Statues come to life

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. {1Corinthians 15:42-44, ESV}

     In reality, the difference between Biological life and spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which comes to us through nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always ending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk 4. ch. I  

The Christian in his culture

1Corinthians 11:2-16 is a tough passage to interpret–presently I’ve given up. That’s not to say I won’t revisit the passage & renew my digging but at this point I’ve made my peace with the notion that many questions must (at least for now) remain unanswered. Even so, all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable. In this case I’m struck by the balance between biblical fidelity and our cultural setting.

As I understand the passage Paul is addressing the way in which some of the Corinthian women were presenting themselves in the church’s corporate worship: namely, without a head covering. There’s no doubt that Paul instructs the church women to cover their heads (with what is a matter of debate) which naturally leads many to wonder why the church has selectively ignored this biblical teaching. Two observations:

1) The issue is not doctrine per se but how doctrine shapes one’s practice. Paul grounds the prescribed practice (i.e. head covering for women) in doctrine (i.e. God’s creation of male headship) but the discussion seems to suggest that, in this case, the Corinthians haven’t denied biblical doctrine. Rather, they have failed to think through the practical implications of the truth they uphold.

2) Cultural practices are an important means by which the Christian bears witness to God’s truth. In the time & place of the Corinthian letter we’re led to believe that women wore head coverings as a sign of humility and submission. In light of the Corinthian women’s new-found equality through the gospel some apparently felt the freedom to buck the cultural norm of the day. Paul, however, instructs the women to observe the prevailing cultural practice of head covering. Why? In this case the head covering was a necessary cultural sign of biblical truth. In our setting we might liken it to a woman taking a man’s last name in marriage. A woman can retain her maiden name and still be married, but refusing to change her name–in keeping with our cultural tradition–is a sign that she intends to retain something of her pre-marital identity & independence. Consequently, by rejecting the cultural sign she betrays the biblical revelation concerning a wife’s role in marriage.

In the end Paul was unwilling to abandon the cultural practice because, in the case of head coverings, to lose the cultural sign was to lose an effective witness to biblical truth. Culture always communicates a message or philosophy. How and when the Christian can take advantage of this medium for the sake of the gospel is worth careful consideration.

Rational fools who worship an ass?

Beware the deception that we can win the world if only we’re nice enough or smart enough or relevant enough or more scientific or more inviting. To most of the world we’ll never be more than fools who worship an ass.

To say that the world will always consider us to be fools no matter what we say or do is not the same as saying it doesn’t matter what we say or do. No honest reading of 1Cor 1:18-31 can lead us to any other conclusion than that the world will consider us to be fools preaching foolishness but to acknowledge this fate is a far cry from suggesting that the mind is irrelevant in our witness. Our message may be ridiculed but that’s no excuse for abandoning the field of reason and persuasion.

The gospel is the power of salvation but God imparts the saving knowledge of that gospel through various means and methods. We need only look to Paul’s example in Acts to see that a self-identified “fool” will still reason from Scripture (Acts 17:2; 18:19) and attempt to persuade by argument (18:4; 28:23-24).

Fools need not be irrational fools.

Only fools worship an ass

1 Corinthians 1:18, 23a For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…we preach Christ crucified…

Some think the earliest representation of worship involving a crucifix is contained in graffiti discovered in a guardroom near the Circus Maximus in Rome. Known as the Alexamenos Graffito and variously dated anywhere from the 1st to 3rd century, the graffiti is a crudely drawn picture with an inscription. The picture portrays a man standing at the foot of a cross with his hand raised in worship to the man hanging there. The man on the cross is drawn with the head of an ass and the inscription reads, “Alexamenos worships his god.”

Beware the deception that we can win the world if only we’re nice enough or smart enough or relevant enough or more scientific or more inviting. To most of the world we’ll never be more than fools who worship an ass.