Friday, April 11, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 4/9 Posting & More on the Third Commandment

Our discussion in and around the Third Commandment brings the following to mind.

(1) From my perspective, a sociological approach to "religion" has limited benefits. Yes, it helps us understand some of the roles(postive & negative) played by religion, but it cannot penetrate the inner heart of religion. Spirituality, personal journey, experience of the presence of God, calling and a host of other terms or phrases attempt to describe the matter. All, of course, fall short. This "heart" lies within religion (theological structures, institutional frameworks,the individual, etc.). At any time it may insist on being heard, whether through a single voice or a movement. So...I think the "conscience" of religion resides within it, however deeply hidden at times. In Christian terms, I'm talking about the presence and work of Holy Spirit, interfacing with the new kind of life God grants the individual.

All of the above is tied to the conviction that God is a work to save, reclaim, restore (pick your terms)not only individuals but the whole of creation, even structures. Since this work takes place in history, it is inherently messy.

(2) Would you argue seriously that modern Christianity or Reformed Judaism (to pick two examples) is characterized by a Bronze or Iron Age worldview? I think it more accurate to say the scriptures of both took shape in those eras. Both religious traditions, though, continue to rework their understanding and application of the scriptures. In short, they are living religions in which not only the scriptures but experience, reason, internal and external conversations, and (hopefully) the Spirit of God act to modify positions.

(3) All of which leads me back to the Third Commandment. Taken seriously, the commandment becomes a lodestone, leading a person of faith to practice serious self-restraint when it comes to speaking in the name of God. Practicing such self-restraint, in turn, helps us learn to distinquish our personal or culturally conditioned perspectives from whatever God's might be. Over time, we may even learn to start to say to ourselves: "Well, now. If I can't claim God endorses my position, just where did it come from?" Such a question may drive us to seek and confront the mundane, but powerful, sources of our narrowness. We may even feel compelled to abandon positions we've held and go in search of better ones. All this is part of spiritual formation.

Viewed in this manner, the Third Commandment's reach extends far beyond the court room. It penetrates into the deepest recesses of personal and institutional religion.

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