Faith and doubt

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A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do willl find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

 

But even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternative beliefs.”

-Tim Keller

One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices.

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“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”

— Henri Nouwen, The Spiritual Life

The treasure found in the Old Testament

Biblical Studies, Quote

“There are some who have little regard for the Old Testament. They think of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only and is now out of date, containing only stories of past times. . . . But Christ says in John 5, ‘Search the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me.’ . . . [T]he Scriptures of the Old Testament are not to be despised but diligently read. . . . Therefore dismiss your own opinions and feelings and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the richest of mines which can never be sufficiently explored, in order that you may find that divine wisdom which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling cloths and the manger in which Christ lies. . . . Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but dear is the treasure, Christ, who lies in them.”

Martin Luther, written in his preface to the Old Testament in 1523

“Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter…”

Forgiveness, Quote

“I really believe that when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain. Because forgiveness is nothing less than an act of fidelity to an evil-combating campaign. So it’s not an act of niceness. It’s not being a doormat. It really to me is more badass than that. Maybe retaliation, or holding on to anger, about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it.

Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and on some level, even start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being like a pansy way of saying, it’s OK, is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters and snapping the chain that links us? Like it is saying, what you did was so not OK that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.

Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter, and free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments.

That’s worth fighting for. There really is a light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

The importance of the Trinity

Quote, Uncategorized

“The life of God—precisely because God is triune—does not belong God alone. God who dwells in inaccessible light and eternal glory comes to us in the face of Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s outreach to the creature, God is said to be essentially relational, alive as passionate love. Divine life is therefore also our life. The heart of the Christian life is to be united with the God of Jesus Christ by means of communion with one another.

The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately therefore a teaching not about the abstract nature of God, nor about God in isolation from everything other than God, but a teaching about God’s life with us and our life with each other.”

Catherine Mawry LaCungna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

Reframing Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Atonement, Quote

“…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” Romans 8:3

“Here is a point that must be noted most carefully. Paul does not say that God punished Jesus. He declares that God punished Sin in the flesh of Jesus. Now, to be sure, the crucifixion was no less terrible an event because, with theological hindsight, the apostle could see that what was being punished was Sin itself rather than Jesus himself. The physical, mental, and spiritual agony that Jesus went through on that terrible day was not alleviated in any way. But theologically speaking—and with regard to the implications that run through many aspects of church life, teaching, and practice—it makes all the difference. 

The death of Jesus, seen in this light, is certainly penal. It has to do with the punishment on Sin—not, to say it again, on Jesus—but it is punishment nonetheless. Equally, it is certainly substitutionary: God condemned Sin (in the flesh of the Messiah), and therefore sinners who are ‘in the Messiah’ are not condemned. The one dies, and the many do not. All those narrative fragments we saw in Luke and John come into their own.”

N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began

Forgiveness isn’t weakness

Forgiveness, Quote

“Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. The wrong done to them is not permitted to twist their lives out of shape. Forgiveness isn’t weakness. It was and is a great strength. Resurrection and forgiveness together are vital for understanding the extraordinary and large-scale result of the victory won on the cross. The nations of the world were now set free to worship the one true God.”

― NT Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

Community

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“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite ideal of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate with ourselves.
 
….Christian [community] is not an ideal which we must realized; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Telling the truth of America

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“Telling the truth of America today is as unsettling as it was to tell the truth of Israel then. Over thirty-six million Americans live in poverty. One in four children in the United States is poor, and infant mortality rates in our inner cities rival those developing countries. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women: Three million women are being each year and every day for women or murdered by their partners or husbands. Homicide is the leading cause of death among young African-American men, and more or in prison or on parole than in college. AIDS, drugs addiction, and suicide lay claim to more and more citizens, including an alarming number of youth. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless and unemployed as affordable housing evaporates and corporations ship jobs to foreign countries that pay workers pennies a day.

Rampant patriotic fervor and shouts of “God bless America” can’t drown out the cries behind the reality of our nation. For those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ—the one who came to open eyes—looking away is not an option. Jesus invites us to participate in the coming of God’s kingdom.”

Joyce Hollyday, Then Shall Your Light Rise: Spiritual Formation and Social Witness

WHY GO THE SECOND MILE?

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The following is an excerpt from Walter Wink’s book, The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium. (emphasis mine)

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Why carry the soldier’s pack a second mile? Does this not go to the opposite extreme by aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all. The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are Caesar’s, but how one responds to the rules is God’s, and Caesar has no power over that.

Imagine, then, the soldier’s surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, “Oh, no, let me carry it another mile.” Why would he want to do that? What is he up to? Normally, soldiers have to coerce people to carry their packs, but this Jew does so cheerfully, and will not stop’. Is this a provocation? Is he insulting the legionnaire’s strength? Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to violate the rules of impressment? Will this civilian file a complaint? Create trouble? From a situation of servile impressment, the oppressed have once more seized the initiative. They have taken back the power of choice. They have thrown the soldier off balance by depriving him of the predictability of his victim’s response. He has never dealt with such a problem before. Now he must make a decision for which nothing in his previous experience has prepared him. If he has enjoyed feeling superior to the vanquished, he will not enjoy it today. Imagine a Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew to give back his pack! The humor of this scene may have escaped us, but it could scarcely have been lost on Jesus’ hearers, who must have been delighted at the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors.

Jesus does not encourage Jews to walk a second mile in order to build up merit in heaven, or to be pious, or to kill the soldier with kindness. He is helping an oppressed people find a way to protest and neutralize an onerous practice despised throughout the empire. He is not giving a nonpolitical message of spiritual world transcendence. He is formulating a worldly spirituality in which the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity.