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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Rarity of the God Fearing Man

There is a perceived dichotomy between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. The OT God is wrathful and dangerous, while the NT God is loving and harmless. This is a schizophrenic understanding that seems to say oh those silly Jews where did they get the idea that God is scary and demands sacrifice?

The way to think about it is to realize that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Notice it says the beginning, not the end. And love is the end. To have a properly developed faith we must start with the fear of the Lord to get to love of the Lord.

The problem with us today is that we have lost our fear of God and think He is our buddy. But if we don't fear God, then what do we fear but everything else. This article in Touchstone by Russell Kirk says it well.

An excerpt:

Such is the post-Christian man, contemptuous of God but fearful of everything else, for whom Shaw would have invented a new sort of faith. Politically, the man who does not fear God is prey to the squalid oligarchs; and this is no paradox. What raises up heroes and martyrs is the fear of God. Beside the terror of God’s judgment, the atrocities of the totalist tyrant are pinpricks. A God-intoxicated man, knowing that divine love and divine wrath are but different aspects of a unity, is sustained against the worst this world can do to him; while the goodnatured unambitious man, lacking religion, fearing no ultimate judgment, denying that he is made for eternity, has in him no iron to maintain order and justice and freedom.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Musing on the Trinity

My earliest conception of the Trinity when I was first learning about it was in terms of accessibility. The Holy Spirit is the most accessible as He works throughout the world and on all people. He is diffuse and nonverbal like perfume. He points the way to Christ. The Son is not as accessible but ordinary people can expect to encounter Him at least once or twice in their lifetimes. Others who actively walk the walk with Him will encounter Him more often. He prepares us to see the Father after we depart this life. The Father is to be encountered on Heaven and is thus only accessible to the saints who finished the race. This is of course flawed and deeply inadequate understanding but for me it was a starting point.

My conception developed further after reading Frank Sheed. The rational soul has two faculties, knowing and loving. We know with the intellect and we love with our heart. In God knowing and loving is carried out to perfection. His knowing is so perfect it is yet a separate Person, the Son, also called the Word or Logos. His loving is also perfect, the perfect love that is shared between the Father and the Son, which is yet another Person, the Holy Spirit.

Man, having been made in the image of God, has this analogous morphology of the brain: The verbal left hemisphere of the brain--which roughly corresponds to knowing--and the non-verbal emotional right hemisphere of the brain—which roughly corresponds to loving.

I used these analogies to help me get a handle on the mystery of the Trinity that cannot be comprehended by created beings. The God that we understand is not God.

So now the question is how does a Trinitarian God affect our understanding of the world?

Obviously I’m not qualified to give an authoritative opinion. But here are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

For one thing, our concept of personhood is now to be understood as relational. We understand the Father in terms of His relationship with the Son, etc. We are no longer to think we can know ourselves or be known properly as atomic individuals. We can’t just say I’m a good person who generally does the right thing or who has a good heart. Our identity is inextricably bound up in our relationships, first as created beings in relationship to God, then in terms of our relationships of knowing and loving other people:
other kin relatives
citizen of the state
member of the tribe or nation
steward of the earth

How have we known and loved in each of these relationships?

So here is a good spiritual exercise: think about how you would define yourself through your relationships. What do your relationships say about you?

The first time I tried to evaluate myself in this way was so frightening and humbling that it led to another conversion experience. As I went through my list of relationships with others I saw how deluded I had been in thinking I am a generally good person when not one—NOT ONE—of these relationships bore witness to it the way I wanted. My relationship with God of course was spotty and let’s not get into it. But there was NOT ONE relationship where I could say I’d given my all, that I’d truly loved and truly tried to know the other person and truly given of myself, that I hadn’t let lapse or flounder through hurts and misunderstandings. I could easily believe I was unlucky and misunderstood for any given relationship, but taking all my relationships together as a whole, can I still honestly believe that EVERYBODY MISUNDERSTANDS ME? Am I that unlucky?

And more frightening still to me is the prospect of being judged by my relationships on Judgment Day and not just on a series of actions or works, pitiful as they are. How will I be able to maintain I was a good person if I can’t produce a single relationship that proves it? Woman, you’d better get your house in order while there is still time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jesus Jesus Everywhere

I used to be annoyed with a particular Christian I knew who thought every single movie was about Jesus. But that was back then, now I get it.

Once you fall in love with Jesus, you see Him everywhere. In nature, in movies, on TV, in songs, books... He is everywhere. Even in people (but that is hardest for me and is something I have to work on--but the key to love anyone is to see Christ within them).

A particular prayer by Saint Patrick really speaks to me:

Christ beside me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me King of my heart;
Christ within me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me never to part.
Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me shield in strife;
Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising light of my life.
Christ beside me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me King of my heart;
Christ within me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me never to part.

Lest you think it's just all in my head, here is an interesting series by Rod Bennett of Tremendous Trifles that explores just how and why we can see Jesus in the movies.

It starts here with King Kong Died for Your Sins:
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part I
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part II
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part III
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part IV
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part V
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part VI
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part VII
King Kong Died for Your Sins, Part VIII

And picks up again here in What if God were One of Us? Adventurs in Pop Typology:
Pop Typology, Part I
Pop Typology, Part II
Pop Typology, Part III
Pop Typology, Part IV
Pop Typology, Part V
Pop Typology, Part VI
Pop Typology, Part VII
Pop Typology, Part VIII
Pop Typology, Part IX
Pop Typology, Part X

I guarantee you'll love it and learn a lot and gain a new insight into movies.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Egocentric vs Theocentric Spirituality

Broadly speaking spirituality is either egocentric or theocentric:

Egocentric spirituality emphasizes what God can do for us, and specifically the promises of Christ. Since God is the source of all happiness, it is only natural that we turn to Him to obtain it or our own perfection. No one approaches God with entirely pure motives. (Imagine a narcissist who finally realizes that he can become perfect through God and so turns to Him, basically using God as a means to become perfect) But God understands, He will use anything to draw us toward Him.

But this is only the early stage of spirituality. To fully mature we are expected to grow out of it and become theocentric, or God-oriented. This means forgetting ourselves and delighting in God for God's sake. It means being able to pray,
God, make me perfect or make me weak,
Build me up or tear me down,
Whatever pleases You,
It is all the same to me.

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