Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why don't they believe? (Probably because of stuff like this)

Why are people so skeptical of Christian truth claims? Maybe it's because we regularly demonstrate that we'll believe literally anything as long as it appears to support our worldview.

If you have a bunch of Christian friends on Facebook, it's possible that you've seen a certain story floating around in the last few days, with the unassuming headline:


"Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle"



Imagine this: You have a friend who you've been trying to lead to Christ. You've talked with them, argued with them, debated with them. They're actually coming around, because they see that you do have something different about you.

Then they see this on your Facebook page. They see you trumpeting it as indisputable evidence of the truth of your beliefs. And they think, "Maybe this is it. Maybe it really is true." 

So they click on it, and read it. And they think, "This is HUGE. Why haven't I seen this anywhere else?" So they do some digging. Maybe they click on the Disclaimer. Maybe they just ask snopes. Either way, they will realize that it's a hoax: More than that, it's not even a clever hoax. They'll realize that it's a fake news story, posted on a fake news site, that advertises its fakery on the actual site.

And they'll realize that you fell for it hook, line, and sinker. They'll realize that you were so eager to post something that verified your view of the world that you couldn't even bother to confirm that it was true, when doing so would have taken you five seconds

And if you can't be trusted to verify something that simple, to expend that little effort to confirm the truth of what you're telling your friends...then maybe they'll wonder why they should trust you about Jesus at all. If you're so willing to believe anything that confirms your worldview, how do they know your faith isn't just another example?


So here's the point: One of my friends posted this story, along with a question: Why are people so skeptical of Christian claims? His hypothesis, if I recall correctly, was that they simply didn't want to believe: That they were upset with God and didn't want to admit they were living in sin.

I present an alternate theory: They're skeptical of Christian claims because of course they areWho wouldn't be skeptical of claims made by the same people who post fake news as real news, who can't be bothered to take five seconds to research something before championing it and holding it up as a beacon of truth? Why should they believe our testimony, when we show absolutely no discernment in matters of truth and fiction? 

When we do stuff like this, we're actively hurting the cause of Christ, because we're showing our atheist friends that when it comes to our worldview, we'll believe anything. We're literally confirming the validity of their skepticism. We're actually telling them, "Release your skepticism and allow yourself to consider Christianity, and you'll end up like this, unable to discern between truth and lies, believing anything so long as it confirms your worldview."


Disclaimer: I've seen smart, intelligent people post this story. That posting represents a blind-spot, certainly, but it is most definitely not an indictment of their overall intelligence or discernment. However, that is how it will be seen by an unbelieving friend, who actually takes the time to look into it. And we need to cut that crap out.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why I care about Calvinism

A week or two ago, I mentioned a post I was working on to my friend James, about a particular aspect of Calvinism (haven't published it yet). He didn't comment on the subject of the post itself: instead, he just said, "Very few people are so fixed on one topic as you are on Calvinism."

I paused for a second, then told him that I thought I had actually been restraining myself. It had been a while since publishing a post that even mentions it: The last one was in July (nearly two months ago). But it's true: Calvinism is often on my mind. So after that, I told James a story about WHY it's so important to me. 

I had a friend (who will be referred to as "they", to preserve their anonymity). And while we didn't talk much at first, this friend began messaging me over Facebook one semester. We would have long discussions, most often on theology and their personal struggles. They'd been exposed to Calvinism and embraced it, and in my opinion, it was killing them. 

I had already believed that Calvinism was wrong. But through those conversations, I became convinced that it was dangerous: That it was a spiritual poison that could kill and maim. (Please note that I'm not saying that individual Calvinists are poisonous, or even unChristian: See this post on how Calvinists are better than their theology.)

Calvinists believe that God chose specific people before the foundation of the world to save them, and that God chose everyone else before the foundation of the world to damn them (and Calvin himself says that those who attempt to do away with the second part "do so ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation” (Institutes, 3.23.1). So we have the Elect and the Reprobate. 

Now, my friend was addicted to something. And every time they succumbed to that addiction, they grew a little more worried that they weren't Elect at all. They began to be worried that they were Reprobate, that they were damned from all eternity to sin and sin again, to be helpless before the sin until they once again grew to love the sin and revel in it. After all, where was the Irresistible Grace? Why, when they looked for grace, did they instead find that it was SIN that seemed so irresistible? Was this the experience of an Elect individual? Or that of a Reprobate?

It broke my heart. And it happened again and again. My friend didn't doubt whether they were saved...they began to wonder whether they could EVER be saved, whether the possibility was even real. 

And according to Calvinism, there was no comfort I could give them. If I was a consistent Calvinist, all I could have done would be to agree with them that they definitely MIGHT be reprobate, and that there was nothing they could do about it. 

In the face of their questioning, all I could have done is to say with Calvin, "All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation" (3.21.5). I could have told them that there was definitely some merit to their concern, and that they might be preordained to eternal damnation. Better cross your fingers and hope for the best!

In the face of their sinning, all I could have told them is, "As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will" (1.17.1). That is, all I could have told them was God was not only allowing them to fall into sin, BUT WAS ACTUALLY MAKING IT HAPPEN.

In the face of their religious feeling, and their apparent desire to not sin, I could have told them that MIGHT be evidence of their election...but to be completely honest with them, I would have also been forced to tell them that "Experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect. so that even in their own judgment they do not in any way differ from the Elect... because the Lord, to render them more convicted and inexcusable, steals into their minds to the extent that his goodness may be tasted without the Spirit of Adoption" (3.2.11). 

In other words, I would have been forced to tell my friend that even when they were convinced that they were Elect, it could have been Jesus just messing with their head so he could damn them even further. And furthermore, to be completely honest with them, I would have had to tell them that this could happen at any time...that even if they recovered, on any given day they might wake up to find that the goodness of the Lord had been taken from them, and that Jesus had been playing a trick on them all along. 

(If that didn't make you throw up in your mouth a little, I don't know what to tell you.)

Obviously, I am not now, and was not then, Calvinist. So I wasn't limited like that. I could tell them that God didn't want them to sin (in ANY sense of the words "want", "ordain", "design," or any other words that Calvinists use to weasel out of it), and hadn't set up the universe in such a way as to make it unavoidable. I could tell them that God definitely had not damned them before the foundation of the world. And I could tell them that salvation was even then within their grasp, that God was ready and willing to help. 

They got better, and I thank God for it. But that convinced me that Calvinism is dangerous. 

Being a consistent Calvinist - one who actually followed Calvin's teachings - would have required me to tell my friend that it was a distinct possibility that God sincerely, genuinely desired to damn them in particular; that God could be irresistibly acting to bring that damnation about; that God would derive pleasure from that eternal damnation; and that he would be doing it for his glory. That was the good news that I could have offered my friend in their addiction and trials. And I'm scared of what might have happened if I had offered them that gospel. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Vicious as snakes, and foolish as pigeons

"Make up lies about those who (maybe?) persecute you, or at least believe the lies that others tell. Find things to be offended at, and shout your indignation to the heavens. Be proud of your "Christian heritage", and seek out those who might be offended by it. If possible, so far as it depends on you, create conflict wherever you can, because offending people and being offended by others is the only mark of a true Christian. If your enemy says anything at all, don't hesitate to take it out of context and use it to attack him, for by doing so you will encourage others to take offense and do the same. Do not overcome liberalism with liberalism, but by sharing offensive, one-sided facebook posts that would have taken you 15 seconds to research."

Romans 12:14-21, American Popular Version

Holy crap, is Facebook saddening sometimes. The most recent example? Obama is thanking the mosque that beheaded someone! And for a more classic flavor, he shouldn't even be president in the first place, because he was a foreign exchange student! I've seen those and innumerable others on my Facebook, all from presumably well-meaning Christians who just want to get the word out.

But neither of them are true. And IT TAKES LITERALLY FIFTEEN SECONDS TO RESEARCH IT. Here's the foreign exchange student thing. And here's the mosque thing.

In fact, let's talk about the mosque thing real quick, since that's what I've seen most recently from several FB friends, all of them expressing shock that Obama could actually sink that low, as to thank people who beheaded a US citizen! It's terrible! It's unbelievable.

YES. Yes, it IS unbelievable. Because the truth is, the "thank-you" speech was referencing community service that the mosque had done, following a tornado in the area in 2013. It was a speech scheduled far in advance. Unfortunately, the recipients of that speech happened to be very loosely connected with a man who violently beheaded someone - and by "loosely connected", I mean the man had attended the mosque a few times over the course of several months.

Did Obama send a thank-you speech to the mosque? Yes he did. Was that mosque populated - dare I say - by Muslims? Indeed it was. And did a terrorist attend that mosque a few times, without getting involved with the mosque to a greater degree? Yes. All of those things are true. But it does not add up to "OUTRAGEOUS: Obama Sends THANK-YOU Letter to Oklahoma Beheader’s Mosque." Such a reading of events - and such a willingness to accept that reading of events, without seeking the truth - is not just lazy: It is dishonest. It is unfair. It is an outright rejection of our Christian calling to love and charity.

This isn't a political post, guys. This isn't about politics, policies, or any other polis-words.  It's about how we engage with all that. Remember that "verse" I opened with? Well, here's the real version:

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Romans 12:14-21

When I look at what a LOT of my Christian friends are posting on Facebook, I don't see ANY of that.

I don't see us blessing our enemies: I see us cursing and ridiculing them, proud in our knowledge that we alone are right.

I don't see us striving to live in harmony with others: I see us looking for ways to offend.

I don't see us living peaceably: I see us finding any and every way to be offended.

We are gullible. We eagerly share and re-post that which we WANT to be true, without any regard for whether it actually IS true. We use Facebook as a weapon, to ridicule our enemies and shame those who don't do the same (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Picture of a Bible that begins with "97% won't repost this..."). We are quick to anger, quick to assume the worst, and slow to seek the truth.

This should not be. We are to be both wise as serpents, and innocent as doves, But right now, many of us are neither: We are as vicious as snakes, and as foolish as pigeons. We want to think that people are offended at Christian songs, even when they aren't. And we want to think that people are offended at saluting the flag (sorry, can't link Facebook memes), even though they aren't. We want to think that we, and we alone, have discovered the fact that Obummer is a gay-loving Muslim monkey from Turbanistan and probably eats a Christian baby for breakfast every morning...but we really haven't

So knock it off. See your opponents as people before you see them as obstacles, and treat them accordingly (it's amazing what that one thing will do). But if you want something concrete and simple, do some DAMN research before you "share" or "like" that next Facebook post from The Blaze or your favorite conservative talk show host. Take just 15 seconds, google it, and if there's a single article in the first few results that seems to say something different than the post you want to share, READ IT.

And if you don't have time to read it? If you don't have time to actually confirm the truth of what you're about to post? Then you probably shouldn't be posting it in the first place.

 Don't be gullible. Don't be happy to be offended. Be both wise and innocent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chesterton Medley - Books, Part 4

Been a while since I've done one of these, but it's time for "10 Influential Books," Part 4, Parts 1, 2, and 3 here.

I'd already done something on Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, before I'd put together this list (full list at the bottom). But I cheated, and included "Everything else by Chesterton" as my Number 2. So that's today. Because the thing is, Chesterton has been SO influential in my life. From big things like my view of adversity, to smaller things like my take on tipping, Chesterton has impacted so many different aspects of my life. So if you haven't read any of these, read at least one. And if you've read one, read another.

Introduction to the Book of Job: First of all, this isn't even a book: It's just a few short pages, so there's literally no excuse not to drop whatever you're doing and READ IT RIGHT NOW. Seriously, go and do that: I'll wait.

In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton calls Job "one of the colossal cornerstones of the world," and that definitely comes through in this introduction. It is one of the most interesting books in the world, according to Chesterton, and immensely important: It is about "the desire to know what is, and not merely what seems." It is the only book in the Old Testament that questions, not whether God is able to rule over humanity, not whether it is possible for God to sacrifice our desires and even our lives, but whether it is right and good that God do so. There really isn't a whole lot I can say to "summarize" it...you really do need to read it.

     Memorable line:

"Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."



Manalive: This was the first Chesterton book I'd ever read. It's short, relatively simple, and a very fun read: If you're looking for an intro to Chesterton that won't take much time or effort, this is it. It was the book for our "practice" session during Torrientationm and I'll tell you this: I sucked at it. I can't tell you too much without spoiling the whole thing, but I can tell you that the book demonstrates that true Christian contentment is active, not passive. This book showed me that passivity leads not to contentment, but to stagnation: But being truly content with what you have is an activity, something you must actively participate in.

Contentment is not a lesser pleasure, not something to be placed under the initial "infatuation" stage in terms of strength. It is not stagnation, a mere willingness to experience or endure what you experienced or endured the day before. It is shining, living and active and vibrant...but also something that must be cultivated and tended. True Christian contentment is not to "settle" for what you have, to "take the world as you find it"...it is to make MORE of the world than what you find in it.

     Memorable line: 

""Moon," said Arthur Inglewood, rather huskily, "you mustn't be so bitter about it. Everyone has to take the world as he finds it; of course one often finds it a bit dull—"

"That fellow doesn't," said Michael decisively; "I mean that fellow Smith. I have a fancy there's some method in his madness. It looks as if he could turn into a sort of wonderland any minute by taking one step out of the plain road. Who would have thought of that trapdoor? Who would have thought that this cursed colonial claret could taste quite nice among the chimney-pots? Perhaps that is the real key of fairyland. Perhaps Nosey Gould's beastly little Empire Cigarettes ought only to be smoked on stilts, or something of that sort. Perhaps Mrs. Duke's cold leg of mutton would seem quite appetizing at the top of a tree.""



The Ball and the Cross: An atheist duels with a Catholic across England, while the entire country conspires to stop the duel from taking place. If this were a movie, it'd be a buddy movie where the buddies crack jokes, go on adventures....and pause every couple of days to try to kill each other. A "peacemaker" who tries to stop them only ends up convincing them of the rightness of their fight, while a madman who encourages them to kill each other forces them to rethink their motives. And there's even a little romance thrown in!

This is signature Chesterton. While this book (like Manalive) is incredibly funny, the real meat is found in the conversations between the Catholic MacIan, and the atheist Turnbull. Both of them care passionately about their faith (or lack of it), and both are bewildered by the refusal of the modern world to take either of them seriously. It is an age of "tolerance," which translates to an age of apathy: This enrages both participants. Turnbull recognizes that if Christianity is not true, it is a blight that needs to be wiped from the face of the earth, while MacIan recognizes that if it IS true, then it is of the utmost importance.

     Memorable line: Tougher to narrow down than Manalive, but one of my personal favorites, from the very beginning, is...
""Wherever and whenever I meet that man," and he pointed to the editor of The Atheist, "whether it be outside this door in ten minutes from now, or twenty years hence in some distant country, wherever and whenever I meet that man, I will fight him. Do not be afraid. I will not rush at him like a bully, or bear him down with any brute superiority. I will fight him like a gentleman; I will fight him as our fathers fought. He shall choose how, sword or pistol, horse or foot. But if he refuses, I will write his cowardice on every wall in the world. If he had said of my mother what he said of the Mother of God, there is not a club of clean men in Europe that would deny my right to call him out. If he had said it of my wife, you English would yourselves have pardoned me for beating him like a dog in the market place.""


Orthodoxy: This is it: the big one. This is Chesterton's account of his own journey towards Christianity. Specifically, it focuses on his rational and reasoning: Why he believes that Christianity is not only the best practical philosophy for living life, but also the most true.

The need for "romance" (that is, adventure), the insufficiency of materialism, the marvelousness of the world...it covers lots of things. But one of the most striking is the Christian ability to keep seeming opposites side by side, without ever mixing them. Celibacy and marriage, pacifism and just battle, proper pride (that is, a recognition of our status as images and children of God) and proper humility...Chesterton says, "It has kept them side by side like two strong colours, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink."

But possibly the most striking is the very end, where he speaks of the living Church. And that brings me to...

    Memorable line: 

"When your father told you, walking about the garden, that bees stung or that roses smelt sweet, you did not talk of taking the best out of his philosophy. When the bees stung you, you did not call it an entertaining coincidence. When the rose smelt sweet you did not say "My father is a rude, barbaric symbol, enshrining (perhaps unconsciously) the deep delicate truths that flowers smell." No: you believed your father, because you had found him to be a living fountain of facts, a thing that really knew more than you; a thing that would tell you truth to-morrow, as well as to-day...

This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden."

Chesterton. Read him. Love him. Get all his books for free on Gutenberg.org. Mackenzie out!




1: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

2: (Everything else by Chesterton: Manalive, Orthodoxy, The Ball and the Cross)

3: On the Unity of Christ by Cyril of Alexandria

4: The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country by Karl Barth

5: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

6: CS Lewis section (Space Trilogy, Chron. of Narnia, Abolition of Man, Till We Have Faces, The Great Divorce)

7: The book of Job

8: The book of Ecclesiastes

9: The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman

10: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Death of God - What It Is and What It Isn't

I remember being in session one day, with Dr. Sanders. We were talking about the Incarnation, and what it means for us to say that "God died" in the death of Jesus. And he said something so incredibly simple that I'm amazed that I haven't heard it since.

I can't remember his exact wording, but essentially, it boiled down to this: When we say that God, as Jesus, died, we mean no less - but also no more - than that the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, experienced the human phenomenon that is known as "death."

That's what we mean. And this stands against attempts to either minimize or over-emphasize what happened on the cross.

Jesus died. The God-Man, the being that is at once fully God and fully man, experienced death. The Son of God's spirit was separated from his body. The body of the second Person of the Trinity ceased to live.

That is death, and he experienced it in its fullness. He didn't "kind of" die. And it is especially and particularly not the case that the "human half" experienced death while the "God half" did not. To go down that road is to split Christ into two, to commit some sort of Nestorianism or Arianism. It is, eventually, to wind up with a Savior who is neither God enough to accomplish anything, nor man enough to matter.

But it works the other way as well. Because there are some who, desiring to emphasize the greatness of God's sacrifice and self-giving, will talk of the death of God as some sort of divine death, a deicide, even a separation from his divinity. Such speakers will talk of the Trinity being broken, even a temporary eradication or cessation of the second Person.

That did not happen either. The second Person did not somehow cease to exist or become not-God, because none of that is included in what "death" is. None of that is included in what the Bible means when it talks about death. Remember: The Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ accomplish what they accomplish because it's God sharing in our experiences...not God sharing in some super-special God experiences.

This is important to remember, if for no other reason than avoiding confusion during Easter! But it's also important for another reason: That in desiring to give praise to God, we might actually commit blasphemy. Take it away, Karl Barth!

"The more seriously we take this, the stronger becomes the temptation to approximate to the view of a contradiction and conflict in God Himself. Have we not to accept this view if we are to do justice to what God did for man and what He took upon Himself when He was in Christ, if we are to bring out the mystery of His mercy in all its depth and greatness?"

Barth rhetorically suggests that if we are to really grasp what God did for us, we must take Christ's death, his cry of dereliction, as far as possible: Take it to the point of contradiction and conflict in God Himself! But, he continues, there is a danger in this.

"But at this point what is meant to be supreme praise of God can in fact become supreme blasphemy. God gives Himself, but He does not give Himself away. He does not give up being God in becoming a creature, in becoming man. He does not cease to be God."

And why is this important?

"If it were otherwise, if in [this condescension] He set Himself in contradiction with Himself, how could He reconcile the world with Himself? Of what value would His deity be to us if--instead of crossing in that deity the very real gulf between Himself and us--He left that deity behind Him in His coming to us, if ti came to be outside of Him as He because ours? What would be the value to us of His way into the far country if in the course of it He lost Himself?"

Here it is, in a nutshell: In dying, Jesus defeated death. He didn't lose Himself in it. He experienced the human phenomenon known as death, and in doing so he broke its power. (to loosely paraphrase Athanasius,he lured Death to him and then snapped his freaking neck). If you try to expand that, to make Jesus experience some sort of super-special God death, you aren't actually praising him: You'e naming him not-God.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The joys and glories of life

"If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, than any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you -- the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence...the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Our commonest expedient is to call it Beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.Wordsworth's expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering."

CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

It's rare for more than a day or two to go by without me remembering my college days with fondness - and that is especially true when my sister Kaley calls me up to tell me about her latest Torrey session, the latest book she's reading. It is a joy to hear of her enjoyment, and a greater joy to be able to talk about the things that Torrey students talk about with her. And after we hang up, my mind wanders back to the bygone days of yore.

And I remember so much. I remember grabbing dinner after every single session: Sometimes to continue the philosophy and theologizing of session, but often to merely extol the virtues of seasoned fries and Caf-made milkshakes. I remember Torrientation, and how I completely failed to realize that the people in my group would grow into some of the most amazing friends I can imagine. I remember arguing against Chesterton's Manalive because I was a fool who mistook stagnation for contentment, and I remember my Don Rags and that one time, late before I left my dorm, running through the rain with my billion-pound backpack bouncing on my shoulders, borrowed tie streaming in the wind.

I remember Plato Family Dinners, and proving to them that Anna was real, and not imaginary. I remember passing notes in session, with the solitary three guys sitting together in a sea of hostile women, and Satan with his nose pressed against the glass, looking on at the family at Christmas. I remember going home to take Anna out on a date, and getting a call from my Plato Family informing me that while they had missed me at Freshman Initiatives, they had set a bottle of Dr. Pepper there to house my spirit, which they subsequently drank. And it must have been after the first Thor movie that me, Kyle, and Daniel dubbed ourselves the Warriors Three, with the addition of the Lady Steph.

It would be literally impossible to list them all, with any attempt inevitably followed up a moment later with "And then, of course, there's...".  And after that, there's the non-Torrey memories, which could fill another post...the wing runs, the movie nights, the Brawl and Halo and Guitar Hero and Nerf Wars and the people who made it all so awesome...

And there are days when I almost wish I could go back. There are days when I am in danger of committing the mistake that Lewis sees in Wordsworth: Of seeing this joy in my life and making it The Joy... But the friendship, the engagement, the family of Biola and Sigma Chi and Plato, was in fact a symbol, a memory of something I have yet to experience, of the great Joy still to come. And it is sweeter still because I know that those same people will be there as well.

But despite the almost, I never do wish it. Because when it comes to symbols of the ultimate reality, I'm living the best symbol there is. Being married to Anna is a greater joy, a greater happiness and companionship, than I had at Biola. And although it is not The Good, it is still a Good, and a great Good at that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Theology of the Sloppy Wet Kiss

Back in the day (read: Early Church history), the Song of Solomon was read purely as an allegory for Christ's love for the Church. Because of course it was.


Come on, Solomon. Get your crap together. 

In a Church culture that came dangerously close to vilifying sex and marriage altogether (and sometimes actually did that), there was really no other option. That sort of stuff was obviously waaaaay too graphic to actually be talking about sex. That would be super gross and weird (not to mention sinful!)! No, what it was really about was the relationship between Christ and his Church. Because...that makes it...less weird? I guess? Maybe?

In any case, they were wrong. Most scholars now see it as a pretty frank celebration of human sexuality in marriage, although you can still make the case for it also being allegorical for the passionate love Christ has for his Church.

And that brings me to the title of this post: Theology of the Sloppy Wet Kiss

It's taken from a line in the song, "How He Loves." (it's the one that goes "Oh, how he loves us" a lot). "But wait!" you say, because you speak out loud to yourself when reading posts on the internet. "I've heard that song a lot - like, a lot - and I've never heard the words "sloppy wet kiss." Well, that's because although the song was originally written by John Mark McMillan, it was popularized by David Crowder (of "The David Crowder Band"). And they changed the words

Originally, the bridge went like this: 

"And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss."

However, fearing (probably correctly) that the evangelical Christian world would absolutely lose their crap over the line, Crowder changed it to the much less "graphic" "unforseen kiss." 

Now, if you clicked that link up above (here it is again), you'll see that McMillan already wrote a post about this five years ago, but I didn't discover that until two minutes ago, so there's no point stopping now. So here it is:

There is nothing immature, or juvenile, or vulgar, or even irreverent in the idea of a sloppy wet kiss. In fact, as a married man, I can say without fear of retribution that they're kind of the best. Any sort of reservations or rejection is merely guilt by association. In and of itself, a sloppy wet kiss is good: It brings to mind feelings of passion, of union, of a love that won't stand on ceremony. Yes, it's messy...but then again, so was the cross. So was the Incarnation. So was this whole bloody rescue operation, ending with the triumph of triumphs and a wedding to put all other weddings to shame. 

And my point, I guess, is this. Even the Church Fathers, the ones who thought that sex was basically the worst, still understood the value of that kind of imagery when talking about Christ's love for his Bride. They still understood the value of the profound mystery that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 5:32, although they misunderstood the rest. And I wonder if maybe we've forgotten that. I wonder if we're sometimes in danger of sterilizing the Incarnation, sterilizing Christ and his Bride, and forgetting that when you get right down to it, it was really more of an action/adventure story with a romantic twist


PS: This, like many posts, was written entirely on a whim in the space of about 30 minutes, and may be poorly thought out. I guess we'll see in the morning.