Friday, August 10, 2012

receptivity and creativity

In his book A Public Faith, Yale professor Miroslav Volf writes: “Christ is God’s Word and God’s Lamb, come into the world for the good of all people, who are all God’s creatures and loved by God. Christian faith is therefore a ‘prophetic’ faith that seeks to mend the world. An idle or redundant faith—a faith that does not seek to mend the world—is a seriously malfunctioning faith...”

In describing what is meant by a ‘prophetic faith’, Volf explains that Christianity is composed of two great movements: a mystical movement and a prophetic movement. Both are essential. While the mystical “encourages flights of the soul to God”, the prophetic “advocates active transformation of the world.” 

We see both of these movements in the prophet Moses, for example. On the one hand, Moses ascends Mount Sinai to commune with God. But he does not stay there on his holy retreat; no, he descends to bring the word of God into the world. This is the essence of prophetic ministry: an ascent to receive and a descent to create. Of course, these two movements were also embodied in Jesus, and we are heirs of his prophetic ministry.

The ascent is not merely receptive, however. It is also transformative--for the prophet. Hence, we can speak of the ascent as a creative receptivity. At the same time, the descent is not merely creative. In the midst of their work, prophets are also transformed, receiving messages from God through such work. Hence, the descent is a receptive creativity.

If we do not receive, we cannot create. If we try to create without first receiving, we create only an empty shell. On the other hand, if we do not create with what has been given to us, we receive in vain (and, in fact, our capacity to receive further becomes diminished--for our hands are too full of that which we should hand off in creative expression).

When Christians gather together in worship, prayer and hearing the word, it is a moment of receptivity.  Such an ascent should transform us to work in the world. Proclamation to one another should catalyze and propel demonstration. But notice, without such receptive moments, we have nothing to bring the world. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Gathering to proclaim to one another the gospel unifies us to work meaningfully in the world with an end in mind and in sight.

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