Saturday, January 30, 2010

Post #3: Eastern Orthodoxy and Culture

This last week I had the wonderful task of reading For The Life of The World by Alexander Schmemman. This was not only a wonderful read, but also a breath of fresh air. Reading this book was not only my first major encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy, but a good one. Schmemman attempts to view the Church and culture, nature and grace, and the mission of the Church through the lens of liturgy and the sacraments. It was really nice to see someone looking at the Church's engagement with culture from a different lens. To be all honest I am just sick of hearing about the Barth and Brunner debate on natural theology. Schmemman didn't even touch the subject. My personal favorite part of his book and the most beneficial part of our seminar discussion this last Tuesday was on the Eucharist. Schmemman believes that we must, as the Church, encounter culture through the sacraments, primarily "eucharistically." What he means by this is, that we encounter creation with "thanksgiving." That the Church's role is to regain culture for the purpose of giving God thanks for his good creation. So, grace permeates and redeems nature through the sacraments. Creation was made to give thanks to God for being his good creation and the mission of the Church is to help restore this. The Church encounter's culture through the sacraments because the sacrament's urge the Church to go out and be missional. Those who the Church minister to encounter God through partaking in the sacraments, in experiencing the Eucharist one could therefore then live their life eucharistically. For Schmemman the sacraments aren't merely a means of receiving grace and encountering the resurrected Lord, but also the fuel for the fulfillment of the "great commission." The Spirit not only works in the life of the believer through the sacraments, but also compels the believer to mission's and therefore works in the non-believer by bringing the non-believer to encounter the Lord by means of the Church and sacraments.
              Although, I do find Schmemman to be inconsistent at times, I like his direction and his emphasis on both the Church and creation. He takes mission's seriously as well as the preservation of the Church. His point about living "eucharistically," that is a life of giving thanks, is a wonderful example of how the Christian should live. Schmemman even goes as far as saying that when we take the Eucharist we eat and drink and remember end even ascend to the risen Lord, therefore whenever we eat and whenever we drink we should remember the taking of the Eucharist and that should compel us to live lives of thanksgiving and to fulfill the mission of the Church. Great book and if you have not had an encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy I highly recommend For The Life of The World.