My buddy Trey Gilette has just started a nifty blog that focuses on learning and practicing the spiritual disciplines in daily life. You can check it out here.
I’m thoroughly enjoying Rob Bell’s newest book, Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality.
Among other things, Bell discusses the nature of our sexuality as something that is neither animal nor angel. Animals act out of pure instinct, pure desire. Angels, on the other hand, which are beings without physical bodies, have no sexuality whatsoever.
So what does that make us?
Bell argues that God is creating humanity as something new and different. If we think of ourselves solely as animals, gratifying our desires in any way we see fit – we become like the animals, which were created before us, and we take a step back in creation. Likewise, if we think of ourselves as angels, having no sexuality whatsoever, we take a step back, because the angels also existed before us.
It is natural, he says, that we feel tension with our sexuality. We are exploring new territory within the created order. Emerging out of our sexuality is a new, exciting form of expression that transcends that of animal and angel.
There’s a lot more great stuff in this book. Maybe I’ll get to some of it in the next few days.
[Update: for those who haven’t noticed, I now have a guestbook page, which can be found along the navigation bar…]
I’d like to set up a permanent guestbook page (probably, ultimately this page) where I link to the readers of this blog. If you’ve got a blog of your own (or some similar web-based project), post a comment here with the link, and I’ll make sure it is added to the main post.
Even if you aren’t a regular commenter, I hope you’ll let me know about your blog or other web space.
…and – also, just to be clear – there is no requirement that you agree with the Christian worldview to be in the guestbook. Some of my other regular readers, like Chris, are more than welcome to add their pages as well.
I’ve had a chance to participate in a lot of groups and committees during the last few years, and I’ve found that the decisions that emerge from group discussions are, more often than not, messy, uncertain compromises. We look at our options, think through the consequences of each one, decide what the risks are, and then strike out, not quite knowing where the decision will take us. Families, spouses, businesses, churches, juries, and voters all do the same thing. We get together, discuss the issues for a while, and then start doing what we think is best. Then, hopefully, we live through the consequences – positive or negative – together.
Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that things work differently for God. I came to think that God has this very specific plan in mind. My job wasn’t to question or discuss any issues with him. I was simply required to puzzle out what he wants (I might sometimes call it “discernment of God’s will”) and then do whatever I came to believe God wanted.
Problem was, I was never very good at identifying what God wanted from me. I might pray about it. Sometimes, I might even look around after I prayed to see if any unusual things began to happen which would suggest that God is pointing me toward a particular decision. But, for the most part, I really wasn’t very good at unraveling the cosmic puzzle of God’s will.
Over time, I decided that this way of doing things – which feels more like a military drill than a personal relationship – was inadequate. I wanted to come to think of my relationship with God in a way that was more organic, more interactive.
Then, earlier this week, I ran across something that was very helpful to me. I listened to Rob Bell read a part of a letter that was generated by a group of first-century Christians which we now call the Counsel of Jerusalem. Their objective was to put together a set of rules that would allow two ethnically diverse groups of people to co-exist within the same church. (If you want to know the details about the letter, you can read it here). And when this group came to describe how certain they were about their decision, do you know what they said?
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit? It…seemed…good?!
They are basically saying – we talked this over with each other and asked God what he thought, and he agreed with what we were thinking: “Yeah….seems good.”
What is going on here? Is this what it looks like? Is God, rather than telling this group what to do, instead letting them wrestle with the issue and then endorsing the decision they have made by affirming that – to him – it also seems good? Is God more a partner than an overlord in this decision?
I’m still struggling to grasp this fully, but I wonder how things would be different if I took the Acts 15 approach to my decisions. Instead of assuming that God comes into all of my life decisions with a pre-planned, pre-packaged program that I am to execute thoughtlessly, emotionlessly, maybe…just maybe…he sometimes wants me to mull things over for myself and then ask him what he thinks of my idea.
And perhaps, sometimes, what I ought to expect is not the cold, unbending command of a field general, but the gentle voice of a loving father who simply approves.
One of the most gratifying things about blogging is the way I get to become a part of a larger, global conversation.
Several months ago, I wrote a few posts on hell and universalism. Since then, the posts from that series have been drawing hits almost daily, largely, off of searches for words like “ghenna” and “hades.” And when I follow the sources of those page hits, into forums, other blogs, etc., its kind-of cool to discover that my ideas have become a (small) part of conversations among all kinds of people on the subject: Christians, skeptics, seekers, etc.
More recently, the same thing happened with my two posts on the question of whether God is evil. Since writing those posts, I’ve found them linked to all kinds-of unusual places and conversations, largely where athiests and agnostics are seeking to have their voices heard.
I’ve written before about how I struggle with small talk. Its a bit embarassing, really, but I just don’t do it very well. When it comes to casual conversation, I come across as stiff and uninterested. But the truth is that I long for deep, meaningful conversation with others – discussions about the great ideas that have driven human history or the issues that really matter in our world. Blogging, I think, gives me an outlet where – sometimes – I get to be a part of those conversations.
So….any other bloggers out there? What makes the experience worthwile for you?
I had a long drive today – was in the car for about 8 hours. And of all things, I spent a lot of time recalling the story of Hosea. For some reason, this story wouldn’t let go of me.
Poor guy. He marries a woman he knows to be promiscuous. Over the years, she bears his children. He devotes himself to her. And what does she do? She goes to another man. Can you imagine the pain? To be wholly and totally devoted to a loving a woman, to pour all of yourself into her, only to have her respond by taking up a sexual relationship with another man.
Then God says to Hosea, “Go, show your love to your wife.” But to do that, he must pay for her “services” as a prostitute. Apparently, he can only convince her to be with him – and then for a time – by “buying” her.
His own wife.
He loves her. She is the mother of his children. But she is only interested in the money he has to offer, and he will accept even that.
Something about this parable – which, if you haven’t already guessed, is really a story about God’s love for his people – is gut-wrenching to me. Hosea is forced to put himself in the most humiliating, vulnerable position I can imagine. And he does it only so that he can come into the most superficial of relationships with the woman he loves.
The thought that God pursues us, loves us, desires us in this way – with so much passion and so much willingness to take any step, to do anything to bring us to him, to take whatever we’re willing to offer – is almost too much to take in.
Can it really be that God pursues us in this way?
I’ve been imagining a diagram for the last few days. Kind-of like a mental doodle. It looks like this:
belief —> forgiveness —> “heaven”
This is one way of describing how someone “gets saved.” The assumption is that God is holding something against us, and we have to find a way to get God to overlook it. If he does overlook it, he will allow us to go to heaven, where we will experience neverending bliss.
But I’m puzzled by something thats missing here. And its something that seems pretty important.
Will we carry our weaknesses to this place of bliss? Will the greedy still pursue their own desires, even to the detrmiment of others? Will the lustful seek to use others for their personal gratification? Will the dishonest continue to deceive for personal gain? Will we have our neuroses and paranoias? Our inclinations toward addictive and abusive behavior? I don’t think a community of eternal bliss is possible if its citizens continue to engage in prideful, destructive behavior.
I’m also wondering if the need for forgiveness the ultimate issue. Some people hold a caricature of God that makes him out to be vengeful and unforgiving, but if you sit down and read what scripture says – cover to cover – you’ll find that forgiveness flows pretty readily, even before Jesus arrives on the scene.
Is the problem that – in the abstract – God is holding something against us and we therefore need to appease him? Or is the problem that we’re abusive and prideful? Do we even have the capability to be responsible participants in this eternal, blissful society? Wouldn’t we simply screw that world up the same way we’re screwing up this one?
It seems to me that, in addition to “forgiveness,” the system by which God “saves” us must deal with our behavior. So, I’m wondering, is there a way to improve on my diagram?