Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Saturday, November 07, 2009
They had just gotten back from helping orphans in the third world and I was there to pick some of them up from the airport. The whole team was there, along with family and friends waiting to welcome them back, so the air was charged with anticipation and all sorts of emotions. When things get like that, my mind clutters and blurs and my mental canvas becomes a mess. But then my eyes locked on one of them, someone I barely knew. She was wearing a simple blouse with faded colors and a dark brown earthy layered skirt. Her hair was a bit lighter than the jet-black I remembered before she left two and a half weeks ago. But it was her face that arrested me. It showed a pain and weariness so absolute it could’ve brought the earth to its knees. I don’t know exactly what she saw or experienced over there, but it wasn’t good. Whatever it was, was unkind, indecent, and I felt it.
But I felt something else, something completely unexpected and opposite. It was peace. What paradox of the senses. Nothing on her face betrayed peace. All physiognomy said pain, but everything else pointed to peace. In fact, there was so much peace that all the pain was subsumed, wrapped up like a sickly child by that familiar blanket which doesn’t cure the illness or pretend it’s not there, but comforts the child in the midst of his affliction and assures him things will soon be okay. A peace that grants patience with hope. This peace was decent, kind, good, and I was privileged to have felt it. Since then, when Providence sees fit, I feel it still, and it always leaves me wondering about the day when. When I’ll feel it forever.
The wasteland will become
The land of peace,
The land the sun rests upon,
Since rising from the East.
Posted at 4:02 PM
Monday, May 14, 2007
When you're depressed, the thing that you've put your functional trust in has finally failed. I think that makes sense. Depression is idol failure. Whether it's money or power, comfort or happiness, that boy or girl, when that idol collapses, the world tumbles with it. What amazes me is that with all the false idols out there, more people aren't depressed. Or maybe they are except we don't notice because they deal with it in their own infinitely different ways. One person cries, another yells; one pigs out, another works out; one numbs it, another ends it. And it all traces back to that one thing you placed a little too much hope in. The funny thing is, most idols aren't bad in themselves. Family, security, or even reason and science—these are all gifts I'm sure we're supposed to enjoy. They were just never meant to exist as gods.
So when God said to love Him and only Him "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," I guess He wasn't just demanding something we obviously owe Him, He was also telling us how to get what we truly wanted all along: "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding."
Posted at 4:28 PM
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Pope was wearing a grand red robe. His presence froze those around him. Even the creases on his holy garment stood still.
"Will you recant?"
Galileo, in simple white dress, answered with conviction. "But why? Does the Church not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that man's salvation revolves around Him alone?"
"Then why must I recant a revelation from the cosmos depicting this mighty truth?"
A straight portion of the Pope's robe furrowed.
"Since Adam, man has forever strived to make a name for himself. He has always declared himself center of the universe and has suffocated the world with his many towers. Human potential reigns supreme. And now even the Sun, the giver of light and life, bows with suppliant knee at dawn and dusk. Do you not see? Our wicked senses have again corrupted the truth! If we owe our fleeting lives to the immutable Son of God, dare we deify his power and humbly acknowledge that this dusty earth should chase after the constant Sun?"
There was a silence and then the Pope released him. As he walked away, a smile crept across his face.
Posted at 5:31 PM
Saturday, December 23, 2006
"So just because I don't believe in Jesus I'm going to Hell?"
This is one of those questions where answering "yes" or "no" does more harm than good. If you answer "no" you run the risk of heresy. But if you answer "yes" you might have made Christianity more offensive than it needs to be. And sadly, that's probably the case among non-believers. They ask that question, receive an apologetic "yes," get incensed at the pettiness of the religion, and then storm off into the darkness, deeper in unbelief.
There may be a better way to answer. I think most people believe in absolute morals, that there are things you ought to do and things you ought not to do, no matter the context. Murder, torture, rape, for example. These things, in and of themselves, are wrong, regardless of whether a majority thinks otherwise (like Nazi Germany) or whether we're incapable of judging someone to have committed them (like our fallible court system). They are violations of some moral law that no human ever created, and so in a real sense, can be called moral crimes that this Nonhuman will eventually exact justice for. So here comes the bad news. We've all committed moral crimes. We've all done things we know we oughtn't to have, whether it was cheating or stealing or hurting someone, in action or in thought. That's why we have pangs of guilt. We know we did something bad, that we've committed some sort of moral crime, and the only reasonable conclusion is that we deserve punishment. Just like how a murderer, unless he receives a pardon, gets jail time as punishment, so will we, unless we receive a pardon, get jail time as punishment. It's unfortunate that this latter sort of punishment is an eternity without God, but that just means God is all the more serious about moral crimes, as one can only expect from a morally perfect and just God.
By now you might see that technically the answer to the original question really is "no." You don't have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven. You just have to never commit any moral crimes. Ever. You must be perfectly innocent on the day you die. But if you're not, if your record is blemished in the slightest, sorry to say, you will be punished. You can't pull yourself up by your moral bootstraps, cleanse your record with your own hands. The only way to avoid the punishment you deserve is for the sovereign power to offer a pardon, and equally important, for you to accept it. That's the good news. There's a pardon dangling in front of you. His name is Jesus Christ.
I understand that even this response, though in keeping with orthodoxy, may not be very palatable. And though Truth is not meant to appease any sort of palate, there is a degree to which it should at least resonate with the human condition. I'm no great writer so I probably have missed the mark for some of you. If so, I'd encourage you to read the first several chapters of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which does a much more masterful job of conveying the message without compromising the fundamentals. Then judge for yourself how well Christianity, both rationally and intuitively, compared with your current worldview, explains the world before you.
To sum up the Good News: Grace is necessary and Grace has been given. I hope that maybe this Christmas season we can all reflect on this Grace just a little more than we normally would. After all, this Grace is the very reason for the season.
Posted at 2:19 AM
Thursday, December 14, 2006
"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."
Anyone who read the "God vs. Science" cover story in the Nov. 13, 2006 issue of Time will recognize this to be the last sentence of the entire article. It was spoken by Richard Dawkins, one of the more prominent and vocal atheists of our time. This statement is so characteristic of the atheistic mindset that I think it's worth diving into, to see how they think. And in so doing, maybe we can all have more fruitful discourses when it comes to the topic of God.
First of all, Dawkins, along with all atheists, doesn't believe in the existence of God. That's his underlying belief and where he gets his foot off in all arguments. So, if he believes there is no God, of course every religion that posits one is a manmade religion. If you start with Jesus as only a mortal, then of course Christianity will be, to you, manmade. Bombasting tautologies during debates is useless, especially when presented as a positive argument for your side, which then makes it disingenuous.
On the flipside, Christians have reached the conclusion that Jesus was not just a man. As such, Christian theologians only attempt to understand what God revealed to us through His Work and His Word, the Scriptures. Theologians don't intend to propose anything new. Now how they reached that supernatural conclusion is the question and what should be discussed. Same goes for the atheist. How have they come to their conclusion? Little ground will ever be covered if we neglect the "how" and simply spew begging-the-question consequences of our view.
Secondly, Dawkins appears open to the possibility of God, but only one that is "a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible" than anything we have today. That is, if there is a God, it is one that leaves less room for reason and more room for faith. Isn't that odd? As a man who appears to champion human reason above all else, he is arguing (i.e. using his reason) that if there is a God, he would have to take a pretty big leap of faith to accept it. Sounds like a New Ager to me.
Lastly, I think his statement is partly a complaint that religious people claim to know it all. If this is true, then maybe Christians need to change their style of communication. Perhaps more humility is in order. But does Dawkins, or any atheist for that matter, really believe that Christianity is completely comprehensible even to the most spiritual, say the Pope, or St. Peter himself? I certainly don't think so. I don't think any honest Christian can say, "My finite mind has penetrated the infinite God." Now, I believe that there are many good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but that in no way implies I believe I understand Christianity through and through. In my lifetime, I will be as far from that as any number is to infinity. Christians understand a lot, to be sure. They have a clue to the answers of the big questions: Who am I?, Where did I come from?, and Why am I here?. But they don't claim much more and never have. Indeed, much of how to live life flows from the answer to these questions.
And just for the sake of clarity, Christianity is not something anyone could ever have guessed or proposed. The words of C.S. Lewis rarely fail, here speaking of the central tenet of Christianity, of God becoming a Man to save us:
"Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be--the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it."
Posted at 4:08 PM
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I stepped outside into the courtyard and noticed a deep orange sun crouching on the horizon, making it seem larger than usual. The air was clear and warm and people were strewn about in small groups exchanging pleasantries. As the time drew near more people were arriving and the level of noise increased a great deal, though at first I didn't notice much because I was with my friend and we were engaged in a little small talk of our own. We didn't know anyone, except maybe several people but only superficially, so we were glad of the other's company. We finally took our seats and sat there patiently because there was nothing for us to hurry to. It was really quite nice. Then, during one of the many long and pleasant silences between us, my friend and I seemed to simultaneously perceive the loud chatter all about, because when it reached its peak, he said something like, "Shoulda drank something. Need a little something to get me through this." I looked at the orange sun and the blue ocean and the green trees, then looked at all the people, and then looked back at him, and nodded.
Posted at 8:13 PM