March 12, 1973
O God, who hast given us the grace to be the instruments
of love in its work of healing and judgement, who has commissioned
us to proclaim forgiveness and condemnation, deliverance to the
captive and captivity to the proud: Give us the patience of those
who understand, and the impatience of those who love, that the
might of thy gentleness may work through us, and the mercy of
thy wrath may speak through us, in the name of Jesus Christ, and
for his sake. Amen.
I want to talk about Sanctification in terms of context,
process, experience, and implications.
This quarter we have pulled together an extraordinarily
rich, tasty, and nourishing mix that has not yet jelled enough
to slice up into a 44hour serving.
First of all, in the context of the demands of our
time, you and I showed up in a time of resurgence. It is as if
the human vitality has broken loose all around the globe. It is
not that people are sitting back wallowing in despair any longer.
It is, instead, as though they have picked up the life given and
are thrusting it out with a new kind of vitality and creativity.
We have gone past the point of the downswing of mood and are into
the new upsurge.
This has come very concretely to me fairly recently.
I was in Calcutta last summer on the Global Odyssey. You have
all heard the stories of Calcutta as being the city that did not
make it, where three generations live in the train station because
when they arrived from the countryside they found no place to
go. That is true, it is all there, but there is something else
going on in Calcutta now that is amazing. There is a new kind
of surging vitality. We watched in that city the incredible over
crowdedness. I counted fourteen people hanging on the spare tire
of the back of the city bus while others were running up to grab
on. They saw us in our chartered bus and came over. You saw all
these faces coming at you, and the first response was sheer terror
just cringing from that sea of faces coming at you.
Then what happened was that they did not take over our bus. Do
you understand that was probably more terrifying than if they
had; because if they had I would have had the category to comprehend
it. But what does it mean to have the selfhood, the vitality,
the motivation, to be able to say, "I don't need your damn
bus' I am about something much more important than that; I am
about the creation of a new culture!" We talked to Harry
Wainwright over there and he claims that Calcutta is a resurrected
city. The whole of India has undergone a mood shift since the
war to free Bangladesh. Now it is no longer sheer misery and despair;
it is a new kind of vitality and determination to build the earth.
The time of human resurgence is also a time of crisis
for civilization. You do not herald resurgence naively, for when
the dams of human vitality and creativity are broken open, there
is a surge of human energy which can either be a magnificent force
for renewal or it can set civilization back a thousand years.
I was impacted a few weeks ago with a Newsweek picture of a Ugandan
rebel before and after the firing squad. He was not defeated.
His eyes had the intensity of purpose I had associated with Nathan
Hale. It became clear to me that those fellows mean business.
When that vitality bubbles up, history is going to change, and
it is not at all certain the change is for the better.
When we talk about massive human resurgence, we are
talking about an extremely dangerous time. It has always been
that way. The eleventh and twelfth century Crusades were magnificent
expressions of adventure and vitality, but they devastated the
Byzantine Empire and split the Eastern and Western Church until
today. In the seventeenth century, energy let loose by the Reformation
decimated Europe. In this century, the vitality of Germany cost
two World Wars. Today, local man's vitality in the Middle East
-- the only thing finally letting Arabs and Israelis survive in
that geography has the world nervously on tiptoe.
The critical issue at this point of history is something
like, "What is authentic life all about, because I am going
after it?" Or perhaps it begins with people sitting around
in despair and victimism and cynicism, there is a rustling of
the spirit and all around you hear, "I am going to live my
life"' And then later, "What does it mean to live my
Something like that is the issue before us in dealing
with Sanctfication, the general rubric under which our Fathers
have spelled out the authentic human life of standing the Christ
Word. The task of getting that wisdom out is to serve the suffering
Sanctification is a process within all the relationships
which define oneself, transforming them from estrangement to reunion.
The theological poetry for that has been "divinization."
In the South, we have road signs which say: "Get Right with
God." Sanctification is first, however, a process.
We have been very gifted in our ways of doing dynamical
analyses. When you look at a set of triangles you are aware it
is not speaking of static structure but a sort of whirl of dynamic.
Yet, there is a sense in which time has been factored out of this
analysis. It is as if we had done a crosssection of the
historic process and are looking at the end view of the pipe.
How do you get at the dimension of process? How is it that we
are clear Sanctification is not a state you reach and know you
have arrived, but is an on-going process?
George Holcombe reminded us that Christian perfection
is like pitching a no hit game. When you are in the fourth inning,
you have not arrived yet, but the issue is whether or not you
are on the way. How do we get clear on that about Sanctification?
Joseph Slicker shared with us a way of talking about
the process as a journey in terms of the descent to the center
and the ascent. These are basic movements in the human journey.
On the side of the descent you have the phases of Desert, Darkness,
Apostasy, and at the center there is something like Ecstasy. In
terms of the ascent you have the Silence, Discipline, and finally,
In the midst of laying out that model he reminds
us this is not Sanctification, but rather, it is the human journey;
that Sanctification is a process which transforms this movement
at every stage.
In using the image of the Desert as Sanctification
we begin to see it as the place of Eternal Rain. (Do not worry
here if the poetry is ungrounded, that is some of the task which
remains to he done.) The Darkness becomes that Holy Light. The
Apostasy is something like the Holy Choir or the Silence -- that
experience of finding oneself crippled and helpless. Transformed
Silence or Sanctified Silence has to do with the Lame Walking.
Discipline has to do with the Blind Seeing. Martyrdom has to do
with the Dead Living. Something like that allows you, at least,
to get a feel after where in the midst of humanness the process
of Sanctification takes place and what it is cutting over against.
It is not as if you find yourself with some sort of spiritual
superiority over anybody else. It is just that you are in a different
phase on the life journey. And the issue of Sanctification is
still very much alive, because that has to do with the transformation
of whatever state you find yourself in.
I heard another colleague talk about the process
of Sanctification as the process of having the Christ event break
in on you more and more often. Have you heard Gene Marshall's
great image about the man of faith being one who will run fifty
miles to get his life addressed? In Sanctification you set out,
run your fifty miles, and you get your life addressed. The second
time you set out, and about mile 23 you are thinking, "I
have a way to go," and wham! It comes at you, Pretty soon
it is every two miles and then three feet and pretty soon you
cannot sit still without having your life addressed. Somebody
else spoke about Sanctification as that process of having the
Justification happenings happen more and more frequently until
finally your life becomes a spin, a whirl of Christ events.
Another way we have talked about Sanctification is
that it has to do with a transformation which takes place within
your basic human relatedness. I am standing over against all of
reality. The one thing absolutely certain is that I know reality
impacts me and I impact reality. Somehow I am conscious of that
fact and that is just the way it is; that is just the ontological
relatedness of every man. Sanctification, then, has to do with
the process of transformation within each of his given ontological
I sense that something significant has happened to
the way we hear the news these days. What we used to shut out
from our consciousness by just ignoring cannot be ignored anymore.
You have to make a deliberate effort to get up and turn off the
television. Our care has been let loose for the whole world, and
what we experience as apathy these days is not apathy, it is not
the notcaring. It is, instead, caring so much that since
we do not have a way to act it out, we have to deliberately block
off the world from ourselves. I think what has happened is that
when we saw the shot of the earth from the moon, it gave us the
whole world. It just dumped all of great and glorious and beautiful
reality in our laps, and what that did was unloose the weight
of our care. You and I are people care-filled for all of reality.
We have experienced Universal Benevolence.
When that happens your relationship back to all of
reality is transformed In the dynamic of Radical Integrity, or
the acting out of one's passion. I think this has to do not so
much with getting rid of your demons as with taming them. It came
to me on a trip I was assigned to do for Development some time
ago. Being a developer by decision, not by practice, I found myself
in the midst of a meeting of colleagues. The momentum was slowing
down. I looked around for the major contradiction and discovered
I was it! My immediate thought was, "How do I change? How
do I get over being the 'jackass' here?'' That is the Justification
question. The Sanctification question would be: "Where is
it that this situation demands a 'jackass'?" I discovered
that where that situation demanded a jackass was out buying a
pack of cigarettes somewhere else and letting the momentum go.
How is it you take the only life you have on your hands and use
it for the mission? You quit trying to change and decide that
what you have on your hands is your life and that is the life
to be given in care for the world. Something like that is Radical
Usually I stand back and think it is just lousy to
be caught in that kind of twoway trap. Endless Felicity
has to do with looking at that situation and understanding it
as happiness. That is happiness. It is not that happiness is something
I hope will come out of living in that situation, but that my
life defines what happiness is.
What does it mean to live out the Christ work, to
be transformed? One of our studies has been to look at history
and see what the historical fathers had to say about Sanctification.
What we discovered was that all of them talked about it at length.
That dumped a load of history on our hands; so instead of picking
one or two key writers, we had to do a gestalt. It came out that
Sanctification is the transformation in human Knowing, Doing,
and Being, and Community. The first three have to do with the
human journey and the fourth with community, the corporate embodiment
of the journey.
I think, historically, those who have pointed to
the transformation in Knowing have been the scholastics, the orthodox,
or those who would fight over a creed. That seems a little strange
to us, until we are reminded of the crucialness of the images
out of which a person works. Sanctification has to do with the
transforming of one's basic operating images and values, that
is, a transformation from disillusionment to revaluation. There
was a time in your life when you thought marriage was bliss; and
then there came a time of disillusionment when you found marriage
to be blistering. Something like that is the process of Justification.
Sanctification is transforming that lucidity or that disillusionment.
You take your understanding that your married life is never going
to be the way you wanted it to be. It is going to be a continuing
fortyyear struggle, if it lasts that long. You ground that
in the depth of your being and then you forget about it forever.
Once you get that ground into your deeps, you just act out the
dance of the happily married man. It is that sort of revaluation
which goes on in the Knowing. Life the way it is, really is good.
When you look at Doing and you begin to think about
the Puritans, or the liberals all those who were
concerned with the right acting out of life or the right responsibility
for the neighbor, the shift which takes place in your action is
the transformation from the imperative to the indicative. In one
stage of life you live out of the law, you live out of the "ought.'
I ought to do this or that. In the indicative stage you live out
of the "what is." All you have to do is see the newspaper
and your whole life agenda is written. You look at reality and
the demands are laid on you. You do not need a law. Paul told
us that the law is our teacher, until the Word comes along, then
you do not need it any longer, though you do not get rid of it.
At last you see what it was the law was trying to point to.
In the realm of Being, I recall reading of the ascetic
and the Ecstatic, and the mystics -- these strange people who
were doing things like whipping themselves, or living for forty
years wrestling with demons, or having strange ecstatic experiences.
I think a way to talk about that today would be the transformation
from the style of the hero to the transparent. The helpful image
for me here comes in terms of the sexual revolution or struggle
with roles going on in our day. What does it mean to be a woman?
What does it mean to be a man? The first step in that is to establish
oneself as the hero, or as the beautiful one, moving beyond self-depreciation
to the hero. But there is another stage. When Betty Friedan spoke
in Houston the other day, the bane of the male chauvinists announced:
"Ladies, we have won, we do not have to worry about being
beautiful, fulfilled human beings any longer. Now it is time to
help the men along with their revolution, and release the creativity
there." That was shocking, for me anyway. You begin to see
that there is another stage, or that Sanctification is going beyond
establishing yourself as a hero. You get over worrying about succeeding
all the time, or about being the great one. Your concern is to
bring off the other. In the sexual revolution, my concern is not
to be the hero. Whether I come off as fool or bully, the issue
is whether or not every woman I encounter sees herself as Dulcinea
afterwards. It is that sort of image we would be pointing to with
Historically, the reformers came down hard on the
pole of Community. The image for us would be the transformation
of the community from a battle field of bastards to a communion
of saints. The Bonhoeffer "community" paper has to do
with the first stage, where you get clear that your wishdream
is gone and that what you have on your hands are colleagues, not
friends. The transformation from that to the communion of saints
is a wild thing. You remember the scene in Patton when he is sitting
down with the Russians to drink. The Russian general invites him
to drink a toast and he sends back through an interpreter, "Tell
him I will not drink with any Russian son of a bitch! The interpreter
first refuses, but finally is persuaded to translate. The Russian
general than turns back and .says, ''Tell him I think he is a
son of a bitch, too"' The Interpreter does, and Patton replies,
"I'll drink to that!" It is that sort of transformation
of community you would be pointing to here.
Now there are demons attending sanctification in
this realm. In the knowing dimension the demon is gnosticism and
the notion that you have some kind of special insight. That tempts
us in the Movement in very subtle and demonic ways. Now do you
stay on the tightrope of revolutionary discretion, not falling
off into either unhelpful "blabber" or holding secret
knowledge? How do you avoid that sort of temptation and still
talk about a transformed Knowing? I think perhaps the Knowing
which is transformed is simply that you know Jesus Christ and
him crucified. Or that all you know is the Word, all you know
is that life is good.
I think the demon in the Doing dimension is moralism.
It has undergone a shift in our time. The deepest moralism I have
seen lately is that which says you ought not to feel guilty. People
go to incredible lengths to act out of that moralism. You ought
not to be responsible. How is it you hold up the fact that transformation
of Doing is being responsible for all that is?
I think in the Being dimension the demon is occultism.
You see that in the drug culture, in the outbreak of pornography,
and the skin flicks everywhere the sensuality. There is greatness
in being able to bring off another, or to sense yourself as transparent
to the Mystery, or finding others transformed in your presence.
But what happens in the perversion is the illusion that pushing
into that experience alone is what is valuable, or seeking after
the unlimited ecstatic.
The demon in Community has to do with institutionalism,
being set apart, or self-righteousness
Sanctification is the process of transformation which
goes on in those dimensions. It is not as if you ever reach an
end point. This was John Wesley's great insight. Sanctification
is a lifelong journey. The important thing is whether or
not you are on the journey, not in what stage you are. There is
no spirit superiority here. Wherever you are on your journey the
question is, "Is it being sanctified or is it not?"
One of the experiential levels of Sanctification
is that of Universal Benevolence. The dominant experience is not,
in the first instance, the weight of the world crashing in on
you, but the next step. In a House Church witness Gene Marshall
said recently that the man of faith is not called on to be glum
about bearing the weight of the world. Anybody can do that, The
trick is to dance with the weight of the world on your shoulder.
Perhaps you have seen something of that dance break out from time
I recall a story of a man who was walking along a
rocky path and happened to see Atlas standing there holding the
world. Atlas said, "I would like a drink of water. Could
you hold this a minute?" The man was intrigued, and being
a nice fellow took it from Atlas. The last thing he saw of Atlas
was him running down the road saying, "Give it to the next
person who comes along." You are familiar with that myth
as descriptive of our experience. It does not matter how you got
to that rocky path, just as long as the world gets dumped on you.
It is intriguing, however, to reflect on that for a minute. Who
says that guy is unfortunate, or trapped? lie saw a vision of
human possibility which he touched and the first thing he knew
he had the weight of the world on him and he was holding up the
whole thing. It is incredibly difficult but it is glorious' That
is the thing worth doing -- holding the weight of the world, spiritizing
every situation. You experience yourself as a catalyst of compassion,
a Midas of meaning. It is a phenomenal possibility hard to put
I saw a play some years ago called ''Pentacles,"
which had a character who sleepily oozing through life, wakes
up one morning, yawns and says "Gee, it's a great day."
It turns out that statement was the code word to start the revolution.
So he goes around and tells people "Gee, it's a great day."
They start shooting, all chaos breaks loose, and social change
happens. Pretty soon people are coming and asking Pentacles, "Where
do I go?" He tells them to go here and go there and the revolution
is on. Social change is happening and it is just a glorious whirl
of activity, this business of bearing the weight of the world.
And it does not in the first instance matter how you got there.
That is Universal Benevolence. It is beyond the sheer weight.
It is the dance and the glory that goes along with bearing the
Radical Integrity comes somewhere in the midst of
the dance. The dominant experience, I think, is that of mounting
fury. It is the 100ton crane you are bearing coming alive.
It chooses to dig at you every once in a while. It is as if you
are standing there at the crevice of the right "whistle point."
You have your tune and are all puckered up to whistle, when everybody
around you starts stuffing peanut butter in your mouth. It is
just infuriating. Everywhere you turn men, circumstances, and
principles are out to impede that glorious activity you know is
possible because you have done it before. You are not out to find
personal significance -- that quest died long ago. Nor are you
seeking an easy way. Rather, that outburst of spirit you are about
to generate is exactly the thing which is going to enable civilization
to come along but, you are just impeded at every
turn. It is not that it is anybody's fault. That is part of the
frustration. It is Just the way it happens. Picture Lawrence of
Arabia as he goes back to pick up his man in the desert. You experience
it as going out with that extra outburst of spirit energy to rescue
him; but he is armed to the teeth and out to kill you rather than
be rescued. Or you experience it like a tragic "Catch 22,"
which is no longer funny because too much is at stake. You get
up at three o'clock in the morning to do a surprise decor job
which is going to transform your community into one of global
perspective. It is going to really bring off the spirit outbreak
you know is necessary and there is no masking tape.
It happens in the utterly mundane. You are running to a great
speaking engagement already late, and you trip and fall in the
mud. Or you get the report ready which will transform the whole
thrust of the day; the person ahead of you on the program exerts
his selfhood, and you wind up with five minutes to give the report.
It is in those kinds of just trivial, nittygritty things
that you experience yourself bursting with rage.
The damnedness of it all wakes in upon you and you
find yourself just lashing out, outraged, and furious. But you
cannot quit. That is not an option anymore. Your care has burst
loose and you have seen the urgency, and so quitting is not an
option. You try to think back on a time when life was not so outrageous,
but you find that the damnedness has inflicted your memory. Even
when you remember those socalled happy times, all you can
see there is the damnedness of it all. Everyone is out to get
you everywhere. That is what has inflicted you, and you are just
outraged at every moment.
The issue, then, is not how to get rid of the fury.
It is, how does that rage become sanctified? It is clear that
what you have on your hands is a war, but it is no longer just
a war with the enemy without; it is a war with the enemy without
and within and all around. Those who you thought were your colleagues
are your enemies. The issue is not to get out of it or win some
great victory. The issue is whether or not this is going to be
a holy war, or saturation bombing. Whether the enemy is going
to be the world, the flesh, and the devil, to speak poetically,
or whether you and I are going to use that rage outrageously,
to attack everything in sight. This is a dangerous stage in Sanctification.
We are subtle in our saturation bombing. The man who is struggling
with Radical Integrity has moved a long way on the journey. He
has spirit insights and weaponry that are incredibly accurate
and destructive. The issue is how to make that a holy war against
Satan. Radical Integrity, then, in the midst of your rage is focusing
the thrust on the one thing necessary the loving
of God or the breaking loose of humanness, of spirit.
The experiential level of Endless Felicity has something
to do with certainty. Perhaps the best way to talk about it is
with an image. We have a resident ornithologist around here who
tells us about the "osprey." The osprey is a bird that
fishes, and occasionally it latches onto a fish a little bit larger
than he is able to fly away with easily. Some versions of the
story talk about Sanctification as this little bird soaring away
to the clouds with a whale under its talons, but our ornithologist
tells us a more realistic story. What happens when the bird comes
down and grabs the fish is that its talons lock. It cannot let
go. It is biologically impossible. So what happens is that there
is this frantic flurry of feathers, and then a few ripples on
the water's surface. Our ornithologist is also an imaginal educator
who stops the action at the moment of impact, so you get the picture
of this bird who had just been gracefully practicing his 8-point
slow rolls, coming in at a 47 degree dive at 180 miles an hour.
He reaches down and locks in, and wham' He is pulled up short.
You see his eyes get big and his mouth open and his whole future
is laid out clearly before him. One thing about his future is
certain; it in incredibly interesting! That future is not boring.
You see the prospect of a frantic flapping, a few fading ripples
on the surface, and a feather or two floating around. Then you
take a step further and look below the surface and what you have
is this large fish swimming around the rest of his life with a
bird glued into his back.. The fish now has wings. You begin to
get an image of what it is like to sense ourselves on the verge
of impacting the church and the world. The prospects of the future
are laid out rather clearly when you start thinking about the
progress of the Local Church Experiment or the Ecumenical Parish,
or the Whistle Points. We are in the dive with the talons extended
for that moment of impact. The issues at that point has to do
with fulfillment. That bird's life as a fisher is filled full.
He has the big one that did not get away. It is what he has been
after all his life. Right here. Now, obviously when you get a
little clarity on that point, what enables you to continue on
the dive, toward that kind of impact, is simply the startling
word in Jesus Christ that "to die is to live." Something
like that would be the experience of Endless Felicity.
A word or two about the implications: In terms of
the serious turn of the Movement, toward evangelism, you and I
must be serious about pointing out the real human possibility.
Paul did will preaching forgiveness to the Hebrews for they understood
themselves to be guilty under the law. But when he went to the
Gentiles they did not have any law to be guilty under. Now, how
do you forgive somebody who does not know he is guilty? In speaking
of the law as a teacher, Paul's view was that the first stage
is to preach the law, and then you preach the gospel.
Something like that is analogous to our situation.
How can you and I proclaim the fantastic word of Justification
without the context of the human possibility? How do we hold up
to someone the real human possibility of Sanctification? It is
not an abstract idea or wish dream. A person begins to see the
difference between himself and that possibility, which drives
him to Justification, which, when acted out, leads to Sanctification
which when held up, drives you to Justification and back to Sanctification.
Those two dynamics stay in tension.
Our study of Sanctification is going to be a key
in the spirit life of Summer '73. I do not know yet what practical
forms this will take, or what particular exercises. The way we
have experienced research in this arena is like Pandora's box.
You hold up one of these images in front of a group and it is
good for two hours of head-on significant discussion. There is
a dimension of life and fire which is going to be critical for
The Sanctification work has also been extremely valuable
in recovering some of the symbols of the church, symbols of the
sacraments as exercises which take up a portion of one's life
journey and hold up the significance of that and sanctify it.
The images of heaven, walking the streets of gold, endlessness,
and purgatory begin to allow a re-appropriation of those kinds
of things. What would it mean to understand purgatory as that
process of Sanctification, or doing battle effectively with the
Arenas of unclarity we need to continue to struggle
1) One has to do with what categories we decide to
use to talk about Sanctification. We have discovered at least
five different sets of categories which point to this area of
experience, and it is very difficult to sort them out into an
intelligible way of talking. We are clear about the realities
to which we are pointing, but it is the intellectual issue of
how they are sorted out. There are the categories of the triangles
the priors did in December. In the Tillich paper,* we studied
in Ecclesiola he uses the categories of Increasing Awareness,
Freedom, Relatedness, and Transcendence. And, how do the journey
categories fit here? The church fathers have talked about Sanctification
as transformation under these arenas of Belief, Morality, Style,
and Community. What has that all to do with what we are doing?
Then you realize that somehow Sanctification has to do with an
exterior look, an interior feel, and the relationship between
2) Another arena of unclarity has to do with the
historic background. We need to work a good deal more on the historical
research. What are the papers you could use in a course to break
3) How is it that you talk about the phenomena of
Sanctification sociologically, and not just individually? How
do you point to that process as a sociological happening?
4) How do you talk about Grace and Sanctification
so you are not talking about some sort of human achievement, or
something you can be proud of being involved in, but as a grace
5) I think perhaps another has to do with sharpening
the address of the wisdom we already have in the area of Sanctification.
One way of raising that issue is: What is the question to which
Sanctification is the answer? Where is it people are raising concretely,
practically, day-to-day the issue of Sanctification? How does
that need to be addressed in our time?
6) Another arena is: What demons attend to this arena?
What are the heresies? What is it that we need to be on guard
Perhaps this holds some of the direction of our research
this quarter. We might end by saying that the stew is indeed very
rich and very tasty and it has come to us as very nourishing.
We want to be about the continuing of the clarification of this
arena of human experience.
*Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology Vol. III