‘Government as a human act of governing oneself and one’s responsibilities and one’s dependents is very different from the modern institution of the State.’ — Alana Roberts, from her film review of The Dark Knight Rises

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Start fresh

‘Look at all the trouble and all the suffering in the world. There is no god. How could a god allow this to happen? Despite all your pie-in-the-sky and wishful thinking, when the worst suddenly happens, you’re no better able to deal with it than anyone else. Face facts. There is no god,’ says the atheist.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: ‘This is the King of the Jews’. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

Here we have it. Both the atheist and those who believe in God or in ‘the gods’ have the same attitude. When the worst suddenly happens, both are at a loss. Irreligious or religious, there’s no help for us. Looking at the universe in the bare nakedness of our souls, we see both the beauty, and the terror, of it. ‘Why have they left me alone here without a pass key?’

Those who believe in no supernatural power sneer at faith. To them, faith is just a blind belief in spite of what really happens in the world. To many who believe in a supernatural power, whether or not they are religious, their belief is a vague mental consent to a proposition they don’t fully grasp.

Between the atheist and this kind of theist there is little difference. The apostle writes, ‘You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder’.

If God were in fact the kind of god that the atheist rejects, then I too am an atheist. That is the first hurdle, to see that you don’t believe in a god you have made up in your mind, a god who is too small.

The second hurdle is to realize that to believe there is a God is not a mental exercise or a convenient way to integrate into society. This is belief in a god who is too big. If there were ever a case for atheism, it would be to leap these two hurdles.

Can we leap the third hurdle without knocking it, and ourselves, over? without tripping over it? This is the hurdle of faith, not belief, of trust, not mental assent, of honesty, not evasion, of clarity, not unfocused vision. Can we really have faith in the God who is, just as He is, in the goodness of His will for us in the face of all that happens?

This is not a god too small or too big, but the only God there is, who though infinite became finite, who though alive became dead, who faced the irreligious and the religious with the same unblinking eyes, who came answering questions we didn’t even think of asking.

Unbeliever or believer, go back and read the gospels with the same unblinking eyes, unafraid to face the facts, the reality of the world in which we find ourselves, unafraid of all questionings, by others or ourselves.

What He calls us to is not religious belief, but to enter into friendship, even into partnership, with Him. His story is not just another tale. When you read it, forget everything you ever heard or were told about it.

Start fresh, as though reading a book you’d never seen or heard of before. I’m not talking about the bible, that religious book. I’m talking about the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Read them with a mind that sees through unblinking eyes, and see what you make of them, and of Him. This is not mere history. It is His story. See what happens to your unbelief or your belief. Leap over the third hurdle, and see where your feet take you.


Monday, April 9, 2012

God’s, or the world’s

I am an Orthodox evangelist, but I do not witness for the Church.
I witness for Christ, and He witnesses for the Church.

Everything good and everything bad that can be found in any church of any denomination can also be found in some form or another within the Orthodox Church.
None of the arguments pro and con convince me either way.

The Church is the Church is the Church.
When God the Father looks at the Church the only people He sees there are those whom He has drawn to His Son Jesus, and no others.

Because that is, by definition plain and simple, who and what the Church is.

That being said, I also say, the Church has never been divided, and can never be, because Christ prays for its unity to His Father, and the Father always grants His Son’s request.
If any of us think the Church has been divided, then he’s got a problem.

From Christ’s point of view, Orthodoxy doesn’t even exist.
All He knows about is His precious and faithful Bride whom He has been adorning and perfecting through suffering all these centuries, and He’s getting ready, now, to take her into the Wedding Chamber.

Yes, I am an Orthodox Christian, but all that means is,
I am finally freed from the war of words that absorbs so much of the strength and energy and resources of the Christian community at large.
I am free, literally, to go anywhere, to be all things to all men, because I have found the Door, and I can always get back to my world through that Door, as long as I don’t stray from the Lamppost.

Orthodox Christianity is not a denomination, and it would be better if Christians inside and outside of her would just stop using the name ‘Orthodox’ if it is being used as a knife to slice up the Body of Christ.

Don’t you think that the spirit in me recognizes the spirit in another man whether he even calls himself a Christian or not, as being my brother in Christ?

We all know who it is we have believed in.
We know the voice of the Shepherd when we hear it, whether it comes from the pulpit in our local church, or out there in the unchurched, maybe unchurchable, wilds.
We also know when we hear the words of the hireling, and see his acts, even when they appear in the very same places of churchly ministry or authority.

In Christ we are a meek and faithful bunch, but in the world we are the most anarchistic and uncooperative of mankind.
It’s no wonder the world hates us, whether we are Orthodox or not, Christian or not, religious or not, articulate or not.

The important thing is, whose friend are we? God’s or the world’s.

Once this is decided, all the obstacles to our life in Christ and in the Church disappear.
All the obstacles we’ve put there, I mean.
Yes, once we cross that imaginary line, the devil can be depended on to do his work.

But do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased the Father to bestow upon us the Kingdom.