Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Priest Analyzes Western Theology

Fr Alvin Kimel, a catholic Anglican, has written a soul searching post about the western faith on his blog: Pontifications. (Lutherans might chuckle at the ironic name choice: Pontifications. Hehe... at least four jokes/snide remarks about the dogmas of the papacy are on the tip of my tongue right now.)

This is a rare glimpse into one man's honest look at a theological issue that is kept free from all of the dogmatic mumbo-jumbo and sectarian posturing. In addition to striking a fatal blow to the heartless doctrine of double Predestination, the author asks some interesting questions that we should all be asking about works-righteousness and making bargains with God. Interestingly, he identifies this sinful doubt of God's infinite love as the motive that spawned the "quid pro quo transactionalism" that Luther addressed in the Reformation. [For those who do not know Latin and have missed all 17 seasons of Dick Wolf's Law & Order: quid pro quo means "something for something".]

I am sure that Fr Kimel probably would never put it this way, but he correctly points to the fatal error that plagues all Christians: the desire to be self-justified through appeasement under the Law rather than simply embracing the free gift of the Gospel by faith alone. Fr Kimel writes a better argument for Sola Fide than I ever could. This wise priest then asks a million dollar question: "To what extent does this transactionalism still shape the spiritual lives of Catholics and Protestants today?" I would love to hear some of your answers to that question!

Incidental references to purgatory aside, this is a post that is definitely worth your time. The title is Disbelieving the Predestinarian God. Here is a sample:

Why do Western Christians fear God? Might not it be because the God who saves and damns in absolute, inscrutable determination still haunts our imaginations? When confronted with such a deity, we will always urgently ask the question “How can I get a gracious God?” Hidden deep below all conscious thought lies the knowledge that perhaps, just perhaps, God has abandoned us, abandoned “me,” unto perdition. And so God himself becomes our enemy. The holy Creator becomes Satan!

But even if the hard predestinarianism is pushed into the theological and homiletical background, it continues to do its insidious work. If we are unsure, even to the tiniest degree, that God wills the good of every human being—if “I” am uncertain that he wills “my” good—then we must find ways to negotiate with him. Hence the rise of that quid pro quo transactionalism that often characterized late medieval spirituality and church life, against which Martin Luther so powerfully protested. To what extent does this transactionalism still shape the spiritual lives of Catholics and Protestants today?

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