The Three Theological Insights Necessary for Christianity

I have, as of 2015, joined a PCA church plant. I am in the Reformed Tradition of Christianity that is attributed to John Calvin and what people call TULIP. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints). However, Calvinism is much more broad and encompassing this five part doctrine.

Belden C. Lane in Ravished by Beauty, finds three theological insights that are fundamental for Christianity in visiting Taize and Iona. The three are as follows:

1) Dei Gloria. This insight asserts that the chief end of man is God’s glory. The Westminster Catechism of the Reformed Tradition puts it as follows: To Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But this applies to all Christians.

2) Sacramentum MundiThis insight asserts that to rightly celebrate God’s glory is to recognize the earth’s dignity as a sacrament of God’s presence. Many call this ‘the sacramental vision/character of the world; that God is in every part of creation and that all of creation is praising God together for His glory.

3) Peregrinatio Perpetua. This insight asserts that we are to practice the living of a pilgrim–in other words, we are to live simply. To live simply meant to be sensitive to the poor, to be aware of the tenuous life of the pilgrim, to be eager to learn the languages that facilitate the crossing of borders, to practice hospitality, and above all to love with compassion and without partition.

My denomination, the PCA, tends to do particularly well in the first: in delivering the Word and glorifying God through words, often neglecting the other two.

Traditions such as Catholicism and Anglicanism tend to do particularly well in keeping a sacramental vision of the world, often neglecting the other two.

Other denominations (The Anabatists and others) tend to do well in living simply and in diversity–doing well in evangelism to all kinds. But these denominations often neglect the other two.

The perfect church, which cannot exist on earth, would exhibit all three practices equally well. However there are individual churches and individuals who can be in a certain denominations that emphasize one, but can practice all three as best as they can. I do well, as my denomination does, in dealing with the Word, with Scripture, with God’s glory. I am growing in my ability to see God’s presence in his creation, building my sacramental vision of the world. I am struggling in my ability to live simply and in diversity. My church does well in all three, but certainly neglects at some level the second two. We deal with scripture as the PCA does. We do communion every Sunday, but the sacramental character of the world is not at the forefront of thought. Diversity and simplicity are things that my church dearly strives for. Hopefully I, my church, and the church as a whole can grow in all three practices.

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4 thoughts on “The Three Theological Insights Necessary for Christianity

  1. A small quibble: you should probably call Catholicism a “tradition” rather “denomination.” Catholics do not conceive of themselves as another denomination. Denominationalism is a Protestant phenomenon.

    Anglicans, of course, belong to the Reformed tradition. Why is it that they, perhaps more than any other Protestants, observe “sacramentum mundi”? Having grow up Presbyterian, I never heard about a sacramental vision of the world. Either Presbyterians have lost the vision and need to recover it or they lack the theology that permits such a vision. The Anabaptists (Mennonites, Quakers) are probably best known for their practice of “peregrenatio perpetua” with their simple living, which I deeply admire.

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    • Thank you for the quibble–it actually is good that you pointed that out. With regards to scramentum mundi, the Presbyterians have lost their sacramental vision. However, John Calvin himself had an extremely strong sacramental view of the world. A Christian, no matter what tradition, need only to refer to Scripture and/or a great thinker such as Augustine, Calvin, or Edwards (and plenty more, of course) to reorient themselves to begin viewing the world as reverberating God’s presence. But yes, the Anglican and Catholic Traditions do well in keeping a sacramental vision of the world.

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      • Because you’re a Presbyterian, how do you think your tradition can recover a sacramental vision if it is now lost? What specifically can you do?

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  2. Individually, return to scripture, read books like Ravished by Beauty, learn from other denominations or traditions, and encourage involvement in God’s nature. I’m also not one to be asked on how to help this. I am just now being introduced to what a ‘sacramental vision of the world’ is. How to achieve it is certainly out of my reach at some level.

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