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I’ve been thinking about doing short posts about the ten commandments. Here’s the first one, dealing with “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”.

I will quote Luther in his Large Catechism:

“To rephrase this: ‘You are to regard Me alone as your God.’ What does that mean? How is one to understand it? What is it to have a god? Or, what is one’s god?
Answer: To whatever we look for any good thing and for refuge in every need, that is what is meant by “god.” To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart, nothing else, that make both God and an idol. If your faith and confidence are of the right kind, then your God is the true God. If, on the other hand, your trust is false, if it is misdirected, then you do no have the true God. For these two, faith and God, belong together. To whatver you give your heart and entrust your being, that, I say, is really your God.”

Luther goes on, but I will stop here for now. Maybe tomorrow I will continue it. If not, check it out for yourself if you are so inclined. It is well worth it.

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“Your baptism is nothing less than grace clutching you by the throat: a grace-full throttling, by which your sin is submerged in order that ye may remain under grace. Come thus to thy baptism. Give thyself up to be drowned in baptism and killed by the mercy of thy dear God, saying: ‘Drown me and throttle me, dear Lord, for henceforth I will gladly die to sin with Thy Son’.” -Luther

Ah, Luther…

I asked someone if they see or feel God’s presence in things and people. I don’t mean in any very mystical, or measurable way. I mean, do you get the impression when looking and living in the world that there is the work of the divine? When you do a particularly kind act or receive one, there lies God, at least to me. In the sunset and sunrise etc etc, there I see the divine. But that person said that they don’t see that or feel that.

So I asked if they ever did, perhaps as a child, when we all had a sense of wonder and awe at nearly everything. He tried to remember, but couldn’t. He concluded he never did, really. But then something sparked in his brain, and he recalled that yes, there was a sense of wonder and amazement. But as he grew up, it faded.

Why did it fade? He said that it had to do with learning about science and how the world actually worked. The more he learned, the less ignorant he became, and the more the wonder and awe about the universe left him. He could explain many common things, like the sunrise and sunsets, the northern lights, even what “love” was. There really was nothing that was extraordinary, just simple or less simple laws of the universe at play. It was really all reducible to mathematics.

So it is for him I guess. You see, when we were children, and saw a magic trick, we might have been stuck with amazement and wonder. There was magic, we believed. Then we grew up, and learned or figured out how that “magic” was done. We no longer we impressed by it, and proclaimed that “there is no magic”. But I get the feeling that some have said “there is no magician” either. I assume you all follow my meaning. Those who lose sight of God because they know how things work scientifically should not proclaim there is no being behind the substance that is science. That’s like saying because there is no magic, there is no magician.

I know you can argue about this, but this is how it seems from my perspective in this limited context and limited analogy.

A Naturalist might ask a theist, or Christian to be specific, for proof of the existence of God. One might point to the bible, and then the naturalist will say that is rubbish, it is full of magic tricks called ‘miracles’. These are impossible, he/she might say, because of Hume’s argument against them: it is far more likely that a witness to such an event is either lying or mistaken, than the laws of the universe have been altered.

But imagine this: You ask for proof of divinity and Jesus rises from the dead and says that death no longer has a hold on humanity if you believe in Him. So you say that is rubbish, because clearly people don’t rise from the dead. Let’s say we go a step further and a miracle of one kind or another happens and you see the reports of it on the news. You then say that that too is rubbish and the whole lot of people must have been drunk, high, or stupid to believe anything they are reporting to have seen (or even better, it was some magician trying to make a name for himself by making a building disappear in NYC…damn those magicians…good special effects these days…). Then, let us say that a miracle happens right before your eyes. What do you say then? “O well, I must have had something bad to eat last night, I’m hallucinating, tired, delirious, insane, dreaming, mistaken, etc etc. You will never, ever, come to the proper conclusion, the truth of the matter, because you exclude miracles from the start. Even if one actually occurred right before your eyes, God proving His divinity and power over natural laws (not that a miracle must be that way), you would still not recognize it for what it is.

In conclusion, when a naturalist claims that they just can’t believe what was written thousands of years ago about miracles, and they sure would like to see some in the present day, preferably right before their very eyes, this very instant so that they may believe, they are mistaken or lying, because they still would not believe.

“Only that which participates in Christ can endure and overcome. Christ is the center and power of the Bible, of the Church, of theology, but also of humanity, reason, justice, and culture. To Christ everything must return; only under Christ’s protection can it live.” p. 341 Ethics, Bonhoeffer

“The way of Jesus Christ, and thus the way of all Christian thought, is not the way from the world to God but from God to the world.” p.356 Ethics

An important distinction raised by Bonhoeffer in his Ethics. A distinction, that I personally draw, not that he explicitly wrote about, is that this point is where many religions part ways from Christianity.

Good is…

Good is not a second possibility contrasted with evil. Good is the dissolution of evil, its judgment.” p.467 The Epistle to the Romans, Karl Barth