Monday, December 18, 2006


I shouldn't be surprised to find agreement with a Franciscan priest, since St. Francis has long inspired me. Nor should I be surprised that an appeal to faith in mystery would express quite well something that I also believe.

NPR has been airing weekly essays in a series called This I Believe. Today's was another gem. It was called Utterly Humbled by Mystery by I was struck by this quote, "We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to mean its exact opposite.” Think about that for a minute; the contrast between the certitude of resolution (even about theological issues) and the nature of faith.

Father Rohr ends his essays with this profound paragraph:
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.

Musicians, storytellers, and artists of all types understand the value of mystery, it is their stock-in-trade. I also believe that the best preachers know this as well. As we try to prepare ourselves once again to peer into the lowly, dirty, cold and smelly stable to see if there really is a baby in that manger, may we all value mystery.

ADDENDUM: I discovered that Father Rohr is a Red Letter Christian when I visited Jim Wallis' God's Politics blog. Yet more reason to explain the kinship I felt with him. I also checked out his organization, Center for Action and Contemplation, a place I will definitely visit when I get to Albuquerque. Here is a wonderful prayer I found on their web site:

A Prayer for Prophets

“I will send them prophets,” the Wisdom of God says, “but you will kill them and afterwards build monuments to them.”

—Jesus according to Luke 11:49 (alternate translations)

God of the Great Gaze,
We humans prefer satisfying un-truth
To the Truth that is usually unsatisfying.
Truth is always too big for us,
And we are so small and afraid.

So you send us prophets and truth speakers
To open our eyes and ears to Your Big Picture.
Show us how to hear them, how to support them,
And how to interpret their wisdom.

Help us to trust that Your prophetic voice
May also be communicated through our words and actions.
May we practice a spirit of discernment
And a stance of humility,
So that Your Truth be spoken, not our own.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Prophet,
Whom we also killed and will always kill
In the name of our little truths.
We desire to share in Your Great Gaze.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Leg (or four) to Stand On

In an earlier post I alluded to the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a way to help grasp my understanding of scripture. The four sources Wesley cited for coming to theological conclusions were: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. I have to admit that I have not been Wesleyan in my theological development, rather that Wesley's quadrilateral has been a tool to help organize my theological thinking more or less "after the fact" (although I'm obviously never done developing my thinking).

After my radical break from a belief in scriptural inerrancy, I had to reintegrate the Bible into my beliefs. I realized that the most important check on my behavior, even when I believed in inerrancy, was the community of faith. By committing myself to walk with fellow Christians as they also struggle to find meaning and apply that to their daily lives that I am more likely to grow spiritually than if I were to lock myself in a room with my Bible. The application of Biblical truth to contemporary situations best happens in a group, not as individuals. If we are to take the Biblical image of the church as the Body of Christ seriously, then we must value all the input of all the members. Why should I expect to be the only person receiving God's revealed truth in scripture? Of course that is absurd. So the covenant community provides a check to any interpretation errors I may make influenced as my thinking will always be by my ego.

So when I learned that experience, both personal and communal, was a piece of the Wesleyan quadrilateral I felt an immediate resonance. I also resonated with the obvious inclusion of reason as a source. Our rational minds are wonderful gifts from God. I cannot imagine that God would expect us to use reason to improve our conditions in every area except in theology. Why should logic be excluded from the realm of the spiritual? In my personal experience, I recognize that the more I learn, the more I realize that I have yet to learn. The more I contemplate reality, the more I appreciate that it is filled with mystery. Reason and faith are not mutually exclusive. Indeed they each mutually enhance the other. But that is likely a topic for another post.

Finally, tradition is used to establish authority by every theological camp that I can think of. Even in the narrow confines of Fundamentalism there is the appeal to "the fundamentals." While the list of things considered to be fundamental is drawn from an interpretation of the Bible, it is not like there is a list to be found in a particular chapter and verse in scripture. No, that list comes as a result of reason being used to interpret the Bible and then passed along by tradition within the communal experience of the church.

The four legs of Wesley's quadrilateral are always at play in the lives of Christians who choose to affiliate with others gathered in churches. The differences between individuals and groups tends to be based on how much weight is placed on each leg. I doubt that any of us distribute the weight equally (certainly not all the time). For me, I'm biased toward the experience leg, specifically on the communal side. I don't throw out the Bible in this process, I just take the time to examine it with a variety of lenses.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another Dove in the Flock

I read this blog post from a kindred spirit over at God's Politics. You know this really might be a movement!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jim Wallis Speaks on Heartland w/ John Kasich

Nice exposure for Wallis, with the "typical banter" (as Wallis put it). What I want to know is why Kasich thinks that preachers should stay out of politics. Are some voices more legitimate than others? He seems to draw an interesting, somewhat arbitrary line where religion may speak to issues and where it can't.