Sunday, January 4, 2009

experiencing God, 2

to continue our thoughts on hearing the voice of God, we would say that the traditional way we think about hearing God's voice occurs when we say we hear God through the bible and other spiritual practices such as prayer and worship.

to this i would also add the church as mediating God’s voice. but, to say the church filters to us the voice of the LORD, even if it is true, is only ok as far as it goes. by this i mean there is much more content that needs to be poured into the word church.

there is a concept introduced to me by william j. abraham that will help us here. it's the catch-phrase: canonical theism. dr. abraham edited and contributed to a book by the same name. (go here) he defines canonical theism in 30 theses (go here). there are three of them i want to emphasize. i will quote a portion of #1 and all of #9, and i will end with #13:

Thesis I:
"Canonical theism is a term invented to capture the robust form of theism manifested, lived, and expressed in the canonical heritage of the Church. It is proposed as both a living form of theism and a substantial theological experiment for today..."

Thesis IX:
Canonical theism is intimately tied to the notion of the canonical heritage of the Church. The Church possesses not just a canon of books in its bible, but also a canon of doctrine, a canon of saints, a canon of Fathers, a canon of theologians, a canon of liturgy, a canon of bishops, a canon of councils, a canon of ecclesial regulations, a canon of icons, and the like. In short, the Church possesses a canonical heritage of persons, practices, and materials. Canonical theism is the theism expressed in and through the canonical heritage of the Church.

the word canon we take to mean the recognized, authoritative scriptures, practices and people coming out of the well-spring of the church's history.

one example will suffice. take the practice of what is called communion, or the mass, or the LORD'S supper -- the bread and the wine. to be sure, this practice means different things to different parts of the church, but all churches who practice this rite (sacred ceremony) also in some way experience the presence and the speech of God while doing so. in some parts of the church this is also called a sacrament, which means a practice where God is particularly present.

still another way to say this is to say that what activates the presence of God in the canonical practices of the church is the Holy Spirit. 

here, we close with dr. abraham again:

Thesis XIII:
The ongoing success of the canonical heritage of the Church depends on the continuing active presence of the Holy Spirit working through the relevant persons, practices, and materials.