How Will Anyone Ever Know?

There’s a hymn I really, really hate.

Actually, there are several. I hate “On Eagle’s Wings” (ELW 787 for you ELCA Lutherans out there). I mean I loathe this hymn. I has an awful melody that’s impossible to sing well, and its tawdry sentimentality unsettles my bowels. I understand the lyrics are drawn from Isaiah, and some of the images from psalms, but it’s still a piece of dreck that I do not ever want to hear again. Continue reading

Where They Walk Over Sainte Therese

Dwight Longenecker over at The Imaginative Conservative makes an interesting comparison between Friedrich Nietzsche and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, noting the two thinkers — the late 19th century’s most famous atheist and the young nun who would later become one of the era’s best-known saints and only Doctor of the Church — were actually closer to each other than either could imagine.

Or, I suspect, many of their supporters. Continue reading

The Lord God’s Awful, No Good, Very Bad Marriage to Israel (aka The Church)

“I can believe that God is good, but I will not believe in a God that is nice.”

So said (more or less) a friend of mine who isn’t much of a believer at all. But I share the sentiment. We moderns have done something worse than made God all-good — we’ve made God all-nice. (Liberal Protestants especially want a nice God, a God who somehow does nothing troubling or violent while at the same time challenging and toppling every prejudice and power structure.) “The God I know would never command his people to do that,” a seminary colleague once said of one of the nastier bits of the Old Testament — specifically, Deuteronomy 7, where God commands Israel to show no mercy and exterminate or expel the Canaanites. Continue reading

A Note to the Supporters of Josh Duggar…

For those of you who are coming out in support of Josh Duggar — that is, forgiving what he has done and accepting his very public repentance — and yet still base your opposition to homosexuality on texts in Leviticus, just remember this:

You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. (Leviticus 18:9 ESV)

And this:

If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 20:17 ESV)

I await Josh Duggar’s expulsion and exile. I await the young women’s punishment as well. There is no statute of limitations here. And if we take Leviticus seriously, forgiveness is not an option.

The Left Cheek Too

And still more from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

The same Abba Macarius while he was in Egypt discovered a man who owned a beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius’ goods. So he came up to the thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him off in great peace of soul, saying, “We have brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:7) “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; bless be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

This is serious business, this matter of faith, of following Jesus when he tells the disciples and the crowds in Matthew 5:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. ’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)

I wouldn’t have that kind of faith. I suspect most Christians wouldn’t. But just remember, some followers of Jesus have taken non-resistance, and this command to give up everything, very seriously.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22 ESV)

It is Better to Bleed

This, this I like. Again, from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Abba Longinus said to Abba Acacias: “A woman knows she has conceived when she no longer loses any blood. So it is with the soul, she knows she has conceived the Holy Spirit when the passions stop coming out of her. But as long as one is held back in the passions, how can one dare to believe one is sinless? Give blood and receive the Spirit!”

In this, I am reminded of Martin Luther’s admonition to Philip Melanchthon in 1521:

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

You Must First Learn to Live With Others

From my sporadic reading of The Sayings of The Desert Fathers:

One day Abba Longinus questioned Abba Lucius about three thoughts saying first, “I want to go into exile.” The old man said to him, “If you cannot control your tongue, you not be an exile anywhere. Therefore control your tongue here, and you will be an exile.”

Next, he said to him, “I wish to fast.” The old man replied, “Isaiah said, ‘If you bend your neck like a rope or a bullish that is not the fast I will accept [Isaiah 58]; but rather, control your evil thoughts.”’

He said to him the third time, “I wish to flee from men.” The old man replied, “If you have not first of all lived rightly with men, you will not be able to live rightly in solitude.”