The word sobornost’ is derived from the word used in the Slavonic version of the creed to translate katholikos, ‘catholic’. It appears that some of the older texts in the Slavonic Creed simply transliterated katholikos as katholichesky, as did the Latin version and virtually all European versions, but in (or maybe by) the fifteenth century katholichesky was replaced by soborny.
It is often said that soborny is derived from the word for a council in Slavonic, sobor, but I suspect the truth is more interesting. In replacing katholichesky, the Slavonic translators went back to the root meaning of katholikos, which is formed from the Greek kath’ holon, ‘according to the whole’, and took the word to mean something like ‘taken as a whole’, ‘gathered together’. So they used the word soborny, an adjective derived from the word sobrat’, ‘to gather together’. The word for council or synod, translating the Greek synodos, meaning a ‘coming together’, a ‘gathering’ and hence ‘council’, is sobor, so the use of soborny in the creed suggested that it is in a council that the Church manifests its nature.
In a remarkable way, then, the word soborny makes a link between the Church as catholic and the Church as conciliar: between the Church as proclaiming a truth that concerns everyone, and the Church as constituted by being gathered together by God.
Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, 93.
I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.
I started reading Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited the other day and I’m in agreement that what we’ve come to call “the gospel” is really something else altogether. He’s quite right to point out that the gospel is about much more than personal salvation. On page 24 McKnight says, “I encourage you to pull out a piece of paper or open up the flyleaf of the back of this book and scribble down your answer to t his most important question before you read one more word: What is the gospel?” So scribble I did. Here’s a photo of what I wrote in the back of the book (because I’m too lazy to type it all out):
So my working definition (and this is just a summary) includes Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, the message he preached about the kingdom, our victory over sin and a life enabled for good works in obedience to God. I’m sure McKnight’s definition will be slightly different and perhaps he’ll highlight things I’ve neglected and neglect things I’ve highlighted, but I think my working definition is a decent summary of the gospel as we see it in the Bible.
But that brings me to the point of this post. As I began chapter 4 of the book McKnight says that we should turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and begin there because that is the closest we come to a definition of the gospel in the New Testament. That got me thinking about how I’ve always viewed this chapter, especially the early parts of it. I’ve always described this as Paul’s summary of the Gospel. In other words, if Paul were to sum the gospel up in a pithy statement it would be the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that leaves so much out, so I started to wonder if this is best described as a summary.
Perhaps we can view 1 Corinthians 15 as the pinnacle of the gospel. The focal point perhaps. Jesus’ sinless life, Spirit-empowered ministry, preaching of God’s rule and Israel’s restoration, etc. all led up to his death and subsequent resurrection. These events were the culmination of his ministry and the vindication of his message. Paul doesn’t have much to say about Jesus’ ministry at all but it makes sense that he wouldn’t. He gets right to the high point because without the death/resurrection Jesus would have been another failed messianic claimant.
I will note that this pinnacle is also the basis for Paul’s telling believers that they can live a Spirit-filled life in Christ. And that without this focal point our lives mean nothing. So he spends plenty of time talking about the latter part of my working definition but that’s all predicated upon our resurrected Lord.
I was just perusing the Westminster Bookstore website and I watched their quick promo video. Aside from being impressed by the production quality I was inspired by the vision and mission of the bookstore itself. It exists for more than to furnish students with the materials needed for their courses at WTS. It’s not just another bookstore in the niche theology market. It truly exists for the edification of God’s people. I never gave much consideration to the thought and care that goes into the decisions on which volumes to stock but I can assure you that I’ll never be able to not consider it again. I will be praying for this ministry (because that’s what it is) and I’ll be making a more concerted effort to support them with my spending even if I pay a dollar or two more at the end of the day. Here’s the video that inspired me:
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the years I’ve been involved in Christian ministry it’s that doers do. Plenty of people talk about what they’d like to do and never end up doing much of anything. Doers on the other hand do what it is they’d like to do and then talk about it afterwards.
I mentioned to my pastor and his wife the other night how a friend of a friend asked me how my life has changed since my ordination. I explained that it hadn’t. I’m doing all the same things that I was doing before I got ordained. Why? Because they need to get done.
I’m all for strategy and implementation but I’m the type who’d rather apologize than ask permission. In other words, when I see something needs doing, I do it. If I do it wrong then I’m quick to say I’m sorry and make the necessary corrections, but if I waited around for a green light then the thing might never get done.
I’ve come to know a lot of folks who wait for the proverbial green light and then make all kinds of excuses when the work is left unfinished. They’ll say that they were never told how to do the task. They’ll say that they were never given the go ahead to do the task after they’d been told how it should be done. They’ll say that someone or something got in the way of the task being done properly. Whatever the excuse, they’re not doers, which is why they don’t do.
I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Likewise, I think of James saying that faith is proved in actions. There’s no secret or mystery to ministry (well, there is, but I’m talking about the practical outworking of ministry). Just do it, to quote a Nike slogan.
I cut a guy’s hair yesterday who shared with me that he grew up going to church and that his grandmother and aunt are very religious and keep urging him to get back but he’s just not there yet. Fair enough. I can’t tell him when he’s gonna be ready. But then he said that he believes in God and prays daily but just doesn’t want to go to church because he’s got some issues with it. That’s when I told him that we all have some issues with it, but I like to get together with others love the God that I love so we can worship him together.
To my mind it makes little sense to hoard my love for God in private devotions while never displaying it in public worship. Plus, there’s strength in numbers. The author of Hebrews tells us that when we gather we’re to encourage one another and stir each other up to love and good works. That’s something that’s much less likely to happen when we’re isolated.
In any event, I saw that he was convicted. What he’ll do with that conviction is anyone’s guess. I just hope he’ll find himself assembling with believers somewhere sometime soon.
As someone who loves theology and biblical studies I’ve come to realize over time that it’s simply best to preach the word in a congregational context. What I mean is simply this: Preach the text and let all the theology flow from it. Don’t spend too much time speculating. Use the information gained from biblical studies to illuminate it but don’t make biblical studies the focus to the exclusion of what the text is saying.
I’ve learned that trying to turn Bible study (at least in the two churches I’ve been a member of) into miniature seminary lectures isn’t greatly effective. The glazed over eyes are usually the best indication that it’s not hitting home. And that’s okay. People who want seminary lectures should by all means attend seminary. The average believer that I’ve encountered just wants to know what the Bible says and find ways to apply it to life.
Your experience may very well be different. If it is I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know.