Wednesday, June 25, 2003

We are all Marcionites

One of the earliest church heretics was a guy named Marcion. In a nutshell, his heresy was that he believed that the God of the Old Testament – Yahweh – was not the same God as the one in the New Testament. He believed that the Old Testament God was too barbaric to be associated with the life of Christ. Of course, the danger of this is that since Jesus claimed to be the son of that divine Old Testament God, Marcion’s teachings jeopardized the foundation of the Christian witness. He was chased out of the church.

What is interesting is how rarely most modern Christians use the Old Testament in expanding their relationship with God. We share Marcion’s squeamishness with the God portrayed in the Old Testament. And what we do choose to use from the Old Testament is often the non-difficult stuff. We have become functional Marcionites, even if our theology is officially different.

One of the things that impresses me about Benedictine worship is that it forces the monks to confront the reality of the Old Testament. There is no escaping the Psalms, the books of Kings, Genesis, or any of the other difficult books of the Bible. There is, of course, also much that comes from the New Testament – we spent all of yesterday focusing on John the Baptist. But still, I think the Benedictines are blessed with a more well-rounded sense of God through their constant exposure to the Psalms. It certainly does not make things easier, because God as revealed in the Old Testament is a lot more difficult to understand than God as revealed through Christ (not that that is a picnic). But the point all of this isn't ease, it's growth in relationship with God through Christ. If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth having.

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