Friday, November 26, 2010


The incarnation of God is a concept that is difficult for many to understand and believe. The word simply means to take on flesh. One who is incarnate is embodied in flesh. Thus we speak of Jesus as being "God embodied in flesh" or taking on human form. It is a mysterious and difficult concept to grasp. This poem/song by Wayne Watson expresses why it was necessary for God to put on flesh and walk among us.
One Christmas Eve
(Words and music by Wayne Watson; 1994 Material Music/Word Music)

He was a loving father
Gentle master of his home
But all alone against their love for God
No Savior of his own
Unmoved and softly cynical
Of those he thought naive
God come to earth? A virgin birth?
No, how could anybody believe?

His Christmas evening solitaire
Beside the fire’s glow.
Out of the window tiny sparrows
In the spell of a chilling snow.
And moved with deep compassion
With a redeeming plan, he rose
He tried in vain to gather them
To a shelter from the killing winter cold.

Oh, but simple creatures seldom
Comprehend the ways of man.
Sometimes love expressed is met with doubt and fear.
He thought, “If I could only fly among you,
I know I could make you understand. Just for a moment walk beside you
I know it would all be clear.
It would all be clear.”

And even before the thought had left his mind
Christmas bells from far away
Reminded him of simple truth
He’d denied until that very day,
How Jesus born the Savior
Walked this earth with mortal man.
Another soul brought safely home
And Christmas would never be the same again.
It would never be the same.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky sets up two antagonistic theories of the way in which mankind seeks virtue and social order. The first is related by Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov (a wealthy landowner) as he explains that Ivan Karamazov gave an address in which he stated that
there exists no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that if there is and has been any love on earth up to now, it has not come from natural law but solely from people's belief in their immortality. . . . Were mankind's belief in their immortality to be destroyed, not only love but also any living power to continue the life of the world would at once dry up in it. Not only that, but then nothing would be immoral any longer, everything would be permitted, even anthropophagy. And even that is not all: he ended with the assertion that for every separate person . . . who believes neither in God nor his own immortality, the moral law of nature ought to change immediately into the exact opposite of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to the point of evil-doing, should not only be permitted to man but should be acknowledged as the necessary, the most reasonable, and all but the noblest result of his situation. . . . Evildoing should not only be permitted but even should be acknowledged as the most necessary and most intelligent solution for the situation of every godless person!*

The second theory, as expressed by Mikhail Osipovich Rakitin, a young liberal seminary student, is that
mankind will find strength in itself to live for virtue, even without believing in the immortality of the soul! Find it in love of liberty, equality, fraternity, . . .#

This book was written in 1880 and it seems to me that we have spent much of the intervening years arguing back and forth about these two theories. Can one have love of mankind, virtue, morality, and social order without a belief in God and the immortality of the soul? Or, are such qualities impossible without the concept of final consequences for our actions? This argument is particularly strong today as one considers the long history of world religions and the voices of militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

I have found it helpful to listen to atheists, agnostics, and God followers. I read books by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking and balance them with ones by Alistair McGrath and Francis Collins. I talk to my atheist friends and ask them how they live. And then I keep quiet - and listen. I do the same with my friends who follow Jesus. You could try it yourself. If you are a follower of a religion, try inviting an atheist over for dinner. If you are an atheist or agnostic try listening to a follower of one of the world religions as you eat dinner together some time. I highly recommend it.

*Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamozov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002 edition, p 69.

#Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamozov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002 edition, p 82.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Existence of God

To a woman who had a lack of faith in life after death:
"No doubt it is devastating. One cannot prove anything here, but it is possible to be convinced."
"How? By What?"
"By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you'll be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul. And if you reach complete selflessness in the love of your neighbor, then undoubtedly you will believe, and no doubt will even be able to enter your soul. This has been tested. It is certain."*

*Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamozov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002 edition, p 56.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Lady of Little Faith

I have been reading The Brother's Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.* It is a brilliant book that will generously reward any reader. You can expect to read a few blog entries dealing with insights from this book.

Dostoevsky demonstrates remarkable knowledge of the human psyche in the chapter entitled "A Lady of Little Faith." An elder in the church is probing into motivations and false humility with a woman who claims to love all of mankind and yet wonders if she has the perseverance to continue to love mankind in difficult circumstances.
"I heard the exact same thing, a long time ago to be sure, from a doctor," the elder remarked. "He was then an old man, and unquestionably intelligent. He spoke just as frankly as you, humorously, but with a sorrowful humor. 'I love mankind,' he said, 'but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons. In my dreams,' he said, 'I often went so far as to think passionately of serving mankind, and, it may be, would really have gone to the cross for people if it were somehow suddenly necessary, and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days, this I know from experience. As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me,' he said. 'On the other hand, it has always happened that the more I hate people individually, the more ardent becomes my love for humanity as a whole.'"
The elder goes on to say that,
. . . active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one's life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on a stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.#
Too well I see myself in these remarks. Could it be that I am just like that doctor or the woman of little faith?

*Note, there are multiple spellings of this Russian name owing to the fact that it has been translated from Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский. The two most common spellings are Dostoevsky and Dostoyevsky.

#Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamozov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002 edition, p 56-58.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Am I Here?

Each of us... at some time in our lives, turns to someone - a father, a brother, a God... and asks..."Why am I here? What was I meant to be?" -Commander Spock "Star Trek - The Motion Picture," 1979.
"Star Trek - The Motion Picture" was on television recently and I recorded it to watch at my leisure. This movie was an attempt by the Star Trek franchise to explore ultimate realities. It asks questions about the existence of logic, consciousness, creativity, friendship, love, and imagination. You will have to decide for yourself how well the movie stimulates your own thinking in these areas.
The quote from Commander Spock is certainly true. At some point, we all ask the questions, "Why am I here?" and, "What was I meant to be?" The way we answer these questions shape our life and how we respond to the world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Law

I have been watching the comments on the blog of Professor John Stackhouse regarding Mark Driscoll. Some of the comments made me think of this song by Derek Webb.
New Law
(Lyrics and Music by Derek Webb)

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

You can listen to the song here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


If God is God and He is running the universe. He has first claim on my life. There is no room for wrestling power away from God or taking on power ourselves. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous recognized that the most important hurdle for the addicted person is to admit that they are not God.* Yet, so often, I make me the centre of the universe. I think my projects, my life, my comfort are the most important. I want people to follow my leadership and I am not against the use of power to get them to follow. Henri Nouwen said,

One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power—political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power—even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to power but emptied himself and became as we are. The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all. . . . What makes this temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life (In the Name of Jesus, p. 58-59).

The temptation to power can be as small as wanting my own way and my own comfort while I ignoring the needs of others. The temptation to power can be about building my career, my ministry, my kingdom. The temptation to power can be as big as politics, economics, and military might.
I need to get some things right in my mind. I want to bow the knee to the One who is truly running the universe and live my life the way He planned. I will let me be me; I will let God be God.

*Some of these words are influenced by my reading of Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002, p. 52.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


(Lyrics and music by Nichole Nordeman)
(Listen here)
Have I come too casually?
Because it seems to me
There's something I've neglected
How does one approach a deity with informality
And still protect the sacred?
'Cause you came and chose to wear the skin of all of us
And it's easy to forget You left a throne
And the line gets blurry all the time
Between daily and divine
And it's hard to know the difference

Oh, let me not forget to tremble
Oh, let me not forget to tremble
Face down on the ground do I dare
To take the liberty to stare at you
Oh, let me not,
Oh, let me not forget to tremble

What a shame to think that I'd appear
Even slightly cavalier
In the matter of salvation
Do I claim this gift You freely gave
As if it were mine to take
With such little hesitation?
'Cause you came and stood among the very least of us
And it's easy to forget you left a throne

Oh, let me not forget to tremble
Oh, let me not forget to tremble
Face down on the ground do I dare
To take the liberty to stare at you
Oh, let me not,
Oh, let me not forget to tremble

The cradle and the grave could not contain Your divinity
Neither can I oversimplify this love

Oh, let me not forget to tremble
Face down on the ground do I dare
To take the liberty to stare at you
Oh, let me
Oh, let me not forget to tremble.

Listen to it here.