Posts

The Will to Live

In 1868, in Russia, Dostoyevski published Crime and Punishment, and later in 1880 published The Brothers Karamazov, not long before his death.In the 1870’s, a continent away in Europe, Nietzsche was developing himself and his philosophy, and it wasn’t until after Dostoyevski’s death that Nietzsche published Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil.My experience of these authors, however, was the opposite order.I first read Thus Spoke Zarathustra in the early 1990’s, and a few years later Crime and Punishment.There could hardly have been a better parry to “God is Dead” than Dostoyevski’s “If there is no God, everything is permitted,”and that ended the “debate” for me, for the time.
These many years later I found that both Dostoyevski and Nietzsche were responding to similar philosophies, Dostoyevski to Russian nihilists, Nietzsche to German skeptics.If you don’t believe in an Evil One who works to deceive the human race, I can sympathize.But evidence of such influence appears in…

Silence Thunders

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Prov. 25:11 NKJV
As a golden apple in a small necklace of sardius stone, thus it is to speak a wise word. Prov. 25:13 SAAS (LXX)
I have made a lifelong observational study on what it is to say the right thing at the right time, in the right way."A word fitly spoken" has been something of a snipe hunt.How this became such a quest seems largely the result of contradictions.From the womb I received, on the one hand, a sensitive nature with which, involuntarily, I readily notice when a self-possessed wise man (or woman) moves through life as though untouched, dispensing golden apples of peace, or of timely goading, or of a blessed aloofness that admonishes without a word.And on the other hand, I was cursed (also from the womb) with an inability to bring to mind appropriate words in the moment of need.For it seems that the time required for me to observe and understand a situation exceeds the window of opportunity when…

A Way of Life

Actions not speeches declare the content of a soul.My actions, my way of life has followed a template, on balance, of the decent civilized man.This is not to say that I am decent in any deep and moral sense.Rather it means that I can check some boxes on a list of things associated with being civilized and decent.I have worked in a respectable career—as our society counts respect; have earned money, by which to house my family; raised (or supported my wife’s raising of) civil children; funded some people in charitable work.I think I’ve tried, and know I’ve fallen short, to do what Jesus and the Apostles taught.But in the end, I see myself as having a basic civilized decency.I have tried to repent of my secret sins and weaknesses; tried not to be a slave to my appetites, but with weak, inconsistent effort.What, in short, is this way of life? If I have accomplished anything, about the best I can say is, I’ve fulfilled my father’s way, which is to live and let live; to, more precisely, min…

Ecumenism and Church

The modern use of “ecumenism” pertains to a narrow problem in a wide swath of differing Christians.And within that context it’s regarded ambiguously, either with hope or suspicion.Between these poles sits a taught unspoken proposition that the Church is divided.Since Christians know that the Church can’t be truly divided, the proposition finds no voice.Instead ecumenism proposes to solve dividedness.While it may have some impact on unity as a qualitative experience, ecumenism has offered little with regard to the universality of the unified Church.
The very notion of dividedness is ambiguous; just consider the grammar.“Dividedness” as a noun seems concrete, but its verb root (to divide) already has a standard noun form as “division,” which is the concrete result of dividing a whole.“Dividedness,” on the other hand, begins with something that has already been divided, abstracts the quality of that division, and then treats this quality as the issue of concern.And when considering ecumen…

The Foolishness of God

Brilliant minds chew on the great human questions: how should we find meaning? How should we order our lives together? What are the essential and real qualities of being human, and what does that imply for what we do?And, although answers vary, one dominant, modern idea informs most of the modern answers: Human beings emerged through time on a continuum with everything else, from non-life to life, from non-consciousness to consciousness, from practical survival behaviors to morality, from awareness to self-awareness, from awe to religion, from irrational to rational.In short, to say that man evolved from the lower animals is to say something mundane, like saying the earth is round. This now commonplace theory of origins has found renewed energy in the teachings of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, whose essential message is that of acquiring virtue.Unlike traditional treatments—ancient wisdom, religious teaching and practice—Peterson’s is grounded in a remarkably broad and comprehensive view of …

What's a Gospel?

Here’s a test.  What is the Gospel message? a)   Jesus died to pay your debt of sin. b)   Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! c)   A word that means “good news” Answer:  b Many years ago, after some years in active rejection of Jesus and all things called by His name, and after the consequent despair arising out of ephemeral alternatives, I returned to Him.  I had become acutely aware of my shortcomings and of my inability to rein them in.  I knew that, although my case was mild, it did not differ in kind from others who drift into more consequential, death inducing, shortcomings. On the cosmic scales of justice I deserved punishment quite as much as they.  It’s not surprising, then, that the Gospel of my Protestant upbringing reached me in a profound place of need.  The Protestant Gospel is answer a), “Jesus died to pay your debt of sin.”  What I needed was forgiveness, and that’s what I got, in spades.  For an over scrupulous young man, I was assured of forgiveness and at the sa…

In Control

Paradox lies at the heart of the most meaningful truths.For example, “Pray as though everything depends on God; behave as though everything depends on you.” I’ve seen this attributed to Christian and to Jewish sources, and I dare to think the concept lives in the repositories of wisdom in many other places. It can be helpful to see paradox as lopping off extremes.For example, part of the above quote warns against using God’s sovereignty as an excuse for indifference.But it also warns against the opposite extreme of complete self reliance, as though nothing gets done without you!Cutting those out clears the conceptual stage, creating space that can then be filled with any number of good ways to rely on the Lord proactively. What are some of these ways?I smile to remember examples that others have shared with me.Each one that comes to mind can be ambiguously interpreted.For example, my own history includes three distinct episodes wherein we were in transition from one place to another, one…