Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mystical Poetic Blog

Today I'm returning to my blogs about some of the chapters in Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy cover11/3/2006 3:47 PM

Before getting in to the chapter at all, I'm going to comment on the chapter title from my own immediate perspective.

Mystical: of course the medieval Christian mystics instantly come to mind, but I also recall an evangelical (in the current popular American sense of the term) wannabe who really was mainline – a guy I knew ages ago – who kept insisting we wanted nothing whatsoever to do with mystic, because "mystic" implied "unmediated" and left out Jesus Christ.

Poetic: without reading much of anything I noticed McLaren references Walter Brueggemann's book of language for proclamation I read last winter or spring, Finally Comes the Poet. As y'all y'all know, I am a major WB fan! I'm also fondly recalling Marian Conning from the old UCC forums referring to moi as a "poet theologian" at the end of our online discussion of Alan Roxburgh's The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality.

11/4/2006 9:57 AM

Having read this chapter, yes, me too: I consider myself mystical and poetic. For me, the most helpful things in this chapter were the quotes from Brueggemann, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Barth, et al.

From Walter Brueggemann: "By prose I refer to a world that is organized in settled formulae, so that even pastoral prayers and love letters sound like memos. By poetry, I do not mean rhyme, rhythm, or meter, but language...that breaks open old worlds with surprise, abrasion, and pace."

From Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar: "God needs prophets in order to make himself known, and all prophets are necessarily artistic. What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose."

On page 165, Brain McLaren observes, "But mystical really is a wonderful word, suggesting ways we partake of mystery, mystery beyond the grasp of reasonable prose."

And then quoting G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy: "The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits..." Then again Pastor Brian reminds the readers of Chesterton's observation that the Greeks made Apollo was patron god both of poetry and of healing.

This is a great chapter, even though I'm quoting rather than doing much thinking of my own. I love C. S. Lewis' Perelandra describing the season of spring as "ancient and young."

Roman Guardini (previously unknown to me—he was John XXIII's chaplain during Vatican II) wrote about the human who tries to speak about the Divine: "In the end he...says apparently wild and senseless things meant to startle the heart into feeling what lies beyond the reaches of the brain."

Kyriacos Markides, author of The Mountain of Silence, gets quoted, too: "Christianity, a Catholic bishop in Maine once told me, has two lungs. One is Western, meaning rational and philosophical, and the other Eastern, meaning mystical and otherworldly. Both, he claimed, are needed for proper breathing."

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