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