Monday, May 28, 2007

Soren Kierkegaard on Life

"Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward "

Monday, May 21, 2007

Praying and Magic

Praying is that wonderful thing that God has given us to stay in constant mindful contact with him. The ever-presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer brings continual spiritual presence of Christ. But it is prayer that brings our minds and hearts close to the Lord. However, today as in Jesus day, we are tempted to make prayer something that it is not.

Jesus taught his disciples about prayer. For him, prayer is a normal part of the life of a believer, which he shows when he said “When you pray…”. In his teaching on prayer in the Gospel of Matthew, he warned people about prayer becoming an external exercise. He said “… do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men." He said we should be cautious about wanting to be seen as great prayers. We need to people who pray continuously, but not presumptuously. He says to avoid this by praying individually and secretly. We are to go into our “room and close the door.”

Jesus warned against the magical use of prayer. He spoke against “babbling like pagans who think they will be heard because of their many words.” They believed that many words had power. Believing in magic is when one uses words to control a supernatural power. Jesus says it does no good. God is not a power to be manipulated. He is personal and “knows what we need before we ask.” So praying is not about saying a lot of words, it’s about having personal contact with the living God who hears us through simple prayer.

In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that the Father doesn’t just respond to our words, he responds to our whole lives. “If you abide in me and my word abides in you, then ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” Its clear that God does not answer our prayer based on the number of times we pray, but he answers based on a life fully consecrated to Jesus.

In the same way that people of Jesus’ time thought that that many words were necessary in prayer, many thought God answered based on the number of people praying. But Jesus said that even prayer in small groups is what God is looking for. He says again in Matthew’s gospel “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” God doesn’t look for large numbers. He looks for the unity of those praying.

Jesus was concerned that people might become weary or discouraged in praying, so he told a parable about a women who persistently went to a judge for justice. Because of her persistence, and because she believed in the office of the judge, he answered. Jesus says we should pray persistently, in full belief that God answers, and to not give up. God wants us to “cry out day and night.” He never wants us to give up. Jesus is not concerned about how much or how often we pray, but that we pray, believing that God will answer, and that we never give up praying. It is a life of uninterrupted prayer that God wants us to have, so we can be close and so he can provide for us.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

"And without is not possible."

"Faith is believing in what you know is not true." Waggish wisdom at best. "Faith is believing in what you hope is true." This is getting more to the heart of the matter. It takes faith to believe some things, because everything is not obvious. Like... we all believe in gravity. We've never seen it, but we believe in it because we all seem to be held to the ground. And it's better than believing "there is no such thing as gravity, the Earth sucks."

Most of don't really understand the physics formula for gravity:

We just believe it because it works. But since we have no reason why, we take it on faith. But that doesn't mean faith is mindless or irrational. We believe in gravity, not believe we can see it or understand it, but because we see the evidence of it.

We all walk through life, seeing evidence for things and believing they exist but not really understanding why or how they exist. Take for example this text your reading. You take it on faith that your eyes are able to read this text. But do you know for sure that what your eyes are seeing is reality. No, not really. You no have way of proving that what your eyes see, really exists. But, you will keep on reading, and believing that there is a connection between what you see and that you see.

You get up in the morning, put your feet on the floor, having faith that because your stood on it last night, you can still stand on it today. You test this every moment. We are all empirical reality testers. And because your test comes up positive, you believe in the existence of the floor. And you will continue to believe until the day your feet fall through the floor. I feel (the floor) therefore I believe. My sensation is connected to reality.

Not one of us could live in this life without faith: believing in the reality of things we can neither prove or understand.

We feel love for others. Love, where does it come from? From me, from others? We don't know, but we feel it. We know it exists, because we feel the result of it. We can't explain it, we don't understand it, we just believe.

This is the way it is with faith in God. We look around and see the results of God: his creation. We can't prove how it got here, but here it is. We realize it's beyond us. It's immensity, complexity and beauty all reflect the handiwork of an intelligence far beyond our own. So even thought we can't prove his existence or even understand his existence, we believe, because we see the results of his existence.

We have this sense or feeling inside of us that there is something out there. It's bigger than me. It's more real that me. I can't see it, but it's there. Some have called this "the sense of the the numinous." We feel it, but we can't see it. But it's result are there. God's presence, the sense of the numinous, is taken on faith because our sensation is somehow connected to reality.

No one denies the reality of gravity. It is too real. It works everyday. Everyone has a sense of "something beyond." Our eyes tells us it's there, the physical reality around us speaks us it. That sense of something beyond, the wonder of what we see all speak evidence of the reality of God. Do we believe it? We should, we believe so many things that we cannot explain, or understand.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he reward those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

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Interpretation is Today's World

In his book, "Is There a Meaning in this Text," Kevin Vanhoozer says that postmodernity is "a culture of interpretation." By this, he characterizes a major part of both the philosophy and methodology that is at the center of postmodern thinking. Everything is open to interpretation. And that is true. But does that mean that everything is open to endless speculation as to the meaning of what is being interpreted. Let's narrow our scope for now, to the interpretation of texts.

With the rise of "reader-oriented interpretation" of literature, where it is the reader herself that brings the meaning to the text, we have seen many people think that there are as many meanings of text as there are readers. Everyone has there own interpretation. Again, while that may be true, does that signify that the meaning of a text changes with the reader who reads it? This question is important to anyone of faith in Christ who approaches the Bible to learn of God and his ways.

Is is possible that, as Vanhoozer thinks, "meaning is independent of our attempts to interpret it?" I have always understood that, if "all scripture is God-breathed" as the Apostle Paul told his protegée Timothy, then the meaning lies with God who inspired the text. Our job is then to discover the meaning and not establish it. But in the postmodern way of thinking, "The purpose of interpretation is no longer to recover and relate a message from one who is other than ourselves, but precisely to evade a confrontation. The business of interpretation is busyness: constantly to produce readings in order to avoid having to respond to the text."(p. 16)

In some circles, this is what I hear being done with scripture today. Since, so the argument goes, there are many church traditions, and each has it's own interpretation of the scriptures, then each reading and interpretation is valid. So, if you come upon a section of scripture that you find uncomfortable or unpalatable, then you simply look for a church tradition or theologian or any private reader of the scripture who has something to say, and remark, "there are other interpretations." What Vanhoozer says seems to ring true, people appeal to a constant process of readings, re-readings and deconstructions, to "avoid having to respond to the text."

So if one doesn't like having to say that sin is one the roots of the human problem, don't worry, there's another interpretation. If you don't like the idea the people who don't live with God in this life won't live with God in the next life but will be in a hellish place where all evil is gathered together in one place, don't worry, there's another interpretation.

But, what if the meaning of the texts of the Bible have a transcendent nature to them, one that transcends all efforts we make to read into the text? What if God's message really is that we need to be saved from the evil that ensnares us and that pulls us to where there is "weeping and gnashing" of teeth. What if through God's love he did sent his son as a sacrifice of atonement for us so that we would not have to pay the penalty of sin? What if we really do need to respond to God's message before we die, so that when we are held accountable for our life on Earth by God, he will be able to forgive us based on that faith in God's message Jesus great act on a cross, and experience the completion of redemption that God promises to all who believe his message.

I believe that a limited use of deconstruction theory is quite helpful because it keeps going back to the text to see what it really means. But a deconstruction that arrives at an endless process of deconstruction with no solid reconstruction, leaves us with no Word of God respond to, to guide us and shape us. It seems that the Good News as is plainly read in Scripture, is a lot better than any attempts to deconstruct it into a something that is not reality and will not save us.

Vanhoozer says that "We need to examine the theory and practice of contemporary interpretation to see if it is "in the faith" for some readers contrive to deprive the Bible of it's authority through interpretation." Does the purpose of the current practice of interpretation as practiced by some, follow Soren Kierkegaard's cynical insight when he says, "Look more closely, and you will see that it [the practice of contemporary interpretation] is to defend itself against Gods Word."

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