Whose Cultus?
 Adam and Eve
19 December 2016
Christianity is a distinct culture. Usually, we think of Christianity fitting into a given culture, such as Western culture; not as a separate and distinct culture. Culture comes from the Latin word (cultus) which means, among other things, "worship." Usually culture is defined as "the way of life for an entire society;" and includes worship, spirituality, structure, ethics, and behavior. Culture is about "everything."
 
Christianity is a distinct culture in so far as it reflects in the behavior of the church the spirituality of the God who gives it divine worship. The culture of the church includes a strong boundary between belief and unbelief, truth and falsehood, wisdom and foolishness. That boundary also implies a decisive break with the world and its ways. The cult of the Western world, although arising in the cradle of the church, is no longer directed by its original mother. Western culture has become a self-willed Nietzschean bastard, coming of age cut off from God its Father and its mother, the church. This coming of age has a profound effect on the church. She is now forced to distinguish herself from her bastard child. She can no longer expect support from the cult of the West based as it is on self willed and self centered knowledge; knowledge always critical of both Father and mother, as though an ill-mannered teen.
 
For example, the Western university and its open enquiry into truth and the nature of reality arises out of the Christian insistence that all of truth is God's. And though the Western university tradition was fraught with many battles over the validity of certain kinds of knowledge, still there was over the long haul an openness about the modes and methods of enquiry into the world and the nature of God. That openness is now being closed off in the dying of the light. Matters of spirit, life, truth, beauty, ultimacy, and God are routinely ruled "out of bounds" in the so-called secular universities. They have forgotten that even the saeculum, "the age" remains God's. Finally, the cultus of the West has become the cult of the self; drowning in the solipsistic sea of foolishness and rabid and intentional ignorance of the cross of Christ. How tragically this narrowing of thought impoverishes the Western world. But this foolish narrowness is not new to Christianity. It has its roots in Eden's invention of the cult of self. Paul the apostle speaks of it as the foolishness of unbelief. The foolishness of the cross despite all this still looms as the wisdom of God. This is the church's cultus.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"The Apostle Paul, familiar with the narrow assumption of human thought that what it does not know is not truth, says that he does not speak in the language of knowledge, lest his preaching should be in vain (1Co 1:17-25). To save himself from being regarded as a preacher of foolishness he adds that the word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish. He knew that the unbelievers held that the only true knowledge was that which formed their own wisdom, and that, since their wisdom was cognizant only of matters that lay within their narrow horizon, the other wisdom, which alone is divine and perfect, seemed foolishness to them. Thus their foolishness actually consisted, in that feeble imagination which they mistook for wisdom. Hence it is that the very things which to those who perish are foolishness are the power of God to those who are saved; for these last never use their own inadequate faculties as a measure, but attribute to the divine activities the omnipotence of heaven.
 
"God rejects the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent in this sense, that just because they recognize their own foolishness, salvation is granted to them that believe. Unbelievers pronounce the verdict of foolishness on everything that lies beyond their ken, while believers leave to the power and majesty of God the choice of the mysteries in which salvation is bestowed. There is no foolishness in the things of God. The foolishness lies in that human wisdom which demands of God, as the condition of belief, signs and wisdom. It is the foolishness of the Jews to demand signs. They have a certain knowledge of the name of God through long acquaintance with the law, but the offence of the cross repels them. The foolishness of the Greeks is to demand wisdom; with Gentile folly and the philosophy of men they seek the reason why God was lifted up on the cross. And because, in consideration for the weakness of our mental powers, these things have been hidden in a mystery, this foolishness of Jews and Greeks turns to unbelief. For they denounce, as unworthy of reasonable credence, truths which their mind is inherently incapable of comprehending. But, because the world's wisdom was so foolish, for previously through God's wisdom it knew not God, that is, the splendor of the universe, and the wonderful order which He planned for His handiwork, taught it no reverence for its Creator-God was pleased through the preaching of foolishness to save them that believe, that is, through the faith of the cross to make everlasting life the lot of mortals; that so the self-confidence of human wisdom might be put to shame, and salvation found where men had thought that foolishness dwelt. For Christ, who is foolishness to Gentiles, and offence to Jews, is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Co 1:24); because what seems weak and foolish to human apprehension in the things of God transcends in true wisdom and might the thoughts and the powers of earth.
 
"And therefore the action of God must not be canvassed by human faculties. The Creator must not be judged by those who are the work of His hands. We must clothe ourselves in foolishness that we may gain wisdom; not in the foolishness of hazardous conclusions, but in the foolishness of a modest sense of our own infirmity, that so the evidence of God's power may teach us truths to which the arguments of earthly philosophy cannot attain. For when we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature's laws; sure that for us the one true faith concerning God is that of which He is at once the author and the witness."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 3.25-26
Acts 17:22-34

Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for "'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "' For we are indeed his offspring.' Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
 
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." 
 
So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.   (ESV)
Prayer
O divine Wisdom, incarnate of Mary by the Holy Spirit, become for me the power of God and the wisdom of God, that I might live in the light of Your Word. Amen.
 
For the family of William C. Heine, whom His Lord Jesus called into His nearer presence, that they would comforted by the power of life
 
For the people of Madagascar that they might continue to hear the preaching of the holy gospel and be incorporated into the holy church
 
For students in universities everywhere that they might not be kept from full enquiry into the divine things by the narrow-mindedness of secularists
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord might continue to grant him strength to bear the burdens of his office
Art: VASARI, Giorgio  Annunciation ( 1564-67)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016