Thursday, March 20, 2008

Synergy vs. Workmanship?

So I am reading the book "The Power of the Word" by John Breck - which is an Eastern Orthodox look at the Word of God - not just in terms of "the Bible" but in terms we Lutherans would recognize as "Word and Sacrament" - knowing that a Sacrament is the Word attached to something that is physical.

It is an interesting book - and there is much that I like about it (there is a strong focus on the Word at work in Worship - which is an excellent emphasis). However, what is interesting is that Breck defends Higher Criticism - although he tries to limit the extent to which it is rightly used as a "science" as opposed to flawed interpretations based upon it. These two ideas seemed contradictory to me - that God is truly active in His Word, but then, well, when reading Scripture you might be just getting some wrong junk because of the human author's problems.

He writes something interesting along these lines that gave me pause to think. "The Nicene Creed affirms that the Spirit 'spoke by the prophets,' and Christian faith accepts without question His inspirational activity in shaping both the prophetic word and the written text of Scripture (This does not imply, however, a doctrine of literal or verbal inspiration. The Spirit acts by 'synergy,' i.e. by cooperating with the human agent in such a way that the inspired word remains a human word, subject to the historical, cultural and linguistic conditions of its time)."

This demonstrates what I think is the fundamental flaw I end up seeing in Eastern approaches - synergism. Now, that a Lutheran would be death on synergism isn't surprising. However, this isn't synergism in terms of salvation, it's synergism in terms of action - and I think it denigrates God a bit.

Why do I say this? How do I suddenly become a limitor on God? If there is "synergy" I can only put in what I can put in - I can only pull so much. What of "I can do all things through God who strengthens me" (except escape cultural limitations)? What of worry not what you will say in that hour?

Here's the problem - it's Ephesians 2. . . not verses 8 and 9, but 1 and 10. We were dead in trespasses but now we are God's Workmanship. God's. He makes us into who we are - He makes us beyond what we in and of ourselves by sinful nature are. The Christian life is not a simple matter of synergism - not just we work with God. It's a matter of no longer being us who live, but Christ who lives in us - Christ who uses us to ends and in works which we are not even aware of.

This does not mean that we lose our individual characteristics, for we are workmanship, pots are still separate pots even though their Maker is One and the Same - but the functionality and the value all derive from the working of the Creator. But the focus has to be upon what God does - not just in Scripture or the service but in every moment of our lives.

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