Saturday, May 17, 2008

On the Continual Calling to be Christians, even for those "not yet" called

I recently had a brief e-mail exchange with a brother in Christ with whom I have been friends in our adult lives as husbands and fathers for over sixteen (16) years. As Christians, both he and I have come from more conservative, evangelical, reformed backgrounds. Somewhere within the somewhat lengthy reply/ies in our conversation(s) over e-mail, the discussion touched upon the notion on my part of "everyone being on a journey..." and how [it is that] God would have us treat others [pastorally and graciously] as led by the Spirit of the Lord according to God's Word.

After our last communication, I read the following quote attributed to German theologian Karl Barth in his seminal work(s) of Church Dogmatics which provides food for thought along a similar, if you will, eschatological vein--that is, in referring to the sense of "the now, and the not yet", all of us are at the same time throughout our lives lived for God's glory both 1) not yet now what we will be; and yet, also in a sense 2) now already what we are to become. Barth speaks to this in terms of referring to those who are called and as yet "uncalled", and uses this line of thinking to lead us to consider "an openness towards others".

April 26“... our calling to be Christians, as plainly shown in the New Testament in the figure of Peter, must take place again and again. No man who is called does not also have to see and understand himself as one who has still to be called and therefore as one who stands alongside and in solidarity with the uncalled. Is it not inevitable, then, that our self-understanding as Christians should constrain us on this side, together with our knowledge of the existence of Jesus Christ in its universal significance, to an openness towards others in which we reckon with the fact that they are what we ourselves still are even as Christians, namely, those who are not called but are still to be called?" — Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV,3,2 page 494

One might also relate this to [the ecclesiology in] Calvin's writing(s) on the visible and the invisible church--that the practical application of our theological idea(s) of, in more contemporary terms, "who is in[side], and who is out[side]" of the church, the "called out ones" (EKKLESIA), could prove at times to be somewhat problematic. This is where one might begin to find one's self approaching [if not already over] the edge of what critics of Barth's theology regard to be [among/in concert with] universalist ideologies.

reformata, et semper reformanda
At this point in my own journey of faith and formulating/developing/reforming theology of/on ecclesiology, the bottom line for me here is praxis. The practical outworking of my biblical understanding in how I perceive, or maybe more accurately, how I choose to perceive of others becomes paramount. In order to work out [the process of] my [own] salvation with fear and trembling, I might believe the Lord my God to be more concerned in the end about how I loved and continue to love others, how I believed in and continue to believe for the best in others, and how I prayed and continue to pray for the calling of others who are now and/or yet to be in Christ. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, it matters more how and that we have love(d) well in, through, and for our Lord God Who is love (1 John). Paul prefaces his treatise on love with these words: "And now I will show you the most excellent way...." (1 Corinthians 12:31)

2 Corinthians 5:16 (NIV) So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.