Posts Tagged christianity
James T. Mace ← Here is a webpage describing my academic presentation on 25 May 2013. I propose to use canonical biblical exegesis to synthesize a Trinitarian ecclesiology and practice global loving solidarity in support of the persecuted Church.
The eschatological ecclesiology will be further useful over the next several centuries in bringing maturity to the global Church as the Spiritually empowered imago Trinitatis Sociae, the incarnate image of God stewarding the cosmos. Thus shall we both fulfill our temporal Great Commission and enable further attainment of humanity’s perfection, which is our eternal destiny.
Bio-Reading Music: “If Ye Love Me” (John 14:15–17a; by Thomas Tallis, ca. A.D. 1505–1585).
Song lyrics: “If ye loue me, keepe my comandements, 16 And I wil pray the Father, and he shall giue you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for euer, 17 Euen the Spirit of trueth” (John 14:15–17a in the A.D. 1560 Geneva Bible).
His “commandments” are the Dual Love Command, to love  God and to love  fellow Christians: “whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 This is His commandment, that we  believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and  love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:22–24).
Preliminary Spiritual Autobiography (still under development)
In ca. A.D. 450, St. Patrick of Ireland wrote the Confessio patricii, a short declaration, an apologetic defending his life and mission in the Church. I here do something similar with a brief account of how Christ has been active in my life calling me to and equipping me for the ministry in which I find myself.
I discern my calling to practice constructive biblical theology providing a foundation of rock to “raise up an army” to spread the love of Christ throughout the cosmos for such a time as this (cf. Esther 4:14), when the global Church must arise in systemic competition for the prize of planet earth both against Humanism (with its ideologically governmental “Universal Brotherhood of Man”) and against Islam (with its doctrinal praxis of the global Ummah).
With C. S. Lewis’ “holy dissatisfaction,” I see the Church in the world and consider how much more we can succeed at our Great Commission. How much more will the Church shine out as the light of the world (e.g., Isa 49:6; Matt 5:14) drawing all humans unto Christ (e.g., John 17:21) when we are united coals of flaming love, like the bush burning but not consumed? How can we reassemble the divided stones of the altar, in loving solidarity one with another, to bring down the heavenly Fire into the world (1 Kings 18:31–32)?
We are to be soldiers of Christ practicing the God-given unity which Ignatius recognized as one of the distinguishing marks of the true faith:
“train together with one another: struggle together, run together, suffer together, lie down together, rise up together, as God’s stewards and assessors and ministers. Please the Captain in whose army ye serve” wielding “your love as your spear” (epistle of Ignatius To Polycarp, Ign. Pol. 6:1–2).
So I must seek to facilitate ecumenical unity of denominations like Romanism, Orthodoxy, Copts, Protestants, et al, bring rapprochement between Liberal/Progressive and Conservative arms of the Church, equip the antidote for those tempted by homosexuality, etc. My life has led to this point that I can help provide vision for constructing Christian civilizational Life via empowering Hope from eschatological ecclesiological Light, offered in the spirit of that faithful little lad whom St. Andrew brought to humbly offer 5 loaves & 2 fish (John 6:8–13), which, when used by his King, fed over 5,000 souls with 12 basketfuls left over.
Father’s Prophecy of My Future Ministry
My mother testifies how, when I was 3 years old, one church minister told my parents how much she disliked it when I was occasionally absent from Sunday school since they could hardly take care of the other children without my active presence comforting those in need. And my father prophesied to my mother: “Mark my words–one day Jim will be a preacher.” Although my father was a Deacon and Elder who raised me in the Church, I was entirely unaware of this prophecy until years after his death 40 days following the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the West.
Apostasy into Scientism
During my rebellious early teen years, father allowed me freedom to stop attending church with the family, a liberty of which I negatively took advantage. So I was drawn away in the educational system by the glamour of Scientistic Humanism, during which time I won many awards, including a statewide gold medal for my essay on alternative energy sources. But I had embraced a destructive ideology, voicing, e.g., the opinion that “Wars are good things because they decrease the surplus population.”
Christ’s Preveniently Guiding Hand along the Road Back to Faith
I began to be drawn back toward the light when I worked for the Mercer Shaw Evangelistic Association, an itinerant ministry of music, as Distribution Manager handling shipping and finances regarding sales of recorded musical products. With my earnings in hand, I took off driving a Bedford troop carrier from London to Johannesburg, first reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings while driving through the southern Saharan Mordor.
There I encountered the godly example of the since-beatified Père Charles de Foucauld, who gave up titles, riches, and a life of selfish hedonism in order to devote his life in ministry to others until martyred by militant internationalist Senussi Islamists, some of whom believed they had been following the awaited Mahdi antichrist. This example led the way for me to escape egocentrism and give my life for the good of others.
I received a loving witness of Christian hospitality from the church in central Africa. One idyllic evening looking upon the tranquil Congo from the hilltop, I had a vision while sitting with Peace Corps workers on the grave of the missionary who founded the church and school on the banks of the river, deep in the jungle of the central région de l’Equateur.
Later in Tanzania (after surviving a murderous hippo charge and passing through the forbidden kingdom of Burundi in order to avoid Idi Amin’s invasion of the Kagera River region), there first clearly came to me the memorable impression of the distinctly globally unitive power of the Church of Jesus Christ. This came when cross-culturally encountering a vibrant, fully-native, contextualized Christianity at a Christmas Eve service before beginning the five-day climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the morning. From the mountain heights looking down upon my Father’s world, I began to see how Christ is working to bring together all its ethnic groups under His banner.
After experiencing the violent reaction to Apartheid in South Africa, I returned to America and spent a brief, relatively unfruitful sojourn studying medicine at Oklahoma State University. I soon took off again to circumnavigate the globe in search of Truth.
Submission, Salvation, and Experience of Christ’s Existential Reality
During a Near Death Experience in New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Forest following my ingestion of poisonous mushrooms, with great sadness I received from Christ the message: “You have to go back; there is still something you have to do.” Within two days after my return to earth, two different Christian messengers claiming to speak to me from the Holy Spirit were sent to provide hospitality and assist me on my quest to pursue this unknown mission, mysteriously encountering on the way the international community of successors to Charles de Foucauld, Les Petits Frères de Jésus.
Yet the forces of darkness did not want to lose their grip on me, requiring a dramatic spiritual power encounter by Christ in a slummy suburb of Sydney when I finally submitted to His lordship, crying out, “Save me! And I’ll be Your man!” Instantaneously His palpable love filled the room, putting the cloud of evil preternatural darkness to flight, and I knew in the true power of His life and light my ultimate destiny.
After encountering a biblical archaeologist lecturing at the Sydney Opera House, I altered my plans to study the tribal religions of New Guinea and arranged to meet him in Cairo in a couple of months.
But first I stopped on the way in Southeast Asia for an independent anthropological expedition among the hill tribes of the Golden Triangle. There I was taken hostage by the infamous Burmese opium warlord, Khun Sar (alias Chiang Shi Fu) and literally lived through the 23rd Psalm. This occasion provided the opportunity to experience another valuable lesson of the existential provision of Christ’s presence (and this one was more incarnate than the purely demonic oppression from which He previously delivered me). As He Shepherded me, hands bound, buffeted by rifle butts, up and over hills, down into valleys, wading streams on the night march to a small jungle prison camp deep inside the forbidden Shan Plateau, I passed through valleys of death but feared no evil. He even prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Upon my eventual release as chosen courier of letters to Pres. Reagan offering to sell all the heroin from the region to the U. S. government (to keep it off the streets), I bequeathed my first cross, which I had bought near my hovel in Sydney, to one of my captors, a Burmese Christian school-teacher-turned-freedom-fighter. Ever since that time, I have borne a burden for the persecuted Christians of Burma, suffering brutal genocide in the longest-running civil war on the planet. (See more in these 3 links to the Free Burma Rangers.)
Mission, Excavation, and Experience of Christ’s Intellectual Validity
I made it to Cairo on time via Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and preached to persecuted churches in Egypt and Turkey about how Christ walks with us through the vale of suffering. I also saw how events described in the Bible are confirmed by the archaeological record, giving me a greater faith in the veracity of the scriptural accounts. Returning to Oklahoma, I joined the ranks of those I once thought weird by pursuing a wide array of biblical, archaeological, historical, linguistic, philosophical, political, film, and speech studies.
Through these studies, including two archaeological excavations in the late-bronze and iron age Shephelah (Tell el-Hesi and Tel-Lachish, with publication re the latter), I gained a solid foundation in the historical basis of our faith. Ours is the God of history Who works within this good creation to reclaim all enemy-occupied territory.
And in my semester with Rev. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer III in his pioneering Alpine community of L’Abri, Switzerland (as the final new disciple to literally sit at his feet on his right hand before his death), I experienced the philosophical and practical aspects of incarnating a true community of love so that I feel called to carry on the torch.
D. A favourite exploration of such themes occurred while playing the role of Tevye (Best Actor) in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Based on their mutual worship, the loving community of the village Anatevka provided a basis by which to weather the storms of intercultural conflict and persecution.
Practicing Non-Academic Ministry
Growing out of extensive theatrical experience with Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, I implemented my calling by founding and leading for several years the Soldiers of Christ ministry, using the metaphor of mediaeval chivalry for discipleship of men and boys, writing and producing plays and dramatic teaching performances incarnating exemplars of Christian virtue from biblical, literary, and historical sources in churches and schools, public evangelism, summer camp, and numerous television spots re biblical doctrine, Christian history, and cultural apologetics.
The Lesson of the Twelve Stones
Christ taught me in yet another way of His powerful provision to fulfill whatever calling a servant has (Ephesians 3:16–21). He did this by holding me up, as if by His vast invisible hand beneath, during the entire second half of a twelve-mile swim (roughly equivalent to running two consecutive marathons) before I raced off to serve in prayer as Chaplain for a meeting of the Oklahoma County Republican Men’s Club studying Constitutional government.
I was to swim 12 miles in 7 hours (and was enabled to finish in 6:56), stopping at the end of each mile to symbolically place another stone in rebuilding the altar of divided Israel so that the empowering, “altaring” fire could fall on us from heaven (1 Kings 18:31–39). Throughout, I briefly suspended the quest at times in order to record spiritual insights as they came, and they were many.
Academic Soldier of Christ
A couple of years later, I discerned a call back into the academy and have picked up three master’s degrees in biblical studies, historical, and systematic theology. I have chosen to begin my doctoral work in St. Andrews, Scotland, formerly the ancient Pictish Kilrymont. Here in A.D. 877 my 36th great-grandfather Causantín mac Cináeda reestablished the Celtic Culdee monastic community church, which continues today as the Church of St. Mary on the Rock (into which I, thinking of my academic work to revive the Church while bearing aloft the wooden cross on the final stage before placing it behind where the altar stood, recently led the ecumenical Good Friday pilgrimage of all St. Andrews churches). But later that same year, grandfather Causantín was cruelly martyred through torture after defending his people from heathen Vikings’ antichristian “Jihad.”
Also here in St. Andrews in A.D. 1559, Rev. John Knox, a fellow alumnus of the University of St. Andrews and minister at my Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, kicked the Scottish Reformation into high gear. Fulfilling the prophecy he had made when exiled as a galley slave, brother Knox returned to preach in St. Andrews from 11–14 June, including his famous sermon “Cleansing the Temple,” and Scotland, indeed the entire world, has never been the same since. (Also educated at St. Andrews was another of my great-grandfathers who was Knox’s theological and ecclesial assistant Rev. John Craig, a Dominican monk who miraculously escaped burning by the Pope in Rome before becoming chaplain to Scottish monarchs, author of what became the National Covenant, Scottish Catechisms, etc.)
The cleansing of the Church temple that I am facilitating is purification from anti-biblical misdefinition of the Second Great Commandment (Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27, etc.). We are to have a uniquely special primacy of love for fellow Christians above non-Christians (cf., e.g., Galatians 6:10). The general disobedience to the Commandment (which we cannot obey when we don’t even know what it is) generally weakens our witness to the world and prevents our complete maturity into the renewed eschatological humanity, the perfected imaginem Trinitatis Sociae, the incarnate corporate image of the Social Trinity, the Body of the God-Man Christ Jesus.
Brother Knox saw great importance to the truth that any enduring work must be founded upon Scripture. The verse we find inscribed upon his house is the very foundation upon which my 21st-century reformation beginning from St. Andrews is based.
So, after about a decade of examining the issues re the Second Great Commandment and the Samaritan parable, I am content to move forward full steam ahead with intense, full-time attempted academic verification of the hypothesis that the Second Great Commandment is still limited in scope to the covenant people. If correct, this will restore the everlasting intra-ecclesial love ethic to its proper formational role so that the Church may more brightly shine as the loving communitarian solidarity for the world.
In early 2014 I’ll be leaving St. Andrews and going to Canterbury to participate in the founding of the University of Kent’s upcoming interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Early Christianity and Its Reception. There my ca. 48th great-grandmother, the Merovingian Blithildis, brought the first introduction of Christianity to Anglo-Saxons, in A.D. 597 converting her husband, St. Æthelberht, who thus became England’s first Christian king, erected Canterbury Cathedral, and gave his full support to the cause of Christianity in his Kentish realm.
My first project for the new Centre may well be to show both the various ways in which proper understanding of the Loyal Samaritan was corrupted as its covenantal Hebraic context was lost in the Hellenic world (with, e.g., its Stoic philosophy), transformed into either an allegory of the cosmic Christ saving humanity or an expression of general humanistic φιλανθρωπία (philanthropy) as found in Greek novels, and how the Second Great Commandment suffered universalization in the post-Constantinian establishment of Christianity as the state religion.
Amidst my more academic pursuits, I have continued involvement in establishing global communion of Christians and ministering to the persecuted Church. I will probably after graduation relocate in the war-zone of central Nigeria, where Christians are being violently persecuted on the front line of Islamist expansion towards the south in their bid to control all Africa. There I will join my friends administering the ECWA Seminary in Jos, teach, and continue the mission to revive the Church worldwide through academic writing and other means of global presence.
It is not an easy quest to fulfill Christ’s commission: “there is still something you have to do”; “raise up an army” . . . “wielding your love as your spear.” But my Captain has shown His past provision for both marching through the valleys of death and crossing the 12-mile waters. I trust He will do the same in future as I walk through this minefield on the path to restoring the Creator’s intent for the perfection of Their renewed global humanity. So I will offer up my few loaves and fish, knowing that Christ will use them to perform miraculous transformation. My prayer is that one day I shall hear His approving, “Well done, good slave [doulos; δοῦλος]” (Luke 19:17). Soli Deo gloria! Halelu-Yahweh!
The last paragraph of Confessio patricii: “I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever deigns to look at or receive this writing which Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, has composed in Ireland, that no one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God’s good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that—as is the perfect truth—it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.”
Useful for some general loving towards all humans, this well-intentioned effort understandably walks behind the scholarly consensus on the definition of the 2d Great Commandment (2GC) and so misdefines it to our great detriment. In completely missing the mark on the definition of 2GC, otherwise often helpful McKnight disempowers the Church from the synergism needful with the 1st Great Commandment.
In actuality, the 2d is like the 1st Great Commandment (and no less) because they are both about the loving solidarity amongst unfallen communitarian idenitities. The intra-Trinitarian love exercised amidst the communitarian God is reflected in the intra-ecclesial love commanded for the corporate image of that Trinity on earth, the communitarian Body of Christ, the Church. Simply put, the definition of the “neighbor” whom Christians are commanded to love is still limited to fellow covenant members as in Lev 19:18.
In wrongly universalizing “neighbor” to signify any human being, heedless of the determinative distinction between still-fallen and already-redeemed conditions, McKnight understandably emulates erroneous human tradition that keeps the Church from becoming the Holy-Spiritually-empowered, loving global communitarian solidarity that will be formed by such love to enable greater love of the fallen, even of enemies. And only then will we cease destructive schismatic squabbles and restore the centripetal evangelistic attraction of John 17 to its rightful primacy. We will be the eschatologically mature image of God foreseen by Paul, knit together in the bond of love and empowered by Holy Spirit. Once again the world will say, “Behold, how they love one another” and flow up to Jerusalem.
But this work by McKnight, while helpful in some impulses to love and serve God and all humans, bypasses the very agent of formation, the tool intended by God to enable our growth in love, the loving community of the Church. Jesus said that failing to get both of the Great Commandments right would let fall all the other commandments dependent on getting those two right. So, until we love other Christians (our only “neighbors”) as ourselves, we will never be able to really obey the subsequent love commandments dependent on that one, which synergizes with loving God. Only when we love God and His image on earth in the Church, when we love Christ and the Body of Christ, will we best love the lost and those who are enemies to God and His people. Please learn this, Dr. McKnight, and write an even better book.