Category Archives: language and expression

Some [Scattered & Disjointed] Thoughts on the ‘Problem’ of Preaching

Ever so often, perhaps every generation, a new paradigm for preaching emerges — the new aim of homiletics, so to speak. More likely than not, this is grossly understated. One could probably make the case that this sort of shift is a phenomenon evidenced every few years, really.

In their course of study, ministerial students learn, debate, & ramble on about sterile terms like ‘exegetical’ interpretation & the dastardly ‘eisegetical’ interpretation, expository preaching & topical preaching, etc. No criticism here, folks… I’ve taken all of the responsible classes myself, & now I teach them to others. 

In the pastorate, there is a real dilemma in keeping a properly measured balance between the philosophical & the pragmatic.

Let’s face it: Many folks nowadays just want to be told what to do… They long for a sort of dumbed-down utilitarianism. To be sure, not everyone in the pew wants this, but certainly many of them do. You’ve heard their questions; in fact, you’ve even asked some of them yourself. I know that I have.

There’s a tension in the pulpit. In proclaiming the Gospel, we must call unbelievers to repentance & faith, while also calling believers to righteousness & faithfulness.

Pastors have the hard task of lifting the name of & celebrating the presence of Christ, encouraging heavy & weary hearts, challenging disbelief, confronting unfaithfulness, & much more.

What’s a preacher to do? [Ironic, I know.]

Perhaps, our models should be broad but simple. For example: wrestling with broad but simple questions like What must we know? & What must we now do?.

Behavior not bound up in & grounded upon Truth isn’t redemptive. Truth which does not substantiate itself in behavior, likewise, isn’t redemptive.

So, it seems that our preaching must both share & invite, proclaim & call, declare & demand.

Within & throughout this simple, 2-fold structure, of course, we ought to weave story, humor, narrative, illustration, experience, perhaps even some sarcasm, satire, or self-deprecation.

But, if we aren’t helping people think & live biblically, are we actually proclaiming the Scriptures?

 

* I recorded these thoughts while driving down the road almost 13 months ago. That being said… (1) I was voicetexting on my phone’s notepad, so it was safe! Relatively-speaking. (2) Hopefully, this explains the scatteredness & disjointedness. (3) I then emailed the note to myself & lost it in my inbox, so this has been a long time coming.

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Easter is not about Jesus dying for you.

WARNING: This post is intended for a certain audience… Christian believers.  More specifically, Christian believers who consider themselves ‘Evangelical’ (whatever that now means).  If you do not fall within this category, please feel free to eavesdrop a bit, but please know that my thoughts are directed toward those folks (typically within the Western Church) who pride themselves in “Bible-believing” and “Gospel-preaching” — which is to insinuate absolutely nothing about those who do not consider themselves to be ‘Evangelical’.  Seriously.  Put plainly in another way, this is not directed toward ‘Mainline Protestant’ folks, ‘Roman Catholic’ folks, or ‘Eastern Orthodox’ folks… or, for that matter, any hybrids of these branches of our great Tree.  Furthermore, if you’re easily offended, please do not read what follows.  Seriously.  You probably will be offended… not because I’m aiming to be offensive or hoping to offend anyone but simply because I think this desperately needs to be said, and we often don’t like to hear things that need to be said.  Case in point, “Sir, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re dying.”  How many of us have the gall to say such a thing to a home-going loved-one?  How many of us want to one day be told this by a loved one?  Some things, though hard to both say and hear, need to be said.  And in light of the subject matter which follows, how many of us think that Ash Wednesday is silly ritualism?  “To dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.”  [But I digress, so without further hesitation, please consider yourself warned.]

Easter is not about Jesus’ death on the Cross.  That’s Good Friday.  That’s right: there is such a thing as Good Friday.  Most of us have all but forgotten about this remarkable Holy Day in the life of the Church, but nonetheless, it’s still there.  Yep, Good Friday.  It hasn’t gone away.  Though we’ve neglected it, profaned it, and nearly lost it in our culture, it’s still there.  It hasn’t left us, though we’ve treated it quite poorly, perhaps most poorly by simply ignoring it.  [Be honest, you HATE to be ignored.  Other sins you can bear within yourself, but to be plainly ignored…?  That hurts.]

It was on Friday that Jesus died upon the Cross.  It was on Sunday that He rose from the grave.  Aha!  Hopefully, now we’re starting to see the importance of Easter.  Friday: the death of Jesus.  Sunday: His resurrection.

Why does this ever-so-important distinction even matter?  Well, for a number of reasons…

For starters, truth matters.  Amen?  If I went to Kroger rather than Publix, I went to Kroger, not Publix.  There is a difference.  The simple fact that there is truth to the matter (and the potential for falsehood) should suggest –or scream– to us that the truth does indeed matter.  What happened?  When did it happen?  These are not mere “details” as if they were on the periphery of the greater subject at hand (i.e., that Jesus died for us); they are the reality of what God has done in Christ to redeem us.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Come on, man.  No one’s saying that the events of Friday actually happened on Sunday or that the events of Sunday actually happened on Friday.  Neither is anyone saying that Sunday didn’t come or that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.”  I concede that this may well be the case.  However, I’m concerned that our sloppy approach to proclamation & theology unveils in us a lax approach to worship & love.  Could it be that we’ve betrayed ourselves?  If we’ll be candid & honest with one another for but a moment, I think most of us would confess a nagging doubt we’ve found within our hearts and minds from time to time: “What does it really matter?  Does it really matter?”

I know… I know… I’m losing you.  Hang with me.

Why does Christmas matter?  Isn’t that what the whole Gospel is about?  God is with us.  Why does Jesus’ death matter?  Isn’t that what the whole Gospel is about?  God has rescued us.  […not in some sick, depraved, the-Father-taking-His-frustration-with-us-out-on-His-innocent-Son-in-divinely-gleeful-rage sort of way, but perhaps that’ll be the subject of another post at some other time.]  With the acknowledgement that I may now be crossing a liturgical line, I’ll tread lightly…  Why does the Ascension matter?  Why does Pentecost matter?  Is this annual proclamation & celebration perhaps just vain repetition?  Are we any better than Celtic pagans?

The difference: The Good News of the Church is the story of what God has actually done in history, real time & space, to rescue humanity.  History, ergo time, necessitates sequence.  This happened; then, that happened.  What the Church for centuries, even [Now I’m stretching it.] millennia, has done is summarize the Gospel into an annual pattern of proclamation & celebration, which creates for Itself a rhythm of life & worship into which It invites It’s members & those who drop eaves to participate & dance.

The fact is that there is a lot to the Gospel.  While it might can be summarized in tracts [though I prefer creeds], It really demands more than just a few lines.  It demands a life.  It demands much more than we all-too-often regrettably offer it.

Okay, but what about the whole Friday-death-Sunday-ressurrection distinction?  Here’s the sum of it… We live our lives far too fast-paced for our own good.  We have instant oatmeal, instant Jello, instant pudding, and instant RICE for crying out loud!  IT ONLY TAKES 15 MINUTES TO MAKE PLAIN, OLD-SCHOOL RICE!!!  WHY DO WE NEED INSTANT RICE?!  We love our fast food options.  We expect things now, and even when we pray for patience [if we pray at all], we ask for God to give it without delay.  This is not good.  This is not healthy.  This does not build character.  This does not shape a virtuous life.

We like our Gospel like we like our preaching on Sunday mornings.  We like it hard and fast.  While we’ll take being preached to, we’d much more prefer being preached at.  We want sweat dripping & spit slinging.  We want to front row, “real-big” Christians to be nasty by the time it’s all over.  We want a huge black Bible being thumped, even pounded against the top of a big oak pulpit.  Composite leather, please.  Hopefully, you’ve noticed my use of pronouns here…  We.  The world, of course, doesn’t like this, but we do.  The “others” outside of ‘Evangelicalism’ might be turned off by this sort of Gospel, but it sends a chill up our legs.  This chill is sometimes vocalized with a shout of “Amen!”  Why?  “Because people need to hear this!  They need the Gospel!  This church ought to be packed on Sunday mornings, because someone’s missing out.”  Yep, betrayed again.  We like our ‘Evangelicalism’ like we like our termites.  Though they fascinate us, we’d rather them “abide” in someone else’s house.

The Gospel offers us good (in exchange for our bad).  It offers us health (in order to purge our dis-ease).  It seeks to build character within us (having given us a fresh start).  It seeks to shape our lives through virtue (as we follow our victorious Lord).  Yes, it saves, but salvation is full not partial.  It doesn’t offer a quick fix.  It doesn’t offer a free ticket for eternity.  It offers us redemption… real redemption… complete redemption.  It is the story of how the one true God has fully embraced our humanity, taken it into Himself, and rescued it through participation.  We, now, are called to embrace Him (the incarnate One), invite Him into ourselves (our lives, our families, our relationships), and participate in His plan for rescue.

In making Easter Sunday into just a bigger Good Friday, we risk making the Gospel only about the forgiveness of sins, neglecting that it is also about the resurrection of the body.  The Creed, anyone?  When we reduce the Gospel to a mere tag-phrase (e.g., Jesus died for you.), we suspiciously offer only a fresh start, not a new life.  Easter is about the shocking, other-wise impossible miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus.  Friday: the Crucifixion.  Sunday: the Resurrection.  Friday: the blood-stained Cross.  Sunday: the chillingly-empty Tomb.  The Man was dead.  His body was laid “to rest” in a tomb.  [By whom?  If I were a betting man, I’d be putting a heap of cash on you not having any clue.]  As the Apostle Paul would have us believe, though, while His death affords us forgiveness of sins, His resurrection raises us to new life [victorious life!] through faith.

It’s obvious… While we’ve perhaps made the Gospel too complicated for others, we’ve surely made it far too simple for ourselves.  Holy Week which has [Alas!] already passed us, invites us to walk carefully, slowly, intentionally, prayerfully.

Easter is not about Jesus dying for you.  What’s crazy: today is Easter Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Easter Sunday.  The season of Easter actually goes on for a few more weeks.  [Ha!  You’ve been snookered, haven’t you?  It’s only just begun, my friend.  Karen Carpenter?  Hmm.]

Indeed.

Indeed.

Most of us are far too busy to worry with Good Friday… and don’t even think about Maundy Thursday!  We’ll make time on Holy Saturday for our Easter egg hunts, and we’ll talk about nothing but Jesus’ death on the Cross for our sins on Easter Sunday morning, when we should be proclaiming, “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!!!”  Most of our churches are far too big to worry with the distinction.  After all, we need a Friday evening service, a few on Saturday, and a couple on Sunday, and we can just say that they’re each our “Easter” celebration, right?  Logistics, really.

This is no criticism against working on Good Friday.  This is no criticism against being busy.  This is no criticism against large congregations.  I swear it.  This is simply an anecdotal observation of what we’ve become in the Western world of ‘Evangelicalism’.  My suggestion is that we slow down and walk carefully and intentionally.  The liturgical calendar could help in this regard, but that might not be your sort of thing.

[I’ll probably need to clarify a few things in subsequent posts.  We’ll see…]


Literally.

Ah, Literally.

…perhaps the most ignorantly-ironic, poorly-misused, often-overused adverb in the English language.  [Sometimes, I find myself wondering if its equivalent is (mis)used likewise in other languages.]

literally

Chris Traeger (doing what he LITERALLY does best)

In consideration of the oft-rehashed and too, too tired debate concerning Scripture and the means of interpretation (e.g., Is the Bible to be taken literally or metaphorically?), a few things have occurred to me of late.  My gift to you:

  1. The literal and metaphorically categories are not alone in the world of literature, and to be sure, yes, Scripture is (as it purports itself to be) literature.  Sure, it’s much more, but it is literature nonetheless.
  2. What’s more: literal and metaphorical are not mutually exclusive categories.  As Dr. John Walton of Wheaton often points out, sometimes the more literal interpretation of a passage is not the modernistic or “scientific” reading that we might quickly presume and thereby impose upon the text but, rather, what the author intended his original audience to understand within the historical, theological, literary (even mythological) context of the day of its writing.
  3. Additionally, those who quickly call for a literal reading of Scripture are often the most quick to assume a metaphorical reading of certain difficult passages.  How many times have we heard those who vehemently insist upon a literal 1,000-year Millennial Reign of Christ, accuse those who disagree of being ant-blbical only then to conclude that the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is, of course, only so symbolically.  “You know… They just remind us of His body and blood, of course.  After all, that can’t be taken literally.”  Hmm.
  4. Lastly, those who readily impose a metaphorical reading upon the Bible in almost all instances are often guilty of the same bating-and-switching sins.  I know, I know — I’m using the concept of bate-and-switch loosely, here, but I hope you understand my point.  Interpreters often draw us in using wholesale language (and “bumper-sticker” cliched terms) only to  change (or, at least, adjust) the rules of the game once we buy into their all-too-simplistic thinking.

In sum, I’m literally sick of it all.  Literally?  Yes, literally.  But, no, not really.  Even still, perhaps I should be…


The Word Best Heard?

Just as the worlds were not written into existence but rather were spoken into being, so also should we hear the Word and not merely see it.

-Me via Twitter

— — —

Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis, pen in hand

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath’s 2013 biography of the celebrated Oxford don and (obvious to those who know me remotely well) my own favorite writer. Though I’ve read much (if not most) of his work and not a few biographies of his life (even his own Surprised by Joy), I’m finding myself struck anew by Lewis’s emphasis on the voiced word–– his insistence that literature is most fittingly to be heard not simply read.

Since Trinity Sunday, our congregation has been walking through the Old Testament together, and for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the Psalms. (This coming Sunday, I plan to preach from perhaps my personal favorite: the 121st.) Back on task… This past Sunday, preaching on the 113th (a more obscure one [intentionally] than that of the previous Sunday: the 23rd), I encouraged our congregation to make use of the Psalms (i.e., the Bible’s prayerbook and “hymnal”) in a three-fold manner:

  1. Use the Psalms daily.
  2. Use the Psalms audibly.
  3. Use the Psalms prayerfully.

Having had my curiosity piqued by Lewis’s encouragement toward hearing the sound of a literary work, I’ve made a few theological/biblical observations of late…

  • Concerning the story of creation… God spoke. Further, He dialogued.
  • Concerning the prophets of Israel/Judah… They proclaimed the word of Yahweh primarily, recording it in writing generally only secondarily.
  • Concerning the ministry of Rabbis… They generally taught disciples rather than write books.
  • Concerning the life of Jesus… He was never known to have written anything but perhaps a few cryptic words in the dirt. (His disciples also considered Him a Rabbi.)
  • Concerning the Gospel of Christ… It was proclaimed long before it was written.  In fact, upon seeing the Resurrected Lord, Mary Magdalene was instructed to go and tell the disciples, not to go and record her findings and thoughts.

What does all of this mean? I have no idea at this point. Perhaps it all only points to odd and bygone phenomena of an ancient time and culture. Nonetheless, my attention has been grabbed.

— — —

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

How beautiful are the feet of those

Who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!

-St. Paul to the Romans

(10:14-15; cf. Isaiah 52:7 and Nahum 1:15)


Hip to the Jive, Yo!

I’m currently reading Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken which –so far– has been a thoroughgoing and thoughtful trek through the origins and significance of ‘Christian Hipsterdom‘.  Over the course of the last few days, I’ve made my way through the first two sections, which have covered the history and meaning of the concept ‘cool’ and that of cool Christianity respectively, and I’m soon to make my way out into testy waters of the final section, which seems to be a judgment –so to speak– of both the benefits and detriments of ‘hipness’ in the Church, hopefully offering suggestive whispers of “a way forward” and whatnot.

Up to this point, I’ve enjoyed the book.  I’ve found myself audibly laughing [mockingly?] about some of what I’ve read only to then be insightfully delighted by other portions.  I’m trying to read as objectively as possible, which –as always– is proving to be an impossibly difficult [though nobly beneficent] task when grappling with a concept about which one holds personal opinions.  All in all, however, this book is proving –so far– to be helpful, insightful, challenging, encouraging, and so much more.  Will you like it?  Perhaps.  Will you be annoyed by it?  Perhaps.  Do I recommend it?  Indeed.

In sum, I’m personally working through the following thoughts, some of which are directly attributable to the epically-named McCracken, others of which are perhaps only logically consequential, though that’s probably debatable:

  1. Coolness is dependent upon uniqueness.
  2. The search for ‘coolness’ is a constant search for being non-derivative.
  3. Almost everything is necessarily derivative, for everything under the sun is logically dependent.
  4. One could make the case that only God is, therefore, cool, for only God is logically independent and therefore non-derivative.
  5. However, if God is trinity [And He is!] and if the Son is begotten of and the Spirit proceeds from the Father [And They are/do!] and if the Father is the Fount of Deity [And He is!], then it seems incumbent to recognize that the first Person of the Blessed and Holy Trinity is the most cool — all other coolness being howsoever derivative [really?!] of His soley-original coolness.
  6. And yet, all things bear within themselves the potentiality of coolness insofar as all things are uniquely themselves.  For example, the Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit, nor is there any other eternally-begotten of the Father [Before all worlds!].  The case can then be made that the Son is also truly and uniquely cool [redundant perchance?].
  7. Coolness is indeed a difficult [and profound?] subject, inherently and –therefore– inevitably filled with qualifications and exceptions.

What just happened?


a poem for Palm Sunday

a cartoon sketch of G. K. Chesterton

Every year, when the liturgical calendar reaches certain holy days, I make it a point to re-read certain pieces of liturgy or literature which have come to be favorites in my life.  Here’s a poem by one of the greats of literature that I read each year on Palm Sunday…

“The Donkey” by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born;



With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil’s walking parody

On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.



Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.


Jesus > Religion?

Please let me, first, offer a simple explanation of my misplaced responses. It had just arrived at a youth meeting (Bible study, prayer, fellowship) when I noticed that things were getting “heated up”. As I waited for folks to show up, I decided to read some of the comments that were being posted and began commenting as I was reading. Consequently, I found myself unable to keep up as folks were chiming in; each time I posted, Facebook would then notify me of several other comments that had actually been posted prior to mine. Please bear with me as things certainly came across inappropriately and my comments seemed out of place and – perhaps – crass.

Please let me, second, make it clear that opposing viewpoints are certainly allowed and are even appreciated. It should be duly noted that I gave the guy on the video the benefit of doubt: suggesting that he is either a liar, a lunatic, or an idiot. My suspicions are that he is sincere and is not lying, is sane an not crazy, and mistaken and far too loose with his words, ideas, and the communication of both. Perhaps ‘idiot’ is too strong of a word for the faint at heart, but – to be sure – I was using the term etymologically… He seems oblivious of his relationship to the outside world and, thereby, proudly proclaims a Gospel lacking either biblical substance or theological coherence.

Please let me, third, clarify a few thoughts that have come to my mind regarding the contents of the video and the discussion that has ensued:

  1. As has been noted, he fails to define his terms, which is the first step of reasonable debate. He doesn’t seem to care to dialogue; he seems to simply care to make a cool video that can go viral. He seems to be confusing scriptural religion with false religion and should take note of James 1:26-27 among other passages which acknowledge true Christian faith to be indeed religious in character and expression. God gave religion to the Hebrew people as a means by which He would reveal Himself to the people with whom He graciously entered a covenantal relationship. The word of Scripture is that He instituted Hebrew religion, even establishing the rituals and festivals by which they would rightly worship Him and through which they would reliably know Him. Jesus was – perhaps – the most religious person who ever lived. He knew the Law and the Prophets and followed them faithfully. He even warned His followers that their “righteousness” must necessarily exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if they are to ever hope of knowing and loving Him and, thereby, having spiritual life.

  2. I’m sure some are wondering why we call can’t just call it quits and stop debating the doctrine within the Church. After all, what about the “friendly fire” of Christian theological conversation? We should heed the exhortations of Jude, Paul to the Galatians, and the epistles of John certainly among other writings in the Christian Scriptures. Who Christ indeed is and what Christ indeed instituted is of utmost importance. Many will say unto Him, “Lord, Lord!” Truth matters, for He who is the Truth is Himself and not another. It is incumbent upon us as His people to speak of Him and His Church in great care and with great passion.

  3. What we have done in the modern evangelical church of the West is amazing. We live in a largely post-Christian culture, one which – for the most part – has forgotten all Christian memory, and what have we done? We have addressed the problem, which is – in large part – biblically illiteracy and theologically ineptness with a pathetically anemic pop-Christian solution; namely, wholesale biblical ignorance and discount bumper sticker theology. And now, after decades of “cheap grace” and “keep it simple” sermonizing, how better off are we? How changed is the world? How wealthy are the poor? How incarnate is the Body?

  4. Those stepping up to the mic to call our folks and inflict wounds on the “Church” and “Christianity as a religion” would do wisely to choose their targets well and to, then, aim accurately. In slamming “religion”, he’s shooting at everyone! What’s with all of this “we” business? About whom is he talking? Most of the contemporary Christian music on the radio is guilty of the same fault: dogging out “us religious folks”. I find myself constantly wanting to yell back, “Who? What church? My church?! Yours?!” Meanwhile, we (i.e., we who have a “relationship” with Jesus and are proudly “non-religious”) drive along, nod our heads, raise a hand in agreement, and mutter, “Amen,” never doing a thing to change the world and – all the while – being convinced that it’s everybody else’s (i.e., those “religious” folks’) problem that the poor are poor and the world remains untouched by the Body of Christ.

  5. In regards to Jesus’ statement that the Kingdom is “within you”, Jesus’ intent is, in fact, lost in translation in most instances. The Greek phrase, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν, should be translated, “For, behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst [or, among you].” Yes, the Jesus taught a present Kingdom, one established among His disciples here and now at this time and in this space, but He was not teaching them to search for pseudo-gnostic spiritism that they can find in themselves if they would just look diligently. He was declaring Himself to them, incarnate, and proclaimed – elsewhere – them to be His presence in the world likewise.

  6. The message of the New Testament is that of the Old. What the Old “majors” on, the New “minors” on; meanwhile, what the Old “minors” on, the New “majors” on. What’s more: we as the people of God should take note and boldly proclaim the message of both the Old and New Testaments, both concerning unequivocally the salvation of the world, the grace of God, and love for God and neighbor leading to faithful obedience to God and self-giving service to one’s neighbor. No one in the Old was ever saved by adherence to the law, just as no one in the New or since has ever been saved while neglecting it. In regards to the intent of the commands… They were, in many cases, object lessons, given to teach God’s people about who He is, who they are, and how they are to approach Him and relate to one another. They were, in – perhaps – all cases, teaching simple obedience. If God commands, we must obey. Hence, the old covenant (i.e., external law on stone) was made obsolete by the new (i.e., internal law of flesh) and the subsequent indwelling presence of God the Father and Christ the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

  7. As far as “the message of Christ”… Where do you find it other than in the reliable testimony of the Scriptures and in the remembering life of the Church?

  8. The Gospel is – indeed and by its very nature – subversive, but it is not only subversive to political loyalties and “God in the dock” ritualism but is also – on the same token – subversive to heavenly escapism and “nothing is sacred”, iconoclastic pop-evangelicalism.

What the world needs is the presence of Christ. What the Church offers is the presence of Christ in its faithful, incarnate, gracious, sacramental life as it embraces the Lord and His world, uniting heaven and earth in its worship to God and self-giving to His world.

If the guy in the video hasn’t found this kind of “church” or “religion”, he should keep looking… After all, for such Christ died and to such Christ has given Himself.


>"And the Heavens Were Silent"

>At the crucifixion of Christ, we see the heart of Man…
We see hatred and fear.
We see rejection and grasping.
We see anger and mockery.
We see bitterness and rage.

At the crucifixion of Christ, we see the heart of God.
We see One who loves without limit.
We see One who embraces suffering.
We see One who invites humiliation upon Himself.
We see One who is –without reservation– concerned with His beloved.
We see One who is utterly and perfectly self-giving.

At the crucifixion of Christ…
The eternal Father did not turn His back upon His eternally-begotten Son;
Rather, He turned His face in horrific anguish and incomparable pain.

At the crucifixion of Christ…
God embraced the suffering of Man.
God was spat upon.
God was mocked.
God was rejected.
God felt the paralyzing fear and cold bitterness of death.

At the crucifixion of Christ…
Matter was embraced.
Humanity was redeemed.
God and Man were reconciled in the Person of the crucified Creator.
The One who is the very source and ground of life was put to death.

And the heavens were silent…


>A Brief Critique of Part 1 from an Interview with Ayn Rand (1959)

>

This is very interesting and quite telling. Where I think she’s missing the conception of self-giving love in Christian thought is in that love -if it is to be LOVE- is in it’s very nature free and uncompelled. What’s more: the Christian Faith certainly recognizes varying degrees, origins, and characteristics of love. There is certainly erotic love, love for one’s self (i.e., the lover) to be satisfied by the object of love (i.e., the beloved). There is common love (i.e., brotherly love), by which there is a unity of interest and intention. There is, further, self-giving (as she’d call it, self-sacrificing) love, which is free and personal, rooted certainly in the value of the other, whether it’d be a virtuous sort or (as in the case of the imago Dei) an intrinsic sort.


>A Gay Christian?

>Below are some thoughts I shared in response to some seemingly confused and obviously hurtful words regarding homosexuality and the Christian Faith. These thoughts were shared by me in a discussion on Facebook where it seemed that some spoke without any consideration to others, while others spoke without anything that even appeared to be a healthy sampling of coherent biblical understanding. Still others, however, showed themselves to be -perhaps unknowingly- means of grace and conduits of God’s holy love. Be sure, though, that the original discussion seemed to be well-intentioned and even a worth-while discussion concerning a very serious and timely matter…

1. It seems that some folks here need to define the terms. (What does it mean to BE a Christian? What does it mean to BE a homosexual? Are we talking about tendencies or actions? After all, the very foundation of debate itself is to define one’s terms.)

2. There is a wide chasm between unadulterated truth-speaking and intentional humiliation and degradation of another person made in the image of God. I myself loath political correctness, but I hate even more intentionally harmful words spoken with the greatest of arrogance and highest of raised fists.

3. Anyone who’d say that all sin is just alike -even in the eyes of God- is either biblically illiterate, sadly mistaken, or grasping for the barest of straws to cover his own nakedness. There is a multiplicity of terms for sin in both the New and Old Testaments of Scripture. There is likewise a variety of both degrees and consequences of sin in Scripture. To be certain, all sin leads to death, but be also aware that death comes at varying speeds. There is no way a person can morally -or even theologically / biblically- equate raping another person to speaking a lie to said person.

4. If sin is not healed, it will -like any disease- bring eventual death. Sins can be forgiven, but SIN can only be healed. They can be put in the past, but IT must be finally dealt with, not ignored, not passed over, not over looked, not called okay… Healing is the need: healing is the prescription.

5. “The LOVE of Christ compels us…”

6. “The KINDNESS of God leads to repentance….”