Love is dangerous, risky, and infinitely costly to the self. Precisely because it is the giving of self away to the Other, for the Other, in the Other. Why should we give ourselves away in this manner? Why is Love worth the risk? Why would it not be better to act in self-interest, rather than loose yourself in what may in the end be a futile effort?
Is there a good reason we should sing with the Song of Solomon:
"Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned." [Song 8.6-7]
|Jacob's Ladder: A common symbol for the ascent into God's Infinity (epektasis)|
If God is infinite, how can we relate to such a God? How does the infinity of God relate to our ultimate growth and development as sentient beings "made in God's image"? Does the infinity of God, the boundless depths of Divine Love, open for us any surprising developments for our own spiritual progress? If God is in some sense a field of infinite potential that invites us ever-deeper, what implication does this have for spiritual projects that stress the "unchanging" nature of God and spiritual truth? Can one hold any "unchanging" ideas about God and still embrace a universe that is characterized by change and flow and evolution?
All of these questions have been swirling around my head for a couple of years now. And I want try and connect the Triune God, Divine Infinity, Change and Development, Cosmic Evolution, and Epektasis (the continual pursuit of God by the human soul). The following essay will seek to elucidate a systemic connection between these ideas based upon material in Scripture and Christian Theology, while touching upon certain themes in philosophy, biology, and physics. And we shall start by postulating that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is Infinite:
Happy heavenly birthday Jack! Pray for us down here!
Today in honor of the 50th anniversary of CS Lewis' transposition from earthly life into the greater life of God, I preached a sermon on the idea of humans becoming "gods" which is found in several of CS Lewis' writings, but most especially in his sermon "The Weight of Glory". The texts I chose to speak on were the following:
1Corinthians 4.6-18: "For it is God who... has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ... For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure..."
Psalm 82.6: I say, "You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you..."
John 10.34-36: Jesus answered [his opponents], "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said you are gods'"? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?
|Click to see a chart comparing the NT to other ancient texts.|
It is often popular to claim that the NT text was corrupted by centuries of hand copying, and to point out the thousands of small differences between ancient copies as evidence of this. This is the claim often made by Mythicists (who claim that Jesus was wholly invented by early Christians) as well as more revisionist scholars (such as Bart Ehrman or "The Jesus Seminar"). But is this the case? It turns out, upon deeper inspection, that the Bible, especially the NT, is the most reliably copied book before the Printing Press (and the most printed after). Jewish and Christian Scriptoriums had meticulous standards to ensure copyist accuracy, and produced far more copies than any ancient book.
|Ummm. Not THAT Golden Rule.|
The following are some lecture notes for a discussion on "The Golden Rule" as Jesus presents it in the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). In this lecture, I am trying to connect the ethics of Jesus with the central concerns of other world cultures:
Most cultures and religions have ethical systems that, at their core, are based on an idea of equality and reciprocity. This idea was first delivered to me in earnest by CS Lewis in his little book "The Abolition of Man". In the appendix, Lewis put a cross cultural sampling of moral teachings he labelled "The Tao" (a Chinese word meaning "The Way" or more appropriately "The Way to be Good or Moral"). The central section of "The Tao" for me was what Lewis calls "The Law of Reciprocity", which is often better known as "The Golden Rule".
A colleague recently sent me a great article from the Atlantic on why everyone should "Study Theology, Even If You Don't Believe in God". I think it made several great points which I agree with wholly. I read it and it is very much in line with what I frequently tell people who ask me about theology and religious studies.
However, there are a couple of things I would also like to add about why Theology is for everyone, because everyone is a theologian (a point first brought home to me by Stanley Grenz in his book "Who Needs Theology?"). My standard schtick on the study of theology is this:
|"Napalm" by Banksy. Is even this art? Read the end of the essay.|
For me the contemporary aesthetic question can be summed up as: "What is beauty now that we are gods?"
One of the earliest theological views of the relationship of Jesus to what we would now call "world religions" was surprisingly positive. Greek theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clement, and Origen consistently taught that the Spirit of God has planted "seeds" of the Word of God (Greek: "logoi spermatikoi") in all people, all cultures, and thus all religions.
Click above to see a Rap Song I wrote to help students memorize the Bible, its major and minor divisions, and the major types of literature found in the Bible. Copyright (c) 2013 Nathan L. Bostian
Here are the lyrics:
Many skeptics (and thoughtful Christians) find problems with the model of God as a "God of the Gaps". By this, they mean a God who periodically invades history to keep the universe running when the complexity of the physics gets beyond our current ability to model. I agree that "God of the gaps" is a bad idea, both because of what it does to our image of God and what it does to human learning. However, I would also caution against understanding the universe as such a closed-system that it rules out interactions with other dimensions in an "a priori" manner irrespective of the evidence.
The following mediation uses quite a bit of philosophical jargon. It is based on two propositions I have been playing with for a while in my mind, which seek to provide a relation between three major area of philosophy: Ethics (how we act), Metaphysics (what we know about Ultimate Reality), and Epistemology (how we know). I'm not entirely sure what I think about these propositions, or how they relate to my theology as a whole. And the only way to figure it out is to write it out. So, here is attempt #1.
Proposition 1: Ethics precedes Metaphysics and constitutes Epistemology.
Proposition 2: We choose therefore we are, and our choices shape how and what we can know.
A friend of mine recently wrote me and asked for some advice on "witnessing" with some Mormon missionaries who had come to his home several times. I want to share what I shared with him, because it represents what I find to be the central flaws in Latter Day Saint theology.
However, I must preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for many Mormons I have known and worked with for their commitment to their faith, to Jesus, to their families, and to moral integrity. They set a lifestyle example that many Christians should learn from. In terms of many moral issues, you would find me in total agreement with Mormons. Yes, I differ with them when I drink coffee and have beer with dinner. And yes, I would expand the definition of family beyond what Mormons would, to include families with two dads or two moms. But as far as core moral values of integrity, love, compassion, justice, and commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ: I would be in full agreement.
Where we differ is in the explanation of WHY these moral values are core to life. We may agree on the practice of moral integrity. And we may agree on many details of Old Testament and New Testament history. But we differ as to the theory of history and view of God that upholds this moral practice and this Biblical narrative.
A science teacher who I work with asked me to compile some Biblical resources on the stewardship of Creation. Since there are few good lists on this topic on the Internet (they usually include sparse Biblical references and LOTS of commentary), I decided to post this. It's kind of a bare-bones, "just the facts ma'am" list of Biblical resources on ecology, along with some prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I hope you find it useful for sermon or lesson prep.
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.