Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Feeling a good deal of bible atrophy I decided to actually do some reading (it's good and nice to talk about what is biblical, but in order to do so with any measure of sense, it's quite helpful to actually read it! - if that sounded preachy, that's because it was directed at me).
Whenever I have previously been in a bible reading paralysis I usually start by reading the "proverb of the day" (as there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, there is a chapter to read for each corresponding day of the month). I can't remember what day it was, but I love the book of Proverbs and am always profited by it and thus it was the same for that morning.
Next, I had planned to flip over to 1 Peter, as it is still the book I am studying both independently, and also at one of the churches we attend. Heavy on my mind was the swirling questions about "incarnational theology," by which I mean, the idea that God came into the world through the Christ, Jesus, and now is in the world through the followers of Jesus, and that those followers will make - once acting properly as such - the kingdom of heaven here in the midst of the world. While I do not ascribe to this perspective, I was curious what the Bible truly says in regard to it. I was not expecting to find any answers in 1 Peter...I thought a little time reading would still be a good baby step to doing more serious and specific study later.
While flipping over to 1 Peter, my bible fell open to the first chapter of Zephaniah, and I remarked inwardly that I had forgotten that there even was a "Zephaniah" as many of the minor prophets are too easily forgotten. Now, it is NOT my intention to suggest that your Bible is a magic book that you should let "fall open" and take the message as a personal directive or answer to you. I strongly dislike that method of exegesis (if you can even call it such). I also am NOT now suggesting that God is not capable of intervening in such a way to occasionally inspire or answer. God is God. I will not limit Him and neither will I expect Him to participate in Bible Ouija-ing.
Regardless of why the book fell open there, I was drawn in immediately, and was grateful for a detour that actually pertained to my burning question at the time. Zephaniah is short and filled with powerful prophecies about wrath and destruction for all the earth. In the midst of that there is the quiet reminders that there will still be a remnant, who are humble and meek, who will be God's people and who will live under the rule of the future ultimate King (Jesus).
I am no bible scholar - let alone a prophecy unscrambler - but what I did glean was this: If the "Kingdom of Heaven" will be a normal, historical progression (in this time, on this earth), then it will, at the least, come with a restored Israel who is humble and meek and pure in heart, seeking God. It also sounds like there will be a fairly large dose of death, wrath, and destruction for all those who do not emulate the heart attitude of repentant remnant of Israel, so I think it will be a fairly catastrophic and obvious change of government.
I suppose I emphasize this to say, it is not a pretty Utopian picture of the church finally being convicted enough to start acting radically on behalf of social justice, and loving one another and our enemies to such a self-sacrificial degree that The Kingdom just shows up. As if, perhaps, every Christian on the planet who can vote wrote in "Jesus" on the ballet (or perhaps just in their heart), and then God decided to go ahead and send Him back down to be king.
I suppose the key question, in my limited understanding of "incarnational theology," concerns what it implies about sinfulness. In The Kingdom of Heaven, or, if that is the wrong term, when Jesus comes back and rules as King, will men still be sinful? Here I flipped - intentionally - over to Romans 7, and just kept reading until my children woke up.
The bible seems clear (and my own life reveals more clearly) that even as believers we still have our sin-inclined nature. Thus all creation and we ourselves groan for redemption of the body (Romans 8:22-23). What would there be to redeem if it were already possible to be "set free from this body of death" (Rom 7:24) by simply acting/thinking/socially-living differently? I think the problem causing our inability to act differently is precisely that we need to be supernaturally redeemed from our own evil inclinations that wreak havoc within ourselves (Romans 7:14-25).
After Paul's frustration over his still-sinful state he moves onto talk about how there is no longer condemnation for us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus (hallelujah!) and how as believers we have great hope for redemption. What struck me as significant was that hope implies future delivery:
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope;
for who hopes for what he already sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Rom 8:24-25)
It seems the hope within incarnational theology is hope that the rest of the believing world will come on board so that we can all enjoy The Kingdom together, as together we embody the spirit of God/Jesus. My hope, and what I think I understand of Paul's hope, is that my own person and my own body will be redeemed because they need to be redeemed to enjoy and partake in Kingdom Life.
Paul speaks additionally of the sufferings of his body (which were truly physical in nature, like Jesus' - I have never suffered in that sense for the gospel) and hope for a redeemed body. This too, strikes me as something supernatural, not something earthly that we will just walk into as the normal, uninterrupted, progression of history. How do you get a redeemed body?
Am I missing something in my analysis? Do you have a better understanding of how incarnational theology deals with individual sin? I would love to hear it.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Elliot has a new favorite thing. I shouldn't be surprised, as it is one of Søren's long-lingering favorite things - playing in the sink (aka helping momma wash the dishes). Elliot is increasingly able to join Søren in "big boy" play activities, and there is no greater joy for him.
Sink time: It's great; it's relatively free and relatively clean. I usually get my kitchen chores done at the same time. I love it.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
as found in Grace Brame, Receptive Prayer (Chalice Press, 1985) p.119
We (in my cluster of kindred spirits - you know who you are) talk quite a bit about the process of being a believer in the gospel of Jesus. More specifically, we emphasize becoming a Believer - as an ongoing, life-long task. We talk about coming to truth, rather than having arrived. We talk about continual deepening of understanding. We talk about the philosophical and heart posture of a person who is seeking truth (a truth-seeker being nearly synonymous with being a Believer). Basically, we use the present participle to describe anything we do in regard to our faith/spirituality/belief. The present participle being the "-ing" form, the form used to describe on-going events.
The perspective that the call to faith involves continual growth (and examination, and re-examination, and recanting, and striving) is not new. Obviously Martin Luther underlined it in the above quote. Kierkegaard nearly obsessed on the concept. The Bible, old and new, shows a myriad of God's people - even the apostles - deepening in their understanding of the faith. [I am thinking of the lessons Abraham might have learned in sacrificing his promised son, and receiving him back (Gen 22:9-13), of Peter being shown in a dream that the gentiles get to know God too (Acts 11:1-18), of Paul wrestling with his on-going sin nature, even as a Believer (Rom 7:14-25), of John the Baptist having to question if Jesus was who he thought He was (Matt 11:2-6), etc.]
This humility about our faith extends to our understanding how to read the Bible and what to believe about Jesus and God and the meaning for our existence. We have not reached a point in our understanding where we can write it down and seal it shut as perfected and secured, and then go about living the rest of our lives sleeping soundly in the knowledge that we believe all the "right" things. Nor do we dogmatically defend our perspectives against criticism.
We believe that Truth is unshakable. Truth is not weak. Truth is not irrational. Truth can handle inquiry. Truth can handle scrutiny. Truth can handle criticism. Truth will prevail. A good critique is a blessing! It forces us to reconsider, and possibly adjust and correct our previous assumptions.
This willingness to adjust and correct does not mean we did not believe our previous belief structure, it just means that we have new facts/evidence/perspective that incite our reason to believe otherwise. We believe and grasp hold of a compelling world-view, a compelling picture of reality, but always with the humility of recognizing our own human fallibility. We recognize and on-going, life-long conversation happening with ourselves as we engage God and the life He gives us, with the world and reality that continue to goad us, and with others who are seeking to know the God who created us all.
This posture (of willing to be wrong and corrected about our world-view) in combination with a slight disillusionment for a more "mainstream" version of church and evangelism, has linked us somewhat strongly with the "emerging church". Ours is a "post" project. This is a different project from the modern American church, which emphasizes doctrine, where the pastors do not change their doctrinal stances, where the people are instructed in what to believe, rather than how to believe, or in how to behave rather than in how to be (of course, "we are not being, but becoming" - but I trust you understand my emphasis).
In many ways, with broad strokes, we are probably part of the emerging church more so than we are a part of the conventional, evangelical, modern church. Of course, I would like to think that we are translating the gospel into a post-modern culture (or post-post-modern culture if you would like) with a degree of success, though post-modernism lends quite slick footing for many of what I understand to be "emerging/emergent churches".
It is difficult to put into the right words why I am so hesitant to want to label our project as "emerging". I mean, it has the present participle "-ing", right? What could be wrong with that?
Yet there is something slightly sinister about it. Of course, like all good post-modern labels, it barely applies to any actual case. There is nearly as much fudge room within the label "emerging" as there is within "Buddhism" (note: I am not linking the emerging church with Buddhism).
Here is my primary concern: To respond to the dogmatic fundamentalism of the modern church in such a way that you decide that everyone has a piece of Truth, and that no one can KNOW Truth with certainty, in the best case, misses the point of the difficulty of the gospel, the narrow gate, the few will find it, the watch and pray, the stone of stumbling. In the worst case, it misses the gospel entirely.
Ironically, it seems that the emerging church has not actually rejected one tenant of modernism that desperately needs rejecting, namely that Truth = Certainty. It seems they have rightly understood that we individuals, and the churches we form, do not have certainty about our beliefs. Unfortunately, they have also kept the above equation and decided that we then, cannot have Truth. This is a sad carry over from the failing scientific method into the church and our culture as a whole.
The key difference, it seems, between us and the emerging church is that we still believe truth is knowable. While I may be ever correcting, I believe I am getting closer, and I believe it will eventually be revealed (probably in the life to come). I believe that I can know. I believe I was built with rational faculties sufficient for understanding God as He is willing to be known to man. I believe the Bible contains - with proper exegesis - an accurate revelation of the character of that God.
An emergent would probably counter with something like, but, if all men can know, then how can you know that you know rather than that they know (specifically who disagree with you, or view God differently). Here again we have the problem with certainty. With certainty, I cannot know much (like, for example, where my husband is this evening...I only believe what he has told me about his fishing trip, I do not know it with certainty, yet I believe it is true). Even without certainty, I can know and believe. However you want to define it, or poke at it, we know when we know (and yes, sometimes we're still wrong). The person who "knows" that they cannot know or knows that "no one knows", presumably feels strongly that this is true, otherwise they would not believe it. Ironic is it not? We are all believers in something.
Another discomfort with the emerging church is a general feeling that they are not so much "post church" as they are anti-capitalist (not that there is anything wrong with being anti-capitalist, but there is nothing particularly right about it, either. I am rather convinced that God can be known and loved in whatever cultural/political frame you find yourself). It seems emergents believe it is possible to truly establish the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. While I think we ought to act, as the Church, in recognition of our citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven, I do not, for one minute, think that thereby we will bring that Kingdom here (at least, not without Jesus literally coming back to do so). That is a utopia mindset; it seems very Marxist. Marx believed that man's "sin" was only the result of the incorrectly structured system he lived under. This, I believe, is incredibly at odds with a biblical view of sin.
I also believe that the primary manifestation of sin is an unwillingness to bend the knee to Truth. It is a Truth-allergy. So the problem is not so much that we cannot know Truth, but rather than we do not want to know Truth. If we sincerely desire to know truth, then our world-view will remain in a refining process that brings us closer and closer to knowing it. Will we have all the answers? I should certainly think not! Will we have sufficient answers? I should think so.
Adam and Eve did not "fall", they were sinners from the beginning. They did not thwart God. The apple biting only revealed their true natures to themselves. They were uncomfortable with the Truth of being a creature, they wanted rather, to be like God. Now, I fear, the emerging church too, wants to be like God. I fear they want to remove the actual God and the historical Jesus from the divine narrative throughout history and replace it with people "made in His image" being the "incarnation" themselves, and creating for themselves and the whole world "the kingdom of heaven" here and now, missing the point and the promise of LIFE to come.
This is simply my fear with the underlying assumptions of the movement. I follow several blogs of people who I can only now understand as probably part of the "emerging church" and I enjoy them very much. I think they are truth seekers in the right way, and I am frequently profited by their perspectives and their insight into Truth - but I also cannot help but see the slippery slope and cannot quite be sure where their trajectories are headed (sorry for the mixed metaphor, but it's too late for me to think straight).
Monday, July 14, 2008
I was busy finishing something in the kitchen when she spoke up and asked, "So, who's the theologian?"
I was surprised and laughed, "I suppose that would be me," to indicate that the books were indeed mine. Turns out she was a bible and theology major at one of the local bible colleges here in Portland. I told her about Gutenberg, and that was about it.
(completely aside: I also just found out that one of the gals getting milk from me was a St. Johns' student in Annapolis. So fun to randomly find other great books students!)
I was reminded of this conversation yesterday evening at our "Reformation North" church potluck when people were milling about visiting and two of the guys started talking about...well...I guess they were talking about theology. I drew up a chair to participate, it was like how my cats jump and hover as soon as they hear the can opener, anticipating tuna.
Oh how I love talking about such things! We were specifically discussing the new "emergent" and "missional" churches and the pro's and con's of the movement(s). The discussion seemed very in-line with the Bonhoeffer question I brought up last week (a post is coming about all of that).
It was then that I realized - though I never would have thought this before; not even during the "theology" quarter at Gutenberg - I like theology. Perhaps, you, my reader, had already deduced that about me, but I just figured it out. I would have just said that I liked "truth", "bible study", "discussion/dialog" etc., but I suppose that boils down to theology.
So...I would still stiffen and shake my head and laugh if you wanted to call me a theologian, but perhaps I am a theology admirer, or something. Or perhaps we're all mini-theologians anyway. Perhaps that's what it means to continually pursue truth, editing and re-editing and deepening your understanding of existence. All the same, I like theology.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Mainly, there has been no one to experiment on, and I grew tired of watching it indicate that there was some sort of magnetic field emanating from my uterus...kind of made me nervous, ya know? So, I just buried my head in the sand and hoped that my cycle would eventually begin again (perhaps once I weaned Elliot from nights - which I have yet to do) and I could just feel normal and not worried I might have a growth of some sort.
Well...I decided to try the spoon on the pregnant goats out on the farm. The goats were quite the experience to try to read. They wanted to sniff and eat the string and spoon (which was actually a fork), they wanted to head butt each other, wiggle, eat my clothes, and any number of unhelpful activities. Well...added to that, goats can have 2-3 kids in each pregnancy, and I know very little about their anatomy...so I was kind of on a wild goose chase outside, in the wind, with goats who would not cooperate by sitting still and letting me get in ideal positions to really feel good about the movements. Anyhow, I did come up with some predictions, and it will be fun to see what comes of it in the next couple months. I also tried doing it on the baby goats (since I can't tell them apart) but that was REALLY impossible. Not only would I have to sneak up on them and hope they would hold still as my arm dangled as far as I could manage from my body so as not to get to close to them and peek their curiosity...but there are so many that look the same, that I couldn't tell which I had determined what for in order to check with those who knew. Perhaps I will have to try that experiment again with more assistance.
When I cam home, I thought I should probably see if the spoon had decided to quit moving over me. Well...let me remind you, that for 2-3 months it was picking up a circle on the right side, and a pendulum on the left, and some crazy rotating pattern that etched out a flower in the middle of the two.
To my...well, added general confusion...it is now only moving in the center (where I usually hold it to douse pregnancies), and it is moving in a big, clear, circle. The comedy of this (if there is any chance of my being pregnant this time) is that Andrew and I had just started getting serious about preventing pregnancy as we do not to be pregnant for at least another year and I have been suspicious that my body might be gearing up to ovulate again.
No, I have still not seen a doctor...but I do think I will start taking pregnancy tests again! Who knows...maybe the spoon can read ovulation? Once again, time will soon tell (and since there is NO indication of twins, there will be NO possible explanation for a false pregnancy test after a few weeks).
In other spoon news, the most recent pending prediction was born last month - and was correct, and little girl named Natalie Elizabeth, born to someone who works at a coffee shop near by. Thus far, we still have no errors on female predictions. On the goats, there were MANY female predictions for the pregnancies...more than I think statistically likely (though I don't know much about goat gender statistics)...so perhaps the female errors will start popping up as well.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The post is basically a quote from Bonhoeffer (whom I am not at all well read in, but for whom I have always had a certain fondness and respect). The quote is as follows:
“Hasn’t the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than that question (perhaps not more important than the matter itself, but more important than the question!)? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything, and isn’t it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination of the view that God alone is righteous? It is not with the beyond that we are concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Letters and Papers from PrisonI suppose what this quote provoked was an understanding of the difference between the person who thinks that the question of personal salvation remains infinitely important and the person who believes that the question is a spring board into more important things. I, of course, could not help but wonder at the dialog Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard might have had over coffee about such things.
It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference in how one understands the significance of the incarnation of Jesus. This is a topic I would like to explore in much more depth...and actually spend time reading Bonhoeffer, and more Kierkegaard (I always like an excuse for that!).
At a very surface level, I think the difference might lie in either understanding the incarnation's significance to be that God came down to enter into relationship with humans. That God created Jesus the man to communicate something about Himself to us. In this way I would understand the incarnation to show one more way in which God reveals Himself to us. (If I were taking the time to be more thorough in this preliminary post, I might also add something about glorifying Himself, saving mankind, and all the other very important aspects of the incarnation - but I am not, I am just introducing a hint at a difference in emphasis that I would like to explore.)
OR, the difference might lie in understanding (as I think is hinted at in the Bonhoeffer quote) the incarnations significance to be that God entered humanity to make one man perfect and thereby redeem in a similar, physical, this-worldly sense, the entire creation.
Personal redemption vs. All creation redemption.
The implications are far-reaching, because with this Bonhoefferian view of the incarnation (in my current, very limited understanding) we ought to be striving to literally bring about "the kingdom of heaven" right now, because it is a viable option. With the theological perspective I have, thus far, had, I have not understood it to be possible to truly transform this worldly realm into the kingdom of heaven without some serious divine intervention and re-creation due to man's permanent sin condition, this side of "heaven".
This causes me to wonder also about Bonhoeffer's perspective on the sinful nature of a believer. It causes much wondering. I am still developing questions.
Anyhow, there is much to ponder here, for me. I would love dialog as I sift through these two thinkers perspectives on the incarnation (while, of course, being more primarily interested in finding the most compelling biblical perspective on the matter).
Friday, July 4, 2008
This morning we talked about attending the city parade, so I threw on my best patriotic-but-not-cheesy attire. A white skirt and a red tee.
Every time I put on this particular outfit I am reminded of my second non-date with Andrew (he was sneaky...I was never willing to date the guy and somehow we were engaged 2 months later). Of course, even though we weren't dating, I still wanted to look cute. The fact of the matter - perhaps, obviously - is that I did like him. I remember being quite self-conscious at dinner, as the outfit seemed a bit racy to my usually very modest sentiments. I suppose it accented my then-22-year-old figure.
As I wear it now during the summer, I am still aware that it reveals more than February's attire...but I think that is because it is summer. If I dressed like February...I would over-heat and turn into monster mom/wife/friend (I don't do well with heat). What I have noticed is that I feel far less racy in it now. Perhaps because it accentuates my now-27-year-old, I've-had-two-children-by-cesarean-section figure. I think the fact of the matter is that 22-year-olds are racy, mother's are not. Not to say mothers aren't sexy in their own right and perhaps even in a fuller sense of the word and in a richer demonstration of womanhood...they just cease to be racy.
I suppose it is an independence of sorts!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Some will make it back into the water.
Floundering itself is a good sign. It means there is still life, and fight, and hope.
Yet it is surely a fight, and a desperately deadly fight if one cannot find one's way back to the water.
Pray for those who flounder!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Offensive and false light dominates the real attempting to illuminate through several windows.
Music from the 80's drowns the printers and electronic buzz, yet somehow it doesn't compel the movement that it would in my kitchen, instead it irritates.
Strangers come and go with fake smiles and in a quiet moment the tellers faces fall, but only to a "professional" state of relaxation.
Money moves at the speed of desire, easily transfered because they are only numbers in a computer somewhere else. Money moves at the speed of desire, and yet somehow the desire to keep it evades everyone coming and going.
Stress, uneasiness, anxiety reflect off faux painted walls.
Somewhere, far, far away, a very wealthy man beckons for more lemon in his tea, yet he too remains unsatisfied.
While I think it is silly to petition God about things like a good parking space, I have also overwhelmingly experienced God reassure me of His care through seemingly mundane details. I think what is significant for me when this happens is the cluster effect. It will happen right when I am tempted to despair. It will happen right when I want to wring my hands and wonder if, perhaps, I hallucinated about hearing Him so clearly call me out into the wilderness - and all of the sudden, manna. Just enough for the day, and then just enough for the next day. Just enough to remind me I am not hallucinating. Some of the things in these "clusters" of divine coincidence are silly, and I would not pronounce them significant under different circumstances, but for me, they reek of the divine because they are precisely the thing to whisper to me at that very moment, "See...you do not have to worry, consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, dear one, are you not more important to Me than those?"
I think what is dangerous, is to boast and shout about how God did a miracle in your life by means that no one else could possibly understand as a miracle. I, on the one hand, think it silly to think that God sent rain for one person, and not for another. I think it's silly to think God cares about what clothes you choose to put on this morning. I think it's silly to praise God about an open parking spot -as if He is not just as praiseworthy when you have to park and walk.
YET, on the other hand, I also think that God is so fully author of our existence, that he designs us to freely choose the way we freely choose, to enjoy what we enjoy, to need what we need, to struggle where we struggle, and to see Him in individual ways that another may not.
I am not suggesting a pluralistic view of understanding God. God is a very specific person, and not everyone gets to know Him - if only because not everyone actually wants to know Him. He is a terrifying God. He asks terrifying things of us. Yet, He is a good God, and a faithful God, and where else have I to go? Perhaps because He knows how terrifying it is to follow Him, He sends the little comforts, at just the right time, to remind us He's still working all things to good for those who love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose.