Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Union with the Living Christ

Redemption occurs not through assent to doctrine but through union with the living Christ by faith. This life could not occur with a dead Christ. The engendering power of Christianity could not be proclaimed if Christianity spoke only of a person who was but no longer is. If he ceased to be alive, he could not have an effect on our present life with God.

Believers are joined to the Lord in a spiritual union and fellowship with each other that is sustained by their relation to this living Person. The continuing life of Christ includes our life. In this union Christ shares empathetically in our struggle even now, and we share in the fullness of his life with God the Father.

There is hardly a point in Christian teaching at which we seem to be further distanced from modern consciousness than the exaltation of Jesus. When we look toward him with jaded modern eyes, we tend to reduce him to something manageable. So modernity struggles to identify experientially how his consciousness has affected our modern forms of consciousness. The only conception of a living Christ that is allowable under the constraints of modern naturalism is that his influence lives in the memory and actions of others, analogous to the way heroes exert continuing influence. But the worshiping community celebrates that he acts upon us as one who himself is personally alive. The missing element in such an analysis is his own continuing personal life.

The ancient ecumenical testimony is that Jesus now lives so as to engender life in us. His living presence is the real energy and force and power of historic Christianity and present Christian life. Detached from the living Christ, the branch withers, the flower fades.

~ Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity (2009)

5 comments:

Rick said...

Oden is wonderful. Great book.

This is close to the EO idea of "theosis", without saying the word.

J. Wesley thought much of the concept, and as Scot McKnight points out today, some Finnish Lutheran theologians are also reflecting on it.

Could it be a concept that may bring down some barriers between various streams of Christianity?

Kurt said...

“The ancient ecumenical testimony is that Jesus now lives so as to engender life in us. His living presence is the real energy and force and power of historic Christianity and present Christian life. Detached from the living Christ, the branch withers, the flower fades.”

As a Catholic Episcopalian this is particularly true for me in Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for the comments, Rick and Kurt.

Rick, I like your insight that what Oden is drawing on in this passage is something that unites various streams of Christianity. One can hope and pray that recognizing and affirming the things that unite us can build bridges towards greater unity.

Kurt, I resonate deeply with what you're saying about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Indeed, encountering that Real Presence was one of the many things that eventually led me to into discernment for the priesthood.

Robert F said...

Modern, and post-modern, consciousness do not comprehend that Jesus not only continues to live by the memory of him molding and shaping us, but also, and more importantly, by being alive to himself and by calling us FORWARD into the future that is his being.

Bryan Owen said...

Well said, Robert!