does God exist

The Cliff, part 2

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Dear Russell & Friends,

I lost another friend to the cliff last week.  This was a literal cliff, challenged by a colleague my own age, because it was there.  This was a man who kept his promise to only leave his marriage by death, and did.  As we gather again to support his family and to embrace the community at work I grieve in a very different way.  I understood his sense of adventure and his pursuit of fitness that allowed him to do hard things.  I last spoke with him 4 weeks ago when he welcomed me to CrossFit and explained why he did it.  I understood, as a hiker, the draw to climbing rocks that I was just too cautious to embrace.  I admired him for taking the risks that I would not take.  And when he fell I do not reproach him.  I don’t ask him to do it over, to live a safer life.  Could my perspective be that of his bride or children the age of mine?  It is honestly too soon to contemplate asking.  Yet I know that her husband did not break promises.  And I know that their father was a hero.

The cliff of infidelity is avoidable, and I strive to live away from its ledge.  The cliff of death will touch us all in a free fall or slow slide.  I honor my friend for his choices, his bravery, and his life.  I grieve that we won’t enjoy his company for longer here.  Our family will seek practical means to comfort and support his.  In 6 weeks I’ve lost 2 friends to traumatic death.  Friends within 2 years of my age.  In my profession, half of the people I meet know that they are dying sooner than they expect.  So yes.  I think much about death even when it doesn’t brush this close.  And yes.  That is one of the main reasons I believe – – the hope that the dead will rise.

Pascal – – 1:16

 

photo credit:  David Hiser, 1937-, Photographer (NARA record: 3651517) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer for an Atheist

Dear Russell and Friends,

Recently, J’s brother became suddenly and severely ill.  Russell texted me that she was going to say goodbye as he was in a coma and not expected to live.  Some of J’s family believe.  Some don’t.  As she stands in the middle it can hurt.  Whether you believe or not, whether they believe or not – – when someone you love is hurting, you hurt.  That is part of love’s definition.  I said that I would pray.  I wrote it down so that my promise would not be hollow.  Then I ran.  That is where I do much of my thinking directed to God – – prayer if you will. Then I wrote.  That is where I write letters to God and leave a record of his answers and how they have changed my life.  I write several times a week in a large journal.  The entry is below.  I’ve addressed it Dear Father as I usually do – – my title for God.  As a father myself, I’m haunted and pricked each time I write those words.  So many incomplete fathers.  I am one of them.  One father who balances discipline and love.

I’ll end with the letter’s actual sign off.  Before I begin:

1)  Believers – – do you pray for skeptics?  How?

2)  Skeptics – – would this prayer offend you?  Would any?

Pascal – – 1:16

Dear Father,

I told a friend that I would pray this week for her brother who is severely ill.  He is an atheist.  She doubts.  His sudden fall has sent waves through a family and community.  A middle aged man scaling a noble cliff fell suddenly.  His back is broken and he writhes in blinding pain.  Will he walk again or even live?  I don’t know him, but I love him.  We’re the same age.  I too have fallen before.  I too have been rebuilt.  But what if I hadn’t.  What if I never recovered the sentience to hear your whisper of presence and reassurance?  What if I never thanked those who loved me despite my far flung successes and foundational failures?

I believe that you made and gifted this man.  I believe that you used his gifts to enrich men whether he knew you or not.  I think his metal is like mine – – an alloy of base and precious.  I think his heart is like mine – – a dividing line between good and evil.  I think his family is like mine – – loving him, hurting deeply, hoping for a chance to reconnect perhaps reconcile.

What if he doesn’t wake up?  If he was right about you then he’ll live in the memories he constructed.  His family and his work will stand as a testament to what he built and how he built it.  If I am right about you let me beg you this – – when the veil is lifted, when the choice is clear – – then let him choose.  You know that my heart has grown for those who deny you and even for those who hate me for following Christ.  We know it is illogical to hate the non-existent.  But it does make sense to hate Christ followers – – especially if they have hurt others by twisting your words or following a broad rather than narrow path.  I’ve done that.

I haven’t met this man, but I love him.  Please bring him back to the family that needs him.  I suspect that he has much to say and that they are needful of hearing it.  Please especially strengthen his sister – – my friend.  She thought, perhaps thinks, that she shares his atheism.  Comfort without you is thin.  Please comfort her.  I’m not sure what my good friend her husband thinks.  He is so hopeful that science will soothe the sting of death.  In my work with the dying I knew he was wrong.  I sit with families facing death from different perspectives – – four this week alone.  It is different.

I’m not asking for a deathbed conversion for a mind that may grasp nothing.  I do not understand completely how you will save all men through the work of Christ, but I know that you will.  And if this man lives to die another day please let me meet him and offer my admiration and compassion in person.

Love,

Pascal

Wrestling With Russell’s Reasons – – 1

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Dear Russell & Friends,

Today begins an attempt to reply to Russell’s reasons for not following Christ.  The icon above is a Rembrandt circa 1659 entitled Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.  It depicts the biblical story from Genesis 32.  That story about Jacob’s life has always had meaning for me.  God allows us to, even encourages us to wrestle with him.  He did not create automatons and your intellect does matter.  I have wrestled with many things in faith.  Sometimes I win the match.  Sometimes I lose.  I always come out better for the struggle, and like Jacob, I still limp.  Russell and I talked yesterday and agreed on a general format for going forward.  I’ll try to reply to one reason each week.  As the reasons unfold you’ll see that we could spend a year on each one or even an academic career.  That is neither feasible nor desirable for our purposes.  There are, however, scholars on both sides of the argument who have spent substantial time and effort in producing works for the interested and the curious.  Whenever possible, lets lead each other to those works.  Without further ado:

Reason 1:  The Bible is neither inerrant nor infallible.

That was a great place to start.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have four cornerstones for belief that are also stumbling blocks for the skeptic:  supernatural, scripture, saints, and saviour.  Russell started with scripture and began with the specific language of the churches that he and I grew up in.

Inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible is without error or fault in all its teaching.

Infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true.

Some equate the two terms and some don’t  There are subtle differences that the equators find irrelevant.  One point of agreement, however, is that the belief in inerrancy and infallibility is not the same as the belief in biblical literalism.

What was Russell arguing and why was this a good place to start?  He responded to a common American fundamentalist evangelical teaching – – something that we both grew up with.  I wrestled with his first reason in several ways (and continue to do so):

  1. I studied inerrancy by reading a small book on my shelf then posted the reflections here.  This document would certainly be representative of the church to which I’m going this morning and in fact of all the churches that I’ve attended since childhood.
  2. Russell replied with a detailed analysis of my thoughts and of the statement.
  3. I started reading again, primarily Bart Ehrman and N.T. Wright.  Both are accomplished New Testament scholars who come to completely different conclusions.  I’ve only read one Ehrman book, but I must read more.  It is difficult for me because his attempts to constrain sarcasm sometimes seem half-hearted.
  4. I began to realize that my reading had in fact been narrow.  What about the context of scripture in the landscape of sacred texts and world history?  That’s when Russell introduced me to Audible books and I turned off NPR during the commute.  The bookshelf page is an attempt to chronicle my reading with Russell and before him.
  5. I continued to run and think and sleep, realizing that so much happens in my subconscious before I have the thought accessible in the frontal lobe and available to write here.
  6. I realized that I might be fighting on the wrong hill.  What exactly does scripture mean to me?  Should I defend the terms inerrant or infallible?  That’s what Russell was trying to get at with his very patient reply to me.  I accepted the terms initially and was prepared to defend them.  I had grown up with them. As I studied more, it appears that American protestants for the last two hundred years had grown up with them.
  7. I reconsidered.  My experiment in defending the terms inerrant and infallible yielded a negative result.  It did not increase my love for Christ or my love for others.  It was not a sure and sufficient reason for my skeptical friend.  The scientific method cherishes negative experiments.  They teach you as much as the positive ones.  However, there is a publication bias that over-represents the experiments which validate the initial hypothesis.
  8. Where do I stand now?  Here is the best description of my regard for scripture:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

I was answering the wrong question, but it was the question posed by the fundamental American Christianity that Russell and I knew so well.  What are the consequences of taking my stand on a different hill?  I suppose that you could view this as a retreat.  But, if I’m arguing the wrong thing in the wrong spirit, then I should retreat.  This represents a healthier way of representing what scripture actually means in my life.  That is why I’m going slowly through Romans.  What is the consequence of arguing inerrancy or infallibility?  Romans 1 can be about debating genealogies instead of about how Christ followers should treat gay people.  I find the former approach less helpful and the latter more relevant and profitable.

So, what am I saying?  I’m not going to marry myself to the terms inerrant or infallible.  After a year of reflection I believe that I was wrong to do so.  For the interested I’ll present a link to an interview with N.T. Wright in which he addresses his beliefs on Biblical inerrancy.  I confess to being swayed by his scholarship and opinions.  I confess that my confirmation bias kicks in much stronger when I read him as opposed to Ehrman.  However, this is a change of mind for me and a difference in how I’ll approach the crucial subject of scripture.

The brief interview is here.  In the comments section below the interview we learn by negative example what tone to avoid in our own dialogue.  Your conversation is welcome here as Russell and I continue to wrestle with reasons.

Pascal – – 1:16

 

photo credit:  Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Love Letter – – part 13

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Actually, Mrs. Pascal would have liked me.  I was friendly and cheerful.  I always helped those who appeared to struggle.  But I was not yet even becoming the man God intended for her and I was too selfish at that point to recognize her demure, elegant beauty.  Love Letter – – part 12   from the beginning

I even grew spiritually by attending a Christian leadership camp called The Summit the summer after sophomore year.  It was in Manitou Springs, Colorado at the base of Pikes Pike.  My folks and I visited the Air Force Academy before they dropped me off.  I’m not sure that I actually grew spiritually.  I spend hours studying the politics of the Christian right – – even picketing an abortion clinic.  I regret it to this day.  You and I must really talk politics some day my friend.  I think one contribution to your struggle must be the Christian imprimatur on decidedly non-Christian politics.  Fair and balanced.  Mrs. Pascal and I are Democrats.  I once had a bumper sticker reading Pro-Life Democrat.  I took it off after someone put a 10 penny nail through my rear passenger side wall.  It either happened at the Mexican restaurant where Russell and I eat or at my place of employment.  Catholic Mexicans or Anglo Evangelicals?  I wonder.

3/15/13 – – KL airport, awaiting Singapore

I did fall in love at the Summit – – with Colorado.  The love continues to this day.  Mrs. Pascal and I maintain it and have shared it with the boys.  After a week of classes at the Summit we had a free day to either River Raft (not sure why I capitalized that) or hike Pikes Peak.  I chose the mountain and completed my first and only marathon that day – – one mile to trailhead – – thirteen up – – thirteen down – – one mile back.  To be 16 again.  Actually, Mrs. Pascal and I will go stay in Manitou on our anniversary trip this year.  We’ll acclimatize in a B&B then hike 1/2 way up one day and camp, summit and return to Barr Camp for a second night – – then back down.  Oh, to be 41.  At least the company will be great this time.

I can’t exactly tell you why it happened other than the groundwork I’ve laid.  You have all the information I’ve had when I try to figure it out albeit from a shallower depth of field.  But it did happen.  I was reading The Talisman by Stephen King.  I was a voracious reader of fiction in high school reading all Tom Clancy and beginning King.  The Talisman is scarey.  “But Pascal, name one Stephen King book that isn’t!”  On Writing . . . Meditations on the Craft – – brilliant and on my multiple reads shelf.  So, I’m sure that reading a book with a significant component of lycanthropy didn’t help.  I was spending the night at Chris Alvarez’s house a week before junior year was to start.  Our friendship was still there but strained.  And we had a fight – – I don’t even remember about what.  I do remember leaving his house at one in the morning with the clothes on my back.  I was angry, confused and lost.  The roads of suburban San Antonio outskirts were not as well marked as the trails of the Rocky Mountains.  I walked until dawn began to break.  In the course of that walk I became more angry, more confused, and more lost.  When the police arrested me trying to throw a newspaper vending machine through a convenience store window I had lost everything – – my way, my clothes, my mind.  There were two arresting San Antonio PD officers.  One man, one woman.  At first they were understandably perturbed by a naked raving lunatic.  But then compassion.

One brought me a blanket.  The other said she would remove the handcuffs if I was calm.  They asked who my parents were.  I said I had none.  They asked why I was naked and wandering.  I said I had become a werewolf for the first time last night.  And I believed it, so on one level I was not lying.  What is a delusion?  A fixed false belief.  Why do I know that following Christ is not a delusion?  Because I’ve been delusional – – it is different.  I was transferred to the PICU of the San Antonio State Hospital and was not charged with any crime.  I was under an order of emergency detention – – a 48 hour hold that allows a person to be held involuntarily until competency can be assessed.  The P in PICU stands for psychiatric.  The ICU means the same as it would elsewhere.  At SASH it is a place for high risk suicidal patients or violent psychotics.  I represented the latter.

-to be continued-

Pascal

-1:16

 

Photo credit:  Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

 

Love Letter – – part 12

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I heard her say, “it is very competitive, but I think you can do it.”  When a man falls it is so hard to say when.  Is it iced coffee?  No.  That’s just when people knew.  I fell here – – setting my gaze so intently that I mortgaged the present to attain the future.  I’ve told Mrs. Pascal many times – – “I’m so glad that you didn’t know me in high school  – – I was unworthy of you.”  The problem is, no one knew it.  Not even, especially not even, me.  Love Letter – – part 11   from the beginning

Isn’t that the horror of pride?  It is low visibility – – I had no friend close enough to see me or confront me.  And it is low awareness – – like trying to read silver fine print on plastic wrap just a wisp in front of your eyes.  The Academy application process was stringent and it did start the sophomore year for the successful.  High grades were not enough.  They valued physical fitness and community leadership as well.  My school had few clubs and no sports.  I became the sophomore class president and extended my commuting bike rides to 30 mile training excursions.  I ran more, resumed lifting weights to conquer the dreaded 3 over hand pull ups that I must do and even joined a rugby club.  I told my Mom it was less dangerous than football.

I became more involved in my church youth group and less involved with Jesus.  Who knew it?  As a parent that frightens me.  Oh for grace to love my sons and to be an eager, engaged protector-provider for them and my bride.  My father’s passivity, compounded by an extended recovery, could not or would not restrain me.  My mother’s opinion mattered less and less to me every day.  A strong willed son raised by a controlling mother either collapses into her gravity or escapes at great cost.  My path would be the latter.  Layer upon layer I hardened.  I forgot what I had been forgiven and I loved less.  And by consensus criteria for success I was thriving.  The youth pastor with his relevance and trendy clothes had no idea.  Who will stand for people like me?  I needed a father to see my rebellion.  I needed a father to correct and rebuke me.  I needed a father to kick my ass.  My father could not.  My Father would.

What else happened in my heart?  On a visit to my Dad during his first recovery, still in the summer before the sophomore year, I sat with him then went to explore as he dozed off.  Two indelible marks were made on my heart that day – – one yin, the other yang.  For good I was moved by the evening flag ceremony.  I’ve been to many more with the Boy Scouts and I’m still moved.  My Dad used to cry.  For the bad, I visited the gift shop and went to the section I’m always drawn to – – books.  Magazines were there too for the benefit of our soldiers and their visitors.  Some have said that a boy will always remember his first pornographic image.  In my case it only took 23 years to forget.  January 1, 2011 brought an end to my intermittent but pernicious battle with impurity.  Honestly, if the battle had not been decisively won (I must constantly stand guard), I would not have entered this friendship.  That is not a part of my story that I’ll elaborate for you.  Needless to say I know what I’ve been forgiven and love more.  It is a story for my sons – – I’ve warned and encouraged all three – – and a story for my brothers in faith.  Sins of impurity are common and isolating – – low visibility, high awareness.

So the sophomore year progressed and I was doing well by all appearances.  The problem with walking far from God is that it makes life easier.  Not better, but easier.  I make a point with my boys, P1 especially, that I was quite nerdy.  That is true and I suppose that I still am but the point of that assertion is reassurance – – things work out well for nerds.  But this was not at all the same intense social isolation I felt in middle school.  Nerd?  Yes.  But I was the number one ranked nerd in a competitive magnet school where this was more admired than shunned.  Although sophomore class presidency was less a popularity contest than freshman – – it was only a little less.  Actually, Mrs. Pascal would have liked me.  I was friendly and cheerful.  I always helped those who appeared to struggle.  But I was not yet even becoming the man God intended for her and I was too selfish at that point to recognize her demure, elegant beauty.

-to be continued-

Pascal

-1:16

 

Photo credit:  Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

 

Love Letter – – part 11

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She said that my mother had been delayed but would pick me up an hour late.  My father had been hurt at work, she was getting more information, and we would go to see him together.  At work?  My father was a mechanical engineer.  Did he have a third degree paper cut or a pencil flesh wound?  As it turned out he was inspecting an air handling unit in the cavernous building in which he worked.  It required a ladder ascent and he lost his grip, falling twenty feet to a concrete apron.  Love Letter – – part 10   from the beginning

That’s what Mom knew when she picked me up.  To her credit, Mom was good in an emergency then – – an interesting mix of appropriate concern and protective detachment.  Kelly Air Force Base was contiguous with Lackland AFB, the home of Wilford Hall Hospital.  Dad had been transported by ambulance across a runway gate opened for the purpose of his transit.  Was he alive, paralyzed, worse?  For several hours we did not know.

He was in surgery early the next day – – a 12 hour spine marathon to rebuild a shattered L2.  He had a myelogram – – pre-MRI in 1987 which seemed to clear the spinal cord, but we wouldn’t know for sure until the operative findings.  The orthopedist, kind, cleancut and confident, said the dura was studded with bone splinters like so much shrapnel, but the cord appeared unmolested.  Bruised and battered, but not transected.  My first reunion with Dad was masked by morphine – – a drug I would learn to use cautiously and gratefully for the benefit of my patients.  Unlike spine surgery, morphine has changed very little since the Opium Wars.  It and aspirin are numbers 1 and 2 on my list of the ten most important drugs.

Those summer days heralded significant changes.  Some good, some bad, none escapable.  As Dad mended in stages we reclaimed time and healed like his spine.  I became a nurse, helping to bathe him and apply the awkward clamshell brace.  Six months later he returned to work.  Eighteen months after that the fusion failed and the stainless steel rods bent.  He went for a revision to place titanium plates – – a technique so new that the Air Force had sent its chief spine surgeon to Germany to apprentice with the surgeon who devised the procedure.  Patient positioning and exposure (you’ll be learning this very soon) was unique for this operation.  The surgeon and his first assist actually built an appendage for the operating table in a woodshop.  The operation was even longer, the recovery harder.  But, my Dad walked.  He couldn’t return to work even in a cognitive vocation.  As he was a federal employee injured on federal property on a ladder which did not have an OSHA specified safety cage he was granted an OMB medical retirement.  My parents had saved little for retirement.  They put two kids through college and encouraged me to work hard and earn scholarships on academic merit.  That must have been one reason they wouldn’t walk away from the house in Houston that would not sell.  They declined offers that they referred to as fire sale prices.  I understand it better now although I disagree with the benefit of retrospect.  We had a family fire of prolonged separation in my formative years.  A sale would have made sense.  With medical retirement then Dad attained a type of pension which essentially replaced his income for the next twenty years.

For a confluence of reasons I admired the U.S. Air Force.  Dad had been in the Air National Guard.  If I could not be an Eagle Scout I could be an Air Force physician.  The daily flag ceremonies at Wilford Hall Medical Center moved me and Dad’s surgeons seemed superhuman.  How could I pursue this and not contribute to family debt for the long road ahead?  As I returned to school to begin the sophomore year after Dad’s first surgery I sought out the counselor – – I would like to apply for the Air Force Academy.  She was a kind African American woman, heavyset with an easy smile.  I heard her say, “it is very competitive, but I think you can do it.”  When a man falls it is so hard to say when.  Is it iced coffee?  No.  That’s just when people knew.  I fell here – – setting my gaze so intently that I mortgaged the present to attain the future.  I’ve told Mrs. Pascal many times – – “I’m so glad that you didn’t know me in high school  – – I was unworthy of you.”  The problem is, no one knew it.  Not even, especially not even, me.

-to be continued-

Pascal

-1:16

 

Photo credit:  Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Another Year?

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Dear Russell & Friends,

Another year.  Another year?  I remember us sitting at this table the Friday night before our first post setting up the parameters of the blog.  It leaked into Saturday morning.  We had picked our pseudonyms a week before.  No one has mentioned the connection to Ender’s Game.  Perhaps we have forgotten too – – am I Demosthenes or Locke?  I can’t remember.  I do remember the hesitation I had in titling my first post Why I am Not a Christian.  Would anyone get the irony?  It felt like an opening move in chess.  Then two weeks later, your post Why I am Not a Christian.  43 reasons.  Damn.  At least drop one and claim to have the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  Have I understood at least one of those reasons better?  The question has significance.  I used to argue. In honest truth, I enjoyed it – – probably still do.  What changed? Maybe years have added maturity.  I’m 42 now.  I do have the answer to life, the universe, and everything, so why flaunt it?  But I don’t think maturity is the answer – – maybe part of it, but not the answer.

You are the answer.  After two years of meeting we are becoming friends.  It takes time and we’re spending it. The more I know you, the harder it is for me to be irritated when I disagree.  You have no idea how much I disagree.  That’s not true – – I think you know very well.  But I see your motives, see your family, see you (African sense) and I’m not offended anymore.

What of our others – – those who join to read and write?  Where did they come from?  Our first other is your first other – – CC.  I hate that name, but love her.  She is an authentic doubter, not a Counterfeit Christian.  CC writes and thinks like me but with a woman’s perspective and with more talent.  She wanted me to befriend you, hoping I would change your mind.  That may never have been the goal – – we’ll have to ask her.  She loves you and wanted you to have another friend besides her.  I hope you know now that she’ll never leave you even if you never come back to faith – – and neither will I.

Why have others joined?  She brought some.  In the longest tail called the internet we have found an eclectic micro-niche of people who may wish to understand each other and build bridges.  We have called for and tried to model humility from both skeptical and believing perspectives.  Others just came.  You thought it was my posts on Romans.  Good gracious.  You could paper the walls of Grand Central Station with commentaries on Romans – – it was written almost two thousand years ago.  You may be right – – I’m just not sure.

Regardless of the reason, I have to balance my unattractive tendency to rejoice in growing statistics with a deeper and more noble desire to share what we’re building here.  I look forward to your post today.  It may be (insert sardonic smile) longer than mine.  It will be you – – someone I have grown to love.

Your brother,

Pascal

–1:16

 

photo credit:  old calendar, wikimedia commons, public domain

Two Way Street – – my heart for believers

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Dear Russell & Friends,

We’re less than a week away from the first anniversary of our writing adventure.  We shall reclaim Friday the 13th for something useful.  As confessed before, I find myself reflective – – almost in a New Year’s Eve-y kind of mood.  Why are we here?  Does it matter?  Recent comments have reminded me.  We are here to form friendships that can ask hard questions in the dining room.  I used to think the family room, but Mrs. Pascal won’t routinely let me eat in there.  Something else has struck me as I better read and understand my friend CC (Russell’s wife).  My call is forming to the skeptical – – I honestly find so many to be so likeable and interesting.  My call is also forming to revise the hearts of people like me who ignored, reviled, or discounted them for so long.  I actually do love the church – – not a building, but a community of Christ followers.  And because I love the church, I am willing to humbly criticize it – – realizing that the first to be criticized is me.

What did I need to hear?  Avoiding the skeptic and painting her with a thin haired brush is too pious by half. She does care about justice and mercy because she was made in the image of God – – whether she has acknowledged that God or not.  She does things that are:  true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Think on those things.

What did I need to hear?  Is there anything in my life or theology that is attractive or worthy of imitation?  Has it become about social acceptability and one-off platitudes for me?  Should I defend a broken American church or work to reform her?  I’m landing more on the side of the latter.  Love reforms.  Love criticizes his own heart, his own family, his own motives.

What did I need to hear?  Will I tolerate the continued scandal of the evangelical mind, or join the heritage of the Jesuits and engage my mind, culture, and tribe of humanity?

What did I need to hear?  The health and wealth gospel that I was raised with was a false gospel.  Joel Osteen is a false prophet.  The authentic gospel (discovered in my twenties) changed my whole life.  The authentic gospel saved the greatest wrath for the pharisee, not the sinner.  I have been both.  Remember the mercy you were given Pascal – – how dare you not offer it freely to another?

I am grateful for our friends and readers who follow Christ.  You may be the silent majority.  I hope that reading here will change the inclination of your heart just as writing here has done for me.  If we take Jesus seriously, how can we not weep for the pain caused in his name?  How can we not stand for something different in our generation?  St. Augustine saw the Visigoths sack Rome in 410 AD and died with the Vandals at the gate in North Africa.  He stood in a time of transition and was called to speak truth to his generation – – remember that he wrote to the church.  Now we stand in the post-modern, pre-future chasm.  Can’t we just call it the present?  What will we do?  We will care about our generation and reclaim the authentic gospel that deeply cares about people and profoundly transforms lives.  If we present an authentic gospel, it can rise or fall on its own merits.  I will no longer defend or tolerate the false.

 

Blessings,

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  © Frank Schulenburg / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via wikimedia commons