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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Previously, I’ve discussed sleep and music as “natural sacraments”. In thinking about other areas of life that meet this criteria, it occurred to me that the Christian life as a whole is one. Obviously the life of faith should transform the individual, but here I am thinking more about the impact of Christian living on society as a whole. We are faith and food for a dying culture.

The Christian Life as a Gift

The Christian life by definition is one of sacrifice. Jesus gave himself for humanity and then calls each of us to take up our own cross. This does not mean that our sacrifice has any power for salvation on its own, but our sacrifice does share in the power of Christ and his resurrection. When we are willing to lay down our lives, our gift is matched and even multiplied for a greater return in the Kingdom of God.

The Christian Life as Knowledge

Inherent to belief in God is a connection with all knowledge. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. When we live with integrity, our connection to Him empowers our connection with all other aspects of Creation. This does not mean we have a special “science”, but that knowledge is better set into context to be understood as part of the whole body of knowledge. (more…)

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Have you ever thought about what surprises God? Perhaps we take it for granted that God’s omniscience undercuts any possibility of catching God off guard. Still the Bible describes two instances where Jesus (fully God and fully man) is “surprised” or “amazed”. In Mark 6:5-7, it says:

[Jesus] was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith. (Good News version)

Then in both Matthew 8:9-11 and Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion tells Jesus not to come to his house to heal his servant, but appeals to Jesus’ authority and only “say the word”:

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.” (Good News version)

The obvious thing to note is that both instances are in regards to faith–either the great lack of it or the great exercise of it. Jesus seems to expect that he can heal at least some people wherever he goes, but that some active show of power is needed to help people along. (more…)

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Housekeeping note: Due to a number of amazing and good life changes I am facing this month, I am slowing down the pace of my blogging. Until further notice, I will post every Monday here and every Thursday at Perichoretic Life. I hope to share more details soon, but I need to wait till later in the month when more things are finalized. For now, enjoy this piece from my “sacrament series”.

Ever since I wrote about “Sleep as Sacrament”, I have been thinking about what other natural sacraments we have in our lives. The one that stands out to me most immediately is music. Certainly, you could insert any favorite mode of art here, but for me that would be music. So using some of the same contours of thought as I did before, I want to explore that.

As with sleep, there is an upside and a downside.

Music at its height draws us into worship of the true God. This truth is poignant for me as I recently started attending a church that does the liturgy antiphonally. (i.e. The worship leader and the congregation sing responsively.) Along with the stained glass windows, bells, and sometimes even incense, I have come to appreciate how beautiful liturgical worship can be.

Music can also become idolatrous as evidenced by the extravagance of rock concerts, the business practices of the music industry, and the naming of shows like “American Idol”. Performers become proud and puffed up rather then humbled for service. Audiences are whipped into a frenzy with no outlet for more meaningful relationship.

As with most things, this ugly side does not exist on its own. It’s merely a distortion of the good, dependent on the good. We are called to redirect our attention, not just in church music, but all music which ultimately belongs to God. This does not mean that all music must mention God explicitly, but it should in some way glorify Him. (more…)

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“Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one.” –Father Brown (as written by G.K. Chesterton)

I’m writing this late at night even as I am starting to feel tired and weary. Sleep is definitely a good gift, but who would have thought to invest it with the deep, rich meaning Chesterton has ascribed it here.

Of course, his thoughts weren’t just plucked out of nowhere. The Bible has many good things to say about sleep. Here’s just a sampling from the Wisdom Books:

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” –Psalm 3:5

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” –Psalm 127:1-2

“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” –Ecclesiates 5:12 (more…)

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Discussions about faith often remind me of a piece by Barth early in his Dogmatics in Outline. Dogmatics in Outline is a small baby paperback in comparison to the voluminous Church Dogmatics. Here Barth follows the structure of the Apostle’s Creed where he begins by identifying three determinations of faith: trust, knowledge and confession. These are not “facets” mind you, but faith fully revealed and integrated in a perichoretic manner.

Whenever I teach about faith, I use Mary as a concrete example as reflected in Luke 1:26-56. Mary, quite literally, embodies faith through the Holy Spirit’s conception, the angel’s message, and her own song in response to her pregnancy.

As is typical of Barth in the Church Dogmatics, he begins each chapter with a short summary of what he is about to explain. I will start with each of those summaries here as I describe the three determinations of faith. Note that Barth appeals to freedom as a fundamental characteristic each time in a way that ties it all together. (He has often been called the “Theologian of Freedom”.) (more…)

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In Section 25 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, we looked at the fulfillment of the knowledge of God. In Section 26, Barth delved into what it means for God to be knowable. Now in Section 27, Barth discusses the limits of that knowledge–namely where it begins and ends. He seemingly starts by reiterating where we left off in the previous sections:

“God is known only by God. We do not know Him, then, in virtue of the views and concepts with which in faith we attempt to respond to His revelation. But we also do not know Him without making use of His permission and obeying His command to undertake this attempt. The success of this undertaking, and therefore the veracity of our human knowledge of God, consists in the fact that our viewing and conceiving is adopted and determined to participation in the truth of God by God Himself in grace.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.179)

While this opening remark is well rooted in the discussions of God’s revelation being a gift of His grace, Barth’s develops each word as part of an even more well defined picture. Barth confirms that the starting and ending points must be contained within God, but he also intends to show how it is that we can know anything about God on this basis. (more…)

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An “apologetic” is not an attempt to say “I’m sorry”. It actually means to “give reasons why” you believe something is true. I guess that would make this post an “apologetic on why I don’t rely on apologetics”.

It’s not that I don’t think Christians should think deeply about their faith. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, apologetic thinking masks the deeper issues and prevents us from getting to what truth in theology is all about: faith thinking and faith acting.

The Comprehensive Nature of Truth
I’ve been involved in a number of online chats about faith, skepticism and other issues. Each time I find myself frustrated because no one issue or discussion can capture the breadth of why I believe as I do.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen.” It’s not that I believe one thing, but many things in every area of life which point to God. There isn’t a single focus or even a particular set of arguments that lead me to believe as I do. I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. It all fits together because it originates in God and finds its purpose in Him.

At Best a Starting Point
At their worst, an apologetic just creates a circular argument. While we may frown on people who use simplistic circular arguments, the most intelligent among us simply use bigger and more well-constructed circular arguments. (more…)

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