Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This Blog is Moving

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Supernatural

My mental health and emotional stability is always put in peril when I visit the website, "Stand Firm in Faith."  I won't get into it now, but I'm just not a fan.

One of their pages had a post and several comments blasting an online support community started by Richard Dawkins for Christian ministers who "no longer believe in the supernatural."  Fair enough, I thought, they probably do need a lot of support if their external life is totally incongruous with their inner life.  And the post made it seem pretty clear that a big part of this online community is supporting these folks as they leave the ministry.

But this got me thinking, "do I believe in the supernatural?  And what exactly do we mean when we say supernatural?"  My hunch is that when most people talk about the supernatural, they are talking about God or some sort of divine entity or force.

The more I think about it though, the more I don't believe in the "supernatural" either.  Now hold on just a second before you report me to the heresy police.  Allow me to explain.

God parts the Red Sea
"Supernatural" connotes an entity or force that works outside or above nature; almost a spooky sort of power that we, as humans, can never understand or face.  However, I believe in the God who enters into time and indeed works in nature.  I believe in the God who parted the Red Seas and saved Israel from Egypt.  I believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.  These weren't "supernatural" events, I believe they are now part of the fabric of our nature.

Now, back to this online support community.  I am not going to defend or damn it; I am simply trying to flesh out what it means to believe in the supernatural. The problem is that we use "supernatural" as a euphemism for God, as if talking about God would create a scandal or offend our sensibilities.

If you're going to talk about God, talk about God.  The Very One who created, enters, and will redeem the natural.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Triune God

Tomorrow will mark the end of our Theology Tuesday series at St. Alban's.  So far we've covered Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection.  I'm the clean-up hitter and will be teaching on Trinity.  Buckle your mental seat belts, because I'm about to spin your head.

First of all, I think there are two erroneous ways to approach the Trinity.  I've read plenty of books and heard plenty of people talk about the Trinity as this great mystery - like a divine jigsaw puzzle - that has to be sorted out, analyzed, and categorized.  The problem here is that God won't fit into any box of our making and that concept of the Trinity has the potential to destroy our spiritual relationship with God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If you follow that path of analysis too far you run into the second error.  Because you cannot logically piece together the doctrine of the Trinity, many are prone to totally discount it as a bunch of hooey.  These two errors are closely linked - you either end up talking about God and not knowing Him, or you throw away the Christian understanding of God that we have received.

What are we to do?

My teaching on the Trinity tomorrow will essentially be a long commentary on the Last Supper narrative in John's gospel.  I know, it's not the classical defense of the Trinity from II Corinthians or Matthew 28, but I actually believe John's record of the Last Supper is our best vision of the Triune God.

In that story, from John 13 through John 17, the disciples are allowed into the very conversation that is God.  Around a table with his followers, Jesus prays to the Father for them and promises the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This is the Trinity - neither is it a theological puzzle or something that deserves our scoffing.  The Trinity is an intimacy, an intimacy into which we are invited and loved.