Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Priori Liturgy as Narrative; What's the Point


A priori means something is based on hypothesis rather than experiment: (a priori knowledge) or that something is self-evident or intuitively obvious.

Liturgy usually refers to the predetermined or prescribed set of rituals that are performed, usually by a religion as an official act of worship or as a specific structured type of service (marriage, funeral, baptism, etc.) of the Christian church. This is in keeping with a view of God as proprietary, sensible, rational and seeks to maintain the deepest sense of reverence and the sacred context of worship.

Liturgical worship is viewed by some evangelicals as the quenching of the Spirit and a dry, non-emotional, arranged format of worship not worthy of a God of transformation and creativity.

Narrative is telling a story, the systematic, chronological, absurd, discordant recitation of an event or series of events recounting my story, your story, our story, HIStory and in the midst of this rhetorical narrative God is viewed in varying degrees as being, unmanageable, dangerous, liberating, and merciful. (Its usually about personal context)

A priori liturgy is a misnomer, the two thoughts are polarized positions dictating a cause and effect relationship derived from opposite directions. Liturgy seeks to create via 'a law' or a form the creation of an experience which is in accordance with acts and actions and will as a result of the succession of events have determined results and benefits. A priori approaches the problem of cause and effect as undetermined, infinite in possibilities, suggestive of the implications, although maintaining the hypothetical aspect for all reasonable expectations of present and future consequence. Liturgy approaches from common ground, assuming that all relate and associate from the same origin, having the same experience without any distortions or dissimulations. A priori approaches from an understanding of the divergent grounds of the experience of people, assuming that imagination, invention and experience are arbitrary and random, therefore relationship is founded upon the coincidental and accidental crossing of paths in life. In the discussion about life all sides have validity. Within the Christian Church the seemingly polarized thoughts and concepts, although divisive, can be unifying in that they continue to place before us a God who can never be reduced to any form conditional to human conception and thereby removing Him from His transcendence and place as the Supreme Author of all that is.

In all the discussions revolving around the Church, the fact that the Church needs to change? the Church must become missional? the Church must define or redefine missional? current culture demands a new approach to how we do Church? Church is not the same as it use to be? and that if change does not occur the Church will die? there seems to be a lack of a consistent value of the Church as an entity existing to promote the glory of God. We do not attend Church or go to Church; we are the Church. This essence of what the Church should be about? is undervalued by our current society and there remains little or no emphasis to place the Church as a prominent feature of everyday life in the people of our time. The question of it being 'just a place' has been addressed (no pun intended) by the creation of Home Churches and small groups operating as sanctioned or non-sanctioned para-church options, with varied success. The question of worship-styles and the quagmire of achieving or maintaining happy worshippers is an ongoing experiment in futility only assuring that a given segment of a Church's population will be unhappy. It seems everything about the state of the Church is in question. That is well and good, it is good to question and evaluate, for in the answering of questions the honest appraisal of the things we believe become reality. There is nothing so articulate as doubt.

Proponents of virtue-ethics hold that it is, or can be, a great destroyer of abstraction, that as archaic as the concept is, it contains the operative principles enabling focus on excellence, wisdom and the 'good'; and is concerned with the development of practices and forms of living that shape a life in such a way so that the whole of life becomes an example of the virtues. Commitments are grounded in actions. Virtue ethic seeks to declare, “don’t listen to what it says, look at what it does”, and in application to the Christian story, it should sound something like: “don’t listen to, attempt to understand, or rationalize what it says, look at the practices that flow out of adherence to the story, and that is the better barometer of truthfulness.”

Excellence as a virtue is linked to the 'Imago Dei' , the fulfillment of purpose and function; the living to one's full potential. The Greek word for excellence is 'arete" and means the settled disposition of the mind determining the choice of actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man would determine it.
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence (arete), if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4.8. The search for excellence takes into account our fallible human searching and seeks to connect our theological pursuits to the way we live and the people and communities we form.



"Wisdom tries to embrace the imaginative, the intellectual, the passionate and the practical; it refers to the wisdom of God as well as to fallible human searching. Wisdom need not be competitive with the various other terms that describe theology, such as understanding, thought, knowledge, truth, reflective practice, dogma and doctrine. Wisdom encourages rigorous inquiry and thorough understanding. Wisdom traditions are concerned with the long-term shaping of life in many dimensions, including the common good and the formation of the whole person." When we seek wisdom, we entertain different consequences than just getting something right or wrong, we take heed of the common good and the consequences to our body and community. The search for wisdom takes into account our fallible human searching and seeks to connect our theological pursuits to the way we live and the people and communities we form.


'Good' is the essential key to the fulfillment of 'virtue ethics', as defined by, "...do unto ... as you would have..."; and "Don't listen to what it says, look at what it does". In doing there is necessity for the removal of the abstract notions of what 'good' is and in doing there is application of the actions determined by the actual, in reality 'good', for a person, group or community (grace with stains and grit) and those actions are a result of face-to-face relationship or in the absence of the face-to-face at least actions determined by real need and not a subversive self-aggrandizing purpose or the placating of a sense of conviction motivated by a desire to appease personal guilt and shame. The search for the 'good' takes into account our fallible human searching and seeks to connect our theological pursuits to the way we live and the people and communities we form.

The world-view is disorientating and subsequently creates a sense of immediacy and implausibility to the actions of a Church group in actively functioning as the 'way'.

The overwhelming dysfunction of the world, its fragmentation, its consistent appeal to the powers and property of man to repair and the seemingly impotent response of religion to offer a viable alternative to the problem has left the Church with a void to fill, a seeming 'black hole'. Our theology and ecclesiology should be the determinants of our methodology, not the reverse. People are strongly adverse to the questioning of why? they do the things they do, and for the most part view that as being an attack on their primary belief system. God will always remain God regardless of... Karl Barth wrote, "We must begin all over again with a new inner orientation to the primitive basic truths of life: only this can deliver us from the chaos arising from the failure of conservative or revolutionary proposals and counter-proposals... above all, it will be a matter of our recognizing God once more as God..."

It is in crisis and emergency, the recognizing of life as a non-static, perpetually changing series of open-ended circumstances that theology is formed.

"How disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theology is the business of a few theoreticians who are specially appointed for the task...; is a matter for quiet situations and periods that suit and invite contemplation, a kind of peace-time luxury...as though the venture of proclamation did not mean that the Church permanently finds itself in an emergency! As though theology could be done properly without reference to this constant emergency! Let there be no mistake. Because of these distorted ideas about theology, and dogmatics in particular, there arises and persists in the life of the church a lasting and growing deficit for which we cannot expect those particularly active in this function to supply the needed balance. The whole church must seriously want a serious theology if it is to have a serious theology."

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