Faith is a way of waiting—never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope, and many holy things lie in ruins because the world has ruined them and we have ruined them. But faith waits, even so, delivered at least from that final despair which gives up waiting altogether because it sees nothing left worth waiting for. Faith waits—for the opening of a door, the sound of footsteps in the hall, that beloved voice delayed, delayed so long that there are times when you all but give up hope of ever hearing it. And when at moments you think you do hear it (if only faintly, from far away) the question is: Can it possibly be, impossibly be, that one voice of all voices?
Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark
Vancouver Island is not a place known for being a hotbed of some of the “culture wars” that take place south of the border. As far as I’ve been able to tell in one year, it is a very post-Christian environment with a whole bunch of eclectic spiritualities from quasi-paganism to charismatic Christianity to the garden variety unreflective secularism that you see anywhere else in the modern west. Having said all that, I’ve been surprised to notice that the “fish wars” seem to have a small but noticeable presence over here. Read more
I was thinking about the conversation taking place around my previous post as I continued to get acquainted with William Willimon this morning. The conversation is around the proper Christian approach to suffering. How should we suffer? How should we view it? Is it an unwelcome intruder into the very essence of reality? The divinely appointed means through which Christians demonstrate their allegiance to Jesus? A strategy for effective Christian leadership? I think most of us who have been touched by the Suffering Servant have some sense that suffering ought to somehow be different for us even if we’re not sure what that looks like. I don’t know many people who actually desire or welcome pain but I think we intuitively sense that Jesus somehow changes how we look at (or ought to look at) suffering even if we aren’t always very good at articulating how. Read more
From the “sobering quotes” file, comes this morning’s offering from Richard Rohr: Read more
Most of us who have been Christians for a little while or a long while have moments where we wonder if we really are right about this whole God business. Some days it seems like nothing could be more obvious than that there is God out there guiding and sustaining the cosmos; on others, it seems like the remotest of possibilities.
Near the end of Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner quotes a character from a George MacDonald novel who has this to say about this question of questions: Read more
Apologies for the lack of posting over the last little while—I find myself going through one of those stretches where I have very little that seems worth saying. Of course one of the benefits of times when words and ideas seem to desert us is that we can lean on and be nourished by the words of others. The writings of Frederick Buechner have often been a source of such words for me. Sometimes I feel that posting long quotes from the work of others is just a way of avoiding the sometimes painful process of writing myself; other times, I just feel grateful to have stumbled across something wise and glad to be able to share it. Read more
As a parent of young children, I often wonder about how much of the pain and brutality of the world we ought to expose our kids to—which conversations do they need to be absent from, which books and films could they do without exposure to, and when it is appropriate to let them in on the secret that the world can sometimes be kind of a nasty place (I suspect it’s quite often not as much of a “secret” to them as we might like to think). There can be a fine line between helping your children see that the world is a safe enough place to love and learn and grow and not shielding from the reality of a messed-up world in desperate need of compassionate, committed, and resourceful people to make it better. Read more
One of the things that I have found frustrating at various points throughout my life is how the language of “personal relationship” is used in (usually evangelical) Christian contexts. Often times, the end goal of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was (and is) described as some variation of providing a way for human beings to have a “personal relationship” with God. What is needed, we are often told, is to invite Jesus into our “heart” to be our “personal saviour” and then begin cultivating our “personal relationship” with him via an amalgam of pious-sounding, mostly solitary activities. Of course this isn’t true across the board, but it’s true in enough contexts to have fairly broad traction in many denominational and cultural contexts. Read more
From Richard Rohr’s Radical Grace:
Every generation has to be converted anew. Each generation has to know for itself the fidelity of God. Each generation has to do its own homework and walk its own journey of search and surrender. No person, ritual, or institution can finally do that for you. There are no spiritual coat tails on which to ride, they just give us a good head start.
It’s not enough to say that my mother was Catholic, my father was Christian, or “I am a son of Abraham” as Jesus put it. Until you come to that time in your life when you choose that you have been chosen, when you accept that you have been totally accepted, the real process of personal transformation has not begun. God has no grandchildren, it seems. Only children! And mercifully, many, many of them, because there are as many and varied journeys as there are people.
A while back, I had a conversation with a young couple who had differing religious perspectives about how they anticipated raising future children. One of the options floated about was something like this: “We’ll just raise them ‘neutral’; we’ll expose them to as many religious and irreligious options as possible and let them make up their own minds.” Well, that sure sounds admirable enough. Give them the choice. Don’t stuff anything down their throats. No indoctrination or coercion whatsoever. What could be more honouring of the individuality and freedom of our children than that? Read more
I finished Dallas Willard’s Knowing Christ Today a few weeks ago, but I still find myself returning to it from time to time. It’s a thought-provoking book—one that I would highly recommend reading. Especially interesting was his chapter on “Christian pluralism.” Ever since I was a kid, I remember wondering how/if God could justly condemn those who didn’t make an explicit verbal profession of (the correct version of) faith in Jesus when so many throughout history have never even heard of Jesus (which is what I was told, by various people at various times). That sure seemed, well, immoral and for some time it was a significant stumbling block for me. Read more
This morning our church was privileged to have a guest speaker to deliver the sermon—my twin brother Gil. Unsurprisingly (and completely unbiasedly), I thought it was a great sermon. Gil was preaching on John 4 and the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. There’s a lot going on in this passage, but Gil zeroed in on the two mountains that the woman queried Jesus about: Read more
It’s fairly common these days to see religious belief presented as a kind of primitive holdover from our superstitious past. So in that sense, yesterday’s article from the National Post‘s religion blog, “Holy Post” was nothing new. What was interesting was the angle Prof. Hank Davis has apparently taken in his book called Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in the Modern World. The objects of Davis’s criticism—what he sees as prime examples of “caveman logic”—are the purposive phrases we use in everyday life. “It was a sign,” “thank God,” even “good luck”—we use these phrases seemingly instinctively (in fact, Christians seem to have a whole separate arsenal of them: “it was a ‘God thing’,” “it’s all part of God’s plan,” etc.). But do they make any contact with what is objectively true? For Davis, the answer is obviously “no.” Read more
Thanks to Mike for highlighting Regina Spektor’s performance of “Laughing With” last Friday on The Late Show. Great song, fascinating lyrics. Amazing, the places where questions of theodicy will make an appearance… Read more
A quick look at the calendar shows that we are coming up on the one year anniversary of a very happy day in my life—the completion of my thesis. This is probably one of those anniversaries that will remain significant in my mind only, but I figured it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the subject matter I spent sixteen months of my life reading/writing about. I’ve continued to follow the exploits of folks like Dawkins and Hitchens over the last year as well as those who “defend the faith” against them. Mostly, the tone and the content of the discussions have seemed fairly belligerent, sterile, and unhelpful to me. The same old arguments, the same old defenses. People on both sides simply dig in their heels, talk a little louder (or more condescendingly), and try to prove who’s really the smartest. All in all, it’s not very inspiring stuff. On this level, I do not miss the debate. Read more
Related to the previous post about what makes a life “full” or “good, I came across this fantastic (and sobering—be sure to read the last sentence at least twice!) quote from Dallas Willard’s Knowing Christ Today about love as a way of life: Read more
A friend sent me a link to this article by CBC journalist Neil MacDonald last week. Apparently, MacDonald locates himself within a growing minority that are increasingly finding the courage to “come out” as non-believers in a cultural milieu that frowns upon lack of professed religious belief (MacDonald is a Canadian living and working in the USA). Unlike committed atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, however, MacDonald claims simply not to care about the matter. Read more
I’ve been looking forward to Dallas Willard’s latest book for a while now, and was happy to see it arrive on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. Willard is tackling the question of whether/how the claims of faith constitute genuine knowledge (as opposed to private beliefs, opinions, emotions, blind commitments, etc). I’ve only had time to read the introduction thus far, but it looks like a very intriguing, not to mention timely, project. Here’s a few quotes from Knowing Christ Today: Read more