:: Monday, November 28, 2005 ::
Politics and Faith
:: Monday, November 21, 2005 ::
Contra many of the blogs I see around the web, I specifically don’t post political statements, articles, reviews, or opinions. This is mostly because I don’t a political agenda, but it is also because I am unsure of the role it should play in the life of a Christian.
At Biola, many of my Protestant brethren confuse politics and religion, much to the detriment of their faith. They do not understand how anyone can do atrocious things (like dislike Bush!) and still be considered a Christian. They believe that all true Christians will vote like them. Yeah, right.
Of course, I must say that my home church doesn’t have it much better. They stand on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Biola, but they still seem to think that if their pet issue is not the top priority on your list of major issues, you cannot really be a Christian.
How closely should we tie our Christianity to our faith? I never want someone to think that because my political views turned out false that my faith is likewise false; I never want someone to confuse the two in me. Of course, those of you who know me have never heard me discuss politics, and so I stand little chance of this.
There are a few answers I can provide here, however. We must respect our authority, whether or not we agree with them. We must oppose explicitly immoral actions, such as abortion. We must not confuse explicitly immoral things with our own agenda or views (which is what I think often happens!). Other than these few things, I think we are free to hold political opinions all over the boards. What do you think?
Glory to God!
:: 7:51 PM on
Monday, November 28, 2005
St. John of the Cross and Spiritual Pride
:: Sunday, November 13, 2005 ::
Since most of you who read this blog are chums, you must go and listen to the John Coe CL on St. John of the Cross. If you have ever became a Christian, wanted to be a Christian, or thought you were a good/bad Christian, you should listen to this.
I think I’ve solved the major problem of converts. Or at least of this convert. If nothing else, I have moved one more major step toward Orthodoxy. Because of a lecture given by a Protestant professor on a Catholic saint…go figure.
While it goes by its various names, ‘convert’s zeal’ is an undeniable fact in our churches today. We’ve all seen those brand-new converts all excited about their faith come bouncing into the churches looking patently ridiculous. And we scoff at them. And, inevitably, they leave a few weeks/months later, and resume their normal life.
This is not a new phenomenon. St. John of the Cross, a medieval Spanish mystic, also realized this with those who came to his monastery. They came when their spirits had been recently ‘ignited’ by the fire of God. They burned with zeal. But then, they felt that God had left them and fell into despondency. What was happening?
In “The Dark Night of the Soul,” St. John outlines various steps of the soul toward God. We new converts are beginners, and God has given us the ‘milk’ of spiritual pleasure. We feel like God is beside us; for the first time in our lives, we are growing spiritually, and love it. It seems to those watching that vices are slowly disappearing in our lives. We are making progress!
But suddenly, there are sins. The vices that have been ‘disappearing’ are truly being diminished, but at the same time they are taking on a religious aspect. At least for this convert, that hides itself in spiritual pride, or prelest. See, I make the mistake of thinking that the spiritual progress I am making, the spiritual zeal that I feel, and the spiritual changes visible in myself are my own work. I think that somehow me praying/fasting/doing is what is making me feel close to God. I think I am making my spiritual life work.
Then, suddenly, God withdraws the spiritual pleasure. This is St. John’s Dark Night. But because I have fallen into this prelest and believe that it is my works that is giving me this spiritual high, I continue to do the same works and wonder why I have lost the high. I work harder, but to no avail. So, I feel guilty, and I engage in the disciplines to make myself feel good. It still doesn’t work. Soon, I despair of doing the spiritual disciplines, and despair of God altogether. I leave and don’t come back.
Wait a minute…God has not changed. Rather, he has prompted me to grow by withdrawing the milk that marks me as an infant. But in my pride I thought it was my works that were doing this spiritual good for myself. I was wrong; it was God all the way. Regardless of what I do, perhaps even despite what I do, the grace of God is giving me all I have. I cannot boast, for there is nothing that I am or that I have that has not been directly given to me by God. I must grow-up spiritually and stop being a child. I must deal with God’s mercy not being related to my own falsely inflated spiritual pride. God is God no matter what I am or do. Yikes: pride!
Glory to God!
:: 8:09 PM on
Monday, November 21, 2005
Moslems and Christians
:: Thursday, November 10, 2005 ::
This week at Biola, we are having Moslem Awareness Week. It started tonight with one of the most fun ways of getting ‘chapel credit’ Biola has to offer: an interactive simulation where students walk through a series of rooms that resemble different Moslem countries and get a sample of daily life in each. Now, given that we have about 10 minutes in each country, it is not much of a sample, but the atmosphere, costumed actors, music, and local cuisine all make it very enjoyable.
Except that tonight everything seemed a little backwards. The countries represented tonight (Turkey, Spain, and Chechnya) are not countries where Protestantism is ‘spoken.’ In the Turkey room tonight, I sat at a table with a an evil eye and Moslem prayer beads. I asked the host of our table what the “piece of turquoise and string of beads” were, and he only said that there were Arab customs.
In ‘Spain,’ we were told of long-term missionaries, and we were told we would be able to sample “an Arab Christian church.” I got all excited; I thought they meant an Arab Christian Church, not a Protestant church that happened to be in Arabic (and it was in Spanish, anyway!). The same vapid drivel that we coo at chapel was translated, and the folding chairs surrounding the guitarist with the Arabic Bibles casually placed under them reinforced the ‘cultural barrier’ idea I was developing.
In ‘Chechnya,’ we went to a scene that was supposed to be a memorial to where the school bombings occurred; we were told by a weeping mother the story behind them. The ‘memorial’ (supposedly set by Russian Christians?) had nothing that even remotely looked Orthodox. There were no icons, no crosses. They didn’t even mention that it was Christians that the Moslems had attacked; admittedly, they were focused on the Moslem attacking part rather than the Christians being attacked part, but I still could have hoped for something that reminded the students that this was a religiously motivated event.
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with it is that it is not us. Mohammedanism is not a perversion of Protestantism; it does not share its roots, a background of 700 years, and most of its tradition with Protestantism. It shares those things with us. The Moslems don’t hate the Protestants; they just don’t GET the Protestants. Of course, the same can be said for the Protestants; they just don’t get the Moslems.
We should have been there. The attacks were against us; they are a heresy (to our shame) spawned from our Church, they stole our temples, our people, and our customs. They bomb us and hate us, because they know what we have and they hate it. We speak their language, their custom, their understanding of the world. So why is it the Protestants that seek to convert them? Why is it those who can neither understand nor be understood that seek to convert those who are understood by us and whom we understand? Does anyone else see this as backwards?
Glory to God!
:: 11:07 PM on
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Maximos, Mysticism, and Monophysites
:: Saturday, November 05, 2005 ::
Last week, I heard an awesome lecture on Maximos the Confessor’s Mystical Theology.
It got me thinking about the relationship of information between mystical reflection and dogmatic theology. From what I understand, Maximos would argue that because he is able to remain fully himself (with a human nature) in his mystical experiences, and yet still be fully joined to God, it must be the case that the two natures of humanity and divinity can exist in union without confusion (hence, this is what Jesus is). It seems that the monophysites/thelytes would be unable to remain fully ‘himself’ in his mystical union, since divinity swallows up humanity (or at least humanity does not remain fully itself when in contact with divinity; see monophysitical Jesus). I also know that the monophysites are able to practice mysticism; the Egyptian desert has been and still is still home to many mystics. How would monophysitical mysticism work from their dogmatic view, and is it able to answer the Chalcedonian objection that the two natures of Jesus needed to be unconfused?
Glory to God!
:: 12:25 PM on
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Go Read the Bible
For the first time in a long time, I sat down this morning and rediscovered a habit I should have never forgotten: reading through an entire epistle in the Bible.
While I admit that I did it for an assignment, I discovered again the beautiful Orthodoxy that emerges when we don’t take the Biblical books in little chunks and out-of-context ‘proof texts,’ but rather read an epistle as it would have been read to the eager listening church at the time of the apostles.
This morning, I read II Peter. You should read II Peter! If there is a more Orthodox epistle in the Bible, I haven’t found it yet. St. Peter warns about Scripture and its dangers when rashly interpreted by “untaught and unstable men” who “distort [it]…to their own destruction.” He reminds us rather to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and savior spoken by your apostles.” From reading the epistle as a whole, it sounds like there was a good church going, but that they fell into error because they listened to men who took Scripture and interpreted it poorly, which caused both their own destruction and that of others. St. Peter explicitly states (the oft-quoted verse) “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” On its own, this verse only speaks against me interpreting the Bible for me . It becomes much more exciting, however, when attached to the next verse, which says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Perhaps I am interpreting this wrong (!), but it seems to say that because prophecy involves being moved by the Holy Spirit and speaking from God, it should also be interpreted by one who posses these same attributes. Who is this but the Bride of Christ, the very Church who is of the Holy Spirit and continues to incarnate Christ in the world today? There is nothing that is more possessed or fully moved by the Holy Spirit than the Church, and there is nothing therefore that is able to interpret the words which God spoke.
If I haven’t convinced you to read the second epistle of St. Peter , will it help if I tell you that it is only about 1500 words? That’s slightly more than 3 typed pages…or just more than four times the length of this blog entry. It’s short. It’s really good. And it’s kind of cool to read a whole epistle in one sitting.
Glory to God!
:: 2:31 PM on
Saturday, November 05, 2005