Be different

We had another great sermon on Sunday.  This one was about holiness, based on the section in the Sermon on the Mount about “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-48) and Moses’ call to holiness (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18).  I got so much out of the sermon that I’m going to devote three posts to it.  Today:  Law.  Tomorrow:  Gospel.  Next day, a really thought-provoking quotation.

In the most basic sense, Pastor Douthwaite explained, “holiness” means “set apart.”  So being holy means, on one level, simply being different. [Read more...]

The Numinous

Many years ago, I read The Idea of the Holy by the Lutheran phenomenologist Rudolph Otto.  This book profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis, who writes about it in Surprised by Joy, and I have to say that it also influenced me. Touchstone Magazine has published a fascinating article entitled Surprised by Awe: C. S. Lewis & Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy  by Clara Sarrocco.

Otto was describing and analyzing a distinct kind of religious experience that he called “numinous,” from the Latin numen, meaning “divine power.”  It is the perception of awe-inspiring, transcendent mystery.   If  “mystical” experience means feeling one with God, the numinous is almost its opposite, the sense of coming into contact with some One “wholly other” than oneself.  It is overwhelming, effacing the self while also filling the self with ineffable joy.  The numinous goes beyond the rational, but Otto is careful to explain that it stands in relationship to objective religious doctrines. [Read more...]

The “grace” vs. “holiness” debate

Christianity Today has set up a symposium discussing the following question:  Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness?  As usual, no Lutherans were asked to participate, and the whole debate is maddening for a Lutheran to read, not just because of its false dichotomies but because of what is missing in the understanding of both terms. [Read more...]


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