Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Chambers on the "The Primacy of Being"

These entries can be found in Mr. Chamber's book My Utmost for His Highest. My Jesa Juva entry, "The Primacy of Being," can be found here.
(Note: My emphasis is in bold.)

From the October 19th entry entitled "The Unheeded Secret":

The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observations, for lo the kingdom of God is within you," a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives in the shop windows. It is the innermost of the innermost that reveals the power of the life.
We have to get rid of the plague of the spirit of the religious age in which we live. In our Lord's life there was none of the press and rush of tremendous activity that we regard so highly, and the disciple is to be as His Master. The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men.
It is not its practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College, its whole strength lies in the fact that here you are put into soak before God.
You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you wither at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens.

From the December 18th entry entitled "The Test of Loyalty":

Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing we "stick at" today. We will be loyal to work, service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers. The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us.

Finally, from the October 9th entry entitled "Pull Yourself Together":

I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot atone for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot make right what is wrong, pure what is impure, holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. have I faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made a perfect Atonement, am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The great need is not to do things, but to believe things.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Thought on "Unnecessary Divorces" to Master Jenkins

In regards to "Memoryless Christianity"

The book review mentioned can be found here.

What irked me was the reviewer (and author) making the issue an "attractional versus missional" thing. Why is it "versus"? Why is it not BOTH? Why does the church not PULL IN as well as GO OUT? If the institutional church merely "pulled in," is not merely "going out" just restating the same problem with different words? Why is there this unnecessary divorce? Why is it an oppositional relationship and not a complimentary one? Why do we, as Christians, in regards to many things (worship, missions, church structure and service etc.) keep making there unnecessary divorces? Why is that when we slowly slip into letting one thing dominate one area of Christendom that we suddenly (and with much panic) run completely the other way and commit the same fallacy on the other end of the spectrum?
It's like this: we're standing on a bar held up by a thin pole. When we stray to far to one side and are in danger of completely flipping over, we think we solve the problem by running completely to the other side. It's like no one in the Church understands BALANCE anymore. These unnecessary divorces are the cause of much confusion, division and chaos in the Church today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Church vs. Chapel

This blog is based off what was said at the Crichton Chapel on 8-22-07:

I would say that our speaker was amazing today. His brilliantly sarcastic approach delivered with thunderous yet easy impact the truth about the difference between Christianity and religion, a favorite subject of mine. His point (paraphrased): Christ came to give us life, not religion. Don't be religious. As he put it, "Religion will make you so stuffy that your own mother won't want to be around you." Oh, and did I mention that he called Paul a "religious smartass" before meeting Christ on the road? That was hilarious in its wonderful mixture of honesty and truthfulness.
I would say all of that...but I cannot, because (according to A.T.) the point of chapel is not the message.
Before we were delighted to our guest speaker's wondrous discourse, A.T. had a statement to make. Apparently (God knows who), some people are under the horrid delusion that chapel is supposed to be like church. Well guess what: it's not. That was A.T.'s point: chapel is not church. And exactly what makes chapel "not-church"? These were A.T.'s qualifications:
  1. There is a time of music and worship, but that is not the point of chapel.
  2. There is a message, but that is not the point of chapel.
  3. Chapel is to glorify Christ.
  4. Chapel is to reconcile people to each other through glorifying Christ in what is said and done during chapel.

Points one and two are bizarre by themselves: if the music and message are pointless, if our time of worship and edification (of giving back to and receiving from God) are fundamentally irrelevant to chapel, then what is their purpose? Are they subterfuge? Are they cliche? Are they just there? Since the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church, we can assume that giving to and receiving from God are meaningful in church, but in chapel they are...what? There is no answer given.

Point three is mind-boggling. Remember: the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church. If the point of chapel is to "glorify Christ," we are left to assume by inference that the point of church is not to glorify Christ. This makes absolutely no sense.

Point four is a complete contradiction of the whole set of qualifications. How exactly can we glorify Christ through what is "said and done" in chapel if what is "said and done" in chapel (i.e., the music and/or the message) is irrelevant? There lies the contradiction: points one and two have already established that what is said and done in chapel is irrelevant to the purpose of chapel, and yet point four says that the purpose of chapel is to reconcile ourselves to each other by glorifying Christ through what is said and done. That completely negates what was previously said.

The larger issue here, of course, is a question that has plagued this school for years now: what is chapel? According to what A.T.'s statement, it is and is not about what is said and done, and (as opposed to church) is about glorifying Christ. Um...what?

I am surprised that such a school as Crichton, which hails that it challenges its students to "Think Critically, Grow Spiritually, Change the World" is not thinking critically about this. If we were in a class room setting with one of our illustrious professors, and the question was presented "What is chapel," there would be a required reading of the history of the word and idea of chapel as well as the history of the usage of chapel throughout church history: how did chapel originate? How did the Church use it? What did the Church Fathers or authorities say its use was? How did they differentiate it from a regular church service? Did they differentiate it from a regular church service? What biblical backing is there for such conclusions? What has church history and authority said about chapel? If we came back to said professor with a response like A.T.'s, we would flunk, and flunk hard.

As a disclaimer, I should say that it is possible that A.T. was told to say something at the last minute, and that he tried to articulate what is very hard to say, i.e., what is chapel. What this incident demonstrates, however, is that the answer to that question is not as easy as some would assume. Any attempt to make a simple, cliche answer results in a quick slide into the ridiculous.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"It was a beautiful letdown..."

One paradox of the Christian walk is that there is comfort in the unknown. As long as we know what to do, we are standing firmly on ourselves: our wits and understanding, our ability to organize and control, our powers to manipulate and plan. This is, of course, a fragile house of cards that is sure to tumble at the slightest divine wind; indeed, divine reality checks come often to the self-confident.
Of course, one problem is that, in the moment, we do not know that we are being self-confident. At certain times, when we stop to take a breather, we say things like, "Let me pray about this," or "I'm just going to trust God," or "Lord, Thy will be done," and we think we are being fully dependent upon God. Those moments, however, are pure abstractions; when we go back into the practical and the nitty-gritty of circumstances, we immediately, completely naturally, assume the position as master and commander of our own little universe. God steps in and shakes the house of cards, letting us know that our feet are firmly planted on nothing.
"It was a beautiful letdown, when I crashed and burned," sings Switchfoot, and they are right. That is the paradox. For anyone else, having your tightly orchestrated and thought out plans and devices blow up in your face is a devastating and despairing scenario. Who else is there to turn to but themselves? For the Christian, however, it is not so. It is only when we "crash and burn" that we get a healthy grasp on desperation; and when we have that grasp, trusting God is no mere abstraction anymore: it has become an actuality, because our reality is that we are lost down here, and we need someone to save us.
There is surprising freedom in reaching the point where you can honestly say, "I don't know what to do." I am always reminded of the movie Volcano for some reason. Through 95% of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones' character has all the answers to the disasters surrounding him. It is not until the climax of the film that he puts his head down and confesses, "Well, I don't know what to do." At that moment, the answer came, and it was an unexpected answer. It is a truth we too often miss: God cannot help us if we can help ourselves. As long as we "know" what to do, we will never know what to do; that is the paradox. Our answers come only when all we have are questions. Until we can arrive at the most humiliating position of all, the quiet desperation that is "I don't know," we will never have an answer. Until we know--truly, practically know--that we need help, we will never receive it. God does not help those who help themselves; He helps those who know they need help, those who cry, "Oh God, I find no hope in me!"
God's divine reality checks will make sure that our foolish pride forever lets us down, but what a beautiful letdown it is. Everything suddenly becomes clear, the peace and the answers come suddenly, as though from outside ourselves, and the beauty comes from knowing, "God has meet me here."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Condescension of God

This blog is based off what was said at the Crichton Chapel on 8-15-07:

I must admit: A.T. is becoming a good speaker; he improves every time he steps before us. Although sometimes it felt like he was struggling for words a bit, I understood and appreciated his point: the condescension of Christ.
Here's the gist of it: Christ, being God, was not lower than man and therefore our servant. He was greater than man, and therefore He chose to become a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). He was the higher willingly becoming the lower. As C.S. Lewis put it in Miracles, God went down to the depths so He could bring all that was there up with Him: He descended so that we could ascend with Him. Christ is the condescension of God.
The word "condescend" carries with it many negative connotations in our anti-establishment generation today, which is a shame. To "condescend" means for the higher to willingly reach down to the lower. We focus too much on the "higher/lower" part and less on the "reach down" part, which is far more important. For a king to reach down into the world of the peasant is not an act of arrogance, but of love, or at least of great magnanimity. With God it is the same. God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were vile sinners, He reached down into our lower state, became a man, and died for us (Romans 5:8). As Christians, because Christ did this for us, and now that Christ lives in us, we too have the power to "condescend," to reach down into the lowest depths and bring others up with us, to descend into trials and tribulations and ascend purer than gold.
The condescension of God is the gospel. The condescension of God also has meaning for people into living after salvation That is what was preached in chapel today, and if that is what our first chapel was, then I am excited about what will happen later on in the semester.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On Food

It seems that nobody gets food right. Everybody gets it wrong.
On the one hand, the gluttons have it wrong, because they see food as mere pleasure, and who doesn't want to keep filling up on pleasure over and above what is proper and good? By seeing it as mere pleasure, there are no limits or boundaries set in their minds.
However, the diet Nazis of the world have it wrong too, because they see food as mere fuel. This is why all health food taste like crap when compared to regular food. In their minds, food's only function is to propel, not satisfy aesthetically or emotionally. By seeing it as mere fuel, food has no soul anymore.
The soul of food is the person who cooks it. Every creation has a touch of its creator, and you can tell when a creator likes what it creates. Someone who finds pleasure in food always makes the best food (and far too much). Someone who sees food as merely energy to be consumed (or worse, as an evil in and of itself), makes the worst food (with the proper amount). Regular food is (typically) soulful but in excess, while diet food is moderation in action but void of life. Neither way is correct on its own; they both need each other.
My philosophy professor once said, "Just enjoy food." I believe what he meant is to have the proper vision of food, for you cannot truly enjoy something good unless you truly see all that it is first. You do not truly enjoy a sunset unless you take in all of its aspects; you do not truly enjoy art unless you catch sight of its every layer; you do not truly enjoy another person unless you take in all that they are. There is need for a whole and proper perspective when viewing something before you can truly and fully enjoy it (which is why wide screen movies are better than full screen!).
There is no proper perspective for food from either gluttons or diet nuts. Gluttons see it merely as pleasure; diet freaks see it merely as fuel. The correct and whole view is to see it as both, i.e., as pleasure and fuel. Food is meant to please as well as energize, and both work together (for pleasure is a way to energize). Only by seeing it as both will you be able to eat good soul-filled food and set limitations and boundaries on it. It is then you will truly be able to enjoy food for what it is: pleasure and propulsion, ecstasy and energy. May God help us to eat of His bounty with a whole and proper vision.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Recently, I was flipping through my latest Time magazine when two letters to the editor caught my eye. I have omitted their names for privacy reasons.
The first one was in regards to a Time article on the Democratic Party and faith. Apparently, there was a poll taken in regards to what religious position most voters prefer their candidates to be. This person was not pleased:

"As a young atheist who was brought up in a Catholic household, I was appalled to see that being atheist was the worst possible position for a presidential candidate. Atheists are not soulless people without morals. One does not need to have faith in order to know right from wrong--it's called common humanity. It seems the only reason our nation looks for faith within ourselves and in our leaders is that we unfortunately have faith in neither."

First of all, if you are "young," then you are not an atheist. Come back when you're eighty years old and have spent 90% of your life searching for God. If you come back empty handed, then you can call yourself an atheist. Right now, you simple do not like the concept of God (some all-powerful so-and-so bossing me around!).
Second of all, this "young atheist" is under two delusions: (1) being religious gives you a soul, and (2) being religious gives you morality. I cannot speak for all religions, but I'm pretty sure that none of the ones that are supposed to be from God say that man gets a soul be being religious. Man has a soul because he is created by God and in His image; God is a soul, therefore His creation would be souls as well. (That's another thing: this person acts like a soul is something you possess. Lewis' quote should suffice here: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.") As to morality being innate (I guess that's what "common humanity" means), he is right...and the Bible says He is right (see Romans 2:14, 15), so what's his problem again? Of course, without God, you have no real answer as to where our morality comes from, nor why we should follow it (again, Lewis' sums it up nicely, but you will have to read the first five chapters of Mere Christianity to get it).
Finally, what the heck is that last sentence supposed to mean? "It seems the only reason our nation looks for faith within ourselves and in our leaders is that we unfortunately have faith in neither." Faith in ourselves? Is he serious? Read Jeremiah 17 for a reality check. Then read Chesterton's Orthodoxy and see that the only people who have themselves as the end all to their lives are the madmen and lunatics in asylums (and speaking of Chesterton, read the part where he says those who try and sound smart are simply too lazy to think).

The second letter was in regards to an essay on Harry Potter. Apparently, the essayist said that because J.K. Rowling left God out of her books, she gave us magic without a source in a secular world without hope. This person disagreed:

"My generation is plugged into iPods, phones and Facebook, yet disconnect from everything but apathy. Harry Potter is a modern reminder that teenagers are capable of more than what our materialistic society tells them they are. In her series, Rowling brings ideals and virtues to Harry's tortured and disillusioned realm. Perhaps by not including religious overtones, Rowling is both reflecting the world's current secularism and transcending it with a simple concept: love."

First of all, this person is right. Our modern generation needs a reminder about something greater than what materialism offers them, and Rowling's injection of morality and ideals is good.
Second of all, this person may be right, but they are only begging the question, the same question that we mentioned before with the first letter: where did those ideals and such come from? Not from the secular world, because they are injections into it. What is their source? If not God, then what? If they come from us, then they do not transcend us anywhere. Also, if they transcend the secular world, than that world ceases to be secular, for secularism is the absence of transcendence. Where do they transcend it to? What (and more importantly, Whose) reality do those things (ideals and morals and virtues) take us to? If there is no God, then what? God is more than our lawgiver; He is our end as well, our one true desire. Without God, all those virtues, morals, and ideals are meaningless because they transcend us into nothing.
Finally, love is not a simple concept. The fact that we think it is shows just how far our "materialistic society" has sapped us of all our understanding of transcendent elements. If you want a look at the true concept of love, then study the doctrines and works on the Trinity (Dante's "Paradiso" in The Divine Comedy would be a nice start). You will never call it a "simple" concept again.

A Small Response to Master Jenkins

In regards to Aesthetics and Morality:

When Christianity becomes casual and based on emotions in form, then it will become casual and emotion-driven in theme as well. Throw away the truths about the atonement or the nature of the Trinity: give us grandfather God (or grandmother, whichever makes you comfortable) who gives me what I want, and friendly Jesus who taught us just to be nice and cure AIDS (just don't force any salvation nonsense down their throats while you cure them!).