Friday, October 29, 2004

Because I'm don't have time to write more . . . I'll just excerpt some correspondence from today . . . sorry to not include the letter that asked the questions, but you'll have to make do with my answers :) Proceed at your own risk! :P

With the beginning of the Enlightenment man began investigating the world in a new way – and leaving the medieval worldview which had proceeded it (which itself had supplanted the Classical worldview). In some ways the Enlightenment esteemed the Classical – and returned back to an Aristotelian approach – with some notable differences.

This new investigation included a critique of what had been formerly unassailable sacred texts. And higher criticism revealed that more was going on with the transmission and origin of these texts than was formerly believed. I see nothing inherently problematic and myself hold to many discoveries of higher and lower criticism - of textual transmission, the editing of texts, oral tradition, etc. that helps me understand in a way not nearly as romantic and naïve (as I did before) how we received the texts we have.

The problem I see is the tension expressed in the difference between Peter Abelard and Anselm: Abelard said “I know that I may believe,” while Anselm said “I believe that I may know.”

I spent too much of my life in Abelard’s way – making my rationality the measure of all things. The gift of my intellect became my god and I thought it entirely reasonable that God should be proved to me. I was the arbiter of truth. God hid Himself – or actually remained tantalizingly out of my reach – as long as I stood my ground and demanded that He become reasonable to me. Like the rich young ruler, only when I sold everything I had did I find God.

That doesn’t mean I became some fundamentalist ranter who eschews anger and hate all while claiming to be a careful adherent of the Bible. I didn’t even give up my intellect – only my use of it to measure everything.

I see the scientific analysis of any ancient texts from a hermeneutic of disbelief to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A skeptical scientific analysis (I am not saying that is the only way to competently analyze the text) will provide ample proof for more skepticism. That approach uses only analysis and not intuition, existential truth, etc.

In my quote (why didn’t I start here?) I am not referring to scholarly work (which doesn’t have to be persistently skeptical) but to the analysis done by many conservatives where rules are deduced, arguments formulated, and positions buttressed. That type of culling the text for material to build my positions (using it as a resource) rather than encountering God through the text (only one place God may be encountered) leads to the distortion that I believe is seen in so much of current Christianity. I thought I was hearing in some of your comments evidence that you also see some absurd things being done in the name of Christianity. I believe that this handling of the Bible as prooftexts for rationally argued positions is at least one of the root causes of the phenomena we see. . .

For me those issues are any intellectual stance on any subject. The love of God is not a position – like “what is your position on . . .?” Since the rational emphasis of the Enlightenment Christianity has been dominated (but perhaps not populated) by at least some people for whom intellectualizing (the cognitive understanding) is paramount. C.S. Lewis called these people “men without chests” whose heads appear larger not because they are, but because their chests (where the heart is) have atrophied.

By human thought here I mean rational knowledge in an Aristotelian way – as opposed to a mystical knowledge – which IS the visceral and experiential. Friedrich von Huegel’s institutional (Petrine), intellectual (Pauline), and intuitive (Johannine) model seems apropos. Peter reigns in the Catholic church, Paul in the Protestant church, but John has no home though his tradition hides in the shadows of both. I don’t see these as antithetical, but all are needed. There is a place for Paul-like analysis, but without John’s intuitive love (I don’t mean to paint Paul as lacking in mysticism – his faith was formed mystically on the road to Damascus- not intellectually through debate) the analysis runs amok . . .

I don’t think all truth is equal. It is true that every life is sacred and to be valued not for its circumstance, but for its existence. It is also true that I am wearing a t-shirt today. The first truth is not scientifically attainable, but the second is. However, the scientific truth, while eradicating the error that I always wear button-down shirts during the week, has little import. The important truths of life are relational, experiential, and spiritual – all untouchable by science. Scientific analysis, when it is made the gold-standard of truth – leads to a world where the greatest things are physical. My argument is that when this scientific approach was appropriated by Christians and applied to the scriptures, the unimportant became important and Christianity was distorted.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Reconciliation is Bigger Than We Think!
That's the conclusion I came to through our discussion last night. We were following Bill Collin's suggestions about Christian community by looking at Col. 1:15-20. A careful examination of the the supremacy of Christ as described in that passage includes his reign over the heavenlies and the reconciliation of those realms to God. It seems that reconciling humans back to their Creator is only part of the picture, because the entire created world participates in that reconciliation as well as the heavenly realms - which in Paul's cosmology includes the principalities and powers of evil that exist there - what else in the heavenlies needs reconciliation to God? Is it really an surprise that God's reconciliation of His human enemies by the cross would also include a reconciliation of spiritual forces of evil by that same cross? Can it really be that big?

Then we started talking about 2 Cor. 5:16ff and our new creature-ness and how that changes our view of everyone (not just simply fellow-believers)! Here's the missional theology of the Kingdom that is all inclusive - because we start seeing the reconciliation that God has wrought and inviting everyone to discover that reality! Indeed, Jesus is the Savior of all men (1 Timothy 4:10) and we see everyone as the recipient of grace - even if they don't know it!

Sometimes we don't know where we are going . . . but the Holy Spirit does! That's what I felt about last night's discussion. I had no idea where we were going until we got into it - but what vistas of grace and God's Kingdom!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Today I was working on planning an order of worship . . . and trying to find some songs to fit with the idea of the incarnation. I know the obvious ones are Christmas songs, but I really don't want the nativity as much as the whole life of Jesus.

Anyway there was a section in the book of baptismal songs where the opening medley was "My Gift of Myself Medley." I think that sounds much too nice. It's as if I'm giving God something - namely me. It should be the "I'm Returning Stolen Property Medley."

Friday, October 15, 2004

Living in a Christian community without a hierarchy creates all sorts of new experiences. The skeptical keep looking for the "hidden" power structures . . . because, after all, you can't simply be serving each other out of love! They want to "sniff" out the power trail to see where it leads.

Still, however imperfectly it is practiced, we are enjoying a communal relationship that is devoid of clear lines of command and control. That presents an interesting question . . . who do you ask for permission? Since there is no one in particular, individually we end up voluntarily consulting with others on actions we are thinking of taking. "What do you think?" we ask someone we think is wise. Out of respect we try and speak to those who might be affected in some way or who may be doing something similar. If I do this will that affect you? When there is no designated person to ask, you just ask somebody. It's really not about getting permission anyway. It's always good to do good . . . and you don't need me to approve it. Just let love and humility lead you to seek counsel and the good of others.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Our community has been enriched by the presence of Bill Collins, a thoughtful and reflective Christian whose faith walk is formally in the Roman Catholic tradition. What do I mean by formally? Well . . . he wants his liturgical experience to be in the historic Catholic tradition, but he is not sectarian and is willing to hob-nob with protestants. Actually, I told him last night that I'm not a protestant - that is, I'm not protesting the Catholic Church. It is obvious to us all that we share in the fellowship of the one Spirit . . . which in our scriptural glimpses into the life of the early church was the way they determined fellowship.

Anyway, Bill keeps talking about how the interpersonal closeness of our community and intimacy is so different from the formality of his Catholic Church community. And while Bill keeps saying how odd it is for him to speak personally and intimately outside the confessional, he does so quite readily . . . opening up himself and his heart to us in teaching and discussion. For something he claims is so unusual for him to experience in a faith community, it is what God has brought him to offer readily.

Truly God is maturing us to a broken humilty which is self-aware in terms of our sin and transparent interpersonally. Those love-discussions which we enjoy in which our inner selves are revealled are healing experiences. May God continue to make the love of the cross our defining characteristic.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Last night in our Tues. night group (really a therapy session for screw-ups under the pastoral care of the Holy Spirit) we got to talking about being obsessive-compulsive. Actually, all night no one used that term, but that was in essence what we were discussing. Our observation was that w all tend to over-do something, some leisure activity, work, pleasure, food, or something. We do not use things redemptively. Our thinking went something like this:

1. We are all prone to obsessing over something in a desperate search for meaning and fulfillment.

2. In this way we corrupt leisure activities, relationships, and the physical world.

3. Abstinence from anything we obsess over (should we say "abscess" over?) may be a temporary remedy but learning moderation is a better long-term goal.

Today as I look back on that discussion I realize that moderation as a human balancing act is doomed to failure. Discovering the peace of God, and therefore the presence of God in that thing over which we are obsessing, leads to a moderation because we are at rest in God. Too often our attempts at moderation are stoic. Then we simply obsess over moderation.

More sin no matter how deep we go! Oh we are broken people! Only our faith in the love of God will bring a peace that finally gets us out of our rut.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Okay. . . here I enter the current discussion of the upcoming election (hopefully from a perspective of faith above every other conviction).

I like the positions Bush espouses on some moral issues more than Kerry, but I really doubt that Bush will actually do anything substantive about those issues. I know Kerry won't do anything.

I don't like the harsh, angry, judgmental attitude that conservatives often seem to have about the moral issues. Conservatives always seem to win on the "being ugly" scale over morally lax liberals. The liberals seem more condescending than spiteful . . . but is that any better? Can't one be right without being condemning or dismissive?

I don't like the way Bush seems to have sold out to big business and the wealthy, but I don't know if Kerry's concern for the middle class and marginalized will be expressed in truly helpful ways.

Bush's simple view of the world scares me. He does not seem to appreciate the complexity of issues . . . for him everything is clear-cut, black and white. He's always right and can admit no wrong. Because some good has been accomplished in Iraq, all the wrongness of how we got there is justified. Why don't we free all the other oppressed people of the world by invading their countries? Much of the world is afraid that America might decide they are wrong and invade to fix things.

Kerry seems to appreciate the complexity of things but I don't trust the basis on which he would choose to address the world's complexity. What good is it to truly understand the many issues and ramifications, and consider them all in the course of making a decision, if the decision is not an expressing God's nature? But now I'm expecting more from a worldly government than is possible.

It seems that much of the campaigning on both sides knowingly misrepresents statements and positions of the other party/candidate in an effort to score political points by instilling fear. There seems to be little generosity, good-will, grace or mercy displayed.

Bottom line - this thoroughly un-Christian system of government which is predicated on competition and conquest (the idea being that two parties fighting against each other in order to win produces good government is like thinking war produces peace) displays all the weaknesses one would expect with something so un-Christlike at the core. A Christlike core would be love, grace, mercy, hope, peace, and joy in a cooperative atmosphere - but it would never succeed in governing sinful people. A government of grace would only succeed in governing people of grace. Capitalism works because it is based on greed. You can always count on sin. An economic system based on loving your neighbor would never work - unless all the people were filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the same with government systems.

For me, I am as disappointed in my choices as I should expect to be - given that this is the world and I am a citizen of God's Kingdom. I have hope . . . but it's not in either Bush or Kerry.