Sunday, August 23, 2020

The god within. . .

There is much talk among the spiritual but not religious crowd about the "god within.” While I am sure it is the pleasant talk of people who like to talk the happy talk of feel good religion, it is not without its influence upon Lutherans.  Although the goal is to ennoble man, it does nothing of the kind.  In fact, instead of making man bigger, it does just the opposite.  It makes God small, ordinary, and rather cheap.  Of course, Scripture does speak of Christ within us and this is not something which is meant to appeal either to our feelings or to our dignity but to the profound work of God in making and keeping us His own. 

Certainly some Lutherans have spoken more than others on our baptismal union with Christ, however, this is not a subject we should avoid and one which ought to be more central to our thought and life as God's own.  God is no external force upon us but, in baptism, God works within us by the power of His Spirit.  God is not like a helper who comes to our aid every now and then when we need Him or call upon Him.  God works within us.  Who we are and what we do as the children of God is always in union with Christ. 

So, as St. Paul reminds, we can take no credit.  Our works are are not ours but the works of our common life -- our live with Christ and in Christ.  This goes so far as our prayers.  When we pray, it is not we who pray but the Spirit who teaches us to pray and who lifts those prayers to the Lord and gives us the courage and confidence to add our Amen to those prayers.  As St. Paul so often reminds us, the good we do is Christ doing good in us and through us.  Christ in you, the hope of glory, is the mystery once hidden and now revealed.  Again, St. Paul, our salvation is worked out with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

As important as this is, it is not what is meant by the god within.  This phrase deifies the flesh and will and humanizes the divine in what is a false characterization both of Scripture and of the truth of Scripture lived out in us.  Like the sects who would describe God as once what we are and we someday as God is or who treat Christ as one of many sons of God, we need to be careful about how we banter about terms that may have an orthodox meaning and a false one.  Our union with Christ is not accomplished by the power of our will or the force of our desire but God's act alone working through the means of grace.  In baptism, we are joined with Christ, crucified with Him and raised in Him, and in the Eucharist Christ abides in us and we in Him in the koinonia of His flesh and blood.

We should not minimize the good for the sake of being wary of the bad.  Our people deserve to know the full counsel of God's Word while being warned about what conflicts with Scripture.

No comments: