Tag Archives: Spirituality

5 Reasons Why Christians Should Study History

14 Mar

From historian Chris Gehrz of Bethel University, five reasons why Christians should learn to think historically about their past: 5 Reasons Why Christians Should Study History

Lenten Musings: Nondum considerasti quanti ponderis peccatum sit (you have not yet considered the gravity of sin)-Anselm

4 Mar
IMG_1964

Sculpture outside of chapel, Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, CA.

It is now Lent. My wife and I went to our church’s Ash Wednesday service last Wednesday.  Starting then, I have actually given up something foodwise for Lent–something I have not done for a long time, if ever.

This year, these liturgical and disciplinary actions arise from a more self-consciously rooted inward journey, guided primarily by my reading of Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2015). Rutledge is a much-lauded preacher in the Episcopal Church who is concerned that Christian preaching now, and Christian practice now, has managed to drift too far from what she understands as the center of Christian faith: the irreligious, humiliating death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Her main inspirations in her book thus far are Paul, Raymond E. Brown, Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, William Stringfellow, J. Louis Martyn, Luke Timothy Johnson, John Calvin, Martin Luther, J.S. Bach, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anselm, Jurgen Moltmann, John Stott, Martin Hengel, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor–and many more which emerge with each page and its footnotes.

The book is massive: 669 pp. I am only through Part I, which ends on p. 204. Nonetheless, given Lent and more immediately Ash Wednesday, and also mindful of at least some of the national zeitgeist since Jan. 20th, some of Rutledge’s points about sin, especially from her 4th chapter, move me to offer them here as part of my own engagement with them.

The Latin quote from Anselm is from his Cur Deus Homo? (Why did God become Human?). It is Rutledge’s main point in her chapter on sin. We Christians, and we Americans, she argues, do not adequately apprehend, let alone comprehend, the gravity of sin.

As a generalization, that seems true, for me personally as well as for the society I find myself within, both locally and beyond. My/our righteous deeds, let alone the unrighteous ones, are “like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6). It is not what comes from outside that defiles me/us, but rather, as Jesus said, it is what is already inside and “comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person” (Matt. 15:11). For Paul, sin is less particular things that I/we commit but instead a Power which enslaves me/us and fuels sinning, ultimately with impunity. Sin is, in other words, a Power:

Sin, theologically understood, is analogous to the unconscious impulses and drives that shape our personalities in harmful ways, making us perfectionists, procrastinators, deceivers, abusers, addicts, schemers, bullies, fanatics, adulterers, and all the other manifestations that afflict the human species from sources beyond our control (p. 195).

Further, Sin-as-a-Power-that-enslaves is something that we tend to deny or downplay, individually and culturally. We Americans especially seem prone to assuming our individual and collective innocence:

This is a strange thing about us. The  more cynical and unshockable our culture becomes in a superficial sense, the more sentimentality it seems to pour forth; the more raw the sex and violence on TV and in film, the greater the demand, it seems, for nostalgic kitsch encouraging the pretense that we can escape to a Norman Rockwell world that never was (p. 196).

And then there is the political realm:

[O]ur politics continue to exhibit a self-righteousness that partners well with religious self-righteousness on both the right and the left. There is little of the tragic sense that Abraham Lincoln brought to his office and embodied so well in his leadership (p. 197).

It is into such hopelessness that grace breaks in. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (Rom. 11:32). Jesus’s death on the cross helps us apprehend and comprehend Sin in us and the world. The crucifixion is for atonement and for “the apocalyptic invasion and conquest of the Powers” (p. 34). Not just one or the other, but both. Thus, “for Paul the sequence is not sin-repentance-grace-forgiveness, but grace-sin-deliverance-repentance-grace. Grace drives the sequence from first to last” (p. 192).

Back to Anselm: understanding the gravity of sin is literally crucial. “The crucifixion of Jesus is of such magnitude that it must call forth a concept of sin that is large enough to match it” (p. 200).

Faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum; yes, this also is Anselm). I believe Lord; help my unbelief.

U.S. Army massacres Indians at Wounded Knee – Dec 29, 1890

29 Dec

U.S. Army massacres Indians at Wounded Knee on Dec 29, 1890. Learn more about what happened today on History.com: U.S. Army massacres Indians at Wounded Knee – Dec 29, 1890 – HISTORY.com

Donald Trump, Man of Faith

27 Dec

At First Things, Matthew Schmitz offers a very insightful essay about the religious influences on our President-elect: Donald Trump, Man of Faith by Matthew Schmitz | Articles | First Things

Holy Rage: Lessons from Standing Rock

23 Dec

Besides frostbite, what did people take away from there? This was probably the first time many non-Native people had been on a reservation, or in the presence of Native ceremonies. That’s a positive. The more people understand that Native Americans have their own religious rituals and objects of veneration—which to many non-Native people are simply features of the landscape—as well as cathedrals and churches, the better. Understanding the natural world as more than just a resource for energy, or a recreational opportunity, or even a food resource, gives moral weight to the effort to contain catastrophic climate change.

Read what else Louise Erdrich has to say about the Standing Rock protests here at the New Yorker: Holy Rage: Lessons from Standing Rock – The New Yorker

Beloved of God, Wherever You Are

13 Dec

Scott Hoezee has some wise words for us all as Christmas nears and this calendar year draws to a close: Beloved of God, Wherever You Are – THE TWELVE

What we can learn from a WWII-era Orthodox nun

4 Dec

She died resisting the Nazis. Her critique of Christians in society still resonates today. Amy Frykholm at The Christian Century explains the views of Maria Skobtsova that can help us see ourselves a bit more clearly: What we can learn from a WWII-era Orthodox nun | The Christian Century

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

Lenten Lamentations

Preparing to Participate in God's Mosaic Kingdom

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Native News Online

American Indian News

thepracticalhistorian

Your guide to practically true history.

THE TWELVE

Reformed. Done Daily.

i-history

by Alex Scarfe

BlogWest

Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

Northwest History

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

Faith and History

Thinking Christianly about the American Past

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