Sunday, February 17, 2008

Born Again and again and again....

Poor Nicodemus... he just couldn't seem to understand what Jesus was talking about in the "Born again" Gospel reading which was today's subject for Mary Cat's sermon. Mary Cat correctly pointed out that we have the benefit of hindsight (as well as the honor of living in the Bible Belt) which gives us proven examples of people who have been born anew in the Spirit, the example of Paul, the Saints, to name a few. But, there are some bits of this born again stuff that are still not clear.

1. What happens to that wonderful feeling of communion with God you have when reborn? Taken out of context C.S.Lewis said "No feeling can be relied on to last in it's full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last, but feelings come and go." (The Four Loves p 169).

2. If you are born again, are you born as a finished product? If not finished, what term should we use for the rest of the process? Continuous rebirth sounds like continuous revolution or permanent revolution which does not work for me. (If you try to read the Marxist drivel on the link in the title, you will see that you will be more confused after being born again as a Marxist than you were when you were a mere capitalist.)
My point is this, being born again is not the end all and be all. You are born anew as a baby Christian. How do you get to be a mature Christian, or is that an unobtainable goal? Most of your life will be spent slugging it out on a spiritual journey. Back to C.S. Lewis, "He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection. On the other hand you must realise from the onset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you that goal. That is what you are in for." (Mere Christianity, 203).

How do we in the Episcopal Church support people in the prenatal, postnatal, infant, adolescent, teenage, young adult, middle age, and old codger stages of Christian development? It is a formidable task, but I think if we hark back to C.S. Lewis and stick with things that last, Knowledge, Principles, and Habits, then we will not be guilty of leading anyone to stray from God's path towards perfection.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:49 AM

    Perhaps the moment of revelation is not entirely affective. If the moment in which we become open to God's presence, both to ourselves to the others to whom we are connected in community, were strictly a matter of feeling, then faith becomes the worst sort of sentimental whim. I like Macquarrie's view that revelation engages the full scope of our human awareness -- intellectual, emotional, physical, and of course, spiritual.

    Pehaps to be "born again" is to be brought to the recognition that to be before God is an ongoing way of existing -- not constant revolution, but constant faith and responsiblity towards our Christian commitments. As such, it is a ongoing process with no terminal point, but not an ongoing revolution (revolution suggests instability). It is to grow out of an instrumental approach to self and others, and to take on the call to infinite care and responsiblity...so the "new" self (as opposed to the news elf, which is how that first came out as a typo) is always in process, and as Anglicans are practical daily fixed points are the Prayer Book and our ministries to others.

    The comments box is short, the cheese doodle's words are way too abstract....

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  2. Thanks for the wonderful comments. I will be waiting to hear from the News Elf!

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  3. Greetings.

    I popped over from Bill Gnade's to say "hello" and tell you I agreed with your comments on knowledge and ignorance.

    Nicodemus is a fascinating character--someone definitively "old school" who is staring at the face, literally, of a paradigm shift. No wonder he was confused.

    Anyway, I agree with your take on what being "born again" means. Paul's discussion of Christian growth and discipleship, partaking of "grown-up" spiritual sustenance comes into play here, I think. Of course, that's the problem for many Christians; they believe being "born again" is enough, even though Christ didn't say that -- to Nicodemus or anyone else.

    Cheers.

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  4. It sort of ties in with Bill's posting on the value of knowledge. Here we are talking about the continuing quest for spiritual growth. Many teens would say, "What's the point of learning about Nicodemus?" and shut their brains down to further input. Is there any "evidence based" best approach to Christian formation and spiritual growth?

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