Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The Puritan Prayer that I quoted from my last post concludes with these lines:

Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity; sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee. Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom, not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love, to be content with bread to eat, with raiment to put on, if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

I know the intoxication that comes of prosperity, I have experienced it and observed it in others. I know that it can be overt or subtle – and I am thankful that in our Father’s mercy He provides us with experiences to sober us. It is sad that the church imbibes in an ethos of prosperity. I’m not talking about the obvious “prosperity preachers”, I’m talking about the church as a whole. Rich and poor are generally treated differently in the church, our worldly positions do matter in most church environments. Saying, “That is just the way people are,” isn’t good enough because we are not just people, we are the Church, the Body,of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps “prosperity preachers” offend us because they make public what we practice with decorum? Perhaps their offense isn’t really the message, perhaps it’s the medium?

Monday, June 28, 2010


There is a section of a Puritan prayer that I have found myself meditating upon the past week or so:

I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant, but exult before thee as a son with a father. Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions, and to exercise sonship by conquering self.

The crescendo of Romans Chapter 8 speaks to us of sonship, as do Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4. The biological aspect of sonship is not what is in view in these Biblical passages; though there are indeed other Biblical passages that speak to us biologically. These passages speak to us of the sonship of inheritance, the sonship of authority – rightly speaking they invoke the “placing of the son”.  In Greco-Roman times adults were often adopted in order to inherit and continue the legacy of their benefactors – and when we read the English word “adoption” that is what is behind the Greek word – the placing of a son. We are born into the family of God; that is one operation of God in our lives (biological - the New Birth) – we are “placed” as sons and daughters in His family, given the signet ring; that is another operation of God.

A problem often is that when one discovers that he or she is not a worm but a son or daughter, that conquering self is seldom contemplated from that point on, with the result that the beauty of sonship is wasted on selfishness – on counting the treasures in the Father’s house without being a conduit of those treasures to others. Biblical sonship is about laying one’s life down for others – knowing the power of His resurrection is united with knowing the koinonia of His sufferings.

The creation is indeed waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; the sons of God that the creation are waiting for are sons who come not to be served, but to serve and to lay their lives down for others.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Transcendence and Immanence

This is a continuation of my post on C.S. Lewis and Pantheism. It’s been awhile since a post, but I wanted to close the loop on that post before moving on.

As I pondered Lewis’s point that the [main] problem with Pantheism is that it lacks the transcendent, it struck me that Christian paradigms are often polarized toward either a God who is transcendent or a God who is immanent. Folks on the transcendent end can’t quite fathom the folks on the immanent (Personal Presence) end, and folks on the Personal Presence end don’t get the folks on the Magisterial end. One often emphasizes transcendent truth; the other intimate experience.

Perhaps this tug-of-war is more than anything a testimony to our fractured nature, our split minds and affections – for it certainly isn’t a testimony to the Scriptures or the Person of Jesus Christ. Who can deny that Christ is the embodiment of both transcendence and immanence? Perhaps even the terms transcendence and immanence are themselves a testimony to the innate confusion within us that Christ has come to redeem us from?

I have a product I use for hardware and mechanical repairs by the name of JB Weld. It’s an amazing products. It comes in two tubes that you carefully mix together in order to form a bonding agent that is so strong that you can use it on machinery – a part of my snow blower has been held by JB Weld for a number of years.

The material in each tube, in and of itself, will bind nothing – but when those materials are mixed together you get a dynamic substance. My observation is that folks who use either transcendence or immanence as a benchmark for the Christian life, for Christian discipleship, for Christian community, tend to miss something, in part because they tend to be afraid to let the opposite experience/thinking into their lives lest there be a diluting of their thinking/experience.

“Those people need more thinking.” “Those people need more heart.” Isn’t that the way it often is? And there is usually no convincing otherwise. I could say that much of this can be traced to our inherent make-ups and temperaments, and despite protestations to the contrary I’d be right to some degree. I could say that much of this is related to our experience with others, including negative experiences, after all, who hasn’t had an Aunt Sally who was affective and also very unstable, or an Uncle John was insisted on absolute truth yet treated his family like serfs?

Perhaps once again we should return to Jesus Christ and lay our proclivities at His feet? At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, the only place we are going to find holistic unity in thought and heart is the wonderful and glorious Person of Jesus Christ – who alone can teach us to worship God in Spirit and in truth – in a way that acknowledges no fallen dichotomy, but which instead rejoices in both a new heaven and a new earth. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

C.S. Lewis on Pantheism

For the past two or three years I’ve been reading The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. (Is it possible that in the future there will be a volume titled, The Collected Emails of So and So?)

I’ve been in the third and final volume for awhile. One of the reasons for this is that I don’t want it to end – I’m like this with some books, and I can be especially like this with a series of books, when I get to the last one I feel as if I’m nearing the end of a delightful vacation and I don’t want it to end. I learned the other day that Lewis could be like this; on December 7, 1953, he wrote to Tolkien:

Dear Tollers,
I have been trying – like a boy with a bit of toffee – to take Vol. 1 slowly, [Lewis is referring to the Lord of the Rings] to make it last, but appetite overmastered me and it’s now finished: far too short for me. The spell does not break

On December 10, 1953, Lewis wrote to R.B. Gribbon about a book by D.E. Harding, The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth. Within the letter Lewis observes:

Of course H’s [Harding’s] God is immanent in all things: but it is not the affirmation of immanence, but the denial of transcendence that constitutes Pantheism.

Lewis’s observation struck me on a couple of fronts. The first was that it was yet another example of how my mind can accept a definition without analyzing and testing it. I find this to be especially true of propositions and definitions presented to me in my early years.

In the present instance, sometime in my teenage years I was taught that Pantheism is the belief that God is all things and that all things are God. That is a fair enough definition of Pantheism. The thing is, that while I’ve certainly encountered and responded to Pantheism in many forms, particularly its New Age forms, that I don’t know that I’ve ever hit the nail on the head the way Lewis did in this letter. I’ve certainly expressed what Lewis wrote when I’ve responded to Pantheism and the New Age, but where it has taken me a few strikes of the hammer to make my point he did in one strike.

I could argue many things about the warped immanence of Pantheism, but I don’t think anything along that line brings the subject into focus the way Lewis’s succinct statement does – yes, there are problems with the form of immanence found in Pantheism, but the biggest problem with Pantheism is the denial of transcendence.

While I had made it to first or second base, Lewis circled the base paths and crossed home plate. Better yet, in cricket parlance, while I was scoring ones in my overs, Lewis was scoring sixes.

To be continued….