Lesson from a linguist

Recently Estee and I had a conversation with a couple friends of ours. He, Mark, works for Quicksilver and she, Lori, is a Ph.D student in linguistics. 

Lori shared with Estee and I that in the world of linguistics, there are two types of people. There are syntacticians who even though sound like people who are very tactical with their sinning, are actually people who are somewhat focused on the correct rules of language. These are the people who are going to correct you when you use whom when you should use who or ought instead of should. If you will these are the letter of the law sorts of people. 
There are others who study language and are less interested in the rules of the the language but are more interested in how people put words together. While the syntactician will correct your grammar, this second group (and I have forgotten their name!) will hear an odd turn of a phrase and say, "that is really interesting that you use those word(s) in that way." If you will these are the people who are interested in how language is actually used by people.

Both groups see/hear a language anomaly but have different responses to it. One is seeking to be corrective and the other is seeking curiosity. 

It got me thinking about Christianity. When you and I come across someone who is practicing the faith in a non-traditional way, do we take corrective steps or curious steps? 

Are we interested in ensuring the tradition stays constant and uniform or interested in discovering the ways in which people's lives are being influenced by the faith and the faith is being influenced by their lives? 

Are we corrective or curious? 

Bibliolatry and John 1

Reading the opening verses of John's gospel, I am reminded how incredible the incarnation is. That is just how amazing it is that in Jesus is what a life full of God looks like - Jesus is God incarnate.

As great as the Bible is, let us be very clear, the Bible is not the greatest revelation of God. John is very clear that the greatest way we know God is not through scriptures but through the Word made flesh (aka - Jesus).

The UMC has a tradition of holding the scriptures as one of the four corners of the quadrilateral. You may have heard it before that the UMC "does" theology using scripture, tradition, experience and reason. But again, for clarity sake, these four sources, even if they are combined, are not even close to being on par with the Word made flesh.

So while we read the Word, let us not be confused. John is not talking about the written words on a page. John is not talking about the Bible. John in not talking about any scripture at all. John is talking about Jesus Christ.

We do not worship the Bible. We worship Christ, whom we understand to be the Word made flesh.

In our efforts to better understand Jesus, let us not forget that the Bible is but a finger pointing to the moon that is Christ. Do not confuse the finger with the beauty and complexity of the moon.

Are we Christians really monotheistic? Part 3

If we live our lives thinking there are multiple gods (such as the "god of anger") yet we worship only one God (such as Jesus) then we are not really monotheistic oriented.  Rather we are henotheistic or monolatristic.  

If we Christians are moving in our lives believing there are somethings (or some gods) which are good (say love) and some things(gods) that are bad (say hate) then we are forgetting that God declared all things good.  

If we declare somethings good and somethings bad then we will live out our lives attempting to remove the bad while seek after the good.  So we begin to worship the "good" gods and demonize the "bad" gods.  

Again, not a posture of monotheism.  

While practical and popular, the question, "Is this good or bad?" is not a question for Christian monotheism.  We already know the answer.  All things are good as declared by God.  

If we are asking if something is good or bad then we are really, at our core, practicing something other than monotheism of Christianity.  

Christian monotheism rather accepts that all things are created by one God and that one God called all things good.  As such we do not waste time considering if something is bad and therefore should be avoided or good and therefore should be attained.  The question Christian monotheism asks is, "Is this redeemed or does it need to be redeemed?"  

This question changes our posture in the world.  

If we think that hate is bad and should be avoided then we are forgetting that Christian monotheism calls us to hate things like slavery and injustice.  If we think that drug use is bad then we will avoid it as well as those who are victims of drugs.  Rather if we see drug use as something that needs to be redeemed then we will sit with and seek out help for those who are addicts.  

If we live in a world of good and bad then we will not engage the bad parts of the world and therefore the world does not change.  Additionally, when we think something is bad we deny the power that is inherent in that thing (such as the power of hating injustice).  

Rather, if we live in a world that is redeemed or in need of redemption then we will enter into the dark places of the world and work for change.  Additionally, when we see something as in need of redemption then we are able to utilize the inherent power in that thing in order to help redeem it.  Can you imagine a world that is so full of hate of slavery that no one would allow anyone to become enslaved in human trafficking?  

So, I join all my Christian brothers and sisters who claim monotheism to change from asking, "Is this good or bad?" to "Is this redeemed or in need or redemption?".

Somethings are difficult to redeem. :)

Are we Christians really monotheistic? Part 2

The previous post just briefly pointed out that when one thinks there are other gods in the world then monotheism is called into question.  Additionally, it was pointed out, that many of us live as though we do think there are other gods in the world (such as the god of pride or the god the money), and as such perhaps many of us Christians operate not out of montheism but out of henotheism or monolatry.

When we orient our lives around the idea that there are other gods in the world, then we can quickly judge these different gods as either good or bad.

The god of love - good.
The god of  hate - bad.
The god of pride - bad.
The god of peace - good.

Once we have judged for ourselves that which is good and that which is bad, we then desire to live our lives out of desiring the good while avoiding the bad.

The little hiccup in our plan however is that as a Christian we understand that God made all things and called them good.  So how then can we go though life calling bad what God called good?

Even Jesus did not like being called good when he was identified as a "good teacher".

When we go through life judging for ourselves what is good and what is bad we can find ourselves building a bubble around our lives, insulating us from reality.

We begin to see some people as good and others as bad.  We begin to see some ideas as good and some as bad.

When we create a good/bad world (dualism) then we can find ourselves no longer able or willing to help transform the world.

Why would I want to hang out with the "bad" people or read about the "bad" ideas or practice "bad" habits?

When we live in a world which we proclaim good and bad on things which God has called Good, then we live in a world which is not oriented toward monotheism.

The next post if the final of this installment and will (hopefully) be the answer to the question, "so what?"