Disembodied speech


Dogma: You are to believe this without question.

My housemate attended Empowerment Temple, and idolized its pastor, Jamal Harrison Bryant.  He told me this exchange he heard in the reception line after a service.

Jamal Harrison Bryant told this man, “God told me to tell you [thus-and-so].”  The man said, “I don’t believe that.”  Bryant answered, “If you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe God.”

Hearing this, I was incensed.  This epitomized what we call “disembodied speech.”

I may believe God told me whatever.
That doesn’t mean it happened.
You may believe God told you whatever.
That doesn’t mean it happened.
Your beliefs aren’t binding on me.

The first major shock to me in seminary was being told that God has a body.

Related somehow is this other doctrine: angels can’t speak, because they don’t have bodies.  A classmate asked, “Then how did Gabriel speak to Mary?”  The professor answered, “Scholastic angels aren’t Biblical angels.”  “Orthodox,” that is, dogmatic Lutheran theology — as represented by Robert Jenson, William Lazareth, Timothy Lull, Eric Gritsch, Carl Braaten, and others — still practices scholasticism.

God’s body consists of the relationships among believers, who taken together constitute “the body of Christ.”  At first I apprehended that this represented some political agenda coming from the Leftist and the touchy-feely.  It proves to have powerful political ramifications — that I now wholeheartedly endorse.

Luther was not the first or only person to dissent from the Roman Catholic Church.  In his time, throughout Eurpoe — just as in America today — thousands of self-ordained pastors led their own independent congregations, with no accountability to any authority at all.  Luther called these people “swarmers.”

It was common in those churches for a pastor to presume to gain some insight from a vision, a dream, or one’s own fancy — that is, an angelic visitation — and then report it to his congregation as a message from God, a new dogma to which they must conform their feelings, thoughts and actions.

Luther referred to such as “disembodied speech,” given its origin in a disembodied angel.  As I said elsewhere:

Normal human speech occurs in the context of relationships.  I speak; you respond.  I respond to you.  We are accountable to each other.  We have a relationship.  Our speech is “embodied” in our relationship.

Ideology, like “disembodied speech,” occurs outside relationships.  It presumes authority unto itself and is accountable to no one.  Given the desire to escape the inevitable uncertainties of life, ideology propounds dogmas about which proponents can claim to be absolutely certain.

The dogmatists’ error: strictly speaking, their view means that disembodied speech cannot possibly occur.  Instead, in fact, we swim in it.  Demagogues of the left, of the right, of race, spew it forth all the time.

In my book, dogma itself is disembodied speech also.

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The post for next Saturday, 11/24/18, is related:  “Pious frauds.”

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