Three Quotes – Compare and Contrast

Quote Number One – Colin Coward (Changing Attitude)

The astonishing light of our own being is deep within us, accessed and released by the connectingand being states of non-ordinary consciousness. As we become conscious of our own inner light, we are then able to let it radiate out through our lives every day. We press past all the all of the destructive conditioning from religion and society about how bad we are and how separated from God we are. It is in the depths of prayer, reflection and worship that we come to glimpse our own Unique Self that is One with the God of All Light.

The light of Infinite God shines brightly in the beauty of nature, and in the ever-evolving physical world and beyond. We access it by observation, reflection and scientific study. For Christians and others who will look, the light of Intimate God shines in Jesus, the awesome light of God in first century sandals. The light of the Inner God is that indescribable radiance of our True Self. This inner light is the one most hidden under our inadequate beliefs and lack of awareness. The vast majority of Christians have been taught this light does not exits as us, but only, at the most, as a visitor or guest in us. We must exchange this less than adequate belief for Jesus’ clear word that we are the Light.

The journey to letting our light shine is always one step, one practice, one day at a at time. Each repeated practice of exercising and nurturing our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies moves us to releasing more wondrous light into this world.

Quote Number Two – Romans 3:10-12,23-26

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Quote Number Three – Slavoj Žižek, The Monstrosity of Christ (h/t John H)

Postcolonial critics like to dismiss Christianity as the “whiteness” of religions: the presupposed zero level of normality, of the “true” religion, with regard to which all other religions are distortions or variations. However, when today’s New Age ideologists insist on the distinction between religion and spirituality (they perceive themselves as spiritual, not part of any organized religion), they (often not so) silently impose a “pure” procedure of Zen-like spiritual meditation as the “whiteness” of religion. The idea is that all religions presuppose, rely on, exploit, manipulate, etc., the same core of mystical experience, and that it is only “pure” forms of meditation like Zen Buddhism that exemplify this core directly, bypassing institutional and dogmatic mediations. Spiritual meditation, in its abstraction from institutionalized religion, appears today as the zero-level undistorted core of religion: the complex institutional and dogmatic edifice which sustains every particular religion is dismissed as a contingent secondary coating of this core. The reason for this shift of accent from religious institution to the intimacy of spiritual experience is that such a meditation is the ideological form that best fits today’s global capitalism.

Self-actualisation is antithetical to the Gospel. It is the realisation of the utter depravity of the self and the need for an imputation of righteousness and sanctification that is the hallmark of true religion. Theologies that reject this notion and instead elevate the individual as the divine (or a demiurge thereof) are simply spiritual manifestations of the glorification of self that so pervades our modern Western culture.

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  • http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/ Eddie Green

    How about:

    “The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the union of the divine persons among themselves”

    From the CCC http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P5G.HTM

    And of course the context mentions sin and depravity too.

    This is not just a liberal problem. Popular Evangelical writers tread on the toes of the new age too. And we all struggle to deal with the fact our leaders are sinners to (cf. Heb 5 – http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/?e=29).

    But in general Peter, as you no suspect, this ‘post-liberal’ agrees with you.

  • ryan

    Please, I’ve heard numerous comments from evangelicals – including in sermons, and IIRC Alpha – on how ‘religion’ IS bad and false but a Relationship with Jesus is True, Good etc etc. C.f. also moronic evangelical ‘understandings’ (sic!) of Judaism. The Rev.Coward is very much not brandishing such inanities. And I’ve also, in said evangelical churches, heard far, far, far more emphasis on how we are Created in God’s Image, fearfully and wonderfully made yada yada yada than I have talk of our inate Depravity. That said, perhaps the Rev.Coward does indeed give more weight to concepts of e.g. Divine Immanance than he does cruel Calvinist medievalisms – to which : Amen! :-)

    And if you regard *all* liberal theology as essentially elaborations of Heresy then I’m not sure why Colin Coward should be singled-out so.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Because he is peddling an anthropology that is utterly at odds with classical Christian understandings across the traditions.

      Seriously, I have some respect for "liberals" (or revisionists or some other name) who are fundamentally creedal but want to grapple with the hermeneutics of Scripture. Colin's approach is utterly different in that he rejects the Scriptures per se when they do not fit his wider agenda.

      I found the Žižek quote illuminating.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      To add to this, the Christian concept of "Divine Immanence" is the incarnation of Jesus and not the divine within the unregenerate human.

      • ryan

        From my much-thumbed "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology" ( http://www.amazon.com/Evangelical-Dictionary-Theo?tag=anexerinthefu-20

        "A central idea of liberal theology is divine immanence, God is seen as present and dwelling within the world, not apart from or elevated above the world as a transcendent being. He is its soul and life as well as the creator. Thus God is found in the whole of life and not just in the bible or a few revelatory event.Because his is present and works in all that happens, there can be no distinction between the natural and supernatural. The divine presence is disclosed in such things as rational truth, artistic beauty and moral goodness"

        Is this inaccurate? You might say that liberalism degrades or misunderstands the 'classical' Christian idea of divine immanence, but that hardly precludes using it in the manner I did above (indeed, the Evangie Dictionary goes on to say that 'pantheism' is the logical end of such thinking, so the entry on liberalism is hardly overcomplimentary).

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          I think your last sentence answers the question.

  • Philip Cole

    Peter

    Thanks for posting these quotes. Clearly Colin Coward is theologically liberal but I hadn't realised that he was also a New Ager. His quote reads as a standard New Age mish-mash of vague concepts, right down to the capitalisation of nouns that aren't! The end product of this sort of nonsense is always a definition of the divine that is self-centred rather than God-centred.

    The Zizek quote is a very accurate summary of everything that Coward is saying. I especially appreciate your highlighting which draws attention to the parallels between a self-centred liberal personal morality and the amorality of rapacious and uncontrolled global finance capital.

  • Blair

    Hello all,

    "I wish to register a complaint…" :)

    …Peter, while well aware that you disagree with Colin Coward I think it's a bit much for you to try and discredit him in this way. The blog post you link to says that those aren't his words – they're quoted from Paul R Smith, 'Integral Christianity: the spirit's call to evolve'. Granted he's quoting them approvingly, but I think you might have pointed that out.

    Secondly, what do you make of these words of Thomas Merton's, quoted by Rupert Shortt in 'Rowan's Rule' (pp157-8)?
    "'At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion', Merton writes, 'a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely… I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere'".

    You say above that "the Christian concept of “Divine Immanence” is the incarnation of Jesus and not the divine within the unregenerate human", but if God is creator, ever holding all things in being and so present to all, how can God not be in the 'unregenerate human'?

    in friendship, Blair

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      1) Good point – I didn't make that clear enough. Mea Culpa.

      2) Utterly UnBiblical

      • Blair

        Um, that's a bit dismissive isn't it? What about John 1:9?

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