Sunday, May 21, 2006


You know, in many ways, I think the Christian Church is a negation of itself. In trying to draw people closer to God, or preach the gospel, they employ methodologies that have the opposite, or unintended, effect.

For example, this morning at Coast Christian Fellowship, Pastor Joe Gil gave a great message on the importance of silence, and used many Biblical examples of how people sought God's voice in silence. He explained how our "devotionals" were meant to draw God close to us, not offer something to God.

He began with a great illustrative video, from the point of view inside a television looking out at the speaker on the couch, channel surfing. The speaker gave a few statistics about white noise, and how difficult it was for Hollywood sound men to gather uninterrupted nature sounds (15 hours of recording for one hour of unspoiled nature sound in 1968; 2000 hours for one hour today). The video then proceeded to ask questions about our ability to maintain silence for about five minutes in a graphical manner of white words superimposed on a black background. Nothing on the soundtrack. It made its point beautifully as we all watched in silence.

At the end of this great sermon, Pastor Joe offered a prayer for our ability to seek God in the silence, while the worship leader tinkled on his guitar in the background. Then, the worship team proceeded to sing a loud, cacophonous song about seeking the Lord in the "quiet place." I wondered if anyone but me caught the incongruity of the situation.

We just don't get it. Today was a great example of how the church negates its own message. No wonder people are seeking alternatives.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Why are we uncomfortable with ambiguity?

I have accepted that life is ambiguous. Things are not often what they seem. There is a binary opposition between image and reality.

For example, America likes to posture that we are the side of "good" against the terrorists, who are "evil." Certain Muslims see themselves as fighting a "good" fight against the "evil" Americans. We consider ourselves "civilized," yet we see thievery, murder, rape, and all manner of depravity throughout our "civilized" country. However, it is much more complex than that. We are all a mixture of our ideal, "good" selves and our true natures, which may diverge greatly from the image in which we view ourselves. It is often a mixture of both.

As a Bible reader, I see this ambiguity throughout Scripture. It is often unresolvable. For instance, we are told in Ephesians 2:8-9 that "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Yet, Revelation 20:12 says: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Ambiguity.

How about Genesis 1:22? "Be fruitful, and multiply." I've heard Christians say God has not revoked this commandment. But Paul says, in his opinion in 1 Corinthians 7:8, "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I." Yet, we will refer to 1 Corinthians 7:8 as a verse from "the Word of God." Ambiguity.

How about the unresolvable ambiguity over eschatology (last things)? There are many renowned Christians who disagree over whether there will be a Rapture, pre-, mid-, post-trib, or no trib at all, or past trib (preterism). These differences will remain. The truth is it's ambiguous.

What about the afterlife? I am a result of my life's experiences. "Me" includes everything, good and bad. In Heaven, where will the "bad" part of me go? Will I be a Stepford version of "me," with my "bad" parts removed? If so, then, I will cease to be "me." So, what's the point? See the problem? This is unresolvable ambiguity. It stems from trying to put earthly images and clothing on non-corporeal, spiritual things. The Bible uses language that evokes certain images in our heads, but these images are likely not the reality. The references are inadequate to describe the reality, even if they are meant to do so. Thus the Bible fails to convey the truth of what will actually be. This is because it is simply not possible to do otherwise; the writers could only write according to earthly references, just like any of us could.

I am comfortable with this ambiguity. I realize that we cannot resolve the answers to these problems. It is like trying to describe "blue" to a blind man. Others are not comfortable. My belief is that we cannot know the truth in some of these cases, unless we were to speak directly to the authors of the books themselves, which is not possible for obvious reasons. Even then, we would likely not agree on what the author's intentions were.