Sunday, March 31, 2013

A more catholic science?

First Things is a Catholic magazine—that's Catholic with a capital C.

But many of us forget that small-c "catholic" means "universal" or "inclusive," which is why protestants like me still proclaim, "We believe… in the holy catholic church." I was reminded of this today, Resurrection Day, while reading this article from the April issue:

Most often the story is told like this: There is some feature of the world that science is at a loss to explain. Christians rush to claim that this feature can only be explained by God. Science later produces probable non-theistic hypotheses, and the Christians must beat a hasty retreat.
God and the Gaps by Ross McCullough
A lot of religions have done this, right? The sun rises because Apollo drives his chariot across the sky starting at dawn.

McCullough correctly points out that just because the Apollonian explanation is offered, that doesn't shut down all discussion; the chariot explanation is just one hypothesis, after all.

But what I wanted to mention today is that the empty tomb, or rather The Empty Tomb, is a phenomenon that materialists are so far unable to explain. That first Easter morning was filled with despair and resignation. When the body of Jesus was not in the tomb where it was laid, this resignation became wild hope and utter confusion. Panic and utter confusion also came to the guards (Matthew 28:4, 28:11-15).

How did this happen? Modern science, with its anti-religious materialistic prejudice, refuses to consider the possibility that God intervened in his world in this case. McCullough again:

Why exclude a class of possible answers? Why be atheistic as a matter of method? Why not, instead, choose a more catholic science, admitting a broader array of hypotheses, excluding conclusions based not on predetermined criteria but on what best fits the data?
Why not indeed? Today, Christians all over the world proclaim our answer: Jesus Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


"Life," someone said, "is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." Oh, it was Lennon.

But what I really wanted to tell you about was this fabulous word from Newbigin, from The Light Has Come:

Jesus had no program of his own. He planned no career for himself… He simply responded in loving obedience to the will of his Father as it was presented to him in all the accidents, contingencies, and interruptions of daily life, among all the personal and public ambitions and fears and jealousies of that little province of the Roman empire. (200)
I happened upon this in Responding to our Call, volume 4 of the Companions in Christ series [buy].

The point, of course, is that if we want to follow Jesus, we are also to imitate him in this aspect of his life. Newbigin continues:

So the disciple… will not be concerned to create a character or career for himself. He will leave that to the wise husbandry of the Gardener, who alone knows what pruning, what watering and feeding, what sunshine or rain, warmth or cold is needed to produce the fruit he desires. (ibid.)
Which reminds me of a "Jews for Jesus" song: And press your life into His hands, That He might drink the wine. [link]

When I tell my story, I mean how I came to follow Jesus, I sometimes say I was driving down the road of life, and Jesus was there at a crossroads, indicating that he'd like to go the way of life with me. The problem was, he wanted to drive.

As it turns out, yielding the steering wheel (and the accelerator and brake) was not something I could do once and then forget about. Daily my plans must be surrendered: "I choose above all else to live this day with you" means that walking with God, responding to interruptions in a way pleasing to him—these things are a higher priority than my plans and dreams.

And so "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth (and in my life) as it is in heaven." Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What's new

A friend mentioned that my blog has been dark lately, and he wondered how I was doing. James, this one's for you.

First, the news: my father's two remaining brothers died recently -- Harry, approaching 95, on 2/21; when Gilbert (97 next month) heard the news, he took a turn for the worse and succumbed 3/7, exactly two weeks later. My dad is the youngest to survive to adulthood; he has just one sister left.

The illness and death afforded opportunities to have conversations about things we don't often discuss. Though I felt somehow inadequate several times in these past days, I'm glad I spent the time with my family.

Being with my father, and remembering my uncles in recent years, made me think about what I hope for in my future decades. I do not hope to be taking 30-mile bike rides at age 90, and I imagine much more of my memory will have left me by then; I do not expect to have a lot of brilliant insights. But I do hope I'm more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, gentle and so on. I hope I can be a man of blessing.

Some good things have been happening through fellowship. Carol and I are in a small group that more or less uses the sermon study guides. Recently we talked about Colossians 3 and the concept of doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a challenge! Carol hurts my feelings so I ignore her for a while -- in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't think so.

In a men's small group I'm in, we were talking about 2 Corinthians 12:9f. What is our weak spot? the book asked. We had to think about this, but the concept of doing everything (every detail of our lives) in the name of the Lord Jesus -- that made it quite clear that we have a number of weak spots. Or blots.

Last week we shared dinner with a couple who were so happy that they found our church. Like many of us, they had attended churches where questions were not welcomed, so the thoughtful, respectful, open approach that we take to our faith at MPPC was, and is, very refreshing to them, and it's brought greater engagement in learning, spiritual transformation, discipleship.

We are very grateful for our Sunday morning fellowship group, "Side by Side," which has been in some ways like an extended family to us. It's a community where we encourage each other—stimulate each other to love and good deeds, as the author of Hebrews tells us.

As we approach Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, I remember some past Easters, and one Easter morning in particular, now over 30 years ago, when I marveled at the idea that someone could love me enough to die in my place, to pay the penalty for my sins (or to pay a ransom to set me free), so that I might have eternal life. It seemed a wonderful thought, but it was unbelievable to me.

But a voice from the empty tomb thundered to me over a nearly 2000-year period, "Believe it!"

And so on Easter Sunday morning I will join with my brothers and sisters worldwide in proclaiming, "He is risen indeed!"