A couple of posts from different places about discovery, pain, sexuality, and God.
William Birch on learning to be at home with himself.
A college senior writes about her friend.
Talbot Davis reflects on a colleague’s change of heart.
Here is a question: If you could know for certain the will of God, would you do it?
There is a famous scenario sketched by Anselm of Canterbury. He asks the reader to imagine standing in the presence of God. Someone tells you to look at something off to your left or right. God tells you in that moment not to look. Would you obey God, even if obedience meant the death of someone you loved? (Anselm ups the stakes to the destruction of all creation.)
This seems to me to be a fundamental question. If we knew what God’s will was, if we had certainty about it, would we obey it?
Traditional Protestant theology says we would not, at least not until we have had a new birth. It says our will is corrupted and incapable of obeying God. A sign of that corruption is that we do not even desire to obey God.
It seems to me at times as if contemporary theology takes as a given that we should not obey God if God does not meet our standards of righteousness and love and justice.
Of course, this whole conversation is skewed by the fact that we have revelation, but not often consistent interpretation of that revelation. So, we live in a situation in which knowing for certain that we understand God’s will is rare. Or, at least, it is rare not to encounter plausible or at least rational alternative interpretations.
But the practical difficulties do not eliminate the question. Indeed, they may make it more urgent, since only a sincere desire to know and do the will of God properly motivates our encounter with revelation.
If we knew the will of God, would we do it? No matter the cost?
“Some of the Mystic writers do not choose to speak plainly; some of them know not how. But, blessed be God, we do; and we know, there is nothing deeper, there is nothing better, in heaven or earth, than love! There cannot be, unless there were something higher than the God of love! So that we see distinctly what we have to aim at. We see the prize, and the way to it! Here is the height, here is the depth, of Christian experience! ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.’”
–From a letter to Betsy Ritchie, 1775
It appears women will soon have a better test to determine if their unborn babies have Down syndrome.
This story about the new test speaks of the $6 billion market that the test will create as women who can “afford to be choosy” pay for the testing.
The story does not mention the likely outcome of those tests.
Jean Vanier, Stanley Hauerwas, and Amos Yong have taught me to see such stories in a different light than I might have at one time in my life. The popularity of such tests reveal to us that we live in a society that declares people with Down syndrome of no worth. We would, if we could, prevent them from being born.
How does the church witness to God’s love for all his creations in the face of a secular discourse that decrees it is more merciful to eliminate people rather than care for them?
… and they were terrified. (Luke 2:9, NIV)
American pop culture has been lying to you. Angels are terrifying, pee your pants scary. They are not bumbling, lovable Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life. Not in this story.
It is not that they are doing anything scary. Quite the opposite. It is just that they show up.
I wonder if this is why we work so hard not to see them. I wonder if we work so hard in our culture to cultivate a blindness to God and miracles and angels because they scare the crap out of us. The very idea that God is watching us right now and cares a great deal about what we do is unsettling. An angel walking into our living room would wreck pretty much everything we use to get through the day.
For most of us, most of the time, the world only works if God leaves us to mind our own business. He can show up on our schedule, like the maid, but we do not expect angels popping out of the air when we are hanging out with the other shepherds on a quiet night. In fact, we’d just as soon not have to deal with the problem.
Angels announce a reality that we talk about but, much of the time, would prefer not to encounter. We tend to live like the famous line from Augustine: Make me holy, but not yet. Angels break through our self-imposed blindness and self-serving ignorance. They say, “Hey! God is real, and he wants to tell you — yes, you — something.”
When God shows up, you pretty much have to pay attention. And you lose the ability to ignore certain things. You can’t ignore what the prophets say about judgment and wrath. You can’t ignore what Jesus said about millstones or lopped of limbs. You can’t ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth. This is mostly good news if you are a poor, outcast shepherd shivering under the stars. It is not so good if you are comfortable and fat. So, if we think about it clearly, we find angels terrifying rather than comforting.