Advent 2

I think this is the week of Advent 2; last Sunday was Advent 2....just what kind of Episcopalian am I?

Tomorrow is my second meeting with my priest, and my real job has kept me so busy I haven't had much time for spiritual reflection or introspection; I even missed my last walk. Several things are on my mind, and as this blog, even though I think it needs to consider audience more when I express theological opinions....this blog is still about me. Weblog. Etc.

Going into my second meeting I haven't lost my interest in ministry, but questions about money remain. Again, not big money, but financial security. And paying for seminary, hah, when my wife just finished grad school with a small to middle sized stack of loans. Also, my doubt issues surface a bit, as always; not a crises of faith, but the thoughts of the modern person.

I heard a very good interview on NPR this morning with Frank Schaeffer, son of the famous Francis. I think of the role of apologetics in the evangelical community I once inhabited, maybe in most Christian communities. For me, then, for us...someone who could argue the faith, who could present a rational bridge to Christian Theism; that person held saint status. It's funny to me how in my evangelical days we didn't think much about extra biblical characters who had gone before, traditional saints, but those who could argue the faith, who could give us, or at least me, reason for the hope within: they were revered. As if we were the prisoners in Plato's cave and they had seen the Light and returned to testify that it was in fact true; as if the great apologist was the perfection of Christian virtue, accomplishment, vision. The apologist had seen through the veil...reading them was like putting my hand through the dark mirror if only for a moment and feeling the heat of God's real being.

Now (and oh I have had a long day and am tired) now I don't think Christianity can be proven. I don't think theism, belief in a God who is concerned with humans, that cannot be proved because of the problem of biologically random suffering. How few, how few, of humans born into this world even have even reached adult age and been able to speculate on spiritual matters. How many innocents have suffered, children with cancer, all of it. I said a few words on this at Sandalstraps' blog the other day; I have not had the time to go back and read them.

That said, existence remains the great puzzle. For the order and beauty of this world, the aspirations of our spirituality, the meaning in ritual...the DNA strand alone; these beg the question of design. I don't care if it all evolved; that does absolutely nothing in my view to undermine design. It is only the brutal components of evolution, from animals eating each other to viruses and mortality; these remain the problem. In short, I do not think Christianity can be proved though I admire the work of those who try and think that work is often helpful to many who have faith; nor do I think Christianity or theism can be disproved.

And in the middle of it all we have the gospels. I am no innerrantist, but the religious brilliance of the biblical books is remarkable, at least to me. Likewise, the force of the personality who moves through the pages of the gospels (and whose phrase it that, I read it) is undeniable. My sheep hear my voice. That really does seem to be how it works.

While I still admire apologetics, I question the great number of American Christians I meet who think that on the rational level, the God question is settled. Far from it, in my view. I also question, at least as much, atheists who likewise think the question is settled on the rational level. Even more, I dislike any subjugation of faith and religious experience, prayer, ritual, worship...the encounter with the sacred; I much hate how that is considered secondary to reason by agnostics. Reason is over here, it's much better; there, you can have faith...but reason is implied to be the greater gift.

Are we so sure about that? Might not faith mean more, be greater than, have more lasting value, than human reason? Surely, if it connects us with the divine (and that is a big if; this is reflection, not apologetics :) ) faith and piety are of infinitely greater value than human reason. I am a fan of reason and logic; I have taught written argument, and tenaciously, for more than a decade. But might not faith belong with that set of traits we sometimes call inner beauty: mercy, compassion, optimism, humor, courage, love, hope, and faith. Is not faith a character trait which leads to humility, while knowledge, including religious or apologetic knowledge, tempt us to a false, secure pride?

I do not know. I am glad Frank S. is now in a liturgical tradition, the Greek Orthodox (as I have said before to friends who are "emerging" from the evangelical world: welcome to the liturgy...it's been here for an awfully long time. And any branch of our faith which can embrace reason, revelation, and experience but also embrace paradox and mystery...now that is a great strength of Episcopalianism.

Which brings me to my last: I am very sad to see churches splitting from TEC and forming another Anglican branch, or trying. The priest who brought my wife and I into the E church, the one who married us, and the priest who was rector in our first parish: both have left the E church, mostly over the Robinson issue. I don't know much about this, but I found it odd that in the founding documents released from the convention in Wheaton, I believe women will be ordained by the new break away group (I wonder if all parishes/diocese will follow this) but homosexuals, no way.

Oh: Lewis said it some time ago: those who cannot read a book written for grown up should not try. I do not know what view he would take on this issue were he alive today, but the way scripture is used to marginalize a group and not another (divorced hets, women priests) when there are texts which could allow such is simply beyond me.

But now I am much off topic. I've read Genesis and am halfway through Exodus; part of my discernment you know. More on that later.

love to all.

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