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
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Calf Path of an Open, Discerning Faith

As a past evangelic and now emergent exploring Christianity's postmodern fall-and-rise, I found Sam Walter Foss' poem, The Calf Path, to have quite a bit to say about following the past traditions and theologies of men sometimes held too high or too sacrosanct as to allow the fresher breezes and airs of God's Word to breathe alive its worlds of truth and beauty to us today.

We do err by not listening to our world today when preferring the older times and more ancient thoughts of past church eras. This is not to say that we should not listen to the past histories and tales of men and women sometimes bought with too-high a price. For the past may guide as much as the present if helped along with the keys of discernment... Our choices are not one or the other, but both, and all, and none. Confusion comes to the undiscerning when always listening but failing to see. When believing all can be known that has been known and nothing further can be expressed. This behavior is unlike God. And must be unlike His church.

The church has learned and experienced a lot through the ages past, but like many adults living life, the church should never stop learning, for when it does, it immortalizes the past unduly beyond its bounds, having nothing then to offer the younger generations around it. This would be the same for us too. For this kind of behavior will also prevents us from recognizing the many times our failure and sin has brought undue pain and ignorance to those around us. And it prevents us from hearing God. For can it be said that "we know all that can be known about our infinite God? That we have fully comprehended the One who is icomprehensible? That the church has said all that can be said about God, and may only set a guard about its fortress walls of traditions, creeds and dogmas? That it may close its doors, and shut the shop, and post a sign in its windows saying 'gone to bed'?"

No, I think not. And I also suspect that God has a lot more to say to us today... especially in our wealth of knowledge, sciences, learning and industry. Because what He has to say is said to the moiling masses of people in their societies and cultures, generations and families. As people ever are, so God ever is. A God who is ever present in our midst speaking words of wisdom and love into our turbulent lifestyles. To these words we must learn to listen never pretending that all has been said that can be said.

Tradition is a great thing. And history is a thing to be preserved. And if used as proper guides - touched by a healthy dose of discernment - tradition and history can lead us into our futures. But when they do, expect all to change, and to become unlike the past it came from. And do not then regret it. For this is the way of life. Of man. Of our estate created in the image of God by our Divine Maker who redeems all.

For if we cease to listen to God's ever present word, a word that by its nature is immanent and re-incarnating, than we have presented to ourselves a closed bible, and an irrelevant faith, no longer living and breathing the billowing airs and societies of renewing humanity. We need always pray for open hearts, open bibles, and open preaching to God's revelatory words guiding, and guarding, our wandering calf paths in these halycon days of sin and dark opportunity. Learning to listen. To examine. To see. To evolve.

The calf paths once taken may have been of help once. But they are as crooked now as ever they once were - perhaps by God's delight and amusement as much to our wandering lostness of heart and soul. Sometimes they need straightening for economy's sake. And sometimes they need a detour for re-purposing's sake. And sometimes they just need to be walked for nurture's sake through a leafy green woods upon a winding trail on a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

As a former evangelic, I have left this well used trail with deep appreciation for everything that it once provided, but now must turn onto the promising future of what my newer trail can provide in God's creative and re-creating heart during these newer days of postmodernism. For I'm searching for an emerging Christian faith that is relevant to the now and not to the then. To the future, and not to the past. Yes, traditions can be of a help, as history may be a guide. But exploration is ever in the heart of man knowing that Eden is ever before him. And at its end, as in its beginning, is the God that was, and is, and is to come.

R.E. Slater
November 27, 2012

Cartoon by Michael Leunig
The Calf-Path
by Sam Walter Foss

*Sam Walter Foss: Minor Poet with a Major Message -

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed -- do not laugh --
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach --
But I am not ordained to preach.

Continue to -


  1. Hey, I recognise this poem (and the image)! Hmmm...

  2. You have good taste in poetry. Apparently its a fairly popular poem though my recent reading of it only held faint memories of a poem I might have read from long years ago.

    Since I've been writing of a new expression of Christianity I thought it could be used of Christian faiths that refuse to grow past learned institutionalized religion, grown staid and stoic.

    But to be a renewing Christian is to bear a faith that is alive, exploring, searching, doing, believing, through every day of life. Not held back by popular sentiments, fears and reproach like a calf path grown broad and wide and making no sense. Peace.