Gratitude List 1627

(1) Though I was running on empty for quite a few days, I slept ten hours last night and feel like a new man. Thankful for sleep and its restorative power.

(2) Richard the bass player brought over some home-cooked curry and rice last night, which was a welcome and healthy restbit from my usual diet.

(3) Thankful for the smile on Cody’s face during the crescendo to the second repeat of the chorus in “Turns Toward Dawn” at rehearsal on Thursday. I’ve seen that smile before — and I know what it means — but not for a long time. It was refreshing.

(4) Ran into Kurt, the retired linguistics professor, on the way home from rehearsal yesterday. We wound up talking for about an hour. He’s a person whose biblical exegesis and overall unique political worldview makes for extreme intellectual stimulation, not without true inspiration. We arranged to meet again on Zoom on Wednesday, and I’m jazzed.

(5) Just met with the team on the group chat on Messenger. We’re going to put this week to good use — and that involves my slowing down quite a bit. I tend to push myself a bit too hard sometimes, and we all understand that. But I gotta say, we’re making the most out of all the theatres being closed for the pandemic. The team spirit is like nothing I’ve ever known — and I’m thankful.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

The Quest for the Truth in Love

In a recent column, I suggested that we shouldn’t be too hung up on the “context” of certain Scriptures, if the passage expresses a universal truth. I used Leviticus 19:33-34 as a topical example, illustrating that we are to treat those who are not among our native-born as equals. Another example would be this:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.(1 Corinthians 8:1)

While the immediate context has to do with food sacrificed to idols, the next two sentences in the Scripture express absolutes. All have knowledge. And while knowledge “puffs up,” love “builds up.”

The accumulation of much knowledge will ultimately lead to arrogance; that is, if it’s not balanced out by good will toward those who may not be “in the know.” Many knowledgeable people become impatient with those who lack their depth of understanding. At the extreme, certain forms of theoretical information will become misconstrued for absolute truths. This happens when the learned person becomes so steeped in a particular doctrine or ideology, that they cease to see the validity of differing points of view.

We frequently see this dynamic in religious and political discussions. One can sense that someone is frustrated with their opponent in a debate. They may be thinking: “But if only they knew what I know, they wouldn’t come across so simplistic — so out of touch!” But let’s take a step back from that.

Are all the details of our knowledge really more important than their simplicity? That would indeed be the case, if someone were stubbornly hanging on to a comfortable little fantasy. Sometimes people prefer to believe something pleasantly simple, without being willing to consider the details of a more intricate, truthful picture. But more often than not, I have seen knowledgeable people get lost in the details of their own ideology, to the point where they can no longer see the forest for the trees.

I’ve always been stricken by the use of the word “simplicity” in this verse:

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” — (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Outside of context, the Scripture clearly states that devotion to Christ involves simplicity. But how often do we complicate our devotion by adding to it our defense of knowledge we may have gained? Whether it’s biblical knowledge per se, or knowledge of a certain doctrinal slant — Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. — at what point is the pursuit of knowledge a deterrent to that of a godly simplicity?

A Bible study is always most inspired when all the participants continue to seek the truth — when all remain open to the ultimate truth that there is in Christ. The picture of the classic theological argument among die-hards is quite a different picture than the quest for the truth in love.

I’ve been to all kinds of Bible studies. Ecumenical, evangelical, Reformed, charismatic — you name it. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed just about all of them, because I am a person who appreciates the Bible. It’s possible, however, that I have enjoyed the ones that contained a boisterous debate just a wee bit too much.

Recently I argued with another believer over the issue of wearing masks. I confess to have enjoyed the argument immensely, even as we both screamed at each other — hurling Scriptures back and forth, rebutting with other Scriptures, and having a grand old time. But is that really what we’re meant to do with Holy Scripture?

In that case, my anti-masker opponent and I parted on excellent terms. He respected my integrity and I respected his — even though we disagreed. And yet, how much more powerful is the experience of watching believers of opposing positions become silenced by the power of the Holy Spirit, when an atmosphere of humble reverence consumes every person in the room?

The Holy Spirit is, after all, the spirit of truth, as identified in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-16. And we are to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15). How many times have we spoken the truth without love? Probably, for most of us, many times. And how many times has that been effective? Very few times, I’m sure.

To whatever extent knowledge has “puffed us up,” I will pray that love, to that same extent, will build us up. Then maybe we will see with clear eyes the abominable nature of the contentious controversies and doubtful disputations we have engaged. Then maybe we will begin to rebuild the bridges that the divided heart of this nation has burnt.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 89

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Transformation.

Q. Of what?

A. Of character.

Q. What brought this transformation about?

A. Realization.

Q. Of what?

A. Of behavior.

Q. How had you been behaving?

A. Angrily.

Q. Recently?

A. Recently, somewhat. In the past, a great deal.

Q. But you are no longer angry?

A. Not at the moment, no. Far from it, in fact. But that’s not the point.

Q. What’s the point?

A. That my anger naturally caused people to distance themselves from me.

Q. And now they are no longer distant?

A. The people whom I got mad at two days ago are no longer distant. There have been apologies, forgiveness, and healing. As for those whom I got mad at in the past, they remain distant.

Q. How long do you think they will remain distant?

A. I don’t know. Perhaps forever.

Q. Why would that be?

A. Because people are not comfortable with anger. Or, because they’re offended by it. One way or the other, they either feel they can’t deal with it, or they believe they shouldn’t have to.

Q. Are you comfortable with anger?

A. Listen man — I lived on the streets for years. We all got mad at each other, back and forth, day by day, almost as a routine. We all screamed and yelled and cussed. We got used to it. We couldn’t get away from each other anyway — not even if we tried. Somebody can scream and yell and cuss at me all they want. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable nor does it offend me. If anything, it’s refreshing.

Q. Refreshing?

A. Yes. It makes me realize I’m not the only one. In fact, it even awakens my compassion. I feel for the person who’s getting mad, because I know what it feels like.

Q. How does it feel?

A. It feels lousy. You feel guilty. You feel like you might be hurting somebody. And you feel like you’re losing control. But you see, on the streets, it became par for the course. Half the time, we didn’t feel anything at all.

Q. What about off the streets?

A. There’s a lot less to be angry about. That is, in my own world. Plenty to be angry about in the world on the whole, especially as pertains to my own country. But my life is a breeze compared to what it once was. So of course I don’t get as angry as I used to.

Q. Are you saying that your temper was a product of the streets?

A. No – and I didn’t mean to imply that. I was angry before I landed on the streets. People didn’t know it. In fact, they often characterized me as “serene.” But I was not inwardly tranquil. I had inner anger that I’d learned through various means — medication being a factor — to manage. But the streets brought my anger to the surface. The streets gave me an outlet for my anger. They exacerbated it. They magnified it. They illuminated it — and I was angry for a long time even after I got indoors.

Q. What were you angry at?

A. Injustice and inequity. But even that is not the point. It’s more like — who I was angry at.

Q. Who were you angry at?

A. All these people who distanced themselves from me. Especially if they distanced themselves to the point of total disappearance. Those who dropped out of my life without notifying me. We wouldn’t have been able to do that on the streets. So, people who lived indoors were exercising a luxury we street people did not have.

A. Did this make you jealous?

Q. Not so much jealous. I was jealous of them because they lived indoors and I did not. But I was not jealous of their ability to remove me from their lives. I was only angered by that.

A. Why anger?

Q. Because I didn’t think it was right. The right thing would have been to inform me. To let me know that they were done with me.

A. But is it ever right to be done with somebody?

A. Not in my book. But that’s a pretty strange book — and I could elaborate. God’s Book is the Book in question.

Q. Is God ever done with anybody?

A. That, sir, is the Question of the Ages.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Theology Afield

“Theology Afield” is a group of spiritual seekers, comprised largely of members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Moscow, Idaho.  Though I am not a member of that church, I was welcomed into that group when we still met in the reading room of our beloved One World Cafe.  Below is an excerpt from our first Zoom meeting, held last Thursday the 16th.   Kenton Bird, the group facilitator and Professor of Journalism at the University of Idaho, asked I and the others a very timely question.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Tuesday Tuneup 71

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Uncertainty.

Q. Uncertainty about what?

A. About whether I ought to contact a group of theologians.

Q. Theologians?

A. University professors interested in theology.

Q. Why would you want to contact them?

A. To vindicate myself.

Q. Were you falsely accused?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. What was their accusation?

A. That I did not make any sense.

Q. When?

A. When I expressed my personal theological conjecture.

Q. Which is?

A. I call it “The Clone Theory of Creation.”

Q. What’s that?

A. Hard to express.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have told me I wasn’t making sense.

Q. Give it a try?

A. That’s why I’m here.

The Answerer clears his throat.

download

A. Simply stated, the Clone Theory of Creation intends to demonstrate a parallel between the creation of life by God and the scientific replication of life that occurs during genetic cloning.

Q. What inspired this theory?

A. Genesis 1:26.   “Let us make Man in Our Image.”

Q. You believe that when God made Man in Their Image, it was like scientists cloning a human embryo, and thus creating a replicate in the image of the embryo?

A. Exactly.

Q. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

A. One would think so at first.  However, I later found numerous Scriptures that appear to confirm the hypothesis.

Q. Why did the theologians think you weren’t making sense?

A. Probably because I wasn’t!   I’d never really tried to express the theory before, and when I did, I became extremely tongue-tied.  I must have rambled for five minutes, before the professor to my right put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Andy, I hate to break it to you, but nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made any sense at all.”

Q. What happened then?

A. I was embarrassed.  I felt my face turn beet red.  And I told them so.

Q. Are you sure that not one of those professors thought you were making any sense?

A. Quite sure.  There was, however, a young man present — a student — who approached me afterwards.  He assured me that the theory had made sense to him.  But he also said something that discouraged me.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “I followed your theory, and I thought you were making sense.  But in deference to your age, wisdom, and maturity, I would like to suggest that even you, Andy, know that your theory is OUT THERE.”

Q. How did you feel then?

A. Shot down.

Q. Why?

A. Probably because of my ego.  You see, at the previous such meeting of theologians, I felt that I was shining unusually brightly.   A respected professor emeritus of philosophy even expressed a desire to have lunch with me sometime — a man held in high regard, who had spent three years in India with the Maharishi, and wrote a book about Gandhi.  People seemed to admire me for my biblical knowledge, as well as my knowledge of denominational differences.

Q. How did you pick up your knowledge of denominational differences?

A. Probably by losing jobs as a piano player with just about every denomination on the planet.  But, despite looming loss of job, I always enjoyed soaking in the sermons, and comparing those of one denominational slant to that of another.   My history of failed church jobs reads like a class in “Comparative Christianity.”

Q. So you felt that you had really shone at the previous meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. Then what?

A. Then my ego told me I had an image to maintain!   So I went to the next meeting eager to sustain my positive image, in the eyes of the professors present.

Q. And?

A. Because of that egoistic expectation, I tried too hard to prove myself.  And in trying too hard, I failed.

Q. Is there a moral to this story?

A. There certainly is.

Q. And the moral is?

A. Ditch the ego, dude.  Just be yourself.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  I’d like to ask a question of you, and of my readers.

Q. What is the question?

A. Am I making any sense?

The Questioner is silent.  

All content © Andy Pope
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.