Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two Mysteries: One Way of Viewing the Calvinism v. Arminianism Debate

I think a lot about the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate. For the uninitiated, Calvinism and Arminianism are paradigms for interpreting the Biblical Scriptures. There is a lot of overlap between them in terms of what they affirm and what they deny, but the reason they are typically viewed in opposition to one another is because of their differing views over the issue of predestination.

Both paradigms affirm that Heaven and Hell are realities, but disagree over the role of human decision in determining who goes where. Calvinists believe the Bible teaches that God has chosen who will go to Heaven and who will not prior to the creation of the world. Some people have been chosen for salvation, others for condemnation. Those who have been chosen for salvation will manifest their chosen-ness by coming to faith in Christ at some point in their lives, whereas those who have been chosen for destruction will never come to faith. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that God has chosen to make it possible for all people to come to faith. People, then, have some actual power of choice to say "yes" or "no" to the love, grace, and revelation that God offers (whether this is precisely what classical Arminianism argues I can't say for sure, but it is what most people who call themselves Arminian today actually believe).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seminarian Musings

From what I've noticed, Calvinists tend to affirm three ideas:

(1) God is loving and good
(2) Some people will go to Hell
(3) God is completely sovereign over salvation

In my opinion, Calvinists need to choose which one of these three ideas to get rid of. They try to affirm all three, but they can really only affirm two of them at once. If God is truly loving and yet some people will still go to Hell, then God must not be completely sovereign over salvation (in other words, He must allow human beings some say in the matter). If God is loving and completely sovereign over salvation, then no one should end up going to Hell (Calvinists really should be universalists, in my opinion). If some people will go to Hell and God is completely sovereign over salvation, then God must not be really be loving.

In other words...

If (1) and (2), then not (3).
If (1) and (3), then not (2).
If (2) and (3), then not (1).

I'd be interested in hearing any ideas anyone has as to how to reconcile all three, because at this point I can't do it.

It seems to me that the one Calvinists are most willing to jettison first is (1) – the idea that God actually loves everyone. That disturbs me. That is the LAST one I'd be willing to stop affirming. The one I think it makes the most sense to let go of – or at least the one that we need to have a more nuanced understanding of – is (3).


Friday, October 12, 2012

Thoughts: John 14:5-11

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

      *      *      *      *      *      *     *

In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus said that he was going “to prepare a place” for his disciples. He told them, “you know the way to the place where I am going,” which I assume meant, “you know I am about to die.”

But, in these verses Thomas reveals that either (a) he doesn't really know that Jesus is about to die or (b) he doesn't want to admit it. In what appears to be an attempt to get Jesus to speak more plainly, he says, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” It is in this context that Jesus delivers his oft-quoted line, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Koine Greek

So, today I had my first Greek class at Gordon-Conwell. I've got a lot of work ahead of me.

I'd always heard that the New Testament was written in "Koine Greek," but I never really knew what that meant until this morning. "Koine Greek" basically means "Common Greek." During Jesus' day, there was Common Greek and there was Classical Greek. Common Greek was, of course, the language of the common people. Classical Greek was the fancy language of the erudite.

The difference between Common Greek and Classical Greek is something like the difference between conversational English and, say, what you would read in a King James' Bible.

Isn't that interesting? God could have used the fancy language, but He chose the common one.

If you've ever viewed the KJV Bible translation as more holy or pleasing to God than the "dumbed down versions," then you need to think about this.

Also, if you've ever complained about "The Message" paraphrase, you also need to think about this.

I'm not saying the KJV is a bad thing or that The Message is a great paraphrase. I'm not qualified to answer those questions. But I will say this: it's more important for you to understand the Bible than for it to sound fancy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Breaking Bad and the Limits of Story

This summer, I became addicted to Breaking Bad. I didn't see this coming. Up until recently, my impression of the show was entirely negative. I had never watched an episode, but I knew it was about a high school chemistry teacher who gets involved in the meth business. I was disinterested for several reasons. One, because I thought the show was entirely amoral. I don't think all stories need to have unrealistically clear-cut distinctions between good and evil characters, but Breaking Bad seemed, at least from my distant viewpoint, to be a show where the good guys were really the bad guys, and I didn't like that. It seemed an irresponsible glorification of drugs and violence and further evidence of our declining culture. Secondly, I had the vague impression that it was "one of those crime shows" that's less about actual characters and more about the clever things people do to get what they want. I hate shows (and movies) like that. One, because I'm much more interested in human relationships then I am in people doing clever things to acquire wealth, and two, because I can never follow what's going on in those kinds of stories. Lastly, I knew that Breaking Bad was very critically acclaimed and that it had robbed LOST of several emmys in the categories where both of the shows had been nominated. I loved LOST (and still do), so I was always disappointed when Breaking Bad won anything that LOST didn't. I'd hear about Breaking Bad winning an award that I thought LOST deserved and I'd think to myself, "Well, there you go. The subversive show about drug dealing just won over the brilliant, character-driven dramatization of the search for answers to the most profound questions raised by our human experience. Whatever."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

John 13: Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet

Jesus answered,Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (Verse 8)

Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. Why? It seems that he thought it inappropriate. A holy man (God?) shouldn't have to bend down and scrub a fisherman's feet! For the fisherman to allow him to do so would be shameful. Surely a reverent, moral man would protest: “No, my lord, I will wash YOUR feet!

But Jesus doesn't need anyone to wash his feet. If we tried to wash them, we'd only make them dirty. We need him to wash our feet. The moral thing to do is not to offer God our foot-washing services. The moral thing to do is to receive the foot-washing service that He offers. Those who belong to Jesus are the ones who realize that they need to be washed and who are willing to swallow their pride and allow themselves to be washed.

All this makes sense to me. What I don't get are verses 9-10. Peter says, “Then, Lord – not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answers, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'll Probably Be Embarrassed I Wrote This Later

In less than two weeks, I'm going to be starting seminary. This marks a significant shift in my life. For the last ten years, late August has meant preparing to go to UCONN (four years as a student, six as a campus minister). Even though I feel confident that God has me where He wants me, there is still part of me that wishes I was going back for another round.

At the risk of sounding incredibly narcissistic, I'm going to admit that sometimes I think of my life as some kind of TV show, and every school year is the start of a new season. I imagine that there is an audience to my life that speculates as to which characters will play significant roles in the coming season and which ones will fade into the background or disappear entirely. I imagine that press releases go out in the summer, giving hints as to what the coming year holds. Last year's releases would have said things like, "Stacer and Dave have both renewed their contracts as regulars" and "Jeremy has been cast as a frequent guest," and "Jenni will remain a series regular, despite being in Providence." They would have hinted at surprises, like, "Next season will include guest appearances from an old friend" and "Certain members of Freethinkers will become series regulars starting at mid-season."

Friday, June 29, 2012

This Bodes Well for My Contentment

According to Forbes, five out of the ten "happiest jobs" are the five careers I've most seriously considered and will most likely find myself doing in the future - including the #1 job, which is probably the one I'm most likely to do.

I'm skeptical of the findings because I have no idea how they could possibly gather significant stats about something like this, but it's interesting nonetheless. The findings suggest that the biggest difference underlying the happiest jobs from the most hated jobs is a sense of meaning and purpose that transcends bringing home a paycheck. That certainly rings true for me.

The "Happiest" job are...

1. Clergy
2. Firefighters
3. Physical Therapists
4. Authors
5. Special Education Teachers
6. Teachers
7. Artists
8. Psychologists
9. Financial Service Sales Agents
10. Operating Engineers

Out of all the careers out there, #s 1, 4, 6, 7, and 8 are probably the ones I've thought about most seriously (depending on how broad the definition of #7 is).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grumpy Calvinist

Last night at The Hartford Project the speaker was asking the kids Bible trivia questions. She asked, "Who killed Abel?" One of the kids stood up. "Cain!" he said.

The speaker acknowledged that this was the correct answer. I started laughing to myself, though, because I imagined the incident playing out differently with a ridiculous caricature I'll call Grumpy Calvinist. Grumpy Calvinist would reply, "I'm sorry, that's wrong. The correct answer is GOD, because God is sovereign over all things."

Grumpy Calvinist would continue to ask a series of Bible trivia questions, each one being answered "correctly" by the children but incorrectly as far as he is concerned. To each answer he would offer the same correction: "I'm sorry, but..."

Our speaker last night gave candy to the kids who answered correctly, but Grumpy Calvinist would never do that. He would want them to learn that good doctrine is its own reward.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three of My Favorite People

Over the last two years or so, I've discovered the joy of listening to good podcasts - great content and totally free. It's awesome. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of music, but some of the podcasts I've found are so enjoyable I've almost stopped listened to music in the car entirely.

Here are my top three people to listen to:

Tim Keller

Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and the author of the best selling book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. His church has been enormously successful with one of the least churched segments of the population - young, urban professionals - and I think I can guess why: Keller knows how to communicate. He is precisely the sort of preacher the Evangelical world needs more of: humble, engaging, Gospel-centered, wise, insightful, and capable of integrating Biblical study with a healthy awareness of history, philosophy, sociology, and pop culture. If anyone got into my car when I was listening to Tim Keller, I wouldn't feel the least bit awkward about allowing the podcast to continue - not because he compromises on communicating hard truths - but because he does and he's so good at it. You can find more than 60 of his sermons in iTunes if you search for the Timothy Keller Podcast.

Peter Kreeft

When I listen to this man speak, it's as if liquid-joy is being poured into the cup of my soul. Kreeft is a 75-year-old professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King's College and the author of more than 35 books (I've read two, "The Journey" and "Love is Stronger Than Death." Both were excellent). He grew up in the Dutch Reformed tradition and received his undergraduate degree from Calvin College, but he converted to Roman Catholicism before he graduated.

There's so much I love about Kreeft. I love that he's a professor. I love that he's a charismatic. I love that he appreciates C.S. Lewis and Tolkein. I love that he's a surfer. Most of all, I love that his talks always manage to awaken my sleepy love for God.

Kreeft has a way of showing how Christianity makes sense and how it satisfies our deepest longings. He is, like Keller, incredibly insightful and a brilliant communicator. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a regularly updated podcast but he does have quite a few talks available for download on iTunes. His "Happiness" talk, an examination of the beatitudes, is one of my favorite messages of all-time, and his quirky lecture, "If Einstein Had Been a Surfer," is truly mind-blowing. I hope he stays healthy and active for awhile yet.

Justin Brierley

Brierley is the host of "Unbelievable?" on Premier Christian Radio in the UK, a program that seems tailored-made for people like me. Every week, Brierley raises an issue relevant to the Christian worldview and hosts a discussion on that issue. Usually the discussions are between Christians and non-Christians (i.e., "Where did the universe come from?," "Is it possible to have meaning without God?" "Do Angels Exist?," "Do Demons Exist?," etc), but sometimes the conversations focus on intra-church issues (i.e., "Women in Leadership?," "Was Jesus a Calvinist?," "Theistic Evolution?," etc). The show has been on for about five years and I only discovered it a couple months ago, but during that time I've listened to more than 40 episodes. Only about 200 more and I'll be all caught up.

Seriously, though, I think I will end up listening to all of them eventually. I spend enough time in the car and I enjoy them that much. The content itself is obviously a big reason, but Brierley deserves a lot of credit. He manages to keep order during potentially volatile discussions and he's aware and intelligent enough to ask consistently good questions. He's also unfailingly polite and kind, which is absolutely essential in this type of ministry. I'm so thankful for what he does.

One thing "Unbelievable?" has proven to me, though: British accents always make people sound more intelligent. You can even say wacky things with a British accent and sound reputable. I wonder if British people feel the same way about their own accents?

What do you guys like to listen to?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

John 6: The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Two chapters before the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the disciples returned from a food-run to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. When they urged their Rabbi to eat something, he seemed disinterested: "I have food to eat that you know nothing about, he said." The disciples took him literally, of course - "Could someone have brought him food?" Jesus clarifies: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

Isn't it interesting the way Jesus is consistently misinterpreted because his words are taken literally? In addition to this example, there have been several others so far in John's Gospel:

(1) 2:18-21. When the Jews in the temple ask Jesus for a miraculous sign to prove his authority for flipping the moneychangers' tables, he says, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Of course, the temple he is referring to is his body, but the Jews don't realize that (and who can blame them?). "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple" they say.

(2) 3:3-4. Jesus tells Nicodemus, a Pharisee, that "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Nicodemus replies, "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus responds by clarifying that he is talking about spiritual birth, not physical ("water") birth. 

(3) 4:10-14. When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well, he tells her that if she knew who she was talking to, she would ask him for "living water." The woman is confused: "Sir," she says, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?"

With these examples in mind, is it not ironic that many followers of Jesus today insist on interpreting Scripture with the same degree of wooden literalism as Jesus' original hearers? Jesus' words in all of these examples were in fact true, but not in the literal sense. If the Word-made-flesh was willing to speak this way, is it not possible that the Word of God speaks similarly in other parts of the Bible? I'm not trying to suggest that we should automatically assume that all the stories in the Old Testament are only true in a spiritual - rather than historical - sense, but I do think we need to be very careful about interpreting the original intent of the authors. In these examples, Jesus' intent was to communicate spiritual realities through physical terms. If we were to insist on a literal interpretation of his words, we would not only disrespect his original intent but we would also miss his point entirely. We need to be careful not to make the same mistake with other parts of the Bible.

But, going back to chapter 4 - Jesus said "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." In other words, Jesus said that his sustenance, his life, was found in doing God's will. Doing God's will and completing his mission was more important to him than anything else, which is probably why he seemed so unconcerned about food after telling the Samaritan woman about the Kingdom.

The reason I bring this up is because chapter 6 seems to talk a lot about food. In the first part, Jesus feeds 5000+ people with two fish and five small barley loaves, and in the last part he refers to himself as the essential food that must be eaten in order to experience everlasting life.

In verse 5, Jesus looks at the huge crowd and he says to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" Interestingly, verse 6 suggests that he was fishing for a specific answer, as it says, "he asked this only to test him."

What was the answer Jesus was looking for? Probably not the one Philip gave, which appears to demonstrate either (a) a lack of faith or (b) another example of someone taking Jesus too literally. I have to wonder if the answer Jesus was fishing for was something along the lines of, "We don't need to buy them bread, Lord, because the true food - the food of doing the will of God - you can offer in abundance." Such an answer would demonstrate that Philip had been paying attention in chapter 4, but instead he responds the way most of us would - and who can fault him? Feed all of them, Jesus? Are you kidding me?

But Jesus can feed all of them, and he does. He takes a boy's lunch pail and multiplies its meager contents, providing more than enough to go around. Everyone eats their fill and there's even twelve baskets of leftovers. Jesus provides more than enough.

I take several things from this story. The first and most obvious one is that Jesus is powerful. As has already been established in John's gospel, Jesus has the ability to override the normal laws of nature - the ability to do the miraculous. The second is that Jesus is capable of taking something small and multiplying it. As Jesus says in all three of the synoptic Gospels, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed...which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches." This principle is true not only of the kingdom of heaven but also of our faith. As Jesus says, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed.."

There is something so beautiful to me about God using a little boy's lunch to feed thousands of people. It reminds me of what Jesus says in Luke 21 about the poor widow who offered two copper coins to the temple treasury. "This poor widow put in more than all the others," he said, "all these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Jesus seems to like embarrassingly small offerings - particularly when they come at personal cost. Such small seeds seem prone to blossom and flourish.

Lastly, it's fascinating to think about what Jesus is saying about himself through this miracle. Surely its not just coincidence when Jesus says later in this chapter that he is the bread of life. The bread that Jesus offers in the feeding of the five thousand isn't just lunch - it's himself. Like the small basket of loaves and fish, Jesus' offering of himself is a humble one that provides in abundance.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Pavel used to be a Doctor, but he gave it all up to peel potatoes."

Last night, I watched a movie called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I thought it was excellent. I mean, really excellent. The moment it ended I decided it was the best movie I've seen in quite some time. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the gist is that it's about an 8-year-old boy, Bruno, who is the son of a Nazi soldier. Early in the film, Bruno's family relocates after his father is promoted and placed in charge of one of the death camps. Bruno knows that his father is a soldier and that he is working hard to help the Fatherland, but he knows nothing about the horrors of the camp. When he eyes its gates through his bedroom window, he thinks it's a farm. He's curious about it and wants to explore it for himself, but he hesitates as the people inside seem strange. "They're always wearing pajamas," he says.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet

Just finished the first book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet. I enjoyed it, especially Ransom's interactions with the hrossa and his conversation with Augray the sorn.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Malancandra is Lewis' vision of an unfallen, Edenic planet Mars where several races of rational creatures exist in harmony under the rule of an angelic being called Oyarsa. Weston and Devine are humans bent on using Malacandra for their own purposes, and Ransom - the protagonist - is taken to the planet against his will to help them achieve their ends.

Devine's interest in Malacandra is simply profit (it's loaded with gold), but Weston is driven by loftier ideals. Knowing that Earth can only sustain humanity for a limited period of time, Weston sees Malacandra as an opportunity to extend the human genetic line indefinitely. This is his summum bonum, and he is committed to it even if it means the devastation and eventual extinction of the Malacandrians.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 4d

Late in this chapter, Hanh describes authentic teachers as those who have the capacity to "give birth to a disciple." He says that we are all spiritual descendants of the teachers who preceded us, and then he adds, "I try to practice [Dharma] in a way that allows me to touch my blood ancestors and my spiritual ancestors every day. Whenever I feel sad or a little fragile, I invoke their presence for support, and they never fail to be there." I was surprised by this. Don't Buddhists believe in reincarnation? If so, how is it possible for one to invoke the presence of blood ancestors? Aren't those blood ancestors now living as other beings?

When Hahn talks about the Dharma, it reminds me of the way Jews talk about the Law. He says, "The Dharma is our island of refuge, the torch lighting our path. If we have the teaching, we needn't worry."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Confess...

...that my neck hasn't stopped hurting since I went skiing last weekend.

...that it is agonizing for me to make decisions that affect more than a year of my life at a time.

...that I'm a little bothered by the fact that next year I will be too old to compete on American Idol, even though I've never had any intention of doing so.

...that I still listen to Jars of Clay's first album and it gets me every time.

...that I am a house divided against itself; a man (boy?) who wants everything and nothing to do with God at the same time.

...that I get emotional every time I think of Aslan saying, "Further up and further in!"

...that I just got emotional about it again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So I'm Wondering...

Am I supposed to take near-death experiences seriously? If so, what do I do with the fact that they seem at odds with my current understanding of what happens after death? Can these accounts be reconciled with the Biblical worldview, or is the Bible-believer forced to dismiss them as fake or demonically-inspired?

Is it unethical not to report the tithe money in my savings account on my FAFSA form?

Why did I feel so sick when I tried to run today?

If I ever have children, would I be able to handle having a son or daughter with a severe disease or genetic disorder? What if I discovered my child in utero had a condition like harlequin ichthyosis? What if the doctors all recommended terminating the pregnancy? What would I do? 

How much longer will my 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan continue to run?

If I ever become a pastor, does that mean I will have to plan outreach events in the community? Will I have to organize service projects? If I have to organize service projects, will I have to come up with catchy names for the service projects? Will I have to make t-shirts with the catchy names for the participants to wear? I don't know how to design t-shirts. I don't want to design t-shirts.

Does God prefer the practice of arranged marriages, or is He more of a fan of the "falling in love" first thing? 

Will I ever experience perfektenschlag?   

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Last Enemy to Be Defeated

"Even many Christian preachers and churches treat death as a stranger today. Nothing could be more ironic. When the Christian church collaborates with a pagan culture by covering up death, it seals its own death warrant. For the whole reason for the church's existence, its whole message, is a "good news" or gospel about a God who became man in order to solve the problem of death and the problem of sin, which is its root. Whether the story is true or false, it is fundamentally a story about resurrection from death, conquest of death. The resurrection is the heart of every sermon preached by every Christian in the New Testament. For the church to cover up death is for it to cover up the question whose answer is its own meaning. Nothing is more meaningless than an answer without a question. The "good news" of Christianity claims to answer the "bad news" of death. Without the "bad news," the "good news" sounds like a charming but superfluous fairy tale, a melange of commonplace ethical platitudes inexplicably encumbered with miracles and mythology, an echo of parental imperatives already long known and disobeyed. The "good news" becomes neither good news nor even news. The Sermon on the Mount does not answer the problem of death. The resurrection does. But the answer presupposes the problem, presupposes facing death as an enemy. No wonder teaching that answer without facing the problem strikes the hearer as irrelevant mythology to be ignored as death is ignored. If the question is a stranger, the answer will be a stranger too."

-Peter Kreeft, Love is Stronger than Death

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 4c

Hahn quotes a Buddhist proverb: "He who has arrived from suchness, remains in suchness, and will return to suchness." He describes "suchness" as "a Buddhist term pointing to the true nature of things - of ultimate reality. It is the substance or ground of being, just as water is the substance of waves." He adds, "we have come from nowhere and have nowhere to go."

In the Christian worldview, we have all come from a Divine, eternal personality - not nothing. This Divine, eternal personality is the antithesis of nothing. The Christian worldview says that after death we will encounter this Divine personality in a deeper way, and that the meeting will either yield great joy or great suffering. This is, of course, very different from the idea that we have "come from nowhere and have nowhere to go."

What does Hahn mean when he says we have come from nowhere and have nowhere to go? Why does he think this is true? On the contrary, I think the world demonstrates a natural teleology - that is, it appears to be the result of a plan. In other words, it appears to be the product of will and intention - not nothing. Why should we believe that we came from nothing and will return to nothing? On what grounds? I think the natural evidence swings more in favor of the idea that we came from something, not nothing, and given the fact that the evidence swings that way and that the belief that we "came from nowhere and are going nowhere" can have dangerous, nihilistic implications for morality and society, why would I choose to put my faith in it?

Next, Hahn spends some time talking about the Buddhist perspective of human nature. He says that Buddhists believe that every human being has the potential to become a Buddha - that is, every human being has the ability to become enlightened, blessed, happy, mindful, compassionate, etc. He also says that all human beings have negative seeds within them - seeds of hatred, anger, ignorance, intolerance, and so on - that can only be transformed by touching the qualities of the Buddha. He says that this is very similar to Christianity, because Christians believe the Original Sin can be transformed when one is in touch with the Holy Spirit.

I think there are some similarities between Hahn's view and the Christian view, but there are differences as well. The Christian, like the Buddhist, believes that human nature contains "good seeds" and "bad seeds." Christian doctrine says that we are made in the image of God (the good seed) but we are also fallen and corrupt (the bad seed). However, the difference is that the Christian perspective of man sees the bad seed and the good seed as being fused together all the way down to the very core of the person. In other words, even the best of human actions are said to be tainted by impure motivations. The bad seed is inextricably tied up with the good seed, and it is only through realization of the presence of the bad seed and dependence on the mercy of God that the good seed triumphs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One of The Best Things Ever Said. Ever.

"The signature of each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite countours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you--you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another's. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction." 

- C.S. Lewis

Friday, February 10, 2012

Precisely What I'm Afraid Of

"Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." 
-Henry David Thoreau

Not an Empty Platitude

Real faith cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.
- Abraham Heschel

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 4b

Continuing in Chapter 4...

Hahn says, "I think it is important to look deeply into every act and every teaching of Jesus during His lifetime, and to use this as a model for our own practice." I agree wholeheartedly, but how is Hahn "looking deeply" into the life of Jesus? He must be examining a written account of Christ's life, but if he is doing this, what account is he using? If he is using any of the Biblical accounts, he should not downplay the significance of Christ's death and resurrection, because those are central themes in the accounts. Hahn says, "...studying the life of Jesus is crucial to understanding His teaching. For me, the life of Jesus is His most basic teaching, more important than even faith in the resurrection or faith in eternity." I agree that studying the life of Jesus is crucial to understanding his teaching, but if we are using the Biblical accounts as our means of learning about the life of Jesus we cannot downplay the fact that Jesus laid down his life as a ransom for sinners. Hahn's tendency to downplay Christ's death and resurrection is troubling to me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"Your curse is that you love God. He will haunt you wherever you go."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Journey

The following is an autobiography I wrote to submit with seminary applications. You might recognize a few lines from some of my previous blog entries, but most of it is new.

It took me forever to write this. It certainly is hard to condense 28 years into 2-pages, but I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. 

*  *  *  *  *  *

A friend once told me about a child who announced to his father, “Daddy, I invited Jesus into my heart.” The father was pleased. “That's wonderful, son,” he replied. Yes,” the son said, “and I also invited Batman into my heart!

Was that the moment of the child's conversion? Only God knows, and the same is true for me. I prayed a prayer when I was four or five. My parents had told me about Jesus, so one day I took a break from playing with my toys to invite him into my life. When they found out what I had done, they were very excited, and I was happy because they were happy. “Jesus loves you,” my parents said. I knew they loved me, so I figured Jesus really must, too.

Random Thought #352

I thank God that no matter what happens, the sky is always there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 4a

Chapter Four: Living Buddha, Living Christ

This is, by far, the longest chapter up until now. Lots to think about.

Hahn begins by distinguishing between the historical Buddha/Jesus and the living Buddha/Jesus. He says that the historical Buddha was born in Kapilavastu and died in Kushinagar, but the living Buddha - the Buddha who transcends all ideas and notions - was never born and never died. Similarly, he says, the historical Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was crucified upon Golgotha, but the living Jesus existed before the creation of the world and lives beyond the crucifixion.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 3

Chapter 3: The First Supper

Hahn begins this chapter by recounting an incident that took place at a conference on religion and peace. He says a Protestant minister approached him and asked if he was a grateful person. When Hahn said he was, the minister said, "Since you do not believe in God, you are not grateful for anything."

I hope the minister wasn't as curt as Hahn recalls, because I do think he had a point worth making. As I said in my last post, "If the world around us is not the byproduct of God, any gratitude generated by our mindfulness will be homeless; there will no one to thank." Of course, we will always be able to feel gratitude toward other human beings, but when Hahn talks about mindfulness, he's talking about something that leads to gratitude for the things that only God can take responsibility for (i.e., the ability to draw another breath or the capacity to enjoy the taste of food - even existence itself).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Top 10 Songs of 2011

In light of the New Year (and because I feel like taking a break from studying for the GRE) I thought I'd post a list of my top 10 favorite songs of 2011. I've decided to limit this list to only songs that were actually released in 2011, because if I didn't I'd never be able to pick just 10.

So, here they are. These are the songs released in 2011 that either (a) I couldn't stop listening to, (b) meant something significant to me, or (c) both. I'm limiting myself to one song per artist.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Living Buddha, Living Christ: Ch 2

Chapter Two: Mindfulness and the Holy Spirit

In this chapter, Hanh draws comparisons between the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Buddhist concept of mindfulness.

I found this chapter very interesting because the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is something I've had to think about a lot. Last year I gave a seminar at our Winter Conference on the Holy Spirit, and last semester I spoke on how to make Spirit-led decisions at our movement's weekly meeting. I've also done some research on (and had personal experience with) the charismatic movement. After all this, I still find the role and operation of the Holy Spirit to be one of the most mysterious things about Christianity.