Archive for April, 2009

On Living Without God

Posted by Pelgrim on 18th April 2009

On Living Without God by Thomas C. Oden
Eph. 2:1 2: “Without God in the world.”

The Parable of the Toad
Wesley developed a curious, almost comic, metaphor of a creature receiving renewed capacity to see and hear the world: The plight of the person “without God in the world” is compared to the condition of a very large toad discovered inside the core of an ancient oak tree. When the tree was split open, the frog inside was found sightless, having never had any sensory experience whatever of the visible world.
The sensory deprivation of the ungodly life is set forth by analogy with such a creature who indeed possesses eyes, but has no sight, and no exercised practice of seeing; who has senses such as hearing, but has remained totally destitute of any actual sensations. 

Lacking sensation, there is no reflection, memory or imagination. The parallel is between this sequestered creature and the person who is living “without God in the world,” having no sense of God. Like the toad who was “shut up from the sun, moon, and stars, and from the beautiful face of nature; indeed from the whole visible world, as much as if it had no being, ” such a person has no experience whatever of the invisible world upon which to reflect, no memory or imagination concerning any spiritual reality. Such is the deprived condition of the sensory apparatus in which the spiritual senses have remained entirely undeveloped, as in the practical atheists, who have “not the least sight of God, the intellectual Sun, nor any the least attraction toward him, “261 who have never once had “God in all their thoughts. ” Like the toad, the atheist-without God in the world-lives as though the spiritual world had no being. “He has not the least perception of it; not the most distant idea.’ ‘

The Receiving of Spiritual Senses in the New Birth
New life in the Spirit is like receiving a new sensory capacity, so that one can see with newly opened eyes that he has “an Advocate with the Father, ” can hear the voice of one who is the Resurrection, feel the love of God “shed abroad in his heart. ”
The moment the Spirit strikes his heart, God breaks the hardness of the heart, like the splitting of the oak tree. All things become new. The sun of righteousness appears, revealing “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Like being born, his eyes now see, his ears now hear. He is able to taste how gracious the Lord is, how “Jesus’ love is far better than wine. ” He is consumed with the ecstatic joy of enjoying and using his entire sensory apparatus to soak up knowledge and love of God through all available means: reason, nature, and above all the history of revelation.
“This change from spiritual death to spiritual life is properly the new birth, ” which empowers such a fundamental change of heart (not merely a conceptual shift of ideas) that the entire sensory apparatus is awakened to a new way of living and sensing the reality at hand. The new birth and the filling of the Spirit are like the splitting open of the ancient tree, while the old closed down self is seen by analogy to the ensconced condition of the sinner, withdrawn from the exercise of all capacities of the spiritual senses. To respond in faith to grace is to become a new creature in Christ. One moves from the spheres of natural appetite and tedious morality to new life in the Spirit.

Oden, Thomas C. John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity, a plain exposition of his teachings on Christian doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

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Posted by Pelgrim on 5th April 2009

We awaken not only to a realization of the immensity and majesty of God “out there” as King and Ruler of the universe (which He is) but also a more intimate and more wonderful perception of Him as directly and personally present n our own being. Yet this is not a pantheistic merger or confusion of our being with His. On the contrary, there is a distinct conflict in the realization that though in some sense He is more truly ourselves then we are, yet we are not identical with Him, and though He loves us better than we can love ourselves we are opposed to Him, and in opposing Him we oppose our own deepest selves. If we are involved only in our surface existence, in externals, and in the trivial concerns of our ego, we are untrue to Him and to ourselves. To reach a true awareness of Him as well as ourselves, we have to renounce our selfish and limited self and enter into a whole new kind of existence, discovering an inner center of motivation and love which makes us see ourselves and everything else in an entirely new light.

Thomas Merton. Contemplation in a World of Action. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971, pp. 160-61.

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