DayBreaks for 8/01/17 – Deus Incognita

DayBreaks for 8/01/17: Deus Incognita

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

I must confess, I am deeply troubled by the lack of theological understanding and inquiry among Christians today.  I include myself in that statement.  It causes me to fear for the faith of future generations of the church – and then I’m reminded that it is Jesus’ church, and He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  But that doesn’t mean that we can slide willy-nilly into mindless oblivion about our faith.  The enemy’s attacks grow bolder each and every day – partly, I believe, because as Christians, our ability to defend the faith through the Spirit and knowledge of and about the Truth has reached low ebb.  We’re too busy watching television, renting movies, playing with our iPods or Nintendo’s to pull the bible off the shelf and read it for an hour each day (or longer, as our ancestors in the faith did), or even to read the thoughts and lessons learned by the brilliant saints who have lived and died throughout history. 

Do you remember what the Jews call the Shema?  It goes like this: Deut. 6:4-5 – Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  You know that by heart, probably.  We like to think about that, and my guess is that when we do, more often than not, we focus on the heart and strength aspect of the verse.  That’s not a bad thing – but there’s one other thing that we often overlook.  It’s the bit about loving Him with all our “soul.”  The Greek word is psyche and is also translated “mind”.  We are to love God, not just with our hearts (emotions) and strength, but also with our minds.  

From Mark Buchanan’s Hidden In Plain Sight – the Secret of More: “In old medieval maps, the cartographer typically inscribed uncharted areas with the words, Terra Incognita, “Unknown Earth.”  A convention then developed to add a warning, Hic Sunt Dracones, “Here be dragons.”

Terra Incognita was honest.  It was an admission of ignorance, an invitation to further exploration.  It awakened inquiry.  Hic sunt dracones was mere speculation, laden with superstition.  It was a covering up of ignorance with wild conjecture.  It warned off further expeditions.  It stifled inquiry.  It hid truth beneath a crust of myth making.

“This is easy to trip into, not least of all with our God talk.  When our theology is patchy, it’s best just to say so, and then set out to fill in the missing pieces.  But I find I’m prone to speculate, swap opinions, walk darkly.  I’m tempted to cover my ignorance with a flurry of razzamatazz and boondoggling.  Hic sunt dracones.

It’s a huge challenge, of course: this business of the study of God.  Unlike every other area of study in the universe, this is one course of study that will never be fully grasped, it’s depths will never fully be plumbed.  Physics is finite because it is a part of the finite universe.  Biology is finite, because it is about the study of the life of finite things.  Geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy…and any other science you can name, are all about finite things.  But theology is infinite because it is about that which is Infinite – God.  Could there be a more exciting, rewarding or important field of study?

How long have you spent this week in readying the word, or the thinking of those who have wrestled with these Infinite questions?  Maybe a better question would be this: why haven’t you spent time this week doing such things?  If you are a Christian, there is no more important course of study, and certainly no other line of research that will benefit you in eternity.

PRAYER:  Father, forgive us for letting our minds grow feeble and flabby through our laziness.  Help us to hunger and thirst after You and You alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 7/27/17 – The Intimate Dance of Faith and Hope

DayBreaks for 7/27/17: The Intimate Dance of Hope and Faith

Preface: I’ve recently started reading Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, and thus far I’ve found it to be a fascinating book.  Be on the lookout for numerous DayBreaks based on this work in the future.  

Christian hope has been the target of nay-sayers for a long, long time.  Some criticize the Christian hope as causing us as believers to live in a never-never land of make believe, as if we were children who hope for a cotton candy but who haven’t yet been told that the machine is broken and there will be none – not for good or bad little boys or girls.  And as a result, we’re considered foolish for hoping in something that those who don’t believe think doesn’t even exist. 

Others attack the idea and principle of Christian hope from a different angle: they say that it distracts us from the present realities, causing us to be disconnected from the only life that we shall ever possess and the urgent needs of the present world.  If all we Christians are good for, the thought goes, is being distressed in this world and focused on a future world where things are infinitely better, we won’t spend much time trying to make this place better.  Instead, we’d write it off as a colossal loss as we live in hope of something better. 

Of course, Moltmann would not agree with either of those two propositions.  In his introduction, he reveals some insights into the intricate relationship of faith and hope that help me understand it a bit better.  I’ll share some of those with you in the next few days.  For example: “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God.  Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when this truth shall be manifested; faith believes that he is our Father, hope anticipates that he will ever show himself to be a Father toward us; faith believes that eternal life has been given to us, hope anticipates that it will in some time be revealed; faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith.”

“Thus in the Christian life faith has the priority, but hope the primacy.  Without faith’s knowledge of Christ, hope becomes a utopia and remains hanging in the air.  But without hope, faith falls to pieces, becomes a faint-hearted and ultimately a dead faith.  It is through faith that man finds the path of true life, but it is only hope that keeps him on that path.”

To put it in my meager terms, hope is what gives faith its wings, it’s feet.  Just because we believe God is true and will be so, it is the hope that someday that truth will be shown and recognized by everyone – even His enemies.  Through faith we accept that we are his “offspring” and our Father, it is hope that allows us to call Him the kind of Father that we can proclaim as “Abba” – a good, loving Father who will forever be so.

Hope and faith are joined at the hip.  Faith without hope would be interesting, but not very uplifting or encouraging.  Hope without faith is virtually a non-sequitur and a childish dream. 

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul speaks of an unlikely trinity – certainly not one that an earth-bound mind would conjure up: Then abide these three: faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.  Paul was speaking about what remains in this world I believe, and not in the one we hope for, because once that world is realized, there will be no more need for hope nor for that matter, faith.  We will see the object of our faith and walking by faith will be no more.  And, once we are in full possession of the heavenly blessings, what more is there to hope for beyond that ecstasy?  Nothing.  But love will remain – and it will remain throughout all eternity.  That shouldn’t cause us to relegate faith and hope to a backseat in our present walk, but it should enhance our appreciation of the necessity of both until they fulfill their purpose and deliver us to heaven’s portal.

Romans 5:4-5 (NLT) – And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.  And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

PRAYER:  Lord God Almighty, we thank You for the twin blessings of faith and hope.  Thank You for opening our eyes through faith to Your existence and for the hope that it gives us that our lives are not meaningless, but that we are destined for better things and that our hope will not disappoint us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 2/09/17 – Theology For an Age of Terror

DayBreaks for 2/09/17: Theology for an Age of Terror

“A day that will live in infamy…”  Those words were spoken by President Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The same words were used to describe what happened on September 11, 2001 in New York.  Sometimes, we think that ours is the only generation that has struggled with such things.  Not so.  What may make it seem that way is that we have far better communication than ever before, and we hear about more atrocities and infamous acts.  But if you want to talk about such horrors, a more apt analogy might be August 24, 410, when the city of Rome was besieged and sacked by an army of 40,000 “barbarians” led by (as Christianity Today, September 2006 put it) “the Osama bin Laden of late antiquity, a wily warrior named Alaric.”  The severity of the attack and its aftermath, I’m told, can still be seen in the ruins of the Roman Forum, where the green stains of copper coins that melted into the stone from the conflagrations set by Alaric and his soldiers are still visible.  Prior to that time, Rome was called Invicta Roma Aeterna: eternal, unconquerable Rome.  For more than 800 years the city had not fallen to an attack, and Rome, like America on 9/11/01, was the only superpower in the world.  But in 410, all their military power could not stop the walls from being breached, its women abused and the sacred sites burned. 

One of the ancient church fathers, Jerome (who lived in Bethlehem – far from Rome when it fell) heard about it and it is said that he put aside his Commentary on Ezekiel and sat stupefied in total silence for 3 entire days.  Later, when he wrote to a friend, he said, “Rome was besieged.  The city to which the whole world fell has fallen.  If Rome can perish, what can be safe?”  Augustine, in North Africa, started writing The City of God in response to those who said Rome fell as punishment for what they had done to Christians. 

Living as we, and all other generations from the dawn of time have, in a world that is full of danger, war, destruction and violence, what can we learn that will help us get through such fears and live productive lives?  After all, one of the Christian tenets is that this “is our Father’s world” (even if not all nature seems to sing at times!), and we would be prone to think that God is in control, that a loving God has nothing to do with such things, and that because we are believers, nothing such as what Alaric did to Rome, or the terrorists did to New York, would ever happen to us.  But…but…there were Christians who died on 9/11.  Christian children became fatherless and motherless on that day. 

One of the lessons Augustine would teach us is this: We must not equate any political entity (America, the Republican or Democratic party, the UN, etc.) with the kingdom of God.  Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church – not against any nation.  Here’s a couple of other things we can learn from Augustine:

Just as Rome awaited it’s plunder by Alaric, we need to remember that life is short.  As C.S. Lewis put it during the WW2 blitz on London: “The world is fragile.  All of us are vulnerable, but we are here because this is our calling.  Our lives are rooted not only in time, but also in eternity, and the life of learning, humbly offered to God, is its own reward.  It is one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we shall hereafter enjoy in heaven and which we are called to display even now amidst the brokenness all around us.” 

And Augustine perhaps reminds  us of what we most need to hear: he saw the world with all its politics, culture and institutions as a tottering old man whose days were growing very short: “You are surprised that the world is losing its grip?  That the world is grown old?  Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: ‘The world is passing away; the world is losing its grip; the world is short of breath.  Don’t fear, your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.”

1 Cor. 7:29-31 (NIV) – What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

PRAYER: Father, from a troubled world we cry out to You!  Hear our pleas, see our fears, teach us Your truth and give us Your peace that we should not be troubled, but trusting.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.