Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We scratch God’s back…

Looking for Christ-inanity material in the local libes the other day, I picked up A Life God Rewards Devotional, published in 2002, a slim volume but chock-full of fodder for ridicule.

Author (he’s world-renowned!) Bruce Wilkinson kicks off with a preface, or “Invitation,” introducing his theme but mostly taking the opportunity to plug his other products. “I wrote A Life God Rewards to help people recapture the truth about the connection between what we do today and what God will do for us in eternity…If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to do so.”

The devotional I’m holding in my hands, he explains, is to take me further in my understanding and to live a life that will earn me “God’s ‘Well done!’” And toward this end, the world-renowned Mr. W. further urges me to “By all means pick up the companion tool, A Life God Rewards Journal…Also, be sure to take advantage of A Life God Rewards Bible Study and video seminar…”

“Join me on this joyful, life-changing journey today,” his Invitation concludes. (We’ll be wiser but poorer, after shelling out for all the necessary supplies.)

A real Introduction follows this, entitled “The Big Picture of Your Eternity,” and it turns out that this picture is so big that it requires three days to take it all in. (Day One: A Welcome Jolt; Day Two: The Keys That Unlock Forever; Day Three: Forever in Focus.)

The book’s body is divided into four weeks of seven days each—God rested on Sunday, but not our mentor, and neither does he advise us to. The short chapters have snappy titles: "Working in the Son", "Who Ate My Cheesecake?", "God’s Secret Service", "Hell Is No Party", etc.

On the subject of Hades, the author pulls no punches. “Hell is a place of torment without an exit,” he says. (I imagined a stalled elevator piping New-Age Gospel songs.) “People there are conscious, they can communicate, they feel pain and regret—and their condition will never change.” From this, he concludes “Life is short, but God is good.”

Merciful, too, because the little devotional ends a few pages after this, before I succumb to violent laughter and have to face the eternal flames prematurely.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

God's Bodkins

How odd
That God
Would demand
A hand --
Just because
He's on high
-- What a guy!

Who craves
Our raves?
The almighty!

That hussy,
Wasn't as fussy,
Was old Thor
Up in Norway!

Only Jahweh
Great choirs
Of praise --
Heavenly days!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Knowing God to death

When my daughter was about six or seven, she asked me if I believed in God. I told her no, and she asked me why.

I don't see any evidence, I told her.

"He's not a person, Dad," she told me. "He wouldn't come down and leave any evidence."

Why would he? Why would God want us to "know" him? Our knowledge of him would diminish him -- he would no longer be perfect.

And furthermore, can we say of a perfect being that it would "want"?

"The more we refine our concept of God to square with natural law, to explain what we know, the more pointless it seems." -- Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

God as designated knower

People have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what's worth knowing, said Oscar Wilde. "Newspapers provide that service."

I like to know things but there are many things I don't want to know, like what goes on in a slaughterhouse.

We make God in our image and require Him to know all the things we don't care to know, and to love them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God, what nonsense

"The extreme of human knowledge of God is to know that we do not know God." -- Saint Thomas Aquinas.

God wants me to be the best I can...God has a plan for me...God will tell me what to do...

Any anthropomorphic statement about God is senseless. To attribute human characteristics to God is to limit him, to deny his Godhood.

If we know the will of God, he is not God.

Monday, May 16, 2011

For the love of---

"God wants me to love Him." How pathetic. The ugliest girl in my high school wanted me to love her.

God's principle attribute: Insecurity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Preaching to the choir

Bill Maher gives skeptics a bad name. His sophomoric rants about the absurdity of the Jesus story ("God sent him on a suicide mission...") probably make the faithful even more adamantine. He's smug and, frankly, creepy.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What was the question again?

"Jesus is the answer."

Shouldn't it be "Jesus is the question?" Jesus didn't have any answers; whenever someone asked him anything, he responded with another question, or with a statement that prompted further questions.

"Nicodemus saith unto him, 'How can a man be born when he is old?'

"Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God...'

"Nicodemus answered and said unto him, 'How can these things be?'

"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Art thou a master of Israel, and know not these things?'"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Palin comparison

A local yokel writes to the podunkish paper here every week. He fancies himself a "character," I gather, and imagines that his breezy drivel hewing to the Republican line is either eye-opening or thought-provoking.

He was "impressed" by Sarah Palin, apparently only because she could deliver a speech written for her while being so...so ravishable, if I can read between his lines.

In his screed this week he refers to Obama as "a part-time senator of Muslim heritage," and "the only candidate of Muslim heritage to ever run for President," and to drive home his point even more, in case his lip-moving readers haven't yet made the connection, he calls Obama by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama.

Our epistolary wit is, of course, a Christian. A Muslim of any stripe is beyond his ken. He knows that Jesus is the only answer, and he wishes to perpetuate the theocracy in power.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Deer hunters for Jesus

A local radio personality is to speak at an Outreach Dinner at a local church about how special it is for fathers and sons (and daughters) to get out in the woods and hunt, and also about his strong faith and his determination to bring men to God. The story in the paper says when he’s not hunting deer “he is likely hunting souls.” It also says that the largest deer he has “harvested” is a ten-point buck in Alabama.

The “harvested” euphemism is a useful one to justify hunting, if it needs to be justified – hunters, after all, can say that God directed us to have dominion over all the animals – and we might as well go ahead and apply it to the process of proselytizing for God. And the “hunter” is more like a farmer. He plants a seed, he waters it, he clears the weeds (evil thoughts) and keeps the plants in line – his converts are like so many rows of corn.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Born again in outer space

Lewis (see Sept. 8) says he began writing sci-fi because a pupil of his took "that dream of interplanetary colonization quite seriously," and because he saw "that thousands of people in one way and another depend on some hope of perpetuating and improving the human race...that a 'scientific' hope of defeating death is a real rival to Christianity."

So he set out to counteract the "scientism" of science fiction, which he saw as immoral , and to apply his moral vision to the genre. "Any amount of theology," he wrote to a friend, "can now be smuggled into people's minds under cover of romance without their knowing it."

Apparently no place in the universe is safe from a man with a Bible and a mission.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Days of swine and roses

"My life has meaning because of my personal relationship with God," an acquaintance told me the other day, and I started thinking that his smugness was the complacency of a pig in a sty. The farmer feeds and waters the pigs, and allows them to live in the sty or the barn, and maybe there's mud for them to wallow in. And perhaps there are several other pigs in the herd that also imagine that the farmer favors them -- that they have a special relationship with Mr. Farmer. And so they live in that belief until one day the farmer comes and slaughters them -- that is, he sends someone else to do the slaughtering.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The logic escapes me

Was reading the other day about C. S. Lewis's conversion from atheism (or agnosticism -- he seemed not to be sure what he didn't believe) to Christianity in a book called C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. There's a passage from G. K. Chesterton which the author says was a real eye-opener for the skeptical Lewis. It's from The Everlasting Man, and it illustrates, according to the author of the Lewis book, "the limits of (evolution's) application to any understanding of human history":

"Nobody can imagine (Chesterton writes) how nothing could turn into something...It is really far more logical to start by saying 'In the beginning God created the heaven and earth' even if you only mean 'In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.'"

Why is it far more logical to start so? If you only mean that the whole thing is unthinkable, where does logic come in?

Why is it any more "logical" to postulate a fairy-tale God who was simply "there" in the beginning, than to simply say that things came into existence?

Or why require a "creation" at all? If God could have always been there, why not the universe?