Dr Desmond Ford died this week. Here was a man. He opened a door for a community that lived blind in a tunnel of humbug – in another gospel - that bound people as individuals and as a tradition in narcissism and uncertainty. He had a brilliant mind and an abundance of grace.
As an academic he could appear to some to be distant and obsessed. He was obsessed. Obsessed with the truth because it is truth that sets people free from death in their souls and spirits. There are people like Ford who attract the displeasure of the religionist. Seen as villains by some, they bestride the Kingdom of life like a colossus, while the petty peep about under the huge legs perpetuating their notions of death from which they derive an identity of sorts and a kind of status that limits them to an existence in a false gospel and a false self.
We can limit ourselves to ‘what we have always believed.’ We can live this pedestrian phlegmatic religious life of routine plodding around our mulberry bush, erecting fictions against truth and barriers that keep out real life. Real life is a state of being, a state of being swept along in gale of unlimited life, yet perfectly safe in our life in God – in the Real Presence of living Wholeness and Adventure. Karl Barth talks of the wonder of theology that is more than positions and postulations but an absorption in life itself.
“Another kind of wonder assumes control over a man when he takes up the subject of theology. Certainly this amazement also obliges a man to wonder and compels him to learn. But in theological wonder it is a sheer impossibility that he might one day finish his lessons, that the uncommon might become common, that the new might appear old and familiar, that the strange might ever become thoroughly domesticated. If a man could domesticate this wonder, he would not yet have taken the step into theology, or he would already have stepped out of it again. Man is never dismissed from the wonder that forms the sound root of theology. The object of theology never encounters a man routinely as does an ordinary object of the world. Instead, it constantly hovers on the edge of his circle of reflection, however large the circle may be.” (1)
Once we cease to wonder; once we cease to follow Jesus whereever He wants to lead because we have come to the boundary of our personal and denominational suppositions we being to die. Torpor overcomes our sensibilities, stagnation becomes our norm and spiritual blindness our mode. We talk spirit and live letter and are not aware of our disease.
OLD COVENANT DECAY
Such torpor is our norm if we are unfortunate enough to have been socialised into the illusion of old covenant religion as the inheritance in which Christians are meant to live. Holy Spirit, the anointing and the gifts are incapable of fending of this progressive rigor mortice because the ‘gifts’ assume we are living in a new covenant life – a life in which we and Father are one and Jesus Himself, not the law or an agenda is our life. The incarnation heralded by Jesus’ miraculous signs is this wonder in action – a state of being that is Christ in you, Christ manifesting by His Spirit as you. There is nothing more astonishing that this.
A NEW BEGINNING
Barth speaking of the signs of Jesus observes, “As fundamentally astonishing stories, they function first of all in a formal way as a sort of alarm signal, which is the reason the New Testament likes to term them "signs." Scattered at times thickly and at other times more sparsely throughout the history of Immanuel, they alert the hearer and reader to a central fact: this history is concerned with a fundamentally new event which, although undoubtedly occurring within time and space, is not to be identified with other events occurring within the limits of time and space. This event springs up in their midst and is not some sort of continuation of what otherwise has happened or still happens in time and space.
The Word which is spoken and speaks in this history is a fundamentally new word. Although it undoubtedly exists within time and space, it can be heard only in this history and is not to be compared with any other words. When the biblical miracle stories excite serious and relevant wonderment, they intend to do this as signals of something fundamentally mentally new, not as a violation of the natural order which is generally known and acknowledged. This way they excite the type of wonderment from which no one can excuse himself once he has begun to pursue the subject of theology.” (2)
The new covenant is both theology and what God did and is doing in Jesus Christ. More than this it is what Jesus is doing in you. The incarnation is a present work, an ongoing mystery that sees Christ manifest in the world through ordinary folks who believe that Jesus is their life and that He is expressing Himself in them.
(1) Karl Barth. Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Kindle Locations 709-714). Kindle Edition. (2) Ibid. (Kindle Locations 737-744). Kindle Edition.