Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Follow-Up to Truth

Leaving the Incarnation aside, the very notion of God’s existence is not emotionally satisfactory anymore for great numbers of people, which does not mean that God ceases to exist. M. Sartre finds God emotionally unsatisfactory in the extreme, as do most of my friends of less stature than he. The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul. Flannery O'Conner in a letter to Betty Hester, September 6, 1955.1


Sunday, March 23, 2014


Ben Harper is a great singer songwriter and "Diamonds on the Inside" is one of his best.
Diamonds on the Inside
(Listen to this song here
I knew a girl, her name was Truth
She was a horrible liar
She couldn't spend one day alone
But she couldn't be satisfied 
When you have everything
You have everything to lose
She made herself a bed of nails
And she's planning on putting it to use 
But she had diamonds on the inside
She had diamonds on the inside
She had diamonds on the inside
A candle throws its light into the darkness
In a nasty world so shines a good deed
Make sure the fortune that you seek
Is the fortune that you need 
So tell me why the first to ask
Is the last to give every time
What you say and do not mean
Follows you close behind 
She had diamonds on the inside
She had diamonds on the inside
She wore diamonds on the inside
Like the soldier long standing under fire
Any change comes as a relief
Let the giver's name remain unspoken
Well she is just a generous thief 
But she had diamonds on the inside
She had diamonds on the inside
She wore diamonds on the inside
She wore diamonds 
Oh diamonds
She had diamonds
She wore diamonds
Ben Harper; © EMI Music Publishing

This song represents a personification of the concept of "Truth." Ben Harper is writing in an ancient tradition of taking an idea like truth and writing of it as if it were a woman. The great king Solomon did something similar in Proverbs 8 where he personified "Wisdom." Harper ascribes many things to truth.

Lies are obvious; truth is a horrible liar.
Truth only exists in relationship with others.
Truth is never satisfied; Truth is never complete.
Truth is everything; when you have it you have everything; when you have truth you have everything to lose.
Truth requires severe discipline.
Truth is beauty on the inside.
Truth is light in a dark world.
Truth is true fortune.
Truth is the first thing for which we ask but find that it is the last thing given.
The untruths we speak follow us closely.
Anything that feels like truth is quickly embraced; for, after all of the darkness, it feels like a glimmer of light.
Truth can be a generous thief: stealing from one and giving to another.

Wisdom and truth are closely linked. Consider the following verses from Proverbs 8:1, 32-36.
Listen as Wisdom calls out!
    Hear as understanding raises her voice! . . .
“And so, my children,  listen to me,
    for all who follow my ways are joyful.
Listen to my instruction and be wise.
    Don’t ignore it.
Joyful are those who listen to me,
    watching for me daily at my gates,
    waiting for me outside my home!
For whoever finds me finds life
    and receives favor from the Lord.
But those who miss me injure themselves.
    All who hate me love death.”

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Many are talking about entitlement. It has become the recognized sin of our time. A provincial premier uses taxpayer's money for expensive airfare and the media speaks of an environment of entitlement within the government. The Boomer generation feels entitled to an affluent retirement after years of hard work. The Millennial generation feels entitled to start out on their own with at least as much prosperity as they had in the household in which they were raised. North Americans believe they are entitled to a degree of safety that is far beyond what is achievable in most other parts of the world.

Guy Kawasaki says, "Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment."1 I like that. When I read those words I hear them in the opposite order: "Enchantment is the opposite of entitlement." I want to live with a sense of enchantment; to be enchanted by the beauty of this country; enchanted by the good in people; enchanted by every breath I get to take; enchanted by forgiveness; enchanted by self-sacrifice; enchanted by love. That might just cure me of my own sense of entitlement.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Flight Behaviour

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, Flight Behavior. As usual, this Kingsolver book is about the concept of "home." In this particular narrative, she speaks of the tenuous nature of the "home." She weaves a story that describes the tension between the draw toward home and the desire to fly away to something else. If we are honest with ourselves, we have all experienced this tension. We build ourselves a warm and cozy life only to find ourselves just a little bored and wondering what someone else's life is like. I am convinced that this partly explains the tremendous popularity of movies and other forms of entertainment. They briefly allow us to escape and immerse ourselves in the other life.

Along with the tension of home versus flight, the author looks at "conformity" versus "difference." In one scene, we find the protagonist, Dellarobia, considering her son, Preston, her boss, Ovid Byron, and her best friend, Dovey.
[Preston's] earnest expression and level brow moved Dellarobia to a second sight: Preston would go far. Maybe he'd be a vet, farmers were crying for them around here. Or even the kind of vet that looks after elephants in zoos. For all her worry about his lack of advantages, Preston would be like Ovid Byron. Already he seemed set apart by a devotion to his own pursuits that was brave and unconforming. People were rarely like that, despite universally stated intentions. Most were like herself and Dovey, the one-time rebel girls with their big plans to fly out of here. Her boldness had been confined to such tiny quarters, it counted for about as much as mouse turds in a cookie jar. . . . But here sat her lionhearted son. Maybe it wasn't a decision, something drawn from the soup of birth. A lightning strike.1
Kingsolver shows great depth of knowledge of the human spirit. She tells of Preston, a boy who is "set apart by a devotion to his own pursuits that was brave and unconforming;" and then points out that people are rarely like that. Oh sure, the universally stated intention is that people want to be different from the crowd, but the fact is, most conform to the crowd. That's what makes it the crowd.

How important is conformity or non-conformity? Is this part of our desire to find a comfortable home? If we "fit in," things can be more comfortable for a time; but, what happens when we start to think for ourselves; what happens when we diverge from the herd? I must ask myself, "In what ways do I conform?" "In what ways do I diverge?" "How much am I truly thinking for myself?" These are large philosophical, ethical, theological, and lifestyle questions. Barbara Kingsolver has been successful in drawing me into reflection upon these questions. That is the value of a good book.

1 (Kingsolver 2012, 265, 266)

Work Cited:
Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. Toronto: Harper Perennial, 2012.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bearing or Being

Jesus knew very well that "the medium is the message."1 Therefore, he did not come to establish a new religion; he came to establish a new community. Peter Steinfels said,
The work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing, and self-sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline. In that sense, the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ’s message, but to be the message.2
Do I bear the message or am I the message? What happens when I feel I must choose between speaking the message and modeling the message? To which do I naturally default, bearing or embodying? Let us confess our answers one to another.

1 Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Marshall McLuhan, McGraw Hill, 1964.
2 Peter Steinfels, On John Howard Yoder, qtd. in The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier, Tony Jones, Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Capax Humanitatis

Brilliant words from N.T. Wright:
I think it’s important that Christian theologians give a fully Trinitarian account of God’s action in the world, in which, though God may be thought of as a pure spirit, it is vital for our knowing who God is that he is the father who sends the son and who sends the spirit of the son (Galatians 4.4-7). He is capax humanitatis, because humans were made in his image. His action in the world is not to be thought of as invasive, intrusive or (still less) ‘interventionist.’ . . . God is always at work in the world, and God is always at work in, and addressing, human beings, not only through one faculty such as the soul or spirit but through every fibre of our beings, not least our bodies. . . . Why should the creator not relate to his creation in a thousand different ways? Why should brain, heart and body not all be wonderfully interrelated in so many ways that we need the rich language of mind, soul and spirit to begin to do justice to it all?
The concept of capax humanitatis is new to me and a very helpful description. This explains that God is "capable of holding all of human nature." Because God made humans in his image, God is fully capable of holding, within himself, all human nature. This is particularly useful as we consider the Son of God: Jesus. In Jesus, we see a person who holds all of human nature within himself; yet, is fully God at the same time. He holds all of human nature; he is the ultimate and complete human; and still has room to be more than human.

Galatians 4:4-7

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (New International Version; NIV)

Work Cited:
"Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for One and One for All Reflections on Paul’s Anthropology in his Complex Contexts" By the Rt Revd Prof N. T. Wright University of St Andrews.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creation and Moltmann

Placing a book on your "Amazon Wish List" is not the same as reading it. I wish it were that easy. So, I cannot completely speak about a book called The Spirit in Creation and New Creation, by J├╝rgen Moltmann. I will read this book after I have read a few other books on my "to be read" bookshelf. (The shelf was so full that the books are now spread out over three shelves on a nice cabinet in my office. Will I ever learn to read books and then buy more books?) I expect I will like this book by Moltmann; and some of those who read this blog will like it as well. RJS over at "Jesus Creed" has done us all a service by quoting a few intriguing sections from chapter five.

RJS tells us that, according to Moltmann, creation is a trinitarian act: "God the Father creates through his eternal Word in the energies of his Spirit this non-divine reality, which though it is non-divine is nevertheless interpenetrated by God."1

Moltmann points to a deeper understanding of creation, one that involves the ongoing creative power of the Holy Spirit.
all created beings are aligned towards their future consummation and are driven towards that through the energies of God’s Spirit. The creation open to the future has to be understood as creation fashioned by the Spirit. In this direction and movement it is not merely a material reality; it is a spiritual one too.2
Moltmann suggests that
Genesis 1 does not describe a perfect world, but only the beginning of a creation which just arrives at its true nature in the “new creation.” Genesis 1 describes only Act I of creation, the beginning of creation history which arrives at its goal and its perfecting in the kingdom of God’s glory. . . . This eternal creation, world without end, is not something lying behind us; it lies ahead of us. Creation in time is aligned towards eternal life. . . . In this respect the “new creation” will bring not only redemption from sin, death, and chaos, but also the completion and perfecting of the first act of creation, and the fulfillment of its initial promise.3 
The starting point for a specifically Christian doctrine of creation is the Christ event: the coming of Christ into this world, his lowering of himself and his exaltation, his self-giving reconciliation of the cosmos, and his resurrection for the gathering together of all things (anakephalaiosis). With this event the new creation of all things in their eternal form begins in the midst of this world. … The eschatological perspective of the consummation of all things is the justification for the Christological way of reading the creation stories in the Old Testament.4
The Christian doctrine of creation begins with John 1 . . . . The Spirit of the new creation is understood to be the anticipation of future glory, which will fulfill the promise of creation, the sighs and yearnings of created being, and the human expectation of the redemption of the body from the fate of death. The spirit of creation awaits the Spirit of the new creation, and the Spirit of the new creation takes up this expectation, although this is a new entry of God into the creation process.5
The Spirit was and is poured out on all believers without discrimination. That means equality. Sons and daughters will prophesy – there is no discrimination, and no subordination of women to men. The young will have visions and the old will have dreams – there is no detraction because of age; no one is too young and no one is too old. The Spirit is poured out on slaves; there are no longer any masters and no ruling classes; all are equally endowed with the Spirit. For Paul this equality among God’s children widens out to include ” Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, men and women.” They are all one in Christ and heirs of the new creation (Gal 3:26-28).6
Moltmann is a theologian working out theology that is independent of world-views or variations in scientific fashion. His view of the Spirit in creation and new creation is very helpful. RJS adds that
Raw facts are incredibly limited in their explanatory power. A map of one’s genome tells you very little about the “person-ness” of that individual. Christian theology informs the interpretation of nature, its purposes and goals, not the formulas of physics or the significance of the genome.7
These quotes inspire me to actively seek to see the Spirit in creation and in the new creation.

1 (Moltman 2012, 66)
2 (Moltman 2012, 66)
3 (Moltman 2012, 68) and
4 (Moltman 2012, 68, 69)
5 (Moltman 2012, 70)
6 (Moltman 2012, 75, 76)

Work cited:
Moltman, Jurgen. The Spirit In Creation and New Creation:The Spirit in Creation and New Creation: Science and Theology in Western and Orthodox Realms. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Follow-Up to Much Afraid

The Much Afraid album contains a song called "Crazy Times." Jars of Clay band members have said in interviews that this song is about how prayer is often "the last place we go." I understand what they mean. We go about life without a thought about God and think that we are fine - for a while. Life soon gets crazy and we find that we need more than just ourselves to get through the complexities of life. Through our tears, we realize that we are not self-sufficient, we cry out to God but, we do not know how to pray. We have lost the ability to rely on a personal God whom we have ignored for so long. We climb the ladder of prayer but there are missing rungs. The ladder has been neglected and damaged and we have failed to notice until we reach out to use it. God, save me from these crazy times!
Crazy Times (Listen to it here.
(Words and music by Dan Haseltine, Stephen Mason, Matt Odmark, and Charlie Lowell, copyright Essential Records, 1997.)
You're cold that way
And that's why you say
The things that you say
You can't attract
The things that you lack
You're trying in vain 
It seems it's always the crazy times
You find you'll wake up and realize
It takes more than your saline eyes
To make things right 
You spiral down
You've broken your crown
You don't feel like a queen
You've seen the proof
But you're still crying wolf
You'll never believe 
It seems it's always the crazy times
You find you'll wake up and realize
It takes more than your saline eyes
To make things right 
You try to climb a broken ladder
Grip the missing rungs
And fall down, down, down
Seems sometime ago you said
This wouldn't last
And now you sit here crying 
Beside your bed
You feel left for dead
You kneel in the dark.. 
It takes more than your saline eyes
To make things right 
It seems it's always the crazy times
You find you'll wake up and realize
It takes more than your saline eyes
To make things right