Most people are not aware of how delicate of an ecology is involved in the formation of the psychology of progress and discovery. We tend to think that our progress in science and technology is something that comes natural to us, an eradicable drive that most humans possess. They forget that radical change is an anomaly only a couple of centuries old, and that it is a crescendo of moral and metaphysical assumptions that took thousands of years to put in place.
Recently a friend of mine who teaches theology asked me a question about the cross and atonement. His is the Catholic Theologian Jacob Friesenhahn who wrote a book that has deeply influenced me called "Trinity and Theodicy". His question was this:
"My [students usually affirm] the idea of an all-loving God who desires our salvation, but many struggle with "but why the cross?" questions. Do you know of any (short) book chapters or articles that offer a good apologetic on this topic?"
Recently an reporter on Religion and American Culture-- Mr. Kevin Eckstrom-- did an insightful piece on how he deals with his own religious affiliation when he is asked by those who he is interviewing. The essay delves into what we are asking when we ask a person's religion. His interpretation-- which I agree with-- is that our REAL question is not "WHAT religion are you?" but "WHAT KIND of religious person are you?"
Recently, the online zine "The Appendix" did a nice, short form essay about the function of the "End Times" in American Culture, and why certain kinds of conservative Protestant religiosity tend to be obsessed with predicting the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.
Many of the commenters a linked website (io9.com) were amazed at why these Christians would keep on trying to predict the end times after the Millerite "Great Disappointment" of 1844, and all the lesser disappointments that have followed, from the 1970's and 80's "Late Great Planet Earth", to Harold Camping's abortive and costly attempt to predict divine history in 2011. Why keep on betting if the odds are literally 100% that you will be wrong? And I use the word literally in a literal way here: 100% of the attempts to predict the end of the universe, at all times, in all cultures, across the whole world, have been completely wrong.
But what the commenters, in my estimation, got wrong was the motive for WHY certain kinds of religious people become convinced they are living in the "end times". So I wrote this:
A friend of mine, who teaches science, and who I might describe as a "Mystical Materialist", sent me the following poem by Billy Collins. It is entitled "Shoveling Snow With Buddha", and I think it says volumes about how to be present to the experience of Ultimate Reality in the midst of the reality we experience every day:
Some years ago, I wrote a short essay explaining different views of what is happening in the Eucharist, and what it means for Anglican Christians. Judging by statistics, it is the most popularly read article on my blog, and you can find it here.
Today, a friend of the blog sent me the following email:
"I sincerely thank you for this. It is by far the best instruction I've ever received on this subject. You have outlined all these interpretations of the Eucharist in a clear, non-judgmental way that stimulates the reader to think about his conclusion rather than attempt to force one upon him.
I am a convert to Roman Catholicism but am seriously thinking of returning to the Church of England due mainly to my skepticism about transubstantiation, which was rather badly explained to me by a priest at my initial instruction several years ago. For this reason I haven't taken communion for three or so years, during which time I have been reading, thinking, praying in an effort to find answers. Reading your explanations was almost like receiving manna from heaven!"
So, this very kind email-- which is much kinder than the blog deserves-- raises the pastoral question:
How should we prepare to receive the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood through the elements of duly consecrated bread and wine?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” [From John 14.6-7]
This is an edited re-post of an earlier sermon, that has been enlarged and explained. It was occasioned by one of my friends encountering a particularly poor sermon done on the text of John 14.6. It is this text which most directly confronts one of the touchiest subjects in academic culture: What the "Truth" is, who has access to "Truth", and who doesn't.
This is very different from nearly all of my other spiritual/philosophical blog posts. It's semi-complex, kinda techie, and intended to help make iPad use easier. So if you don't care about entering math or chemistry into an iPad, PLEASE IGNORE.
However, if you use an iPad and type chemical formulae or math equations on a regular basis, or other text that requires numerical subscripts or superscripts (such as H₂O or A² + B² = C²), this may be of interest to you.
Lately I have been working out, and getting some really good results (if only I could combine it with greater weight loss!). My wife, and some of my friends, have asked me to help them with designing a workout. Rather than explain the same routine over and over, I thought I would put all my thoughts in one place so anyone can benefit.
|Thus spake Nietzsche: Courageous enough to admit what morality without metaphysics entails.|
One of the fundamental claims of most forms of religion is that Metaphysics-- the Ultimate Reality that grounds and upholds physical reality-- is somehow necessary for moral values to really exist. The claim is often made that without Metaphysics, moral statements become mere statements of personal preference. This is a hard claim for many to understand, so I wrote this to help.
|A Comic Strip illustrating the Church in Consumer Culture. It helps that Jesus is talking to Kevin.|
My friend and mentor Kevin Martin recently wrote a "State of the Church" address in which he painted a dichotomous picture of the health of The Episcopal Church (hereafter TEC). His "macro" analysis is basically that TEC, as a national organization, is crumbling under the weight of its outmoded institutional structures and oversized financial obligations, in light of its dwindling membership base. His "micro" analysis is that there are "a thousand points of light" (to quote the elder President Bush) in countless individual parishes and faith communities, regardless of the overall implosion of TEC.
While I largely agree with Kevin's macro/micro analysis of Church health, I think we also must expand our scope and have a "meta" analysis of the TEC in Western Culture as well. And the metadata seems to show that our culture is in the midst of a turn toward the secular. Tobin Grant recently did a good summary of dozens of studies on the sociology of religion which be found here.
|Moses wonders what he has gotten himself into, and if there is a return policy on stone tablets.|
Today marks my entrance into the "Moses year": 40 years of journeying through the wilderness that is human existence. Although I can quickly count a dozen things I really should be doing instead of this, I think I would be remiss to let this day pass without some written reflection.
Today I celebrated Eucharist for Epiphany at TMI - The Episcopal School of Texas. Since our chapel service on Monday was our actual reading of the Epiphany narrative, I chose to talk about the Epiphany that happens within Eucharist, where the Risen Jesus is "known to us in the breaking of the bread". Of course, I used the Gospel text of Luke 24, where Jesus talks with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they do not recognize him as Jesus until he breaks bread.
And then suddenly the Epiphany dawns on them: It is the Risen Lord!
And as I was thinking about how the deep mysteries of the Universe can be revealed to us in something as simple as a meal that remembers a man, I remembered a toast given by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. He spoke of seeing the interconnections of all things in a glass of wine:
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to save us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2012 by Nate Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment or clicking HERE.