Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Creed" by Steve Turner

This poem was introduced to me by a very wise man from Oxford.

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before during
and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy's OK
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything's getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated.
You can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in horoscopes,
UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha
Mohammed and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher although we think
his good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same,
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.

We believe that after death comes The Nothing
because when you ask the dead what happens
they say Nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between
warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behaviour that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth
that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nicholas Wolterstorff on Suffering and Love

To continue the discussion on suffering - beautiful words from Nicholas Wolterstorff.


... Slowly I began to see that the Bible is a book about justice; but what a strange and haunting form of justice! Not our familiar modern Western justice of no one invading one's right to determine one's life as one will. Rather the justice of the widow, the orphan, and the alien. A society is just when all the little ones, all the defenseless ones, all the unprotected ones, have been brought back into community. Biblical justice is the shepherd leaving the corral to look for the hundredth one and then throwing a feast when the one is found.


This was all before. I now live after: after the death of our son, Eric. My life has been divided into before and after.

He loved the mountains, loved them passionately. They lured and beckoned him irresistably. Born on a snowy night in New Haven, he died twenty-five years later on a snowy slope in the Kaisergebirger, Austria.

Never again will anyone inhabit the world the way he did. Only a hole remains, a void, a gap. My son is gone. The ache of loss sinks down and down, deep beyond all telling. How deep do souls go?

The suffering of the world has worked its way deeper inside me. I never knew that sorrow could be like this. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric's death. To live without the answer is precarious. It's hard to keep one's footing. I can only, with Job, endure in the fact of this deepest and most painful of mysteries. I believe in God the Father almightly, maker of heaven and earth and resurrecter of Jesus Christ. I also believe that my son's life was cut off in its prime. I cannot fit these pieces together. I am at a loss. My wound is an unanswered question. Lament and trust are in tension, like wood and string in bow.

To love is to run the risk of suffering. Or rather, in our world, to love is to suffer; there is no escaping it. Augustine knew it well, so Augustine recommended playing it safe, loving only what could neither die nor change on one - God and the soul. My whole tradition had taught me to love the world, to love the world as a gift, to love God through and in the world - wife, children, art, plants, learning. It had set me up for suffering. But it didn't tell me this: it didn't tell me that the invitation to love is the invitation to suffering. It let me find that out for myself, when it happened. Possibly it's best that way.

I haven't anything to say beyond what I've already said in Lament for a Son. There's a lot of silence in the book; no word too much, I hope. In the face of death we must not chatter. And when I spoke, I found myself moving often on the edges of language, trying to find images for what only images could say. The book is extremely particular; I do not speak about death, only about Eric's death. That's all I could do. But I have discovered, from what readers have told me, that in its particularity lies universality.

I see now, looking back, that in writing it I was struggling to own my grief. The modern Western practice is to disown one's grief: to get over it, to put it behind one, to get on with life, to put it out of mind, to ensure that it will not become part of one's identity. My struggle was to own it, to make it part of my identity: if you want to know who I am, you must know that I am one whose son died. But then to own it redemptively. It takes a long time to learn how to own one's suffering redemptively; one never finishes learning.

Though there are strands in the Reformed tradition for which sovereignty is God's principal attribute, I don't think I ever thought of God much in terms of sovereignty. God was majesty for me, indescribable majesty. And graciousness, goodness; God is the one who blesses, blessing calling for gratitude. To be human is to be the point in the cosmos where God's goodness is meant to find its answer in gratitude: John Calvin told me that.

Now everything was different. Who is this God looming over me? Majesty? I see no majesty. Grace? Can this be grace? I see nothing at all; dark clouds hide the face of God. Slowly the clouds lift. What I saw then was tears, a weeping God, suffering over my suffering. I had not realized that if God loves this world, God suffers; I had thoughtlessly supposed that God loved without suffering. I knew that divine love was the key. But I had not realized that the love that is the key is suffering love.

... It moved me deeply to discover one day that John Calvin alone among the classical theologians had written of the suffering of God. Whenever he wrote of it, it was, so far as I could discover, in the same context: that of a discussion of injustice. To wreak injustice on one of one's fellow human beings, said Calvin, is to wound and injure God; he said that the cry of those who suffer injustice is the cry of God.

And sometimes when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith. In that radiance we see best what humanity was meant to be. So I shall struggle to live with the reality of Christ's rising and death's dying. In my living, my son's dying will not be the last word.

Taken from 'The Grace that Shaped My Life', from the book Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians, edited by Kelly Monroe.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, a former president of the American Philosophical Association, has a joint appointment as a professor in the philosophy and religion departments, and the Divinity School, at Yale University.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian in the New York Times

The New York Times has published a write-up about my pastor and the church that I've been attending ever since I came to New York; Redeemer has been such a tremendous blessing to me and I am just so grateful for the whole community. The article was interesting and fair - I almost could not believe the New York Times managed to write about a leading evangelical (although Dr Keller prefers to be identified as "orthodox" because of all the negative political connotations of that word) and an evangelical church, with absolutely no hint of snarkiness. Talk about miracles.

Check out the article here: Preaching the Word and Quoting the Voice

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Last of Winter

Blizzard of 2006, 12th February

The Snowfall Is So Silent
by Miguel de Unamuno
Translated by Robert Bly

The snowfall is so silent,
so slow,
bit by bit, with delicacy
it settles down on the earth
and covers over the fields.
The silent snow comes down
white and weightless;
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
It covers the fields gently
while frost attacks them
with its sudden flashes of white;
covers everything with its pure
and silent covering;
not one thing on the ground
anywhere escapes it.
And wherever it falls it stays,
content and gay,
for snow does not slip off
as rain does,
but it stays and sinks in.
The flakes are skyflowers,
pale lilies from the clouds,
that wither on earth.
They come down blossoming
but then so quickly
they are gone;
they bloom only on the peak,
above the mountains,
and make the earth feel heavier
when they die inside.
Snow, delicate snow,
that falls with such lightness
on the head,
on the feelings,
come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:6-7