Location: Texas, United States

Evangelical Anglo-Catholic Deacon in the Episcopal Church (Dallas). I also received a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary in Historical Theology and Pastoral Ministries and am completing a post-graduate certificate in Anglican Studies from Nashotah House Seminary.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Christian materialism, gnosticism, sacramentology and life

(copied over from my myspace, which I may do with a few others)

In Genesis 1:1, scripture says that "God created the Heavens and the Earth". Here, in the beginning of the Bible Judaism and Christianity are set apart from both an over-platonic philosophy on one hand and a crass materialism on the other. Our God is a God who made and loves the material, physical world and interacts with it throughout scripture.

Materialism, in its crass state of denying anything more spiritual, is in error. But this seems to be less a problem for Christians as that of over reacting and truly denying the goodness of matter. You see, unlike the Gnostics, Christians believe that God made the physical, material universe and called it "good". The Gnostics believed in contradistinction to orthodoxy that the real God, "Bythos" created only spirit and that along the line of Aeons (emanations) a demiurge was made who sinned by creating matter, and salvation is escape from the physical world. The historical Jesus of the Bible instead is found to be the ultimate denial of such a philosophy, for he is God incarnate, God made flesh (John 1:14). His resurrection also was physical, and he now sits in Heaven in a physical body and will return in a physical body.

In this sense then, Christians are materialists, we believe that the physical body is not a hindrance to our Spiritual lives, nor do we seek "escape" from the physical world. Instead we hope for the physical resurrection and fulfillment of the material world. God loves your physicality and interacts through physicality. Things such as physical enjoyment are then not evil, but blessings from God, whether be it in the form of recreation, entertainment, food or sex. Note that 1 Corinthians 19 says the Body is the Temple for the Holy Spirit, not the soul!

This also means that the idea of sacraments find vivid expression in that Christ is the ultimate sacrament. More then any other problem with accepting the sacraments, either Baptism or Eucharist, is getting around the mire of enlightenment rationalism that has stunted the spiritual growth of segments of the modern western church. This wasteland of semi-gnosticism built on a false foundation of only what people perceive with their senses has left a gaping hole for spirituality that can now only be fed by non-material over-subjective "spiritual" encounters, this when God has given a fully workable model to mirror his Son in the power of the sacramental life by bridging this gap between the rational/material existence with the spiritual in a way that keeps the focus on the objective promises of God and the goodness of God as not only redeemer but also material creator, is a plague on evangelicalism in the form of an anti-sacramentalism even farther then Zwingli would have dared tread.

So do not loose focus of Heaven, and surely store your treasure there, but also dont forget you were not made a soul "entrapped" in a body, but you are a body/soul in unison and when we Christians die we will be joyful at seeing our Lord but also long to be reunited to our physical bodies, glorified but still part of the physical, material world God intended things to be, which was demonstrated by his creation, by the incarnation and by the resurrection. Do not look down upon "sensual" worship, as if it is necessary for us to be as ghosts in Church so as not to taint worship with the physical. Nor look down upon your physical desires, given by God for his glory (the key is his glory, which sets the bounds!) As a great professor of mine said "you dont truly learn to love people, until you learn to, like God, love the humanness they are made from"


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