We worship God. He is God: we are not. We confess that the God of Jesus Christ is the only God.
We concede that there are rival gods, alternative authorities and divinities, but declare that none of them are what they claim to be.
1. Returning praise
2. The trinitarian order of worship.
3. Communion and participation in the life of heaven.
4. Liturgical action as
5. Worship as sacrifice
7. Creeds and plurality
1. Returning praise
worship God. He is God: we are not. This is the point of monotheism. We confess
that the God of Jesus Christ is the only God. We concede that there are rival
gods, alternative authorities and divinities, but declare that none of them are
what they claim to be. The confession that only God is God takes place in the
face of all the many claimants to divine status. Indeed, it is only our
confession of God that prevents us from making our own claim to divinity over
other people. So the Christian confession of God concedes that many other
claims are made, that many other gods or authorities are identifiable, but it
declares that these others do not have the authority or the status that is
claimed for them. ‘We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth – as indeed
there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’, yet for us there is but one God’ (2
God is social
is in himself all sociality and otherness. He is already one and complete,
without us. He can also therefore make others other, and make their otherness
resistant to assimilation by us. Their status as his creatures prevents us from
turning them into our objects. God can make others, and make them complete
without us and apart from us. Thus confession of this complete and social God
is the possibility of acknowledging the particular claims of others.
God spoke first
words of God brought us into being. They named us and recognised us. God praised
us first. He found his creation good, and is determined to preserve its
goodness. He intends to bring to voice. He is looking for an answering word.
Our praise must not only be received from God, but passed on to all the
creatures of God, and finally be given again back to God. What he creates he
also takes back from us again. He gives, and he takes away again, in order to
restore it and return it to us renewed.
must be a circulation of speech, an economy of praise, that God initiates and
sustains, and catches us up into, and
which we can freely participates in.
bible works on the assumption that being of each person is actively extended to them by the whole
community. We talk one another into being. God gives us the words by which to
recognise and sustain one another, and he will redeem our words by making
them come true. We could call this a
doxological ontology. When honour is not attributed to people, they become
impoverished and vulnerable, with the result that they drop out of public
visibility, and die. According to the letter of James ‘murder’ means just
withholding the result of the labour of the poor, so their well-being, health
and public status dwindles away, with the result that there is division,
collapse of morale and sin with the resultant poverty putting members of Israel
out of the assembly. This is ‘causing to sin’ (Mark 9.42). Bearing false
witness or condoning it (Exodus 23.2-3,6-8)
By it we ‘condemn and murder innocent men’ (James 5.6) – by keeping silent and not
lifting a hand to help them. If one of you says to him ‘I wish you well; keep
warm and well fed’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?’
(James 2.16) we only have to say nothing, and by default we allow a set of
demonic socio-political consequences to wander around the body politic causing
division, blemish and sin everywhere within it, denying the poor any existence
before God. To worship God therefore involves giving active recognition to his
creatures – as his creatures, not ours.
comes from naming the creatures of God truthfully. The action of God in
telling, and in hearing and receiving, and in replying, constitutes the whole
economy of creative divine speech from which creation receives its
2. The trinitarian order of
the worship of the gathered Christian community we participate in the Son’s worship
of the Father. His worship calls into being a company that worships with him. This company participates
in this conversation of Father and Son. The Father speaks, and the Son hears and receives his speech. The Son
utters the word that receives and acknowledges the word of God. The Son is the
reply to the word of God. This word is thanks. The Son is the replying voice,
the response of thanks to God, who by replying receives what is given. Out of
all the crowd of humanity, he is the one who replies, his voice rings out ‘Here
I am’ ‘Thank you’ ‘yes’. The Son is the thanks-giver and the event of
thanksgiving, our eucharist.
adopts us as his sons, and like a good son presents us to his Father. Jesus is
able not only to make sons of us, but to make of us obedient sons, ourselves able to bear sons to the Father. Then he
hands back this lordship and fatherhood to his Father, and receives us back
from the Father again as brothers. The
relationship into which we are adopted is spiritual,
which means that it is the work of the Spirit. It is the possibility of, and
acknowledgement and realisation of the possibility of, that decision by which
the Son presents and the Father adopts many sons. We are brought into
participation in their giving and receiving. The gifts we bring are sons,
children, tokens of our good stewardship.
Christian community is identified with the Son. We are made one with him, and
in him we can worship the Father. ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’
(John 14.10-11). And we must distinguish ourselves from him and worship him as not us. ‘God himself put everything
under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject
to him who put under him, so that God made be all in all’ (1 Corinthians 15.24).
The Father tells those he intends to
add to his Son, about his Son. The Son is telling those he wants to present to
the Father about his Father. God is telling us about himself in the third
person. In this way he draws and assembles us into his narration, so the story
of God’s telling us about himself and
his servant, is his means of letting us find our identity and place in this
servant, and so become that servant. The story gives us a place, office and work. God tells us about God, first by playing alternately
his role and ours in order that we eventually come to play our role for ourselves.
we must maintain two accounts:
1. The first is
pneumatological (non-dualist). The Church is
Christ. Christ is the head of the body. The body grows from its head and receives all its definition from its
2. The second is dualist.
The Church is distinct from Christ.
The Church is the bride, Christ the bridegroom. The Church prays to Christ. The
bride must look out for the bridegroom (Mark 13.35). The petitioner must nag
the judge (Luke 18.1-8).
3. Communion and
participation in the life of heaven
Son is fully present to the Father. He is fully embodied to him by the Spirit.
People are introduced and accompanied into being, brought into the public
assembly, escorted by their sponsors. A commander is accompanied by a
detachment of troops. When he arrives, he sends those troops out again to bring
his guests to him. Jesus is accompanied by the Spirit. He is never alone,
without his company, the Spirit. We who are gathered to him are also never left
without the company of his Spirit. Sometimes
his company is tangible in the form of the saints in the congregation who
encourage us. At other times we have no tangible accompaniment. Then for all
the world it looks as though we have been left alone.
Christians pray, they are not on their own, but together with all other
Christians and saints. Though they worship from many different places, they are
in one place. The whole company comes out to meet them, to carry them and their
requests together, so though they are on earth, they are together with the rest
of the company of heaven. They are with all generations of saints together who
uphold all places, and themselves are divided by no time or place. They are
with all other Christians now praying from other places, and who by praying
from those places, make those places present.
of persons is theological and eschatological talk. Persons are being
brought into being by God. Their being is not yet complete, so human life is
presently a matter of hope and faith in God. The Holy Spirit is the mediator of
the persons of the Trinity. All the movement of the Son to the Father is the
work of the Spirit, who calls, sends, trains and makes him obedient, and who
raises him and seats him on the right hand from where he now works. God is both
enthroned and at rest, and God is in action for us now, working a creation for
us. God has a time that is now perfect and complete. This perfect time now
extends to us a time in which we are being worked to perfection and
completeness – two times, and two discourses.
Son is with us by the Spirit, such that we are visible to him but he is not
visible to us. He extends being to us with the purpose that we become able to
receive it from him and return it to him. We receive our being from him as we
learn to return what he gives, and to receive from him again in an economy of
action. It is God’s intention that man should be with him as the free and
finished creature; it is God’s determination for this end that will bring it
Anaphora and anamnesis
hearts are lifted by our saviour. They are now lifted up by our liturgical work of relating the salvation
history and setting it in the eschatological cosmic history. The company of
heaven sustains our worship, and as thanksgiving, our remembering and recounting
of the salvation history and our referring every created thing to God the giver
of its life.
Through man the whole cosmos worships God
has given man a labour to perform. He is to keep the cosmos in order. He is to
do this by returning praise from all levels of the cosmos to God. He is to give
things their names. The act of Christian worship is a work of shepherding
creation to allow all things to praise their maker. In this process the
heavenly community, the shepherd and custodian of the cosmos, overflows to form
a community on earth, to re-unite earth into a single economy with heaven.
man has not yet grown into his role. He has not given the creaturely forces the
rule they need. He has not performed his mandate to call them to account and
arbitrate between them, has not presided over them to keep their claims in
balance, not given them justice. The result is that they are out of kilter and
the world is in rebellion. The creaturely forces have become unruly local
centres of recalcitrance. Rather than return power to God, they hoard it. Adam
has allowed intermediary forces to gather and become centres of stock-piled
power. They have come into being only because, understanding these parts as the
whole, man has attributing too much to them, and so alienated to them a power
that should belong to him, not to them. Instead of being images of the
authority devolved to them from above, they are idolatrous, images that do not
reflect God’s but their own glory.
in the new Adam there is direct rule from heaven, a combined economy of
earth-with-heaven, by which the earth will be renewed. These local powers are
taken away from the intermediary authorities and re-assigned to those who never
received what was intended for them. The purpose was that the cosmos would be handed over to man, and that
man and world should be together blessed by each other. Man is still the head
and mind of this cosmos because Christ is the head and the mind of man. Without
Christ as his head, man is just a slave, a body ruled and divided by different
powers (thus many bodies, or parts). When the Father is the head and mind,
Christ will be all in all, and the world will be the means of his co-presence
with us. The arrangement of the congregation represents a tableau in a pageant
in which the restored order of the whole cosmos is represented, and in this
earthly eucharistic liturgy is a relay station for the heaven liturgy. We
listen for the distant shouting of the heavenly crowd, pick it up and stay in
synch with it. We have to shout loud enough for them to hear us. They have to
take their encouragement from us; our arrival will complete their joy.
4. Learning as purpose of
as repetition as modality of learning
reaches down to earth, holding earth and bringing into union with heaven and
made it one communion and reality with it. But communion and reality is
measured out to us only as fast as we can take it. Reality (the Logos, the fullness of being) pours
something of himself out to us, and extends to us a chain of subordinate goods intended
to make holy persons. These are only misleadingly regarded as holy things in
themselves or by conferral of holiness – sacraments. They are not holy things,
but creatures employed in the process of making a people holy.
prayers and sacrifices are not going on a single journey upwards from man to
God. The worshipping community is not in a simple sense giving a sacrifice to
God. It is returning one of God’s created goods – for example, a lamb – to God
in order to demonstrate good use of the flock God has entrusted to it.
Stewardship and therefore husbandry of livestock is the idiom of this single
economy (communion) of God with man.
are being tutored by our teacher, Christ, who works through the Spirit, through
the community and its leaders the apostles. Apart from our tutor we can only be
oblivious to the fullness of this world, and exist in an infinitely
impoverished version of it. The world suffers from a reality deficit. One man
has risen from this deficient reality, and from reality itself, the right hand
of the Father, he has sent his Spirit to his community. This worshipping
community is the gift he gives to the world to show that reality and educate
and prepare the world for it. He has come back as the Spirit, that is, in many
gentle modes of the instruction (law, Old Testament), the teachers (apostles,
leaders), and the many other material modes (the strength given by the
community to each of its members).
cannot see until the obstacles to our seeing have been removed. Sanctification is a process of purgation and
purification in which everything that does not serve to make us holy is removed
from us. We are ratcheted up, between
praxis (action) and truth (contemplation). We have to learn that nothing of the
fullness of this world as the creation of God is available to us from the
impressions of our senses. Getting rid of worldly concerns is part of asking, steadily
and not with double minds, for whatever God wants to give. We have to begin to learn here the moves
that are required there. It will take all the skill we are given in this
economy to be able to enter that economy. We have to perform our present lesson
well enough before we can progress on to next, to a greater service and burden.
We do this by disavowing everything in this economy, stepping back out of our
commitments here, exercising a scepticism about the claims of this worldly
economy, and regarding everything in it as poor and tasteless copies. The
course of education involves a work of breaking out of our bonds which are the
strong man’s bonds on us – and which we impose on each other. We have to find
ways by which we can encourage each other to let go and to relax into the new
action that is to be learned.
5. Worship as sacrifice
liturgical labour represents the becoming-holy of the nation. Man is given a new action. Man is to be
drawn into the co-work of creation, and that action we can summarise as
‘sacrifice’. This is the means by which he is drawn into this new action.
is inducting man into creaturehood, an event and process of paideia. God has
given man the mandate to be steward of creation and sacrifice is the process by
which man is trained into the skills by which he can exercise this mandate.
This is an event, in which God mandates
man, and a process, in which mankind is trained by another into the skills by
which he can receive and exercise this mandate. God is teacher and man learner.
Man – in the person of the community of Israel and the Church – is learning to
exercise the office of steward – ‘sacrifice’. His Lord is supervising his
learning and correct performance of this office. God is teaching and man in
form of Israel is learning, and God is supervising his learning and correct
performance. The sacrifice is not for the benefit of the lord. It is part of
the practice of the husbandry into which the Lord inducts his servant. Every
process of teaching and learning is accompanied by a process of testing and
inspection. By the performance of sacrifice and bringing some of the results of
her husbandry to the temple for inspection, Israel’s progress in appropriating
the land and learning the holy practices of husbandry of her God are tested.
The identification and isolation of sin is a component of this process of
progress-checking which is itself a part of learning.
is responsible for the maintenance of the whole economy. He can supply the new substance with which
debts can be paid. Where there is something missing, he can supply it. Because
our economy is a sub-system of his, God can step in to re-float our economy. He
underwrites all our interaction, compensating for what is missing from it. He
always gives it something new. In order that what he gives remains current it
must also continually be drawn back in again. His gifts do not remain good and
effective or in working order without being regularly returned and serviced by
God. Nothing that stays in our hands remains for long in the condition in which
we received it, so he takes his gifts away again for service. They must pass
through God’s hands again to be restored to their shape. He receives our
involuntarily-given gifts from the willing hands of the Son. He redistributes
his gifts in order to keep the whole body nourished by them. What mankind fails
to share and circulate, tends to clot to form obstacles and local centres of
disobedient power. But God is responsible for arbitrating between the claims of
different creatures. He steps in and takes away from those who have abrogated
to themselves too much, who have taken but not given, who have refused to do
the work of benevolence and (re-)distribution. God restores the circulation. In
the theological account the conceptuality of circulation is provided by the concept
truth will set you free – preaching and prophecy
centrality of disagreement and suffering contradiction, swallowing the
bitterness of the resistance that your words will receive.
word of the Church does not belong to the Church. It belongs to God, and it
belongs to the world that God intends it for. It must be spoken. If it is not
spoken it has not properly been heard. What God breathes out we must breathe in:
we must swallow his words and speak them out again to the world. (Revelation
10.9) The ‘little scroll’ Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour,
but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey. It is a volcanic Sinai inside
you (11.5 fire comes from their mouths). It will be toxic to you if you try to
contain it, but sweet (merciful) as you speak it out. You are not to bury the
talent given you (Matthew 25.24-7). What you have learned is given you solely
that you give it to others. It is no
mercy to wrongdoers to withhold from them the fact that their time is running
out. The Word is the sacrament: the lesson and sermon are eucharistic elements.
atonement model for today’s modern man must be epistemological. Modern man is
certain that he knows himself and his world. His salvation comes when this knowledge
is taken away from him. The gospel takes such premature knowledge is taken away
from us. the modern man is divided by the modern epistemology and his functions
are farmed out to him. Christianity is the turning away from these many rival
authorities that submit men to fate and unfreedom, to serve the living God. We
must at least really understand Israel to be making the claim that all
gnosticisms are idols and must be turned away from.
does not have to start engaging with other religions. It has always engaged
with other words, and done this by turning away from all other words, claims
and authorities. These systems or programmes of knowledge (of world-conquering
or world-escaping) that allow licence to the various dichotomies and (explanatory)
forces that submit people to fate and unfreedom. Such gnosticisms that make up the
Western intellectual tradition are driven by dichotomies, for example, of head
and body, intellect and emotion, reason versus faith, enlightenment versus
religion, pure reason versus practical reason, reason versus ‘therapy’. We must
really understand Israel and Jesus Christ to be declaring that all gnosticisms
are idols, and understand that Christ has made himself their opponent for our
sake, and we must turn from them to him.
7. The Creeds and plurality
is not the case that worshipers of other gods are worshipping the same God (see
sections 1 & 6 above). It is not
the case that the Father is the God that all monotheistic religions agree on,
or the Son is merely the additional information that the Christians have
introduced. The worshiper of other gods have not seen the Father. When they understand that there is a power
that rivals themselves they have merely guessed at the Son. His name has not
been published or released to them. The name of the Son, and consequently the
Spirit who is the sole means and power of calling on this name, activating and
exercising knowledge of him as his power, is the one way to appeal to the
Father, the otherwise unknown and unknowable God.
creed has taken the shape it has because it was answering a question put Hellenism,
of whether the world was the right place for God, whether God could or would
really want to be with men, and to that purpose be incarnate. They queried whether
this was suitable to what was asserted of God’s nature, and to his honour. It
is because these were the questions put that the creed took this form, and we
have God the Father-Creator coming before the second, and apparently prior to
and separately from it. But the creed
is read as a single sentence of which every part interprets every other part.
The doctrine of God teaches that it was God’s original and unchanging intention
to be with men, himself taking the flesh he had given them, and becoming man,
specifically this man, Jesus. It is not that the persons of the Trinity must be
separately and subsequently introduced and secured after God the Father. Could
we put the second or the third articles before the first? The creed can be read
from either end. It is not suggesting that God is Father or God is Creator is a
logical starting point from which discussion with pagan theologies could begin.
discourse of ‘plurality’ and ‘many religions’ represent a failure of difference
and plurality. They represent a real uniformity, not otherness at all. Talk of ‘Pluralism’ is a real failure of
pluralism. It is the gospel of Christ which enables freed speech and confident
language and lasting plurality.