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Four in One

July 7, 2006

Camp is next week so I will leave you four posts in one. You can read them all at once or visit four times.

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We have lived for so long with a “propositional” approach to Christianity, we have nearly lost its true meaning. As Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen says,

Much of it hinges on your view of scripture. Are you playing proof-text poker with Genesis plus the Gospels and Paul’s epistles, with everything else just sort of a big mystery in between—except maybe Psalms and Proverbs, which you use devotionally? Or do you see scripture as being a cosmic drama—creation, fall, redemption, future hope—dramatic narratives that you can apply to all areas of life? (Prism interview)

For centuries prior to our Modern Era, the church viewed the gospel as a Romance, a cosmic drama whose themes permeated our own stories and drew together all the random scenes in a redemptive wholeness. But our rationalistic approach to life, which has dominated Western culture for hundreds of years, has stripped us of that, leaving a faith that is barely more than mere fact-telling. Modern evangelicalism reads like an IRS 1040 form: It’s true, all the data is there, but it doesn’t take your breath away. As British theologian Alister McGrath warns, the Bible is not primarily a doctrinal sourcebook: “To reduce revelation to principles or concepts is to suppress the element of mystery, holiness and wonder to God’s self-disclosure. ‘First principles’ may enlighten and inform; they do not force us to our knees in reverence and awe, as with Moses at the burning bush, or the disciples in the presence of the risen Christ” (A Passion for Truth).

( The Sacred Romance , 45)

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[We live our lives before] the wild, dangerous, unfettered and free character of the living God. (Walter

Brueggemann)

The unknown Romancing or the Message of the Arrows— which captures the essence of life? Should we keep our hearts open to the Romance or concentrate on protecting ourselves from the Arrows? Should we live with hopeful abandon, trusting in a larger story whose ending is good, or should we live in our small stories and glean what we can from the Romance while trying to avoid the Arrows?

Perhaps God, as the Author of the Story we’re all living in, would tilt the scale in a favorable direction if we knew we could trust him. And therein lies our dilemma. There seems to be no direct correlation between the way we live our lives and the resulting fate God has in store for us, at least on this earth. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, lives the life of a manipulator and is blessed. Jesus lives for the sake of others and is crucified. And we never quite know when we’re going to run into the uncertainty of the part God has written for us in his play, whether our character has significant lines yet to speak or will even survive the afternoon.

( The Sacred Romance , 47)

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We use a phrase to try to console ourselves after what we think is an irrecoverable loss: “All good things come to an end.” I hate that phrase. It’s a lie. Even our troubles and our heartbreaks tell us something about our true destiny. The tragedies that strike us to the core and elicit the cry, “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be!” are also telling the truth—it isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Pascal writes,

Man is so great that his greatness appears even in knowing himself to be miserable. A tree has no sense of its misery. It is true that to know we are miserable is to be miserable; but to know we are miserable is also to be great. Thus all the miseries of man prove his grandeur; they are the miseries of a dignified personage, the miseries of a dethroned monarch . . . What can this incessant craving, and this impotence of attainment mean, unless there was once a happiness belonging to man, of which only the faintest traces remain, in that void which he attempts to fill with everything within his reach? (Pensées)

Should the king in exile pretend he is happy there? Should he not seek his own country? His miseries are his ally; they urge him on. And so let them grow, if need be. But do not forsake the secret of life; do not despise those kingly desires. We abandon the most important journey of our lives when we abandon desire. We leave our hearts by the side of the road and head off in the direction of fitting in, getting by, being productive, what have you. Whatever we might gain— money, position, the approval of others, or just absence of the discontent itself—it’s not worth it. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

( The Journey of Desire , 12–13)

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The battles God calls us to, the woundings and cripplings of soul and body we all receive, cannot simply be ascribed to our sin and foolishness, or even to the sin and foolishness of others. When Jesus and the disciples were on the road one day, they came upon a man who had been blind since birth. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” they asked him. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” And with that, Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud to place on the man’s eyes, and healed him (John 9:1–7).

Many of us who are reading these words have not yet received God’s healing. The display of God’s works through our wounds, losses, and sufferings is yet to be revealed. And so, we groan and we wonder.

( The Sacred Romance , 61)

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2006 4:06 pm

    Hope camp is great.

    1: I agree that we have got to start reading the Bible and talking about God like he is alive and real and a big part of our lives. We have taken something beautiful and made it is as exciting as an Algebra II book.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    July 7, 2006 10:27 pm

    Hey,
    I enjoyed your blog. Thanks for being honest and open about everything. I love Jesus and love reading about people who know him too.

    I am a musician and I would be honored if you would check out my music. All my music is free for download. Anyway, I don’t mean to be a pest, just thought I’d share.

    Thanks,
    -Sean
    ______________________
    http://www.SeanDietrich.com
    “All my muisc is free.”

  3. July 12, 2006 1:03 pm

    We have, at times, taken the “life” out of the Bible. But God keeps breaking out anyway.

    Thanks for the insightful post.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine
    Stoned-Campbell Disciple

  4. July 14, 2006 5:32 pm

    Hope you all had a great week! We just got in this afternoon from our camp. I’m sleep-typing.

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