Tag Archives: Christianity

The Age of Reason and The Age of Faith

scriptorium

On this blog, I try to emphasize the importance of stories. The stories we tell shape our minds and hearts — they shape the very way we perceive the world. And when those stories are about our own history, what’s at stake in the telling of them is both our worldview and our sense of self.  Telling the story of Western civilization is a tall order: that story must weave characters, events, institutions, and geography into a coherent order with a coherent logic. It must not only describe events, but imply causalities; it must not only describe characters’ actions, but suggest their motives. Otherwise, the history may be factual, but it will not be meaningful. To be useful to us, it must be a story. Continue reading

“Christianity” Disambiguated

ethiopians

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter

The Christian landscape in the world today is multifaceted, varied, and sometimes jaggedly divided. In a world where global news coverage mentions “persecuted Christians in the Middle East” in one breath and “the Christian Right” of America in the next, we may begin to suspect that the simple shorthand “Christian” isn’t quite sufficient for describing the sundry groups it’s supposed to cover. In many places in the world (in the Middle East, for example), the name “Christian” may imply both a distinct culture and a distinct race or ethnicity. It’s beyond my scope to enumerate instances where that’s the case, so instead I want to limit the meaning of “Christian” here to a belief system, a philosophical-religious position. In terms of the content of the belief system (and in some cases the history or tradition of that system), we can divide the Christian landscape of today into some broad distinctions, just to help us navigate better how we use the term. This isn’t any official taxonomy, just some conceptual categories offered for your edification. Continue reading

The Moral Mental Block

Veritas

Imagine for a moment that you can fly. You’re able to simply lift yourself off the ground by desiring to do so. Now imagine that you’re also able to leave earth’s atmosphere and move through space like Superman, soaring over continents and oceans, and returning to the planet in Sydney, Australia. You stop in for a quick play at the opera house, grab some fried gator tail, and lift off again heading west over the ocean toward home. You punch through the sound barrier and arrive back at home just after dark, stealthily descending so as not to be seen by any neighbors and keeping your super powers a secret. Continue reading

Memorial Day

national cemetery

Today’s the last Monday in May, which means it’s Memorial Day — the day Americans have set aside to specially remember and honor the men and women who have given their lives in the armed service of the nation. A day that remembers this profound sacrifice from our fallen soldiers, especially on a national level, especially in the face of an ever increasingly selfish, petty, and nihilistic culture is important now more than ever. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Epilogue: The Faith Of Monoliths

Ayers Rock

See Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

I have a feeling that many of us, myself included, have a habit of thinking of God as a sort of monolith. (You know monoliths – giant, solid rocks of a single, undivided nature). C.S. Lewis remarked in Letters To Malcolm that in the mind, the stand-in for God is often something like a bright mist, and to this monolithic bright mist I assign monolithic superlatives: God is Great; God is Light; God is Love. The list of superlatives may go on and on, but each superlative is rock-solid, existing forever, like the faces on Mt. Rushmore or the facets on a diamond. This makes defining and relating to the “God” in my mind much easier, as long as the integrity of the superlatives remains intact. Continue reading

To Make The Plebs Sancta Dei

People receiving the Eucharist in Bibiclat, Philippines on the feast of St. John the Baptist

When I first turned to take account of the sprawling landscape of Christian tradition which lay just behind me but of which I had never known, I had a certain sense of alarm, like discovering suddenly I was standing on the edge of a cliff.  The shear size of the landscape spreading out over time and space and encompassing all sorts and conditions of people and places affected my soul, and it changed my whole perspective.  And time and time again, I found, as I read about our Christian ancestors, that the center of their life in God and with each other was what I had grown up calling the Lord’s Supper, though it has more often throughout history been called the Eucharist (Thanksgiving). Continue reading

The Days Are Passing; Do Not Put Off Repentance

As I was growing up, I was taught that because of my own free will, I was responsible for my sins, and that these sins separated me from God.  Though I could never do anything to fix my sins or carry myself back across the chasm I’d put between myself and God, Jesus, through means I could never articulate, has bridged the gap between myself and God and put away all my sins.  All I had to do to accept this gift was to ask that Jesus apply it to me; through a sincere, contrite prayer offered to Jesus, I had to ask that he forgive me of my sins and live in me, so as to assure my salvation forever. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 2: Distinction And Dislocation

Before getting into this post, I want to interject this disclaimer. This series on the faith “according to the whole” is a product of my ongoing labor to better understand the nature and significance of the Church. The impetus behind this labor was my realization that there is much more to the Church (its history, practices, and even its own founding understanding of itself) than I had been aware of most of my life. My awakening to this reality put me on a road to learning as much as I can about the Church, a pursuit that has changed and continues to change my perspective on both the nature and significance of the society for which the New Testament writers used names like Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, and House of God. I don’t aim to lay out all my thoughts about this here, but rather I want to present some information and some basic principles that I think are pertinent to American protestants with similar backgrounds to my own. I want to do this in a spirit of camaraderie, not pompousness or pretentiousness, acknowledging my own limited education and experience. So I submit these thoughts, aware of the disunity of Christians of God and of the various ecclesiological perspectives out there, not to present a systematic plan for unity, but just to diagnose part of the problem … and hopefully to give a nudge in a better direction.  Continue reading

Undefinable Religianity

Empty Pews A woman named Karen Armstrong was on NPR’s Fresh Air several days ago describing her new book The Case For God. Just going on what I heard from the interview, having not actually read the book, it sounded as though she doesn’t make a case for “God” at all, but for a contemplative and/or ritualistic life that spurs you to love and compassion for mankind. She used the word “religion” a lot. Love and compassion for mankind is one thing –and it’s wonderful–, but she incorrectly equated that with “God,” effectively wrecking the rhetorical structure that allows the word “God” to function. A few days after that I heard Ken Burns on All Things Considered describe how he featured in his new National Parks documentary naturalist John Muir, whose strict Calvinist father beat him as a small child. Carrying the scars of that “oppressive Christianity,” Muir came to explore the American Sierras and was spiritually “liberated,” and he was able to “devise a new faith, based in nature.” Continue reading