When a “body” full of “basically good” people says, “Be happy, take heart, because God shows you GRACE!” That is like telling a fish to be happy because there is plenty of quality AIR for him to breathe …it’s a hollow declaration, for the fish has no need of air.
Reading is one of our last, best private activities, and I think that reading books is a deep and enriching pleasure that many more people could take advantage of and enjoy. – Fredrik deBoer
Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.
With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.
If you say that marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you’re saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing any of that stuff. This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is … get on with it. It isn’t that that is the downgrading of marriage, it’s something that clearly has gone on for some time which is now poking it’s head above the parapet. If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be. Simply at that level, I think it’s a nonsense. It’s like a government voting that black should be white. Sorry, you can vote that if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn’t actually going to change the reality.
Prayer is not about feelings or experiences—not AT ALL. This is a point that Burrows stresses over and over again, and it seems so very right and important to me. Most often, we judge our prayer life by our experiences and how it feels to pray. If it feels “dry” we are doing something wrong, if we have nice feelings, we are on the right road. But the truth of the matter is that this is idolatry. Are we after God, or are we after nice feelings? Do we want to be more in the likeness of God, or do we want a pleasant spiritual experience which makes us feel good (and fuels our pride at being Good Christians)? It is very hard for us (I experience it) to rid ourselves of this notion that prayer is about feelings and emotions and sensations, and yet it is fundamental that we do so. And here Burrows makes a key point: God works on us at the most profound level of our inner being, a level which is much more profound than our carnal senses or our “inner” senses (i.e. how we feel), and therefore inaccessible to them. Here Burrows hints at a point of systematic theology which I’ll take the liberty of developing a little further: because God is ipsum esse existens, the ontological ground of Being and not one being out of many inside the Universe, when God “touches” us, by its nature, it is not an experience we can register in the way we register the other things that affect us inside the Universe, i.e. our outer and inner senses. Instead it affects us as a most profound level. Even though he almost always enters like a thief in the night, sometimes, Burrows allows, for some people, God will, as she puts it, “turn the lights on” and give us what we typically refer to as a “mystical experience.” But, she is quick to add, whether or not this happens is totally unrelated to whether your prayer is, in fact, working. She also points out that nowadays we know very well that many “mystical experiences”, perhaps (probably?) most of them, are really just the product of autosuggestion. And conversely, she knows nuns who have the most truly mystical prayer, i.e. a prayer that conforms them to Jesus, and have never had a “lights on” experience. But most importantly, she writes, these experiences can never be the goal of prayer. And even lack of experiences is, in itself, not an indicator, positive or negative. Sometimes spiritual directors will say something to the effect that God is “giving you” a “dry spell” to “test you” or some such, and so it’s actually a “good sign”. Maybe, maybe not, Burrows writes, but it’s impossible to know–and, more importantly, it’s quite beside the point. This fact makes prayer fundamentally about Faith. Our divinely revealed Faith teaches that whenever you pray, you are in communion with God through the Spirit, and that God is indeed touching you and affecting you. Do you really believe it? Or do you instead believe your feelings? If you truly have faith, your feelings and experiences should not sway you one way or another in the firm belief that prayer is communion with God.
I never leave my kids in a car now when I run into a store, and so I know nothing bad will ever happen to them in a non-moving vehicle. I suppose every little peace of mind helps. Still, I worry. I worry that when my husband and I decide our kids are old enough to walk alone to school, be that in two years or in five, some good samaritan will disapprove and call the police. I worry what the other parents will think if I hang back on the bench while my kids are playing at the park, reading a book instead of hovering over them. I worry that if I let my son play in the alley with the other kids and don’t follow him down because there are already eight responsible adults standing around, I’ll be thought of as the slacker mom who’s not pulling her own. And so I accompany when I probably don’t need to. I supervise and hover and interfere. And at least half of the other parents are probably doing it for exactly the same reason. This is America and parenting is now a competitive sport, just like everything else.
What do we get if we win? A kid who will never be hurt of frightened or alone? The promise and assurance of safety? I’m not that naive.
The day I left my son in the car
The Bible reveals a theology/a story of marriage and family …but what is this family like?
Once upon a time… a man named Hosea. Married a woman named Gomer. They had 3 children together. Then Gomer cheated on Hosea. She committed adultery; she was unfaithful. Turns out that 2 of their 3 children aren’t actually Hosea’s! One day Hosea confronts Gomer about her adultery and unfaithfulness, and Gomer looks Hosea in the eye and says, “I will do want I want with my life, I will pursue my lovers, because they love me better than you!” Gomer storms out of the room! Gomer believes that her one-night stands are actually fulfilling and enjoyable …she believes that they actually made her happy. Gomer spends the next few years wallowing in promiscuity, sleeping with any guy in town who’s willing. In her “down-time”, she’s dissing Hosea – talking trash about him, saying that he never loved her, he never took care of her, and that he never gave her anything nice – – – she insists that anything good in her life came from her other lovers. Eventually, one day, Gomer’s opinion of Hosea got so low that she forgot about him all together; she became utterly desensitized to his existence. Following this course Gomer became enslaved to prostitution.
Hosea knew what he was getting into: “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness…” (chapter 1, verse 2)
Read Hosea chapter 3.
- After all of this …God CALLS Hosea to – not just “take her back” (she isn’t expressing the least desire to be taken back) – GO get her back!!! (v.1)
- Hosea doesn’t just GO but he has to PAY to get her back! …he has to buy her/ransom her out of slavery! (v.2)
- Hosea isn’t just supposed to get her out of a bad situation, but he’s called to bring her home and live with her – as if this is a healthy relationship! …He’s called to have a healthy, fulfilling, thriving relationship with this woman! (v.3)
- Hosea is to bring Gomer and her children into his home and bless them! (vv.4-5)
- Parallel to God’s relationship to His people:
i. v.4 loving detox endured
ii. v.5 true blessings enjoyed
We must ask, with Paul, “This new creation God has launched in Jesus—what does it look like, and how can we live well as genuine humans, as both a sign and a means of that renewal?” We need to remind ourselves that the entire biblical sexual ethic is deeply counter-intuitive. All human beings some of the time, and some human beings most of the time, have deep heartfelt longings for kinds of sexual intimacy or gratification (multiple partners, pornography, whatever) which do not reflect the creator’s best intentions for his human creatures, intentions through which new wisdom and flourishing will come to birth. Sexual restraint is mandatory for all, difficult for most, extremely challenging for some. God is gracious and merciful but this never means “so his creational standards don’t really matter after all.”
― J.I. Packer
— J.I. Packer
― Elisabeth Elliot
― Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
― Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael
― Jonathan Edwards
― Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections