Last week we examined the Introductory portion of ex-pastor Ryan Bell's year-end recap of his year without God. Here is where I continue it.Read More
I really can think of no term more degrading to a human being and his fundamental incapacity for grasping philosophical, even scientific, concepts than Atheist. Can you imagine any assertion more narcissitic, more arrogant, more absolutely nonsensical than that of the "knowledge" that something doesn't exist? That something has never existed? That something can't exist? Why they haven't blasted all claims of their own existence for their incessant screamings of their own omniscience I will never understand.Read More
This is long and ashamedly rambly. I was just in quite a rambly mood today, I'm afraid. Please read it all, for I have several times and am not yet dead, but know that I won't be offended if you turn it off halfway. Not everyone can handle the burden of truth being poured onto them.** **That was purposely arrogant and inflammatory. I'm trying to catch your attention by being humorously cocky and reproachable right off the get-go. If that didn't work, here's some wisdom from Doctor Who, which should interest every single one of you:
"Have you ever seen monsters?" "Oh yes." "Are you scared of them?" "No. They're scared of me." - The Eleventh Doctor
Doctor Who and Introduction
It is without shame that I tell you I am veritably enthralled by the long-running BBC Television show Doctor Who. I cannot pretend to be a Who-hipster, for I was not alive when it started, nor can I say that I've been a member of the Whovian society for any long period of time. Quite the opposite, in fact: it has been only a few short months. But in these few short months, I have found myself doing very little besides reading profusely, writing (I figure now, while I have the time, means, and motivation, is when I should write that book), and watching the Doctor save the universe in countless situations infinitely more creative than my feeble mind could contrive, and in the meantime highlight the beauty of humanity and their intense dependence on something bigger than themselves.
In the section quoted above, a little boy caught in the middle of a crisis involving your run-of-the-mill otherworldy Who beasties is talking with the Doctor. He senses the threat and accurately gauges the immediacy of the situation, but asks, in a moment of seeking reassurance, about the Doctor's history of dealing with similar things. The Doctor, famous for having dashed alien hopes of universe-domination, foiled plans of genocide, and saved his numerous companions' lives time and again, responds with confidence and appropriate swagger, then characteristically smirks in the face of evil.
Confidence is praised nowadays; misplaced or inappropriate confidence is arrogance and foolishness. We see both in the lives of athletes, in the style of movie stars, in the words of introverted twenty-somethings on blogs on the internet. We are quick to call it "arrogance" in other people, but just as quick to call it "confidence" in ourselves. We are quick to think ourselves unworthy of either, and quick to overcompensate.
Perhaps it is that our mirrors are rather cloudy and dishonest. Perhaps it is our eyes. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: I see a whole lot of loathing and so little efforts for improvement; I see a whole lot arrogance and so little preparation.
What This Is Not, and What This Is
I am not thinking today about image or self-confidence along those lines, necessarily, though those thoughts do come to mind. It deserves a whole spot of its own and is quite pressing, I'm afraid, though today is not the day for it. This is not about the back-end, or how you look at yourself in light of who you truly are, for that is only the second half of the problem. This is not about vanity or even necessarily physical things
What I am addressing is what I see when I look at the majority of my generation. I see a group of people content to be what the generation before them handed down, who can honestly say that apathy is a virtue. Who socially network rather than figure themselves out. I see a generation with access to more information and knowledge than any that has come before them, yet more ignorant than any about how to use it. I see boys seeing domination as strength and girls seeing beauty as worth. I see people who think doing something worthwhile means doing something worth Instagramming; I see people for whom thoughts are merely Tweets. I see an age of humanity defined by what somebody else has said rather than what they have worked for.
And I see so few confronting it. Too many of us see "comfortable" as a good thing. So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound.
We have lost all concept of self, because we have plenty of things to distract from it... and they are sneaky things, at that: the conception that you are what your Facebook says you are or that who you are is defined by your job. Instead of asking ourselves, "who am I?" we post pictures of ourselves and say, "this is who I am."
There is a discrepancy there, and it is extremely bothersome.
The Swelling Hurricane
I dropped a sentence a second ago as sort of preparation for where this was headed, as a gust to store up some energy in these sails. I'll say it again here: So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound. I spent a good deal of time in the Philosophy and Religion department at UTC (since I studied Philosophy) and noticed a particularly fascinating trend: that the grand majority of people involved in it were vehemently atheistic, both professors and students alike.
What happened is they started asking questions and seeking answers anywhere they could find them. And when they couldn't find them easily or the conventional answers of their small Baptist churches just wouldn't cut it anymore, they conceded defeat to the overwhelming pangs of despair. They looked at one group of people claiming Absolute Truth and saw a completely different group halfway across the world and 8 million people big claiming a completely different Absolute Truth and decided everyone was wrong. Or they succumbed to the problem of evil: If one of two contraries is infinite, the other is destroyed. God is infinite goodness; if there were God, there would be no evil. There is evil; so, therefore, there is no God.
The arguments against God are powerful and persuasive, indeed like monsters in the closet of an 8 year old are when it's dark and he's trying to sleep. But they're embedded everywhere, and we're trained not to fight them. We yell at characters in poorly written horror movies when they decide to go towards the creaking under the stairs or the moaning from the attic. We're embedded with a fear of evil and the desire to run when it's scary.
To keep a consistent theme, though: The Doctor tells us, "Never run when you're scared." (Rule 7)
There is a storm in the air, horesemen afoot, and the battle for belief is raging.
And we who believe are not winning.
The War Without a Winner (or, apparently, a study in alliteration)
Sam Harris wrote in his book Letter to a Christian Nation that it is religion, belief, "god" that has poisoned our world, incited wars, dumbed the people, and placated a mass of people to the point of wasting their lives chasing invisible friends and waiting on some future judgment that will never come. Christopher Hitchens calls belief irrational and destructive. Richard Dawkins calls God an unnecessary invention by people incapable of handling reality.
And more believers are believing them every day. The armies are being stacked in their favor, because believers are being convinced by faulty rhetoric that Christ and Reason cannot exist together. That metaphysics and God are equivalent, and that they have a place in haughty classroom discussion and nowhere else. But the thing is that the opposition is using recycled arguments to attack Faith, and Faith is using recycled arguments to respond. We're stuck in a loop with one side crying, "you're ugly!" and the other sticking their fingers in their ears shouting back, "la la la, I can't hear you!"
We've both become dull and insulting: the attackers of Faith have betrayed their god of Reason and the believers their God of Truth.
Here is the bottom line. Christians have become comfortable with their churches and their ideas that God is a exactly the thing that they imagine, so when something comes along and challenges the toy box they keep in their prayer rooms, they panic.
There is a fallacy in the study of logic called the Straw Man. It's basically as you would imagine: to "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. Unbelief attacks Christianity based upon the constraints it has put upon it. Based upon what Christians have made it. It attacks tradition rather than Truth, because Truth is contested only by fools.
Jesus said that His purpose on Earth was to bear witness to Truth, which is why the Jesus we have constructed that exists to ease pain and hug people crumbles under attack. Straw men have no backbone, no substance, and burn easily when touched with fire.
But Christians are doing little to counter it. Instead of arming ourselves, learning the things of God rather the things we've constructed of God, and worshipping Jesus as Truth, we trust in the easy thing - which is also the easy thing to attack, and the easy thing to lose faith in. With a faith in the same Straw Man that is easy to attack comes all of the terrible things we write eloquently to fight: we succumb to vanity and pornography and insecurity and fear and addiction the thought that our dirty pasts are insurmountable and we're not rescued by our god because he's warding off crows from crops. Misrepresentations of God are being attacked because misrepresentations of God are being followed.
So what are those of us who wish to counter unbelief to do? We must figure out what we stand for and then stand for it. We cannot be told answers, we must search them out. We can't be handed faith, we must work it out for ourselves with fear and trembling. We can't forget that something obtainable can be taken away, so we must grasp it ever tighter when the threat of its removal comes upon us.
We must stand with the confidence that we lack, because monsters won't shy from uncertainty. Confidence comes through preparation, and somebody who tells you that God will give it to you just because you asked for it is lying to you. God will do His part - He's told you that.
But the ability to fight a war doesn't come from lying in bed. We must take up arms and learn to use them, study the opposition's tactics to be able to counter them, and face the beasties in our closets atop their black horses and say, "I'm not afraid of you because I know you. You can't say something to dissuade me because I know what you will say. You can't take away my God because He gave you the Reason you think refutes Him."
Salvation is not through works - do not think that I'm trying to say anything of the sort. But it is true that the children of God will be known by their fruit. Take a step back and look at yourself. All aspects of it. Look at who you are at school, at home, on the internet, and tell me what is being glorified: you, your Straw Man, or God? It's one of the three, I promise.
I know, I know. Two days late.
If everything I loved faded or was stripped away, would I have anything left to live for? If the very fabric of society crumbled, if music failed to sound, if I remained as the last of mortal man in a sea of cracked pavement and ruined buildings and decayed civilization, would there be something worth salvaging? Could there exist some value other than in material or in accolades or in shiny gold medals pinned up in a glass case?
Hanging worth on things that I can hold or on places I can go or on words that I can write for others to read suddenly feels, in this peculiar state of mind, like an exercise in madness. A vapor cannot support a society. Philosophy does not prescribe value of life. Politics cannot attribute social worth. Love cannot be contained by words.
It seems like nowadays I check the weather on my phone rather than by opening my window and feeling the sweeping chill on my skin. I sit in class to check an attendance box while the world outside the windows spins further into the madness it started on whenever it was that we popped on the scene - when value became a thing that could be talked about, and when things began to go wrong. When we cast worship on ultimately pointless Degrees and sporting events and television and relationships and meaningless sex and religious dogma and sports cars and humanitarian causes and tech conferences and outlet malls and the almighty dollar and political campaigns and empty philosophy.
When I started trying to understand God, as if I were in a position to be able to do that. When I started trying to defend Him, as if He needed my defense.
I scribbled all of this in my journal in a moment of necessity to write, but wrote the whole thing using "we" instead of "I." Like the questions I was asking were for some betterment of society reason and for distancing myself from the blame for its downfall. Like I wasn't talking explicitly to myself. I started asking the questions I was scared to answer and scratched them out like that would make it as if they never existed. Like I could forget that I used as a platform for understanding what Is that which I could understand. As if my questions determined the fate of the Universe.
But they don't. Nor do yours.
Nor does our economical infrastructure or our Saturday afternoon hobbies or our friend groups or our pressing job interviews or our oversleeping through ill-set alarms, because WE, no, I am not the object of importance here. Because I am expendable. But when I take away the wonder I should be directing towards a purely unfathomable God who, for some reason wants to call me "child," with despair about not being able to understand Him, I have made myself and my intellect the object of worth.
If I base what I call important on something that decays, I am a fool. I am a priest to stones, a Mac enthusiast on a life raft in the middle of the ocean, a Bard in a boneyard. We live in a time where the things that matter are things we can gain, but I cannot help but see how flawed it is. It is no wonder nihilism is en vogue, because when material and fame and a good name are all you have to live for, there comes a moment of realization that these things cannot have any kind of value if they can be taken away tomorrow. It warrants a feeling of panic and a momentary despair. With clenched fists and spite in our throats, we declare that God must be imaginary, because of He were real our worlds wouldn't be dismantling in front of us; that the problem is not with our clearly infallible reasoning and perceptions and understanding, it is with God.
I have to ask myself if the things I am doing are being done in such a way that the worth I ascribe to them or the glory I get from them are not ends in themselves. If I am living for something bigger than the smoldering remains of a broken world.
In a way, the nihilist is right. The skeptic hits the mark. He who mistrusts what he sees is wiser than he who takes all at face value, for value is worthless and knowledge is fleeting indeed, though they can only be worthless and fleeting in the face of Someone who sets the bar.
It has been a week, I'll tell you that. I had a few almost-decent things to put up here, or ideas of them at least, but none of them seemed to flesh out so well as they were written. So what you have instead are the tired ramblings of a tired boy who is scraping towards the end of his self-imposed deadline. Such are the contents of my days. I'm not sure what follows will be terribly uplifting, save for those who are teetering on the fence of Belief, unsure as to which side they should fall into. I'm not feeling very wordplay-y tonight, I suppose. But until I start hearing otherwise, this will continue to be my blog where I will speak what is on my mind.
Also, just so that none are unduly confused or enraged (because sometimes there is some conclusion-jumping that happens subconsciously), this is merely a collection of some frustrations, not my answers to all of them. This is not a Theological treatise. This is not an Apology for my Faith. This is not polemic Atheist-bashing. These are merely the thoughts of a somewhat weary brain. With that in mind, please feel free to comment accordingly, as I always welcome the appropriate exchange of ideas, conversation, and criticism.
I find it extremely interesting that even the most Godless of men cannot stop talking about Him. That the most vehement Skeptic marvels, despite what his circular Epistemic reasoning would have you believe, at His creation. That Empiricists don't question the origin of their faculties for observation. That those in the thick of it can doubt but never see the miracle in that very act of doubting.
I find it equally as interesting that the vocally Atheistic do not find the educated, perhaps Philosophically sound Believer to pitch their squabbles against, but rather teenagers on Facebook and comment boards on Hillsong videos on Youtube, and that these occasional anti-theistic tirades seem to occupy a great amount of their effort. It is strange to me that a nihilist would take any time at all to defend himself against the promise of purpose as if it were a contest to be won unless he were afraid of what happens if he's wrong. I don't understand why such endeavors are not seen as scrubbing toilets on Oceanic Flight 815.
I find the majority of my daily encounters with those less-inclined towards belief than I am and, honestly, sometimes I prefer it. I connect more easily with those for whom faith is a struggle, who see God as something nigh impossible to grasp ahold of and forge a relationship with, because I have seen that side. But in my many conversations with Atheists that I engage throughout the week, I have come across some saddening, though not particularly new, revelations.
Atheists have become smashingly boring, and this tires me. We are locked in this loop where they keep clawing the same questions in the desperate hope that we'll forsake our belief or something (or prove to themselves finally that they're right? I'm not sure), and don't even bother to see that the incredible majority of these have been answered already in formal, published works, with the rest of them talked about extensively in blog posts and radio interviews and the like. It has become an achievement to stump Average Joe Christian with Philosophically complex quandaries, and it is as interesting to watch as the MVP of your county's Little League baseball team hitting against Randy Johnson (Does he still play baseball?).
They are stuck pitching the same four-seam fastball that they've been throwing for years: the third-year University student counter to reason and faith that "if Science can't prove it, it isn't real." Their curveball: the intellectual mediocrity of "everybody" who affiliates themselves with Religion. The changeup: If God's there, why are there still bad things? I'm sure you catch my drift.
Perhaps the most famous Atheist of our time, Richard Dawkins, even wrote a book about it called "The God Delusion" which actually, literally, resorts to name-calling, the granddaddy of all logical fallacies - ad hominem attack. I cannot fathom what possible purpose spending all that time writing a book about why Something doesn't exist serves other than as the gasping attempts of a man desperate to find the source of the still, quiet urge inside of him to know what it all means. I know he possess that urge, because I have it too.
Sometimes I think perhaps I'm the only one of my friends who finds enormous comfort alongside the great frustration in the book of Ecclesiastes, but it has this to say: "He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to end." Perhaps the most desperate worry, yet simultaneously sublime repose the Good Book has to offer.
The Preacher hits home again, though earlier in his book:
"For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."
And he echoes it at the end: "My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh."
Can you feel it? The slow creaking of your joints under the pressure on your shoulders? The weight of the "unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with?" The sadness of "a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness" alongside the "wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing?"
Now feel the release of a Savior who tells you to drop your net and follow Him. Cast off that ensnaring burden of the world and focus on what is truly important.
Let Wordsworth's lines that he wrote a few miles above Tinturn Abbey sink in and sound deep inside of yourself to the point that you feel "that blessed mood in which the burthen of the mystery, in which the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world, is lighten'd."
God planted the desire inside of us and made it so that we couldn't know. He breathed it so that it took the whole Universe to declare His majesty and stuck us on the smallest speck of it possible. He gave us telescopes to see as far as eyes can possibly see and then told the boundary of physical space "keep going, so that they're always playing catch-up."
It is the strangest peace a heart thirsty for what are always unsatisfying answers can hear - that they both came from the same Source that gives us Salvation from the muck.
*This took a very long time to write. And it is around 1000 words shorter than it started out as. Lucky you. I apologize for some big words and long sentences and complex, difficult thoughts, but that is the nature of this subject matter for me. It isn't meant to be overly complicated and if it doesn't help you get to a more applicable state of belief, (to basically rip off CS Lewis) disregard it. Maybe you'll at least just get a new word out of it. And I didn't even get it published before Christmas like I wanted to. Pity.*
So it's Christmas Eve and, here on the East Coast, a mere hour and a half from the descent of Santa Clause down the collective chimneys of those children lucky enough to believe in him. I don't mean this with any manner of bah-humbuggery or from a spirit of Grinchness or something of the sort, because I must confess a certain degree of envy at those fortunate children (a declining number nowadays) who take the jolly old man without so much as a grain of salt.
I sat today through a viewing of Les Miserables, a beautiful New Year's Eve service, precious family time, Elf, and again in the dark of my room A) Feeling incredibly guilty for not one single post since Thanksgiving and B) Not being able to shake the little urge inside of me like a twitch to talk about Belief.
I have probably begun and scrapped at least 9 entries devoted to the topic, but have felt somewhat unqualified to string together adequate words about it. So tonight, on the brink of the day containing the last remnant of real magic in this world, I have decided that there is not a better time for such an endeavour. So I beg of you, please bear with me. This may contain somewhat nonlinear (like normal) and possibly wanting utterances of what might some of the most important things I could ever have to say.
There are so many places to begin.
I spend a grand amount of my time during the semester around those who have an extraordinarily difficult time with belief. Honestly, these are the people that I intentionally seek out, because they are the ones that I both identify with and feel the need to talk to, because of that identification with them that I feel. (I've written about things like doubt and reason here and here, if you care to do some backreading). And although it could be considered, I suppose, like a recovering alcoholic preaching in a bar, there is something about that sameness of mindset that fills me with compassion and drags me towards them if anything to simply engage them in conversation. And the thing I try to get around to asking, since the majority of the most dubious are fellow students of Philosophy or Religion, is about God.
Now, a post for an entirely different day are my thoughts on religion, so I make it a point to assure the person with whom I will be speaking that I am at first not referring to God from the standpoint of a particular religious tradition. We need to discuss first the possibility of something bigger, separate, incomprehensible, outside of the human condition. At this point, I'm not talking about Yahweh, I'm talking about the idea that something like who the Jews call Yahweh could be "real." Baby steps. I have seen the other side and I think that this is among the more difficult steps to take in this little "God Journey." Here are a few of the reasons I have heard:
1) Can't see Him 2) A lot of the people who talk about this idea of God are imbeciles 3) It feels like something of a cop out or a scapegoat for blaming bad stuff on or for explaining things we can't necessarily understand with magnifying glasses and telescopes 4) Things that are "real" are testable, observable, and provable by empirical devices. 5) If God really is all-powerful why can't He create something more powerful than himself. OhSnapParadoxI'mRight
Honestly, the reasons for disbelief are about as varied as the people who defend the idea of Him - and descend diminutively from completely logical complaints to the infinity of the ridiculous. So we start at the beginning.
I say: "Let's pretend that there are two separate things we're talking about here: the first is the physical world that we occupy, with physical, observable things to deal with and interact with and talk to and touch and measure; and the second is the spiritual world that we cannot see, but rather feel and sense and spend time pontificating about." They say: "I accept your view of the first world - but because I accept that notion, I see no need for a second world, plane, existence, or whatever you want to call it. There is the physical and nothing else." I say: "Valid. And part of me wishes incredibly hard that that were true. But if that is so, I have a very hard time explaining the feeling that I get when I am betrayed or the sickly stomach that engulfs me at the thought of cold-blooded, pointless murder, or the rage that I experience towards people who rape children. Do you think that these things are wrong?" They can answer this one of two ways (the other being a conversation for a different day - because otherwise this will get even longer than it should be). I will assume that they say: "Yes, I think that betrayal, murder, and rape are wrong." I will say: "And there's a flip side as well, right? There is a sort of untouchable, indescribably 'good' quality surrounding non-empirical things like Love, honesty, charity, and things of the like, am I right?" They might (and, for the point of this discussion, will) say: "Yes." And then I might ask them to posit for me a hypothesis, in their empirical world, as to where these sorts of things come from.
Most likely they will tell me that it is a sort of Evolutionary conditioning. That feelings like love are nothing but chemical reactions to encourage sex, which enables procreation, and that anger towards rapists and murderers came about over time because of the many, many years Homo Sapiens spent depending on one another in bands and clans and whatnot. Then I point out that even though 'Love' may be a chemical reaction designed to enable the furthering of the human race, that doesn't answer the question of the mechanism or the force that made the necessity of procreation possible (and the last time I checked, the system which I attribute as being true comes out and describes the origin of this sort of thing - that living things are to "be fruitful and multiply"); and that "because it's always been that way" is the sort of argument people like them get mad at Christians for making. As you can see, those of us in this community are used to somewhat circular, oftentimes "unproductive" trains of conversation - but the point is not a full out conversion on the first go around. Belief is something that must develop within the individual like a seed. It is not a tap that can be turned on and off.
So often in these conversations, you will hear the "Santa Clause" references, the Unicorn jokes, the Wizard refutes (example: "Hey Christian, do you believe in Unicorns?" Christian: "Of course not." Atheist/Agnostic/Troll: "Why not?" Christian: "Because you can't see them/because they're just fairy tales from a book/Because they're not real." Athiest/Agnostic/Troll: "I rest my case.") but the application of such arguments is purely rhetorical, as this is as far as the refutation can go. My source for the definition of the nature of God says that He is Love and Eternal and Living and the root of all Good - which are the things that we should talk about when discussing Him, not banal, pedantic diatribes against the nature of belief in something that is fictional. I mean, Descartes can make his way with this sort of thinking into reasoning how unnecessary the body is. Rhetorical reasoning serves a purpose, but only to a certain point.
And look at how off track I have gotten from what I was trying to say. Christmas. I may try to write out a sort of process later on for getting to this point (even though I would be borrowing extensively from CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias and GK Chesterton and Gordon Lewis and Alister McGrath - so I probably won't... if you have questions, go read some of what they have to say and get back to me - for they say what needs to be said far more eloquently than I could), but what I wanted to get at is this:
I see Christmas now not as a way to get what I want, even though sometimes I make myself think that I do, nor as a reason to get the family together, which it is, nor as a time to get mad at people who say "Happy Holidays" rather than something about Christmas (who I am fairly sure even some who say Christmas don't care about), but as a time to remind myself to be thankful to God for existing, and for making it possible through Christ to get to Him. THAT is what we mean when we say "thank you for Jesus" - of course we are thankful that He took what punishment was coming to us, but on a separate level, we are thankful that we were given a vehicle to get to the Creator.
It is a time to be refreshed in our amazement that we transcend the physical by means of something less demanding than what E-Meters and Orthopraxic doctrines and endless cycles of Samsara to suffer through have tried (incorrectly) to make it out to be. We are thankful for a Man who came straight from God so that man could get straight to God. For those of us who are fortunate enough to believe, we are thankful for the opportunity TO believe, and I can't help but value that as the most important gift to share.
I was charged with reading this dreadfully boring book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn in one of my World Civilization classes. If my memory serves correctly through the fog of the book's massive inability to hold attention (much like this blog?), it was basically his dissertation paper that he had bound and packaged and delivered to only this particular professor's doorstep in a glowing basket of joy, because, as far as I know, he is the only person who has ever taught it in a school setting.
That is how exciting it was.
I was tired of learning the history of the telescope and I was tired of hearing about mitochondria and I was sick of all of these people insisting that they were absolutely correct and the pinnacle of knowledge of the day only to have some punk like Galileo barging into your sanctuary insisting that the Earth moved around the Sun instead of all of creation centered right smack at the Vatican. The unmitigated gall.
This one story intrigued me, though. It was not so much the "Scientific Revolutions" portion of it rather than its broader implications. After doing much research, he decided to pay the ol' heads of state a visit. He stated his research and divulged his theory that the Earth is revolving around the sun, rather than the other way around. It was literally so shattering that he was forced to recant his heretical philosophy under threat of torture and death (the Church back then was apparently pretty big on irony), to which he purportedly muttered under his breath, as I quoted earlier, "E pur si muove."
Italian for "Nevertheless, it moves." A legendary statement from one who saw the truth of the situation despite the majority shouting the contrary and, although he caved to save his life, held that conviction to continue on to be one of the most famous scientists and thinkers of all time.
The book was about advances in science and regime changes and it droned on and on about the topic with more specific examples than Elin Nordegren can cite against Tiger Woods, but all I could do was think about the implications of what I was reading.
If every time in history we have believed, for whatever reasons we choose to state, that we are unshakably, undoubtedly correct with our complex theories on anything at all and we are proven wrong, what does that say about us today? In the age of the epitome of thorough knowledge? What if we have gotten so wrapped up in the way that we perceive things that the Truth (and yes, that is a capital "T" Truth) slips right by us, unnoticed, going about its business as it always has?
I will deliver yet another turn of the screw with this: if even the mostly secular scientific community can see it in our perceptions of the physical world, how much more important is it for us as Christians to beat it through our thick skulls that for a thousand years we have been missing the point?
What if we're so busy interpreting that we forget to live? What if we're too busy boycotting abortion clinics to love on the girls shaking with fear and tear-blurred vision who are trying to hide themselves walking in? What if we're so busy defending our "God-given Constitutional Rights" to own a gun that we overlook our God-given Mandate to love God before anything else, and then take that love and love each other with it as well?
Am I saying that I am the example by which you should live? By all means, no. Of all the ill-tempered, arrogant, most undeserving people of Divine grace that occupy this world, in the words of Paul, "I am the foremost."What I am saying is that I should try even harder than everybody else to follow the example set for me.
There is absolutely, definitely, concrete Truth that exists in this world, and it is probably not in the places that we think it is. It's not in our rules or our currency or our imaginings about how things should work or in our ideas or in our education system or in our denominations or in anything we can imagine that has been constructed by human hands. It became flesh 2,000 years ago, died, and is the only thing that hasn't given up on our race as humans yet, despite our best efforts to twist it around to fit it into our little boxes.
Best of all, it has a name.
Together, with Him, we can discover how to be black lines in this world constructed of gray paper.
>I wrote a while back about Identity and this is in no way intended to step on the toes I established then. Just to cover my bases :)
I in no way intend do define who I am by what I do, because I find my identity with Someone bigger than whatever accomplishments I could ever hope for on this temporary earth. However, what I do I hope to craft to reflect the magnificence of the God I serve. Right now I'm not talking necessarily about those minute-to-minute decisions, thoughts, or actions, because it is in those ways I will never be perfect and therefore in constant need of a system of checking. Without forgiveness and that mindset of always striving for perfection in the most Divine sense of the word, the rest of the thoughts I'm about to lay out hold no weight. This is the next step above the moment; in fact, it is a way of escaping from the moment.
The most appealing of traps in which we build our homes is that on which countless poorly written pop-rock songs / indie-romance films dwell: live for the moment, because once it's gone, it's lost forever. By that same logic, the argument contradicts itself at its core, thus making it a logical fallacy; for if not seizing the moment means that you might miss it and have it be gone forever, then doing everything in your power to make that moment yours means as soon as the moment passes your efforts were for naught. No, I submit that this is the reason for the emptiness that plagues our country (and even our world). Everybody who takes this advice has to constantly fill the void left by the moment which leaves as soon as it arises and makes them stuck in a cruel game of catch-up. Just like Zeno's example of Achilles and the tortoise, once locked in to that method of thinking, you can never actually catch up to the tortoise, because once you finally get to where it is, it has moved again.
The only way to escape from this flawed ideology is to not follow Fall Out Boy's advice (as crazy a notion as that may seem) and look past the moment. It takes some heartache and frustration to realize that the moment isn't all it's cracked up to be, but very little convincing to realize, once you're there, that you are capable of so much more than what one tiny snapshot in time can offer. Yes, prototypical Church-Answerer, we set our sights on Jesus and the example he set for us. That is all well and good, but I'll tell you this: you won't get there.
I'm not being Frankie Thunderstorm here either, because what we don't seem to realize is that this is the point. We can't do it.
Kinda makes you feel small, you say? It should. It should make you feel incompetent, lowly, some might even call it worthless, powerless to live up to such a magnanimous example set before us. It's ok to not be good enough.
This is where so many people professing to be Christians get it so wrong. We were not created to live up to a Divine example, we were created to bring our Creator delight and praise and adoration. Part of that delight does happen to be attempting to be more like our Example every day, but that's not the whole of it. It's knowing that we, in ourselves, will never be good enough, and even with help from God Himself, the point of our bodily forms is that we will mess up (note: this is NOT a free pass to sin. Please do not take that from this) and when we realize that even though we have defiled the name of our Creator He loves us anyway, and we worship Him for it.
The point of this blog, finally.
All of this in mind, we craft our worship out of everything that we hope to be. Striving for perfection is, in its most innocent and basic sense, our act of worship. One aspect of this that I want to touch on quickly is (don't die from the shock that I want to talk about this) music.
It frustrates me to no end, to a point beyond what words can describe (though I constantly attempt to describe it anyway), that we have created this "genre" of "worship music." Music IS worship. Words are not beautiful, for they are simply signifiers of grander ideas, but music... music transcends communities and beliefs and traditions and locations and stages of life and everything physical that separates us both from other humans and from the Divine. It creates, wordlessly, emotions followed by thoughts followed by a primitive connection, in its most foundational sense.
So WHY do we call this bland, formulaic, monotonous category of supernatural connection worship?
Because it's easier. It's easier to reuse melodies that have proven successful or chord progressions which we know work than it is to craft something so wonderful, so pleasing to our God's ears that we share the joy with Him of listening to something that he breathed life into follow His example and craft right back to Him. Perhaps it's that those gifted to create such expressions are more in love with traditions or expectations than the God who created it all. Maybe they're just lazy.
Let's re-learn that worship is a lifestyle. That if we are not searching for perfection like our Heavenly Father is perfect, we are insulting Him every time we slap His name on something that is mediocre.
Let's craft everything we do with such passion that our hands shake. It's a process that takes much longer than a moment can offer.