Saturday, August 12, 2006

TOC Changes

In thinking through my outline below, I am reconsidering the order. It might make more sense to begin with the Christian year and then consider the week and day. I'm also thinking that each section should begin with a description of the practice (section D) and then go on to the biblical, theological, and historical basis.

I know several of you are reading and interested in the subject. Feel free to post questions, arguments, etc. The conversation will help.


M. Jay Bennett said...

Hey Matt. I can't wait for this book to be published. There's an absolute vaccuum in Chritian Lit. on this subject. I've never seen or read a book like it.

First, I was thinking that it might be best to go start with the Christian week then move to day then to year. I know that upsets the normal intuitive order of either going from greater to lesser or lesser to greater, but here's my reasoning. I think the Sabbath Day is the most fundamental expression of religious time. If that's true, it would be a good starting point. You could talk about the order of the creation account, the Sabbath in the Mosaic Law, and its further application in a Chritian context. But the Sabbath is fundamentally understood in the context of a week, though it has implcations for the shortest or longest cycles of time. A discussion of the Christian week centered around the idea of the Sabbath day would transition well to a discussion of a Christian day (which ends in rest, a kind of Sabbath). Then at the end you can make the jump to year and point even further into all of history (which ends in eternal rest, a perpetual Sabbath).

Second, I was wondering if you plan to critique popular expressions or lacks thereof of Chritian time? If so, it might be better to discuss practice at the end of each section after you've established biblical, theological, and historical precedence. Also a study of historical precedence would flow naturally into the current situation, and by the time you get there you will have already convinced the reader of whether what we are doing is right or not. That might add a little rhetorical force to your argument.

What do you think?


Matt said...

Jay! Thanks for jumping in!

I like your argument for starting with the week and making the discussion sabbath centered. I'm not married to the idea of least to greatest or greatest to least, I just lack the imagination to think otherwise. This is why discussion is so important!

As for ending each section with practice...this was my initial instinct. I wonder though if my audience were pastors not well acquainted with observing Christian time if they would be able to hang on through a biblical, theological, and historical discussion without first having some idea of what it looks like. I ask this because I am that pastor. Also because, if I were to write this book, it would be for those pastors.

I would probably not write much of a critique for those churches that ignore Christian time. I would probably touch on it just enough to give a sense of why they don't observe it. My greater concern (again, considering my audience) is to show the dangers of observing sacred time as though it were at all meritorious or gained for us greater love from God. This discuss will naturally touch upon the denominations that have allowed this to happen. However, in either case, I would need to do some pretty significant research in order to be ready to say anything on either count.

Thanks for the note!

Thom said...

Sorry I don't have longer to comment, Matt, so I'm just going to start talking: seems to me the chief aid of a Christian calendar that I can see is in pedagogy and preaching. The calendar aids in helping speakers and hearers to address the whole gospel. In a home context, it means a framework upon which one can hang the informal (dinnertable or bedside conversations) and the formal (family traditions surrounding advent or easter.) In the churches, it means a more "aware" liturgy, a more narrative theology, and preaching that might actually get out of Paul's letters and into other parts of the Bible. It means greater exposure to the Psalter. Of course, I'm confusing things a bit because I completely wed the practical (praxis) consideration of time to the liturgical calendar, but it could be as general as a more developed understanding of sabbath (see my posts on in-fraction about Grudem's dissertation on Calvin and the sabbath), or the consideration of the Jewish celebratory cycle. In our day, I seriously doubt churches /abuse/ time--unless you consider dispensationalism an abuse. (Time is fundamentally eschatological--perhaps, then, we MUST do /something/ with time.) But I totally get your caution about importing some kind of system into grace--we totally track on the law/gospel knee-jerk (soli Deo gloria). There are some good liturgical spots on the web, including "Text This Week" and "Daily Office." Gotta run

Matt said...

(This comment was sent to me by Julie since she was having some trouble getting it to post...Thanks Julie!)

I have long been fascinated by the subject of time, though my reading has been more on timekeeping devices throughout history (i.e., flower clock beds, water clocks, etc.). But yours is a well merited conversation piece.
Two questions which I'll like to toss in may be more of a rabbit trail than not, but here goes.
1. Have you considered including the month and other natural marks of time passing such as seasons in your book? Does past litergical history take those into consideration or would that require breaking new ground?
2. In what ways can we think about ordering time for our spiritual benefit without actually orienting that to a timeframe? It seems easier for a monk in a monastary to orient his life around the clock, than the mother with little ones. Certainly she can help her household to respect the clock, but some children's needs such as diapers seem to be no respecter of time. How should our regard for time as Christians be balanced between being time-oriented, and being event-oriented? I am thinking about such times of celebration and grieving, as well, which can involve important cycles or stages which defy the boundaries of being planned into neat little boxes on the calendar or ticks of the clock.
One more question...when is your book being published? J

Matt said...


The months are not addressed historically. It is worth thinking about. however, months are a lunar concept and seem to get us away from any sort of spiritual cycle. The trick would be trying to figure out how to spiritualize the lunar cycle. However, at first blush, I'm not sure what the theological or biblical basis would be for observing them. And there wouldn't be any historical basis that I am aware of.

The seasons are a bit different. Seasons were a part of the OT year, many of the feasts being related to a specific harvest season (which in turn often related to the conculsion of spring or summer or fall). not only then is there a biblical basis, but there is some reference (if I am not mistaken) to the seasons in the annual liturgical cycle in the Book of Common Prayer. So while I don't think they would get a chapter to themselves in my "book", they certainly deserve a section int he chapter on the annual cycle.

As for your second question...this is the issue, isn't it? How to begin organizing our lives according to this structure instead of any other. As for the day to day daiper changing type of stuff, I don't think it needs to interfere. From a strictly practical standpoint, if one were following the BCP, there is only a morning prayer, evening prayer, and compline. Each takes (in solitude) about 15 minutes. It can take longer depending on how much reflection you engage in. But if observed before the children rise (morning), as a fmaily at dinner (evening) and as you slip into bed at the end of your day (compline). When taking into account the fact that cultures such as the muslim culture have managed to work in as many as five times of prayer a day (for everyone that is observant, not merely the monastic), it seems realistic to suppose that only under the most extreme circumstances might a person be unable to incorporate these three times of prayer. That said, we must keep in mind, the idea isn't to add yet another thing to our list of things to get done each day. It is to begin our day in prayer and contemplation of our gracious and all-powerful Creator and Redeemer, dedicating the day and our energies to Him. Having thus oriented ourselves spiritually, we come back in the evening and look back on the day we have experienced, relfecting on not only our successes and failures spiritually, but more importantly God's gracious advances despite those successes and failures. Finally, we end our day with compline (which contains some of the most moving prayers I have ever prayed). In this we celebrate the close of the day and commit ourselves once again to God as we sleep. Our next waking focus will be upon God as we begin our day anew with our morning prayers. So it isn't just about getting it done (which you did not imply, but my answer may have implied).

I think the issues of celebration and grieving fit very naturally into the historical cycle. This will be more evident as we discuss the daily, weekly and annual cycles in detail. Again, I think this is evidenced by the fact that the BCP, which provides us with such a beautiful guide for the observance of sacred time, includes rites for both marriage and burial.

Thanks again Julie! I had fun thinking about this!