Yesterday’s lectionary Gospel reading was Mark 10:2-16, a passage I understand a lot of pastors dread preaching. It is a “divorce” passage where Jesus speaks directly to the subject.
I like what our pastor said. He stressed God’s design for couples to marry and live together in love for a lifetime. And then he said, “Of course, we know that we fail to live up to that design in many ways, and sometimes marriages end, and all kinds of troubling things happen in our family relationships. That’s when we take care of each other. It’s just what we do as God’s family.”
I loved this word of grace, a sharp thrust of the sword to self-righteous moralism and judgmentalism, which is always the temptation for religious people. Too bad we so often relate to one another on bases other than grace.
It is always — ALWAYS — about faith working through love for the one who trusts and follows Jesus.
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As you may have noticed by yesterday’s post, I have started re-reading Christian Wiman’s luminous My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer. It is near the top of the list of my favorite books of all time, with its honest and heart-breakingly beautiful prose about life, death, faith, and the journey through it all.
You can’t get out of the preface without being stunned by Wiman’s brilliant writing. Here’s an excerpt:
Initially I thought this book wouldn’t even mention my illness. I told myself that I wanted to avoid any appearance of special pleading, wanted to strip away the personal and get to ulterior truths. In fact, I think what I most wanted was escape and relief. During the years that I have worked on this book—which is very much a mosaic, not a continuous argument or narrative—my cancer has waxed and waned, my prospects dimmed and brightened, but every act and thought have occurred in that shadow. The form of the book reflects this, not simply the fragmentary and episodic quality, but also the accelerating urgency of the last chapters. I feel quite certain that I would be writing about matters of faith had I never gotten sick—the obsession is everywhere in my earlier work—but I also suspect that without the impetus of serious illness, my work would not have taken the particular form that it has. It seemed dishonest to avoid this dynamic.
When my life broke open seven years ago, I knew very well that I believed in something. Exactly what I believed, however, was considerably less clear. So I set out to answer that question, though I have come to realize that the real question—the real difficulty—is how, not what. How do you answer that burn of being? What might it mean for your life—and for your death—to acknowledge that insistent, persistent ghost?
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Another book I’m working through, after hearing the podcast Pete Enns and Jared Byas had with him, is Craig Allert’s important A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon.
Allert makes the case, which I find utter persuasive, that evangelicals (and he himself is one) have failed to seriously take into account how the NT was put together in forming their doctrines about scripture. When you do that, the whole debate about the Bible’s authority takes on a different cast.
Most evangelicals, particularly at the popular level, have what I call a “dropped out of the sky” understanding of the Bible. What I mean by this is that since the Bible is the primary source for evangelical faith and life, it is taken for granted as being always there and handed on to us as such. We give little thought to the question of why we have this particular collection. How, when, and why did this collection come into being, and why was it raised above all other documents of the early church? How was the authority of this collection recognized and appropriated in the early church? Did it act as the church’s sole authority?
It is a significant lacuna that the understanding of the formation of the Bible is rarely broached by those who offer a “high view of Scripture.” A constant theme in what follows, therefore, is that a high view of Scripture should take account of the historical process that bequeathed to us the Bible, and that examination of this issue should actually precede an investigation into what the Bible says.
…Even when evangelical treatments of Scripture cover the issue of canonicity, this near deification of the Bible sets the agenda. For example, in the only full-length evangelical treatment of New Testament canonicity and doctrine of Scripture to date, R. L. Harris argues that the recognition of a document’s inspiration determined inclusion in the canon. The divinity of the text sets the agenda for his examination of canonicity, and the very real and important work and judgment of the early church is glossed over in favor of God virtually forcing these documents on the church so that even the process of canonization is deified. This, again, has the effect of making any further examination of the canon process unnecessary because such evangelicals claim that the church did not choose the documents to be included in the canon; rather, the documents forced themselves on the church by virtue of their divine inspiration. Thus, all the church did was recognize, not choose. Yet how this inspiration was recognized is given little explanation.
This neglect of the canon process has left evangelicals with an inadequate understanding of the very Bible we view and appropriate as authoritative. (pp. 10, 12)
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My Autumn Playlist for 2018:
•1. North Country (The Rankins)
2. Summer’s End (John Prine)
3. Autumn Leaves (Nat King Cole)
4. Bach Goldberg Variations – Aria (Glenn Gould)
5. September Grass (James Taylor)
6. Je Suis De’Sole’ (Mark Knopfler)
7. No Footprints (Bruce Cockburn)
8. These Days (Jackson Browne)
9. Our Town (Iris Dement)
10. Ready for the Storm (Kathy Mattea)
11. Southbound Train (Jon Foreman)
12. Orangedale Whistle (The Rankins)
13. Last Train Home (Pat Metheny)
14. Start It All Over Again (Battlefield Band)
15. Mandolin Rain (Bruce Hornsby & the Range)
16. Northern Downpour (Panic! At the Disco)
17. If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot)
18. The Dangling Conversation (Simon & Garfunkel)
19. How I Spent My Fall Vacation (Bruce Cockburn)
20. Asheville Skies (The Milk Carton Kids)
21. Late in the Afternoon (Tracey Thorn)
22. And So Begins the Task (Stephen Stills & Manassas)
23. Bach Cello Suite #1 – Prelude (Yo Yo Ma)
24. Goodbye Again (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
25. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (Faith Like a Butterfly’s Wings) (Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love)
26. Ho Ro Mo Nighean Donn Bhoidheach (The Rankins)
27. Beautiful (Gordon Lightfoot)
28. Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
29. Autumn Waltz (The Wind River Turnaround) (Bill Staines)
30. Before Gas and TV (Mark Knopfler)
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