Monday, May 28, 2012

A Loving God

Here is a video of an Orthodox priest explaining the difference between a common protestant interpretation of the atonement and the Orthodox view. I'm with the priest on this one. I'm constantly amazed at the love of God, and equally amazed at those who would see him as vindictive and distant. God came to earth to be near us, to love us, to make us his heirs.

I think N.T. Wright is correct,  that we too often want to go from Jesus birth, to his death, to his resurrection and skip over his life. I think sometimes we are too afraid to look at this life because it would so completely turn our notion of who God is on its head. I want my understanding of God to be shaped by Jesus, who is the manifestation of God.

H/T Scot McKnight

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Christmas, Pentecost, And The Goo Goo Dolls

 I was listening to Better Days, by the Goo Goo Dolls yesterday, and thinking through the lyrics. It is a thoughtful song for Christmas and better than many that are popular these days. At first I thought the lines,
And one poor child who saved the world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them.
were just a bit off. Of course the one child is unique, the only begotten Son of God, there couldn't be even one more. The further I thought of this though, the more the significance of Pentecost took hold and what it means for us individually and for the world. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit transformed those who were once enemies of the Father into his sons and daughters, and he continues to this day.  Yes, that's the born again part, but it means so much more than receiving personal salvation. It means we participate in our Father's life and work. What is more, as we practice kenosis, the emptying of ourselves, the more Jesus' spirit fills us, theosis, and we in essence become little Christs. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, and because of this, more than millions participate in the saving of the world.

What better prayer could we pray this Pentecost, than that each child born will play a part in saving the world, for those who become fellow heirs with Christ, sons and daughters of the Most High, that is our mission.

Better Days

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I need someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Revealing Review

Last night I read a review of Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I have not read the book so I cannot comment on the reviewer's take on the writing style or content, though I have purchased the Kindle version and hope to read it this summer. What caught my attention though, were his theological concerns.

He is critical of the spiritual mysticism which comes through and supports this criticism by listing authors who have influenced Voskamp or whom she quotes. The list is:  Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. Now this gets interesting to me, because with the exception of Brennan Manning, I have read works by each of these authors, and while I don't agree with everything they write, just as they would not agree with one another, I have learned and been influenced for the good by them. In fact I hope very much that my daughters will one day discover their writings and be drawn closer to Jesus because of them.

St. John of the Cross
Another thing he is critical of is her using sexual metaphors in describing her relationship to God. Now these may not be what I would find most comfortable, but my goodness, has he not read Song of Songs? For over two thousand years, one way the church has interpreted the Song of Songs is as a metaphor for Jesus and the Church. I would suppose the reviewer is not a fan of St. John of the Cross, either.

That Voskamp finds special meaning and experience in a Roman Catholic Cathedral gives the reviewer more cause for concern  because as he says, "... her ecstasies have to happen in a place dedicated to a false gospel of salvation by grace plus works rather than a gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone?". He apparently does not know of, or finds insufficient,  this understanding reached between the RCC and the Lutherans. On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, these two groups affirmed:
Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.
Sounds like sola gratia to me.

Now, I'm not trying to beat up on this reviewer, which is why I'm not linking to the review or giving his name. Nor do I think all of his concerns are without some merit. He warns those who may read Voskamp's book to not think that because they do not have the same experiences with God as the author's,  that their relationship is somehow less, and I think this is a good caution.

I receive this review as a lesson, mostly, though, because we interpret everything in this life through a filter influenced by culture, presuppositions, doctrine, experience etc. It is, I think, a wise thing to acknowledge this, and to maintain a bit of humility and generosity in our interpretation of what others say and do. I believe in objective truth - I just have to keep reminding myself that I neither know it all nor have a handle on what I do know.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Effort For Truth

If a man says of what is that it is, or what is not that it is not, he speaks the truth.  But if he says of what is not that it is, or of what is that it is not, he does not speak the truth.  -Aristotle
In essence, truth corresponds to reality. That is at least what the ancients believed and it is the best definition I have found to describe this transcendental. With so simple an explanation, why then is truth so difficult to reach? Why do we seem to stumble over it, bypass it, ignore it, or find a substitute for it?

In the video below, comedian Tom Naughton, maker of the documentary, Fat Head, presents before an audience the problems with science, scientific studies, and scientific reporting in our culture and gives basic but needful information to help filter out the fact from fiction when it comes to scientific claims in a lighthearted, funny way. Best of all, it presents what questions we should be asking and why. When I first watched this last year, I couldn't help but think of the late Neil Postman's first description of  loving resistance fighters (those who resist reflexively accepting any and all technology with which we are presented) in his book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. He says loving resistance fighters are: 
(Those) who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked and why.
Isn't that a great quote? The same sort of inquiries are needed every time we read of some scientific study.

In our culture it takes a lot of effort to discover the truth. The media, whether through journalism, talk shows, reality t.v., etc. will not present the truth, either because of their ignorance or because they are agenda driven. The video below, at least when it comes to scientific reporting, helps make discerning the truth just a bit easier, plus it's fun.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How To Sing Eschatologically

N.T. Wright covers Bob Dylan's When the Ship Comes In.
I really love this guy!

When the Ship Comes In

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin'
Like the stillness in the wind
'Fore the hurricane begins
The hours when the ship comes in.

And the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they'll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they're spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin'
And the ship's wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin'.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep in their eyes
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it's for real
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then they'll raise their hands
Sayin' we'll meet all your demands
But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharaoh's tribe
They'll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they'll be conquered.