Another thought for the day

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I’m having another go at Michael Welker’s God the Spirit. It is always a treat to formulate for oneself a theology or philosophy then later find a thinker who has already wonderfully encapsulated that thought. Makes me feel that even if I’m not on a popular path, I’m not off the trail.

Here’s a bit from Welker on diversity and unity (my favorite themes when thinking about the Spirit) within society, and how we are suffering from the lack of a proper understanding of these key spiritual traits:

Human beings have a great difficulty tolerating social complexity. Again and again the attempt is made to find the connecting link that is ultimately common to all: definitions are offered of “the” human person, “the” subject, “the” one universal history, “the” encompassing structure of intersubjectivity, “the” lifeworld, “the” conflicts, “the” requirements of morality, “the” threat to humankind. That is the beginning of either vain attempts or successful campaigns to gain wider currency for ideological patterns and structures.

By contrast, many societies today have by their conscious choice of pluralism demonstrated at least a vague sense of the action of the Spirit. Admittedly, they have frequently fostered that apparent, dissociative “pluralism” which is destroyed by individualism, which results in the dissolution of all forms, and which wields the weapons of ideology and power politics in tis fight for specific portions of consciousness and definitions of reality.

With a minimum of theological instinct, theologies and church leaders have, on the basis of a simplistic understanding of “unity” (e.g. monohierarchical unity), condemned pluralism as if it were a unitary phenomenon. In doing so they have demonstrated an absence of the power to distinguish between individually distintegrative pluralism and the life-enhancing, invigorating pluralism of the Spirit.

Theologies and churches have reacted sensitively to individualism, as the success story of “existential interpretation” makes clear. They have thrown open the door to the abstract and indeterminate “individual.” In doing so they have made room for illusory political and moral postures, as well as for many of the processes of a profound societal self-endangerment and self-destruction.

God’s Spirit is the power and might of God in which in constantly new ways people are rescued and led out of distress and danger, out of demonic possession, and above all out of diverse forms of self-endangerment and self-destruction.

From early on, God’s Spriit has been experienced as a power that exercises deliverance by menas of appearances and processes that are difficult to grasp — appearances and processes that can be termed “emergent”. In the midst of disintegration, the Spirit restores community in an unexpected, improbable way. The Spirit connects human beings, interweaving them in an unforeseen manner in diverse structural patterns of life.

It is not that the world has rejected the work of the Spirit, it is more that the Church has far too long let an engaging doctrine of the Spirit lie fallow and empty. We have made our essentially binarian theology do too much, and after hundreds of years of the Reformation we are tiring out. Europe is the best symbol of this. Grasping after more control and power over this process, as has been the chief response of the various churches over the centuries is precisely that which hastens the process. We, as humans, have no ability to manage this process and so muck it all up when we assert ourselves as the managers of God’s kingdom.

The only hope, really the only answer, is to not refresh the theology of two hundred years ago in new approaches to worship or large stadiums filled with suburbanites. The answer is to find those bits which we have left behind, and renew the Church by preaching something new, even as this “something” new is what started it all to begin with. We can’t blame the world for our forgetting who we are. We can help renew the world by remembering.

Thought for the Day

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Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can equip the spirit of blasphemy against you.

—Isaac of Syria

This is true whether the book is fiction or non fiction. Faith is enough of a struggle without wallowing in that which makes us doubt all the more. This isn’t, by the by, anti-intellectualism. Indeed, it’s intellectualism. Read what tells you about the subject, not something from an author whose primary goal is to debase the subject. People can be wrong about God… that’s fine, we all are. But, a heretic… they are anti-intellectual with a bent for division and confusion. Their goal is precisely, and often stated, to destroy the church and destroy the waning faith of those questioning.

And they’re bad for the soul.

A Western Religion?

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Chinese Christians outnumber members of the Communist Party.

The association of Christianity with healing powers may be embarrassing in the West, but in China it is one of conversion’s driving forces, particularly in rural areas that lack health services.

The Spirit does a unique work in each country… and really in too many cases the Christianity of the West is the embarrassing bit. Power is why the pagans of old were converted… and the Spirit seems to be doing a peculiar work in a supposedly, officially, godless land.

Interesting. This is something to watch over the next century.

The real trick, however, is to somehow keep Christianity in lands it has already been established. The missionary thing isn’t new… our problem is staying power.

(thanks to Instapundit for highlighting this great link)

I should…

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…probably note that you might try looking in a couple other spots at times for my occasional musings. Oddly enough my blog contributions are now four fold. Here, and here, and here… and here, but you’re already here so you know that. Hopefully.

Thought for the Day

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Some are reborn through water and the spirit (John 3:5); others receive baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire (Matt. 3:11). I take these four things — water, spirit, fire and Holy Spirit — to mean one and the same Spirit of God. To some the Holy Spirit is water becaues He cleanses the external stains of their bodies. To others He is simply spirit because He makes them active in the practice of virtue. To others He is fire because He cleanses the interior defilement which lies deep within their souls. To others, according to Daniel, He is Holy Spirit because He bestows on them wisdom and spiritual knowledge. (Dan. 1:17; 5:11-12). For the single identical Spirit takes His different names from the different ways in whichHe acts on each person.

–Maximos the Confessor

Teaching History

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“I am very optimistic about what can be done,” McCullough said, “if the nation just decides to recapture its history.”

This from the writer of one of the more engaging history books in recent years.

Everything in our public discourse suffers from a lack of knowing history and a lack of thinking historically. We, as a country, do not know ourselves and this too often leads to conversations without any foundation beyond our own limited perception. Who we are has developed over the last 200+ years, and unless someone knows this history they have little ability to comment on what we are about in this era, whether such a person is within or outside our national borders. Most folks don’t know, and don’t understand, and so the conversation has descended into baseless opinion and, too often, thoughtless blather.

This is true on the Left and the Right. David Broder has more to say on the subject.

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I make note of the recent Christianity Today’s Quotation Marks mostly for the last quote they post.

“Let’s pretend that you are someone who might be willing, in theory, at some point, possibly, to consider maybe doing something that, while not ‘evangelism’-type evangelism, still could be in some way construed as a sort of sharing of hope. Kind of.”
From A Shy Person’s Guide to the Practice of Evangelism, a booklet for Episcopalians, by Steven C. Bonsey.

Some sort of sharing? Indeed! Even if you have the type of personality which God can’t really get around to using in a complete way, there’s always ESP (Evangelism for Shy People). God can in fact use even you… kind of.

kinda like

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A few years ago I took some sailing classes. A good many really. In the last class I took (“Shields 3” for those who care) the teacher seemed a little nonchalant about the actual teaching bits, and the sailing bits for that matter. We did more in the class before, he was a last minute replacement, and the allure of spending more time in the actual ocean was somewhat frustrated by his random “let’s do this instead” manner that kept us in Newport harbor for most of the class. The outline was a waste, as we neither covered advanced navigation, racing technique, or any of the other topics which got me excited about this class.

He also kept letting more and more people in the class who hadn’t signed up, and they hadn’t signed up because the class was closed in order to keep the class small. So the class kept growing, meaning we were limited in how we could practice because there’s only so much a person can do on a sailboat. Put four people on that boat and there’s a lot of sitting around staring and complaining going on, because it’s a fact of sailing as with driving that “I” am a much better sailor than “you”.

On top of this there was hardly any wind for the first few sessions. Then a day came in which there was a lot of wind. The breeze was blowing and the channel was moving with a curiously strong current.

The teacher decided this would be a great day to work on our anchoring skills. So we had to first try and anchor off to the side of the channel, in what is somewhat of an anchorage spot. The fact a race was going on in the channel right next to where we were practicing anchoring did not help the approach. We were yelled at by folks on boats doing exactly what we wanted to do because we were having to spend our time doing something we didn’t want to do. We learned how to anchor in an earlier class, and we surmised that one rule of anchoring is to not do it in the middle of a regata. We also were given more instructions about how to anchor in this earlier class which did not include the suggestion to try and anchor when there is a five knot current rushing through a narrow section. Especially do not try and anchor in front of this narrowing section, unless the teacher of the class tells you to do this, mostly because he wasn’t paying attention and had no other suggestions. We got that first anchoring bit done, cast off again, and marveled for a few moments in the beauty of a fast boat and a fair wind. He wouldn’t have anything to do with that and told us to try anchoring again.

“Where?”

“Right here.”

In the middle of the channel, near the narrowing section while the current was trying to go where we wished we could go… out into the ocean.

So anchor we did. We anchored in a busy channel, with five knot currents, thankfully this time a little ways away from the racing boats. Fine. It was frustrating watching the wind blow, and work on stopping the boat instead of fine tuning the sails to get every little ounce of power to moving us swiftly forward. It was very frustrating to be honest.

After we did anchor it was time to get moving again. Only we couldn’t pull up the anchor. It was stuck. The current had pushed us along, and the anchor was buried in the wretched mud of Newport harbor. It was buried and no amount of tugging or yanking or cursing would make it budge. Now we were being told to go and we couldn’t go because we were stuck in a place where we shouldn’t have stopped in the first place, all because the teacher said to do this and we did it when we should have ignored him and joined the race we interupted earlier. Never anchor in the middle of a channel with a strong current and a race going on around you. If you do, it’s quite impossible to get the anchor back up.

We kept trying to tug, and approach the problem in different ways, using wenchs and using other tools. After a good while one of us noticed a key little bit.

“Shouldn’t the main sail be down?”

Yes. Yes it should have come down the moment we were getting the anchor set to begin with. It was up and the wind was pushing us around, even if we weren’t facing a direction for it to do its worst. It was pushing us and the pushing, along with our pulling, made the anchor dive deeply into the mud, a lot deeper than it would have with just the fast current.

The main sail was dropped. We got back to tugging and yanking on the anchor, now finding progress once we were no longer fighting current and wind. The anchor was finally up, and the sails were raised again, as they should be on a sailboat except when one is trying to anchor in the middle of a busy harbor on a windy day while in the middle of someone else’s race. It was also time to go back to the dock.

Life is kinda like this sometimes.

wee fiction

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One of the more curious trends these days is called something along the lines of very short fiction. It reduces a story down to only a couple hundred words, maybe between 150 and 250. It’s a paragraph basically meant to encompass a story. I think it a fine thing, and fun. So, I’m going to have a regular go at it. Things I send off don’t get posted on this website, so I don’t have any expectation other than my own curious enjoyment of writing with this stuff.

So here you go, my first “very short fiction” post:

Where do I begin?
With the accident? With the beautiful sunrise? With that delectable chicken romanov and strawberry tart I had for dessert?

Or maybe I should go ahead and start with the apocalypse. That seems to be what everyone else is talking about.

It didn’t go as expected. I should rephrase that. No one really expected it to begin with, so it couldn’t have gone as expected.

It didn’t go like people would have expected it, if they had expected it, which of course would have prevented it to begin with.

This is why I would rather talk about the chicken. It was very tasty, perfectly cooked, only the slightest taste of lemon to highlight the flavor. I hate it when there are too many spices, overwhelming the taste. Why make chicken or steak if you are going to drown it in spices?

Oh. The apocalypse, that’s right.

I have some friends, well had some friends, who talked about these kinds of things. I was never convinced. Turns out they were wrong, it wasn’t like what they said, it wasn’t like what was in the books. More beautiful, much more beautiful. Except for the fire, of course, and the screams.

Somehow even those became like a dance, a terrible dance at times.

They were wrong in the details. Only they were right enough about the reality of it.

Ah, well. Good riddance. No one wants to hear “I told you so.”

intersection

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There was a loud whir, then a clank, then a somewhat quieter whir. Seams began to appear in the flawless metal, giving a rectangular shape to a part of the otherwise round underbelly.

The group of teenagers, drinks still in hand, could do nothing but stare, and wait. Their attentions were completely given over to whatever was going to happen next. Some still leaned against the wall of the house, ennui a part them, but they looked with more attention than they had looked at anything for years and years.

A pudgy woman pushing her baby in a light blue stroller also stopped and stared, though once the whir began she eased away from the very large, strange, and oddly colored craft sitting in the intersection before her. The baby continued to be marveled as well, only unlike the others, at her own toes.
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