Did a voice test with a new mic setup. This is one of my favorite passages. Let me know what you think!
Your life has been a short, carefree one so far. I wish I could capture this time and wrap it around you forever, so it surrounds you like a warm blanket and keeps you away from life’s coldest realities. As you grow up, you’ll begin to face these realities. I can’t keep that from happening and I don’t necessarily want to, but man…why do they have to sometimes hit you so young? I can already see the confusion in your eyes when you sense cruelty or you see that not everyone wants to be your friend, even though you’re so eager to find your next BFF, like the little social butterfly you are.
Your name means “to pause and reflect” in Hebrew. So, with that note, there are some specific things I want you to pause and keep with you. I want you to wear these words in your soul until they become a part of you.
1) You are beautiful, but remember that true beauty comes from within. (1 Sam. 16:7) I was reminded tonight of the absolute blitzkrieg of images that bombard you everyday, reminding you that you need to look a certain body type, have a certain bone structure or reach a certain status (no less than a Princess, of course) to be loved by the world. You told me that you were “afraid of becoming fat”. I told you that I only want you to be healthy and your 5 year old mind shouldn’t be partaking in such concerns. This world is at war for your soul. It’s a battle I’m ready to fight for you. I will continue to reaffirm that you are beautiful, no matter what and that your soul is beautiful to both me and God. This is what matters amidst the billboards, TV ads and endless array of perfect plastic dolls.
2) True beauty comes from pursuing virtue and goodness. Don’t be the “mean girl”. (Psalm 17:15, Psalm 45:7, Is. 51:7, Matt. 6:33) I am aware that you are a girl with beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile. I’ve seen many people tell you that. I just want you to remember that your form is a small part of who you are. When you decide to stand for the oppressed, the isolated, the forgotten and befriend them (as I know you are already keen to do) you elevate your beauty as well as theirs. That’s when the most beautiful object created shines through you – Christ. He is the source of true beauty. If you can remember that, even if your outward beauty were to be taken from you (which is mostly assured when you get as old as mommy and daddy), you will radiate a deeper beauty than any runway model or Barbie doll.
3) Pain and suffering are gifts that refine us into icons of God. (Luke 9:23) Someone will break your heart. Someone will break a promise. Someone will let you down. Someone will hurt you in some way. The world will constantly do it’s best to make you run hard and fast from pain. It will tell you that the ultimate good is to rid yourself of all suffering and pain and to just try to make yourself as happy as possible.
This is a lie.
You can’t escape pain and suffering, but you can be truly happy. Here’s how: first, recognize that loving others and not constantly looking out for yourself is one part of it. The second and most important part is that true joy comes from the Lord. He is your comforter. It’s OK to cry and to grieve. It’s OK to embrace sorrow and soak in it. Just remember that Jesus Christ is there with you, wiping your tears and mending your wounds. He experienced it himself. He took it upon himself and now pain and suffering have a redemptive power that can only be found within him.
I wish none of it was true. That you would never experience pain ever. But I know that’s impossible.
Instead, I leave you with the greatest gift I know how to give. The love of our Savior. You may look back on the prayers we said at your bedside and roll your eyes. You may one day think about the cheesy Bible songs we sung together and scoff. You may even wonder how I could even be so ignorant to believe in an invisible being.
But I hope you never, ever forget the love I gave you. I could only love like that because of Jesus. And I know his love is greater than any worldly lies.
The other night Billy and Zach had the chance to sit down with the authors of “Fire From Ashes: The Reality of Perpetual Conversion” from Ancient Faith Publishing, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and Steve Robinson. It was a great conversation on crawling out from the darkness of a faith that’s been trodden by the world, the church and sin.
We talk about confession, dealing with clericalism and why Steve is crazy!
You can listen to the whole thing here!
Join us on Sunday, October 5th as we talk with Eric Kaplan, co-executive producer on The Big Bang Theory and television writer for shows such as Malcolm in the Middle, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, The Simpsons and The Late Show by David Letterman. Eric is also an agnostic with some keen insights on the nature of reality, thought and paradox.
We’ll talk about his new book Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation, a humorous metaphysical exploration of the jolly fat man in a red suit. Matt Groening calls it “The funniest book on philosophy…well…ever.” Follow the event on Livestream here.
For past Roundtable episodes check out the archives here.
Today marks the 13th year since two commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers, killing almost 3,000 people. The events of that day rocked the American consciousness. Soon we found ourselves swept up into a whirlwind of fear. We declared war on Saddam Hussein, looking for nuclear weapons which were nowhere to be found less than a year after the initial attack. We also sent soldiers to Afghanistan to fight against Islamic radicals providing safe haven for terrorists. We considered ourselves the hand of justice.
But this vision of swift justice rapidly evaporated. After several years of war and over a decade of unending bloodshed, we find ourselves again and again in a cycle of violence and fear. I have to ask myself … how has this really affected the Church in America? Have any of us learned anything from 9/11? I think there is much that America has learned, but sadly there’s still much many churches and Christians across America have yet to learn. Here are three lessons that the American Church still has to learn:
I like to collect quotes and then play around with my crude skills in GIMP (the poor man’s photoshop). These are all for my website, Theologues.com.
Here’s a collection of the images I’ve made. The C.S. Lewis quote is credited to Cyra Thomson.
This article originally was published on Theologues.com
Taking the Absolutes
I’ve struggled a lot with doubt in recent years. I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home. I was homeschooled and almost all of my life revolved around church and family. So, when I started to question many things about my faith, including how true the scriptures are, I began to have a crisis of faith. Many times, we grow up in a world where we assume the absolutes. As we grow up or gain new information, we make decisions about how to enfold this information in our lives. Taking the scriptures as unequivocally, 100% true is something that is considered the backbone of belief for many Christians. To discard it is to utterly abandon the faith itself. I’ve come to my own conclusions on this subject and I think neither the materialist nor the fundamentalist are correct. Awhile ago, Michael Gungor, a prominent worship leader and musical artist stated in an interview that he had “lost his metaphysic” and then in a later blog post, Gungor responded to an article stating that he had “drifted from Biblical Orthodoxy”. In the blog post, he said:
Do I believe God exists? Yes. Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes. Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes. Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t. Why don’t I? Because of science and rational thought.
He then goes on to explain how he can believe in the miracles of Christ without having to believe all supernatural events in the Bible. And I would agree. The Bible is a collection of books and every word is inspired by God, but that doesn’t mean every single word is held with the same regard in terms of literal criticism. We don’t take Christ’s words to “cut off your hand if it causes you to stumble” literally and we don’t take the virgin birth as figurative -at least, I don’t. For his position, Gungor was skewered by many Christian bloggers.
The Great Divide
It can get tricky, but I think there’s more to this debate than just a theological divide. There’s also a philosophical one as well. While one man looks at the past and says, “Things weren’t that great and their knowledge is incomparable to ours”, another man looks at the past and says, “Things were better back then and we underestimate the knowledge of the ancients.” My argument is that both men could be right and both men could be wrong, depending on the specific case. Taking the story of Noah as an example; Gungor does make a valid point in his blog post and it is that based on the scientific knowledge we now have of the earth, most aspects of the flood and the ark are not only improbable, but they’re insanely improbable. The diversification of the races and populations alone is not traceable to the event of the flood through genomic research. With all that being said, nothing is impossible with God. I don’t rule out the possibility that God could have flooded the earth and repopulated it with Noah’s family, or that maybe the story itself is referencing a regional flood but the truth is I don’t really have the capacity to know fully what happened. I can say that I still trust in the Bible as truth because the story of Noah is not useless if it’s not true. Rather, the story is about faith and obeying the voice of God. As G.K. Chesterton notes in Orthodoxy:
Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.
One does not need to disregard physical reality to have faith, but we need to realize that faith is not constrained by physical reality. The idea that faith is constrained by physical reality is a product of the enlightenment and the rise of humanism. We tend to no longer look at our forbearers with any degree of faith in their wisdom, but rather we look to the present scholars and academics to guide us in our relation to our faith. In a way, I understand this mentality. With the dawn of the Reformation, the gates had been opened for the religious to no longer be ruled by dictatorial mandates on what or how to believe. The flip-side of this, however, is that many began to abandon the entire foundation for the Christian faith and in doing so, decided to construct the Christian God in an image more suiting to their fancy. The Reformation brought freedom in many areas, but this freedom was abused and maimed to heighten man and his intuitions of the Holy Spirit to be above any ecclesiastical body.
The Fundamentalist Cometh
Then, we saw the backlash to the enlightenment with fundamentalism. In essence, fundamentalism had noble goals. To bring men and women back to entrusting sacred tradition, but in the scriptures. Fundamentalists put sola scriptura on steroids. The Roman magisterium had long been dethroned in the minds of the fundamentalists, but after seeing the liberals cut out all the supernatural and miraculous from the Christian faith, they decided to return back to making the world conform to the scriptures instead. The fundamentalists decided to break through the prevailing culture’s theological abrogations and determined to shape culture for God themselves. As Presbyterian minister and a father of the fundamentalist movement, J. Gresham Machen once said:
To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent–is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God’s truth. Christian laypeople must be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clichés of pop culture.
The problems that began to arise with this view is that it still presupposes that through rigorous study, man can find the invariable truth of God and all areas of culture, including science, must conform to “God’s truth” (i.e. The Bible). Furthermore, this creates a dichotomy which need not exist. Christians do not need to be in opposition to science and although Ken Ham might tell you differently, the Bible is not a science or historical textbook. It’s God’s way of communicating the truth of Jesus Christ, the Living Word, to us. The scriptures are as St. John Chrysostom would say “God’s baby talk”. We can no further reason out the historical accuracy of scripture than a baby can measure the dimensions of a painting they’re staring in awe of. Inerrancy is essentially a unicorn when it comes to the human understanding of scripture. One can argue that the Holy Spirit illuminates people to it’s true meaning and I would agree…but only in the right context and only in certain things, not a Matrix-like download gnosis of the way the universe works. That’s only for God. Which, leads me to my next point.
Living in Paradox
The church fathers looked at the apostolic tradition and the knowledge that came with it as part of a winding mystery. I covered much of this in my article “A Phrase More Christians Need to Say“. The bread and wine are a centerpiece to this mystery. That’s what “sacrament” means. Partaking in the Christian life is not about filling our heads with unending reason, but it’s about filling out hearts with the mystery of our faith. The “unknown known” (as Donald Rumsfeld would say) is the Gospel. It’s that Christ was crucified, buried and rose again. We put our confidence in the Gospel and in how it has been relayed to us through the deposit of Tradition. There is latitude for me to put less confidence in an earth that is 10,000 years old because neither the scriptures or Tradition ask that of me. Rather, they ask me to put confidence in a God who is bigger than reality itself and His son, Jesus Christ. My conclusion is that we must retain the mystery of our faith if we are to ever align our minds to God. We belong to a religion based on paradox. A being came to earth who is both fully God and fully man. We worship three persons in one God. Impossible, right? Welcome to being a Christian. Let’s humble ourselves and take to believing that maybe paradoxically we can believe that Noah built an ark while also not necessarily holding it to be a verifiable, undeniable truth. We are the “errant” ones. Not God.
This article originally was published on Theologues.com
I’ve been trying to escape the title of “leader” almost my whole professional life. I never really have understood why until recently, but I think it’s in part because I imagined leadership to be a job for people with more drive to succeed than I had. I thought of it as an echelon for the powerbrokers and the people who cared more about their status and who loved playing “office politics”. Admittedly, this was an immature mentality I had. However, over the years, I learned that the best leaders were people I could most relate to. They were people I automatically wanted to emulate whether they had a “director” or “leader” title or not.
As I grew in my own career, I started to realize I wanted to be a leader, but by then, I had missed many opportunities to push myself to that goal. I had a comfort zone and because I clung to it too much, I had convinced myself that I was not actually fit for leadership, but the truth is that I was the only one holding myself back from being a leader where I was at. It’s now clear to me that to be a good leader, there are qualities which someone may possess and they don’t even realize that this makes them just as good (if not better) of a leader as the person above them.
What do Adolph Hitler, Fred Phelps and Justin Bieber have in common?
They are people we love to hate – to varying degrees, of course. In each case, society has made a verdict. (Of course, Justin Bieber is an exception; he is not considered a truly evil person … just a brat.)
It’s easy for each of us to forgive and love our neighbor - someone we already have a relationship with, or at least no real disdain for. But it’s a whole lot harder to forgive and love serial murderers, bigots, despots, pedophiles, thieves, and people who have committed acts so heinous that to even extend forgiveness is seen as weakness or injustice. Essentially, it’s harder to love people that our society has already found to be evil in the sight of the world.
Why I Love the Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is my favorite Gospel. It’s also one of the more controversial Gospels of the four, because it’s not a synoptic Gospel. This means it doesn’t cover exactly the same territory or have the same narrative structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. While those three books cover Jesus’ latter ministry, John covers a wider timeline and gives us the three-year span of Christ’s ministry. Some also question if it was even authored by John, but the Catholic and Orthodox churches affirm the traditional view that the author is St. John the Apostle.
The Gospel of John clearly has a different mission. Its style and arrangement are more directed towards Gentiles, with an emphasis on unpacking philosophical and theological ramifications for the incarnation of Jesus Christ, starting right off the bat with a dive into Greek philosophy. It’s intellectually rich, but also simple enough that a child could understand the significance of the events told.
In the early church, the four gospels were to be read by new Christians in succession, with John being the last one read around Passover (Pascha). It’s a book that highly emphasizes Jesus as the Christ and takes focus on the last year of His ministry, so for the newly baptized, it could be thought of as the crescendo to a beautiful theological orchestra.