Monday, May 31, 2010

Miroslav Volf on God's gifts and our response...

"To want to earn benefits from God or to receive them as payback gifts is to say three wrong things at once: (1) God is a negotiator God; (2) we can give something to God in exchange for something we want; and (3) we are agents independent of God who can relate to God any way we find to our liking. None of these things is true, however.

God is not a negotiator but a pure giver. We can give nothing to God but have received everything from God. Finally, we are not independent of God but are living on a given breath. To fail to recognize these three things is to live blindly and to claim God's gifts as our own achievements. To recognize these truths is to understand ourselves as who we truly are, fundamentally receivers."

(from Free Of Charge)

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Job: Speaking of God...

The following quotes are from Gustavo Gutierrez' On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent:

"The language we use depends on the situation we are in. Job's words are a criticism of every theology that lacks human compassion and contact with reality; the one-directional movement from theological principles to life really goes nowhere. A quest for understanding that that is based on human and religious experience gives a glimpse of other ways of speaking (and keeping silent) about God.

Job... is, as it were, caught in the middle between, on the one side, a theory from which he cannot manage to free himself (the ethico-religious doctrine of retribution) and, on the other, the personal experience that convinces him of his innocence. Despite this dilemma, Job does not let himself be carried away by an abstract and facile logic: he will never say that God is unjust. Instead of speaking ill of the God in whom he believes, he challenges the foundations of the prevailing theology.

His friends try to corner him by claiming that his declaration of innocence amounts to a condemnation of God. Job... answers that God is not to be justified by condemning the innocent. But the dilemma torments him, and he tries to escape its grip. He does not know how to do it, but he is convinced that the theological method of his friends leads nowhere but to contempt for human beings and thus to a distorted understanding of God.

Job is sure that God knows him to be innocent. His friends do not know it, but God does... We, the readers of the Book of Job, also know that he is innocent and that this is how God sees him, for the author of the book has told us so in the prologue. For Job himself, however, the conviction that God knows his true situation is a conviction born of faith."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What are you doing here?

[The LORD] said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

1 Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Actually, I like this theory of LOST...

What the ending of LOST is really about, according to the Simpsons... hehe... actually, after seeing the ending, it's not that far-fetched! :-)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

SEX! (a couple thoughts on a biblical view...)

The following is a quoted section from an essay found on the Books & Culture website:

"I do not think the church, in particular, has done an adequate job of explaining the biblical view of sex and marriage in terms of whole-self giving. With ignorance of the overriding principles and purpose of sexual self-control comes a tendency toward technical adherence - following the letter of a misunderstood and disrespected law, rather than the wise and lofty spirit of it. We must do a better job of rooting our understanding of sex in the character of God and his image-bearing purpose for mankind. People may wrestle with the question of his goodness, but an honest fight with the real issues is better than brushing God off as a daft and irrelevant uncle.

Secondly, we must stop speaking of abstinence as if it has no post-marriage value. The fact is, we are talking about self-control — a virtue that matters as much to marital monogamy as it does to premarital chastity. And those are just the sexual applications! But when all we tout is abstinence, rather than sexual self-control, the connection to all other spheres of healthy restraint is lost — and with it the urgency and relevance of being disciplined people, of being adults."

In other words, there is a bigger issue at work in God's view of human activity than just our sexual behavior, it is the issue of healthy behavior as a whole. Have we reversed this and made sex the bigger issue? I think so. But, ironically, BOTH those who argue for "guilt-free sex" AND Christians who over-emphasize (or hide from) sex are a part of this reversal, and thus part of the problem.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

more lyrics I love...

Jimmy Eat World - "For Me This Is Heaven"

The first star I see may not be a star.
We can't do a thing but wait,
So let's wait for one more.
The time, such clumsy time,
Deciding if it's time.
I'm careful but not sure how it goes.
You can lose yourself in your courage.

When the time we have now ends,
When the big hand goes round again,
Can you still feel the butterflies?
Can you still hear the last goodnight?

The mindless comfort grows when I'm alone with my 'great' plans.
This is what she says gets her through it:
"If I don't let myself be happy now then when?"
If not now when?

When the time we have now ends.
When the big hand goes round again.
Can you still feel the butterflies?
Can you still hear the last goodnight?
Close my eyes and believe wherever you are, an angel for me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Christ's call to generosity...

We read in Matt. 25:34-40 (Jesus speaking): "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we [do all these things]?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"

Notice that the blessed followers are surprised. This is not because they didn't realize they were helping the poor or the sick. Of course they knew that! They were simply doing what they would normally have done – what they didn't realize was that, in doing just what they had always done, they were showing generosity to Christ!

Our responsibility as Christians is not to figure out how to 'find out where God is' and then become generous. Our responsibility is to begin living generously, developing a heart like Jesus' – and when we do, we will find God, sometimes in surprising places!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

At the PNW-AAR...

I'm in beautiful Victoria, BC, at the University of Victoria for the 2010 Pacific Northwest American Academy of Religion conference. I presented a paper today on "Crowd and Community in Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard;" it's the third time I have presented here and it's always a great experience. The atmosphere is collegial, cordial, and - this year even more than last - very intellectually stimulating. Just a lot of fun. And, I will be stepping in as the "substitute" co-chair for the Session of Theology and Philosophy of Religion tomorrow (Sunday) morning, since the official chair had to leave early. So, that's pretty cool. It's been good to hang with other Fuller NW folks, and overall a great experience. I'm sure I could say more, but now I'm going to bed. :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Christ is where chaos ends..."

My devotional today was about lighthouses - how they provide light and direction to ships in stormy seas, and how we as Christians are supposed to be, in a similar fashion, lights to the world. One phrase stood out to me: Christ is where chaos ends. "But, that isn't really true..." I thought to myself. "Christians experience chaos all the time." However, upon further reflection:

If God in Christ is real and trustworthy, then Christ IS where the chaos ends. The problem is that we haven't, in this life, fully obtained Christ. We are caught between the often-stated 'now and not yet'. Sometimes I think we forget what this really means. By faith, we believe that God is for us in Christ Jesus. But too many times Christians - especially, I think, in wealthy, safe, nations - tend to experience our relationship with Christ in terms of wealth and safety. But this is not reality.

The reality of life is that it is fraught with chaos, and although we should not seek out chaos (it will find us soon enough!), we should not run from it either. But this means depending upon Christ within the midst of chaos. If Christ is not enough to sustain us in the chaos, if we prefer to rely upon our wealth and safety, then it shows how little we understand faith.

Of course, we must also be wise... especially when we are responsible for others. But, in a sense, as Christians, we are all responsible to others all the time. We have to weigh the needs of our neighbors almost as if they are the needs of family. We must always weigh our lives as being worthy of sacrifice for the sake of others, and the Gospel. This runs directly contrary to most of what our society tells us, all the time.

To return to the lighthouse metaphor, it is actually that we, as Christians, are BOTH the lighthouse AND the vessel in the storm. We are grounded upon Christ and have the Spirit's gifts to bring light, direction, healing and hope to those around us. At the same time, we are being tossed about and drifting toward unseen dangers and only the light of Christ - primarily as seen through other 'lighthouses' - can help us to navigate our way.

My prayer for every one of us today is that we would understand by the Spirit's guidance what it means to trust in Christ more fully, so that we can truly become beacons of light and hope, grounded in confidence that Christ is sustaining us, even as we are tossed around by the waves of life. Amen.