“If you really want to know Christ now, you have somehow to set aside the cloud of images and impressions that rule the popular as well as the academic mind, Christian and non-Christian alike. You must try to think of him as an actual human being in a peculiar human context who actually has had the real historical effects be did, up to the present. You have to take him out of the category of religious artifacts and holy holograms that dominate presentations of him in the modern world and see him as a man among men, who moved human history as none other.
You must not begin with all of the religious paraphernalia that has gathered around him or with the idea that his greatness must be an illusion generated by an overlay from superstitious and ambitious people—mainly that “shyster” Paul–who wanted to achieve power for their own purposes.
Just look at his teaching and his influence for what it has been through the ages—there is really no secret about that—and be clear-minded and fair in your estimate of what kind of person could have brought such teachings and influence upon human life.”
Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today
Often as God increases our ministry and impact it can feel as though we are moving in reverse. Life seemingly become more difficult. Spiritual attack increases, isolation from others becomes more palpable, the life of spiritual freedom begins to feel heavy.
Be assured that this is because God is working deep within, exercising spiritual muscles never before used; transforming areas never before exposed to His light.
At these moments it is essential to recognise what is going on through spiritual rather than earthly eyes. Freedom is found not in walking away from this growth, but into it.
“A culture – a civilization—is only as great as the religious ideas that animate it; the magnitude of a people’s cultural achievement is determined by the height of its spiritual aspirations.
The eye of faith, presumes to see something miraculous within the ordinary the moment, mysterious hints of of an intelligible order calling out for translation into artefacts.”
David Bentley Hart
Jackson Pollock became a sensation in the art world of the 1950’s . For centuries everyone had used brushes; yet here was this man, like a dancer, dripping paint with sticks. The paint whirled through the air creating storms of colour that would hang in the air, before splashing across the canvas, creating huge, complex fields of patterned texture.
It was so contemporary. So cutting edge. So modern.
Holding it all together however was one piece of convention and tradition. An anchor of orthodoxy which allowed Pollock to ride upon the waves of creativity. It was the canvas.
The white stretched material created a frame of reference. A set of boundaries, a rectangular limitation.
Without this blank canvas, Pollock’s breakthrough abstract expressionist paintings would not hang in the greatest modern galleries of the world. Instead they would simply be dropped paint, mopped off of Pollock’s studio floor long ago.
It was the orthodoxy of the blank canvas which gave Pollock’s the freedom to truly create.
Our world is obsessed with creativity. It drives our dreams and our economy. Yet our world seeks creativity without limits, restrictions and tradition. This is the heartbeat of modernity. An attempt for the self to be utterly free of restrictions and limits. Ironically this is what ultimately imprisons us. Our desire to live without limitations and definition creates a culture which has turned upon itself; a self hating anti-culture.
Long ago the creator, when forming the universe, set in the grain of the cosmos limits, traditions and restrictions. The Word walked amongst us, his breath fell onto pages of scripture. Dogma and doctrine was formed. Humans needed orthodoxy.
The source of all creativity understood that to be truly creative, humankind needed these limits and restrictions, to soar upon the wind we needed to be tethered to a line held by the creator himself. We needed the orthodoxy of the blank canvas.
Orthodoxy without creativity is still true, but it remains upon the shelf unused, stale and irrelevant.
Creativity without orthodoxy ultimately destroys itself. Sawing off the branch upon which it stands.
However when you marry creativity and orthodoxy. When you realise that doctrine, dogma and orthodoxy is the canvas, you begin to dance like Pollock, filling the world with magnificent arcs of colour.
“The source of freedom for today’s ministers in located at the very heart of their vocation. The source lies not in their professional status or their current location along the trajectory of a career. It lies in the fact that they serve the living God, who is no respecter of persons, in the fact that they are the servants of his Word and Son, before whom all will be judged. It is this understanding that gives ministers the freedom to remain in one location however long it takes to make theological truth a central and effective part of their ministry, regardless of whether their careers pass them by in the meantime.”
David F. Wells, No Place For Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology
“Success exposes a man to the pressures of people and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains by means of fleshly methods and practices, and to let himself be ruled wholly by the dictatorial demands of incessant expansion.
Success can go to my head and will unless I remember that it is God who accomplishes the work, that he can continue to do so without my help, and that he will be able to make out with other means whenever he wants to cut me out.”
The Christian faith at different times during its history has had to confront differing concepts of individuality, each of which deeply shapes how we do ministry and which presents the Church with unique challenges. The Church of the early medieval period ministered in a culture with a very different understanding of self. Our modern day sense of radical individuality would have seemed strange to medieval individuals. The early medieval individual saw themselves as part of a great chain of being.
Europe was Christianized not soul by soul, but rather by decree as rulers declared their kingdom’s Christian. This sounds unusual to us, but not so to a culture with a weak idea of personal freedom and individuality. The entire shape, structure and apparatus of the medieval Church was built around this collective idea of culture and faith.