The Origins of Life

Either the universe had a personal beginning, or an impersonal beginning. The universe is therefore either an impersonal universe, or a personal one. If it is an impersonal universe, the evolvement of personality is a sad thing, because there is no satisfactory explanation giving meaning to thinking, acting, communicating, loving, having ideas, choosing, being full of creativity, and responding to the creativity of others. It is like a fish developing lungs in an airless universe. The longings and aspirations of personality drown without fulfillment.

I don’t know where he said this, but this is a quote attributed to Francis Schaeffer in his wife, Edith’s, book Christianity is Jewish (pg 17). Edith concludes this thought on page 19 saying:

If one chooses the impersonal beginning, one must go on to a logical conclusion of an impersonal universe, and an insignificant human being, and a meaningless history.

That would explain a lot about the massive despair blanketing our society…

Comparing Theologies

You Scored as Karl Barth, the daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be problematic and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth
80%
Anselm
80%
Friedrich Schleiermacher
73%
John Calvin
67%
Augustine
60%
Jonathan Edwards
53%
Martin Luther
53%
Charles Finney
40%
Jürgen Moltmann
33%
Paul Tillich
33%

You can take this quiz yourself at quizfarm.com.  I didn’t like all the questions, so the test is skewed a little bit, but over all it’s fairly accurate. I’m probably a little more Edwards and a little less Augustine, but I’m glad to see Finney and Tillich toward the bottom.

Unique by Design

The following note was found penciled in the flyleaf of C.S. Lewis’ copy of Eternal Life: A Study of Its Implications and Applications by Baron Friedrich von Hugel:

It is not an abstraction called Humanity that is to be saved. It is you, . . . your soul, and, in some sense yet to be understood, even your body, that was made for the high and holy place. All that you are . . . every fold and crease of your individuality was devised from all eternity to fit God as a glove fits a hand. All that intimate particularity which you can hardly grasp yourself, much less communicate to your fellow creatures, is no mystery to Him. He made those ins and outs that He might fill them. Then He gave your soul so curious a life because it is the key designed to unlock that door, of all the myriad doors in Him.

This intrigues me for a couple reasons. First, it is fascinating to read something scribbled by Lewis for his own reflection. Second, I’m convinced that we need to spend a lot more time on what Lewis said was “yet to be understood,” the uniqueness of our individual bodies and the role they play in our spiritual formation. Third, I’m fascinated by the concept we are uniquely designed both to uniquely relate to God, and to relay particular facets of God’s character to the rest of His children.

This note was quoted in Corbin Scott Carnell’s book, Bright Shadow of Reality: C.S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, but I ran across the quote in Eugene Peterson’s book, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.

Something to Ponder

All Torah is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Of course, the text actually says “Scripture” (or graphe in Greek), but I believe we forget that the Torah was the primary document Paul had in mind when he penned those words.

Could most believers today unreservedly affirm that the entire Torah is profitable for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, i.e. equipped for every good work that God prepared beforehand for us to do? I think most of us would hem and haw, cough and sputter, provide caveats and addendums to Paul’s declarative statement.

What I’m Talking About

I pasted the text of my blog posts from 2006 through today into the generator at wordle.net in order to see visually what the content of my posting tends to be about. No revolutionary surprises, but it is interesting.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of tag clouds, the larger the word the more often it is used. All in all, I think those are the concepts I would have hoped I was focusing on the most.

Brueggeman Quote

As I mentioned just recently, it is sort of a hobby of mine to collect quotes from mainstream Christian authors that reflect what I consider to be a proper perspective on the First Testament and/or the Torah.  Joel sent me a great one this evening from Walter Brueggeman.

When Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai, a new extended, complex tradition begins, featuring [a] the making of covenant between YHWH and Israel and [b] the issuance of the commands of YHWH that become the condition and substance of the covenant…In all its complexity, the Sinai tradition extends through the book of Leviticus and through Numbers 10:10, when Israel departs the mountain.  The reason the material is so complex is that over time the tradition of commands sought to extend the rule and will of YHWH to every aspect of life, personal and public, civic and cultic…This tradition is at the core of Judaism that is constituted by obedience to YHWH’s Torah.  Conversely, in Christian tradition this material has been largely downplayed, precisely because it has been erroneously understood as “law” that provides a way to “earn” God’s grace.  A reconsideration of the role and function of the commandments in their rich interpretive complexity is now of immense importance for Christians, precisely to be delivered from wrongly informed and distorting caricatures of the tradition of commandment.

[Brueggeman, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. pg. 61]

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Brueggeman’s writings. Sometimes he leaves me cheering, and sometimes he absolutely drives me nuts.

Graduation from the Law?

When you learn to shoot a jump shot, you don’t abandon the lay-up. When you learn to parallel park, you don’t stop parking in parking lots. If you are smart, when you graduate from High School, you don’t abandon all that you learned there. 

When one understands the “higher consciousness” of love that the Law of God describes, this does not mean that one then abandons the building blocks!

If you are in Messiah, then you have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel and their Scriptures are now yours, whether you like it or not. You are blessed to participate in their inheritance.

Note that it is a “commonwealth.” If you were born a Gentile, you are not now a Jew; you maintain your own ethnicity, but you have become part of the spiritual administration of Israel/God’s people. God doesn’t have multiple brides. He welcomes all into His one people – Israel. There are those who are Israel after the flesh and those who are Israel by way of naturalization–your citizenship has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

You once were a stranger to the covenants of promise and far from God, but now you have been brought near to God, and are a participant in the promise(s) of God.

Formation through Flesh

A previous post and some comments on it led me to think of an essay by Dallas Willard in his book The Great Omission, titled “The Spirit is Willing, But… The Body as a Tool for Spiritual Growth” (pgs 80-90).  I believe some quotes from it are in order.

Willard first sets some background parameters:

This process of “conformation to Christ,” as we might more appropriately call it, is constantly supported by grace and otherwise would be impossible. But it is not therefore passive. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. In fact, nothing inspires and enhances effort like the experience of grace.

With that established he warns:

Yet it is today necessary to assert boldly and often that becoming Christ-like never occurs without intense and well-informed action on our part.

Lest we become overly individualistic and myopically focused on only ourselves, Willard reminds:

This in turn cannot be reliably sustained outside of a like-minded fellowship.

Conscious of today’s great lack, Willard reports

Probably the least understood aspect of progress in Christ-likeness is the role of the body in the spiritual life.

Almost all of us are acutely aware of how the incessant clamorings of our bodies defeat our intentions to “be spiritual.” The Apostle Paul explains that “what the flesh desired is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh;” (Galatians 5:17).

Contrary to what many of us experience the truth is that:

…if the body is simply beyond redemption, then ordinary life is too.

And we, with Jesus, Paul & Dallas Willard, maintain vociferously that nothing in life is beyond redemption.