I like my cell phone company (Ting) more and more. They sent out a link saying that if you took a friend to coffee and told them about Ting they would cover your coffee bill. So I just did. Good advertising on their part and free coffee for me and a friend. I like that.
She had disliked the pervasiveness of Lutheran thought, especially the Calvinist faction, who seemed to have an answer to every question before it had even been asked.
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card, p. 113.
I am presently reading the second book in the Ender’s Game series and I ran across the above quote. I don’t really know any Lutherans who would describe themselves as Calvinists (typically different traditions). I was, however, hit by the last sentence of this quote, “to have an answer to every question before it had even been asked.” It made me laugh because I have some good friends who are pretty strong Calvinists. One of whom takes me fishing and lets me deer hunt on his property and therefore I would never say anything bad about Calvinism. ;) Truth be told the quote probably made me laugh because it hit close to home, even though I’m not a Calvinist.
1 Peter 3:15 says
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
This scripture says to be prepared to give an answer but it also tells us the specific question that we are to be prepared to answer (i.e. “the reason for the hope that you have.”) I don’t think that means that we need to pretend like we have all the other answers, because, truth be known, none of us do. If we pretend like we do then all we do is lie to ourselves and others. God and life are too mysterious and wonderful. We only know Him because He reveals Himself, not because we discover Him. If our piddly little brains can know and have ready all the answers then we have severely put God, and life, into a box. God is so much bigger than that. Ask me Who my hope comes from and I should be able to answer that on the spot, ask me another question and hopefully I take a bit longer.
The other thing about the above quote is that it makes me think that if we already have “an answer to every question before it [has] even been asked” it probably just means that we aren’t really listening to the question. It makes me think of those times that I become idiotic and focus more on how I am going to respond to something, than I do to actually listening to the other person in the conversation. Real dialogue (etymologically meaning “across speech“) and understanding fails to happen when I do this. When I am at my best I truly listen to what a person is saying, pause a moment or two to make sure I understand what they just said, and then I respond. When I am at my worst I am biting to respond before the person even finishes his or her statement. I am usually much closer to connecting with truth during the former and much further away during the latter. As James says, we should be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.” Sounds a whole lot like that whole “you have two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion” saying.
I think the next book I am going to read is Karl Barth’s The Humanity of God which I believe from the synopsis has some points similar to this. God is “wholly other” and thereby we only know Him through His self-revelation, rather than our own discovery. This knowledge of Him through revelation is an act of grace (undeserved) and therefore should produce grace and humility in us. Humility doesn’t pretend like it has all the answers. Pride does that. The humility that comes from knowing God through His self-revelation just points to Him as the answer.
The minivan wouldn’t start Saturday morning. All the lights came on but instead of turning over it would just click. I was preparing to have it tower to my mechanic Monday morning because I assumed it was the starter. Talked with my parents yesterday and my dad said it sounded like a starter or solenoid to him. He made one off hand remark about a dead battery that stuck with me. So on a chance I checked the battery tonight and it had about half a charge. Put the battery charger on it and it started fine. So basically I almost had my minivan towed to the shop for a low battery. Not one of my finer moments.
Thanks for sparking things Dad.
Every so often I see friends and acquaintances on the internet go off on modesty. I can’t say anything near as good as what C.S. Lewis said on the matter so I will just quote him. In Mere Christianity Mr. Lewis said:
WE MUST NOW CONSIDER Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity. The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of “modesty” (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest,” proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable. I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing. At its present stage, however, it has this inconvenience, that people of different ages and different types do not all acknowledge the same standard, and we hardly know where we are. While this confusion lasts I think that old, or old-fashioned, people should be very careful not to assume that young or “emancipated” people are corrupt whenever they are (by the old standard) improper; and, in return, that young people should not call their elders prudes or puritans because they do not easily adopt the new standard. A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems.
I think that last line is well worth living out. I’ll just try to think all the good I can of others and make others as comfortable as I can.
At this moment I should be in the 3rd stand. Hopefully I see something. It would be nice it if was bigger than the one I shot last year (it would be hard not to be), but I won’t complain if it isn’t.
This year I am trying out a new-to-me rifle that I might buy. Marc M has been nice enough to loan me one of his father’s old rifles (a 1998 Savage 111fxp3). Eric G has been trying to convince me to shoot something than a 30-30 because he is convinced I need more range. We’ll see what happens.
I know that most of the world is focused on today being the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death but for me it is the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death. I’m sure that someone could prove that JFK had more direct influence on my life through some specific policies. After all he was the president of the U.S. Still no one outside of Jesus Christ and my family has been more influential on my life than C.S. Lewis. I interpret so much of what I do and think through lenses that have been partially shaped by Mr. Lewis.
1. My Battery Charger – Apparently I didn’t close Fred‘s door last night and the dome light ran the battery down. So I am rather fond of my battery charger right now.
3. I am rather fond of the fact that when I walk into Emy J’s coffee I invariably know quite a few people there and end up having really good conversations. Not also the best situation for getting work because the conversations can end up distracting me from doing what I need to do but they lead to a better life and faith and that is a better thing. It is amazing how deep a seemingly random conversation can get.
SIDE NOTE – My facebook friend Scott Slayton has written a little post on the scandal over President Obama supposedly omitting “under God” from his reading of the Gettysburg address that is worth a read. There are plenty of actual things to criticize the president, and other politicians of all flavors, over. There is no need to attack him/them over something that is simply not true. Just makes us look stupid. Anyhow I was going to write something about it but I think Scott did a decent job first, so I will just point you his way.
It is God who has prepared one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter God’s community join in this song. It is the song that “the morning stars sang together and all the children of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).39 It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea,40 the Magnificat of Mary after the Annunciation,41 the song of Paul and Silas when they praised God in the darkness of prison,42 the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their deliverance, the “song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). It is the new song of the heavenly community. Every day in the morning the community of faith on earth joins in this song and in the evening it closes the day with this hymn. The triune God and the works of God are being extolled here. This song has a different sound on earth than it does in heaven. On earth, it is the song of those who believe; in heaven, the song of those who see. On earth, it is a song expressed in inadequate human words; in heaven they are the “things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat” (2 Cor. 12:4), the “new song that no one could learn, except the 144,000” (Rev. 14:3),43 the song to which the “harps of God” are played (Rev. 15:2).44 What do we know of that new song and the harps of God? Our new song is an earthly song, a song of pilgrims and sojourners on whom the Word of God has dawned to light their way. Our earthly song is bound to God’s Word of revelation in Jesus Christ. It is the simple song of the children of this earth who have been called to be God’s children, not ecstatic, not enraptured, but soberly, gratefully, devoutly focused on God’s revealed Word
Dietrich Bonheoffer, Life Together, p. 65.
I know I have mentioned this before but I HATE religious sentimentalism. I run into it more than I care too, which isn’t that difficult because I would prefer not to even see it in commercials let alone run into it in my real life. I would rather talk about important subjects with someone with no faith than I would someone with a faith that is just Christian sentimentalism.
Karl Marx famously said of religion:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
I completely disagree with Marx’s quote in regard to genuine faith. Real faith doesn’t anesthetize and dull people into inaction. Instead genuine faith in Jesus pushes people to action. Real faith in Christ causes a believer to work with Christ that His “kingdom [will] come, [His] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Look at the heroes of the Christian faith. Their faith led them to be a part of Jesus changing the world.
Sentimentalism, on the other hand, asks nothing of the person who believes it and offers that person no real hope other than a brief “fix” that hides the pain for a while. Sentimental believe in Christ doesn’t change the person or the world around him/her. While Marx may be wrong about genuine faith I think his quote is spot on for sentimentality. Sentimentalism dulls us into a stupor that keeps us from experiencing real faith.
- seems like real faith but is fake
- looks deep but is actually shallow
- sound pious but is actually rebellious (because it is generally self-focused – i.e. this makes me feel good)
- feels comforting but actually keeps you from the Comforter
So to use Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck” style I offer the following hints to determining if you have a sentimental faith.
- if your Jesus never challenges you … you might be a sentimentalist.
- if your Jesus usually just offers clichéd answers to tough questions … you might be a sentimentalist.
- if your Jesus has never asked more of you than you thought possible … you might be a sentimentalist.
- if your Jesus would agree with you and disagree with those you don’t like … you might be a sentimentalist.
- if your Jesus has never asked you to love someone who is your enemy … you might be a sentimentalist.
- if your Jesus’ teachings can be easily substituted with cute cats memes … you might be a sentimentalist.
I could go on and on. Basically I hope, and pray, that you have a faith that makes a real difference, not just one that pretends to do so.
I’ve found this quote from Eugene Peterson intriguing for a few years.
I think it’s partly our sin. One of the Devil’s finest pieces of work is getting people to spend three nights a week in Bible studies.
Peterson’s point isn’t that studying the Bible is a bad thing, he writes Bible studies after all. Instead his point is that studying the Bible shouldn’t disengage us from involvement in the world but instead lead to greater involvement in being a part of Christ redeeming the world.
I have a small group of friends that I meet with on Tuesday nights for consideration and encouragement in following Christ (you are welcome to join us if you want to). We are presently reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “Life Together.” in the reading for last week Bonhoeffer wrote and quote something similar from Martin Luther. He said and quoted the following.
The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”
Engaging with God’s Word should push me out of my shell and comfort rather than pulling me more into it. Interacting with God’s word doesn’t lead to a cloistered life. It leads to loving our neighbors and our enemies. The Bible isn’t an excuse for navel gazing and selfishness. It is a call to action with the One who is the Word (John 1:1). After all in football you huddle up to learn the play, not to stay in the huddle.
For example, today I have been focused on Luke 12:16-21 which says:
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
Actually I started thinking about this parable last night when I saw an episode of “Doomsday Preppers” and started wondering “how do preppers who are Christian connect with this passage? Do they just ignore it or somehow justify hoarding for the future?” It is so much nicer and easier to try and apply scripture to other people’s lives.
That type of thought doesn’t cost me anything. The problem is that as Søren Kierkegaard stated so well:
When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me, and about me.”
So now instead of wondering how this passage effects preppers, I am sitting in a coffee shop wondering what it would look like if I didn’t put my trust in the future in my own resources but trusted in God. What actions would result? Can I start on them right now? Not much of a start but I think I am about to be buying some coffee for people.