Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bad Catechism

The 1689 Baptist Catechism asks, very sensibly if somewhat archaically, "What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures?"  It answers "The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe about God, and what duty God requireth of man".

Bad Catechism.

Firstly, bad because this puts all the emphasis on what human beings are to do with Scripture, which becomes essentially a pot out of which we can draw goodies, rather than the locus of God's powerful communication.  We will not be surprised if the rest of the catechism relies heavily on proof-texting, and indeed it does.

Secondly, bad because it makes God inactive and man active.  Man has duties; God is merely assigned facts which ought to be believed about him.  One would expect from this answer that there would follow a series of questions about God in the abstract.  Lo and behold, we move on to "What is God?" (answered with a fairly standard list of attributes which an enlightened pagan could happily endorse), "Are there more Gods than one?" (er, no), and then via the Trinity to the decrees of God.  This is a very static, abstract picture of God.

Thirdly, bad because in this context belief sounds like just another one of those duties which God requireth.

I'm trying to come up with a better answer.  Something like...

The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain God's witness to his powerful revelation in Jesus Christ, his saving action in human history, and his purposes for each human being, all which we are called to embrace by faith and in joy.

Got a better one?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Weight of Glory

A friend recently posted a link to the little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled The Weight of Glory.  I’ve read it before, of course, but as I read through it again sitting in the corner of a café on holiday, I could barely hold back the tears.  Since weeping in public is not the done thing, I did of course restrain myself.  This is the paragraph that really got me:
In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we  betray  ourselves  like  lovers  at  the mention of a name.
This is my experience; this is absolutely my experience.  Right down to the attempt to fend off my heart pain by labelling it and mocking it, this is what I do.  I am a nostalgic, but I know others who are trying to escape their pain in other ways – always dreaming of another place and another time, a place and time which is more real to us than the world around us, but which we have never seen or touched.  We know that we belong there and then, and yet we are here and now.  So deep is the anguish that we cannot even speak it.

And I know that there are many, many ways of explaining this feeling away, and Lewis names just a few of them.  But are we sure – really sure – that we are not explaining away a moment in which we knew truth, and knew it to be good and beautiful, and felt that it was beyond us?

Might not this experience mean something?