union with God, ‘face to face.’
Interestingly this quote from an Orthodox cleric reminded me of another quote from someone quite different. Henry Scougal (d. 1657) was a professor of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. He died young. One of the gifts of his life was a book he wrote by the title of The Life of God in the Soul of Man.
[T]rue religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the Divine nature, the very image of God is drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, ‘it is Christ formed within us.’
Two men. Different Christian traditions. Different centuries. A common theme. The very hear of the Christian faith is union to God in Christ and participation in the divine life such that we are transformed in ever increasing measure into the likeness of Christ.
This is a likeness that extends to the very texture of our lives. It extends beyond our inward, private moral choices (there really is no such things as a private moral action for the Christian anyway). As Sam Wells has put it, “I assume that the Gospels were intended to be pondered, word by word, action by action, scene by scene, by communities seeking to embody their faith in Jesus in practical acts of discipleship in the world” (Power and Passon 17). As followers of Christ we are about embodied faith, belief that manifests itself in inner transformation and concrete expression.
This is the sort of faith that can flow out of witnessing communities and transform the world.