Note from CM: Friends, I thought this a good follow-up to yesterday’s discussion about my “both/and” perspective on things.
• • •
Not many of us need advice about what to do with our life. Not many of us want such advice either. We may not agree on what to do, but most of us know what we would do, if we had the wits, or the freedom, or the imagination, or the courage. The church has been longer on advice than it has been on “underneath nurture.” Perhaps that is because advice is easier to give than is freedom or courage, and more obvious, too. Or perhaps it is because as liberals or as conservatives, we feel so passionately that we want to get everybody else straightened out. The problem is that the others are not very much open to coercion either, as we are not open.
It is a time, in my judgment, when the church may lower its voice about advice, and speak more gently and healthily and honestly about the nurture of faithful imagination, freedom, and courage. That stuff is not in large supply among us, and when it is not, our lives are diminished. That stuff is in short supply because such matters drive us to mystery which we cannot explain, to loyalty we cannot control, and to trust that we cannot will. Out of that mystery and loyalty and trust which comes to us as a gift, there does emerge an obedient life. But we arrive there by a route other than our zeal and certitude, and that makes us uneasy.
• A Gospel of Hope (p. 89f)
63 thoughts on “Brueggemann: On taking a route other than our zeal or certitude”
Not hard for me.
When I was in Junior College in the mid-Seventies, I used to spend gaps between classes in the library, going through their hardcopy collection of LIFE Magazines — emphasis on the late 1930s through early 1950s.
Quite a difference between reading about it in a history book long after the fact and reading about it in the media as it was happening. I remember the news and editorials from late 1940 — “CAN GERMANY BE STOPPED?”
And the revival of that slave trade coincided with a change in how black Africans were portrayed in European art: from “funny-looking foreigners” (emphasis on “foreigner”) to subhuman animals (emphasis on “animal”).
Is there a distinct boundary?
Or does one shade into the other?
Wait a second, Mule. Remember that when Europe revived slavery as an institution (after it had died our in Europe) to help settle and work the Americas that it had newly discovered, Europe was not at war with Africa. It wasn’t a matter of a war in which the winners enslave the losers (as unjust as that would have been), but of Europe kidnapping or buying kidnapped human being from others. In other words, Europe went looking for people to enslave. That doesn’t fit in the rubric even of the developmentally challenged morality you offer for slave-making.
In the last few year I’ve started to feel less uneasy relying on God’s “Yes” rather than my own meager ability to conjure up zeal or certitude. The movements of grace are powerful, my efforts puny.
“They cannot conquer forever.”
Is that Cognitive Innocence or wilful ignorance, though?
@Mule, I’m not concerned with achieving the character of the Kingdom by human efforts. I just want to strive toward living a human and humane life in relation to other human beings, whether they live in this country or elsewhere, and put whatever pressure I reasonably and prudently can on the country and government that I live in and under to do the same. Results will not be perfect, and I may even be mistaken in my objectives (I’m surely impure in my motives), but there is no option to do nothing, since we all are involved by default in supporting and maintaining the status quo, or trying to change things for the better in political and social defiance of it. Right now I feel called by conscience to defy it, and it would be wrong to go against my conscience in this, particularly since there’s nothing in Christian teaching or ethics that preclude the results I would like to see attained.
I hope the “prevailing narrative” here is respectful and thoughtful conversation.
I belong to the tribe of ‘MOM’ . . . we moms stick together, and in the present crisis, we will not be silenced !!!
It isn’t going to win, because it has already lost.
Burro, I’m standing with Paddington Bear.
Sure people exploit innocents. But right now, an awful lot of sad mothers and fathers and children need our help.
You see, the children are too young to understand and they ARE suffering, and that is not something I want to see done in MY country.
A wonderful thing: a lawyer found out how much was needed to bail out a mother being held in Arizona (her children were transported to New York. So someone in New York raised thirty thousand dollars from about 500 people and the mother was bailed out. Now, she couldn’t fly commercially or take the bus to New York to see her kids, so MOTHERS organized a ‘relay’ of nine drivers who drover her all the way to New York.
But then, when this was publicized, the lawyer reported that she was told no other mothers could be bailed out.
And THEN it was found out that this order came from ‘higher ups’;
AND THEN it was found out that this whole restriction of ‘no bail’ was not the real policy being used . . . . so this is being investigated. . . .
Americans (a lot of ‘moms’) want to help the mothers get to their children. Even if it takes donations, and drivers, and all manner of assistance, a LOT of our people are going to do what they can to get those children with their mothers again. This makes me proud of my country. Very proud. 🙂
““There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” (JRR Tolkien)
God has hidden the truth from the wise and powerful and revealed it to little children – for such was His good pleasure.
The Border – Can we at least agree that the current administration has accelerated the tactic, that it is bad, and should be stopped?
Cultures – all cultures are not the same, but there are more similarities than not. And none of them equate to the Kingdom.
Sexes – ok, you got me. Apart from the obvious biological genialia, we *are* the same, in intellect, spirituality and dignity. I don’t buy the “gender differences are innate and spiritual” argument one bit.
Consumerism – I’m wracking my brains trying to think of *anyone* who’s a defender of consumerism here.
Power and coercion are uniformly bad – in the abstract, no. In actuality, in the hands of sinful people… well, insert quote from Lord Acton here…
Borders – we have enough of them without drawing more. And borders are no excuse for cruelty and indifference.
Chronological snobbery – every age has its flaws. We’re better with regard to minority rights, worse with regard to consumerism. The past was no golden age, nor is the present, nor will the future be until the Consummation.
Bible – ok, so we’re mostly not inerrantists here. But neither is inerrancy a long-standing theological theory either.
“Historically, the treatment of vanquished nations by victorious America has been pretty good, with the signal exception of Mexico.”
And the Indians/Natives. And the Phillipino insurgents.
“Let’s not mix Christian ethics with statecraft unless you’re OK with shoveling the Mongol’s shit off their wagon with a smile while he enjoys your wife and daughter.”
Well, that at least is more consistent with the “love your enemies” command than is Just War theory. As I have stated before, the older I get, the more I think the early church had it right with its injunctions against Christians serving in government…
‘Paddington Bear’ can’t be that hard to sort out, folks
Children ‘get it’ with no trouble
“What other country would you have realistically preferred to be in the position of power that the good ole USA was in August of 1945. ”
None. But the good must not keep us from seeing and seeking to alleviate the bad – nor must it blind us to the fact that power politics is as much or more a staple of American policy as is idealism.
“Trump is not just Hitler, but Herod because he separates families at the border.”
“Since we all want the same things, cultures are identical. It is reprehensible to say that some aggregates of people are more apt to engage in certain behaviors than others. This goes doubly for behavior between the sexes. Men and women are identical in everything that matters.”
“What matters is production and consumption of goods and services”.
“Power and coercion are uniformly bad. Using violence or the threat thereof to enforce behavior is unacceptable. Everything should be done on the basis of a uniform consensus, which is easy to accomplish in the absence of retrograde, deplorable beliefs.”
“There should be no political borders. Inclusion in a country is an accident of geography and should be remediable at the person’s whim. Indeed, the very idea of a nation state is risable and antiquated. There should be a one world government.”
“We are a lot smarter than people who lived 1000 years ago. They shat in the woods and thought sickness was caused by bad air currents and malignant spirits. We are progressing in that we are moving from a state where people are less free to do, oh whatever, to one where they are more ’empowered’ to express their ‘true selves’. This state of affairs is inevitable. Historical necessity is on our side.”
“This progress is roughly Christian in its broad outline and is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is an old book which for the most part isn’t true unless it says something that supports what I agree with, then it’s a wise old oracle and is evidence of this grand arc in human affairs that leads inevitably to TRVTH and JVSTICE.”
Eeyore, I do not know who the :”we” is , perhaps this site? It smacks of id politics where groups form alliances to advance their own “tribal” agenda.
We are no longer the melting pot that was the goal and worked well up until the last years. There would have been no civil war except for the issue of slavery.. We can go on over history and admit it is colored by our opinions but core facts are core facts.
The positives do need to be mentioned and taught , people do not inherently know history and put the proper perspective on it.
What other country would you have realistically preferred to be in the position of power that the good ole USA was in August of 1945. A large, standing army in Europe and Asia, the atomic bomb , one named after me according to my wife, industrial might untouched by the war, a country so patriotic that they actually made sacrifices on the home front and you know the rest.
We have to deal in the real world, what nation state would you want to be in America’s position in August 1945. Why did America treat the rest of the world the way it did? What if Germany, Japan or Finland won, would it be the same. Would Russia do what America did?
Burro, presented some good points in his comments but of course I basically agree with him, am I in his tribe?
I believe America is an exceptional country that has produced exceptional results. What other country would have handled the power and position it attained in the
20th century but America. Even when we have our Trump worship rallies we admit America is not perfect—————————yet , that will take 2 terms and 4 Justice appointments.
If we get into this tribal thing too much I will be afraid to get an extra blanket at Holiday Inn unless the person is from my tribe and wearing his MAGA hat.
What tribes are trying to get President D.J. Trump scalp? All the tribes left of the Atlantic , I would guess..
It isn’t only human.
What is the prevailing narrative here, if you could give a brief plot line as you see it?
It isn’t the US Democratic party.
“When I look out over the world, I see an arrogant, man-hating spirit in ascendancy. It is far more well-spoken and reasonable than the spirit that seized Central Europe in the 30s, but it is no less cruel and bitter for all of that.”
a thoughtful comment
we all look out, we all see ‘something’ with a malevolent nature, but we don’t agree on what it is (?)
Can we agree on what ‘it’ isn’t?
Thank you, Christiane, for that fine and non-vehement statement of faith!
It’s not OK under any calculus I can think of. Historically, the treatment of vanquished nations by victorious America has been pretty good, with the signal exception of Mexico.
“Loving your neighbor” on the geopolitical level works better when you are the cat and not the mouse. Let’s not mix Christian ethics with statecraft unless you’re OK with shoveling the Mongol’s shit off their wagon with a smile while he enjoys your wife and daughter.
So its OK to humiliate and exploit “losers”? Just because “that’s how we’ve always done it”? How about just loving our neighbors as ourselves, or is that too “cosmopolitan”?
“I have no “tribe”, I am a citizen of the United States of America.”
it has already been established that we are using the term “tribe” sociologically not literally. And Americans are of many “tribes”. You just aren’t conscious of your membership.
“I appreciate your brief overview of American history but I think you left out some other events”
The positive events hardly need mentioning, as they are so often assumed and agreed upon. If there’s a fire in the bedroom, what use is it to say “well, the living room isn’t on fire! Focus on the positive”?
“What other country had a Civil War to free another people from the cruel sin of slavery?”
Most Union soldiers didn’t see it that way. Certainly the “freed” blacks found Jim Crow and segregation a poor substitute for full equality. Don’t over-romanticize the War or its results.
“What tribe is the Battle Hymn of the Republic written for?”
White abolitionists. 😉
“What tribe was Lincoln trying to reunite?”
White American citizens. He himself said reuniting the Republic was his top priority, emancipation second.
“the issue is never the issue, it is the agenda.”
Especially if the agenda is to soothe patriotic jitters. 😉
Historically, slavery (keep them all alive and harness their labor) was the best thing that happened to losers, the alternatives being ethnic cleansing (kill the males, appropriate the wombs of the women) and genocide (kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out). Of course, this was before the idea of losers became objectionable and everybody got a medal for participation. I have a feeling we are going to become reacquainted with the concept very soon.
As far as colonialism, I think the overall effect was positive and probably inevitable anyway. I’m very proud that most of the western powers divested themselves voluntarily in places like India and South Africa, something the Moghuls, the Ottomans, or the Akkadians never did.
Seems like I’m fated to be the one who provides the “both”/ “and” to the prevailing narrative here. 🙂
There is a great quote by William Stringfellow that Richard Beck quotes on his blog. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the White Rose Society seem to be cropping up everywhere on “progressive” Christian sites these days. I guess Trump is responsible for this romantic surge in interest in the resistance to the Nazis, although as a real heartfelt fascist the Orange Mandarin is a grave disappointment. I’d still starve to death before I could get a couple of jacksons ratting out my neighbor down at the Homeland Security office.
Nevertheless, Beck’s use of Stringfellow’s quote has resonance with all this talk of the Holy Spirit and His work in the world today:
It is hard for us to realize how permanent Nazism must have looked in, say, late 1940. Even in its death throes it was capable of snuffing out Bonhoeffer’s life like that of a moth. When I look out over the world, I see an arrogant, man-hating spirit in ascendancy. It is far more well-spoken and reasonable than the spirit that seized Central Europe in the 30s, but it is no less cruel and bitter for all of that. Indeed, one of its supreme claims to the allegiance of the hearts of men is that it did away with the Jew-killing spirit 70-odd years ago, but it reminds me of one of those occultist ‘exorcisms’ in which the crude, violent ‘evil’ spirit is ‘driven out’ with the assistance of the more enlightened, more evolved ‘good’ spirit. Like ‘bad cop/good cop’ played out on a cosmic level.
When a human body has undergone a severe trauma, the blood tends to retreat from the extremities and collect around the vital organs. I think something along these lines has happened to the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church today. With the Evil One striding across the world unopposed in almost perfect triumph (and the almost total lack of interest in the person of Jesus of Nazareth as anything other than an imprimatur on a political policy, left or right, is the primary indication of this triumph), any activity of He who is everywhere present and fills all things, the Spirit of truth, is as likely to go as unnoticed and unremarked as the weak and unefficacious efforts of the Resistance during the period of Nazi dominance.
Father Stephen Freeman published this on his blog this morning.
Michael, I have no “tribe”, I am a citizen of the United States of America. I appreciate your brief overview of American history but I think you left out some other events. I am grateful that our dominant colonial power was European and gave us the foundation , Western Civilization, of this great nation.
Paul warned against tribalism in Christianity but he also claimed his right as a Roman citizen.
How silly is this tribe nonsense getting, would you go up to a person in real life and ask them what tribe they are from? I am one of the people not a fan of the Cleveland Indians, that is how much I abhor the label.
Right now I wish I were from the Seminole Tribe as I could use some of the casino money.. Coming in pretty good for that tribe .
What other country had a Civil War to free another people from the cruel sin of slavery?
What tribe is the Battle Hymn of the Republic written for? What tribe was Lincoln trying to reunite?
Again the issue in never the issue, it is the agenda.
I think the consensus we’ve reached here in the past is that saying you’re a part of a group or tribe is fine. I’m a Seahawks fan, a Christian, a Husky alum, enjoy boardgames, etc. That’s all okay.
TRIBALISM is taking that to a “My group is better and smarter than yours” and “Your group is inferior” extreme.
You’re not the devil if it’s both/and and not either/or. : )
> My tribe did this. I want to be proud of it.
Your “tribe” accomplished that through slavery and colonialism, so I’m not sure it’s something you ought to be proud of.
And anyway, in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, Scythian nor barbarian, for all are made one in Christ. The vision of the Gospel is a world where all tribal “barriers” dividing people are abolished.
You do understand that a significant number of these “littles” are being used very cynically and very exploitatively as pawns in a game in which they have little or no control. $350 can get you a suitably trained toddler in just about any market plaza south of the Rio Bravo.
Watch the movie Dheepan to see how these “family units” are composed.
That does not justify inhumane treatment of them, but damn! I wish people would stop taking border jumpers’ narratives at face value. They love love love your naivete.
Now I’m the Devil.
Rick Ro. Is tribalism the same as ethnocentric?
Burro, like your comments , well expressed, I call it Western Civilization and I thank God I was born in the USA to the land of out of many one, that is rapidly falling apart by organized design..
I think the tribalism mantra is part of the goal to get rid of the nation state as what is more tribal than having defined borders for your tribe?
The issue is never the issue but the agenda is always the agenda.
I am white , I believe in the nation state, so guess what I am, how evil is John Barry? Plus I am 10 years old if I were a dog.
Michael, you make some good points. And I am happy to say that I will continue to encourage the energetic faith of youth. However, what has happened in our churches is that they have become juvenilized and it is that younger faith of zeal and certainty that is held up as the model for everyone. There is very little sense of the ongoing formation that takes place through the subsequent seasons of life. This is why many of us must leave the church for a time to find the Jesus that meets us in midlife and beyond.
Was reflecting on the pictures of the stuffed bears on the last post. Came this thought which could not be dismissed:
“Paddington Bear as a “refugee with a label.” It’s true, too: Paddington arrived to England from deepest, darkest Peru, and even carried around a picture of his aunt wearing a poncho. But what makes “Please look after this bear” such a special quote is the tenderness it implies, as well as a call for the simple act of humanity — of looking out for each other” (a reflection from the author who has recently died, but how timely is his phrase about the ‘quote’
“PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR”
so the children’s story is brought forward to life again in the plight of the littles who have landed in our country from another place, and who need from us now most of all our ‘kindness’ . . . the evidence of a nation’s humanity
We’ve addressed this before: tribes are okay, tribalism isn’t.
Reading down that link, I recognize all the Serene Christians I’ve encountered who are Utterly Secure In Their FAITH FAITH FAITH. All so Serene, all so Faithful, all behind the event horizon of their Cognitive Innocence Bubble.
“… a therapeutic way out of the darker shadows of desire, but it brings relief only to the ones who possess it. ”
In its way, a very insidious form of Narcissism.
Relief to the Cognitively Innocent, but misery for everyone else.
The Serene One secure in their Righteousness and Faith, with all the damage and darkness passed off to the Others around them.
“I Don’t Want a Thing to Change
Now that I Got Mine.”
— Glenn Frey
Great thoughts expressed above and of course that means I agree with many of them.
As I am now 70 years old or ten years if I were a dog, I am glad to hear so many express sentiments close to mine on how we age.
Ecclesiastes summed it up well. In my younger days I would always reference Solomon as lead guitar of the Byrds hoping to get a chuckle or comment from someone. Actually got very few which always disappointed me. I am as shallow now as then but now I realize it.
So many things in my life I am glad I did when I was young as I would not do now. I do think that when you are young you have more absolutes and fewer gray areas but I think that is as it should be. Part of it is been there and done that and as we “mature” the things in this world grow strangely dim.
One of my old buddies from 1969 always asked me when we had a reunion, were we that stupid and we all agree we pretty much were, looking back. Youth is wasted on the young, you can’t go home again and the old song by Nat K. Cole, They Tried to Tell Us We Are To Young , al the trite sayings and clichés gain more creditability as you get to be ten years old in dog years. I wrote a song Forever Stupid but someone had a big hit with Forever Young and stole my thunder. Better chance of staying stupid than young , but who wants to think about it.
And just what, pray tell, is the solution to Tribalism? The Global Pansexual Regulatory Utopia with Tony Blair or one of his legion of simulcra in charge? The One-World Benetton Tribe?
Or everybody going their own way, relating to all other people only as long as mutual benefit, as quantified by units consumed or produced, can be maintained?
I like my North European culture, with its respect for the rule of law, and the lack of prominent trickster figures in its mythology. I like its high-trust framework. which allows for a relatively low (albeit growing) level of surveillance. I like the solidity of its institutions which allows me to remove American dollars or Malaysian Ringgit out of a machine, and know that I have gotten what I requested. I like opening a water faucet and being able to drink what comes out.
My tribe did this. I want to be proud of it.
I swear, you guys bring out my inner Conan a little too often. I’m getting too old for this.
It also means that churches, etc. that take a very black-and-white view of faith are a necessary part of the Christian landscape, because they speak to people who are in that stage of life.
When I was in college, I found God in campus ministries that were big on “certainty and zeal.” And, I think God was indeed active in those groups and my experiences of God in those settings were genuine. If I went back there as the person I am now, I don’t think I would experience God there. I wouldn’t feel spiritually nourished or even welcome. But at the time it was the way that God could speak to me in the language I was ready to understand.
The challenge in Christian communities is how to make it possible, and even encouraged, for a person to make a transition to a deeper way of relating to God, rather than trying to pull them back into the mindset that the community is dominated by. That’s where traditional churches with a wide age range (and thus, mentors at every stage of the faith journey) are a lot healthier than campus ministries or churches where everyone is in a young stage of faith and may not even yet have the awareness that their current understanding is something they can grow beyond.
Duplicate post. Moderator: Feel free to delete this one.
–> “The problem being, then, that some Christians seem to want to dwell in the Innocence forever…”
Actually, maybe the REAL problem is that “Innocence-forever” Christians want those of us who have moved beyond “Innocence” to return there, while those of us who’ve moved beyond Innocence want the “Innocence-forever” Christians to join them!
And here we’ve come again to: Tribalism!! (I’m beginning to believe Tribalism, and NOT the love of money, is the root of all evil.)
> “some … seem to want to dwell in the Innocence forever,”
Cognitive Innocence: “If they didn’t secure innocence for themselves, they would have to acknowledge life’s ugliness, the tragic and venal turns of the will. That includes recognition of their own crooked purposes. Cognitive innocence is a therapeutic way out of the darker shadows of desire, but it brings relief only to the ones who possess it. ”
–> “This is the necessary…power of Innocence.”
Oooh, I like that! Innocence, yes. The problem being, then, that some Christians seem to want to dwell in the Innocence forever, never wanting to look at the difficult, challenging aspects of faith.
Spot on, Rick.
> And without that initial zeal and certainty, where would most of us be today?
Agree. This is the necessary, often terrible, power of Innocence; how many things, if we had been able to truly understand how long, painful, and hard they would be, would we have had the courage to choose? Faith, relationships, etc… Younger Me was certainly an over confident fool, but there are ways Older Me appreciates that.
how Walter Brueggemann offers help for us to transform ‘OUR PERCEPTUAL FIELD’
“It is a time, in my judgment, when the church may lower its voice about advice, and speak more gently and healthily and honestly about the nurture of faithful imagination, freedom, and courage. That stuff is not in large supply among us, and when it is not, our lives are diminished.” (A Gospel of Hope)
and in response to ‘our anxieties of lack’, we have from Brueggemann’s ‘On Generosity’,
” . . . in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come – fleshed in Jesus.
and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbours who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.
It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance………mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing. . . .
the rest of Brueggemann’s meditation is worth reading. His complete ‘On Generosity’ can be found on this link:
–> “I think the truth is that many of us *did* arrive at faith through zeal and certitude, though.”
That is indeed a curious thing. And without that initial zeal and certainty, where would most of us be today? But I think spiritual growth comes only through having those certainties challenged, being able to let go of the non-essential ones (frankly, most of them are non-essential), and re-building your faith on the simple, firm rock of Jesus.
I certainly came to faith through “zeal and certitide”. And, those teenage and early adult years laid the foundation for my faith. But, that same “zeal and certitude” caused much angst for me when life’s experiences tested everything I believed. I was only at peace when I was able to let go of that certainty to be open to the complexity of faith without having to be sure about everything. His book title, “A Gospel of Hope”, is what I cling to these days.
–> “I am enjoying entering the grouchy stage where I really don’t want to hear any preacher’s advice.”
Me, too. In fact, I find most of my pastor’s sermons these days to be fussy rather than convicting.
–> “…the more we lose our certainty and question whether the Spirit actually led the church.”
The semi-tainted history of Christianity in general, the fractured nature of denominations and theologies, and the wide range in quality (or lack thereof) of church leaders throughout the ages makes me certain of two things:
1) The Holy Spirit is most certainly NOT leading the church, broken people are; and
2) The Holy Spirit is most certainly leading the church, otherwise Christianity would’ve never survived.
I guess that ties into yesterday’s post: it’s a both/and, or maybe a neither/nor. And I believe the certainty of my uncertainty is just fine with God, Jesus, and the Spirit.
Maybe that’s why chasubles, dalmatics and scapulars are more timeless attire. Even if there’s skinny jeans underneath, we’ll never know and it doesn’t seem to matter much.
I think the truth is that many of us *did* arrive at faith through zeal and certitude, though.
Our brains don’t fully develop the capacity for integrative, both/and thinking until our mid-twenties. That’s why college kids – whether liberal or conservative, religious or atheist – are all so certain that what they believe is right and so zealous for that cause. Many of us who were Christian at that age can look back on that time with a certain amount of nostalgia for how “on fire” and confident we were back then. And for many of us, that age was when we first began to experience God, and we don’t want to write off those experiences as false just because we now recognize that the way we approached God back then was very limited.
The question is what we do when we reach a point in life when we’re more clearly able to see the ambiguity and complexity of the world, of Scripture, and of our own lives. Do we keep yearning for “certitude and zeal” and try to get back to that mindset? Or do we embrace the mystery and complexity of faith and allow it to lead us into a deeper and richer understanding of who God is? (And, do our church communities encourage us to do that, or do they try to keep us locked in a more narrow and rigid way of thinking?)
“The more we are taught to question Scripture & Holy Tradition against its historical trajectory coming down to us, the more we lose our certainty and question whether the Spirit actually led the church. ”
“Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
I am turning 50 this year, and I am enjoying entering the grouchy stage where I really don’t want to hear any preacher’s advice. I am still open to the word and sacraments, and I am open to “underneath nurture”, but the days of a young preacher in skinny jeans giving me advice are over.
> “just how *does* the Spirit work in history?”
This. Most asserts around this land squarely in Special Pleading territory.
Reading proponent’s writing on those “great awakenings” in American history is agony for anyone who did not flunk both History and Logic 101.
“not identifying the Spirit in its history leads to incertitude in what it has taught, feeding more incertitude until “edge issues” are questioned”
But that raises the question, “just how *does* the Spirit work in history?” I’m beginning to think that His work is probably not the kind of thing that gets recorded in human history…
> the nurture of faithful imagination, freedom, and courage.
More please, yes.
There is no doubt that the spiritual life includes room for doubt about many things. Faith is coming back to the “centre” after wavering in the contemplation of things. Certitude is a brother of loyalty. Some things may seem unfair, stupid, or not make sense, but faith produces a certitude of sorts once it is grounded in the Person of Christ & the Holy Spirit. It begins to recognise where the Shepherd leads and where He is centred. In life, in church and in history. The more we become centred in Him, the more our certitude inceases (even as our self-doubt may increase).
The more we are taught to question Scripture & Holy Tradition against its historical trajectory coming down to us, the more we lose our certainty and question whether the Spirit actually led the church. This may be fine when we identify all the evil it caused but not identifying the Spirit in its history leads to incertitude in what it has taught, feeding more incertitude until “edge issues” are questioned. We all know this doesn’t end there…