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Category Archives: Doctrine & Heresies

Thoughts on doctrine and heresies – and just where such lines are drawn.

Dug Down Deeper Still

The academic part of me cannot help but wonder…is there anything upon which EVERY Christian “branch” agrees? If so, what? Is it possible to list things that are actually so basic that they really do meet his definition of “Orthodoxy”?

I love this question from my friend Stephen in response to these recent musings prompted by Joshua Harris’ book Dug Down Deep.dug down deep

It is the question, isn’t it?

When we look at all the branches of this immense Christian tree – Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Coptic, etc. etc. etc. – “is it possible to list things that are actually so basic” that we will find agreement, that we will discern a common DNA amidst an all too often rancorous diversity?

My mind goes to several places.

Ephesians 4:1-6 and Paul’s seven “ones” of Christian experience.

Hebrews 6:1-3 with its listing six foundational truths.

1 Corinthians 15:1-28 with one of the earliest creedal formulations we have on hand – with apostolic commentary, no less!

All of these would seem to provide solid ground to dig down to, experientially, and then to build a life.

Then, of course, there is the Apostle’s Creed. The day before the question came, I had been blessed by a communal recital of the Apostle’s Creed followed by a singing of the Doxology. Some seven hundred voices raised in unison. Deep chords there. Chords initially struck over the first decade of my life growing up in the Presbyterian Church. Week after week I learned to recite the words. Today I begin to hear the song.

And the song took me not to the above options, nor to any textbook fatter than a phone book  It took me to one of the earliest creedal songs. It took me to the poem. The Poem.

Six stanzas.

Eighteen words.

Forty-five syllables.

We have tagged it with the address 1 Timothy 3:16. The title placed over it is “Mystery” – or more fully: “Confessedly (or without debate, with full consensus) great is the mystery of godliness.” Ho-moh-loh-goo-MEN-ace meh-GAH es-teen toe tace you-seh-BAY-yas moo-STARE-rhi-own is something like how that title would read in the Greek. Ironically, the manuscripts of the New Testament aren’t agreed on what the next word is – on what the first word of the creedal poem is. And the difference is a dash. Literally. In the early uncial manuscripts it could be OC or it could be ƟC. OC is “he who” and ƟC is shorthand for “God.” Older English translations go with ƟC and say “God” (Theos), more recent ones opt for OC (hoes) and say “he who” or “the one who” reasoning that it’s easier to explain “he who” being changed to “God” than vice versa. I go with ƟC and read “God” though I totally get and even appreciate OC “he who” for the simple reason it enhances the mystery at the center of the poem. Just who is this? Who is this man?

Whoever this God/man is, the defining DNA in all of our branches is set forth in the following six stanzas – nine syllables followed by eight, then five, then eight, then seven and seven.

Here is an approximate pronunciation guide for the Greek. Take each stanza into your mouth before reading a translation – and you might try softly repeating moo-STARE-rhi-own after reading each line (go ahead, try it; it won’t bite you…but then it actually may). Say each word slowly, syllable by syllable, then combine the syllables and say it fast (what, a post that makes you work!? Preposterous! But try it anyway. Taste some ancient culture).

eh-pha-neh-ROE-thay in sar-KEE
eh-dee-kai-OH-thay in PNEW-mah-tee
OAF-thay ang-GEH-loys
eh-kay-ROOK-thay in ETH-neh-seen
eh-pea-STEW-thay in KOS-moh
on-eh-LAME-thay in DOK-say

Here’s what the actual Greek text looks like (with a Coptic cross background thrown in for free):

musterion

Why did I just torture you with this? Simple. This DNA is ancient. It is foreign. It is not a product of western culture. It is story. It is poem. It is song.

An English translation:

(The God/man)…
was manifested in flesh;
was vindicated in spirit;
was seen by messengers;
was preached among the peoples;
was believed on in the world;
was taken up in glory.

Two millenia of elaborations, formulations, councils, creeds, analysis, dissection, exposition, supposition, explication and pontification have failed to improve on its simplicity, power and passion. It may be the question that drives us, but it is story that forms us. Harris says it well: “Doctrine is the meaning of the story God is writing in the world.” I would just simplify it to “doctrine is the story God is writing in the world” – for it is in the many nuances, levels and layers of our deduced and adduced meaning in which we can and do so easily lose the story or, worse, hijack it. Mutate it. Mute it.

There is no list of basics. Only story. And the story is the doctrine. It is the creed. It is the DNA not only of all of Christendom’s branches, but of the whole cosmic forest in which we live. The forest where Immanuel lives, where his voice echoes, where His Spirit dances.

And if the academic part of us can still wonder, perhaps we can yet hear and enter into its rhythms…or to put it as Josh Harris does: perhaps we can dig down deep — dig down deep and build a new life, a new church, a new world, on it.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Doctrine & Heresies, musings

 

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Dug Down Yet Deeper

Another second take that Joshua Harris made me take while reading Dug Down Deep – I am enjoying this read! Harris observes:

Digging down and building on the rock isn’t a picture of being nominally religious or knowing Jesus from a dug down deepdistance. Being a Christian means being a person who labors to establish his beliefs, his dreams, his dreams, his choices, his very view of the world on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished – a Christian who cares about truth, who cares about sound doctrine.

Good statement. No real second take there, except on the questions raised in the previous post about where such sound doctrine and the irreducible formulation of it is found, which actually leads to my second double take.

What does it really mean to “dig down deep” and “build on the rock” as Jesus describes in his classic story of the wise and foolish builders?

As Harris’ story unfolds, it becomes clear that for him digging down deep was a matter of being handed numerous books of theology, including Grudem’s Systematic Theology which he says is “fatter than a phone book.” He later delights in the fact that when he meets up with the pastor of his former youth group that the current youth group was digging deep into the same book of Systematic Theology, a book usually reserved for seminarians.

I am all for books. I like books. Many of my best friends are books.

In fact, I own far too many books. I manage a church bookstore. I want people to buy books – especially thick books of theology that are fatter than a phone book.

But as I see Jesus sitting on that hillside telling his tale of the wise and foolish builders, I can’t help but scan his audience – an audience filled with peasants, fishermen, and other common laborers. What would “digging down deep” mean to them?

One study discussing literacy rates in the first century draws this conclusion:

“A town in which there is only one who reads; he stands up, reads (the Torah), and sits down, he stands up, reads and sits down, even seven times.” Soferim 11:2

In other words, in some towns there was only one person who could read the Torah, which is a highly (Hebrew) religious reading. This rule appears also in t. Megila though with a slight difference: instead of ‘town’ it says there: ‘a synagogue of which there is only’, etc… Of course, it does not mean that in all rural places there was such literacy, but, on the other hand, if there were towns with 1% literacy, then the literacy of all the towns was not higher than 5% (at most). Therefore, taking into consideration the above rule, together with the fact that there are rules that reflect a zero literacy rate in the rural areas lead to the assumption of a low rate of literacy in the whole population. Even if we assume that in cities (as happens all over the world in urban areas in comparison to rural areas), such as Tiberias, for example, the literacy rate was double and even triple in comparison with the towns, still the figures of literacy are around 2-15%. With the assumption that the rural population was around 70% (with 0% literacy), 20% of urban population (with 1-5% literacy), and 10% of highly urban population (with 2-15% literacy), the total population literacy is still very low. Thus, it is no exaggeration to say that the total literacy rate in the Land of Israel at that time (of Jews only, of course), was probably less than 3%. (Read the study at http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/illitera.html)

So, what does “dig down deep” and “build your foundation on the rock” mean to a predominantly illiterate audience? What would Jesus intend for them to see and hear in this story?

peter and groupWas he handing out textbooks to the crowd – ones even fatter than a phone book? (Now there’s a creative retelling of the feeding of the five thousand just waiting to happen: the reading of the five thousand. That will have to wait for another post.)

Now, it’s true, Jesus does quote at least six times from the Torah in his famous Sermon on the Mount, each time prefacing the quote with something like “you have heard that it was said.” Emphasis on heard. These people didn’t own books (scrolls) and couldn’t have read them if they did. They lived in a worldview which said obedience to God did not hinge on learning to read, or to write, for that matter.

And so how could digging down deep involve acquiring and reading thick books?

Add to this the fact that those who owned and read all the books are the ones who killed the Teller of the Story. Bad diggers indeed.

Add to this further  that in this same sermon the Teller of the Tale pointed his illiterate audience to the one book they could all personally read: “Look at the birds of the air, they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns…” “Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow…”

If Jesus didn’t hand them theology textbooks at the conclusion of his story, then why would he assume this is what he would have us do now? Why would we make the connection between digging deep and becoming a scribal culture with shelves lined with theological tomes? Is this what Jesus was after?

Do we perhaps need to “dug down yet deeper”?

pigeons

 

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Dug Down Deeper

I’ve been reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. dug down deep

I fondly remember attending seminars by his father, Gregg Harris back in the 80’s – and I remember him frequently telling stories about Josh and showing slides of a mop-haired young boy. So it’s a bit weird to be reading this book – something like running into the adult versions of little kids you knew decades ago. Has so much time really passed?

Anyway.

If the definition of a good book is one that makes you think and process, then Dug Down Deep is a very good book for me right now. Love Josh’s heart, his stories, his humor. And some of his points that I would have given the simple nod to years ago I now find myself doing a double take on.

For instance:

The word orthodoxy literally means “right opinion.” In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don’t budge. They’re clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith. Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged from the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you’re left with something less than historic Christian belief.

Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world.

Okay.

So here’s my double take. Which historic Christianity? Catholic? Greek Orthodox? Syriac? Coptic? Protestant? Which historic form? Which branch of the tree?

It depends on which Christian you’re talking to, doesn’t it?

Proponents of each historic form of Christianity would adamantly argue that theirs is a (or the) legitimate, authentic, and yes, orthodox, form of Christianity – each containing what for them are the “irreducible truths” of Christianity.

When I saw those words, “irreducible truths,” the thought that immediately came to mind – in fact I wrote them in the margin, and I don’t usually write in the margin of most books – “irreducible by whom”?

It takes a certain brand of nearsighted hubris (available on just about all religious shelves; I know – I’ve bought and sold it for years) to define as “irreducible” truths the set of creedal propositions coming out of, for instance, Alexander Campbell and company in 19th century America and the consequently dubbed the “Restoration Movement.” Or the set of propositions coming out of Calvin’s Institutes and subsequently dubbed “Reformed Theology” (which is essentially where Harris is coming from, I’m gathering). Or even the Vineyard Statement of Faith coming out of John Wimber’s movement, for that matter. Catholics can, at least, claim the primacy of being on the scene sooner – though they would have to take that up with their Eastern Orthodox neighbors, along with historic Syriac and Coptic forms of Christianity.

Who has the right irreducible set of truths?

And is finding that correct irreducible set of truths that Harris defines as “sound doctrine” really what it is all about? Is this the final litmus test through which we must pass to achieve heaven and eternal salvation? Is this the shibboleth we must correctly pronounce to pass over the bridge of death safely to the other side?

Harris has indeed “dug down deep,” but do we in fact need to “dug down deeper”?

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Church, Doctrine & Heresies, musings, Religion

 

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Messiness, Messiness, Is All I Long For…

My brain (and my fingers) have been feeling paralyzed, and thus the soil of this blog has gone untilled for too long. So I’ll let someone else do the writing. Like this bit from William Willimon – forwarded by my friend and mentor David whose wife Carolyn came across it. I’m thinking it has application to more than church and ministry settings. Good life application across the board. And, finally! Someone who understands the true benefit of learning biblical languages…

They asked Jesus, “Show us the Father.” And in response, he portrayed a messy, divine recklessness at the very heart of reality: A farmer went out to sow and he carefully prepared the soil, removing all rocks and weeds, marking off neat rows, placing each seed exactly six inches from the other, covering each with three-quarters of an inch of soil?

No. This sower just began slinging seed. Seed everywhere. Some fell on the path, some on rocks, some in weeds, and some, miraculously, fell on good soil, took root, and rendered harvest. That’s what the Word of God is like, said Jesus.

A farmer (as I recall, it was the same farmer) had a field. The servants came running in breathlessly: “Master, there’s weeds coming up in your new wheat.” “An enemy must have done this!” cries the farmer.

Enemy, my eye. You get this sort of agricultural mess when you sow seed with such abandon.

“Do you want us to go out and carefully root up those weeds from your good wheat?” asked the servants.

“No, let ‘em grow. I just love to see stuff grow. We’ll sort it all out in September.”

And Jesus said, “That’s God’s kingdom.”

In his commentary on these parables, Calvin sees clearly that they are meant for clergy, concluding his interpretation by warning that it is vain to seek a church free from every spot.

Aquinas spoke of the “divine economy,” and that’s fine provided we understand that it is exorbitant economics for a woman who would tear her living room apart until she found her stray quarter, a father who plows ten grand into a welcome-home party for a prodigal, a shepherd called “good” for his willingness to lay down his life for a $3.95-plus-postage sheep.

Forsake all thinking that is categorical; let go all theology that presumes to be systematic, but is an affront to the way this God runs a farm ….

“Point us to the kingdom,” they asked Jesus. And he replied, “A man gave a feast, spared no expense, got the best caterers in town, hired a band, sent out invitations to all his friends and cronies, and they began to make excuses.” They are busy, cleaning out the garage, sorting their socks. They refuse.

And the Lord of the banquet gets real mad. So he sends out his servants a second time, telling them to bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame-in short, those with nothing to do on a Saturday night.

And they came.

 

And Jesus says the kingdom of God is like that. God’s idea of church is a party with people you wouldn’t be caught dead with on a Saturday night.

So you and I can give thanks that the locus of Christian thinking appears to be shifting from North America and Northern Europe where people write rules and obey them, to places like Africa and Latin America where people still know how to dance.

And I think it’s wonderful that most of you have spent time learning Greek, a marvelously useless language. You can’t use Greek to build a “mega church,” nor will it fold out into a bed. We make you learn Greek (now the truth can be told) not because knowing Greek has anything to do with successful Christian ministry, but in the hope that we will thereby render you so impractical that, having wasted so much time with a dead language, you may not balk at wasting an afternoon with an eighty-year-old nursing-home resident, or spending a Saturday listening to the life of a troubled teenager, or taking hours to write a sermon that no more than twenty will ever hear. You can’t be a pastor and be neat.

“She could have gone to law school. Best undergraduate I ever taught,” he said, as we veered off the main highway and made our way down a narrow country road in West Virginia. We pulled before the little white frame Presbyterian church, with the sign hanging from a rusted chain, peeling paint, with the name of the church and, underneath, painted poorly, “The Rev. Julie Jones-Pastor.” And my friend said, “Damn, what a waste.”

But the reckless farmer who slung the seed and the woman who pulled up her carpet and moved the living room furniture into the yard in pursuit of her lost quarter, the giver of the banquet for the forgotten, and the shepherd who threw away his life for the sheep, laughed with disordered gospel delight.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Doctrine & Heresies, musings

 

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Gobsmacked.

One of my favorite verbal acquisitions from my forays to Scotland.

What other word so well captures what should be our response to the unfathomable realities of life, the world, the universe, and God revealed “in a thousand forms to be found along every road” than “gobsmacked”? In Hebrew it’s captured by David’s Mah enosh? in Psalm 8. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your hands…what is man that you are mindful of him?” Earth origins is another area of much domino playing by scientists and theologians alike, to be sure, but when all has been said that we can possibly say as we pry into the details of origins and the universe, we are still left as God believers with the simple affirmation of Hebrews 11:4

By faith we understand that the universe (literally the aeons) were created by God’s command so that what is seen wasn’t made from what is visible.

Yeah. That about covers it.

And I’m gobsmacked.

Peter Enns is too. If you aren’t familiar with Peter Enns, you might find it worth your while to check out his blog (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns) if you can handle one scholarly type’s perspective on the nature of Scripture and faith.

Loved his most recent post: Thinking About God Makes Me Just Want to Keep My Mouth Shut.

Enjoy. Or not. If you go to the post, the comments are fun too.

Smart people tell us that the universe is about 14 billion years old and about 46 billion light years across. Light travels about 5.87 trillion miles a year (you heard me). Multiply that by 46 billion. My calculator broke. I came up with 2.70231100992E23. According to my extensive 10 second Google research, the numbers before the E are to be multiplied by 10 to the 23rd power. I think this is what God laughing at us looks like.

It also seems that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. And if that weren’t enough, now we are told there may be more than one of them.

Add to this the fact that there are billions upon billions of galaxies in our universe, each containing billions upon billions of stars. We cannot remotely comprehend these numbers. I also hear from reliable sources that stars within galaxies are millions, billions, trillions (what does it matter, really) of light years away from each other, and similar distances exist between the galaxies themselves.

If there is a God….a higher power, a supreme being, who is behind all this, I feel we should just stop talking for a minute and…well…just stop talking for a minute.

What kind of a God is this, who is capable of these sorts of things? What claim can we have to speak for him, to think his thoughts are our thoughts? Who do we think we are, anyway?

Here’s another thing that unsettles me into silence. According to the Christian tradition, this God who does literally incomprehensible things, is also willing to get very small – to line up next to us, to know us, even love us (as the Bible says again and again).

If there really is a God like this–a God who understands and controls things so big my calculator has to use a letter to get it across, who is also a God who walked among a tiny tribe of ancient people called Israelites, who allowed them to write about him in their tiny ancient ways, and who subjected himself to suffering and death (what we work so hard to avoid), well…

I think we’re talking mystery here, people.

A God who does both. There are no words for this sort of thing. Yeah, King David in the Psalms talked about praising God because of the wonders of the heavens (Ps 19), and wondered out loud how a God who put the moon and stars in their place could be bothered by puny people (Psalm 8). But David had a limited, quaint, view of “up there.” He did not, and could not, think of “heavens” as we now have to, what with our telescopes and such.

One God responsible for the unfathomably large, who is also near us. If there is such a God….

To take this all in, as far as I am concerned, is above our mortal pay grade. Those of us who believe this kind of God exists should feel put in our place, pretty much walking around with that “I can’t believe what I just saw” look in our eye.

The Bible calls this humility and awe, which, as hard as it is to pull off, is at least something we can understand.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/09/thinking-about-god-makes-me-just-want-to-keep-my-mouth-shut/

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Bible Questions, Doctrine & Heresies, musings

 

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doctrinal dominoes

Reading through Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman this past week (see my BookCellar review http://vineyardboisebookcellar.wordpress.com/) I came across this quote from Ehrman dealing with the Catholic doctrine of Mary the mother of Jesus (in the context of discussion about the existence of Jesus’ brothers as being one of the proofs that Jesus himself existed).

Made me think of dominoes…

As a side note I should point out that the Roman Catholic Church has insisted for many centuries that Jesus did not actually have brothers. That does not mean that the church denied that James and the other brothers of Jesus existed or that they were unusually closely related to Jesus. But in the Roman Catholic view, Jesus’ brothers were not related to Jesus by blood because they were not the children of his mother, Mary. The reasons the Catholic Church claimed this, however, were not historical or based on a close examination of the New Testament texts. Instead, the reasoning involved a peculiar doctrine that had developed in the Catholic Church dating all the way back to the fourth Christian century. In traditional Catholic dogma Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin not simply when Jesus was born but throughout the rest of her life as well. This is the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

In no small measure this doctrine is rooted in the view that sexual relations necessarily involve sinful activities. Mary, however, according to Catholic doctrine, did not have a sinful nature. She could not have had; otherwise whe would have passed it along to Jesus when he was born. She herself was conceived without the stain of original sin: the doctrine of the immaculate conception. And since she did not have a sinful nature, she was not involved in any sinful activities, including sex. That is why, at the end of her life, rather than dying, Mary was taken up into heaven. This is the docrtine of the assumption of Mary.

These are theological views driven by theological concerns that have nothing to do with the earliest traditions about Jesus and his family.

Let me be clear. This post isn’t about bashing Mary or even attempting to debunk ancient Catholic doctrine about  her. Personally, the last thing I want would want to do is go on an anti-Mary rant and bash the mother of the Lord of all creation. Unwise.

What struck me was the line of dominoes. The long line of doctrinal dominoes stretching back to the 4th century. Although I still can’t help but wonder if the dominoes don’t need to line up further back – if Mary had to be immaculately conceived to avoid passing a sin nature to Jesus, what about Mary’s mom? And her mom? And her mom? And her mom? Etc.

But I digress.

What struck me is what a wonderful example this is of the line of dominoes we build as assumption is added to assumption, conclusion to conclusion, inference to inference, thought to thought until the line of dominoes has backed up so far that we have lost the point and obscured the simple story, in this case, of a terrified young girl in Nazareth who utters those profound words “Let it be to me according to your word.” Pretty soon we are hovering over our elaborate line of dominoes and protecting that line of dominoes becomes the all in all of our existence and the ultimate test of our faithfulness, our soundness, our orthodoxy. Words acquire new handles and definitions as we protect the line (e.g. “brother” must mean “cousin” for a Catholic; “whole world” must mean “select group in the world” for a Calvinist, etc. etc.).

Personally, I think the Lord of all loves to tip over our dominoes and watch them fall – and in fact, isn’t that the point with dominoes? Don’t we set them up to watch them fall? Perhaps such a realization would cause all us religious types to relax just a bit – and to enjoy ourselves and this business of theology a bit more. Might even make others want to play too – when it’s not the fires of hell awaiting you if you set up a defective line, but rather a “Nice try” followed by a simple reset.

To really enter in healthily to this game of theological dominoes, perhaps we need to paint in large letters on the wall what for me is a classic, foundational statement from the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes (7:13 from the Message, of course!):

Take a good look at God’s work. Who could simplify and reduce Creation’s curves and angles to a plain straight line?

Or, I might add, to a carefully worded syllogism.

Or to an immaculately conceived line of dominoes…

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Doctrine & Heresies, musings

 

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poretz

Breach-maker or breaker.

That’s what the Hebrew word “poretz” (poor-ates) means.

Came across it in my reading of that Old Testament prophet Micah’s relatively brief, Isaiah-like tome. Here’s the passage:

House of Jacob, I will gather you together;
I will gather up the remnant of Israel
I will guard them like a flock of sheep in their fold,
like sheep safe in their pasture,
a noisy multitude.
One will make a breach and lead the way;
the rest will break it open further
and leave as through a gate.
Their ruler will pass before them
with YHWH at the head.

One scholar notes:

Most Middle Eastern sheepfolds were a stone fence. After the sheep were led into the fold for the night, the shepherd would seal the entrance with rocks or debris, often sleeping across the threshold. In the morning, the shepherd went to the fence and shoved the rocks out of the way, making a breach in the wall that the sheep pushed through, widening the opening. Then the shepherd – the breachmaker or “breaker” (Hebrew poretz) – would lead the sheep back out into green pastures. The “breaking forth” was not a singular event, but an everyday occurrence for a flock that has already been gathered into the sheepfold.

This picture got me to thinking.

Thinking about how our systems of thought – whether theological, scientific, political, philosophical, or whatever – resemble such a sheepfold that keeps our thoughts carefully corralled and safe and under control. We have shepherds, of course – theologians or pulpit pundits, journalists, political commentators, columnists, societal thinkers, etc. that we turn to regularly to keep thieving contrary thoughts from stealing into the sheepfold and making havoc of our nicely kept and guarded mindset.

How crucial it is for there to be room to breathe in our thinking!

Or on the sheepfold analogy, to have an open space that can be breached regularly so our minds are free to break out, to roam a bit over green fields and find fresh pasture. Good shepherds start the breach and invite the sheep to widen it. Bad shepherds turn sheepfolds into prisons designed to keep intruders out and the sheep forever locked in.

How desperately we need mind breakers who will knock holes in our lovely secure space and lead us out. How often we get stuck in the same stinking sheepfold day in and day out. Whether it’s political discourse, religious debates, or verbal cultural jousting, it seems too many have been locked up in the same walls for far too long and are endlessly baaaaaahing the same old bleating answers into the stale air of their mental enclosures and its noisy multitudes.

What a wonderful time for a poretz.

In my experience, Jesus has been and continues to be the ultimate poretz. We, of course, try our best to domesticate and make him serve our ends, just as we will to any genuine poretz, but he relentlessly refuses to be enclosed in our theological, ecclesiastical, political or thought systems. Always the poretz is knocking a hole in our enclosures and leading us out to new places – if we will only follow.

This week I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s latest, Who Is This Man? Wonderful read. Ortberg points out that in reciting the “great commandment” to love God with all our heart and soul and strength that he added (poretz!) a fourth crucial element to the Hebrew equation: with all our mind. God is glorified in a mind that thinks. Two pertinent quotes from the book:

Loving God with all your mind means answering the works of people you disagree with, rather than burning the works. Loving God with all your mind means you don’t have to be nervous about where a book might lead if its reader is sincerely seeking truth.

Just this past week I was asked by someone with a disapproving shake of the head, “So why do you carry Rob Bell books in this bookstore?” In a word – because the filtering needs to happen on the user end rather than on the supply side. We need an unwalled door to the sheepfold. Bell has some things worth saying and hearing and processing. We are called to glorify God by thinking, not by bleating out the same, safe, repeated lines. Bell can be a wonderul poretz for both mind and soul. It’s what good writers do for their readers – and those are the writers I’m drawn to. I can sense in the first few pages whether I am sitting with a thinker stirring me to fresh thought or a mindless regurgitator keeping me confined in the fold.

Second quote:

To love God with all my mind means following truth ruthlessly wherever it leads. It means cherishing truth whether it comes from the Bible or from science or from an atheist. It means anti-intellectualism is anti-Christian.

It’s also anti-human.

Once more into the breach, dear friends…

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Doctrine & Heresies, Education, musings

 

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