Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There's Love and Then, There's Love...

Popular worship song lyric:

"...In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love. My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart from your great love ..."


Pretty nice, yes? But something bothered me about it and I looked up the context. The love that is presented there, is not a feeling you sense with your heart. It's God acting on our behalf -- "working all things together, " justifying, interceding -- in the face of persecution and perhaps, not to stretch it too far, adversity.

Much could be said about a paradigm shift that has happened over time from decision/action based virtues to feelings, but if that discussion starts, here's a case in point.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween is our day...

Attention all Christian paranoids and neo-druids. All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day are Christian holidays. Christians do not have to initiate imitation Halloween celebrations, calling them "harvest festivals" as if the word Halloween was tainted. And Wiccans and the like have no business reclaiming the "true" heritage of the ancient Celts and calling it their day.

So for a moment, set aside the undeniable fact that as Creator, all days (and nights!) really belong to our Father and no one else. This one's all about story. Those who think of Halloween as a devilish holiday think of the Church co-opting pagan holidays in some ineffective and paltry manner to try and woo primitive and medieval societies away from their true heritage. How silly to take the great festival of Samhain and call it All Saints Day. At least that seems be the way it's been told.

Let's try a different story. The Celts had the druids, the real druids. The genuine article. And guess what. When the light of Jesus shone in their culture, they turned to him and rejected them. Their nature-religion-based worldview was uniquely transformed into one of the most beautiful expressions of the Faith ever known. No one who is exposed to even a small part of what they bring can deny the powerful genuineness of their whole culture conversion. And they had the total right to re-purpose whatever holidays they wished. Done deal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oversimplification

There's a trend in today's theologizing that is starting to bother me a bit. We're  looking at God and the only lens we may use is his love. If something especially some traditionally held belief doesn't fit with our idea of love, we start to question it and start to downplay it because now we are uncertain of it. And this isn't necessarily a bad process. If we don't reevaluate our beliefs with some level of frequency, the tendency is to become dyed-in-the-wool dogmatics whose only anchor in faith is their unreasoning inflexibility.

But there's this niggling difficulty I have with the "only love" (and I have to include "only our understanding of love") view of God that we have. It's actually not what God says about himself. Moses asked God to show his glory and God's response was to proclaim his name. And what is the name of God?

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Do you see what I see? This is not a "love only" God. In his very name he reminds us that he justly punishes the guilty. Is this a horrible thing? No. The mercy he extends to us is not mercy at all if our actions, nay our whole lives don't really deserve punishment. I think that these two facets of God's nature feed into each other beautifully. In fact the one makes sense in the context of the other. Yes, this is God speaking to Moses in the context of the Old Testament and yes, the fuller revelation comes in the person of Jesus. But this is still in my books, red letter text -- God talking about himself. And we ignore it at great risk. God is loving. God is just. In the past, the church could be accused of oversimplifying on the just side. But don't let's commit the opposite error.