The World Is a Poem and God Is Speaking It

 

Some while ago I wrote this allegory for the atonement as part of a class assignment. My interests at the time were, however, broader than just the atonement. I also attempted to contemplate the relationship between Creator and Creation: a challenging and mysterious topic throughout history. I wanted to understand the world in a way that doesn’t make God an all-determining Absolute Cause, as certain traditions do, because I cannot see how that route maintains God’s goodness or benevolence. However, I am also troubled by the open theisms, which I think open a floodgate of issues surrounding God’s nature and relationship to creation. My approach was an attempt to explore Austin Farrer’s (an acquaintance of C.S. Lewis), concept of “double agency.”

I had hoped that story and allegory would help open up new routes of thinking for me. I believe it did.

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Divine Omnipotence, the Threat to the Self, and Love

I spent the weekend in the wonderful state of Oregon, flying into Portland, spending the evenings and mornings in Newburg, and visiting Lake Oswego Sunday afternoon for a dear friend’s wedding. The flora was incredibly lush and beautiful and green, and it’s difficult to not be overwhelmed by Oregon’s vibrant, mossy forest. The sun didn’t come out once the entire weekend, and the rain hardly let up; it was all very beautiful.

I killed almost all my travel time—waiting in the terminal, during layover in San Francisco International Airport, and on the plane—absorbed in Katherine Sonderegger’s Systematic Theology: Volume 1, The Doctrine of God. So far, I have not been one to appreciate systematic theology, but this is a rewarding, intriguing, challenging, labyrinthine work. I can’t get enough of it.

While waiting in San Francisco for my flight to Portland, I immersed myself in Sonderegger’s chapter on God’s omnipotence. As she surveys, and is well-known to any theologian who has dabbled in contemporary theology, omnipotence has come under attack as a divine attribute in the recent decades. In the most extreme form, in process theology, God’s is utterly denied omnipotence and therefore has no power to act in creation. Rather, according to the process theologians, God merely is a sympathetic and loving presence to human sufferers and suffering. God only woos us towards virtue, but has no ability or power in the world otherwise.

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Psalm 114 Part 2, verses 3-6.

It has been quite a while since I last wrote about this psalm. Now it’s about time to take a further look and see what the middle two stanzas making up the center of the poem are all about. First, however, a quick recap of the first stanza.

Looking Backward: Psalm 114:1-2

When Judah went out from Egypt,

    the house of Jacob from a people of a strange language

Judah became God’s sanctuary,

    Israel his dominion.

In a nutshell this stanza retells the story of the Exodus and establishes the God of Israel as the Exodus-God. That is, he has revealed himself in this world as the one who leads people out of chaos and oppression into abundant life with him. The Exodus then is Yhwh’s act of self-revelation in which he reveals his character and quality. This revelation is unique not least in that “while the gods of the nations had images, statues, and temples as means of revelation, the God of Israel reveals himself in the Exodus of his people.”1

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Reflections on the Handing-Over of Jesus Christ, the “Aristocratic Itch,” and the Church.

In studying a subject or procuring a skill there is generally a movement from mystery to familiarity, from the unknown to the known. For example, I remember when I first began learning Greek, when all shapes of the alphabet were strange to me and each page of text an unknowable riddle. As I painstakingly studied, the sound of each letter would soon come as second nature and each word would become a system of recognizable parts. As I ran enough text through my fingers, I began to get a feel for the language; it became familiar and known to me. Whereas before I could only discern shadows on the ground, now I could look up and see the cathedral that cast it—in all its architectural grandeur and geometric complexity. Yet, at the point at which one has memorized every nook and cranny, the degree of every angle, the length of every line, the point at which one has run one’s hands over every square inch a thousand times over, at this point the mystery and the enchantment begin to fade into familiarity and mundanity.  It seems that in the process of knowing there is inevitably the risk of disenchantment. (Is it mere coincidence that the West’s struggle with the disenchantment of the world came concomitantly with modernity, the rise of the scientific and rational mind?)

However, the more I delve into the incarnation, the cross and resurrection, the more it eludes familiarity, the stranger it becomes. It resists demystification and disenchantment. It brings one to the beginning of the cosmos, to its end—at the cross one climbs into the dark recesses of the depths of the earth and ascends to the azure heights of the daylight sky.

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Psalm 114 Introduction

Introduction: My Journey with the Psalms

The Psalms have been perhaps my most consistent and steadfast partner throughout my Christian walk. For the past half-decade or so, since my earliest days as a Christian, I have made it a practice to read the Psalms daily and programmatically: twice a day—morning and evening–and through the whole book in a month. Of course, my consistency with this has waxed and waned, and it has never been perfect. Yet, that has never been the point. Rather, the point is that the Psalms have been spiritual nourishment for me, and every time I spend time with them God’s grace and power and love become present and begin to scintillate.

This said, I like to work my way through a book on the Psalms every once in a while in order to deepen and broaden my devotional appreciation. The first I ever read—a while back by now—was a work by N. T. Wright called The Case for the Psalms. It is a short, very accessible, and unique book. In it Wright characterizes the Psalms as poems that transform the reader/pray-er/singer; they reorient the imagination around what God was ultimately up to in Jesus Christ. In other words, they point to the Messiah and his work. As Wright beautifully puts it, “They are God’s gifts to us so that we can be shaped as his gifts to the world.”1 Later I would read another book called The Psalter Reclaimed by Gordon Wenham. It is a wonderful little book comprised of a series of lectures reworked into essays. It is somewhat more academic (and therefore perhaps less interesting to the lay-reader) than Wright’s book, but not overly-technical. Especially interesting is his essay incorporating speech-act theory into an understanding of what exactly is happening when the Psalms are individually or corporately sung and prayed.

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