Wednesday, April 22, 2009

God is not as small as my arguments

This morning my part of Florida is experiencing a welcome extension of Spring. Perfect walking weather for my morning jaunt with Scout labradoodle, and extra perfect "all the windows and doors wide open" temperatures that make me thankful that I get to work out of our home.

However, despite the wonders of Florida in April, I'm already missing the North Georgia mountains that I enjoyed so much over the weekend. The Wieuca Men's Ministry retreat would have been a deeply meaningful experience regardless of location. That said, I couldn't help but notice the mountains, the dogwoods, the lakes and the woods.

A friend who asks good questions recently challenged me vis-à-vis my statement "God is good." He thought, because I'd posted "God is good" along with a blog about the weekend retreat, that I reached the conclusion (that God is good) as a direct response to the beauty of the scenery.
  • "You say 'God is Good' when you feel good in a beautiful area. When you see a destroyed area right after a tsunami, is God still good?"
Fortunately, my evolving relationship with God is not dependent on one-dimensional thinking. If it was, then straight-line logic could easily dislodge my faith. In recent years there have been a number of best-selling books that promote what I call evangelical atheism. Both "The God Delusion" and "God is not Great: how religion poisons everything" rely on similar arguments.

It's fairly easy to appear reasonable in dismissing something (that you have already decided is false) if you first define it in terms you know in advance you can "prove" to be flawed. In debate this is called setting up a "straw man" that's then easy to topple. The technique is sophomoric at best.

Of course, many Christian apologists play the same game, and it looks no better from that side of the conversation. That's one of the reasons I've always shied away from using simple logic to either prove or disprove the deeper reality of my life of faith. All that debate demonstrates is the intellectual prowess of one side or the other. God does not need me to win arguments on God's behalf... God is much more interested in finding me faithful.

So, it's a beautiful day outside. Thank you, God, for the gift of this beautiful day. I'd also be thankful if it was 45 degrees and raining...

...There's this idea - something that I talk about at length in my new book (The Unmaking of a Part Time Christian, Upper Room Books, Sept 2009) - that considers the juxtaposition of eternity and time, the sacred and the mundane, the spiritual and the physical; there is an interface between what we know and what we do not know, chronos and kairos, natural and supernatural. Sometimes I feel like I am exploring a kind of shoreline, where eternity washes up against the nitty-gritty of "natural" experience.

I often fail miserably when I attempt to put words to these yearnings and these realities. But I'm going to continue to try. Truth is so much more than mere observable "fact."

More to come. Blessings - DEREK

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