Friday, November 6, 2009
God’s greatest miracle.
Word made flesh
I used not to believe
In the Trinity;
It was against my family creed –
For Tertullian’s ‘three-ness’
Three distinct persons
Jesus the Son
How could I not revile
And his influence on Granddad
Been passed on through my father, so
I didn’t know
John one eighteen
Start in Matthew
I would tell my friends, “God is One,
Jesus? God’s Son.”
Not thinking that every offspring is its parent’s kind
I was blind.
One day I decided to see what the Bible said.
Timothy Three Sixteen
“Lord and God”
I discovered what Trinitarians claim concerning Unity
Jesus was clearly God in John
And so many other places, too
It was true.
Jesus, like God
John eight fifty-eight
My world was transformed, my Savior seen as splendid
When I assented
Things got a little hard at home when it was God we talked about –
I am still learning, and God is doing tremendous things in my family.
Waves and particles
Do justice, though
Because it seems illogical, we’re confused,
To things being so complex in existing.
Even though we shouldn’t expect God to be simple, dissectible –
Hebrew Scriptures too
To earth coming
And though I don’t fully understand it and recognize it as complicated,
It’s also necessitated.
It is only because Christ is God the Infinite that His singular sacrifice
We need an eternal sacrifice, for sin against God is of eternal weight and wear-
Christ can bear.
Model of community
Father, Son, Spirit
Monday, November 2, 2009
I wonder what his home was like. Was it hospitable? Was his family loving? Was there noise?
I know that he invited the dying (from tuberculosis) David Brainerd into his house.
I know he was a prolific writer of philosophy as well as theology. He was a preacher, the icon of a puritan in American minds today.
I know him from what’s written and spoken of him. Yet these do not capture the full essence of his life or character. Certainly he had daily routines, favorite meals, and adventures with his children that we can’t grasp centuries later.
After all, puritan life couldn’t have been as cardboard as some history book summations entail.
Imagine how our world will appear in a history book. War, political scandals, dying newspapers, flummoxed economists, globalism, redefinition of societal roles, etc . But these are not our existence. These are not what we eat for breakfast or to whom we say “hi” on the way to work and school. I am a person with a myriad of experiences and faculties.
I thought these things, and then I was reminded of a lingual critique of the Bible that flowed along the same lines.
“Certainly the Bible cannot contain everything there is to know about God!”
“God is so much bigger than that – you cannot possibly claim such knowledge.”
So I chewed on these questions. Do they present grounds for dismissing biblical truth claims?
I don’t think so. Here’s why:
I agree that the Bible does not present total truth about God, just like a biography of Jonathan Edwards doesn’t present total truth about his life. That being said, an accurate biography will still contain truths about the person in question. The Bible may not reveal everything about God, but it does reveal truths about Him and how we should respond to Him.
The Bible never claims to reveal everything there is to know about God. In fact, some passages indicate the opposite.
First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The Bible, what Christians call “God’s word,” is a light to our paths here on Earth, guiding us into right relationship with God. The truths presented in the Bible (that God created humankind for His glory, that humans sinned, that God sent a law through Moses to guard them and teach them about God’s glory and their depravity until Christ appeared, that Christ died for the sins of the world, that He rose again and will return to judge the earth and bring his faithful into an eternal kingdom, etc.) help us to know and follow God.
There are other truths about God not contained in the Bible, but that does not mean that the truths about God not contained in the Bible will contradict the truths of God that are contained in the Bible.
God is infinite, and the joy one receives as a consequence of knowing Him deeper will only grow the more we know and experience an eternal God during an eternal stay with Him in heaven. This is a relationship we can begin today, grow in through the Bible, and continue on through eternity by God's free favor.
Rejecting the biblical truths, according to the Bible, will deny us access to this glorious communion. Such that do will know God as judge for an eternity apart from Him, devoid of love.
By accepting and obeying the truths presented in the Bible, we will enjoy the fullness of God that exists in a direct personal relationship with Him as King and Savior and Friend.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
At the end of the first day, my friends and I were able to spend some time with one of the speakers, Stephen Meyer.
I respect Dr. Meyer. He is a man who is passionate about his particular field (intelligent design, namely biological information), but who invests time in the work of others. He delights in answering questions, and refrains from blustering or bullying those who disagree with him.
He seems like he has nothing to hide.
One of the statements he made in our conversation really stood out to me. I wasn’t sure if I agreed with it or not, but I thought that it was very important to understand.
Here’s what he said:
“We are not living in a pluralistic society, we are living in a secular society.”
A pluralistic society is one in which a variety of traditions and ideologies are able to coexist. This word can also mean that varieties of ideologies are all equally valid.
A secular society is one which pushes a naturalistic worldview. This is often seen not only in what said society propagates but in what it attempts to disallow to propagate.
Why does Meyer’s statement matter?
Is it accurate?
I think that Meyer’s remark is pertinent to the discussion of religion and state today. Even if found to be not entirely accurate, the words of this seasoned cultural observer reflect at least a shift in American worldview.
As a religious studies major, I encounter a lot of thought directed against my position of the exclusivity of Christ. Professors teach the values of other religions from the standpoint that all religions are equally valuable. Students who disagree are misinformed at best.
One would suppose that this is a product of extreme pluralism in the classroom, which is probably very true. But I think that Meyer’s words carry gravity even in my comparative religions class. We are taught to evaluate religion through a post-modern lens of relative truth (meaning and truth are separate from facts).
This sounds very much like pluralism, but there may be a naturalistic heart keeping this teaching alive. We are taught not to esteem one religious tradition above another because we are all just people reaching above to Ultimate Reality, but this supposition, even though it acknowledges the supernatural, is effectively established upon secular principles.
This is so because some pluralistic camps of thought encourage us to assent to the idea that the supernatural has its hands tied behind its back (so to speak). It does not reach out to us in such a way that we can definitively know it, which means that our religions are symbols, compasses pointing toward magnetic north at best.
Pluralism is certainly not dead in America, but I think it owes much of its success to naturalistic thought.
Thus, when Meyer’s says that we are living in a secular society as opposed to a pluralistic one, I think he is right insofar as secular ideologies are permeating culture even to the religious sphere. (This phenomenon may be much more noticeable in spheres outside of religious studies, like the sciences.)
The strange relationship between secular and pluralistic ideologies hinted at by Meyer’s comment is sure to change in the future.
I do not know if religious pluralism will replace naturalistic secularism or vice versa. Perhaps these will coexist in a merged form or be divided into a Schaefferian two story dichotomy.
Granted, these are not the only worldviews in the fray. My own Christian faith is still to be counted.
And if both religious pluralism and secular thought are mistaken, the Christian God is still to be counted as well.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I've seen it before, but not like this. Just me and two other friends.
We talked while it was playing. "What does this mean?" "If Jesus was God's Son, why would He let Him die?" "That part's not in the Bible."
The Passion. That's a good adjective for Jesus' work. He was passionate.
During the opening scene Jesus prays "not My will but Yours be done." I've heard that before, thought a lot about it, been encouraged to do the hard, right thing because of it. But there it was in graphic display: "I will die if You want Me to. I don't want to. If there is any other way then do that. But if it's Your will, let me be killed."
Christ lost His life literally. Can I part with public praise? acceptance? desires of my heart?
He did. He died.
Then He rose.
His obedience resulted in the greatest exaltation imaginable (see Philippians 2:5-11). He left all and got more. If I leave those little things I cling too, I will get more as well.
I have seen this proven true in my life.
So it was good to be reminded of that and of the gospel, it’s incredulous but real and perfect.
We talked about sura 4:157-158 while we watched it. That Qur’anic verse depicts the traditionally held Muslim belief that Jesus was never crucified, but that Judas was made to look like Jesus and crucified while God took Jesus into paradise.
“If Jesus was God’s Son, why did God let Him die?” That is the question arising from the aforementioned ideology.
In the Bible, it actually says that it pleased God to crush Him. It pleases God to exterminate sin and save people. On the cross Jesus “became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21)” so that we could have Jesus’ righteousness accredited to us after He took our punishment.
God punished sin and was pleased. God enabled us to come to Him and was pleased.
Jesus dying was not against God’s will, it was why He came.
He chose to die.
His passion to glorify God in obedience and thereby extend eternal salvation to the world would let Him do nothing else.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Because the class is about textual arguments, we dissect ad campaigns offering airbrushed icons of femininity and counter campaigns that attempt to expand the definition of beauty to make it more accessible to women.
A few of the articles we have read draw on the work of evolutionary psychologists to explain that the paradigm of beauty (or attractiveness) is hard-wired into us by natural selection’s shaping of our faculties to hold an affinity for members of the opposite sex whose features happen to coincide with a high fertility rate.
One author suggested that this means the unattainable standard of beauty will remain such – it’s in our genes – and that by striving for it we can develop a better quality of life.
I think that cognitive psychologists would tend to disagree. Certainly they may yield to the assertion that we are influenced by our genes, but they would assert that we have a say over what we value through our cognitive processes.
I have been trying to think about beauty through a biblical lens. Not necessarily is some poignant, philosophical ponders on aesthetics, but just, “what does the Bible say about beauty?”
In the Bible, beauty is neither good nor bad. Beauty is just a noun and beautiful just an adjective.
Some righteous women are called beautiful, as are some evil women.
Physical beauty is not a goal to strive for (which doesn’t mean don’t take care of yourself, there are lots of exhortations to avoid laziness, etc.). Finding worth in our appearance is understood to be the wrong source of joy (the correct source is Jesus).
There is one beauty that is extolled: inner beauty. You can find this in passages of scripture like 1 Peter 3.
Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Finding value in obedience to God is the remedy for our shallow, super-model exalting perspective.
It would help girls overcome eating disorders, etc., to know that to be loved does not mean to look like a celebrity.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Some sort of chronic disease?
That sallow skin would be wrapped around cancer
Within her body devoid of ease?
While mother cries
And the corners of eyes
Fill with diamond drops,
We look to the sky
And wail and cry
Asking “Where is God?”
Does it stand to reason that a Being
Benevolent in nature would permit
Such evil striking young and old
That some may die, others in mourning sit?
Some say “trilemma-
While others bow to weep.
Just wander in the depths of grief.
So many turn from Christ as King -
Claiming him inexistent -
Unwilling to fathom that love may just live
In Him toward Whom they’re most resistant.
Those that weep
When they’re bereaved
Are not the only ones;
Would comfort be gained
By turning in pain
To a Father who also lost a Son?
Others contend that there is no good, powerful Father
For One such would never permit the tragedy we saw,
But arguing He breaks a moral standard (goodness)
Demands His existence because it requires a Law.
In a moment
Of vicious torment
We can understand the value of Life.
Suffering’s a tool
For us who are fools
To be conformed to the image of Christ.
And there is none so intimately conscious
Concerning the dagger drove by great loss or anguish
Because He took the punishment for our sin, a mauled body,
A separation from God, unable His form from sin to distinguish
As God knows
That we needed that sacrifice.
Pain’s a symptom
A megaphone screaming “seek freedom from vice.”
How do we respond to the suffering plaguing
People around the world? Will we strive to heal to the point of dying?
Throwing up our hands saying, “where is God striving?”
Not realizing He did EXACTLY that… Himself denying
Two words kept:
Shows His discontent
Determined to heal
With love that’s real
And action consequent
And because of the Cross the world will be redeemed.
Reality will once again be consummated in glory
Death shall have no sting, sin no power
In wake of the true redemption story.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
“They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” – Hebrews 6:5
At first the shook me a little bit. Here’s why:
If earthly things are a “shadow” of heavenly things that would mean that some sort of tangible or physical reality must exist in heaven.
But isn’t that less glorious than the heaven I’ve believed in? Heaven is supposed to be a transcendent reality, spiritual, with no strings attaching it to this lower, polluted plain. Right?
Well, I realized that that was my preconception, and that supposition caused me to question what I was reading. But if you ask legitimately, you tend to receive.
I asked myself, “What warrant do I have for devaluing this scripture because it shows that the spiritual does not exclude the physical?” I found I had none. I was falling victim to the same false dichotomy that led Gnostics to believe that matter was evil and needed to be escaped. They could not see that is was sin, a moral ailment with spiritual and physical ramifications, was the evil that needed to be killed.
There is nothing unholy about a perfected reality. In fact, it’s validating. It provides significance for certain things on earth, and alludes to the Genesis statement of creation being “good.” The existence of a heavenly cup does not delegitimize heaven’s existence, it shows that physical actions like eating and drinking are good and should be exercised with responsibility and joy with the assurance that something so much greater, yet similar, exists in eternity.
C.S. Lewis depicts this in his short novel The Great Divorce. In almost a Platonic sense, the present is shown to be vague reflection of the more real, more solid divine existence.
Islam is often criticized for the Qur’an’s carnal depiction of the afterlife – namely that certain faithful men are rewarded with virgins for their enjoyment, and I thought that the New Testament heaven may fall into the same criticism. But the Christian heaven depicts our connection with Christ as the ultimate union: we are wed to Him. The spiritual/physical elements present are good because it is in that solid plane that we act out our devotion, gratitude, and love toward God and others.
That revelation rendered my dichotomy fallacious. There is nothing inherently “de-motional” about physical things. The premise that the spiritual and physical exist in tandem renders existence in a sense “amphibious” (to borrow a description from Lewis’s Screwtape Letters).
This grand restoration of things will make them whole. It will supplement reality with a weight of glory lost in the Fall.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Two summers ago I was in a suburb of Las Vegas attending the 2008 NFL (National Forensics League) National Speech and Debate tournament. One big excitement about heading west was the chance to frequent In-N-Out Burger, perhaps the most addictive and delicious fast-food establishment in existence.
On a particular food-run to In-N-Out, I purchased two double-doubles, a carton of milk, and a cup of water. The OCD part of me was compelled to ration my milk between the two burgers, which meant that I alternated drinking from the water cup and the milk every few bites.
I was drinking from one of my straws and enjoying what I thought was milk when I looked down and discovered I was actually drawing water through the straw. I was surprised – my preconception that it was milk had actually served to dupe my taste buds for a number of seconds. I had seemingly experienced drinking dairy without partaking of it in reality.
This is where it gets interesting.
My mind jumped to the theological. If it were possible to feel milk-drinking because of a preconception, what if the times I have felt that I experienced God’s presence were due only to a mixture of religious conviction and desire? For brief seconds, my heart stood still (the ropes were straining, as I said before) as I pondered the possible ramifications of the question.
Then I took a breath.
And thoughts began to weave together. Although I had imagined I was drinking milk when I was actually slurping H2O (thereby deceiving myself) the only reason I was able to conjure those feelings was because I had tasted milk in reality beforehand. If I had never had milk before, I could not know the taste/feel combination to produce in order to dupe myself.
When these thoughts were extended to the arena of doubt I was battling in, I understood that it was possible to manufacture an experience with the Divine. In fact, some people probably do quite often. However, I would not know what feelings to conjure in order to simulate a supernatural encounter unless I had previously experienced one in reality.
Granted, this reasoning is not flawless. We could manifest what we think a numinous encounter should be like. But how would we know what that is? Furthermore, even granting that caveat in no way renders God’s existence impossible.
That being said, the brief exchange of argumentation in my head that night served to calm the qualms I was thrust into. I learned not to panic when doubts arise, and that there are legitimate answers when they do.
My thoughts came in, and out, at In-N-Out. I finished my burgers and shared with a friend what had just occurred.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
There is an account in the Gospels of a man who wants Jesus to heal his son. The kid is afflicted by a spirit that sends the child into what mirrors bouts of seizures. Jesus answers "All things are possible to him who believes."
"I believe!" the father cries out and paradoxically continues, "Help my unbelief."
At times I have felt the same way as the father of the afflicted child. I have decided to follow Jesus, but am confronted with situations that test belief, like the tide pulling a boat away from the moor it's attached to - the ropes tense and wood moans while onlookers wonder will they snap?
But a “smooth sea never produced a seasoned sailor.” Similarly, in my walk of faith I have found that challenges and doubts are opportunities to deepen intellectual and emotional commitment to what I have experienced as Ultimate Reality.
An older friend of mine once said, "Nothing strengthens my faith like doubt."
C.S. Lewis once advised that spiritual pilgrim's should be willing to keep questions in their back pockets for a time. As one of the greatest Christian apologists in history, he was not advocating a mindless belief; instead, he offers the wisdom that in so many parts of our lives we must wait for answers. Why should faith be an exception? I think it is sound to trust what we have known in times past to be unchanging and true to possess that same validity even when we go through periods of darkness.
Is doubt good? In certain situations. I know for certain that it has at least been used for good throughout my journey.
Two more questions:
But is that good enough? Should we strive to be doubtless?
Well, as someone who follows Jesus I think that we should always be striving for what the Bible calls "perfection" or "maturity." To come to the full measure. That being said, doubts may be an integral part of coming to the full measure. When would faith be necessitated without them? Would we seek answers without having questions first? Furthermore, there are probably different kinds of doubts which grow from various roots. Perhaps differentiating malignant and healthy forms would help answer the aforementioned questions.
Being forced to answer our own questions also helps us identify with and aid others struggling with similar qualms.
The man struggling with (not between) faith and the pain of seeing his son suffer was not disappointed. Jesus healed his son after the man’s declaration of belief/help-my-unbelief.
Maybe there is an undercurrent here showing that although the man had some doubts, he ultimately believed Christ would help him through them. That's an expression of faith in itself.
We can apply this by being honest about doubts and pursuing answers. After those answers are discovered or we find that different questions should have been asked in the first place, we can come alongside others who are seeking truth and point them to the place we discovered it.
Doubtless, the man with the healed child did not keep answers to himself, but pointed the needy he knew to Christ.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Two days before Easter Sunday, New York Times writer Rachel L. Swarn reported that some of Washington D.C.'s churches are eagerly vying for the attention (and attendance) of President Obama and his family.
After the contention caused by the remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, and circulating rumors that Obama was privately a Muslim, the Obama family is taking unhurried steps in determining their place of worship.
Swarn begins her article with the sentence "The invitations have come in neatly typed letters, whispered entreaties and please-join-us blogs." The article describes their actions as a "frenzied competition", "wooing" President Obama and his family to join their fellowship.
As a political figure and occupying the most powerful position in the world, it's easy to see why Obama's membership would be a shining star on one of these churches' resume. But if the hunt is all about snagging association with the popular president, then these churches might wind up exchanging one object of worship for another.
And if the hunt is for reputation, then churches wouldn’t be worshiping Obama, they’d be glorifying themselves.
Check out the article for yourself and share what you think.