Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Lent Reflection 4: Keep On Moving!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lord, I’ve got to keep on moving
Lord, I’ve got to get on down
Lord, I’ve got to keep on grooving
Where I can’t be found
–“Keep on Moving”, Bob Marley

It just so happened that as I was reflecting on this week's lectionary readings, a post about Bob Marley showed up on my Facebook feed with the lyrics to the chorus of his song "Keep on Moving." Obviously, the song is about something entirely different, but the chorus fits well with my thoughts about Samuel's commission to anoint the next King of Israel in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. This is a scripture about transition; it speaks to the issue of change; change in response to failure which is something that none of us enjoy dealing with. 

I can relate to Samuel. Obviously the text is a bit ambiguous here and we don't really know exactly why Samuel is grieving. It's a posture that doesn't quite fit well in the panoramic view of this story, so please grant me a little latitude. I imagine that he is grieving over his friend because he didn't live up to his expectations. Perhaps, there was a bit of self pity going on here as well, because Samuel was intimately involved in Saul's coronation. Maybe, Samuel's bearings were being shaken here. Surely he had heard from God, didn't he?  Didn't he choose the right man? But look at what's happened! 

None of us like change. More than that, we certainly don't adjust too well when change is connected to some controversy or failure. And it's so easy to get bogged down in self pity and take upon ourselves the woe-is-me syndrome. The wilderness is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls.

The problem with being bogged down like this is that we fail to keep moving forward and the danger in that is stagnation. The wilderness is meant to be traveled through; thus, the lenten metaphor of being embarked upon a journey.  Here, the words of Marley's song become important. "Lord, I gotta keep moving on..." This should be our wilderness mantra. When we stop moving forward, stop progressing, stop learning, stop being productive, we can find ourselves in danger of stagnation, which will ultimately lead to death. And there are many things along this journey that can do this to us. 

God tells Samuel to get up, compose himself, and head to the house of Jesse. God has a plan, a man who is waiting in the wings that Samuel is suppose to anoint as the next King over Israel. When at first you don't succeed, try and try again is the message of this story. I don't want to get into the nuances of the narrative (I've never quite understood Saul's rejection), but obviously this would prove to be the right decision. David would ultimately unite the Israelites and lead them into what is known as their golden age.

Samuel responds with fear. I get it, I really do. God knows I've been there! You fail or you get hurt and you sit there licking your wounds and it feels good to rest and try and forget about what put you there. It feels good to weep sometimes and harbor your frustrations. In fact, sometimes stepping out of the game altogether seems like a worthy proposition. Samuel was old, he had done his job, anointed Saul because he thought that was the right thing to do... I can hear him now: "the chips fell and it's not my fault. God, you can clean up the mess! I did my part, now leave me alone! You are going to get me killed!"

Getting back up and going back into the game and doing what God has asked us to do can be very scary. How do we know that our next choice will be better than our previous one? We don't. I wish I had a better answer. I wish I could tell you that everything you are faced with and the choices you are asked to make will always make sense. I wish there was some formula that we could all employ that would guarantee our success all the time. But, there's not. 

We can't help but fail at times. It's a part of the process. We will experience times of grief and regret and all those negative emotions connected with failure and hurt.  Sometimes we can't help but pause because the devastation overwhelms us. But God always has a plan. When at first we don't succeed, try and try again.  Keep moving on... 
God never quits. This fact saturates the entire message of the bible. God fails over and over again. His plans get messed up and his people don't do what he wants them to do. He chooses this man and he gets disappointed and then he moves to another, only to see him or her crash and burn. But God never gives up, and neither should we. 

Lent is about reflection, introspection, self assessment, taking stock on one's life and our place in the world, the church, our job... But its not a place to stop. We got to keep moving forward. When we fail, we got to get up and keep going. There's a king to anoint, a promise land to possess, giants to slay. Sure, we might get banged up along the way and sometimes we'll sit down and weep. But, not too long. Success can not be measured in snapshots. It's the entire game that matters. May God help us not only to play well, but to have the tenacity to stay in the game!

Lent Reflection 3: Coffee and Morning Prayer

Monday, March 28, 2011

This Lent season has truly been a journey for me so far. It has been a time of reflection; a time of taking stock of my life and faith. I must admit, that I have been somewhat troubled by what I see. While I am happy to report that my faith is intact and that I believe in God today in a way I couldn't admit several years ago. I also see that there are so many areas of my life that can use some rearranging. There are some priorities that I am ashamed to admit, have long been neglected and put on the back burner.

Some of this reflection has been stirring for quite some time now. Long before Lent began, I was feeling a certain conviction that I was not used too. A Facebook friend of mine, some time ago, began to post every morning, usually first thing, that he was having coffee and morning prayer. And every time I read this, I thought, "well, I've got the coffee down, but the prayer thing, not so much."

My faith, for years now, has been an intellectual pursuit. I'm not saying that I've not been a Christian, but at best, I've been a reluctant disciple. In some ways, this has been a defense mechanism in me. It's not that I haven't ever experienced God in prayer and devotion; in fact, it is the exact opposite. I have been there. There was a time when my faith was entirely mystical, but it was in that time of my life when I found myself thrust into a crisis of faith that left me empty and wanting for a better understanding of God and what he wanted from me. 

Another Great Homily for Lent

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Here is a great homily written by an UMC pastor, Ryan Parker.

From Wounded & Wandering in the Wilderness... to Washed with Living Water
.by Ryan Parker on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 5:25pm.Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 27, 2011)

Here we are in Lent, which begins in the desert and in a garden, and here we are today in a desert and at a well.

We westerners are used to water, clean water, being everywhere.  We have tap water fit-to-drink.  We have so much water we chlorinate it and fill big holes in our backyard with it so we can swim around.  We have clean water everywhere.  But for folks that live in the desert, well, getting clean water isn’t so easy.  Getting ANY water isn’t so easy.  And without water there is no life.  Without water, nothing grows.  With no vegetation, there are no animals, and certainly no humans.  We’re practically made of water.

And without water, we would all die.

That’s what the Israelites are facing in today’s passage from Exodus.[1]  They have been following Moses out of slavery in Egypt, and they are starting to get grumpy.  Slavery sure wasn’t any fun, but at least in Egypt they had houses to live in.  Being a slave is no kind of life, especially when the squalid conditions caused many infants to die, and the ones that didn’t die were killed by Pharaoh’s henchmen, but at least in Egypt there was plenty of water.

“What good is the promised land if we die before we get there?  Moses, where are you taking us?  Where is this God you’re talking about?  The pillar of cloud by day and fire by night is neat and all, but couldn’t your God just warp us to the Promised Land or something?  It’s hot out here.  We’re thirsty!”  Grumble, grumble, grumble.

But the people had a point.  Without water, we will all die.

So God provides water for the people.

I think we are a lot like the Israelites.  This is Lent.  We’re on a “Lenten journey.”  We are supposed to be thinking about what it means to be “out in the wilderness,” out in the desert with Jesus.  Being tempted.  Hungry, weary, worn.

Lent is a time to remember  that this is always how things are.  At least in part.  By that I mean that we are always, in a sense, “out in the desert.”  We are the Israelites, being led to the Promised Land.  We have renounced a life of slavery (to sin) and have been made into a people.  We Christians have been called from far off and grafted onto this root of Jesse, Israel, and here we are on our journey together through life.

And we get hot.  We get worn down.  We get weary.  And we complain.  And we wonder where God is.  It seems that all we can see is the sand, and rocks, and lack of shade.  Our throats are parched.  And we thirst for the presence of God.

We get so wrapped up in thinking about all those supposed good things that we’ve left behind, that we can barely think about where we’re going.  We forget that we’re not just supposed to be growing older, but growing in our relationship with God.

So we’re in the wilderness.  But there’s a Rock there.  A fountain of water, and life, and strength, ready to nourish all of those cracked, and weary, and worn places in our lives.  But it’s up to us to take a drink.

That’s one way of understanding what happens with the woman at the well.[2]

We’re a lot like this woman also.  She’s a Samaritan.  A half-breed.  She doesn’t really fit in anywhere.  She’s not Jewish enough for the Jews, and she’s too Jewish for everyone else.  And she’s a woman.  She’s not supposed to be out in the middle of the day talking with men.  I mean, it’s the middle of the day; she’s not supposed to be out at all.

It’s hot out.  The sun is at its highest.  The daylight is at its brightest.  And here’s this woman, at the well, and Jesus is about to flood a light on all her dirty little secrets.

Jesus knows what kind of woman he’s talking to.  She’s not just a Samaritan, she’s had five husbands.  And the man that she’s with right now doesn’t even respect her enough to marry her.  She’s been used and abused, and made a few mistakes of her own, and here Jesus is talking with her.

Jesus accepts her.  Jesus knows all about this woman and he accepts her for who she is.

And she gets excited.  I mean, REALLY excited.  She leaves her water jar and runs back to town and starts telling EVERYBODY!  “I just met this prophet, okay, and he’s amazing.  He knows everything about me, and I swear I’ve never seen him before.   Yes, I mean EVERYTHING.  He knows about, you know, that stuff, and he didn’t care.  He talked with me!  He asked me to give him some water.  He asked ME to give him some water.  He asked me to drink with him!  He asked me to spend time fellowshipping with him, right there, in front of everybody, in the middle of town, in the middle of the day.  You’ve GOT to come see him.”

And, so, the people left.  They left the city, they followed this woman and came out to see him.  All these Samaritans, all these people who didn’t really fit in anywhere, came out to Jesus and believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

The Firing of a UMC Student Pastor Prompts a Candid and Profound Response

Friday, March 25, 2011

Many of you have heard me mention Chad Holtz. He is a fourth year divinity school student at Duke. He graduates this May. He was recently dismissed from his student pastorate (a church he served for 4 years) early because of a blog post he wrote that spoke of his changing beliefs about the doctrine of hell. You can read his post here. This has generated alot of conversation in the blogosphere as well as social media sites like Facebook. The Associate Press even picked up the story. You can read that article here

Hugh Hollowell, founder of Love Wins in Raleigh, NC, wrote a simple yet very profound blog post about Chad's situation. It is one of the best that I've read thus far. I want to share it with you because Hollowell makes a few simple yet very powerful statements that I think are worthy of our attention. I really could not say what he says here any better. Please take the time to read it. Hugh seems to have the talent of saying allot with few words. A talent that I DO NOT possess! Anyways, You can find this post here

Please pray for Chad and his family. They will be moving back to Tennessee once Chad graduates, possibly to plant a UMC church. He's a very talented, intelligent, passionate, and committed man of God. Let's pray that God will use this negative experience to strengthen his resolve to continue to be real and truthful to his calling.

Lent Reflections #2- What the Wilderness Is All About

(This is the second installment in my Lent Reflections series. Weekly (or perhaps, more frequently), we will be looking at one or more of the weekly lectionary readings and reflect upon what they have to say to us, as we take this spiritual journey towards the cross.. Please bookmark this page and check back often for future reflections. You can use the 'email' function in the side bar, as well as sign up to follow the feed. I would love to dialog with you in the comments as to how these passages speak to you during your experience this year!)


This story in Exodus carries on the wilderness theme; this is where we started on the first Sunday of Lent (Jesus temptation-Mt 4) and where we often return during this season. The wilderness is characteristic of many things. Those that come to mind at the moment are: solitude, sacrifice, temptation, hardship, suffering... Obviously, its not the most illustrious or comfortable place to be; but, it can also be a place of spiritual learning and spiritual growth. For this to happen, however, we have to learn to cooperate. It really is a place that can make us or break us. 

Such is the case with the children of Israel. After a dramatic display of divine intervention during their departure from Egypt, they were plunged right into the heart of the wilderness (much like Jesus, right after baptism and the declaration of sonship, was driven immediately into the wilderness). And, while they had no way of knowing this at the time, they would spend much of the next 40 years there. Their experience would be indicative of all the characteristics of this place. Many would die there, they would suffer, endure isolation from the rest of the world, hardships would abound, and they would be tempted over and over again to either grumble about their circumstances or trust in God. Unfortunately, they chose the former all too often. 

The scripture before us is one of those times. A time-line of these events would probably shock you. In the relatively short time they've spent in the wilderness, they've experienced three major crisis/provision events. And, all of these involved a crisis of necessity; that is, they were needing things that they simply could not live without. There was a crisis of food, and two involving water (once, there was water but it was bitter, and then, in our text, they had no water). Obviously, you can not exist very long without the basic essentials of food and water. So, the need was certainly legitimate. 

What really does surprise me, however, is that these three events are each preceded by one thing: the people grumbled. Each and every time, the people complained and questioned the motives of both God and Moses. Over and over again, this would play out, to the point that the Psalmist said that God himself began to loathe this generation [Ps 95:10]. They exasperated God that much! 

Keeping a Holy Lent

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on the season of Lent, and what it means for me today. Several days ago, we celebrated the second Sunday of Lent. I would not have known that if it wasn't written on the heading of our worship bulletin. As I read this, however, I thought of the many years I sat in church, the many years I conducted services, with only a passing acknowledgment of Lent, or the liturgical calendar in general. It amazes me that I really was not aware of these cyclic rhythms reflected in our annual worship calendar, and as such, was cut off from a huge portion of Christian practice that serves to enhance our understanding of what faith is and how to practically incorporate it into our lives. 

In fact, I think that this is, fundamentally, the greatest benefit in the liturgical calendar. It helps us, incrementally and pragmatically, to digest and explore the meta-narrative of scripture: the gospel story, who Christ is and what his life, death, and resurrection means to us personally. Each season, with its respective emphasis, helps us remember and live out the life of Christ in tangible ways. 

So, what does Lent represent? What is it exactly that we are doing when participate in this season? The ritual of Ash Wednesday best answers this question. (Chad Holtz wrote an excellent post on this: Getting Mud On Our Faces: Ash Wednesday and Death) I was well into adulthood before I ever participated in an Ash Wednesday service. I remember clearly getting in line, feeling the silence and having no clue what I was about to experience. As I waited, I began to notice those who had gone before me, leaving with what looked like dirt smeared on their foreheads. This was strange to me, but there was a reverence in the silence that I had never quite experienced before. Then, it was finally my turn and I stepped up before the minister and he dipped his finger in a mixture of oil and ash, using it to make the sign of the cross on my forehead. As he did, he repeated the words that I had heard by now with other participants: "from dust you came and to dust you shall return." Intrigued, I stepped away and headed to my car, those words ringing in my ear.

Hell, Universalism, and Free Will

Monday, March 21, 2011

Much of the recent controversy over hell and the afterlife has rotated around the idea of Universalism (ultimate reconciliation is probably closer to the thoughts being expressed, but we will not deal with these nuances since what they ultimately point too is very close in meaning). Universalism (Christian) is the idea that in the end, regardless of one's choices or religious affinity, all will be saved. And, in an effort to debunk this idea, much has been said of the part free will plays into the equation. The notion is that God will never violate a man's free will and force them to accept anything. Apply this to the concept of heaven or hell, and you can say that God will never make someone choose heaven, and certainly would not stand in their way to prevent them from going to hell, if they so chose to do so (of course, I would argue that the cross itself is a road block to such a decision).

Now, to me, this is a non-issue. And, I will tell you why. Paul, in the closing verses of the 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter of the bible, describes the human condition, at present. I like the J.B. Phillips translation: 

 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! [v. 12]

He says that we are all looking at puzzling reflections, images not entirely easy to make out. You may see one thing, I may see another. In this sense, truth is a gradual and personal experience, some understanding more than others. This dimness of vision is indicative of human experience, period. Whether we are currently a Christian, Buddhist, or even an atheist, we can not easily see past the veil of life and make clear distinctions about what is on the other side, about eternity. At present, the best we can do is hang on to faith, hope, and love, enduring qualities available to all.

But, this verse also makes it clear that there will come a time when you and I will see reality whole and face to face. That is, we will see and perceive truth with clarity. Just as the first condition is indicative of human experience on this side of the veil, the second condition is equally as true. I believe that there will come a time when all men will see reality as God intended us to see it. No more confusion, dimness of sight; God will allow us all to see as he intended us to see: with clarity and distinction. While today, we all see with varying degrees of clarity, then, we will all see reality as it truly is. No more chasms, intellectually or otherwise, between us and God. Our darkened understanding will have the light of God shining brightly, through and through.

Japan: Discerning the Hand of God in Tragedy

Friday, March 18, 2011

Acts of God by Amy Nelson
The recent events in Japan have been absolutely horrific. Hundreds and thousands of people are suffering, having lost loved ones and homes, their future bleak with uncertainty. Sitting in the comfort and relative security of my own home, it is so hard to connect with such carnage. The pictures come across the computer screen and television, almost like foreign invaders. Foreign to my thinking because I've never suffered such a horrid turn of events. And, it is even more terrifying to think that this all happened, literally, in a matter of seconds, to people just like me.

Given that it's been a whole week now since all this transpired, I was somewhat encouraged by the lack of religious idiocy surrounding this event. It seemed almost immediately after the Haiti quake, that claimed over two hundred thousand lives, that Pat Robertson was basking in free publicity after announcing the ludicrous notion that the quake was God getting back at Haiti because of voodoo and other things that offended Robertson's religious sensibilities. I remember hearing this and hanging my head in shame, being embarrassed that someone who claimed to represent my faith to the world would utter such unconscionable words in the name of Christ.

Unfortunately, this tendency could not be kept at bay forever. I woke this morning to read several articles speaking about the the comments made by the Governor of Tokyo. He stated that the quake and subsequent events were a result of divine retribution, enacted  because of Japanese greed. I was really hoping against hope that we could table the question of theodicy this time around. Maybe, just this one time, we could abstain from trying to put God's stamp of approval upon it, and choose not to discuss divine complicity with yet another  global atrocity. Obviously, this has not happened. And, to my surprise, this ill-considered rhetoric has come from someone within the crisis itself, which is somewhat unique. It's really easy to sit outside the tragedy and pontificate and speculate, but it seems somewhat unusual, to me, that this question has arisen from someone inside the crisis.

The fact is, our Christian faith and how we present God to the world, kind of generates and perpetuates these kinds of discussions. And in so doing, this logic has become so ingrained in our thinking that it is virtually impossible to ignore. I mean, anytime something like an earthquake or bad storm occurs, we automatically call it an "act of God." It is a term with legal standing as well. So, even within a secular context, the assumption that God has something to do with these horrible tragedies is a foregone conclusion. 

What the Hell is Rob Bell Really Saying?

Before you read further, I highly recommend you Robin Parry's post on the same topic over at Theological Scribbles. Parry does an excellent job of presenting the video and discussing the interview. You can find the entire post here

I just finished listening to an interview between Martin Bashir and Rob Bell over Bell's recently released book, Love Wins. I must say that Bashir came out the gate swinging. I don't think Bell was prepared for the tone of Bashir's questions; it sure seemed to me that Bell was caught flat-footed and unprepared. Bashir had obviously done his homework, gathering a couple of the most cogent accusations asserted against Bell's book and levying them against him right from the beginning. Who knows if these are valid questions; if Bell's writings even raise ideas as framed by Bashir? I don't know, because I've not read it yet. But, it really doesn't matter at this point what the book says, does it? Fact is, it has stirred such a controversy that, while the alleged arguments are not new, represents one more evangelical voice being added to a chorus of voices that are singing way off key, in the minds of many. 

After listening to the interview, I must admit a huge amount of frustration. While Bashir could have toned down his adversarial  style a bit (as far as I know, Bashir doesn't have a horse in the race), given a little more credibility to his statements by perhaps introducing a direct quote by Bell, the fact is, Bashir's questions were clear, concise and quite frankly, pure common sense. And Bell's response left me wanting so much more from him. His response should have been equally as clear, concise, and rationale. But, instead, Bell side-stepped the questions, tried to restate them on numerous occasions, and basically refused to answer. 

Why write a book like this, participate in its pre-publication hype, and then basically try to regulate the controversy to the familiar? If we've heard all this before, why waste our time? If you are not wiling to take a stand, beyond the, "we just need to talk about these things" call for dialog, then seriously, why write another book about it? Or, if the book really isn't about the controversy it has instigated, why not make some attempts before its release to clarify and clearly state the degree of your orthodoxy? I'm sure we all know the answer to that one! It doesn't sell books, period! 

Here we have an evangelical giant who finally has a platform to express some courage and confront some archaic notions that have been a blight to the church for centuries. Instead, we are too afraid to come out and simply say, no, I don't believe that...and why? Because it would identify the real chasm, which is not in the particulars of hell or eternal torment, not in validity of gay and lesbian ordination. It is, however, that many of these issues or  standards, etc, that are, in the words of Bashir, no longer palatable to the modern reader. And, to deny this, is really like missing the forest for the trees. The real problem is that there are many things upon which the evangelical church has hung its hat that are no longer palatable to a modern reader, the religious reader, or for any rationale reader for that matter. We simply are not first century readers living in a first century world, operating within the framework of a first century worldview. 

Soundwaves, Stardust, and God

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This past Sunday, I was sitting out in the parking lot taking a moment's break between Sunday School and 11am Worship. Listening to NPR, I stumbled upon Bob Edward's Weekend, a show that I do not recall ever hearing. I caught the tail end of the show and they were sharing an essay written by a Divinity school student named Kimberly Woodbury, who was taking part of a colloquium at Yale University. The essay was short but craftily depicted her awe in the visibility of God in the universe. 

There's a scripture, written in Romans 1:20, that meshes well with what Miss Woodbury is saying: 

 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.[ESV]

I intentionally left the last sentence off of the above scripture, not because it has no value, but because for our purposes, it can be a distraction. It levies an accusation that is totally valid, given the author's subject. But I do not want to lose sight of the fact that the previous sentence can stand alone.

This author tells us that creation, nature itself, is constructed and woven in such a way as to illustrate the very eternal power and nature of God. That is exactly what Woodbury is saying in her essay when she states: "all the energy born at the dawn of creation still dances through the universe." This energy, as she calls it, can be traced back to the God who created it. No matter which side of the coin you choose to look at, its inherent simplicity, or the vast complexity of the universe, everything about this world that we live in speaks of the reality of a creator, a God who set all this in motion and watches over his creation with intense scrutiny. 

In my thinking, this is why man has always been inherently religious. Some would call it superstition, but regardless, from the earliest glimpses into history, man has had a fixation with the idea that there is something bigger than he is. This has manifested itself in the multiplicity of man's religions, which are themselves, attempts to explain god--the god or gods that they could not deny while looking at the world around them. 

Modernity was supposed to change all this. Man, in his quest for truth and knowledge, his vast ability to describe and understand his world, was to hail the death of God. The mystery was taken apart and man was seeing that the many things that led to his superstition were not as mysterious as previously thought. But, this hasn't happened. I mean, it has to some, but as a whole, man is far more religious today than he has ever been. Why? I think it is because the more layers we peel away, the more we become aware of. The more we see, the more we are able to see. And, the picture we see argues as much for the existence of God as anything ever has.

I think this phenomenon is stated best by Albert Einstein when he said: "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of manisfestatons of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty-- it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude..." It seems that the more we know, the more we understand and see the profundity of the universe, the more we are convinced that there is something out there that is larger, much larger, than we are. We may not all call it God, but it is an acknowledgement that there is so much more to the cosmos than what we can see and comprehend. His eternal power and nature are revealed on all levels of existence, from the simplest to the most complex. 

Woodbury's essay says all this more eloquently than I, and I highly recommend you listen to it above. You can also access a printed copy of it at that link as well.

What is Your View on Hell?

A painting in the Sanctuary Notre-Dame des Fontaines, La Brigue called the "Last Judgment : the damned souls".
In light of the recent controversy surrounding the doctrine of hell and the idea of universalism, prompted by the recent release of Rob Bell's (Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, MI) book, Love Wins, here are a couple of lectures on the different ideas of hell that have had prominence in the church over the past 2000 years. Many people think that the traditional eternal torment view, as espoused by many evangelicals today, is the only view held by the church over the centuries. This is not true. In these two lectures, Steven Gregg does a great job of presenting and explaining three main views that have been prominent throughout church history in different places, as espoused by certain respected church fathers. If you've never studied this, I recommend you listen to these lectures and then come back and let's discuss it. What is your view? Why do you believe this?

Living with Questions: the Virtues of Not Knowing

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wow! It has been allot longer than I had planned since my last update to this site. I've got a few other blogs and I've decided to migrate most of them over to this one and use this blog entirely for all of my interest. But, man, I have sure been lazy in getting this effort up and off the ground. Thankfully, there are not many of you that know of this site, so I've not left many readers disappointed. 

It is time, however, to go ahead and get the ball rolling. So, here's the first installment of what I hope will be many post relating to matters of faith, scripture, politics, as well as many other intellectual pursuits that I have. 

My early faith tradition did not assign any real value, beyond a mere historical one, to the portion of the Catholic bible known as the Apocrypha. Obviously, there are many many Christians today who put as much value on these scriptures as they do to any other portion of the Hebrew bible. But, the tradition that I was raised in, to their own detriment, in my opinion, did not see the apocryphal scriptures as being equal to or even a valid part of a Christian canon. 

As a result, I came to these scriptures much later in life and it has only been recently that I've spent any quality time perusing these texts. This mission of discovery, or recovery mission, if you will, has led me to some valuable finds and I am sorry it has taken me this long to realize that these scriptures are there and that they have much to say, in tandem with, the scriptures that have come to mean allot to me over the years.

I've recently picked up the late James Agee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Death in the Family. Early on in this novel, there is comical exchange around the breakfast table between Mary Follet and her young children, Rufus and little Catherine. Mommy is trying to explain to her children that their paternal grandfather is very sick and might die, and the kids are wrestling with the big ideas of heaven and what death means. This little mundane exchange of ideas captures the essence of the multitude of questions that children have asked over time, and the many ways that adults have answered these questions in an ongoing effort to help them understand these very complex ideas:

"Mama," Rufus said, "when Oliver went to sleep did he wake up in heaven too?"
"I don't know. I imagine he woke up in a part of heaven God keeps specially for cats."
"Did the rabbits wake up?"
"I'm sure they did if Oliver did."
"All bloody like they were?"
"No, Rufus, that was only their poor little bodies. God wouldn't let them wake up all hurt and bloody, poor things."
"Why did God let the dogs in?" [evidently, the dogs were guilty of hurting the rabbits]
"We don't know, Rufus, but it must be part of His plan we will understand someday."
"What good would it do Him?"[...]"What good would it do Him, Mama, to let the dogs in?"
"I don't know, but someday we'll understand, Rufus. If we're very patient. We mustn't trouble ourselves with these things we can't understand. We just have to be sure that God knows best."
"I bet they sneaked in when He wasn't looking," Rufus said eagerly. "Cause He sure wouldn't have let them if He'd been there. Didn't they, Mama? Didn't they?" [p. 60]