Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Reformed Existentialism??? - Really!!

In recent posts, I have been discussing a Gospel posture toward the Lord and life. By a gospel posture, I mean approaching God as a beggar in need of power and help and NOT looking to give to God some acceptable sacrifice of works. A gospel approach, where the Gospel is an arrow downward and we are the beggars in need of His resources, is central to walking in new life and not in the oldness of the dead letter. A gospel orientation helps us see spirituality as an issue of God's grace and compassion on us. This posture is the glorious effect of having a BIG GOD. This gospel orientation removes all toxic burden and guilt from our religion and sets us free. This orientation toward God is good reformed theology in practice.

Also, this is what Jesus teaches us is a healthy approach to God which empowers us to rise up from prayer righteous.

Luke 18
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector 9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Taken in context, this parable is about our posture in prayer. Hallelujah!! Man, that is great stuff.
I am here to talk about the next vital heart orientation we need to have to live in total liberation.
Let's just say I am pumped this morning. I am so totally back!!

Our gospel orientation is the start of our spirituality and fuels our worship, but prayer, in the Lord's model, is also about seeking the kingdom in our approaching day.

"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven and give us THIS DAY our daily bread."

"Lord, I am a beggar and if I am to live beautifully I need your bread!!"

So, we face life one day at a time with confidence and the expectation that God will participate and bring His kingdom purposes into our daily life.
This posture of living in the immediate present and expecting our walk with God to manifest substantive purpose as we encounter life is what I call AN EXISTENTIALIST POSTURE.
The existentialist posture toward life (and I mean that in a good way) has two elements:
1. First, it is living in the NOW. Nothing actually exists except the now. We do not worry about tommorrow and praise God, we are not condemned by our past.
2. We live on planet earth.

Francis as a Reformer!!
OK I know this sounds difficult but bear with me as I take you through the 13th century. One of my all-time heroes is Saint Francis.
Go here and see my favorite painting of all-time:
Francis in Extasy or a larger image here Francis in Extasy.

One day when I was a young believer, I had a big breakthrough. I went to a party for a family member. The party was all high society, and I felt very out of place. I was the proverbial 'Arab in the Synagogue'. I was the Christian evangelist at the Hollywood High Society party. I felt like 'Forest Gump at the Black Panther Party'.
Anyway, that night, as I reflected on the evening, a big "yo duh" struck me, "We as Americans believe we can be Christians and not live the story of Jesus. To be a Christian means entering the life of faith which Jesus lived. We are called to approach life one day at a time and step out in faith to bring the kingdom to our reality one step of faith at a time. An existentialist monk was born that night.

Saint Francis relates to this breakthrough because Francis this is the story of Francis.

Francis' big idea was this.
Here are two stories:
1. Francis began his life of faith by saying one day, "Lord show me what to do and I will do it". That day, he went to church, and the priest spoke on "see all your possessions" and "store up treasures in heaven". So Francis did it. He stepped out in love for God and obeyed. His immediate experience was freedom. Francis fell in love with this experience of freedom and faith and the rest is history. This is existentialist heaven. We live in the NOW and the life of faith is stepped into in the existential present only. Today is the day of salvation!! Oh, this is so it!!
2. In a second story, Francis, after a day of prayer, asked his friends a question, "Should I spend my life in contemplation or should I preach also?" The answer came back 'preach also'. So he did. Francis was trapped in a Greek gnostic world of only ecstatic contemplation, but Francis found the balance of contemplation and compassionate action. And again, the rest is history!!
Francis revolutionized the church by bringing it back to its Hebrew, and yes existential, roots of living the life of faith one day at a time. Right here! Right now! On planet earth!!

It just doesn't get any better than that.
God Bless,


Johnny-Dee said...

I decided to check out your post on "reformed existentialism" after reading your comment on my blog. I have a couple things to say. (1) I agree that we need to live in the now, and that we live on earth. I find it impossible to avoid fulfilling either of these conditions.

(2) But how is this "existential"? Is there any particular existentialist philosopher who promoted these two theses as the criteria for being existential? The traditional vein of existentialism (Heidegger, Sartre, Camus) claims existentialism is the view that existence preceeds essence. This means that after we exist we are free to invent our own values, goals, and purposes of life. There are clearly some incompatible claims between traditional existentialism and orthodox Christianity.

Your point doesn't seem to be an existential one. Rather, you seem to be advocating following the truth of the gospel. This is not existentialism at all. It's about being a Christian.

passthebread said...

Admittedly this is a bit of a play on words. Point is that approaching life as the realm of possibility in which we exist (Kierkegaard) and seeing this as crisis is the point. Kierkegaard, if I read him right, and I may not, sees faith as the difficult "existential" moment of crisis. Kierkegaard tried to tell this crisis by telling the story of Abraham and Isaac in the book Fear and Trembling. He saw this exercise of faith as the dignifying act of true freedom.
That was my point. Certainly not to be "philosophically correct" which I do not admittedly have the education to even accurately attempt.

Anonymous said...

Hi, good post. I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for sharing. I’ll likely be coming back to your posts. Keep up the good work

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