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Source: (consider it) Thread: Christ has no body but yours
Chorister

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# 473

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I had a very interesting online discussion with an atheist a few days ago. I had posted a link to the (the musical version of the) prayer of St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582):

"Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world."

She immediately replied that she found this very creepy, as if we were allowing ourselves to be taken over and controlled by some sort of supernatural force (although she didn't believe in same).

I replied that I had never read it that way, seeing it more as a positive practical step - instead of sitting around waiting for some divine being to do everything for us, we should get the hell on with it ourselves.

What are your insights on this ancient and powerful prayer, and what it means?

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Rossweisse

High Church Valkyrie
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I don't get the creepiness thing at all. It's a call to practical Christianity and compassionate humanity. It sounds to me as though the atheist is rejecting the concept without thinking it through.

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I'm not dead yet.

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Stetson
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I think maybe it's using the idea of possession(yes, like demonic, but with God) as a metaphor for the idea that human beings are the agents of God in the world?

If we were literally just automatons being physically moved about by God, there wouldn't be much point to a lot of the statements in the Bible, church teaching etc(eg. why praise someone for doing the right thing, if it's just God using his body as a puppet?) But I guess this veers into the whole free-will debate, which is pretty close to being a dead horse, even if not in the formal Ship sense.

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Lamb Chopped
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There may in fact be such a thing as a positive form of (note the air quotes) "possession," in which Christians willingly share ourselves with the Holy Spirit (and other members of the Trinity-in-Unity). The reason this is not creepy is because a) it's totally voluntary and b) it involves no loss of freedom, free will, or the ability to choose, even to choose evil if we are fool enough to do so. God is nothing if not courteous.

FWIW, other forms of body sharing exist and are not found creepy. Pregnancy is one.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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PaulTH*
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This is just a call to imitate Christ in our dealing with our fellow creatures.

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Yours in Christ
Paul

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Chorister

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Many hands make light work. All hands on deck. Whether or not you believe in divine inspiration for your actions.

I guess the idea for the Christian is that we are given inner strength to do these tasks, not just relying on our own resources. Perhaps atheists get their strength from other sources, eg. their satisfaction from 'doing good'?

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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Galloping Granny
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Well, it's all metaphor, isn't it? Your atheist friend no doubt knows what a metaphor is.

If you see someone who needs help or a kind word, in a situation where Jesus would help them or speak kindly, then you do it.

GG

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The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it. Gospel of Thomas, 113

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Martin60
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If you want a miracle, be it.

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Love wins

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Russ
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I read this as a rejection of divine omnipotence and all the problem of evil stuff that follows from it.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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Pangolin Guerre
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My immediate reaction was pretty much like PaulTH's and GG's.

It has been my experience that atheists, when not dismissive, are often creeped out by things at which we would normally just shrug. If you don't believe, why are you creeped out? I get dismissive. I don't get creeped out.

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Lamb Chopped
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IMHO getting creeped out is a visceral reaction and not directly under the control of the person, uh, being creeped out. Though they can refrain from telling you, of course.

I once had a Mormon friend get creeped out by a standard church bulletin cover showing a cross. Like, not even a crucifix, no corpus, just the two bars. It surprised me, but I couldn't blame her.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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LutheranChik
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I've never heard this prayer described as creepy. I have heard people criticize it as the product of Low Christology/ Christian agnosticism...an opinion with which I disagree, by the way.

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I read this as a rejection of divine omnipotence and all the problem of evil stuff that follows from it.

A good beholder's share!
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simontoad
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I wonder if the athiest friend gets 'punchy' in arguments and starts denying any validity to a point presented by the opponent.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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irreverend tod
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Aren't we supposed to look for God in everyone? In which case he's got to be knocking round in me, which isn't creepy, just comforting

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Diocesan Arsonist and Lead thief to the Church of England.

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cliffdweller
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It's a good reminder of how easy it is to become so entrenched in our churchy bubble that we don't notice how odd and peculiar our words and rituals might seem to outsiders, as it did in the early days of Christianity when the Eucharist was confused with canabalism.

Many years ago, I participated in the baptism of a new convert, a young girl who opted to be immersed in a mountain stream. Her atheist mom wanted to be supportive of her daughters choices, so she came to the service, hiking with us down to the stream. But, having no religious background to understand the sacrament, she confided to me how strange it seemed-- the word she used was "cultic" to describe the white robes, the immersion, the candles. It all was rather alarming t her

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Enoch
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It would be easy to dismiss what I'm about to say as pedantic, but it isn't.

That is not a prayer. It may be a pious thought, a sermon set to music, a challenging statement or many other things, but it isn't a prayer.


I'm also not entirely sure it is either particularly good theology or, as it stands, all that valuable a message. It's worthy. It tells us what we suppose we ought to think. But it has nothing to say about how we do it.

Also, did St Theresa of Avila actually say it? It doesn't sound like her style.

If she did, as a doctor of the church - though of a different part of it from me - I'll take it more seriously. Until it's been demonstrated that she did, I feel entitled to question it, as I don't think it's true.

[ 09. September 2017, 14:19: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
Many hands make light work. All hands on deck. Whether or not you believe in divine inspiration for your actions.

I agree with Rossweisse’s comment that I can’t see anything creepy about the poem. The person who wrote it evidently believed firmly that Christ was guiding her actions, but since atheists lack any belief in any such thing, and all things that are done for the good of others – or not, of course – are done because of human evolved kindness altruism, etc, and their opposites unfortunately then I think atheists should feel confident about this, not allow any ‘creepiness’ to, well, creep in!
quote:
I guess the idea for the Christian is that we are given inner strength to do these tasks, not just relying on our own resources. Perhaps atheists get their strength from other sources, eg. their satisfaction from 'doing good'?
I would point out that those human resources make up100% of the resources; the belief that you are ‘given’ such resources is part of your 100% human resource!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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I heard it is most likely a misquotation from Michel Quoist attributed to Theresa. But then it is also said that the whole "make me a channel of your peace" thing only goes back to the early 20th century when it was found on the back of a card with the image of Francis.

But wherever it came from, it doesn't seem like fantastic theology - working with God in the action of redeeming the world is a calling, but it seems like an exaggeration to say that God has no other way to do it. And it seems to raise questions about the point of the incarnation if that is really true.

--

On the substantive point in the OP, I'd say that Christians are regularly blind to the weirdness of their behaviours, so it isn't really any great surprise to learn that nobody here really "gets" why an atheist might be creeped out by this.

But it seems to me that if one is more familiar with sci-fi, horror, vampire and zombie fantasy, comic books, etc than institutional Christianity, then this certain sounds like someone being possessed in order to do things that they don't want to. And then it isn't so weird that someone might find this a particularly strange concept.

I've heard several times people who state that the idea that there is a Holy Spirit who is an independent being living within the Christian is a very strange, weird and creepy idea.

It seems that one has to be a Christian to be blaze about how normal it is.

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Chorister

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:


I've heard several times people who state that the idea that there is a Holy Spirit who is an independent being living within the Christian is a very strange, weird and creepy idea.

And Christians regularly get weirded out by what they see as the Occult. Is something the Holy Spirit when we say it is and the Occult when we say it is? How can we tell the difference? (Actually that could be a whole other thread...)

It does seem weird that someone could feel creeped out by something they don't believe exists, but I guess what might creep them out is that people believe someone supernatural has power over them. However, if this prayer/quote isn't saying that, then there is certainly nothing to feel creepy about, either to a believer or a non-believer. It doesn't override free will.

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:

Many years ago, I participated in the baptism of a new convert, a young girl who opted to be immersed in a mountain stream. Her atheist mom wanted to be supportive of her daughters choices, so she came to the service, hiking with us down to the stream. But, having no religious background to understand the sacrament, she confided to me how strange it seemed-- the word she used was "cultic" to describe the white robes, the immersion, the candles. It all was rather alarming t her

I know people who have been seriously creeped out by the idea of Taizé - because of the repetitive chanting.
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Also, did St Theresa of Avila actually say it? It doesn't sound like her style.

A bit of Googling leaves me suspicious. A few Catholic bloggers point out that surely St Teresa of Ávila wouldn't deny that Christ also has a body on earth in the form of the Holy Eucharist?

Also, her verse is metrical. I found a Spanish version of the prayer and it's as free-form as the English.

[ 09. September 2017, 19:51: Message edited by: Ricardus ]

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Rossweisse

High Church Valkyrie
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
A bit of Googling leaves me suspicious. A few Catholic bloggers point out that surely St Teresa of Ávila wouldn't deny that Christ also has a body on earth in the form of the Holy Eucharist?

Also, her verse is metrical. I found a Spanish version of the prayer and it's as free-form as the English.

I assumed it was paraphrased for purposes of setting it to music. Many of the Psalms and other texts have been - think of Old Hundredth.

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I'm not dead yet.

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Ricardus
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Old Hundredth is an example of something non-metrical (in European terms) being turned into something metrical.

The poem quoted in the OP is non-metrical. At first I assumed this was because someone translated it out of Spanish without preserving the metre, but Googling 'Cristo no tiene otro cuerpo' brings forth equally non-metrical versions.

I think if St Teresa had written it, it would be metrical, and I can't see any reason why anyone would take the metre away from it.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Jengie jon

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The blog suggests it is English Nonconformist in origin; mix of Methodist, Quaker and maybe Congregationalist.

Jengie

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"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I read this as a rejection of divine omnipotence and all the problem of evil stuff that follows from it.

I see the interpretation of rejection of omnipotence, but could you unpack the rest?

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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Gramps49
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So, white robes, candles, and water are cultic? Why, yes! Since the Latin word means "worship."

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Americ's motto is "God's Work, Our Hands." Many congregations will be doing special projects this Sunday (Sept 19).

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Martin60
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It's a shame Teresa of Avila didn't say it. I wonder who did? She said some good Zen stuff nonetheless, but nothing as good.

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Love wins

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Russ
Old salt
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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I read this as a rejection of divine omnipotence and all the problem of evil stuff that follows from it.

I see the interpretation of rejection of omnipotence, but could you unpack the rest?
Sorry, SM. That should read

"problem of evil" stuff

not

problem of Evil Stuff...

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:

Many years ago, I participated in the baptism of a new convert, a young girl who opted to be immersed in a mountain stream. Her atheist mom wanted to be supportive of her daughters choices, so she came to the service, hiking with us down to the stream. But, having no religious background to understand the sacrament, she confided to me how strange it seemed-- the word she used was "cultic" to describe the white robes, the immersion, the candles. It all was rather alarming t her

I know people who have been seriously creeped out by the idea of Taizé - because of the repetitive chanting..
Yes. When I teach my evangelical students breath/centering prayer or lectio, I'll get that from a few of them as well-- "cultic" is again the word they often use to describe something that basically is just unfamiliar to them. It really is an irregular verb, isn't it? "I'm deeply spiritual, you're mystical, they're cultic..."

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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simontoad
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I'm skeptical that someone could grow up in a western country and not have some exposure to the rituals and language of Christianity. It permeates popular culture, no matter how secular we have become. Nobody who has watched asinine films from Animal House to Porky's to Jackass cannot claim to be ignorant of the name Jesus Christ.

I'm much more willing to believe that people participating in debate about morals are arguing against the validity of faith by describing it a creepy or cultic.

My brother, for example, well-schooled in Catholic Christianity, would use such words with relish (well, not creepy, but an Australian equivalent). I too, during that part of my life when I thought Christians were at best irrelevant troglodytes, would not hesitate to chuck a word like 'cultic' at a Christian if I thought I could get a rise out of them.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I read this as a rejection of divine omnipotence and all the problem of evil stuff that follows from it.

I see the interpretation of rejection of omnipotence, but could you unpack the rest?
Sorry, SM. That should read

"problem of evil" stuff

not

problem of Evil Stuff...

I interpret "God has no hands but ours to do God's work" as "pray, then get off your ass/knees and get to work." Still don't see how that connects with evil stuff.

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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Martin60
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It's ALL down to us. God is not responsible except as primum mobile, first cause. He has only ever intervened as, in, for Christ.

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Love wins

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
I'm skeptical that someone could grow up in a western country and not have some exposure to the rituals and language of Christianity. It permeates popular culture, no matter how secular we have become. Nobody who has watched asinine films from Animal House to Porky's to Jackass cannot claim to be ignorant of the name Jesus Christ.

But no one is suggesting that. Sure, pretty much everyone in the West will have heard the name Jesus. That's quite a bit different than being exposed to sacraments like baptism or communion, or hearing verbiage like "we are Christ's hands".

It's always helpful to get an outsider's perspective for exactly that reason-- what seems quite normal and rational to us can seem strange and cultic to outsiders. Helpful to at least know that going in.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Stercus Tauri
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If I had to state what is the foundation of my exceeding simple belief structure, it would probably be along the lines of the gospel imperatives: to heal the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and comfort the oppressed, closely followed by St Teresa's lovely statement of whose job it is to do those things. For adherents to the Christian faith this is clear and straightforward. For an atheist, yes, I can see the concern about external control, but I've always felt it was simply a practical instruction with a reminder of where it came from. And I'm not bothered about who wrote it. The church gets too caught up in McLuhan's, "The medium is the message".

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Golden Key
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Re "cultic":

Well, Christianity *is* cultic, in some respects--especially in the liturgical churches, for the reasons mentioned.

But ISTM that early, institutional Christianity shared some things with the old cultic religions. Initiation, for instance.

To someone who has no (positive) religious background, who has no way to make sense of the buzzwords and off-the-wall concepts (drinking blood, dying in Christ, hell), Christianity is apt to seem like they've walked into a movie theater, halfway through a ritualistic cult movie or "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers", and the fans talk seriously to the person about how wonderful the cult is, and would they like to join...
[Paranoid]

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wild haggis
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The general opinion seems to be the quote is from St Teresa of Alvia. Does it matter?

I think, as Christians we don't realise that the "sacred canopy" whereby culture has a Christian base and thus most people can relate to Christian allusions, metaphors and values, has disappeared, certainly in the western world.

We bandy about words and quotes, without thinking, expecting people to understand the Christian gloss on them. But in reality, today, in our post-Christian world, that isn't the case.It is all too easy for people to misinterpret our words and actions.

If Christians got out of their Christian ghettos more into the real world of ordinary people and listened to them, they might understand that, what seems obvious, using "Christian" language and actions, may have other interprentions by non-Christians. So I'm not surprised by the atheist friend's response.

Even basic Biblical stories are now unknown. We no longer have a Christian culture. Is that good or bad? I personally think it is good because then, like the Early Church reaching out to the Greek/Latin world, we need to find the correct language, actions and way we go about worship, that is relevant to our listeners.

If we don't Christianity will die and Christ won't have "hands on earth" any more.

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wild haggis

Posts: 76 | From: Cardiff | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
Anglican_Brat
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# 12349

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I actually don't think the "Christ has no body but yours" is a great quote. There is a subtle narcissism there that God NEEDS us which still rubs my classical theology brain the wrong way.

We should do good, not because God needs us, but because to be Christian is to follow Jesus' teachings in word and deed.

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It's Reformation Day! Do your part to promote Christian unity and brotherly love and hug a schismatic.

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Enoch
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# 14322

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quote:
Originally posted by wild haggis:
The general opinion seems to be the quote is from St Teresa of Alvia. Does it matter?

I thought the general opinion, as it has emerged on this thread, was that she did not write it, that it is not a quote from her.

But, yes, it does matter. If St Theresa of Avila did write it, she's a saint and a Doctor of the Church (even if commended as such by a different denomination from many of us on these threads). So one might feel obliged to take the statement more seriously than if it were written by any old who-knows-who.
quote:

.... If Christians got out of their Christian ghettos more into the real world of ordinary people and listened to them, they might understand that, what seems obvious, using "Christian" language and actions, may have other interprentions by non-Christians. So I'm not surprised by the atheist friend's response.

Even basic Biblical stories are now unknown. We no longer have a Christian culture. Is that good or bad? I personally think it is good because then, like the Early Church reaching out to the Greek/Latin world, we need to find the correct language, actions and way we go about worship, that is relevant to our listeners.

If we don't Christianity will die and Christ won't have "hands on earth" any more.

I agree that we can sometimes inhabit a comfortable ghetto of people who think like us and use the language we are familiar with. But talking of,
quote:
"the real world of ordinary people "
is not how the saints of the New Testament and the Patristic era would have seen or expressed it. It's important to find a way to express our message into a form which people who can hear. Nevertheless, they would have been adamant that it was the Christian world that they knew and inhabited which was the 'real' one. It was the world the rest of the people round them lived in and took for granted which was the unreal, delusional and trivial one.

That job is an important part of the priesthood of all believers. There will though always be a tension. Ultimately the kingdom of heaven is the real one. That's the reality we are charged to communicate. If there are features of it which the unreal, delusional, trivial world cannot understand or does not want to, we are obliged to stick with the kingdom reality rather than skate over it because it is inconvenient or unappealing to those who have not yet believed.

As a very simple example of this, calling the Lord to mind and proclaiming his death until he comes in bread and wine will, I think, always be completely meaningless and incomprehensible to those outside the ghetto. But that does not mean we should drop Holy Communion/the Eucharist/the Mass/the Lord's Supper/the Breaking of Bread Service/the Holy Liturgy or whichever term our particular neck of the kingdom happens to use.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

Posts: 7193 | From: Bristol UK(was European Green Capital 2015, now Ljubljana) | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged
Russ
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# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
That should read

"problem of evil" stuff

not

problem of Evil Stuff...

I interpret "God has no hands but ours to do God's work" as "pray, then get off your ass/knees and get to work." Still don't see how that connects with evil stuff.
The "problem of evil" refers to the paradox whereby in traditional Christian thought:
A) God is supremely benevolent and therefore wishes evil not to happen
B) God is all-powerful and therefore could prevent evil from happening
and yet
C) evil things happen (both human evil and "natural evil").

Attempts to resolve this boil down to either
denying C) - e.g. by saying that when something bad happens it's really all for the best even if it doesn't seem like it at the time
denying B) - e.g. by asserting that this is the best of all conceivable worlds, so that God's inability to prevent the bad thing is somehow a logical necessity
or denying A) - e.g. by saying that God knows better than you do what's good for you, so that God's goodness doesn't have to correspond with the ordinary meaning of the word "good".

If God has no hands but ours, then B) is false - people die of cancer because we haven't got off our backsides and found a cure... Human endeavour is God's way of eliminating evil.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 2955 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Soror Magna
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Thanks, Russ.

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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Martin60
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# 368

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People die of cancer because suffering is contingent on material existence. We're doing the best we possibly can. The only question is, why does there have to be material existence? Why can't we go straight to the sublime, to transcendence? It would seem that nothing can be started, conceived there ex nihilo. Unless Lucifer is real.

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Love wins

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