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A Theological & Functional Study of the Whole
Christology Studyprinter-friendly pdf version
The Whole in Theology and Practice
The revelation of Godís story is the whole of Godís thematic action in relational response to the human condition ďto be apartĒ from Godís whole. To complete Godís story and fulfill Godís thematic action, the whole of God and Godís whole were embodied by the whole of Jesus, who is the way, the Truth and the lifeóthe relational way of the whole of the Truth for the whole of life in intimate communion with the Father only in relationship together as the whole of Godís family (Jn 14:6).
Christology is needed to have the clarity of Godís self-revelation to fully distinguish Godís story and wholly grasp Godís action. Yet any and all Christian doctrine must be functional dynamically to be of qualitative significance. If doctrine properly functions dynamically in qualitative significance, it functions in the trinitarian relational context and with the trinitarian relational process. This is particularly vital for a full soteriology, which necessarily emerges only from a complete Christology. Thus, not any Christology will provide the clarity necessary for the whole of God and Godís whole to be of significance for us qualitatively, functionally and relationally.
Moreover, any theology (or theory) must be conjoined with qualitative practice to have both epistemological significance of the whole of Godís relational ontology as well as relational significance to the Trinityís presence and involvement. This strongly suggests that theological propositions and doctrines which do not transform how we see God, how we are involved with God and experience God become reductionist substitutes for the Truth and his relational way necessary for knowing the whole of God. Anything less of Godís whole is always a form of reductionism, which is always consequential in counter-relational work.
The whole embodied by Jesusí whole person is what signifies sanctified Christology and what constitutes soteriology fully and ecclesiology wholly. Therefore, this whole must (dei) by nature constitute all Christian theology and practice in order to have coherence with Godís story and to be compatible with Godís thematic action. Wholeness in both our theology and practice is the conjoint relational and functional significance necessary to be congruent with Godís whole on Godís terms. This means that our theology and practice are not only identified as relational, nor merely talked about as relational, but are actually lived relationally in ongoing functional relationship with God.
The incarnation of the Word vulnerably disclosed Godís whole and made definitive Godís terms as irreducible and nonnegotiable. Yet, wholeness in Christian theology and practice easily become inconvenient (even threatening) in the academy and in churches. It is less demanding not to put the pieces of Godís self-revelation into the whole (cf. the lack of syniemi by the disciples, Mk 8:17-19), and more convenient to be selective of only parts of the whole (cf. Peterís selection of part of Jesus, Mt 16:22, Jn 13:8), or essentially to ignore or reduce the whole whether in theology or practice (cf. Martha not pursuing what is primary, Lk 10:41-42). To the extent that this exists certainly indicates among Jesusí followers the further operation of a quantitative perceptual-interpretive framework embedded in reductionism. Moreover, the incarnation of the whole of the Word also suggests ďan evangelical paradox.Ē That is, even though evangelicals are not a monolithic group, it is paradoxical: As people of the Book, on the one hand, to uphold the full incarnation of the Word while, on the other, tending to have a theology and practice essentially based on and according to a disembodied Word lacking his whole personóeven while immersed in the text (cf. Eze 33:31-32).
Jesus gives us no latitude to who, what and how he was. With the incarnation, the sanctified identity of the whole of Jesus in vulnerable self-disclosure is not the product of human construction and shapingóthough it always had human context. Nor can the whole of God and Godís whole that he disclosed be subject to deconstruction or reconstruction and still have the functional integrity and relational significance of the whole.
some remaining aspects of the whole of Jesus which are necessary to
mention to extend our discussion beyond this study, and most important
to deepen our experience of knowing Jesus, the whole of God. This still
involves grasping further and experiencing deeper the significance of
Jesus embodying: ďFor them I sanctify myself in order that they also may
be [eimi] embodied whole sanctified in the truthĒ (Jn
In his startling claim to his disciples that they know the way to where he was going, and that they know the Father and have seen him (Jn 14:4,7), Jesus made evident the critical distinction between an incomplete process of knowing and the complete epistemic process. This distinction can be simply stated as between knowledge (information) and knowing. In terms of the former, Thomas was correct in his epistemological logic to reply: ďLord, we have no knowledge, except some ambiguous information, of where you are going so how can we have knowledge of the way?Ē (14:5). Yet, Jesus was also correct in his epistemological premise for knowing him, and thus knowing the Father and the way (14:7). In other words, based on his vulnerable disclosure to them and ongoing intimate involvement with them, Jesus correctly claimed ďYou know the relational process for relationship together with the Father, to whom Iím returning to further be involved with.Ē Jesus makes clear that knowing is the relational outcome from the relational epistemic process of relationship together. Despite the disciplesí difficulty with being involved in this qualitative relational process with Jesus, they have been experientially exposed to it by him; and they were discovering the primacy of knowing him in relationship together over mere knowledge about him and its inadequacy to know the whole of God and Godís whole.
The issue of Godís self-disclosure in the relational epistemic process emerged earlier when the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the people in parables (Mt 13:10ff). Jesus made evident that the issue was not about comprehending knowledge by reason but about knowing from the communication disclosed in relationship together. His disclosures were not mere quantitative information observable (ďseeingĒ) or discernable (ďhearingĒ) by even the most astute mind. His disclosures involved relational language communicating Godís ďsecretsĒ which were not accessible to a general epistemic process. Thus, for example, whatever may be valid in natural theology can never define Godís whole but, at best, can only point to it. Jesusí communication process was a qualitative experience of the whole person signified by the involvement of the heart in relationship together. This was the relational experience the disciples were exposed to with Jesus, and the relational epistemic process they were engaged in with him, albeit inconsistently since they often depended on their quantitative lens for ďseeingĒ and ďhearingĒ (13:11-17,34-35). Nevertheless, the disciples engaged Jesus in reciprocal relationship sufficiently to have him constitute them in his relational context and process necessary for relationship together to be whole in likeness of the Trinity.
The issue of knowing the whole of God and Godís whole in self-disclosure was made further definitive in what is essentially the relational paradigm necessary for this relational epistemic process. The effort to learn about God is basically an either-or theological task based on either human rationality or Godís revelation, or some combination of the two which tends to depend on the former in effect to shape the latter. When Jesus leaped for joy praising the Father ďbecause you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little childrenĒ (Lk 10:21), he essentially delineated the learning paradigm for knowing him and his disclosures of the whole of God and Godís whole.
ďLittle childrenĒ and ďthe wise and learnedĒ stand not only in contrast but are in conflictówith the latter constraining, preventing or excluding the former, while the former frees and transforms the latter. ďLittle children (nepios) is a metaphor for the function of the whole person: an unassuming person merely being whom God createdówith a heart open and involved, a mind free and adaptable to the improbable and uncommon; this ďchild-personĒ uses the mind simply in the likeness of the triune God, thus is compatible with the holy Godís qualitative distinction from what prevails as the commonís function; more importantly, this child-personís mind does not function apart from the heart in order to be vulnerably present with oneís whole person and intimately involved in Godís relational context and process for the relational epistemic process necessary to know the whole of God and Godís whole.
While the mind of a child is considered immature and undeveloped by common standards (notably of ďthe wise and learnedĒ), this metaphor points to the necessity of a perceptual-interpretive framework which is unrestricted by predispositions and biases. That is, even though we all have predispositions and biases, this child-personís lens is not controlled by them and thus can see clearly. Generally, as our mind develops, we also put on different lenses which tend to become increasingly restricting, and thus reductionist as demonstrated by decreasing imagination, creativity and spontaneity. This describes the contrasting and conflicting function of ďthe wise and learnedĒ: who depend on their rationality (sophos and synetos) without epistemic humility signifying the grace of Godís self-disclosure, and thus, as those dominated by their mind, who fail to function as whole persons necessary by nature to engage the relational epistemic processówhich is the qualitative involvement to vulnerably receive Godís self-disclosures and relationally know the whole of God in relationship together in order to be Godís whole as experiential truth, not as mere theological knowledge and doctrine.
When Jesus correctly claimed ďYou know the relational process to the relationship together with the Father with whom Iíll be further involved,Ē ďlittle childrenĒ could also correctly claim ďYes, indeed!Ē; and they would shout in his dwelling also ďHosanna to the Son of DavidĒ (Mt 21:15) because they know they are not orphans and relationally belong to Godís family. Just as ďthe wise and learnedĒ strongly objected to what these children were proclaiming, they could raise a polemic to correctly claim similar to Thomas: ďHow can we grow in practice of this qualitative relational process if we donít experience it with you or ongoingly stay involved with you in it?Ē
embodied Truth, the Spirit of truth and the Truth in post-ascension are
only disclosed and involved for relationship together to be Godís whole.
As Jesus made definitive, if we know the truth by the relational
epistemic process of discipleship in intimate relationship together, the
Truth will redeem us from the reductionist assumptions of the wise and
learned and constitute us as the children of Godís whole in family
together (Jn 8:31-35). There is no other way to know the whole of
God and to the experiential truth of Godís whole. This applies to both
church and academy.
Perhaps the most important non-issue issue in Christology is separating Jesusí teachings from his whole person, leaving only disembodied teachings. By its nature, the incarnation cannot be reduced to redefine Jesus merely by what he taught or only by what he did. The incarnation embodied the whole of Jesusí person, as the whole of God, for the relationships together necessary to be Godís whole as family. Contrary to prevailing views of discipleship, both in the ancient Mediterranean world and the modern world, Jesus did not merely embody teachings to follow, examples to emulate, even principles to embody. The whole of Jesus, signified in complete Christology and full soteriology, vulnerably embodied only the whole of God and Godís relational response for relationship together, the embodiment of which was qualitatively distinguished in the trinitarian relational context of family by the trinitarian relational process of family love. Anything less and any substitutes of the whole of Jesus disembodies him, his purpose and his function, and thus is a reduction of the whole he embodiedóGodís whole on Godís terms.
The whole that Jesus embodied was clearly evident both in what he taught and how he taught. Jesusí approach to teaching the whole was not about revealing (apokalypto) key knowledge and critical information because the content of the whole was about the whole person in relationship. What this involved for Jesus is vital for us to grasp both to more deeply experience his embodied whole and to further extend Godís whole to others within the church and in the world. Jesusí pedagogical approach to teaching and learning, integrated into the relational progression of discipleship, not only needs to inform theological education in the academy and Christian education in the church but also to reform them.
When Jesus told the Father that he disclosed (phaneroo) him to the disciples (Jn 17:6), phaneroo refers to those to whom the revelation is made whereas apokalypto refers only to the object revealed. Phaneroo signifies the necessary context and process of his disclosure of the whole of God and Godís whole, whose content would not be sufficient to grasp merely as apokalypto. How did Jesus constitute this context and process to fully disclose the whole?
Johnís Gospel provides the initial overview of Jesusí pedagogy, which is the functional framework for the qualitative significance of his disclosures. In the narrative of a wedding at Cana attended by Jesus and his disciples, he used this situation to teach his disciples about himself (Jn 2:1-11). This initially evidenced the three dynamic dimensions basic to his approach to pedagogy.
As a guest, Jesus participated in the sociocultural context of the wedding (an event lasting days). In response to his motherís request, Jesus appeared reluctant yet involved himself even further than as guest. In what seems like an uneventful account of Jesusí first miracle unrelated to his function and purpose, Johnís Gospel gives us the bigger picture made evident in his introduction (Jn 1:14). As the only Gospel to record this interaction, the evangelist uses it to establish a pattern for Jesusí ministry. The miracle was ostensibly about the wine but its significance was to teach his disciples.
When Jesus responded to his mother and got further involved, he made the whole of his person accessible to his disciples. This involved more than the quantitative notions of accessible language or words in teaching, or of making accessible oneís resources. This deeply involved making directly accessible the whole of his person and the qualitative significance of who, what and how he was. In this social context Jesus did not merely reveal (apokalypto) his resources but most importantly disclosed (phaneroo) his functional glory to his disciples (2:11, cf. 2 Cor 4:6). The first aspect of his glory that Jesus made accessible to them was Godís being, the heart of God. It was Jesusí heart, signifying his whole person, whom he made accessible to them. The whole person, signified by the function of the heart, constitutes the significance of accessible in Jesusí pedagogy. Anything less and any substitutes are essentially not adequate to be accessible to teach the whole. It is incongruent to be helping others understand wholeness while one is not functioning to be whole in the process. Therefore, Accessible (A) is the first dynamic dimension in Jesusí pedagogy necessary by its nature to be whole in order to teach the whole.
Phaneroo signifies the necessary context and process for making his whole person accessible. The miracle, self-disclosure, being accessible, all are not ends in themselves but in Jesusí purpose and function are always and only for relationship. More specifically then, phaneroo signifies the necessary relational context and process involved in his teaching. When Jesus disclosed his glory, he did not end with making accessible Godís being, Godís heart. The second aspect of his glory involved Godís nature, Godís intimate relational nature, witnessed initially between the trinitarian persons during his baptism. Jesus disclosed his whole person to his disciples for relationship together, thus disclosing the intimate relational nature of God. His functional glory, in his heart and relational nature, made relational connection with their human ontology as whole persons created in the image of the heart of God for relationships together in likeness of the relational nature of the Trinity. This also provides further understanding of the relational context and process of Godís thematic relational response to the human condition and what is involved in that connection.
In this apparent unrelated social context, Jesus involved his whole person with his disciples in the most significant human function: the primacy of relationships. As he made his whole person accessible in this relational context and process, his disciples responded back to his glory by relationally ďputting their trust in himĒ (2:11). Their response was not merely to a miracle, or placing their belief in his teaching, example or resources. The context of his teaching was relational in the process of making accessible his person to their person, thus deeply connecting with the heart of their person and evoking a compatible relational response to be whole in relationship together. If his teaching content were only cognitive, this qualitative relational connection would not have been made. Anything less and any substitute from Jesus would not have constituted the relational context and process necessary to engage his whole person for relationship together to be whole, thus not fulfilling Godís thematic action in response to the human relational condition. Therefore, Relational (R) is the second dynamic dimension in Jesusí pedagogy necessary by its nature to live whole in relationships in order to teach the whole, Godís whole.
When Jesus turned water into wine in this secondary social situation, he did not diminish the significance of his miracle or his glory. His disclosure was made not merely to impart knowledge and information about him for the disciples to assimilate. His disclosure was made in this experiential situation (albeit secondary) for his disciples to experience him living whole in life context, not in a vacuum. For Jesus, for example, merely giving/listening to a lecture/sermon does not constitute teachingónor does listening to a sermon constitute learning. That is to say, his teaching was experiential for their whole person (signified by heart function) to experience in relationship. For this experience to take place in relationship, the whole person must be vulnerably involved. When Jesus made his heart accessible to be relational with his disciples, he also disclosed the third aspect of his glory involving Godís presence, Godís vulnerable presence. In the strategic shift of Godís thematic action, the whole of Jesus embodied Godís vulnerable presence for intimate involvement in relationship together, thus disclosing Godís glory for his followers to experience and relationally respond back to ďput their trust in him.Ē
Human experience is variable and relative. For experience to be whole, however, it needs to involve whole persons accessible to each other in relationship by vulnerable involvement together. This was Jesusí purpose in his teaching and his pedagogical approach. This was who, what, and how Jesus was ongoingly in his glory: who, as his whole person signified by the qualitative function of his heart; what, only by his intimate relational nature; and thus how, with vulnerable involvement only for relationship together to be Godís whole. Yet, the reality of relationally knowing (not knowledge about) the whole of God and relationally participating in Godís whole only emerges as experiential truth. Jesusí teaching is not complete, nor is our learning complete, unless it is experiential. Therefore, to complete the three-dimensional approach, Experiential (E) is the third dynamic dimension in Jesusí pedagogy necessary by its nature to integrate the other two dimensions of Accessible and Relational for the qualitative depth of the whole in order to teach the experiential truth of the whole.
The three AREs of Jesusí pedagogy form a definitive three-dimensional paradigm to be whole and to live whole in order to teach the experiential truth of the whole. That is, this three-dimensional paradigm is to teach the whole as Godís whole on Godís terms, just as Jesus vulnerably embodied, relationally disclosed and intimately involved his whole person with other persons. From this overview, Jesus ongoingly demonstrated his three-dimensional pedagogical approach. This was evidenced notably in three examples which went against the norm in religious, cultural and social practice.
When Jesus was approached unceremoniously by a prostitute, he still made his person accessible to her person even in the context of her perceived overtures (Lk 7:36-50). In the process he vulnerably involved his whole person with hers for relationship in intimate love. Jesus used these intimate moments to teach her the experiential truth of Godís grace, to affirm to her the experiential reality of her forgiveness, and to have her experience being made whole (sozo), Godís whole. In another situation, Jesus took the initiative to make his whole person accessible to a Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-42). He increasingly involved his person vulnerably with hers for relationship with the whole of God. By this experiential relational process, he made accessible to her Godís heart and taught her what God desires most: the whole person in intimate communion together. This provided her both the relational basis to be made whole in Godís family and the experiential truth that Godís whole is for all nations and persons without distinctions. The third example overlaps two situations. The first involved Jesusí calling of Levi (Mt 9:9-13) and the second was his call to Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10). Jesus initiated making his person accessible to both tax collectors for relationship. Moreover he involved his person vulnerably with them by participating in table fellowship together (a gathering of great significance in their time). In this experiential process, Jesus taught them what it means to be made whole and constituted them in the experiential truth that they have been redemptively reconciled to belong to the whole of Godís family.
Jesusí pedagogy contrasted with the prevailing teaching practices in the ancient Mediterranean world and conflicts with any reductionist teaching approaches, notably in the modern Western world with its focus on cognitive knowledge and information through the quantitative lens from reductionism. Jesusí teaching of Godís whole involves redemptive change and transformation to the newónot only for the whole person to experience as an individual but most importantly to experience in relationship together to be the whole of Godís family. Godís whole on Godís terms is this new creation family relationally progressing to its ultimate relational communion together, which Jesus made imperative to be taught after he discussed a series of parables about the kingdom of God and the last things (Mt 13:52).
Johnís Gospel gives us this big picture in which Jesus ongoingly functioned yet remained vulnerably involved for intimate relationship together. The whole of Jesusí teaching only had significance in this definitive relational progression for this relational conclusion. And this is how any teaching of the whole of Godís family needs to be functionally contextualizedóand all the ďtreesĒ of life put into the ďforestĒ of Godís thematic action for the eschatological big picture and the ultimate relational communion together. For Jesus the only alternative is nothing less and no substitutes for the whole.
teaching the whole must also involve the three AREs of
Jesusí pedagogy to be compatible with the trinitarian relational context
of family and to be congruent with the trinitarian relational process of
family love. Anything less and any substitutes will be insufficient to
be whole and to live whole in order to teach Godís whole. This is what
Jesus in post-ascension holds his church and the academy accountable
foróGodís whole on Godís terms.
In the midst of a globalizing world, other relatively recent issues of multiculturalism, pluralism and tolerance of human differences have become an increasing concern, effort and disappointment, even frustration, in the surrounding contexts of the world. This can also be said of churches, who have the most significant purpose and function to build the whole. Yet, in this world climate, churches and the academy must not get confused or misled about building Godís whole on Godís terms.
Complete Christology and thus full soteriology are the building ground for all Christian life and practice (cf. Mt 7:24-27). At the same time, for building Godís whole Christology and soteriology as doctrine must fade into secondary matter and emerge as the dynamic functional framework for all theology and practice to be whole rather than reduced (or fragmented). The reduction/fragmentation of theology (e.g. into multiple non-integrated disciplines and sub-disciplines lacking interaction between them, even as systematic theologies lack coherence) and of practice (e.g. by redefining the ontology of the person and displacing the priority of relationships, namely to serve individualism and to do relationships on our terms), these reductions always involve a subtle shift into reductionist alternatives and substitutes, which emerge operating as ontological simulations and epistemological illusions of Godís whole.
The genius of Satan has been to emulate theology and practice without the whole. He accomplishes this by promoting their outward quantitative forms (metaschematizo, cf. 2 Cor 11:13-15) to have the appearance of their qualitative significance in the whole. In other words, he masks the absence of wholeness in theology and practice by ontological simulation and epistemological illusion, thus reducing not only each within itself but separating them from each other. Does this describe the existing relationship between theology and practical theology which is causing estrangement between churches and the Christian academy?
Historically, Godís people, the church and the academy have unknowingly struggled in ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of Godís whole, and at times knowingly struggled with them. The whole of God, by nature, purpose and function, is always opposed to themóeven if there are some secondary benefits (cf. Jesusí post-ascension discourse on ecclesiology)ósince reductionism is always positioned against any wholeness, namely Godís whole. To help locate where we are today in this ongoing issue, we need to revisit the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9).
I suggest that the Tower of Babel is the ultimate metaphor for ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of wholeness, and the misguided effort to construct human unity basically from ďbottom-up causation,Ē that is, by human construction. The situation may seem somewhat perplexing since the peopleís intention was to build an identity of unity, that is, ďmake a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the earthĒ (v.4). The term ďscatterĒ (napas) overlaps with a variant use of napas meaning to separate. Their apparent intention was to be united rather than fragmented. It would appear that God also would not want them to be separated, that is, ďto be apartĒ from the whole (Gen 2:18). But the Lord opposed their effort to construct human unity, confused their unified language (hence the name Babel), thus forcing them to scatter over the earth and to develop different languages. Why did God take this action given the peopleís intention and Godís desires for creation to be whole?
This is an ultimate situation in human history to which the issue of ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of the whole applies. Despite their intention not to be scattered, they already existed in the human relational condition ďto be apartĒ from Godís whole. Whether they ignored their condition or denied it, their epistemological illusion pointed to their ontological simulation. Conjointly, in their bias they concluded that they could construct this whole/unity from the bottom up on their terms (hence a tower). Godís action was not to keep them in the relational condition ďto be apartĒ but to deconstruct their ontological simulation and epistemological illusion in order to free them for the reality of their human condition to be acknowledged and for the truth of human ontology not to be reduced (v.6)ówhich otherwise would preclude the need for the grace of God, Godís thematic relational response to the human condition. Godís redemptive action in this situation opened the way for them to turn to God for ďtop-down causationĒ necessary to indeed make whole the human relational condition (cf. God making ďyour name,Ē Gen 12:2b)ówith no illusion from less and no simulation from substitutes.
From this ultimate situation in human history, we fast-forward to another situation overlapping in this issue. A more profound moment in history than the Tower of Babel likely happened in Jerusalem during Jesusí time. It can be suggested that the temple was more about the Israelitesí desires (notably Davidís, 1 Ch 28:2, Ps 132:2-5) than Godís (similar to their wanting a monarchy for identity as nation-state, 1 Sam 8:19-20). His disciplesí admiration for the aesthetics of the temple points to how the temple in Jerusalem had become a human construction (Lk 21:5), simulating the whole of Godís people (Mk 11:17), which Jesus not only redeemed a day earlier but now predicted its destruction (Lk 21:6). The issue of ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of Godís whole was lamented two days earlier by Jesus when he grieved over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-44). In saying ďIf you had only known what would bring you peace,Ē Jesus exposed their human construction of wholeness (shalom) and pointed to the deconstruction of their ontological simulation and epistemological illusion.
This clearly demonstrates how Godís people can get confused or misled about building Godís whole on Godís terms. There exist today many ontological simulations and epistemological illusions of Godís whole which need to be deconstructed. Jesus did this as well for human persons in various situations (discussed throughout this study) in order to free them and open the way for persons to be made whole; and to be made whole conjointly involved the transformed relationships together (equalized and intimate) necessary to be whole as Godís family. And to live whole in transformed relationships together directly involves the life and practice of his church family in the new relational orderóthus his accountability and deconstruction in his post-ascension discourse on ecclesiology to be whole.
On the one hand, building Godís whole on Godís terms is not complicated, though not to suggest that it is easy and without difficulty. If we are not building transformed relationships together in the new relational order, letís not have any illusions that we are building Godís whole. Conjointly, if whole persons are not the ones who build these relationships together, we need to recognize our efforts as only our simulation of Godís whole on our terms.
other hand, building Godís whole on Godís terms is always compounded,
confusing and a burden in the presence of the sin of reductionism.
Moreover, we will always lack coherence if we are pursuing an
alternative or substitute for wholeness in our theology and practice.
Godís whole on Godís terms always involves making choices. Choosing what we will pay attention to and what we will ignore. Choosing what is a greater priority, what is important, what is secondary. Choosing what will define our person and what we will not let define us. Choosing how we will define others and how we will not define others. Choosing how we will be involved in relationships and how we will not do relationships. Choosing the uncommon (holy) over the common. Choosing zoe over bios, the qualitative over the quantitative. Choosing to live more by the opportunities of kairos than by the constraints of chronos. That is to say, choosing to be whole, to live whole and to make whole. Yet, these choices are not about human agency but about involvement in reciprocal relationship together in response to Godís grace, the basis and ongoing base for relationship together to be whole.
Making these choices signifies celebrating the whole. With each choice, we celebrate Godís whole and being whole in communion together. Making the choice may be difficult but what also emerges in making it is celebrating the whole of God as family together. This is the family responsibility which we humbly submit to and thankfully account for in the relational process of family love because we are ďnot left as orphans.Ē Thus, we celebrate our redemption to be free to make these choices. We celebrate our transformation to make these choices in family love. We celebrate our reconciliation to make these choices for relationship together in Godís family. In other words, by making these choices we celebrate being made whole to be whole in order to live whole and to make whole, Godís whole on Godís terms.
Making these choices conjoined with celebrating Godís whole was ongoing in Jesusí sanctified life and practice. Two notable examples help us understand the importance of their convergence and the need for their conjoint function to enjoy the breadth of being whole and to experience the depth of living whole.
The first situation involved a tension in discipleship over the spiritual practice of fasting (Lk 5:33-39). The issue was that Johnís disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fasted while Jesusí disciples ate and drank. When Jesus was challenged about this, he responded by presenting one of those choices for the whole: either engaging in spiritual tradition and faith practices before God (v.34), or enjoying intimate communion together (implied in table fellowship) with the whole of God. Jesus didnít dismiss spiritual tradition and faith practices as a means for relationship with God, but he dismissed them if they were merely ends for self-determination and justification before God (cf. Mt 6:16-18). Moreover, Jesus wasnít installing a new form of practice in place of tradition and older practices, which is often how this text is rendered.
The choice Jesus presented did indeed involve ďnew wineĒ and ďnew wineskins,Ē that is, as the new creation family of God in transformed relationship together necessary to be whole in the new relational order in likeness of the Trinity. This is Godís whole on Godís terms, which is the primacy of this relationship together Jesus chose with his disciples as more important than any other spiritual practice. By making this choice to be whole in relationship together, they celebrated Godís whole and enjoyed the breadth of being wholeówhich for his disciples, at that time, was only an initial taste of new wine.
The second notable example happened when Mary anointed Jesus just before the week of equalization and passion (Jn 12:1-8). Maryís anointing (overlapping with the prostituteís as discussed previously) met with legitimate objection to redirect this resource to serve the poor (par. Mt 26:8-9). Jesus put this into perspective for his disciples, not merely in terms of his death and burial but more importantly in making the choice of Godís whole. Serving the poor is important and necessary but not more important than involvement in relationship together, notably intimate communion of the whole person in full vulnerable involvement in relationship together. This was Maryís action and the choice Jesus made with her to live whole in relationship together. And we need to grasp the significance that this choice came at the expense of ministry. Moreover, ministries, such as ministry to the poor, often become substitutes for involvement in direct relationship together with God.
The choice to live vulnerably in relationship together to be whole is what the Father seeks (cf. Jn 4:23) and the Son searches for (cf. Rev 2:23b) and pursues in post-ascension (cf. Rev 3:20). The choice of the primacy of relationship together and building intimate communion together as family is the choice of Godís whole on Godís terms. Making this choice, as Mary beautifully made with Jesus, is the experiential reality of having good news, in which Maryís significance has yet to be established ďwherever this gospel is preached throughout the worldĒ as Jesus foretold (par. Mt 26:13). By making this choice on Godís terms to live whole in vulnerable relationship and to build intimate communion together as family, even at the expense of ministry, they celebrated Godís wholeówhich is indeed the experiential truth and functional significance of the gospel. Thus, in this choice and the celebration signified with it, they experienced even greater depth of living whole.
These two examples make evident the importance of making these choices and celebrating Godís whole in conjoint function in order both to enjoy the breadth of being whole and to experience the depth of living whole. Making the choice and celebrating Godís whole converge most definitively for his church in relationship together when they function in Eucharistic worship. This is the unique opportunity of Godís new creation family to build intimate communion together. Yet, this unique opportunity is not a mere spiritual tradition and practice of faith merely engaged before God. Thus, what we participate in and how we participate are vital; that means even the logistics are important to help us build the whole. This communion is a qualitative function only of relationship, intimate relationship together with the whole of God, thus relationship not embedded in the past or merely anticipating the future but relationship vulnerably functioning in the present. In Eucharistic worship, when his church functions in vulnerable relationship to build intimate communion together, his church family experiences the height of relational involvement with the whole of God.
Together with the presence and reciprocal relational work of the Spirit (the Sonís relational replacement), Jesusí transformed followers are functionally reconciled together to be the new creation whole of Godís family in likeness of the Trinity, ongoingly in the trinitarian relational process of family love. At this unique table fellowship with the whole of God, his church can celebrate Godís whole only as church family together, not as relational and emotional orphans functioning as orphanage. Without this relational celebration of Godís whole, our Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology and eschatological hope become merely static doctrine essentially disembodied with nothing relationally functional to practice and experience both with God and with each other together.
The whole in theology and practice has no alternative, thus is irreducible and nonnegotiable. Godís story and the incarnation of the whole of the Word have been set in human history. While history is always subjected to revisionists, salvation history is unalterable. Jesusí whole person vulnerably embodied and intimately disclosed the whole of God and Godís whole as the experiential truth only for relationship together. Once embodied, the whole cannot be disembodied and still have the whole. This is the primary christological problem facing church and academy, which the whole of Jesus makes unavoidable for us to respond with nothing less and no substitutes in order to be whole.
Except for the mystery of the excruciating pain on the cross when the Son was separated from the Father to ďfragmentĒ the whole of God, Jesus embodied the life of the whole of God; yet, even in that inexplicable state on the cross he embodied the Truth to vulnerably complete the way to relationship together to be Godís whole. This definitive moment in human history is the sole alternative involving ďreductionĒ of the whole of God, which was necessary for the further embodiment of Godís whole as family together, and is ongoingly needed to exclude any disembodying of Godís whole in our theology and practice as church family. Wholeness in theology and practice involves the choices to embody the whole of Godís family. Each choice for wholeness in our theology and practice is a celebration of Godís whole on Godís terms, of which we need more in church and academy to enjoy the breadth of being whole and to experience the depth of living whole.
In celebration of the incarnation of the whole of God and Godís whole, my wife and I practice a tradition of concluding Advent by making a birthday gift for Jesusí person. This last Advent, 2007, we presented him with our gift of this song: ďThe Whole of God Embodied.Ē For wholeness in theology and practice, we share this song with you (words and music on the following pages) in celebration of Godís whole. May you make with us the choices necessary for wholeness in our theology and practice both in churches and the academy in order to further celebrate together Godís whole on Godís terms. Indeed, nothing less and no substitutes.
This is the whole of Jesus in sanctified life and practice, who calls his followers to be whole with him and sends us to be whole in the human relational condition in fulfillment of his formative family prayer.
T. Dave Matsuo & Kary A. Kambara
(words in parentheses optional)
(For sheet music in a pdf file, go to Worship Songs page click here)
©2008 T. Dave Matsuo & Kary A. Kambara
©2008 T. Dave Matsuo, Ph.D.