Friday, March 18, 2011

The death of the tree in the garden in Eden

It is often said that Jesus was a great moral teacher.

When Jesus hung on the cross and with his dying breathe sputtered, "it is finished," he was proclaiming the fulfillment not only of the mosaic law, not even a more generalized set of moral law, but to all the concerns of morality in general.  For a follower of Jesus to still be concerned with morality is to miss the point of his death almost completely.  A Christian concerned with morals is like a computer programmer who is frustrated because he can't get his latest program running on his 1920's typewriter.

At its core, morality is the questioning of what is right and wrong.  Morality concerns itself at its most basic level with the knowledge of good and evil.

The knowledge of good and evil.  (side not: I'm not entirely concerned with the literal 7-day historicity of the account of the story of creation, and Adam and Eve.  I do believe, though, that at the very least, the story is allegorically true, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if it were literally 7 days, or even if something along the lines of this happened).  As the story goes, we received this knowledge when we turned our backs on God in the garden and ate the forbidden fruit, and ever since, we have been trying to reinstate ourselves into God's good graces through the very knowledge that got us kicked out in the first place.

The knowledge of good and evil.  Do this and not that.  This action is permissible, that one desirable, and this last one unforgivable.  Our new knowledge inherently begets a hierarchy of rules to be followed; for some, in order to fix our status with God, and for others, to simply regain some semblance of the order we once knew in Eden.

But neither work.  The first presents itself as religion, the other as secular law.  If we follow these rules, stand in the right place, wear clean enough closes, sing the right songs in the correct key in a certain order, if we refrain eat this or drinking that, from looking here or touching there, and most of all if we get into enough of other people's business and make sure they are following all of our rules as well, then maybe, just maybe we can fulfill all the rules that we have put in place and will stand clean before God.  We do it through the Mosaic law, the

Or maybe, if we don't want anything to do with God, we can still rebuild the order we knew in Eden.  We can prevent people from speeding, from stealing, from raping, from murdering or laundering or slandering by putting enough laws into place.

But how can this knowledge of good and evil that we were never meant to have lead us back to a state of innocence before the God who never meant us to have it?  How can our rules and regulations that come solely out of this knowledge be the answer?

By making rules and regulations, we are not addressing the core problem.  We can run around for millennia more trying to force the problem out of ourselves through as many laws as we can think of, but it won't solve the problem: the knowledge of the law itself.

So how do we break this curse that we inherited through Eden?  The bad news is that we can't.  The Good News is that God did.

God the Father, the one who never meant for us to live in this futile state, who never wanted us to deal with these problems of good and evil, who wanted nothing more than for us to live in his bosom, came to us himself to set the world right again.  We couldn't do it ourselves, so He did it for us.

But all too often we fall short of realizing the full ramifications of what our Papa did for us through the cross.  Most of us get the concept of salvation, an eternity spent in the presence of God.  Some of us even get that this salvation is for the here and now, that we are no longer slaves to sin and shame.

What I want to finally get is that what was done for us on the cross reaches all the way back to the garden.  It erases that first fallen bite, and breaks us free from the curse of the knowledge of good and evil and reinstates us as the children of our Father.

We are no longer to be concerned with right or wrong, with good or evil.  We aren't to stick our noses into other people's business, and not even into our own.  We are freed from the hierarchies of this world, as all the hierarchies we have ever known have been built on the concept of right or wrong, good or bad, better and best, with the most desirable at the top, and least at the bottom.

When we associate our identities with anything sort of the loving grace of the Father who now dwells within us, we are falling prey to the curse.  I am a white male of reasonable intellect.  If I take pride in my skin color, I am setting myself against others of different races, saying I'm better, more good, less evil, etc etc. The is the knowledge at work.  If I take solace in my brain power, I am making myself better than the less intelligent in my own opinion. This again is the knowledge at work.

When our knowledge of right or wrong, of good, better, best is removed, so is any necessity or desire to associate with anything other than the only One who can give us our true identity.  We can not receive our true identity as children of the Father without loosing the knowledge that stands against it.

But thank God, He did all the work.  He removed the knowledge and repositioned us into his bosom for eternity.  Through what Jesus did on the cross, we are freed, not by knowledge, but by faith, by belief, by trust in Him.

The cross was the final judgement, once and for all (Hebrews 10).  There is no more room for any sort of judgement, whether eternal or temporal.  We are not to be concerned with good or bad, right or wrong, but only with what the Father is doing, and more importantly, what he already did.  As Graham Cooke says, there are no longer good days or bad days, only grace days.

In the Father, our need and capacity to judge anything at all has been amputated completely.  Our concern is no longer right nor wrong, but only what the Father says.  We are to live as a branch on his vine, a leaf floating on his river, a hose for His overflowing love, and as a small child, giggling in our Papa's lap.  It is only when we take our eyes off our eternal Papa that our desire for that forbidden knowledge arrises and we become more concerned with our own opinions, our own judgments, and our own standings among others than with what our Papa is saying and doing, and more importantly, what He said and did through the cross.

Let us forsake our sophistication and sophistry and once again live as children of the Father.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My thought on Rob Bell and the dangers of dogma

As you probably know, Rob Bell has been sturing up quite a controversy in regards to his book "Love Wins". I want to start by saying that I haven't read the book, but I have read most of his other books, so I am familiar with his style, and I have heard several interviews with Rob about his latest.

If you don't know anything of this controversy, a great place to start is this video:

I love Rob Bell. Not necessarily for his specific theology, but rather for his approach to theology. Rob is a prober, and questioner, and a thinker. As Greg Boyd puts it, "First, Rob is first and foremost a poet/artist/dramatist who has a fantastic gift for communicating in ways that inspire creativity and provoke thought. Rob is far more comfortable (and far better at) questioning established beliefs and creatively hinting at possible answers than he is at constructing a logically rigorous case defending a definitive conclusion. I enthusiastically recommend Love Wins because of the way it empowers readers to question old perspectives and consider new ones."

I have a sneaking suspicion that our christian beliefs all too often turn into law. We want to grab truths and hold onto them, make them our own, memorize them then spout them off when called upon. At the core of it, our truths become our identity.

What we know, how we know it, and who we tell about it, especially in the segments of the church in which evangelism is is emphasized, becomes the currency of our identity. Our christian doctrine comes to define us. Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Charismatic, Evangelical. Even when we stand united and wear the name Christian as a badge of honor, it is typically against something. Atheist, Jew, Muslim.

When our identity is attacked, we revolt. If somebody calls you fat, or ugly, or says your breathe smells like arse, you typically don't react favorably, and these are only passing things of appearance. How much more do we react when the truths that we've built our lives upon on attacked. Our truths must be defended, lest we falter. Our truths must be staked out and guard, lest the things that establish us as "in" and them as "out" fail, lest the things that make us special and unique whither away. It is a scary thing seeing a wave come crashing down on your sand castle home, so we build up our walls and defend, and fight, but ultimately will lose to the tide.

So when Rob Bell attacked the very foundation of our identity, that we are special, we've received the invitation, we're "in", and by correlation that they aren't special or chosen or "in", we begin to fret a bit. If they are actually in too, what does that make us? Less in? Less special? Is our truth less true that we had hoped? We panic. Some write nasty twitter posts and blog about how Rob is misled. Our grasp on our truth begins to fade as our truths are questioned, and we don't like that.

Our identity is wrapped up in the truths we hold onto, and I hope, in that, you see a problem.

The Truth is not a fact or belief. The Truth is a person. And only in that person can we find the Truth.

The very instance we try to take the truth out of that person, to hold it in our own hands, to view it through our own lens, to apply it in a way that we see fit, then the truth is no longer True. It becomes a dogma. It becomes the fickle sand on which we build our faltering homes.

But that was never His intent. We were never supposed to eat from that tree, issues of right and wrong, and of truth or lie, were never meant to be our questions to answer. They were never even our questions to ponder. Our only concern was to be a child to the Father, to be a branch on his vine, to be fully dependent on Him who is the Truth.

But then the tree, the apple, and the fall. We inherited the system of knowledge or right and wrong, the system of identity in "truth" and not in him is the Truth. We received all the faults listed above. So when a man like Rob Bell taps into the idea that the Truth is also Love, and ponders what this Lover did on the cross and what the actually means for the world, and begins to look into this Lover's heart for answers rather than to our dogma, we come at him, pitchfork in hand.

Does Rob Bell have all the answers? No, but you see, that's not the point. It never was, and never will be again. The point is not the answers that we can extract and pin to the wall, but the journey into the heart of Love and Truth.