Saturday, November 26, 2011

Truth and love, or love of Truth, in the Apocalypse

"Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus" (Rev. 12:17). The reason the dragon, who is that "ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world," became angry is because he was unable to destroy the woman and her child, but God kept rescuing them. The dragon is "the accuser," which is what "Satan" means in Hebrew. By contrast, as Joseph Mangina notes in his theological commentary on Revelation, Jesus Christ is "the true witness, the one who tells us the truth about us by claiming us as God's own." Indeed, we become God's children by adoption through Jesus Christ. Hence, the Church, while it is a visible reality, cannot ultimately be equated with any visible group of people, but consists of "those who keep God's commandements and bear witness to Jesus," who constitute "the rest of her offspring." This seems to me what is meant but such observations that merely going to Church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. This in no way diminishes going to Church, participating in the liturgy, which is one of the best and most explicit ways of keeping God's commandments (there are ways we love God that are distinct from loving our neighbor- worship) and bearing witness to Jesus. Participation in the liturgy is what might be called a necessary, but not sufficient condition of being a Christian.

William Blake, The Great Red Dragon and the Beast From the Sea, 1805-10 (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

It is precisely these who grasp what is at stake, who recognize the struggle in which they are engaged against the powers and the principalities. Commenting on some verses in chapter thirteen of Revelation, Mangina helps us to see the absolute dependence of God's children on God. In verse seven of chapter thirteen, we read that the beast, who is the spawn of the dragon, "was also allowed to wage war against the holy ones and conquer them." According to this, it seems that the saints are beaten. Mangina sagely observes that this result will only seem disappointing to those who "embrace the beast's criteria for what constitutes success." To wit: "The church that imagines it has a successful strategy for confronting the principalities and powers on their own terms had better think again. It is not only that the church, by submitting to the court of human judgment rather than to the decrees of the just judge, will lose its own soul; ironically, it will not even gain the world" (Mangina 162).

In these trying times, when everyone it seems is some sort of an economic determinist, it is useful to be reminded,as Mangina reminds us, "The realm of economics is preeminently a realm dominated by the principalities." It is "because Christ speaks the truth," Mangina continues, "the Christian, too, is summoned to a vocation of courageous truth-teller." So, any time "the Christian refuses to go along with the devil's lies, she confirms her love both of the true witness and of the neighbor who suffers the burden of the false witness."

Next week I hope to post a few words about ideology.

1 comment:

  1. I will look into purchasing this book. I trust this writer has been found credible to the church? I am guessing so since you have referenced him.?

    I have been watching the surreal unfold at my worksite. Not so long ago, I was removed from a position essentially because I could not remain silent. It broke my heart to realize the number of people who found it necessary to maintain silence. It was extremely difficult. I am uncertain if I am prepared to see such sadness again so soon. Yet, the very people who removed me, now wish to promote me again. I have made my discouragements known. They seem to fall on deaf ears. I wonder if this means God wants me there.? I don't know. What I do know.. is that we meet with differences in direction. Similar scenarios will present with accompanying similar expectations of silence... will meet with objection. I can't be someone I am not... I can't be who they wish me to be.

    At the end of the day, when the busy-ness and noise have passed ... the subtle sounds of Truth begin to play... and if I should find I cannot dance, I have lost most dearly. The music sustains and guides me throughout the day... but the dance is the purpose of my being.

    How do you explain that to your job? (smiles) I haven't the words to help them to understand.

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