Theology Update for the Week of August 26

Dear friends in Christ,

Out of Egypt: Reading Exodus Theologically

On August 26 at 10 a.m., the Sunday class continues its study of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. After reaching Mt. Sinai, the Israelites receive what in Hebrew is termed the “Ten Words,” the Decalogue, what we customarily refer to as the Ten Commandments.

In addition to being a record of the central event in Jewish history – the exodus from Egypt and journey toward the Promised Land – Exodus also provides a prime case study of the benefits of a utilization of the traditional “four senses” of scripture: the literal, the typological, the moral, and the mystical.

How to Be a Sinner

On Thursday, September 27 at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Peter Bouteneff of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary reflects on the language of guilt and sin common to much Christian prayer. While not without its risks, a faithful Christian understanding of a “sinner identity” is in fact a prerequisite for the good news of the gospel message, and can help lead the believer into the way of Christ’s mercy, grace, and salvation. Of Dr. Bouteneff’s book on the topic, Rowan Williams writes, “This excellent book combines a solid theological perspective, fully informed by the depths of the Christian spiritual tradition, with a vigorous and very contemporary insight into a culture that has largely forgotten what sin means.”

The internet is not Jewish

“Jews are on the internet,” David Sax writes here, “but the internet is not Jewish.” You may never have considered what religion the internet is – you may never have considered the idea that the internet has a religion (I hadn’t) – but Sax is insistent that, whatever the internet is, it isn’t Jewish. Why? There are no sweet, yeasty babkas on the internet, for one thing, at least not in a format that you can eat.

Sax’s facetious and slightly ribald article has a serious point, however, one to which Christians can readily assent. Christianity is, in the contemporary lingo, “body-positive.” That is, the physicality of human beings is a non-negotiable and essential part of being a person; bodies are important and must be respected. Christians believe that the physical incarnation of God himself dignifies human embodiment, and his bodily resurrection and ascension show that, even after death, our physical nature remains part of our identity. As a result, the techno-utopian dream of doing away with our physical nature altogether is a pagan notion and an incarnational Christianity can have no truck with it. You can’t sit shiva through an app, nor can you receive holy communion virtually. For better and for worse, our bodies are indeed ourselves.

To be sure, real relationships can develop online, and electronic communications (ahem) can help form our faith and have other good consequences. I know many families, dispersed hither and yon, who are able to meet online on a regular basis with edifying results for their relationships. But it doesn’t take the place of the real thing. When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples, he invited them to touch him and shared a meal with them. Their relationship was physical. By the grace of God, in the fullness of time, our relationship with him will be physical and embodied, too.

Sax is writing as a Jew for a Jewish audience, of course, so obviously his argument differs in places from one that would be made from a traditional Christian point of view. But, in the main, he makes a good point, one that is edifying for us to reflect upon. Insofar as the internet isn’t Jewish, it isn’t Christian, either.

Yours in Christ,