Blending Ontology and Praxis

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

In class yesterday we were talking about blending ontology and praxis. What does that mean?

(Side Point: That's exactly what I said yesterday. If your like me, click those links. This will make a lot more sense if you have a working defination of ontology and praxis lodged in you skull. That said, for a moment yesterday I thought we were about to have one of those ridiculous seminary conversations that has no relationship to reality. If you keep reading you can decide for yourself how relevant our conversation was. Of course this line of thinking presupposes that relevancy is a good thing, but alas, that's another conversation.)

It means that how we behave should flow out of who we are. And if we want to know who we are, we may want to check how we behave.

The passage above says “you are”, not “you believe” or “you do”.

Many churches have a list of beliefs which sit on one shelf (or are one link on their web site) and a list of ministries that sit on another shelf, and though the two may in some way be related, it's not entirely clear what that relationship is. Instead, I think (actually my prof who I am stealing this from thinks, and yes, that's right, I have nothing original to say ; ) ) that the two need to be intimately bound up together.

This critique goes two ways. Typical churches are what they believe, (i.e. a statement of faith) and that may or may not impact how they behave. Conversely, some are moving toward allowing what they do to define them, without thinking critically about what underpins that action. The two need to be blended. We are the light of the world, we don’t simply believe there is an objective light, and we don’t simply shine random lights around, hoping it's the right light.

You are the light of the world, not you believe, not you do, but you are.


David Baxley said...

I have been a part of a chruch that had a "statement" that definedd them but we never used it but they did have other statements they would make all the time and those truly defined our church and how we did ministry.
Some have a hard time if things are not defined for them other like me will do what I feel called to do even if it is against what is on paper. Both are more personality issues then right and wrong biblical issues.
Good point of discussion. Needs to happen more in chruchs. Be who you are!

Randy whitman said...

Interesting...I could have sworn that what we believe and do defines who and what we in fact are. :0)
I agree that we are not to shine random lights around. The light that we shine is based on who and what we are. What a Christian is: Someone who lives with Jesus, in order to learn from Jesus, How to be like Jesus, by trusting onto Jesus, until the day when he/she will be like Jesus, as Jesus desires (I did bot come up with that). Who we are is made up of our actions and beliefs. This is because they portray our true nature/identity.
Please explain more about what you meant by this: "not what you say or do." Maybe you mean something I'm not seeing.
Randy :0)

David Best said...

Randy, I don't actually see the phrase: "not what you say or do" in my post, though if it's there, this would not be the first time I could not see what was right infront of my face. : )

That aside, I think I know what your asking, is it: "What exactly is the relationship of what we believe to what we do and say?" I'm not going to answer that directly, but here are a few thoughts none-the-less.

Part of the reason you may be having trouble with this is that you totally get it, and aren't sure what I'm critiquing because: One, have never been a part of a messed up church that had a disjoined view of beliefs and actions, (lucky you) And two, your very postmodern inspite of the fact you probably don't like that word and wouldn't define yourself that way. ; ) In toherwords, you get it, and your confused because your unaware that so many don't get it.

None the less, a good excersise is to ask how the essentials of Christianity affect how one lives. Which is to symultaniously suggest that possibly some of the things that were formerly thought to be essential, may not be. Though what is and is not, is a whole other discussion.

For example, consider what Jesus has to say about serving the poor, and then consider how many churches have "statments of faith" that include their relationship to the poor. This is just one example, though their are dozens like it.

Keep this going, let me know what your really getting at here. Maybee, (no probably,) I'm totally rambling and not answering your original question, (which I might not have an answer for) So let me know what your thinking.