The Journey

Posted on September 24, 2012
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I will try a bit more. I am putting words to something which starts much deeper than words, deeper than the part of man which is capable of word-making. I am speaking of a weariness that comes not from the muscles, nor from the mind, but from the soul. If the muscles grow tired of working, and the mind grows tired of thinking, then the soul can only grow tired of living. Then the soul will seek to turn off the Light, to lie down, and to Sleep. And if the soul is weary, where will it find rest but in Sleep?

But sleep is for the end of the journey. We will not do well to tell the weary traveler, “Depart this world; depart, Life and Light are on the other side. Take your rest now, Traveler, and awake refresh. Depart, your answer lies on the other side.” There is a thread of truth in this, but also a warp and woof of deception.

I have not learned a better way to show the deceit in this darkling whisper except to say this: Christ came to us. His promise is to return to us, where we are. He does not call us to Heaven but to the cross.

The Christian hope is anchored in the future, but its motion is toward the present. When you have suffered with someone, you will have done twice the Christian work as when you have told him about heaven. […] Here, here in this suffering, here with the suffering, is the work of Christ, the mystery of creation, the miracle of redemption. To anchor yourself in the present experience as a reference and move toward the future in exploration is backwards to Christ, who always had his anchor in the future and his work at hand.

From comments on Noise of Creation (private correspondence, not web-published comments).

A Gate That Swings Both Ways

Posted on September 23, 2012
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Last year, at about this season (a month later, let’s say), I built a chicken coop. Well, I funded and designed it and helped to build it. After several design drafts it is still a poorly designed coop; the roosts, the primary purpose of the coop, don’t really belong anywhere and get in the way of everything. It doesn’t accommodate the chicken food – or rather,  there is a space to store the food but no room to actually give it to the chickens. The floor is coated with linoleum to make it easier to clean and prevent chickens from walking directly over pressure-treated wood and perhaps (perhaps  maybe just in case) absorbing the chemicals through their feet. The coop is rarely cleaned and the chickens routinely walk through their own feces. The walls are insulated to keep the coop warmer for the small birds who suffer in the cold; but all the small birds were eaten by a bear, who also broke all the plexiglass windows. It is very important for a chicken coop to be well ventilated, but the windows aren’t needed for that because of the gaps around the doors.

I am displeased with my chicken coop, as you can tell, but that wasn’t why I brought it up.  To get back on the subject:

This weekend I installed a gate to the chicken yard. The coop itself was meant to function as a gate, with a door on both ends, but this arrangement does not allow the mower to pass through, and the chicken yard must be mowed. In the process of building this gate I wavered between a tall gate with a crosspiece, to add stability and drama, or a minimally tall gate just up to the fence height. I considered dropping posts into the ground and packing dirt around them or setting them in concrete. I considered fancy black hardware and basic galvanized hardware.

I did not consider in one period, then decide, and then execute. I considered and reconsidered and bought some material and considered again. I decided where the gate would go and then changed my mind when I went out to start it. I decided to make it eight feet wide and then I decided to make it four feet wide. Then I made it five feet wide. I decided not to put any concrete around the posts at all and then I decided to fill the post holes to the top with concrete.

I had two visions of a gate, one resplendently Done Right, both functional and decorative; the other, functional and spare, with the virtue of frugality and plainness. The gate we have is neither one nor the other, nor yet any full decided third way. I say I installed a gate; I actually have just two posts standing in wet concrete. But with the holes dug and the concrete poured, most of my choices for this gate are made. In the construction of the gate itself, however, I still have plenty of opportunity to change my mind.

Why can’t I chose a way and follow it until I have a reason to change? Why should I rush to and fro like leaves in autumn’s fitful gusts?

True Authority

Posted on September 4, 2012
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Alan Knox highlights an aspect of spiritual authority in his post today. There’s probably a bit more to be said about the unique role of an apostle, or even the role of any elder, but what Alan points out is the bedrock of authority. In traditional church structures authority is mostly that other stuff not here discussed, and only just a little of what Alan has pointed out.

Complementarianism, and doctrine

Posted on September 1, 2012
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Art Sido shared a video where “Together for the Gospel” luminaries explained why complementarian doctrine is important. Of the three, Tim Keller’s comments distinguishing complementarianism from core gospel issues were the best. References were made in the discussion to important theological considerations, but overall I thought the context employed by the three, particularly Carson and Piper, was far too concerned with cultural crusading and organizing. Piper’s great concern that males have a strong self-identity as men seemed off key; the Bible is far more concerned with our relationship to God than our independent conception of self-hood. Either complementarian practice speaks of Christ or it is not important. A solid sense of manliness will save no one.

I noticed how sharp everything looked in the video–and by “sharp” I mean “rich and powerful” — and I think that speaks to what is often mixed with advocates of complementarianism. The intended effect of the pageantry was probably not “rich and powerful” but “respectable.” How often those two coincide! And how much of Piper’s need for a definition of manliness is a need for respectability, a “salute the flag” type of recognized power and order? In their references to various ecclesiologies being more acceptable than egalitarianism, I thought that the variety in church organization might be permissible because in any variety it is still organized and respectable. (These are my reflections, not critiques of what the men said.)

In a completely unrelated post, Alan Knox comments on our diminished understanding of doctrine. He points out that for the authors of the New Testament, teaching was not distinguishable from practice. To me these remarks are very relevant to the complementarian debate. Teacher of complementarianism often wander off into some kind of man-worship for which I see no Biblical support. Yet I cannot think of any marriage I have ever seen with my own eyes that seemed to be healthy and was not lead by the husband.

The tricky part of the anecdotal evidence is defining what it means to lead. I don’t think I can. As someone said in the video, it’s not a matter of who has the checkbook. All kinds of things that our society considers leadership are actually just matters of control and pomp. There is still a kernel of realization left that leadership is not control. You hear a lot of talk in business circles at least about less top-down control in leadership. The closest I can hit it right now is that in my observation, in a healthy marriage a wife defers to her husband’s sense of right and wrong. This does not mean that the wife is doing things she knows for certain are wrong. But a moral aspect appears in all sorts of things that must be judged in the case and not from an absolute – a quick example might be giving money to a deadbeat child. Do you financially support your son no matter what or do you require him to put his own effort and discernment to work? Couples may argue about these matters of judgement privately, but it is the decision of the husband that is put into practice. To the extent that I can recall, where this is not done the marriage is not healthy.

As an aside, the story of Abigail would be interesting to ponder in this context. Abigail clearly broke her husband Nabal’s decision. She also clearly saved his life by doing so. But I would not say they had a healthy marriage.

Anyway, I said up front I don’t think I have a good definition on what leadership is and I am working with anecdotal (highly suspect) evidence in any case. The point I am trying to get to is that even when couples profess to have an egalitarian relationship, and even when the wife in particularly would be highly offended at the notion of submitting unilaterally to her husband, even then I notice what I would consider deference. Either that, or strife. Conversely, I’ve seen marriages where both parties would heartily endorse complementarian doctrine, but the husband’s “decisions” are arranged by his wife. In these cases it is usually the children who get the brunt of it because the husband usually breaks his own “decisions” when he thinks he can get away with it, and the actual trust between the husband and wife is very low. The duplicity of pretending that Dad is in charge when Mom really is destabilizes the whole family relationship.

The doctrine that people live is often stronger than the doctrine that people preach.