“What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.”
– Mary Oliver, from the poem “I Looked Up”.
Tim Smith, Words and Pictures
“What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.”
– Mary Oliver, from the poem “I Looked Up”.
Moses understands, as do the prophets after him, that being in the land poses for Israel a conflict between two economic systems, each of which views the land differently. On the one hand, the land is regarded as property and possession to be bought and sold and traded and used. On the other hand, in a context of covenant, the land is a birthright and an inheritance, one’s own land as a subset of the larger inheritance of the whole people of God. If the land is possession, then the proper way of life is to acquire more. If the land is inheritance, then the proper way of life is to enhance the neighborhood and the extended family so that all members may enjoy the good produce of the land.
– Walter Breuggemann, in Sabbath As Resistance.
Land as inheritance versus land as possession. Commodity versus covenant. Think Wendell Berry. This is the one perspective the environmental movement has right. Then, of course, they immediately begin advocating for state controls over property in order to impose, by law, the right spiritual perspective.
I do feel this lack every day: the lack of a home, in the form of a patch of land inherited from my family with the marks everywhere of my ancestors’ work. A farm, I suppose, which is nothing but a worked garden. Land with real trees and a wet stream and fields moving in real winds. Modernity needs mobility. And the price is home.
“Grace perfects nature rather than destroying it.”
“I am like you, curious and small. Like you, I pause alertly and open my senses to try to read the air, the clouds, the sun’s slant, the little movements of the animals, all in the hope I will learn the secret of whether I am loved.”
In her book, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich.
We sometimes hear it said that Jesus was just a teacher full of punchy aphorisms and turns of phrase: a mystic who wandered around saying nice things about the niceness of being Nice. But his stupid disciples, being 2000 years stupider than Extremely Clever Us, managed to completely misunderstand him and construct an elaborate religion around him that he absolutely never intended. It’s a narrative in which our culture places an extraordinary amount of faith — far more faith, in fact, than the Christian story requires, since the Christian story does not require us to believe in absolutely ridiculous claims about human psychology that nobody would ever advance for one second were it not for the special need to debunk Christianity.
—Mark Shea, ‘Palm Sunday’
If we refuse assent to reality: if we rebel against the nature of things and choose to think that what we at the moment want is the centre of the universe to which everything else ought to accommodate itself, the first effect on us will be that the whole universe will seem to be filled with an inexplicable hostility. We shall begin to feel that everything has a down on us, and that, being so badly treated, we have a just grievance against things in general. That is the knowledge of good and evil and the fall into illusion. If we cherish and fondle that grievance, and would rather wallow in it and vent our irritation in spite and malice than humbly admit we are in the wrong and try to amend our behaviour so as to get back to reality, that is, while it lasts, the deliberate choice, and a foretaste of the experience of Hell.
—Dorothy L. Sayers, Introductory Papers on Dante
I believe that God is God, and that we are not.
I believe that Jesus is our Savior, and that we are not.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is our wisdom, and that we are not.
I believe that Jesus died under the wrath of God for our sin, and that He was raised from the dead because God was so pleased with Him. Because of that death and resurrection, God was just as angry with us and just as pleased with us as He was and is with Jesus.
I believe the heavens declare the glory of God, as do the buttercups.
I believe that the Bible is offered to Christians as the smoothest bourbon ever distilled, and that we are supposed to drink it straight.
I believe in the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of the undistributed middle, world without end, amen.
I believe that God is directing all of human history to a glorious culmination, and that He is doing so through a recurring pattern of high action death and resurrection adventure stories.
I believe that the material creation is saturated with His kindness, and that we are called to squeeze everything we can out of it.
I believe that the only way to squeeze out that kindness effectively is by taking hold of the impulse to be cool and crucifying it daily.
I believe that we are charged to conserve everything that the Spirit has done in history, and that we are to progress toward everything He intends to do.
I believe the foundation of our lives should be the cornerstone of worship on the Lord’s Day, as we gather in response to His call, in order to confess, sing, pray, hear, eat, and drink. We then receive the blessing and go.
I believe that the kingdom of God is like an endless river, like a sawtooth mountain range, like whole milk, like a cultivated plain, like a marble city with gardens, like a marbled steak on the grill, like aged cheese, like smart phones, like a high mountain meadow, like the laughter of family at the table, like the way of a man with a maid, like a moonlit ocean, and like a warrior crying high defiance. The kingdom of God is like everything.
“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time most intellectually resisted fact”.
“Grace perfects nature.” – Thomas Aquinas
“I don’t believe in God, but I hope my valet does so he doesn’t steal my spoons.”
The modern criticism of religion can attack the whole world of religious Christianity, but not this unreligious cross. There is no pattern for religious projections in the cross. For he who was crucified represents the fundamental and total crucifixion of all religion: the deification of the human heart, the sacralization of certain localities in nature and certain sacred dates and times, the worship of those who hold political power, and their power politics. Even the disciples of Jesus all fled from their master’s cross. Christians who do not have the feeling that they must flee the crucified Christ have probably not yet understood him in a sufficiently radical way…More radical Christian faith can only mean committing oneself without reserve to the ‘crucified God.’ This is dangerous. It does not promise the confirmation of one’s own conceptions, hopes and good intentions. It promises first of all the pain of repentance and fundamental change. It offers no recipe for success. But it brings a confrontation with the truth. It is not positive and constructive, but is in the first instance critical and destructive. It does not bring man into better harmony with himself and his environment, but into contradiction with himself and his environment… The ‘religion of the cross’, if faith on this basis can ever so be called, does not elevate and edify in the usual sense, but scandalizes; and most of all it scandalizes one’s ‘co-religionists’ in one’s own circle. But by this scandal, it brings liberation into a world which is not free. For ultimately, in a civilization which is constructed on the principle of achievement and enjoyment, and therefore makes pain and death a private matter, excluded from its public life, so that in the final issue the world must no longer be experienced as offering resistance, there is nothing so unpopular as for the crucified God to be made present reality through faith. It alienates alienated men, who have come to terms with alienation. And yet this faith, with its consequences, is capable of setting men free from their cultural illusions, releasing them from the involvements which blind them, and confronting them with the truth of their existence and their society.
from The Crucified God.
He was a man, but God. David’s offspring, but Adam’s Maker. A bearer of flesh, but, even so, beyond all body. From a Mother, but she is a Virgin. Comprehensible, but immeasurable. And a manger received him, while a star led the Magi, who so came bearing gifts, and fell on bended knee. As a man he entered the arena, but he prevailed, as indomitable, over the tempter in three bouts. Food was set before him, but he fed thousands, and changed the water into wine. He got baptized but he washed sins clean, but he was proclaimed by the Spirit, in a voice of thunder, to be the Son of the One Uncaused. As a man he took rest, and as God he put to rest the sea. His knees were wearied, but he bolstered the strength and knees of the lame. He prayed, but who was it who heard the petitions of the feeble? He was the sacrifice, but the high priest: making an offering, but himself God. He dedicated his blood to God, and cleansed the entire world. And a cross carried him up, while the bolts nailed fast sin.
But what’s it for me to say these things? He had company with the dead, but he rose from the dead, and the dead, the bygone, he raised up: there a mortal’s poverty, here the incorporeal’s wealth. Don’t you dishonor, then, his divinity on account of his human things, but for the divine’s sake, hold it renown the earthly form into which, thoughtful towards you, he formed himself, the incorruptible Son.
“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
(Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982)
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking all together, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration.”
Flannery O’Connor, The Grotesque in Southern Fiction
A Divine Conspirator – Christianity Today Magazine
Generally, what I find is that the ordinary people who come to church are basically running their lives on their own, utilizing ‘the arm of the flesh’—their natural abilities—to negotiate their way,” he says. “They believe there is a God and they need to check in with him. But they don’t have any sense that he is an active agent in their lives. As a result, they don’t become disciples of Jesus. They consume his merits and the services of the church. … Discipleship is no essential part of Christianity today.”He says these problems are theologically grounded: “We don’t preach life in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus as an existential reality that leads to discipleship and then character transformation.” He adds, “When you don’t have character transformation in a large number of your people, then when something happens, everything flies apart and you have people acting in the most ungodly ways imaginable.”
The last “great outbreak” of the kingdom of God in the Western world, according to Willard, was the Wesleyan movement, which transformed both people and public institutions “without regard to churches or not churches.” When I ask Willard about later revivals such as the 1970s Jesus Movement, he says that they haven’t changed public institutions, particularly academia.
The key to the obedience of God’s people is not their effectiveness but their patience. The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and the other kinds of power in every human conflict; the triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, nor because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys. The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection.
“…the dialectic which governs the game of negations and affirmations. One can define it as an intellectual discipline of the non-opposition of opposites…”
p. 26, In the Image and Likeness of God.Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985.
To which someone might well add this:
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Alice in Wonderland.
Hell…is the soul’s refusal to become…the expanding vessel into which the beauty of God endlessly flows. …Exile is possible within the beauty of the infinite only by way of an exilic interiority, a fictive inwardness, where the creature can grasp itself as an isolated essence. …the perfect concretization of ethical freedom, perfect justice without delight, the soul’s work of legislation for itself, where ethics has achieved its final independence from aesthetics.
– The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 400
Theology is not first a speculative science, but a hermeneutical labor…
The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 32