CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
I have been attending the conference of the Indiana University Center for 18th Century Studies. Professors and graduate students from all over the world [at least Germany and Canada in addition to the US] and from many academic disciplines [history, philosophy, French, German, English, music] have gathered to debate whether the Enlightenment caused the future to go from closed to open, or whether the switch to an open future caused the Enlightenment. [My description is a bit too simple, but I’m a simple guy.] We read 357 pages of papers written specifically for this conference as preparation.
The future was “closed” by the church. For Calvinists it was closed by the doctrine of predestination, that God had decided before you were born whether you were going to heaven or hell. No free will, no future. For the Roman Church, it was closed by the apocalyptic end of the world. Jesus was coming, but no one knew when. In the meantime, you’d better do what the church says so you’ll be ready. No free will, no future.
Given that churchly background, I’m surprised that no one at the conference has written or spoken to the point that it was another religious figure, John Wesley, whose life spanned the 18th century, from 1703 to 1791, who opened the future by starting with the mercy of god rather than the power of god, because of his own experience of acceptance/forgiveness and thus standing against predestination and apocalypticism with his doctrines of free will and going on to perfection.
Actually, the future is closed or open because of the past, specifically where you start.
If you start with the power of God, you get predestination. God is omniscient so knows everything already so knows whether you are going to heaven or hell.
If you start with the mercy of God, you get free will. You are free to act, and it’s okay to act, to try, because if you fail, God will forgive and go on into the future with you.
Put another way, if you start and end with the Bible, you get bibliolatry. If you start and end with experience, you get psychosis. If you start and end with tradition [the church, specifically the RC Church] you get law instead of grace. However, if you put all those together, as the late great Albert Outler, the Wesleyan scholar, and one of my professors a long time ago, points out that Wesley did, you get an open future.
Wesley’s theology is of tremendous importance, not just for history studies, but for politics and psychology. The future is open. Don’t be afraid to go into it.
My youthful ambition was to be a journalist, and write a column for a newspaper. So I think of this blog as an online column. I started it several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, ”Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!” [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] We no longer live in “the place of winter.” The grandchildren grew up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I continue to work at understanding what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…
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