Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Wonder...? some wandering lines of thought.

I wonder what would happen to the Kingdom of God,

…right here and now;

 If we would think of God in Trinity as intelligent?

What would happen if we could see God’s Son as a


What if we stared reading the words Jesus spoke

 as tied together, meaningful,

 and not un-connected


Would you believe those words?

Would you act on those words?

Or would you rather have some pastor,



 or teacher,

 shake their head in confusion

And say “Well, I’m not sure What this means?”

And laugh with them, from the middle of the pews.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Does Jesus = intelligence? A quote from Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard writes: 

"If you play a game of word association today, in almost any setting, you will collect some familiar names around words such as smart, knowledgeable, intelligent, and so forth. Einstein, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and the obligatory rocket scientists, will stand out. But one person who pretty certainly will not come up in this connection is Jesus.

Would you be able to trust your life to such a person? If this is how he seems to you, are you going to be inclined to become his student? Of course not. We all know that action must be based on knowledge, and we grant the right to lead and teach only to those we believe to know what is real and what is best.

The world has succeeded in opposing intelligence to goodness. A Russian saying speaks of those who are “stupid to the point of sanctity.” In other words, you have to be really dumb in order to qualify for saintliness.

Centuries ago, even, when Dante assigned the title “master of those who know,” he mistakenly gave it to Aristotle, not Jesus, for Jesus is holy.

Tertullian, a famous Christian leader of the second and third centuries, asked rhetorically, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian with the heretic?” The correct answer, he supposed, was “Nothing whatsoever.”[1]

Here is a profoundly significant fact: In our culture, among Christians and non-Christians alike, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as well-informed, brilliant, or smart.

Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is looked on as a mere icon, a wraithlike semblance of a man, fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, perhaps, but little more.

A well-known “scholarly” picture has him wandering the hills of Palestine, deeply confused about who he was and even about crucial points in his basic topic, the kingdom of the heavens. From time to time he perhaps utters disconnected though profound and vaguely radical irrelevancies, now obscurely preserved in our Gospels.

Devotion to God is independent of human knowledge. Of course, the modern secular outlook rigorously opposes sanctity to intelligence. And today any attempt to combine spirituality or moral purity with great intelligence cause widespread pangs of “cognitive dissonance.” Mother Teresa, no more than Jesus, is thought of as smart—nice, of course, but not really smart. “Smart” means good at managing how life “really” is.

 For all the vast influence he has exercised on human history, we have to say that Jesus is usually seen as a frankly pathetic individual who lived and still lives on the margins of “real life.” What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment –to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously considered or presented as a person of great ability. What, then, can devotion or worship mean, if simple respect is not included in it? Not much.

The picture the ordinary person today has of Jesus’ surroundings in his earthly lifetime seems largely determined by what this homeland, Palestine, looked like to famous nineteenth-century tourists such as Mark Twain. Their impressions of Jesus’ social setting remains today in the minds of most people. We imagine a desolate land of ruins, perhaps with a few peasants and ignorant villagers, Jesus among them. But here is no truth in this. In fact, his own society should be thought of as the equivalent in its world to Israel’s place in the world today.

In Jesus’ day Jerusalem was a glorious city, routinely flooded by hundreds of thousands of visitors, including multitudes of brilliant people from all over the ”known” world. It was a cosmopolitan environment, interacting with the entire Roman world and more. What was known and discussed anywhere was known and discussed there. It was in such surroundings that, already as a lad of twelve, he held spellbound for several days some of the best minds in the land."  (pp 134-136)

From: Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (1997, New York, Harper One)

[1] Tertullian, “The Prescriptions Against the Heretics,” subsection 7 in Early Latin Theology, The Library of Christian classics p 36. This endnote from Dallas Willard; you can find this on line in a digital copy of Nicene and anti-Nicene Fathers if you need it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Civil War ?

From the web-site blog "Civil war: real issues"
Since shortly after the death of St. Paul, the Kingdom of God has been wracked by continuous, on-going civil war.

Civil war def : A war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation.[1]

But Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say ‘you fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Mathew 5:21-23)

Why would Jesus tell us that to be angry with a brother or sister is akin to murder! Or to call a brother or sister “fool” was worthy of guilt before the highest court of the land.
We make excuses for not listening to these words. After all isn’t it unhealthy to hold in your anger?  Don’t bottle up your anger: vent it!

But at the root of his teaching on anger is the heart.We are supposed to be filled with agape love,  even loving our enemies; to act just like “little Christ’s."

Instead we are filled with pride, anger, and malice towards anyone who disagrees with us; especially within Christianity, and especially when it is about a theological position, denomination, or even what version of the Bible one should use.

Sadly, anyone who is a student of the history of the Christian church will see the problems which grew after the deaths of the Apostles and the first generation after them.

I am not making light of the serious issues which led to the Council of Nicene in 325; but can we understand for a moment that Arius really believed that he was honoring God and being true to Scripture by his formulation of what we take for granted now: how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could be ONE God. The philosophy to hold together the dogma was not written until just before St. Augustine![2]

So let’s “fast-forward” to our arguably more civilized day: we Christians haven’t burned anyone at the stake for about 200 years or so. 

But not so fast; we’ve got something that may be worse: The Internet and Social Media. There are people who need to win at every argument (Christians or not,) so that there are “meme’s” which we all laugh at “that person” who has to correct a wrong on the Internet!  In every Christian Facebook group, there is a need for moderators to make sure that all group members play nice.

I say this because I used to be one of “them” ; that person who had to be right.  I would allow myself to be triggered by one of several “hot-button” topics, then I would be off and running. I would type pages of tight, philosophical arguments intending to not only win the argument, but I envisioned winning some sort of Kingdom War!

I had so much anger and contempt for those stupid, ignorant fools that could not see how WRONG their position was.  I finally gave up; but only because I could not teach people who didn’t want to be taught.
*I still could see “them” (you know, my enemy,) with contempt; other believers who were a waste of my time.*

But I finally stopped avoiding Jesus’ words.

I am praying a new prayer now: “Dear Lord, please heal my heart and help me to love.”
When I get angry, I am fundamentally not trusting God.
When I get angry, I have malice towards my fellow human: Christian or not.
When I get angry, I am full of pride in my own “right-ness” instead of God’s righteousness.
When I get angry, I am not righting wrongs with God’s persistent love. 

Dallas Willard writes, “…there is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without.”[3]
These words of Willard touched my heart and brought me back to the reality of what God is trying to do for and through us in the Kingdom of God. I am back to really listening to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, not influenced by the confused words taught by those few who wave off  Jesus’ words as either a paradox or impossible.

Willard writes:
“By truly loving our adversary, we stand within the reality of God’s kingdom and resources, and it is very likely we will draw our adversary into it also. Things are really different there, and a resolution manifesting the divine presence becomes possible.”[4]

I know that as a Christ-follower, and with God’s ever present help, I will look at my brothers and sisters with God’s love, God’s patience; and trust that God will heal my heart and teach those around me.  And if they really are wrong, I will pray that they might ask questions of someone who knows more…and that doesn’t necessarily mean me!

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language  (1957,Cleveland, World Publishing Company)

[2] And quite frankly, a lot of this was a struggle for who had the power mixed up with violent care for the people of God; also quite apart from Jesus’ words.
[3] Dallas Willard The Divine Conspiracy (1997, New York, Harper One) 151 emphasis mine.
[4] Ibid. 157