He who practices charity is not jealous, nor envious, neither does he speak evil of his neighbor. He does not rejoice at the fall of others; he does not incriminate the fallen, but he sorrows with him, and does what he can to comfort him. He/she does not pass by his brother/sister in hard times; but he/she helps them, and even dies with them.
He who performs charity does the will of God, and learns of Him; for our own good Master Himself said: 'By this shall all people know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.' He that has charity thinks no one a stranger; but he looks upon all men as his own kindred. He that has charity endures all things, is long-suffering, and kind to all... Truly may we say that 'God is love, and that he that dwells in love dwells in God.'
St. Ephraim Syrus (c. 306-73)
(from A Day Book from the Saints and Father, ed. J. H. Burn)
What I am concerned with at present is not the question whether God is dead or obsolete, but with the question of what resources of language may be dead or obsolete. The metaphorical and metonymic phases of language have been in large measure outgrown because of the obvious limitations that they imposed on the human mind. But it seems clear that the descriptive phase also has limitations, in a world where its distinction of subject and object so often does not work. There is no question of giving up descriptive language, only of relating it to a broader spectrum of verbal expression.
The word "God" is a noun, and so falls into the category of things and objects. For metonymic writing this is not an insurmountable problem: what is beyond all things and objects can still be a noun, or at any rate have a name. For most writers of the second phase, God represents an immutable being, set over against the dissolving flow of the world of becoming in which we are; and practically the only grammatical device for conveying this sense of the undeniable is the abstract noun. For third-phase writing, founded as it is on a sense-apprehended distinction between objects that are there and objects that are not, "God" can go only into the illusory class. But perhaps this kind of noun-thinking is, at least here, a fallacy of the type that Whitehead calls a fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
In Exodus 3:14, though God also gives himself a name, he defines himself as "I am that I am," which scholars say is more accurately rendered "I will be what I will be." That is, we might come closer to what is meant in the Bible by the word "God" if we understood it as a verb, and not a verb of simple asserted existence but a verb implying a process accomplishing itself.
This would involve trying to think our way back to a conception of language in which words were words of power, conveying primarily the sense of forces and energies rather than analogues of physical bodies. To some extent this would be a reversion to the metaphorical language of primitive communities, as our earlier references to a cycle of language and the "primitive" word "manna" suggested. But it would also be oddly contemporary with post-Einsteinium physics, where atoms and electrons are no longer thought of as things but rather as traces of processes. God may have lost his function as the subject or object of a predicate, but may not be so much dead as entombed in a dead language.
~ Northrop Frye, The Great Code
We sometimes ask, 'What of the good men and women who lived before the time of Christ or in pagan lands, and never had the opportunity of being Christians?' Here is the answer of one writer.
We must believe that the possibilities, provided by God of learning through suffering in this world, have always afforded a sufficient means of salvation to every soul that has made the best of the spiritual opportunity offered to it here, however small that opportunity may have been...
A pagan soul, no less than a Christian soul, has ultimate salvation within its reach; but a soul which has been offered, and has opened itself to the illumination and grace that Christianity conveys, will, while still in this world, be more brightly infused with the light of the other world than a pagan soul that has won salvation by making the best of this world, of the narrower opportunity here open to it. The Christian soul can attain, while still on earth, a greater measure of human goodness than can be attained by any pagan soul in this earthly stage of its existence...
It is this individual spiritual progress in this world for which we pray when we say, 'Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven'. It is for the salvation that is open to all people of good will—pagan as well as Christian, primitive as well as civilized—who make the most of their spiritual opportunities on earth, however narrow these opportunities may be, that we pray when we say, 'Thy Kingdom come'.
~ Arnold J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial
A person who has a knowledge of doctrine and theology only—without religious affection—has never engaged in true religion. Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it. There are thousands who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live.
The reason is this: they are not affected with what they hear. There are many who hear about the power, the holiness, and the wisdom of God; about Christ and the great things that he has done for them and his gracious invitation to them; and yet they remain exactly as they are in life and in practice.
I am bold in saying this, but I believe that no one is ever changed, either by doctrine by hearing the Word, or by the preaching or teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected. In a word, there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart filled with deep affection for those things.
~ Jonathan Edwards
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.