I’m on vacation from work this coming week, so I’m going to start cranking out more posts over the next several days.
The sun is shining in Nashville after a couple of days of hard rain. My thoughts over the past few days have been with the Gulf Coast and the now-month-long oil spill. Predictably, BP has acknowledged that the extent of the spill is much worse than they first reported. (Here’s a brief summary of the latest news from the New York Times.) Jason Peters at Front Porch Republic captures the issue well, I think:
…[T]hings could be worse. Not different, mind you, but worse, for it turns out that on our political landscape the difference between an elephant and a donkey—so far as energy is concerned—is a difference (if difference there be) of degree, not kind. The pachydermic Proboscidae and jackassic Perissodactyla are standing on our southern shores and looking at the most recent oil disaster as a technological rather than as a moral problem.
There is neither trumpeting from the former nor braying from the latter about how we shouldn’t be drilling offshore in the first place. There are only mixed noises about being more careful and better prepared should such an unfortunate technological malfunction (somewhat akin to a wardrobe malfunction) ever happen again. Hypermobility, long-distance exchange of goods, orange juice in the cold Fargo winters—these, as our former Vice President said, are non-negotiable.
But what we are staring at off our southern shore is most assuredly a moral rather than a technological problem. It is a moral problem because we have presumed upon the earth to provide for us a standard of living no one deserves or is entitled to, a standard that has quite obviously been acquired on the credit cards of the unborn. It is a standard that is nothing less than a sickness unto death.
Also relevant to how we got into this mess is Wendell Berry’s piece from the May 2008 issue of Harper’s Magazine, titled “Faustian Economics.” Well worth reading and pondering. What should Christians do if they agree with Peters and Berry that this is a moral issue? How should the church be involved? If we don’t accept the notion that the church as such should be involved, how then should the individual be involved? How do we begin to preach “limits” from the pulpit?
In other news, a friend of mine recently pointed me to the National Marriage Project. You won’t be disappointed by the time you spend there. This is an incredible resource for elders and evangelists about the state of marriage (and other living arrangements) in America. I’ve long said that we should be spending more time in Churches of Christ focusing on how to sustain marriages than trying to figure out who to blame when they fail; this is a good resource for helping us do just that.
Finally, I link to this last piece because I’ve seen so little engagement by members of Churches of Christ with the New Atheism. This preacher reviews a couple of Alister McGrath’s books on the subject and concludes with a surprisingly frank admission: the uber-rationalism of Enlightenment-era Protestantism (including Churches of Christ) has squelched the possibility of experiencing the Divine either in corporate worship or individually.
The church grew strong in the immediate aftereffects of the Enlightenment and the emphasis on reason and the rational. When confronted with Evangelicalism and especially Pentecostalism, there was a strong reaction, to the point where many to this day deny that God works miracles today (or, for that matter, that the demonic has any power at all). Anything that was experienced-based, regardless of its relationship to the revealed standard, was just too subjective and too questionable.
None of this is to say that all the various experiences that people claim to have with the Divine or supernatural forces are acceptable. We are strongly warned to avoid the black arts (Galatians 5:19-21). Everything must be tested by the standard of the truth as it has been revealed through the New Testament (Galatians 1:6-9, 1 John 4:1, Jude 1:3). Most of what has been promoted as the experience of the Divine has not been according to that standard, either because it was idolatrous (cf. Romans 1:18-32), or because it purported to be something that has been fulfilled (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
Yet there is nothing in Scripture that teaches us that we should not expect to experience the Divine in any meaningful way. In fact, there is much in Scripture that teaches us that we should experience the Divine! We have seen in Acts 17:24-28 that we should “seek after God,” and that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Our lives, therefore, should be saturated with the Divine in whom we exist and subsist.
There is a helpful acknowledgment at the end that we encounter God in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. One might like more detail and more discussion of the unique historical situation of Churches of Christ (I, for one, would like to see what he would do with Leonard Allen’s account of the dispute between Tolbert Fanning and Robert Richardson on this question in Participating in God’s Life), but this is certainly a start and it deserves to be discussed widely.