According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honesty in the Journey (or On the Raising of Young Heretics)


by Peter Enns
posted December 20, 2011

Nearly twenty years ago, my oldest was six years old. One of our bedtime routines was a brief Bible reading.

One evening we found ourselves in the Garden of Eden story—Adam and Eve, a piece of fruit, and a snake with vocal chords.

As I read, my son kept sighing, as if impatient with my reading. Being the only Old Testament expert in the room, I ignored him and kept going.

But he kept sighing.

He even had the audacity to interrupt me.

“Daddy, snakes can’t talk.”

The woman said to the serpent, “we may eat fruit from the tr….”

“Daddy. Snakes. Can’t. Talk.”

With a sense of foreboding, I stopped reading and asked him, pray, to continue his remonstration. For the next few minutes I listened to a six year old deconstruct his faith, which amounted to the following:

Two naked people, magic fruit from a magic tree, and a talking animal. C’mon. This is obviously a story, not too different from the cartoons I watch or the other books you read to me, none of which you expect me to accept as reality. So, it seems to me that the Bible is a story, which gets me dangerously close to thinking that maybe God is a story, too. Hence—follow me here, Dad—I’m not sure why I should really believe God is real, which is to say, please stop reading, and can I have a glass of water?

My six year old was having a faith crisis.

Well that’s just perfect. I can see the headlines now: “Controversial Old Testament professor raises heretic son” (trial footage at 11:00).

My first instinct was fear: “Shhhhhh! Keep your voice down! He may hear you.” But, in one of those moments that for me constitutes sure proof of God’s existence, my mouth was kept from saying what my brain was telling it.

I tried a different approach: “You don’t really believe in God anymore? O.K., well, tell him.”

Let’s not talk about the problem, just tell God. Be honest with him.

My son wasn’t expecting that. He looked at me like I had spiders crawling out of my nostrils. He also looked a bit relieved.

Over the years, I have been thankful to God that I didn’t correct my son’s theology, for that would have been utterly stupid. Had I shamed him or coerced him into saying the right thing (so I would feel better about my parenting skills), I would have been responsible for creating another religious drone, another one who, at a young age, was already learning to play the religion game.

I would have taught my son a crippling lesson, that faith in God requires him to be dishonest with God and with himself.

I am proud of that little six-year-old, who trusted himself enough not to play games. And I am thankful that I, by a flickering moment of God’s grace, didn’t blink (too much).

Life in Christendom can sometimes feel like a show. We can be quite concerned to put on appearances—even though the Gospel humbles the proud and unmasks the hypocrite. Dishonesty cheapens the Gospel as yet another commodity to be controlled and manipulated for personal gain. It ceases being that which gives us our true identities to that which is manipulated, along with everything else, to hold on to our false selves.

We construct many reasons for maintaining a posture of dishonesty. For many, the failure to utter before God where we really are and what we are real think reflects a lifetime of corrupt spiritual teaching: "God went through a lot of effort to save you, so the least you can do is have your act together so as not to disappoint him."

In a perverse twist, “holding on to the Gospel” becomes a motivation to hold on to self-deception.

I have learned that God, for our own sake, does not let that condition continue indefinitely.

This post is adapted from my recently published commentary on Ecclesiastes (Eerdmans, 2011).




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