Institutions, by their very nature, don’t like risk. But Faith, by it’s very nature, is risk. So what does the Church, an institution that tries to form a risk-taking people look like?Continue Reading...
Archives For Faith
Mark Batterson, in his book Primal, writes about a fascinating study that was done a few years ago. It involved a group of Mexican people who had never been to America and a group of Americans who had never been to Mexico. The researchers gave both groups basically a ViewFinder, it was a machine they could look through that had two different images. Continue Reading…
It’s tough to talk about the possibility of dying at the Olive Garden.
Maybe it’s because of the breadsticks, or because everything just seems so nice, it just feels off somehow.
Last week Leslie and I had lunch with the resident missionary couple at RHCC. They are headed to a place in North Africa that I can’t write about here for security reasons, but you need to know they are a fascinating couple.
She is an ethnomusicologist, he is a community development guru. Their plan is that when they leave people will have clean water, better returns on their harvest, and songs, poems and stories about meeting Jesus. Which sounds pretty good to me.
And so it was strange that at the Olive Garden they were talking about what to do in the case of their village, or home being attacked by hostile militants.
In Acts 19, there is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Paul has gone to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus, which seems innocent enough, but he actually winds up inciting a riot.
Actually the people who started a riot were the ones who had a vested interest in the dominant religion of the day. They were silversmiths and craftsmen who made shrines for Artemis. They worked for the system and the system worked for them. And they certainly didn’t need some punk Christian coming in and saying that those idols were just decorative, powerless trinkets.
So they gathered a group of people, got ‘em all riled up and for two hours these people shouted, “Great is Artemis, God of the Ephesians.”
Now before you write this story off as some weird, ancient religion you need to know something else.
The name for Artemis is based on the root Greek word for Safety or health.
Artemis sounds like some ancient religion, but the truth is she is worshipped by millions everyday.
And standing juxtaposed against this mob chanting for safety, but acting dangerously, is this guy named Paul, who wants to go into the assembly that has basically gathered just to kill him. Everyone else is out of their mind wanting security, but Paul is willing to risk everything.
Because Paul doesn’t worship Artemis.
I have noticed over the past few months something about human nature, including my own. The one thing that will reduce us to our basest instinct is this desire to be secure or healthy. Watch any news channel these days, when we talk about security or health, people automatically can become belligerent, rude and sometimes hateful.
Almost, at times, like a riot.
Which makes me think back to my two new missionary friends. I thank God for bringing people like them into my life. Not just for the great work that they are going to do in North Africa, but for what they remind me of.
They remind me of the story that I belong to. And that’s important, because If I watch any news station for an extended amount of time they have a way of telling a story that makes me think I am in immediate danger from something (swine flu, terrorist attacks, bad economy) or someone.
But that’s not really my story. So maybe that’s why these new friends are so refreshing.
These are two bright, young adults who could do a lot with their lives. But instead of trying to insulate themselves from danger they are taking a calculated risk, to better the world for the glory of God.
They are taking their place in the long line of followers of Jesus who have gone against the dominant impulses of our culture for self-preservation for the sake of something bigger than themselves.
Because the way of Jesus isn’t the way of Artemis.
Because the real risk of security is that you might be worshipping a god who is no god at all.
It’s time to stop rioting.
Sorry for the delay in blogging. For this semester I’m attempting to blog, once, maybe twice a week. I have a Grad Class on church history that requires quite a bit of reading and writing and by the time I sit down to write a blog I’m tapped out. So for the next couple of posts I’m going to write about some interesting, less talked about stuff from church History.
Like Julian the Apostate.
He was an emperor after Constantine (who’ll I talk about next week) who reacted to Christianity’s growing influence by trying to destroy the Christian religion.
Now he did this in a few fronts, but perhaps the most well-known stunt he pulled was his attempt to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Before you start thinking how philanthropic Julian was, you need to know the main reason he did this was because the Christian Scriptures quoted Jesus as saying, “This temple will not be re-built until I return.”
Julian’s entire reason for spending a whole lot of Roman money was to discredit the Christian story. But here’s where it gets interesting.
Because at some point during the rebuilding process there was an explosion. This is how one of his friends reported the event:
Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once
at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. They set vigorously
to work, and were seconded by the governor of this province; when fearful
balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the
workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up
Now what’s interesting is how historians talk about this even. Immediately afterwards Christians began to look back on this event and saw it as a Divine Intervention. The hand of God prevented Julian’s attempt to spread paganism. But other people saw it another way.
The general take on it from Rome was that it was an earthquake. The more recent historians believe that it was a natural gas pocket that was struck by construction workers, resulting in a huge explosion that can be naturally explained.
But what if both of these are true?
There is a modern assumption that if we can just explain how something happened that we have understood why it happened. But I don’t think that’s true. Just because we can trace back how something happened doesn’t mean that we have effectively written off providence.
Donald Miller makes a profound observation in Blue like Jazz. He says:
“My most recent struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore.
Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in
God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe
in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being
about god a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly
I don’t care.”
I think that’s pretty indicative about the conversations that we have about faith vs. science. We talk over ourselves so much that the conversations no longer are about what we say they are about. They’re about which one of us is smarter.
But the truth is that these two sides, at least much of the time, are talking about different things. What if God used a pocket of natural gas to stop the rebuilding of that Temple. Just because we can explain what happened doesn’t mean we have the answers to what all is going on behind it.
The truth is when these two sides of interpreting history are in conversation that they both have faith. People with faith that everything can be explained by what is seen will probably gravitate to a worldview that sees God as either non-existent, or very distant and unconcerned with this world.
People who see a fireball from Heaven will probably gravitate toward a worldview that says God is intimately involved, or at least was, in human history and will tend to be religious.
But neither side is addressing the thing they think they are. Proof, Science, Evidence, Apologetics, these words talk about what happened, but nobody can explain causality, or why things happen with any certainty.
Because what they are really talking about is faith.