John 8 is a wonderful chapter on the true Christian gnosis, or rather, Light. It is about our slavery to sin, and how we—in our “false” souls—are born of the devil, and how the light of Christ as the “I AM” of God frees us from our “birth” and slavery. Chapter 9 goes on to speak of blindness and sight, with chapter 10 talking about the freedom into which this leads us. So these three chapters really go together, just as chapters 6 and 7 do (on hunger and thirst, bread and water). Slavery and freedom; light and sight. Chapter 11 stands by itself but also is the climax that follows from all the previous chapters taken cumulatively because the others all introduce Jesus as Life. In chapter 8 He is the Light of Life.
Reading Origen is so refreshing because he reminds me of where my heart really lies—ah! here I am home again—in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I am turned off by the great denominational institutions. That does not mean that I oppose formal religion, necessarily (like the traditional Hours or Daily Office; Jesus’ Judaism had plenty of formalism). I do not mind, for some reason, the Book of Common Prayer, for instance, perhaps because I think there is a place for that. But I also want people to strive for more.
In one of Origen’s homilies on Genesis he distinguishes between how people come to Christ. There are those who come to Christ with the “crowds.” These he feeds with parables, just enough to keep them from fainting with hunger along the way. Others sit constantly and without interruption at the feet of Jesus (like Mary). They want only to hear His word without being “anxious about many things,” choosing the “better part that shall not be taken away.” Still others (like the Twelve) never move away from Christ but stay with Him in all His trials. To them He explains the meaning of what He had said to the crowds. Then there are the very few (like Peter, James and John) who are able to climb the “mountain” with Him. These people receive the most illumination and even hear the voice of the Father. So people come to Christ “each according to his or her ability.” Christians receive light to varying degrees; they are not all the same. Yet the light of Christ is the same.
Christianity makes no sense to many people because most of its public representatives are worldly people with almost no light. This is the result of the democratization of Christianity, where unspiritual people are put on top (or in the forefront) because that is what the unspiritual majority want. This is not only true of large “connectional” (i.e., hierarchical) churches like the PC(USA) but of the Baptist churches as well, where a pastor’s success depends upon his popularity. This is the problem with the “congregational” system. It is also the problem with the “emerging” network (i.e, atomized) church. I wish we were at the end of “churches” as voluntary societies (an inheritance from the European Enlightenment) for it is very hard to navigate away from this.
The alternative, of course, is the “local church” in which “membership” is based on geography and not free association. Those who believe (this part is voluntary, of course) belong to the church of their locality—of which there can be only one (since Christ only has one church). It is the reality of the church—our various “church” practices are just exercises of disobedience or despair—but there is no mechanism to make the reality practical from where we are today, except simply to meet as such without making any claims with respect to those not following suit.
What would revive people is a fresh vision of Christ, one that casts judgment on the soul and the world and human works (done by the soul in the world). If some people would “catch” this, then something would begin. It would release for them the joy of creation and of human love and friendships and real connection—not on the basis of the soul caught up in the matrix of the world but out of spiritual wakefulness. This is what the fresh vision of Christ brings, and this vision is contained in the words of the Scriptures, what they mean. Vision means we open our eyes and see Him. This is crucial.