Archive for April, 2009

Trinity link

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2009 by Robaigh

A new catechesis.



Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2009 by Robaigh

What in the very fresh hell is going on here? See, this is one of the reasons that seminaries are necessary: it’s only got to do in part with education, but in a very real way the goal of the seminary process is to make sure that guys like this don’t wind up as preachers. As they say down south, bless his heart.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2009 by Robaigh

Rembembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

spirituality vs. religion again

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2009 by Robaigh

Zoinks! Steve, you have taken up residence in my skull! This post on spirituality v. religion actually covers (more eloquently than I could express it) many of the things that have been rolling around in my brain over the last few days.

Mea culpa: The devil didn’t actually make me do it.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2009 by Robaigh

I was just reading this post, the second half of which I pretty much agree with. I have some disagreements with much of the first half, though. I don’t have anything against Christopher Hitchens. We live in a free society, and he is welcome to believe what he wants, and even to teach what he wants. It makes me mad sometimes, but it’s his right, so I won’t attack him for it. As far as I’m concerned, he’s neither here nor there.

My real point of contention is with the idea that Satan – a personified evil – is the cause of all the troubles in the world. I’m a Lutheran, and I know Luther believed in a literal Satan. (Wasn’t it Luther who said, “Well, Pete, there are all manners of imps and demons, but the great Satan hisself is red, scaly, has a bifurcated tail and carries a hayfork”? No? Maybe that was George Clooney. Hmph.)

I’m undecided on that point. I don’t discount the possibility, but I think there’s a problem with attributing evil to a figure like Satan. It’s the Geraldine Effect (Flip Wilson’s “The Devil Made Me Do It” argument) that takes our responsibility for evil out of the equation. I also have a problem with the implicit dualism in the Satan excuse. God is God, Satan (if he exists) is a creature. As a creature, he is inherently less powerful than the creator. To use a figure like Satan as a scapegoat on whom we can blame our less-than-desirable impulses (especially including the ones we act on) fails to take seriously our culpability for sin, and worse, I think it undermines the Gospel message. If sin comes from “out there” somewhere, how can we say that Christ died “for us and for our salvation?”

(Incidentally, I like some of the scriptural stories about Satan – How he’s an adversary and an accuser of humans. It’s interesting to think about the Life of Adam and Eve, for example, which paints the Satan-like figure as so zealous for God’s honor that he winds up rebelling against God out of contempt for the creation of humans. He then spends all of his time trying to prove to God how stupid it was to create humans, who do nothing but defile the image of God. Fascinating stuff and well worth thinking about!)

Sorry. Back on track. So, the author of the original post writes, “The truth is, sin [not religion] is bad for society. [P]eople fight and kill in the name of God, or of their religion….Did God initiate any of this?” I would have to say that, well, in a way, yes. While I don’t hold to a literalistic belief in the Adam and Eve story, I do believe that God created humanity, and in doing so gave us a certain amount of freedom. Had such freedom not existed, we would have been created as automatons, not as humans, and what kind of life would that have been? In such a scenario God would have been a “celestial dictator!” Anyway, within this freedom, we fall away (a continual action – not an action that happened to an Adam and an Eve, but to all of us adam to this day) from God’s intention that we be in relationship with God and with one another. This is a constant rebirthing of sin in the world, and from this brokenness comes evil. So, in God’s freedom, God created at least partially-free humans; we humans sin and do evil. Ultimately, you’d have to admit, God bears some responsibility in this.

Please don’t misread me. As I’ve now said, sin and evil run counter to God’s intentions, but in granting us freedom to say “no” to [him], on some level God allows it. That’s the bad news. The good news is the “happy exchange”: in the incarnation of the eternal Son in Jesus of Nazareth, God and sinners are reunited. As a bridegroom and a bride share everything, we share Christ’s righteousness and he shares our brokenness. The culmination of this exchange is Christ’s death on the cross. He bears the weight of our sinfulness and leaves us free for restored union with God and with others.

Don’t get me wrong here, either. We still live in a world where sin, suffering and death are part of our experience of reality. This can’t be underscored enough. But on the other hand, the God who identifies with us to the point of death on the cross is the same God who offers us hope of resurrection. This goes for all of us sinners: you, me, Christopher Hitchens, the ones whom we don’t count as “real Christians.” The offer is universal.

But it’s hard to take this offer very seriously if we don’t recognize our role in sin. If we place it on some cosmic, demonic scapegoat, then did Christ really die “for us?” Something to ponder.

Rambling thoughts on same-sex marriage & stuff.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 by Robaigh

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  This news, of course, has the blogs abuzz – both with high praise in some quarters and massive condemnation in others.  Politically, I have a hard time justifying a ban on stuff that consenting adults do, including how they choose to express their love for one another.    I realize that the issue is more complicated than that, but I think its unjust for the majority of citizens to enjoy civil rights “more equally” than the minority.  Feel free to disagree – it won’t hurt my feelings – but I don’t care to argue about it.

I guess the reason I feel somewhat compelled to write here has more to do with the moral question of homosexuality.  Before I began scribbling here today (when I really ought to be working on 4 different papers!), I ran across several (Christian) blogs condemning the SC’s decision, calling for homosexuals (i.e. sinners) to “repent, for judgment is coming.”

I understand that the folks who are writing these blogs (most of them, at least) are doing so out of a genuine sense of concern for the well-being of gay folks.  (I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.)  On the other hand, I have some issues with their argument.  Many of them argue that homosexuality is a sin.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  My view on sin is perhaps different from theirs.

As I have come to understand it, Sin (capital “s”) comes down to idolatry.  Name a sin, eventually it leads back to idolatry.  Sin is a state of unrighteousness.  It’s opposite is, obviously, righteousness.  To be righteous means to have faith in (pisteuo is the Greek verb, meaning not only to “have faith,” but also to “have confidence” or even to “believe”) God as the only source of life.  When we place confidence in created things (other people, pet ideologies, our own abilities, religious moralism) without recognizing God as the true source, we’re sliding down the greasy sled of idolatry.

The other day I was reading Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian in which he talks about justification by faith in the promise of God’s grace versus a reliance on “good works.”  Luther seems to say that, from a human perspective, a person’s works do seem to make them either good or bad. He points to MT 7:20.  “Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  But he says that this is purely external.  By making these kinds of judgments, we can be making big mistakes.

The problem is that we need to look beyond these external signs.  “One must look away from works and focus rather on the person and ask how one is justified,” remembering that “the word of God (that is, the promise of grace)” – not what we do or don’t do – that justifies us.

The trajectory here is that we don’t know whether a person is justified or not.  As people declared righteous by God’s saving power in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, we of all people should recognize free grace and treat others as though they are justified like us.  Putting others on the wrong side of the boundary denies God’s saving power and is not a faithful witness to what we believe.

So, while I believe Christian moralists are upholding what they believe is the right opinion (even though I don’t agree with them), I think there is a danger of idolatry.

The delicious irony, of course, is that I may be just as guilty by holding my opinion.  It points to Luther’s other understanding that, no matter what we do or think or say (even if we’re “sinning boldly”), we fall short of the glory of God and need justification from outside of ourselves.


Posted in Christianity, church, Counter-culture, God, Humor, Jesus, Ministry, religion with tags , , , , on April 4, 2009 by Robaigh

Cool post on idolatry.