“A religion of losers.”

ScreenShot164Matthew Schmitz wrote this back in August, but I just read it today.  It is an interesting take on Donald Trump’s “faith,” and attempts to trace the influence of Norman Vincent Peale on Trump.  Apparently Trump once said that Peale “thought I was his greatest student of all time.”  Schmitz goes on to explain why that might actually be true.

But the best thing in the article is this description of Christianity:

“Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform.”

Matthew Schmitz, “Donald Trump, Man of Faith,” First Things (August 2016) [link].

That seems pretty thoughtful, though to my way of thinking it does not go far enough:  The penultimate line should probably read: “People cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking.”

There is none righteous, no, not one.

Cromwell’s rule

This was a favorite saying of my Jurisprudence professor (William Powers) in law school:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

Thomas Carlyle, ed., Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, vol. 1, 448. (Harper 1855).

Even Christians who are very sure that they know the mind of God ought to reserve some uncertainty.  We all recognize that we are flawed and sinful and that we are subject to confusion and delusion.  Let us all take one small step back from certainty.  We may be unapologetic in our faith in the redemptive work of Christ without claiming that we have the final word on everything.

“Jesus never talked to two people in the same way.”

The Christian consensus has collapsed, and much of the rise of the so-called religious Nones is really the falling away of people who were only loosely attached to a church tradition. So there is a grand moment of clarification, and among the many things we need to clarify is our ability to communicate. Much of our witnessing, on the one hand, assumes that people are open and needy. It also assumes a whole series of formulae or recipes. I would argue that Jesus never talked to two people in the same way, and neither should we. So as part of the grand clarification of our generation, this is a time to reexamine our communication and see if it is as biblical as it should be.

from Tim Stafford, An Interview with Os Guinness, Christianity Today (July 23, 2015).

Vocation, 1

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.
This is, of course a wonderful idea, but it can only be true in aspiration, or in the Kingdom, or in Heaven.  In the moment when you labor in the vineyard of God (or Goldman Sachs), it is likely that you will miss the sublime in the midst of the tedious, the mundane, and the dull.  God is, nevertheless, also at work, and the sweat of your brow and the pain of your life is—truly—redeemable.

Who is Jesus?

Before all else, Jesus is God. 

He did not become a god, or receive godhood, nor was he a created being.  He was with the Father and Holy Spirit before the creation of the universe.

But in order that we might understand who God is, he entered his own creation, and became a man, without giving up his divine nature.  He lived a sinless life in that part of the world that was governed by Herod the Great under Roman rule.

Eventually, he was brutally executed by the secular government for the supposed religious crime of declaring himself to be the Messiah, the Promised King from David’s line.

In an event both unprecedented and predicted, God vindicated Jesus and restored him to life.  His death recalls the sacrificial system which covered the sins of those in covenant with God.  Because he was a man without sin and because he went willingly to death, his sacrifice was sufficient to erase the sins of all who come to the Father through him.

12/10/2012