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
Last week I finished Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement and I’m nearly finished Mark Baker and Joel Green’s Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. Both of these books have been very helpful in articulating a view of the atonement that is broad and deep enough to address the depth of our need as human beings and as a planet. Both deal with the various theories of the atonement, both examine the limitations of human language and the role of metaphors, and both look at the relevant biblical texts. Both offer ways of thinking about and living into the atonement that are profoundly hopeful. Read more
Last weekend I preached on Isaiah 2 and focused on the theme of exile—what it means, what it looks like in (post)modern life, and the shape of the hope that emerges out of it. Today, a friend directed my attention to a song called “The Maker” (written by Daniel Lanois, performed by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds) that he felt reflected some of the themes of the sermon. I’d never heard the song before, but I was blown away (you can have a listen here, with a bit of navigation—just select the “Live at Radio City” album and click on the song). I think it beautifully expresses the great hope for all the estranged, alienated, lost and lonely inhabitants of postmodernity—we are not strangers in the hands of the Maker. Read more
As I’ve mentioned before, the nature of the atonement is generating a bit of discussion (and controversy) in our tiny little denominational corner (I’ve reflected on the matter here, and here). My friend Mike Todd has written an excellent reflection on the atonement that is definitely worth checking out, both for the main post and for the comments. Here’s a sample: Read more
I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore, at least not to top-40 type stuff. Aside from the deficiencies of the music on offer, I can’t stand the mindless advertising, the idiotic banter between the morning hosts, and… well, it’s mostly the advertising. Today, however, as we were having lunch with the kids at a local eating establishment, I couldn’t avoid the radio, and I happened to hear something very peculiar called the “Daily Hollywood Gossip Report.” At first, I simply consigned this to the “stupid things you hear on the radio” category of my brain, and dismissed it quickly. But I found myself returning to it as the day went on. Read more
Those who believe in the immortality of the soul believe that life after death is as natural a human function as waking after sleep. The Bible instead speaks of resurrection. It is entirely unnatural. We do not go on living beyond the grave because that’s how we are made. Rather, we go to our graves as dead as a doornail and are given our lives back again by God (i.e., resurrected) just as we were given them by God in the first place, because that is the way God is made.
All the major Christian creeds affirm belief in resurrection of the body. In other words, they affirm the belief that what God in spite of everything prizes enough to bring back to life is not just some disembodied echo of human beings but a new and revised version of all the things which made them the particular human beings they were and which they need something like a body to express: their personality, the way they looked, the sound of their voices, their peculiar capacity for creating and loving, in some sense their faces.
The idea of the immortality of the soul is based on the experience of humanity’s indomitable spirit. The idea of the resurrection of the body is based on the experience of God’s unspeakable love.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking
To be a Christian means to be an optimist because we know what happened on the third day. We know that it worked, that Jesus’ leap of faith was not in vain. His trust was not in vain, and the Father raised him up. He trusted enough to outstare the darkness, to outstare the void, to wait upon the resurrection of the third day, not to try to create his own but to wait upon the resurrection of God. Good Friday inevitably comes into every life. So does Holy Saturday. What is given to God is always returned transformed. That is the eternal third day that we forever await.
Richard Rohr, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations
I came across this article a few weeks back and was reminded of it today by a discussion of the age-old question of whether or not we need God to be good over at Jesus Creed. The author of the article offers an answer in the negative, citing the blissfully secular Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Denmark as shining examples that God is not necessary for human happiness and moral decency: Read more