Thursday, February 25, 2016

Consider The Lily

Consider the lily
Though it seems rather silly
To give mind to a flower
That's absent of power

You'd have to be blind
No end game in mind
To waste a sole moment
Calculating it's quotient

Even when they're in bloom
There isn't much room
For the blazing bright leaf
Within minds of belief

They summon your eye
As you drive by
But their temporal mirth
Won't grow your net worth

Whether dead in the fall
Or crushed by a ball
Or adorning a tomb
Time kills the bloom

But, But, But

Let's see YOU drink the sun
and transform it's rays
into foliage of tenderest gratitude
protesting the curse of death

For all your toil
command YOUR heart
to bloom in the spring
How great and how terrible to consider and
to Be

Like the lily
Let us take and eat and bloom

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hell: The Nemesis of Hope? (Nik Ansell)

The essay "Hell: The Nemesis of Hope" was written by Nik Ansell and published in The Other Journal in 2009. Read the essay here.

An updated form of the essay also makes an appearance as the Afterword in Her Gates Will Never Be Shut by Brad Jersak.

A few citations from the essay:

Despite the Church’s curse, there is no one
so lost that the eternal love cannot
return—as long as hope shows something green
—Dante, Purgatorio, Canto III. 133–1351

The traditional claim that the eternal suffering of the impenitent serves to glorify God by revealing his justice reduces the revelation of God’s glory to the restoration of God’s honor, thus separating the glory of God from the glorification of creation.

It is worth reminding ourselves, especially in this age of ecological violence and crisis, that the annihilation and destruction of God’s good creation is precisely the aim and goal of evil, not evidence of its defeat. The destruction, including the self-destruction, of those made in God’s image represents a victory for the forces of darkness. In the transformation of everlasting punishment into final judgment, evil still has the last word.

But as this is an earthly place outside Jerusalem and as the “last days” are clearly understood as taking place within history, this is very different from the Gehenna of later rabbinic literature in which the Valley of Hinnom has become an underworld or otherworldly realm that has been in existence since the creation. Such a place can indeed be identified with the Hell of traditional Christian theology. But these later Jewish texts all come from a time after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Jewish worldview was thrown into crisis, to be recast by the rabbis into a far less geographically rooted form.

Contrary to popular belief, no Jew in Jesus’s day was expecting God to bring about the end of the space-time universe. But the destruction of the temple, which was built to symbolize the creation, thus revealing God’s presence within it, would be seen as truly cataclysmic. For Jesus, this was God’s judgment on Israel, signaling nothing less than what we might call the end of the old world order. The only appropriate language was the language of de-creation.

It is significant that here, in the most sustained discussion of the general resurrection in the New Testament, there is no mention of Hell, either as eternal torment or as annihilation. But this should come as no surprise, I suggest, as the Christian doctrine of Hell, for all the appeals to Scripture that have been made on its behalf, has no biblical basis.

Generalizations have their limits, but a good generalization is generally true. More often than not, I suggest, the church has gone on to recapitulate the sins of Israel: calling God’s wrath down on sinners, setting itself “over” and “against” the world, hiding its true light under a bushel. The Roman Empire fell. Christendom was born. The Holy Roman Empire, as it came to be known, ruled the world, threatening all who would not toe the line with the fires of eternal torment. There is a place for nuanced historiography, but to those who were oppressed by the church when it was at the height of its powers, this would not be seen as a caricature. The secular critique of Christianity, for all its one-sidedness, is not without foundation.

If the Christian era came to an end with the dawn of the Enlightenment, which, in it's secular form, attacked the church for its evils, not least for its cruel doctrine of Hell, then instead of condemning it, should we not, first and foremost, ask whether the dawn of the modern age can be seen as God’s judgment against the church? Even as we may also ask whether, given the violence with which modernity has dealt with people of faith, God has now handed modernity over to its postmodern critics.

The good news of Gehenna is that for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, the attempt to invoke God’s judgment as an end in itself, as final, is revealed as a dead end. Such a spirituality does not belong to, and cannot be a part of, the life of the age to come. Thus, in looking back over church history at the rise and fall of the doctrine of Hell, we may be set free to develop an eschatology in which hope is allowed to triumph over fear.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

To My God (George MacDonald)

Oh how oft I wake and find
I have been forgetting thee!
I am never from thy mind:
Thou it is that wakest me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Love of God And The Law of Gravity?

Science Mike just put out a special episode of his Ask Science Mike podcast specifically about the recently confirmed existence of gravity waves. 

Listen to it here.

Being that this may be the closest thing to “Gravity Waves for Dummies” that I'm going to find, it's a bit disheartening that the majority of it is still well beyond my comprehension.  But maybe that's as it should be.  

Beyond any confusion and wonder at the weird, freaky, science-fictionish nature of our cosmos, there's one particular string of thoughts from Science Mike that stuck with me in terms of theological parallel:

"Gravity is very weak when compared to other forces in physics.  Now I know that sounds strange.  Here on Earth where you feel the intense pull of gravity every time you climb a flight of stairs, for example.  You clim enough stairs and you become very aware of Earth's gravity well.  But just think about how small a magnet is needed to pull a nail off a table.  And when you do that, that magnet is attracting that nail, is pulling that nail more powerfully than an entire planets gravity.  Gravity is weak compared to other forces in physics, and because of that, gravity waves are very, very small."

But at the same time, we have this:

"Why doesn't the moon crash into the earth?  Because the moon is traveling fast enough to be in free fall that's equal to the curvature of spacetime.  So the moon is constantly falling around the earth.  And the earth is constantly falling around the sun.  And the sun is constantly falling around the center of the Milky Way galaxy."

On the one hand gravity is weak.  While the laws of physics say that a nail will be inexorably pulled towards the mass of the earth, all it takes is a tiny, tiny magnet to pull it away.  The gravitational force of an entire planet submits to this tiny magnet.

On the other hand, gravity is the force that keeps planets and stars of unfathomable size from crashing into one another.  It allows the cosmos to dance.  And, scientifically speaking, the cosmos are indeed always dancing - spinning, twirling, falling.

Weak, yet unimaginably strong.  Dynamic, not static. It's "perfection" creating ceaseless relational movement.  In what seems to us as infinite nothingness and outer darkness, gravity is working to pull things together, to put each created object dance it it's rightful place.  Constant.  Invisible.  Light, dark, warm, cold - doesn't matter.  Nothing is beyond it's reach.  Though we drift, we drift within it.  Inescapable.  

As Radiohead sings "Gravity always wins".

Gravity is a symbol of the weakness of God, the weakness that is yet stronger than the strength of men.  It causes the cosmos to dance.  Love.  The gentle yet providential love of God that pervades the cosmos, down to the tiniest subatomic substance.

Do I dare believe this?  Or is this poetic nonsense?  A delusional assignment of meaning to a cold universe of arbitrary power or chance?

Who is this God, this God who speaks through the consent yet inevitability and inescapability of gravity?

I won't take the metaphor too far.  Gravity, after all, also causes the heaviness of cement walls that crash upon children in Haitian earthquakes.  Rather than lift them, it pulls floundering refugee mothers clinging desperately to capsized boats down to the depths.

Such is the nature of our existence.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"The Big Story" by Biologos

This is quickly turning into science week.

Biologos has released a video entitled "The Big Story".  They call it "a poetic re-telling of the history of the universe".  A visual presentation of the "epic, sweeping, and continuing story of God that stretches from creation to new creation."

Watch the video here.

Some brief thoughts:
  1. It's well done and very basic.  Production value is high.
  2. It's aptly titled.  It very much focuses on the "big story" rather than any one aspect of the narrative.
  3. Being that the video is presented as a story, it doesn't aim to be technical.  It isn't an exercise in apologetics or a tool to teach any technical intricacies (Biologos does have those types of videos as well).  It seems to be intentionally open ended in many regards, not wanting any technical particulars to distract from the simple hearing of this story.
  4. It avoids making claims on the theological issues that often divides Christians.  For example, being that the narrator has a reformed background, I assume (perhaps unfairly) that there are certain beliefs ungirding his "big story" about atonement, predestination, scripture, etc.  It seems to me that an intentional attempt is made to keep these sorts of things at arms length.  Out of necessity, whatever is there is a bit fuzzy.
  5. "The fall" seems to be characterized as a gradual thing.  
  6. There is no mention of death, suffering, or predation within the context of "The Big Story". 
In particular, I wish there'd been some discussion of #6 - the essential role that death plays in this "big story".  It's a thorny issue that demands careful thought and theology.  A short video may not be a suitable medium for such an exercise, but I don't think that one can or should ignore it completely.  Practically any story can appear grand and epic if one leaves out anything that might make it seem otherwise.

In any case, I think the video is well done.  It strikes a balance between being broad enough to effectively cover a lot of ground, while also permitting the narrative to highlight some of the core components behind Biologos' mission in a way that they can (and should) lead to further investigation for those who desire to do so.

I'm very interested in the intersection of science and faith, and the ways in which they don't overlap in that they speak to different things.  It's important.  Most importantly, it will be important to my daughter (now 2.5 years old) who I expect will one day begin asking questions for herself.  You had better be ready for that, church.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A few quotes from Albert Einstein

As a follow up to my brief post on black holes on Saturday, I thought I'd post some quotes from Einstein.

Scientist, philosopher, mystic, sage, curious and wondering child....Einstein is a difficult man to pin down.

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.

Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express in words afterwards.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What Happens When Black Holes Collide?

Perhaps you've heard that scientists have recorded the sound of two black holes colliding.  This sent gravitational waves (or ripples in the very fabric of spacetime) hurdling towards the earth, confirming a prediction of their existence made by Einstein over a century ago via the Theory of Relativity.

Forget about "how they know this".  That itself is a black hole to me as are a great many other things.  My cosmological ignorance goes on full display when I hear of black holes and spacetime and my mind immediately travels to Interstellar or A Wrinkle In Time.

I don't understand it.  I've tried to find the equivalent of "Black Hole Collisions and Space Time for Dummies" but to no avail.  There's simply too much underlying terminology and conceptual framework needed, and a person can't simply skip over all of that.

But this stuff absolutely fascinates me, this idea that space and time are dynamic and interactive.

A few articles on the story are here (NPR), here (New York Times) and here (

Also, check out this video on "What Happens When Two Black Holes Collide".

I suppose the NPR article linked above tells most of us all that we need to know about this and a great many other cosmological mysteries:
"The universe is stranger than any kind of fiction we could imagine.  I mean, it's preposterous."

Friday, February 12, 2016

An Ash Wednesday Poem (Belated)

That which I love
Laughter and kindness
All that is beautiful
As your sweet gentle voice
Will die
It is a law, like gravity
This Law Of Death
Leaves a mark
Ash to ash
Dust to dust

Thursday, February 11, 2016

3 Questions That I'd Like to Ask John Piper

I despise Christianese.  I also recognize that certain theological terminology is loaded with anthropomorphic (and other) baggage and needs substantial clarification, but here goes......

#1 - Via monergism and compatibilism, you believe that God can ultimately redeem anyone that He chooses to, and that therefore, if a person is not redeemed in the end it's because God has freely chosen not to redeem that person.  And you believe, without ambiguity, that this is indeed the case - that God does not intend to finally redeem all people?  Is that accurate?

#2 - You believe that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him", correct?  You've identified this as one of the most important sentences in your theology?

#3 - Holding to #2 - that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" - why then would God, though perfectly capable of it, not intend to redeem all people (as you declare in #1), thus ensuring that all people will not finally be "satisfied in Him"?

How does this make sense?

Mr. Piper seems to attempt to answer this here.

Importantly though, #1 isn't addressed or even alluded to in his answer. 

That is a problem.

If you didn't know better, you might think that Piper believes that God does desire to save all people. But that is unequivocally false. 

The key term in #2 , of course, is the "us".  God is most glorified in "us".

The term is not being used in a general sense.  The "us" is the "Elect".  

The glory given to God in the satisfaction of this chosen elect group is only a consequence of God having "chosen" them in the first place. Importantly, (and Piper alludes to as much), God is just as glorified in the damnation of the damned - those people whom He did not choose to be "satisfied by God" (effectively, those whom he providentially chose to be eternally dissatisfied in Him, thus being suitable vessels of wrath).

So a more accurate way to phrase the theology of Piper in regards to this particular matter might be as follows:

If you’re of the Elect, then you’ve been chosen as a vessel through whom satisfaction in God will glorify God.  If you’re not of the Elect, you’ve been chosen as a vessel through whom ultimate wrath will just as equally glorify God.

Satisfaction and dissatisfaction (that leads to wrath) are, in the end, equal expressions of the “perfection” of God according to this theology of glory.  If one were more primary than the other, then God would not be maximizing His own glory by promoting both of them.

Thus, neither is truly a primary means of glorifying God.  They are mere expressions of a more primal act of divine volition.  Preeminent and prior to either satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and the true source of both, is sheer unadulterated will to power.

And as DB Harts says:

“In any event, such a God, being nothing but will willing itself, would be no more than an infinite tautology – the sovereignty of glory displaying itself in the glory of sovereignty – and so an infinite banality.”  - The Doors of the Sea

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dust We Are And Shall Return (The Brilliance)

I need to be reminded.
It isn't just me that wears the ashes.  
I think I could live with that.  
It's the ashes on my wife.  
On my little girl.  
On all the rest.
May Ash Wednesday yet be sweet as this song?
Be still my soul.  

From dust we’ve come and dust we are and shall return
Be still my soul and let it go, just let it go

Glory to God
Glory to God in the highest
Glory to God
Glory to God in the highest

Naked we came and shall return into the grave
Be still my soul and let it go, just let it go

Glory to God
Glory to God in the highest
Glory to God
Glory to God in the highest

Be still my soul, Lord make me whole, Lord make me whole
Be still my soul, Lord make me whole, Lord make me whole, Lord make me whole 
Be still my soul, Lord make me whole, Lord make me whole

Glory to God 

Song: Dust We Are And Shall Return by The Brillance (On either Lent or Brothers Albums)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An aha! moment w/ the Eucharist (a blog post by Brian Zahnd)

Sticking with the theme of “aha! moments”, I’m going to post a link to Brian Zahnd’s blog post from yesterday, 2/8/16.

It’s entitled “Grain and Grape”.  Please read it.

Several of Brian’s works have been intimately connected with “aha! moments” for me.  This particular post (a version of which was posted on his blog a year or two ago) along with one or two related posts focus on the Eucharist.

I don’t wish to say much about the content of the post because it speaks for itself and certainly doesn’t need my commentary.  I would, however, like to say a few brief words about the reasons that this particular post was so impactful to me upon first reading it a year or two ago (and in subsequent readings).

I think it fair to say that “communion” does not hold the same place within the protestant or evangelical traditions as it does within some of the other more liturgical traditions.  There are significant differences but that’s not the purpose of my post.  Those differences aside, I’d like to comment on two primary ways in which this post awakened me to a new appreciation for the Eucharist.

1 - I love what Brian has to say in this post.  I love it.  The content itself speaks to the wideness and wonder of the Eucharist, but I didn’t view it as merely a new, creative, and intellectually satisfying way to think about the Eucharist.  No.  Not only did the particular content of the post impact me, but the imaginative and meditative nature itself set a pattern for further Eucharistic reflection for me.  I’m more inclined to look for those depths than I was before.  If Christ is indeed the Logos – the underlying meaning of all things – then there is infinite depth to the Eucharist.  It is primary and beautiful.

2 – In addition to engaging my mind and intellect in new ways, the Eucharist became more tangible to me.  Rather than further separating the world into sacred and secular, it fused them via the revelation of a sacramental world.  As BZ says, “The Eucharist pulls back the curtain to reveal a sacramental world.”  It isn’t a “mere idea”, or an exercise in abstract theology or a tip of the cap to a vague sense of judicial forgiveness in the pattern of penal substitutionary atonement.  It’s a mystery, but it’s become more tangible and central to me.

So I try my best to slow down when I take communion, difficult as that may be at times.  It’s not an empty religious ritual to me, or a dogmatic oddity that must be squeezed into a Sunday morning.  My doubts and frustrations haven't magically disappeared.  Far from it. I don't think the Eucharist "works" that way. But particularly in times where the staples of an evangelical worship service don’t inspire much in me, both the imaginative pondering of it’s mystery and depth and the act of open handed receiving have made the Eucharist primary to me.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Aha! Moments” and “Oh Sh$% Moments"

A few days ago I wrote a post about accidentally overheating some puréed sweet potatoes for my daughter and how that triggered something for me.

It got me thinking about "aha! moments".

Apparently "aha! moment" is worthy of an actual dictionary definition:

a moment of sudden insight or discovery.
"it was one of those aha moments, when you know you have to risk it all"

Sound like a good thing.  A flash of insight or clarity, a new realization that clears up misconceptions, or forms a new connection.  A breakthrough.

Form a few mental image of an "aha! moment".  Everybody is happy.  Everybody is smiling.  Where the light bulb was once off, now it's on.  There is light where there was once darkness.  You're scribbling furiously wanting to write it all down to make sure that you don't lose it.  It leads to action and productivity.  You want to share it with those close to you.

Here’s the thing though.  I don’t actually want to talk about "aha! moments".

What I was referring to in my previous post is actually the nefarious sibling of the “aha! moment”.

I’ll call it the “oh no” moment.  And I'm not talking about an "oh no" moment in the sense of "I just lost Super Mario Bros" or "That chili isn't sitting so well."  I'm talking about something big.  A game changer.  I'm not even talking about devastating health type things (though those may lead to an existential crisis), but rather an event that leads to the opposite of an aha! moment.

You know what?  “Oh no” or "Uh oh" doesn’t cover it.  It’s not strong enough.  It doesn’t do justice to the reality of it.  If you’ve had one, you know what I mean.

Something stonger is needed.

“Oh shit.”  That's it.  An “oh sh$% moment.

Much better.  (I'll censor it the rest of the way as I feel no need NOT to.)

I don't mean this comedically, though it may carry that connotation.  I mean this in the sense of dread and angst.  In an extreme case, your world comes crashing down like a house of cards.

For this post, I thought I'd try to come up with a few characteristics of an "oh sh$%" moment.

Not all of these apply to each and every "oh sh$%" moment, but most probably do.

1 - An "oh sh$%" moment has to do with something major or significant.  Something existential, bound up with your identity, worldview or well-being.  It has to be major to illicit a response strong enough for it to qualify as a true "oh sh$%" moment.

2 - An "oh sh$%" moment is disorienting.  Rather than the light bulb going on as in an "aha moment", it's more like a light bulb going off.  It's often accompanied by an experience of extreme cognitive dissonance.

3 - An "oh sh$%" moment isolates you.  You can't just run out and tell everyone about it.  Because it has to do with something major or significant, is very likely to be bound up with your identity, world view or sense of ultimate well being, and because it is so disorienting, it's difficult to talk about it.  It's not just difficult as in it's confusing or disorienting and difficult to get the words out, though it may be these things.  In many cases you simply can't talk about these things with just everybody.  When it comes to "oh sh$%" moment material, we tend to group together with those who think like we do, so we're forced to bear it alone.  We're either afraid of rejection, or we don't want to hurt our friends or loved ones, or both.  I'm no sociologist so this is just a novice observation.

4 - Unlike an "aha moment", you aren't out looking for an "oh sh$%" moment.  If you are looking for it, I contend that your "oh sh$%" moment had already occurred and what you're now searching for is a way to move forward.

5 - There's no going back after an "oh sh$%" moment.  You see something in a way that you can't unsee it.

6 - While an "oh sh$%" moment may seem like it came out of nowhere, you may be able to look back and see that the seeds of it have been in the soil of your life for awhile.

7 - An "oh sh$%" moment, though it may be characterized by any of #'s 1-6 above, may ultimately prove to be a necessary precursor to an "aha! moments".  While the two are quite different in their immediate experience, we may be able to look back at "oh sh$%" moments and see that the lines that separated them from "aha! moments" have become a bit blurry.

8 - If #7 applies, only the one who experienced an "oh sh$%" moment is allowed to look back and say how it was actually an "aha! moment", that it "made you who you are today."  You don't get to make that determination for anyone else and nobody gets to make that determination for you.

Did I miss any?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Sucker Punched by the Age of Accountability

Bear with me.  This story does have a point.

There was an incident with my daughter when she was just a baby - maybe 6 or 7 months old (she's 2 and a half years old now).

My wife and I had recently started giving her "people food" - oatmeal, rice cereal, puréed fruit and veggies, etc.  We’d buy the fresh food, cut it up, steam it, purée it, and scoop it into little containers that we'd keep in the refrigerator for later.  I actually quite enjoyed making it.

When you keep it in the refrigerator, you naturally want to warm it up.  Who likes cold puréed cauliflower?  Gross. It's key to not make it too hot.  That’s trickier than it seems though, because it only takes a few seconds in the microwave to sufficiently warm up an ounce or two.

And my daughter. So beautiful and innocent. She'd look at me and open her mouth as wide as she possibly could, fully trusting that whatever I put in her mouth would taste good, would be safe.  That it wouldn't hurt. She'd smile and coo.

I was normally VERY cautious about not overheating food. I'd mix it, taste it, blow on it, mix it some more, taste it again....

But one time I screwed up. I must have heated up the sweet potatoes for too long or not mixed them up well enough.  The moment that I put the spoon in her mouth and she closed her mouth, she jolted in her chair at the burning sensation, closed her eyes, and opened her mouth to scream. Because the pain was more than her tiny, growing brain could process, it took a few seconds for the scream to come. But after that moment of unholy silence it did come.

Most parents have probably done this. Even so, it's unnerving to see your child in pain.

But for some reason, in that moment, my thoughts traveled beyond the immediate context of a mild infant mouth burn and went all human destiny.  For reasons I can't quite understand, the sheer terror of hell that my own particular tradition had so meticulously and thoroughly placed within me took form, stood up, and stared back at me like a hooded grim reaper or Harry Potter’s dementor, sucking the life and happiness right out of me. The terror certainly hadn't been dormant within me prior to that moment. Far from it. Rather, it was a moment where a deep discomfort within me, a skepticism and distrust, a knowledge that my "faith system" was latent with irreconcilable tension and did not make sense of reality became unavoidably clear.

(Don't misunderstand me here. I'm not (in this post) making an argument - philosophical, theological, biblical, emotional, etc - for any of the issues that I mention.  Just a story of the experience and some of the immediate thoughts that I had).

In that moment I simply couldn't steer clear of the "infernalist" eschatological smackdown that underlies so much of my evangelical heritage.  No more excuses for it.  No avoiding it.  No rationalizations.  Just a cold hard acknowledgment of what it was.

I don’t know why the realization hit me in that specific moment.  How did I get from a baby burning the roof of her hell?  What??  Only religion could do this.  And this isn't "extremist" religion.  This is just paying attention in church.  Basic, fundamental stuff.

In that moment I saw a microcosm of what my own tradition believed was the eternal destiny of most of humanity.  A child (and each adult was once a child) incapable of processing the pain.  Nothing outside of the moment.  No past.  No future.

The Christianity that I was raised with contends that God is, in one way or another, the inflictor or sustainer of a pain directed at "unbelievers" that will endure forever and ever.  After 100 billion years you’re just getting started.  God irresistibly resurrects you, graciously provides you with a body that cannot be destroyed, sustains (or even enhances) your ability to feel pain, and then tortures you forever.  There is nobody to help you - nobody to appeal to, no defender.  The time has expired on whatever divine love there was for you, if there was ever any to begin with.  Mercy has passed. "Holiness" and wrath are thus made manifest in unending judgment.

This is very dark.  If it makes you should.  If it doesn' should.

Back to my little girl.  

Amidst this flood of thoughts and theology, my most concrete and primal thought was "This can't happen to my daughter. It's not possible.  Not my little girl. It can't."

She cried for a short time from the mouth burn, but her ordeal was soon over.  It was a fleeting moment. An accident. She’s just a little girl.  This eschatological fate doesn’t apply to little girls, right?

She hadn’t reached the “age of accountability” yet.  Phew.

Of course not all traditions believe in this “age of accountability”.  Calvin infamously said that that "there are babies a span long in hell."

This belief in infant damnation (a more commonly held belief than one might hope it to be in a “religion of love”) is just the result of consistently held doctrines of “original sin” and “election”.  No more, no less.  Simple. To these folks an infant is just as wicked and detestable in the eyes of God as any adult.  A massa damanta.

And yet I realized that the existence of an age of accountability, in the end, is no better.  

Nobody actually knows what this "age of accountability" actually is.....which seems mildly important. And the "biblical support” for such an idea is just silly.

In an "age of accountability" world, a child is born hurdling towards a magical age-threshold which, once crossed, causes some sort of irreversible existential change.  A child's “eternal destiny” is safe prior to reaching this threshold, but not after.  “Free will” apparently isn’t an inviolable obstacle to salvation for the Divine prior to crossing this threshold, but it becomes so afterwards.  Every new day, every heartbeat, is thus infinitely risky.  If you die as a baby, you’re “in”.  Period.  But after this threshold, there is a real possibility that you end up "out".

In fact, as human compassion and technological advancements have decreased infant mortality rates, we’ve actually succeeded in allowing more children to live beyond this "age of accountability".

You understand what I’m saying here?

It’s disgusting.  Vile.  Monstrous.  Madness.  It'll suck the life out of you.  But the logic of it is inexorable given the underlying beliefs.  And it isn't hard to find people who have acted according to this madness.

To the believing Christian masses, an “age of accountability” should serve as an indication that there is something very very wrong with a system that necessitates such a thing in the first place.  This must be faced.  It should cause us to rethink a few things about God and about ourselves.

The $64,000 question is, "Why doesn't it?  If one does indeed see the impossible hopelessness and tragedy of an "age of accountability", what sort of a "faith" looks the other way?"

For all the sleepless nights that have come (and are yet to come) as a result of looking closely and critically at what I believe (and I mean that quite literally), I'd still rather face it.

That's because in my better moments I believe there is a better Gospel.  I have to.

Christ have mercy.

All this from a teaspoon of overheated sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Leader? Or lone nut?

When are you a leader, and when are you just freakin' crazy?  It's a fine line....

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On Being Human (CS Lewis)

On Being Human

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature. They discern
Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal
Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth's salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves' fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us
-An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles goes,
The pleasure and the pang --can angels measure it?
An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes
On death, and why, they utterly know; but not
The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot
Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate
Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf's billowy curves,
Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
—An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they! I know the senses' witchery
Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;
Imminent death to man that barb'd sublimity
And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,
This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares
With living men some secrets in a privacy
Forever ours, not theirs.

Monday, February 1, 2016

As the Ruin Falls (CS Lewis)

As the Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains. 
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