Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

I’ll be brief because it’s late. 😛

As you probably know, both my meditation and reading lately have been about the presence of God…. and, often, the lack thereof. I believe that the topic of the elusiveness of God is dealt with badly among the Christians in my circle. In all the years that I’ve been a Christian (which admittedly hasn’t been a very, very long time), the “dry spells” of the Christian life have always been seen as a negative thing. While it may be true that these times in one’s life can hardly be described as pleasant, the associations that come with it are often misplaced. What are the common approaches?

1) Many times, those who are going through this period are seen as having done something wrong. They are somehow less spiritual, have sinned, or have “lost” their way (A most serious accusation if you believe that backslidding is something to watch out for. Perhaps this requires discernment since the way you ought to approach a backslidden believer would be different than your approach to a steadfast believer who does not sense God’s presence).

2) It is a season to be endured — a natural yet disdained part of the Christian walk. One that is believed to inevitably come but dreaded. Often advised to “protect” oneself against it, to be prevented or avoided as much as possible, hoping to survive it in order to come to the next season of refreshment which will also inevitably come to the steadfast.

3) These dry spells become a season to fight through. It is Satan’s attack, one that we must do everything in our power to change. Change our spiritual practices, pray more, frantically do something so that God may be felt again (I’m not denying that spiritual warfare is a reality and that Satan does attack you where you are vulnerable. At the same time, we should not take it to mean that ALL those “low” times of our lives are a result of the demonic).

Really, why does it have to be this way? While these approaches may have some merit in their own way, would it not be good to see these times as part of the ambiguous relationship between God on man? God comes and he goes. We do not control him, but we continue to call. The silence is the breath before a new sentence. It is the long-awaited pause before an exclamation mark. The absence of God is manifold with profundities and is perhaps the most powerful experience God gives us because it allows for faith to be tested. The recognition of God’s absence is actually a confession of faith for it requires us to remember that God was once present in our lives. In that acknowledgment, we crave for his return. We know him greater through the time when he is hidden and taken away from us as one parched knows water through thirst in a way that was not appreciated when he had it in abundance (Terrien, The Elusive Presence, 311).

Is this not a spiritual experience? We would do a grievous ill to turn something that can be powerful and make it to something that is detestable and feared. Jesus’ cry to the Father on the cross, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46) resounds with mystery, pain, and bewilderment. It is strikingly profound when one considers that the union with God that Jesus maintained throughout his life was now disrupted, wrenched from him by the Father’s will. But, reader, to stop there would be a crime. The Jesus who died on the cross apart from his Heavenly Father would also rise to a new union with God and would be ascend to be at his right hand. Who’s to say that it’s not worth it?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame….
You are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God….
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.”

– Psalm 22:1-5, 9-10, 22-24

And now, I have stayed up and have written far more than I intended. Goodnight. 🙂

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What do you believe when you say:
“I believe in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth”?

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,
and he will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God,
he desires to do it because he is a faithful Father.

-Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 26

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To the One who created the heavens and the earth
To the One who is holy, pure, without blemish
To the One who does not change like shifting shadows
To the One who is without limit or end
To the One who is light and love
To the One who is just and judges accordingly
To the One who knows our innermost thoughts
To the One whose wisdom far exceeds our own
To the One who abounds in mercy and patience
To the One who cuts enduring covenants with his people
To the One who came to relate to us in the incarnation
To the One who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Spirit
To the One who is deserving of glory and honor and praise
To the One who has redeemed us through the cross
To Him we lift up our eyes in supplication.
We know that He does all things well. Through times of crises, though everything else may fall apart, He is still there. He is readily accessible to us, and through the cross He will be found. There is no fear where there is the Cross. There is no condemnation while Christ stands on our behalf. If we were to prove ourselves unfaithful, God would still show himself all the more faithful. Because God is God, he is strong in our weakness, he turns meaninglessness into meaningfulness, and he redeems us from our brokenness. And at the end of the day, his work is all that really matters.

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I spent some time talking to a professor of mine over lunch. He’s so knowledgeable and passionate that I find that I miss having that sort of intellectual one-on-one conversations (surprisingly, college doesn’t necessarily fill that vacuum). Anyway, we got to talking about philosophy and religion, as per usual, and the topic of the “others'” ideas and perspectives came up. How do “we” relate to them and how do “they” relate to us? Do some liberal theologians sympathize with the text and yet ultimately disregard conservative claims on truth while many conservative theologians fortify a wall around themselves in order to protect themselves from ‘liberal theology’ creeping in? What do you do with the divide when both sides are lobbing bombs at each other? Take a side and stick with it? Get caught in the middle? Withdraw completely from the conversation? None of those options sound very appealing. In the spectrum of beliefs which claim to be “Christian,” this is at best fuzzy to me, and at worse, completely intangible.

How does “otherness” and orthodoxy relate? If we accept the idea that there is a value of being different, not merely as one who follows the crowd, but as one who would for Christ serve in his own unique way, how far should we allow for differences and in what way does this dialogue practically take place? Do both sides simply claim to be open and sympathetic to the others’ ideas, so long as that side does not make any solid ethical, moral, and objective claims? Ultimately, I sometimes wonder if either side truly values diversity and seek instead to create homogeneity to conform other people to themselves. Where, then, do we have room to conform to Christ? Who are we following and for what possible good? What exactly are we conforming ourselves to??

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating a concept of relative Christianity. Or even a flexible morality. Part of engaging faith is having the courage to stand up for your own particular beliefs even when no one else does, but I don’t find dogma in itself to be particularly virtuous, no matter what side it is that you identify most closely. I think I’ve come to the point where I’ve grown some amount of courage to stand up for my truth claims. At the same time, I also try not to fully disregard another’s perspective even if they tend to be radically different from my own. I think you owe it to yourselves to at least listen to what others have to say for themselves. There’s merit and weakness in every position that are worth sifting through. . .

And now, I’ll admit that I don’t know where to go from there. If you have any insight, please feel free to enlighten me. This is why it’s good to have friends who have some different strengths, interests, and opinions than your own. You just learn so much more from them. =)

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