Christianity is a physical faith. We are created and exist as physical beings. Our God took on human flesh. His real, touchable body was broken on the tree…for us. That was real blood that poured out. He rose from the dead physically, and so will we. The age-old opposite of the physicality of Christianity is Gnosticism. Learn what it is. It is the most enduring and versatile heresy there is. Gnosticism has always been around, taking different forms, but always threatening to undermine the physical nature of reality.
How does it surface in our world today? In several ways (think online ‘church’) but most commonly in our culture’s understanding of sexuality. Sexuality is no longer rooted in our bodies, but in our ‘hearts’. Andy Crouch has written a great column which plainly, compassionately lays out the task ahead of the Christian Church today: To affirm that bodies matter, that matter matters.
Sex Without Bodies – Andy Crouch, Christianity Today
My family and I just returned from being away doing ministry for a couple of weeks. I immediately was asked to sit on a committee out at my old seminary. It was an interesting meeting but one of my old professors gifted me with a new definition of leadership. Are you ready? Here it is:
Successful leadership is disappointing people at a rate that they can safely absorb.
Sarah and I just watched the documentary Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry the other night. We both thought it was a great movie. Ai Wei Wei is a Chinese conceptual artist. His work is very worthy of appreciation but he is equally well know for his anti-government activism. Pondering the film has made me admire him more and wonder what his example means for me as a Christian.
Ai Wei Wei Doesn’t Give A Crap. One of the things that is most impressive about this guy is how fearless he comes across. He has consistently withstood the bad authority of the Chinese government and their unjust limitations of freedom. The government in the doc is shown to be petty, capricious, and fearful of people’s resistance. Bullies are often that way. Ai Wei Wei does not seem to care one but what they can do to him. At certain points he goes against Chine knowing that he will lose the fight. He does so anyways because he knows it is right. He is willing to oppose a more powerful opponent not because he thinks he can win but because he can’t stand to give in.
Ai Wei Wei Really Gives A Crap. He is also portrayed as one who deeply cares about injustice. He also cares about other people. One of his most combative works is to document the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who were victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He really does care. At one point he denies being an optimist. It is because of his pessimism that he must live in hope, he says, because if he does not speak and act, it will get worse.
Ai Wei Wei’s Courage Isn’t Perfect, But There Is One Whose Courage Is. This guy is certainly no perfect saviour. His personal morality is far from exemplary. He is a little too crude for my taste – he seems almost addicted to the middle finger. But there is something in his very imperfect courage that inspires. There is also something in his imperfect courage that is lacking. In last Sunday’s sermon, I said that Christ had the very best kind of courage – He cared deeply for others but did not care what others thought of Him. He was both admired and bore reproach. He had the perfect courage for both. Seeing the courage of a very imperfect man – like AWW – can make us the lack of our own. Seeing the courage of a perfect One, even more so. The Gospel -Good News- is not that we must become courageous on our own power. It is that we can not but as we look to One who had perfect courage, we are made more like Him. As Christians we must be ready to resist some aspects of the world around us, to care about people deeply, to suffer shame/discomfort for our faith, to do so even as it costs us dearly. Ai Wei Wei, by God’s common grace, may serve as an example even though he is a non-Christian and his courage is for different things. But it takes Jesus, the Courageous One, to give us the courage we need.
What this guy says, He means.
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
-Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-26 NKJV
Didn’t this guy used to drum for the Police?
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard
Augustine by Champaigne
(that’s his own burning heart he’s holding; what does your heart burn for?)
St Augustine is one of my all-time heroes. Not just because he wrote more about the Christian faith than anyone else in history (Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther come in 2nd and 3rd). Not just because he helped lay down the foundation for Western civilization. Not just because he had one awesome conversion story. I love him and his words because he was a man on a life-long journey for more of the Lord. His heart was truly ‘restless until it found its rest in Thee’.
Often people today have the idea that the journey counts more than the destination. While its true that the search is of value, it loses its wonder when there is nothing being searched for. This is true even when the destination seems to be, at least in this world, always beyond us – like our search for God.
Harold J. Gardiner is a Jesuit scholar whom I know nothing about except that he wrote the Introduction to my old copy of Augustine’s Confessions. What he has to say about Augustine’s search for God is profound:
A fallacy is afoot today that the search is more important than the goal. If only a man has “integrity” enough to keep searching, to question his environment, his convictions, his thought patterns, it is said, he is a man of “good will” or a searcher for the truth. Much is true, of course, in this attitude. One must search, question, reject, synthesize. But all this is vanity of vanities unless one is utterly convinced that there is a goal to be reached, a truth to be found, a haven to welcome the weary, if intrepid, sailor. Augustine does not, as no rational being should, glorify the search above the goal, the mastery of the storm above the serenity of the port. He attained because he knew that something was not only attainable, but winning, attractive, lovable, fulfilling. That something was God, Whom, if he knew “too late”, he knew and loved so well that he more than made up for the lateness.