Professor William Stuntz died of cancer last week at age 52. He knew he was going to die for a long time. This interview is a remarkable look inside an honest Christian, his regrets over life and his impending death. The following question and answer are a poignant example:
Your life is ending sooner than you must have expected. Are you pleased with the life you lived?
I’m not displeased in the sense that I never got to see that or do this or enjoy something else. I have almost none of those feelings. I am utterly satisfied with my life in those terms. I have gotten many more good things than I could deserve in any conceivable way. I have been incredibly more blessed, along multiple dimensions, than I would have imagined when I was young. In that sense, I am perfectly pleased with my life.
What I am displeased with is my own living of life. I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given. This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me.
It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed. He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine. How could he not be disappointed? That makes complete sense to me.
It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in. It takes work for me to believe in that God.
There are some great images on this site of our vast national security apparatus.
John Donne sounds like a character in a Jack Vance book in this passage from his Essays in Divinity:
Picus, Earl of Mirandula, being a man of incontinent wit, and subject to the concupiscence of inaccessible knowledges and transcendencies, pursuing the rules of Cabal, out of the word Bresit, which is the title of this first book, by vexing and transposing and anagrammatizing the letters, hath expressed and wrung out this sum of Christian religion.
Events like last week’s tsunami often spur on premillenial believers who think that things have never been this bad before and that the end is in sight. This is not new. James Moorhead mentions an encounter that Robert Willett had back in World War I:
…he encountered an energetic man who explained that Kaiser Wilhelm was the beast described in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and that Jesus would appear within months to “rapture” the saints.
As George Marsden points out in Fundamentalism and American Culture, World War I touched off a frenzy of speculation about Germany and “the Huns” being a possible candidate for the Antichrist and his Empire. One can imagine how a world war would lead people to speculate on such matters. And I am sure that this speculation reached another level when Hitler was around. And yet, the end did not come.
This did not stop speculation. The emphasis shifted from shattered Germany to the Red Menace and the Soviet Union which would surely invade Israel and fulfill Ezekiel 38. The bad interpretation of premillenialism said that “this generation” applied to 1948 and Israel (we are now 63 years later, when does a generation end?). Chuck Smith said the end was probably going to be in 1981…or maybe 1986.
After the Cold War ended with no Russian invasion in sight, there was a bit of a lull as some looked to China as the new possible beast from the East. Then we had 9/11 and the premillenial world went crazy over Islam. Surely Islam would usher in the end by invading Israel.
In some ways, premillenialism cannot ever be proven wrong. You can show people all of these past wrong predictions and they will blow it off as men’s opinions. Dates change, the Antichrist changes, new events are constantly discovered within the same old passages, and the end still does not come. But people love to think that our generation is the most important one, and that things like this have never occurred before. Well, they have. Many of the Biblical texts point to AD 70 and the destruction of the old world. No more Temple, no more Law, no more Jews (their religion was ended at the Cross and there is no more Temple worship that wouldn’t be an insult to God). Read this book and learn a thing or two. God’s kingdom will continue to spread from the River to the ends of the earth, like a mustard seed that grows into a great tree.
Nicholas Carr has an excellent insight into the information tsunami problem that we are in the middle of in this post:
When we complain about information overload, what we’re usually complaining about is ambient overload. This is an altogether different beast. Ambient overload doesn’t involve needles in haystacks. It involves haystack-sized piles of needles. We experience ambient overload when we’re surrounded by so much informationthat is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all. We keep clicking links, keep hitting the refresh key, keep opening new tabs, keep checking email in-boxes and RSS feeds, keep scanning Amazon and Netflix recommendations – and yet the pile of interesting information never shrinks.
The cause of situational overload is too much noise. The cause of ambient overload is too much signal.
A commenter to the post writes:
Eventually, you just have to recognize limits. You have to get rid of a lot of good stuff. It’s hard.
Worse, however, is ‘conversation overload.’ I can walk away from information but walking away from conversations is far more difficult and our technologies make conversation/communication so much easier and that produces more of it.
I think these are apropos sentiments with the thoughts I have had recently about eliminating news (“the junk food of the mind”) from my reading diet. I would also like to weed some more blogs and things like that out of my consumption. Replacing all of that with more solid reading sounds like a good plan.
* How many colleges and universities could survive as currently configured without Federal loans, grants and aid?
* How many foreign governments and militaries could survive without aid from the United States?
* How many hospitals or other medical practices could survive without Medicare, Medicaid and other payments from the central government?
* How many state governments could survive as currently configured without Federal money?
* How many businesses in the DC metro area would collapse if defense and other Federal spending were drastically reduced?
* How could the housing market survive in its current form without government assistance?
I could go on. The tentacles are everywhere.
For my Scripture reading last year I read Deuteronomy over and over. This year I am attempting to dig into the Wisdom books. I have been reminded that the road to Christian maturity is one of meditation on God’s Word, a constant approach and re-approach to the same texts, seeing them through the lens of Jesus and His Church.
I don’t have the discipline right now to follow a lectionary style of reading every day and I don’t want to launch out on another read the entire Bible project. So in these overly busy years I want to try and focus in on something that I can benefit from by repetition. I also want to feel some freedom about where I read, because I tend to feel very rigid about starting in one place and proceeding on until the end, not hopping around. I am trying to break away from the feeling that I should constantly be reading the lectionary or doing Genesis to Revelation on a cycle.
Part of the problem with my Scripture reading is that I find myself addicted to reading news and social media throughout the day every day. I need to drive a stake through those habits so that I can spend more time reading quality material and less on passing fancies. Lent might be a good time to try and change those habits.
The controversy of the week in the Christian blogosphere regards Rob Bell and his apparent leap into universalism – (not surprising to me given the Wheaton and Fuller pedigree). I had never heard of Bell until last week, maybe because I don’t much care about celebrity preachers in general. What has been interesting to me is watching the reaction of people that I follow to Bell’s position, from the “left” and “right” theologically. But this post isn’t really about Bell or the reaction to him as much as it is about my own experience with the doctrine (and reality) of hell.
I had a period of apostasy that lasted for about eight years. During the last year of that time I was consistently worried about the possibility of death and an endless eternity in hell. This fear was part of what God used to bring me back to Him. For some folks, the gracious message of love and forgiveness, new life and cleansing, is what draws them back to the faith or to Christ for the first time. For me, the fear of hell was very real and very terrifying. It spurred me on more than the idea that I could be forgiven, which I always took as a given.
Removing the concept of hell from our lexicon is removing an effective means of spurring people to salvation. It is also a gigantic and terrifying lie. If hell is a reality – and if we take the Scripture seriously it most certainly is – then we may be condemning people to that very place if we backhandedly assure them that they need not worry overmuch about the possibility of spending eternity there, because in the end everyone is saved and “love wins.” That is something I would not want to stand before God and explain on the Last Day.
This is me thinking out loud. The prominence of Peter in the New Testament is striking, but it does not mean what the modern RCC says it means. So what does it mean? I’m not sure. The famous passage from Matthew 16 says:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
It looks to me like Jesus is addressing Peter, not everyone. Peter features prominently in the Gospels and the early part of Acts. He is given a lot of attention. His post-Resurrection restoration by Jesus is portrayed at length. Why? Why the focus on him?
Peter was flawed, he was not infallible, he made mistakes.
He was not in charge of the church in Jerusalem.
Paul says Jesus appeared to him first of all.
A party in Corinth claimed to be of him.
He led the church in the earliest days.
Peter was the rock, the leader of the early Church, but it was leadership in council, a conciliar model. He was not even first among equals, but one of perhaps a triad of leaders.
I believe that he did go to Rome.
The NT cannot possibly lay obedience to the See of Rome on believers as a necessity.
Jesus built the church on Peter in some sense.
The gates of hell did not prevail in some sense.