a quote

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This is going to be a wee bit less than forthcoming, but I don’t feel any need to be more specific. I happen to be reading through the Brothers Karamazov these days and I got to the chapter called “The Grand Inquisitor” just the last couple of days.

Now, this is a book which has lingered on my to-read list for a long time. I have long thought I should read Dostoevsky, and then I had a friend a few years back get me interested in actually reading through The Idiot. That friend I haven’t talked with in a while, and I’m not sure why really, but that book stuck with me. I really liked it, even if it was for different reasons than many interpreters feel.

I’ve long noticed something with reading. There’s a timing to it. If you don’t force yourself, but instead let a book linger on that list, there will be a point at which it really grabs you and you feel it is the time. Oftentimes, more often than not, I’ve found that by waiting for a read I then begin to read just when the book really can impact me on new levels. I’ve had an interpretive experience, or a burst of maturing, or a change of life which opens up new vistas of understanding the author.

So, it’s not at all surprising, though entirely appropriate I get to the chapter I got to this very week. I don’t need to be more specific, partly because I know we all have stories which would relate. This isn’t a new insight for any of my literary minded readers, so I claim nothing besides noting the timing here and enjoying the moment a book no longer lingers but instead begins to resonate.

The setting is a story within a story, told of Jesus come to visit during the Spanish Inquisition (I know you didn’t expect that!). The Inquisitor has ordered Jesus imprisoned, to be burned with the rest of the heretics. He spoke of Jesus’ gift of salvation, and the freedom it gave, which was too much freedom he thought.

Among the many words he says are these:

There is mystery here and we cannot understand it. And if it is a mystery, then we, too, had the right to preach mystery and to teach them that it is not the free choice of the heart that matters, and not love, but the mystery, which they must blindly obey, even setting aside their own conscience. And so we did. We corrected your deed and based it on miracle, mystery, and authority. And mankind rejoiced that they were once more led like sheep, and that at last such a terrible gift, which had brought them so much suffering, had been taken from their hearts. Tell me, were we right in teaching and doing so? Have we not, indeed, loved mankind, in so humbly recognizing their impotence, in so lovingly alleviating their burden and allowing their feeble nature even to sin, with our permission? Why have you come to interfere with us now?

His use of mankind is apt. Also, while this is a story within a story the reality is what Christ himself said after giving a wee lecture:

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the counselor , the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and remind you of everything.

All things and everything. Jesus has left, but the real story is the Holy Spirit has come in his name. So Christ is with us, among us, within us.

Among us still are also the the inquisitors who would rather Jesus said something else. Something a lot more convenient. They, like the Inquisitor in the story, can find their guidance in Scripture as well. Which makes it all the more tempting for those who feel freedom is too much a burden. I met a few this week in fact.

Rising to Heaven

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Happy Ascension Day!

How does one go about celebrating this day? Do we say, “Hooray! Jesus left!”

He died, which was terribly inconvenient. But then he came back to life! That’s good. Everyone’s happy. “So now what, Jesus?” “Is the kingdom coming?” “Are we all going to get our rewards for sticking with you?” John would have asked that last question.

“Haven’t you been listening. I’m leaving,” Jesus replied.

That’s awful inconvenient. What would be more evangelistic than the risen Lord himself doing a global tour? A month or so then he’s done? Even Caesar might make room in his schedule for an audience had he given at least a few more months to the task. And had he kept at it for a few more decades? Wow.

“I’m leaving,” Jesus said. “But for a good reason. If I don’t leave, the Spirit won’t come. So I’ll go ahead and rise back to heaven and then the Spirit will come, which is so much better. You won’t even miss me.”

“We won’t even miss you? How can that be, you’ve taught us so much.”

“Yeah, sure, but the Spirit will teach you all things. Everything. You know that’s a lot of things. And you’ll all be filled with the Spirit. So guess what that means.”

“Um, we’ll all be taught all things.”

“Exactly. Now isn’t that better? In the past only prophets or kings or other special folks were picked and filled by the Spirit. Now the whole lot of you will get the power. Isn’t that great?”

“So, you’re leaving then?” I suspect Peter might have asked something like this.

“Do we get to be in power, now?” James may have asked.

“Sheesh,” Jesus likely said, or the equivalent in Aramaic. “I’m not going to tell you when the Father is going to get things moving like that. Just wait. And the Spirit will come. Now, I’m going. Bye.”

“Um, where did he go?” Most of the disciples asked after about ten minutes as they stared upwards.

This is all terribly inconvenient really. Doesn’t make the least bit of sense. But that’s the way that it happened. Even if the Disciples would have preferred it happen some other way.

“Men of Galillee,” a couple of handsome fellows dressed in white soon said. They kind of appeared from behind a bush. “Why do you stare at the sky? He’ll be back, just like he left. But not now. Go home. Do what he said.”

Which really is good advice. Something to remember every Ascension Day.

Eastern Religion

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Christianity Today has an interesting article on the influence of young Asians in the contemporary church. This is interesting for a lot of reasons but one I think especially curious for the future is how this is completely undermining the arguments of Christianity as Western. This won’t happen in the next few years to be sure, but I am fascinated with how the conception of Christianity will change as those who are its most ardent supporters are majority non-white.

Christian history is the story of movement. From the Middle East it moved into Northern Africa and then into Europe. From Europe it moved to North America, finding especial dynamic soil in the United States. Now, as the US becomes somewhat dim in its spiritual fervor, we may see Eastern Asia as becoming the primary driving force behind the faith. Taiwan and South Korea are already strongly Christian, with China finding its way that direction even in the midst of incredible struggles. Japan is not at all, but it almost became such, back in the 1500s. By the by, the book Silence by Shusako Endo is a magnificent read about Christian struggle during persecution.

On these shores, this dynamic transformation is influencing the first and second generation immigrants as they explore their own lives before God, leading to the reality, which will only increase that the picture of a Christian in America will soon change from a backwoods uneducated white hick, to a extremely well-educated man or woman of Asian descent, whose enthusiasm and dedication matches the early Methodists.

The next Great Awakening will begin on the Pacific shores, led by those from the Far East, whose lives are now here in the west. The Ring of Fire will take on a new meaning. A rather ecclesial meaning.

Maybe, at least.

good politics?

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So, there’s a big election coming up this November in which it is highly likely Republicans will lose a lot of seats, maybe even enough to get pushed out of the majority.

The strategy with about six months left? Get into a major battle with the President, who is in the same party, about an extremely well documented and justified search warrant executed on a representative’s office, a representative who has been caught on video tape accepting a bribe. A $100,000 bribe.

Who are these people? Are they actual humans? Have they been visiting the liberal websites and believed everything they read about themselves, so are now playing the part.

Are they like the sports team who intentionally takes a dive during the season so as to get better draft picks?

Or is this a ploy to disguise with ineptness what would be an otherwise too obvious cooperation with the oil companies to slash the gas prices in half roundabout October thus leading to a Republican landslide?

There must be some reason. Has Russ Feingold finally perfected his mind control ray, thus leading to Republican defeat, and in an especially muddle headed way?

Are there any third parties forming out there? I find I am discontent with all my present options.


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The Power of Hospitality

I’m increasingly realizing this is entirely true, and at present there is a generational divide between those who find the 1950s a good model of cultural response, and those who would rather discover the deeper truths of the Spirit in our midst, which have always been around just not always embraced.

Of course, to act in such a way as this not only will spark disagreement, but also charges of heresy as those who prefer the older model (“losing, but right!”) feel threatened by the new (“Loving and true”). What is to hold the tide if people do not angrily defend the cause of right and wrong? Ask Peter after Jesus healed the sliced off ear of the guard. Then ask him again three days later.

In truth and love is power. In being merely right there is only self-satisfaction.

I suspect we can come up with manifold examples of both and know exactly which is transformative.

Inconvenient things

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I’m thinking of beginning a new series, nothing really life changing nor all that important, more a posting of thoughts along the way as I notice things that fit. The series I will call, The Inconvenient Things in the Bible. Now, that may seem heretical. But it’s not at all. Indeed, it’s anti-heretical. Heresy is making God into something he’s not. The Bible is the revelation of God, so we Christians assert, so if something in the Bible is inconvenient to us, it means there’s something fishy with what we believe to be true. Or, there might be situations which don’t work out right, or are unexpected, or we’d rather God did something in a different way. God of course works things out, but we don’t always see this right away. Noticing the inconvenient things in Scripture helps to sharpen our eye for the details, and thus for our own lives. I think so at least.

Take this one for instance. Joseph, Son of Jacob, was thrown into prison for eight long years… for not sleeping with the boss’s wife.

David was anointed King of Israel, filled with the Holy Spirit in power, and was a mighty warrior. Then he spent about a decade fleeing for his life, living in caves and depending on the mercy of his national enemies for his sustenance.

These two things are inconvenient to our initial theology. There are more, and I’m going to start taking better note of them, because while they are terribly inconvenient, they are also the way things went, and thus have to influence our theology.

another side of the issue

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The foreign minister is coming to Washington in order to lobby for the illegals already here. He wants to make sure those who have made the journey can be given the honor of staying without being kicked out. They came illegally, yeah, but he thinks they should not have to be forced back, especially if they are doing good honest work.

So all you pub owners with illegal bartenders, you may have some breathing room.

a canary

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This is going to surprise everyone who regularly visits here. I’m just exploring something, so don’t think you’ve won. Yes, that means you. Well, not you. You usually agree with me on these things. But you, I hardly want to write this for the glee this will cause you.

I’m wondering about oil prices. This is a funny thing for me to worry about because I hardly drive anymore. I work from home, and while I do have to drive to town in order to check the mail I only do that twice a week or so. When I do drive, however, I really get to driving some decent distances. And, really, I tend to think about things I’m not necessarily affected by.

Such as women in ministry. But that’s a topic for another blog. And I am affected by that, but still I’m not going to get into that here.

So oil prices. Or rather gas prices since my pure oil needs are very low.

I’m thinking oil prices are a canary, and I’m thinking this is finally what pushes me over the edge in my considerations of many things political.

Gas prices are ungodly high. And when I say ungodly I mean ungodly because it’s not the rich folks who worry about filling up their tanks. Poor people are the most affected, and in a land as big as ours, as dependent on cars as ours, this is basically like taking bread from their tables. To work they have to drive, to drive they have to have gas, to have gas they have to go without something else. That’s the way of things. So, of course, this level of prices is ungodly.

Some folks blame the old supply and demand. However, that’s clearly silly unless there was some significant force which makes for wild changes in either over the course of a year, or even a couple of days. Plus the Saudis said it’s not a supply issue.

It is a demand issue, with companies demanding just what they can get, and commodities traders reacting to any little scare driving the price ever upwards not for the supply that is, but for the supply they think there might be in many months time. That this supply really hasn’t changed hasn’t affected the speculation, driving the price ever quickly higher, and ever so rarely slower lower.

This is what gets to me. Oil prices are immensely, extraordinarily, shockingly, corruptedly, dependent on global politics. Good things happening, there’s no excuse and prices are lower. Everyone shaky, prices go higher.

Well, that’s a canary. The sign of things gone wrong is that which is most sensitive. Gas prices are saying something, which is why it is more than simple personal interest which would make gas prices cut in half double the President’s approval rating. They are a measure of this world, the real indication of the state of this union.

At least this is how it seems to me… though admittedly my training is better used in discussing the topic of women in ministry. I’m just a run of the mill voter when it comes to economics and suchlikes. But, as such I figure I represent a good many more people than the economists who can explain things away while cashing the big checks their own oil stocks are sending their way.

Perception is everything when it comes to politics, and sometimes it is even right when it comes to reality.

a caterpillar

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Wandering by while I was reading a book outside…


In a new series…

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Dr. Gary Burge has written a very nice overview of the issues at the heart of the Da Vinci discussions. He ends:

“Thanks to a blockbuster novel with absurd claims, and a big-budget summer movie, this academic debate has moved from the ivory tower to the public arena. The intellectual battle has been joined. Are we ready?”

I note this both because it is a good article and because of my new, limited, series of posting articles about the Da Vinci Code by my old Wheaton professors. I don’t have a catchy story about the confluence of culture and theology, or the interplay of reality within the ivory tower as my last post in this series. However, I do note this article with especial interest because these are the precise things Dr. Burge taught us in his class. He did not teach us to run and hide, but instead to engage, to debate, to pick up one’s lance and have at it on the field of battle. So often, I think, people think of Christian Colleges as being these limited places where inquiry is stifled. Not so in my experience. Dr. Burge pushed and prodded, getting us into the fight. He would provoke a question in class, such as why Jesus needed to be crucified and argue against the premise with twelve highly educated Wheaton College seniors, at the end of their Bible and Theology major, flummoxing the lot of us in the process while teaching us how to enter the lists.

I remember he told us this great story about his time as a Navy chaplain. He wanted to go out on the helicopters which required him to first go through the requisite training in a simulator which mimicked a helicopter crashing into the ocean and overturning (and also capsizing). They were first shown how to use their safety equipment, trained how to react, drilled so it would become natural even in the worst circumstances. Then they were put in the simulator, where if they did not get out of their restraints while underwater a Navy Seal would dive in to free them just before they drowned.

The point of the story was that to survive in a helicopter crash a person had to know their tools and then trust their training. In doing this, and in drilling in the simulator, they could survive what would otherwise kill them. And with this he taught us the science of New Testament Interpretation.

Hey, it turned out I did have a story after all. How about that.