Belief Because of Beauty

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-7-51-05-amDoes beauty lead us to God?  The worship songs of the Bible certainly seem to say so. The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)  Imagine standing in a field at night, taking in the immensity of the starry sky.  Perhaps you don’t need to imagine that much, most of us have experienced such a thing. We “feel small” in the face of such an experience of beautiful immensity. That smallness is akin to what we might feel before an immense God. it is easy to travel the distance between that numinous experience to belief that God must be.

Does experience of beauty serve as an evidence for God?  The philosopher Peter Kreeft calls this the “aesthetic argument” for the existence of God. He expresses it, perhaps with some cheek, as:  “the music of Bach exists.  Therefore God exists.”  And so not just natural beauty serves as a signpost along the way to God. The beauty of human creations can also do so. Of course, like all arguments and evidences for God, they do not convince all. But because beauty hits us so deeply, it may be the most unsettling for those who would rather not believe. In a recent book on Bach, author Michael Marissen examines the composer’s own deep devotion to God. Marrissen admits that he himself is an agnostic, but adds that when in the presence of Bach’s music he can never be a “comfortable agnostic.”

“I have no idea where I am going…”

Another does of wisdom for the coming New Year.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Thoughts in Solitude

New Year’s Wisdom – the Unknown Path

I suppose I will be resurrecting this blog.  Call it a New Year’s resolution.

 

As I am facing a New Year (and a major move in my life) I’ve needed the sort of wisdom articulated below by René Castellano.  Life has been in flux and great uncertainty in life has been the theme of the last half year of my life.  A new pastoral position, moving to a new city across the country, and all my perceived plans having to fall to the ground and die…   But that is a good place to meet the Lord and follow him wherever he leads.  Though he seldom (never?) shows the destination. Following a known God down an unknown path.

rene castellanoGod only illumines the next step, not long distances ahead. We would prefer God to illumine the way for a long distance ahead, but the flickering light of the Word shows only the next step. God called Abram, “Leave Ur. I will then tell you where you are going.” To Paul the Spirit said, “Go to Macedonia. I will tell you there what next.” The risen Lord said to His disciples, “Go to Galilee. You will find me there.” It is humbling for the pilgrim to not know what is over the hill, to have no more foreknowledge than the next person. But this is a part of our spiritual growth: to take small steps without knowing what is ahead but trusting God to bring good out of evil.

René Castellano (1914-2011), Cuban theologian

via Thomas Oden’s memoir A Change of Heart

What your Mother gave you

Remember to thank God for your mother, and all the things she gave you.

M is for the many things she gave me.
O is for the other things she gave me.
T is for the things she gave me.
H is for her things, which she gave me.
E is for everything she gave me.
R is for the rest of the things, which she gave me.
-Bob Dylan

Yes, that really is Bob Dylan's mother on stage with him and Joan Baez.

Yes, that really is Bob Dylan’s mother on stage with him and Joan Baez.

Why I’m glad Jesus is gone

ascension

The Good News of Jesus is that He is crucified for sinners, dead, buried, and resurrected after three days.  But it is not complete without the fact that He has ascended to heaven.  The Ascension is an often overlooked piece of the Gospel account.  Not only has it given birth to many, slightly-comical, old paintings of Christ’s feet disappearing into the clouds; it also is source for incredible encouragement and faith.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  Acts 1:9
We may not think of it as being a good thing that Jesus is gone from us. He left the disciple in order that His Spirit might be poured out.  He is also now in the presence of the Father, praying for us – which for me, is one of the most comforting thoughts.

But there is a reason that seems especially encouraging lately, given that it seems we are living in such discouraging times.

Jesus is raised up into heaven, far above all other powers and rulers, with all things under his feet.  That means demagogues, and ugly politics are under his feet.  So if the news cycle has got you down, remember!  Jesus is above it all.  And he is in charge and ruling over all things.  No matter how chaotic and unpleasant the world around us may be – He is over all.

That is Good News.

 

"see ya"

“see ya”

Religions are all the same? Not so, said Prince

 

Prince (1958 – 2016)

“What’s that?  All religions come from the same place?”                             Prince (1958 – 2016),  musician, pop legend, philosopher of religion???

 

Wisdom can come from anywhere.  Such as it is with music legend Prince, who died yesterday. Prince was very deservedly hailed as a musical genius and cultural icon.  I remember Diamonds and Pearls and the Love Symbol Album dropping when I was but a lad and being amazed.  He was also incredibly sexually explicit in many respects.  Religiously, he was a Jehovah’s witness – a heterodox sect far outside the mainstream of Christian Faith.  So on those two points I wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow him. But even someone who may be wrong about so much may have incredible insight.

In an interview give a few years ago , he was challenged on the contradiction between his sexually charged career and his strange but seemingly sincere religious life.  Joel Miller at the time picked up on an interesting moment in the interview and it’s worth reflecting again upon it. Prince pushes back on the interviewer and asks:

“First of all, do you see a difference in religions?”

The interviewer gives a typically post-modern response:  I say no, suggesting all religions are based on the same idea and then corrupted by their human leaders.   This is such a common sentiment that it is almost boring to hear. It may be considered disrespectful or even less “spiritual” to acknowledge difference. “It’s all the same” is the refrain of the spiritual-not-religious mindset. Even though some may sincerely believe in it, I wonder how many have actually thought it through

Prince is apparently unhappy with the answer. Before he dodges the entire issue and changes the conversation, he lays down a simple statement:

“If one religion believes Christ is the king, and another doesn’t, then there’s a difference in religions.”

Maybe Prince was just trying to deflect the pressure she was placing on his incongruous life. And certainly the Christ described by his JW beliefs is not the accurate New Testament Jesus. But there’s a great nugget of truth in his words. If one religion says something is A and the next says it is Not A, then they can’t both be right.  They can both be wrong. Or one of them can be right and the other wrong.

So, yesterday the world lost one of its greatest guitarists and music legends.  And, even though he may have been confused on any number of other issues, someone who could think clearly on at least one point.

 

 

(HT:  Joel J. Miller)