Friday, June 08, 2007

Another quarter done!

So I finished up yesterday morning but spent the rest of the day in some kind of haze and the LAST thing I could have stood was more time at the computer, so that's why you're just now hearing about this. But yes, I am done. Thanks be to God. And you know, I don't think my final paper turned out all that bad, either.

I wrote about Thomas Merton as a case study for the debate on the possibility of universal religious experience. I tried to show how his mystical theology was informed by Zen principles, and then how Zen actually solves some of the issues in mystical theology (the subject/object dichotomy, the kataphatic vs. apophatic schools), and finally I suggested that Zen could be called a "mega-religion" (per the definition of d'Aquili & Newberg, this is something that can be lain overtop any religious system and work for it). Dunno if my thesis was successful, but I did really enjoy outlining Merton's gradual transformation from anti-pluralist to Zen devotee. Good times.

I also want to share some notes from a few weeks ago, when I had the pleasure of attending a small group session with a visiting scholar, Lester Ruth (he's at Asbury and buddies with Todd, my mentor). He had some really great things to say about worship, so I shall now give you my notes and commentary:

Ruth prefers the term "Democratic Pragmatic" to describe worship in most Evangelical churches today (as opposed to words like "contemporary" or "frontier style"). This is because the worship style is primarily based on whatever "works" (pragmatic). The definition of what "works" in a democratic society is whatever brings in numbers (democratic). Thus, we have this current "contemporary praise" style, because (I guess) that brings in numbers (it does make people feel good). I like this term.

In this style, music now holds the mediating place between us and God (has taken it away from Christ).

An idea to bring more Scripture into service: during song transitions, tell the stories of Bible characters who could sing the song you've just done or the one coming up. Why only pray or introduce a song? Why not tie it into the larger cosmic story of God's work among people? This will take it out of the me-focus by placing that morning's music in the larger context of worship throughout the ages.

Once Ruth met Stanley Hauerwas, and Hauerwas rather incredulously asked him: "How will you teach liturgy to Evangelicals?" Ruth replied that the classic ways of worship actually love God more profoundly than what they are used to.

Augustine: the body is not separated from the Head when it prays. Head's still on. That means Jesus prays with us. Can you imagine the prayer you are saying on Jesus' lips? (can't get too mushy if you are praying with Jesus' words)

An interesting (if limited) metaphor for worship: a chatroom already going on. We log in, using Jesus' username, to join the chat between God and all people. We can come with confidence, not worrying about how well are "doing" worship. We're part of the chat.

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