Hear the Voice, Make the Choice

Yes, I know there is something in you that longs
For light and life, peace and truth so very bright
Even as you look star-gazed into the nightly sky
Trying to think of the way to shrink the cosmos
Into your mind and there bind it to be your own
Where seeds of immortality are sown in beauty
And you imagine it to be your duty to be as God
As you tread the sod of earth, place of your birth
For this is where you find your worth in existing
So you keep persisting in the chase but resisting
Answers given long ago in script and lovely song
Going your own way day by day, never your soul
To stay ever in one place as you outpace yourself
In your relentless race to trace the fine line of life
But Life itself has already found you
Your only need is but to turn around!
Hear the Voice call and make a marvelous choice!

“He is our God; we are the people he cares for, the flock for which he provides. Hear his Voice . . . hear his Voice.” (From the 95th Psalm of the Hebrew scriptures)


In the One Same Game

Saints and sinners all play in the same game,
Sometimes wild, sometimes tame,
Sometimes intriguing, sometimes lame,
But never the same as the players change,
And so does the range of play from day to day,
And no one can stay in the same spot
Though they may look like an ink blot;
Everyone must move — this way or that,
Up, down and all around — even if bound
For nowhere in particular, but somewhere,
Anywhere but where they were, that’s for sure;
And rarely can one return to where they were
Because the field never remains quite the same,
Though who could blame someone for thinking
Somewhere stays the same for some time,
But time chimes on in alteration of creation
With very little stagnation or resignation
To immutability — only a divine attribute —
Which does give credibility to the game of life
In which both saints and sinners are destined
To play both day and night, in dark and light:
In the same one game famously called life . . .
But, odd as it is, all seems to remain the same!

Homo Naledi and the Excitement of New Discovery

The recent discovery of Homo Naledi by the Rising Star Expedition in South Africa[1] seems to have elicited quite some controversy — at least on social networks, like Facebook — between hardcore, atheistic evolutionists and “scientific creationists,” with agnostics and theistic evolutionists (religious or not) sanely caught somewhere in the middle, but practically muted by the cacophony of bitter accusations, speculations, name-calling, insults, and what-have-you. The discovery is fascinating, and it does not really change the theory of evolution, nor does it directly involve religious faith. This is a story of monumental, exciting discovery by scientists doing what they do: Researching, exploring, discovering and sharing with the rest of the world.

Of course, this has not stopped people from making asinine comments, such as: “They found old bones of a monkey, or disfigured man and call it a new human. This is nothing to get excited about. Thousands of years from now when they dig up Patrick Ewing, they will claim they found another species of human, too.” And, “Of course you’ll stick to your contemporary mythology Tom N. It’s too hard for some to overcome the fear of a vengeful, psychopathic deity.”[2] And one of my favorites: “You bible thumpers do realize god doesn’t exist, right?” To which I could not resist answering:

Umm … no. And “bible-thumpers” are by far not the only ones who believe in the existence of God (or the divine, supernatural, etc.) Besides this obvious fact, your question itself is quite bizarre: Why would “bible-thumpers,” as you refer to some, “realize god doesn’t exist?” If they realized this ~ which certainly is not the case ~ then, of course, they would not be “bible thumpers.” Very ill-thought and pedantic of you, Scott. Think before you write, please.

All of this is completely unnecessary, of course. As I tried to point out amid the raging controversy, there are plenty of scientists, who are women and men of faith. More than this, however, science is not about attempting to disprove the existence of God, divinity, the supernatural or numinous – yes, despite Dawkins and company – and religious faith is not, or need not be, about disproving science.

Yes, of course, there are naturalistic materialist who claim that all causation is completely naturalistic and materialistic, only an “interaction between material entities.” As philosopher Jennifer Trusted points out, for the materialist “consciousness has to be admitted but as a mere epiphenomenon … matter is the sole ultimate reality.”[3] One does not have to adhere to some sort of fideism to reasonably conclude that naturalistic materialism is ultimately untenable. But perhaps here we need to make one very important and sharp distinction: There is science (properly speaking) and then there is philosophy. Oftentimes in rancorous discussions, such as the one I’m here addressing, the two are terribly confused … or, really, not thought about at all! Thankfully, the former, very renowned atheistic philosopher-turned-theist, Anthony Flew, makes the distinction quite well:

You might ask how I, a philosopher, could speak to issues treated by scientists. The best way to answer this is with another question. Are we engaging in science or philosophy here? When you study the interaction of two physical bodies, for instance, two subatomic particles, you are engaged in science. When you ask how it is that those subatomic particles – or anything physical – could exist and why, you are engaged in philosophy. When you draw philosophical conclusions from scientific data, then you are thinking as a philosopher.[4]

As stated above, scientists properly do what they do when they research, explore, discover and share with the rest of the world what they have learned. They do not ask questions, as professional scientists, about the purpose and meaning of life; about the intrinsic value of the homo sapien or other creatures; about the existence of an unseen numinous sphere, etc. What am I saying? There are philosophers, ethicists, theologians and other professionals for a reason; science is not kingpin. By the way, one needs to know and understand the difference between “science” and “scientism.” Scientism is “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.” Just as “materialism” is “the theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” [5]

In contradistinction to this is the metaphysical, that is, “that which relates to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses,” and this falls outside the purview of science, strictly speaking. Besides, what was actually discovered in South Africa by the Rising Star Expedition is astonishing beyond what can be precisely termed “science.” Researchers have concluded:

[B]esides shedding light on the origins and diversity of our genus, H. naledi also appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behaviour previously thought limited to humans… the context of the find has led the researchers to conclude that this primitive-looking hominin may have practiced a form of behaviour previously thought to be unique to humans. The fossils — which consist of infants, children, adults and elderly individuals — were found in a room deep underground that the team named the Dinaledi Chamber, or “Chamber of Stars”.[6]

In other words, they intentionally practiced “sacramental” burial. Science cannot answer the question, “Why? This was evidently important, and an exact, consistent practice, but why?” This question, and the answer, simply lie outside the limits of science. I believe the late Oxford scientist, William H. Thorpe, “hit the nail on the head” when he wrote:

The materialist scientist of the last century (19th), looking downward into the basis of material things, thought that he had found material entities behaving according to mechanistic determinism in a lawful and invariable manner to constitute the material world. At the other end he had the curious illusion that his mentality was also determined by mechanistic-materialist laws. Now, as we have seen, materialism at the basic physical levels has been transformed into events involving entities which are certainly not ‘physical’ in any original sense but as ‘vectors’ to be described only in non-physical terms – as ‘mental,’ as ‘purposive,’ or as ‘spiritual.’[7]

Touché! And so, again, we have philosophers, anthropologists, historians, ethicists, theologians, etc., all working properly in their respective fields (ideally, at least.) It is only when some, like Richard Dawkins, attempt to cross over into another field in which he has no real expertise that we have problems – completely unnecessary problems! And, too, when avid atheists and fundamentalist, “scientific creationists” jump in the ring where neither belong – this causes unnecessary complications, too, and all so unnecessary, really. In the final analysis, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn offers, perhaps, the best advice where living out our collective lives in this stunningly beautiful and still very mysterious world is concerned:

One thing should be said at the start: the answer to (the fundamentally important questions) cannot be found by opposing faith and knowledge, religion and science, but only in a shared effort of thought, research, and also belief.[8]

And to this, may I say, “Amen and amen!”



[1]Rising Star Expedition Reveals New Species: Homo Naledi as posted by the University of Witwatersrand, accessed on September 14, 2015

[2] Note: Grammatical and spelling errors corrected and names abbreviated by author of this article

[3] Jennifer Trusted, Inquiry and Understanding: An Introduction to Explanation in the Physical and Human Sciences, 88

[4] Antony Flew, “A Pilgrimage of Reason,” Francis S. Collins, ed., Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith, 309-310

[5] Sources lost and forgotten, or (perhaps) written out from various sources by author; however, these definitions may certainly, easily be checked for accuracy

[6] Ibid

[7] William H. Thorpe, Purpose in a World of Chance: A Biologist’s View, 114-115

[8] Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, 112-113; Note: parenthetical mine


‘Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God Mother…’ Oh Really?

Yesterday I was referred to the article, Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God ‘Mother’, by one gracious reader in response to my blog, “Imagined Conversation With God,” in which I refer to the Deity as “Mother.” I have provided the link above to the actual article, so anyone interested can read the protest points made by the author, Fr. Dwight Longenecker. If anyone cares for me to respond, please ask and I shall do my best to accommodate, extensive footnotes included. Until such interest is expressed, though, blessings to one and all, especially the reader who provided an “alternative perspective” to my own.

Jesus, Son of the Living God

Central to the claims of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived approximately two thousand years ago, was and is the incarnate Son of God – fully God and fully man – the second Person of the Holy Trinity. On this belief everything rises or falls; all other claims of the Christian faith hinge on the person and work of Jesus the Christ – his identity and nature and mission, and ultimately his death and resurrection. This belief is expressed succinctly in the Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…” This doctrinal statement presumably goes all the way back to the apostolic Church, and it has cosmic significance, if true. First, however, was this, in fact, the understanding and confession of the apostolic and post-apostolic Church – that is, the earliest Church, just after the life and death and (alleged) resurrection of Christ?

Witness of the Early Church

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, when we come to Jesus asking his disciples what people in general were saying about his nature and identity, we then read, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”[1] The account given in St. Mark, however, only has Peter replying, “‘you are the Messiah.’” St. Luke goes just a bit further in recording, “Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.”[2] The question is, then, did Peter – Simon bar Jonas – go so far as to say Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of the living God,” or did he simply confess this Jesus as Messiah, or “the Messiah of God?”

Did the earliest Christians understand Jesus to be divine – Son of the living God – or the merely the anointed of God – Redeemer, Savior, and Messiah? Of course, St. Luke does report in his account of the Annunciation that the archangel Gabriel declares to the favored Virgin Mary, “‘you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High … therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’”[3] Of course, this may give rise to some difficulty, because Gabriel also informs Mary that “‘God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’”[4]

It is admittedly difficult to contend that Jesus of Nazareth actually, in any real sense, received the throne of David, which is why this promise has classically been spiritualized, i.e. he was not to physically ascend the throne of David and rule in a this-worldly sense; rather, Christ Jesus would assume the spiritual throne of David, the real throne of which the earthly throne was only a type and foreshadow. If this interpretation is valid, though, then surely St. Luke believed Jesus to be the holy Son of God, the Most High, great and majestic, whose kingdom is everlasting. This is important, because the whole of Christianity rests upon the proper identity of Jesus the Christ.

The Gospel of St. Mark, too, attributes to Jesus the same title. In fact, the author introduces his narrative with the words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[5] So, then, there was evidently no hesitation among the Synoptic Gospel writers to apply the term “Son of God” to Jesus of Nazareth, and this was early enough to say something significant about the fledgling Christian faith, no later than 70 – 75 AD (or CE, if one prefers.)[6] More than some wonder-working, travelling rabbi – quite likely anointed by God – the witness of the early Church attributed divinity to Christ, however naïvely that may have been appreciated.

We may also turn to the the Epistles of St. Paul, such as the Letter to the Galatians, likely written between the late 40s and early 50s.[7] And what does this former persecutor-turned-passionate Christian say about Jesus? “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”[8] The Apostle St. Paul had no reservation in applying the term “Son of God” to Jesus either, and this apostolic witness was ingested by the Church, of course, as one can see through a cursory glance of early Christian literature. Let’s take three examples: the Epistle to Diognetus, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Epistles of Ignatius.

Ignatius, writing sometime in the very early second century, commended the Smyrnaeans, saying:

I perceived that ye were perfected in immovable faith, as though ye were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in flesh and in spirit, and firmly fixed in love in the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with regard to our Lord, that he was truly of the race of David according to the flesh, the Son of God according to the will and power of God[9]

And from the Epistle of Barnabas, also likely composed in the first part of the second century, if not earlier:

And when He chose His own apostles, who were to proclaim His Gospel, who, that He might show that He ‘came not to call the righteous but sinners,’ were sinners above every sin, then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God(so) the Son of God came in the flesh to this end.[10]

In the second century Epistle to Diognetus, we read:

He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things; by whom He made the heavens; by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds; whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe; from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed ; whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject; the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein; fire, air, and the abyss; the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. This [messenger] He sent to them… As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him[11]

Obviously, an impressive and resplendent doxology to Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, believed and confessed by early Christians to be the Son of God. Other examples could be added here, including the Apostles’ Creed, which dates from at least the end of the second century as a common baptismal formula in the West, if not the beginning of that century.[12] From the earliest times, then, it would seem Christians gave the same Matthean answer of Peter as to the identity of Jesus, that he was and is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.[13] What many modern treatments of Jesus the Christ, Son of God, seem to miss or simply ignore is the continuity of the teaching and understanding of the faith community, emphasizing instead controversies and, thus, discontinuity.

However, if one is discussing the transmission of faith-belief within the same identifiable community, then there can never be complete discontinuity; there must also be continuity. In this case, there is greater continuity in the handing down of that “faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints.”[14] Yes, there were controversies and conflicts; this drove the growth of Christological understanding. This does not mean, though, that the Christology in the early Church was a free-for-all – many equally valid and appealing, competing understandings of Jesus of Nazareth. No, there seems to have been a multi-faceted, non-contradictory – albeit embryonic – communal comprehension to begin with and, thus, from which to deviate. But why is this comprehension — or, more accurately, why did this become — so crucial, so cosmically important?

Significance of Jesus the Christ, Son of God

We do not come to the Petrine confession of Jesus immediately, though. Instead, the Lord first asks his disciples what other people are saying about him, and he does this because he wants to lead them to a deeper understanding and conviction of who and what he is in his fullness. And so he asks first about the general opinion of the people.[15] “And he said not, ‘Whom say the Scribes and Pharisees that I am?’ often as these had come to him, and discoursed with him,” as St. John Chrysostom points out. “But ‘whom do men say that I am?’ inquiring after the judgment of the people.” Why? Because they were unbiased. “For though their opinion was far meaner than it should (have been), yet it was free from malice, but the other was teeming with much wickedness.”[16]

After the answer is given to this inquiry, Jesus then asks the second question: “Whom do you say that I am?” In other words, “You who have seen me work so many miracles, who are always with me, and have yourselves done mighty deeds by me; who do you say that I am?” And once again it is Peter who “leaps forward with fervor and confesses that he is truly the Son of God.” And it’s well to note that he says, “the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus is “not a son by grace, but he who is begotten of the same essence as the Father.”[17] And it is, of course, this recognition and confession that stands as the centerpiece of the Creed, the whole of the Christian faith-religion.

He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, (and) may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man.[18]

It is the confession of this truth “that separates the Christian faith from all other religions,” as 20th century Protestant Bible scholar and minister, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, claims:

Their founders, while important, are not absolutely essential to them. If Buddha had never existed, you could still have Buddhism. If Muhammed had never lived, you could still have Islam. In other religions it is the teaching that matters and the person is not essential; other persons might have done it equally well, and the teaching would remain unaffected. But that is not the case with the Christian faith. Christianity … is Christ himself.[19]

Indeed, in classic (orthodox) Christianity’s eschatological understanding of creation, Christ is the “alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”[20] Through him all things were created, and he now stands as the goal of the whole of the created order, as the seventh century (Eastern/Byzantine) Church Father, St. Maximus the Confessor, explains:

For it was fitting for the Creator of the universe, who by the economy of his incarnation became what by nature he was not, to preserve without change both what he himself was by nature and what he became in his incarnation… This is the great and hidden mystery, at once the blessed end for which all things are ordained. It is the divine purpose conceived before the beginning of created beings. In defining it we would say that this mystery is the preconceived goal for which everything exists, but which itself exists on account of nothing. With a clear view to this end, God created the essences of created beings, and such is, properly speaking, the terminus of his providence and of the things under his providential care. Inasmuch as it leads to God, it is the recapitulation of the things he has created. It is the mystery which circumscribes all the ages, and which reveals the grand plan of God (cf. Eph. 1.10-11), a super-infinite plan infinitely preexisting the ages. The Logos, by essence God, became a messenger of this plan (cf. Isa. 9.5, LXX) when he became man and, if I may rightly say so, established himself as the innermost depth of the Father’s goodness while also displaying in himself the very goal for which his creatures manifestly received the beginning of their existence.[21]

God the Son, according to the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, became what we are by nature that we, believing in him and being filled with the self-same Spirit, might become “partakers of the divine nature.”[22] God made the struggle of humanity with darkness, sin and death his own struggle; in becoming the Human, pure above all of humanity, Christ overcame darkness by his own eternal Light, sin by his own righteousness, death by his own death and resurrection. Consequently, uniting himself to us intimately by taking on our nature, and by winning victory over darkness, sin and death, those who believe in him and are filled with his Spirit share in his victory and are enlivened with life abundant and everlasting.[23]

This, at least, is the declaration of Christianity, pure and unadulterated, but one might justly wonder how many professing Christians (at least in the West, and particularly in North America) realize this truth, not to mention the centrality of this truth. We should explore this question… It may very well have an awful lot to do with the continuing demise of Christianity in Western civilization.



[1] Matthew 16.15-16 NRSV

[2] Mark 8.29b, Luke 9.20b NRSV

[3] Luke 1.31-32a, 35b RSV

[4] Luke 1.32b-33 RSV

[5] Mark 1.1 NRSV

[6] Cf. Warren J. Moulton, “The Dating of the Synoptic Gospels,” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 37, 1-19; also “The Synoptic Gospels,” at http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/online-bible/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/the-synoptic-gospels accessed on May 11, 2015; for the Gospel of St. Mark dating between 64 – 70 AD, see Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (ODCC), 1039; for the Gospel of St. Matthew dating between 80 – 90 AD, and not by an eyewitness, see ODCC, 1057; for the Gospel of St. Luke having “to require a date after AD 70,” see ODCC, 1005; Note: the Gospel of St. Matthew, however, was considered by the post-apostolic Church to be the first written, and that before the fall of Jerusalem, originally in Aramaic

[7] M. Coogan, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 309 NT; cf. also Maxim Cardew, “Introduction to Galatians,” at http://www.ntgateway.com/paul-the-apostle/galatians/introduction-to-galatians accessed May 11, 2015; David and Pat Alexander, eds. Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, 601

[8] Galatians 2.20 RSV

[9] Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 1.1b Roberts-Donaldson trans.

[10] Epistle of Barnabas 5. 9, 11 Roberts-Donaldson trans.

[11] Epistle of Mathetus to Diognetus 7 as trans. by New Advent accessed on May 11, 2015

[12] New Advent, “Origin of the Creed,” as accessed on May 11, 2015; also JoHannah Reardon, “The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds,” Christianity Today: Christian Bible Studies, July 30, 2008, as accessed on May 11, 2015

[13] For an easy overview of Christologies of the infant New Testament church, cf. John P. Galvin, “Jesus Christ,” Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, F. S. Fiorenza and J. P. Galvin, eds., 1.256-262

[14] Jude 1.3b RSV

[15] Bl. Theophylact, Gospel of Matthew, 139

[16] St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Nicene/Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) 1.10:332

[17] Bl. Theophylact, Op Cit, 139

[18] St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3.19:2, Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF) 1:449

[19] M. Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible, vol. 1, God the Father, God the Son, 245-246

[20] Revelation 22.13 RSV

[21] St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 60, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, 125

[22] II Peter 1.4 ESV

[23] Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, 57-60


Spirit of Light, Life, Love and Truth

Blooming_FlowerIn the beginning … there was the Spirit. Not quite the opening words of the Book of Beginnings we commonly refer to as Genesis; nevertheless, this is what we are told in the second verse of chapter one. “And the Spirit of God[1] was hovering,” or brooding,[2] “over the face of the waters.”[3] One may note that God is first mentioned, but in the Christian schema of understanding, God refers to the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ever one God – although it has been common to specifically associate references to God with the Father. Though, as I have stated before, I am not an expert theologian (or Bible scholar), I will say here that I don’t know that this exclusive association is warranted; after all, we read in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John that the Word, directly associated with Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was both “in the beginning” and fully divine. Obviously, the language used is picked up directly from Genesis, so St. John the Beloved associates the Second Person of the Holy Trinity with the God mentioned in the first verse in Genesis. He did not, however, deny the identity of that same God as the Father God of Israel.[4]

In the beginning, then, we have recorded in Genesis reference to the Holy Trinity, according to Christian understanding and interpretation, then direct reference to one Person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is specified at the very outset, then, and this is an important point to realize as all-too-often, especially in the Western Church, the third Person of the Holy Trinity has been obscured or relegated to a position of almost impersonal subservience to the Father and the Son. This is practical blasphemy; it most assuredly is offensive to God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No less than the Lord Jesus himself emphasized the importance of the Spirit of God when he said, “It is the Spirit who makes alive; the flesh profits nothing,”[5] and “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”[6]

The early Church Fathers, especially in the East, understood very well the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. For example, Didymus of Alexandria (313 – 398) taught:

The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism through his godhead, which he shares with the Father and the Son. Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly humans we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual humans, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers and sisters, destined to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into paradise, giving us even now greater honor than the angels, and by the holy waters of baptism extinguishing the unquenchable fires of hell.[7]

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379) was especially rapturous in praise of the Holy Spirit when he wrote:

The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realize that they speak of nothing less than the Supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, and the guiding Spirit?  But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit…

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith…

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.[8]

Nevertheless, in Western society for hundreds of years and no less in our culture today, ideas and feelings about the Holy Spirit are oftentimes quite vague and ill-defined, but he (or she) is personal, not simply some force or emanation – not an “it,” in other words – the Spirit is fully divine, and s/he is fundamentally essential in our own redemption, remediation, and intimate communion with God and one another. Without the personal, ongoing, animating work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot possibly live the blessed life of love, joy, peace and fulfillment God intends us to live, not only as individuals, but as the Church – that divinely human community God intended from the beginning, that intimate, sacred fellowship he restored in and through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

It was the Holy Spirit who conceived the eternally-begotten Son of God in the womb of the most Blessed Virgin Mary,[9] and it was the Spirit who anointed Jesus for ministry.[10] It was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tried and tempted by Satan,[11] and it was the Spirit who raised him from the dead on the third day.[12] It is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised his followers, who now “proves the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment,”[13] and the Spirit who brought to completion the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, not by correcting anything the Lord said, but by expounding what he had already taught.[14] Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into an interpersonal union within an “intimate, transforming, personal relationship with the triune God,” in the words of theologian and Bible scholar, Clark Pinnock.[15] It is the Spirit who, far from sacrificing our unique identity as individuals, unites us into the One divinely human community in which we genuinely find our unique individuality, the one Church of which we are individually members one of another.[16]

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, long-time pastor at Westminster Chapel in London, rightly observed:

The low spiritual life of the Church, today or at any time, is largely due to the fact that so many fail to realise the truth concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit.[17]

Touché! And we certainly have reached an all-time low ebb in the life of the Church in our corner of the world. The response to this infirmity – and make no mistake, it is an illness – have been varied and sometimes quite interesting, but hardly ever helpful. A return to balanced, Trinitarian worship is surely the right and necessary first step back to good health in the Church in America. (There are other steps, to be sure, but this must necessarily be the first step.)



[1] For the translation of “rûach” as “Spirit” rather than “wind,” cf. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible for Genesis 1.2. John Wesley aptly points out in his Notes, “The Spirit of God was the first Mover; He moved upon the face of the waters – He moved upon the face of the deep, as the hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and hovers over them, to warm and cherish them, Mat_23:37 as the eagle stirs up her nest, and fluttereth over her young, (’tis the same word that is here used) Deu_32:11.” Cf. also Johann Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament for same verse.

[2] Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, H7362

[3] Gen. 1. 2b ESV

[4] Cf. for example Psalm 68. 5 and 89. 26. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was quite obviously unique, even divine, but this would never, and never did, set aside the fatherhood of God for the first Christians, especially the believing Jewish community.

[5] John 6. 63a EMTV

[6] Mark 3. 29 NRSV

[7] Didymus of Alexandria, “The Holy Spirit Perfects and Renews Us,” as quoted at www.swordofthespirit.net accessed on May 4, 2015

[8] Basil the Great, “The Work of the Holy Spirit,” as quoted at www.swordofthespirit.net accessed on May 4, 2015

[9] Cf. Luke 1. 15

[10] Cf. Matthew 3. 16; Luke 3. 22; 4. 1, 18-21

[11] Cf. Mark 1. 12; Matthew 4. 1; Luke 4. 1

[12] Cf. John 6. 63; Romans 1. 4; 8. 11; I Timothy 3. 16; Abraham Kuyper, Concise Works of the Holy Spirit, 30-32 passim

[13] John 6. 8 NRSV

[14] Cf. John 16. 13-15; II Timothy 3. 16; Tasker, John, 180; J. Michael Ramsey, NIBC/NT, vol. 4, John, 284

[15] C. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, 149

[16] Cf. Romans 12. 5

[17] M. Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible, vol. 2, God the Holy Spirit, 6


Quid est Veritas? Answering My Friend

PilateIn an incisive comment following my last blog article, “God is the God of All Truth: Revised Article,” one dear, old friend of mine asked the perennial question, “What is truth?” It is, of course, the same question asked by Pilate to Jesus, “quid est veritas?” (John 18.38)

Down through the ages, many answers have been offered, yet none have completely satisfied. However, years ago it occurred to me that, for the Christian at least, Truth (with a capital “T”) is not primarily conceptual, as the philosophers and many theologians would have it.

Why do I say this? Jesus the Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14.6a, NRSV) This is an important claim that I fully believe has not been deeply and seriously explored and considered enough epistemologically by Christian philosophers and theologians. The implications, I believe, are quite astounding.

However, one must first ask if Jesus was only  relating this claim to the second part of his statement, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, he may have been circumscribing his claim to salvation/justification only, essentially saying, “I am the only true way to the Father, which, of course, is the only means to authentic life.”

I do not believe so for at least two reasons:  1) Jesus uses the definite article “the” (η αληθεια), which is distinguished from the other two very definite claims of being the way and the life,  2) God is not only the God of truth; God is truth. Scripture testifies, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (I John 1.5b, NRSV) Therefore, his claim to being “the Truth” would seem to extend beyond salvific considerations.

And what does this mean? While I am certainly not an erudite intellectual, still less philosopher or theologian, I venture to say that this means Truth is not primarily conceptual; rather Truth is the Person of Jesus the Christ. Consequently, then, Truth is personal, and being personal, then Truth is also relational and communal. This may seem subjective, and perhaps it is, but it is not an anomaly in world history.

If I am wrong, anyone is at liberty to correct me, but for most of the history of our world ~ especially focusing on the Ancient Near East ~ peoples were very “narrative.” They were story-tellers, and they did not approach truth, first and foremost at least, conceptually (or scientifically, one might say). And so far as history was concerned, it was not so much an academic discipline as it was an art.

This does not mean that for millennia upon millennia peoples lied about their history and heritage, their beliefs and understandings of life and the world. It was simply (but importantly for our consideration) an altogether different world. The idea of truth (or Truth) being conceptual would have to wait for the advent of the great Greek philosophers and their mostly Western successors.

Mind you, I am not arguing that truth is not conceptual; that would be an absurdity. That would be saying that truth is not related to or based upon mental ideas and/or notions (according to the basic definition of conceptual). What I am saying is simply that the answer to the question, “quid est veritas?” is first of all an imperative correction, at least for the Christian, in rephrasing the query, as such: “Truth is not so much ‘what,’ but ‘who.’ And the answer to this is the Person of Jesus the Christ, or more expansively, the living, dynamically personal, relational, communal God.”

This being the case, then, Truth in toto is living and dynamic, relational and directly or indirectly communal; yet this without being self-contradictory. If the Eternal One had gifted me with greater intellectual ability I might be better able to explain this idea/perspective; however, this all is foundational in understanding how it is that I have no problem not only accepting truth wherever truth is found, but also deeply appreciating and benefiting therefrom, because whatever truth in consideration is only one truth that is an almost organic part of the whole living, breathing, dynamically personal Truth, who is God, who is Truth.

Really,  I can only close by repeating an insinuated appeal made earlier, to wit: Christian philosophers and theologians ought to “tackle” this subject more seriously, passionately, and deeply. (Perhaps some have, but not to my admittedly limited knowledge.)  My own reply here is, perhaps, paltry, but important and sincerely my best effort.  God bless all who read, and have mercy on this imperfect thinker and writer.



And So There Is God? And So What?

Caveat:  I was invited to offer a lesson or make a presentation of some sort during an apologetics course at a local church, but that plan was scratched at the last moment. Still, since I’d put some time and effort into the project, and since I also truly cannot remember if I’ve published this elsewhere… Well, I’m putting on my blog! I’ve done a little light editing, of course, because you are reading rather than sitting and listening. (Or hopefully you’re reading! LOL) Hope it benefits … or is, at least an enjoyable, stimulating consideration on the whole question of the existence of God. (Note: the above-mentioned apologetics course was just taking off; of course, apologetics carries on much, much further than the existence of God.)

orthodox-church-beautiful-gardenThe group Kansas once crooned, and I’m sure you’ve heard the song, “Dust in the wind; all we are is dust in the wind… Everything is dust in the wind.” And the modern physicist Steven Weinberg seems to agree. In his book, The First Three Minutes, this scientist laments that although “it is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents,” we are in fact only “a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe,” which all “seems pointless.”

Ah, but is it all pointless? Are we only an insignificant part of an overwhelmingly antagonistic universe? Just so much dust in the wind? In their very readable and compelling book, A Meaningful World, Drs. Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt say, “No!” We humans are unique and valuable, and we live in an intentional and purpose-filled world, and to prove this there have been and continue to be plenty of compelling arguments to prove the point.

Now, doubtless you have heard most (or at least some) or these arguments, or proofs – the ontological, teleological, efficient causality and whatnot – but here I’d like to begin by following Wiker and Witt’s lead in examining the idea of God and what is, in fact, the beautiful, purpose-filled world God created. Point in fact, I’d like to begin by looking at creativity and beauty, and then proceed from there to make two further, important points (hopefully) worth your consideration.

You see, one important idea in approaching the subject of the existence of God is the innate creativity of humanity – that is, the desire and ability of people to creatively create, which is more than pragmatic engineering, of course. Atheistic, or naturalistic, evolution can account for engineering, for better and sounder construction. After all, this would be necessary in both adaptation to the surrounding environment as well for sheer survival. But why creativity?

Why the creative works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of Tolstoy and Andrei Rublev, of Mozart and Beethoven?  Why the Colossus, the Pyramids, Herodotus and Tacitus and the Mona Lisa? Why Gregorian chants, symphonies and sonatas, jazz and the blues and Baroque?  Why the magnificent Taj Mahal, the Hagia Sophia, the Sistine Chapel and the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon?

Why, in other words, has humanity seemingly desired to tell interesting, captivating stories? To draw and to paint pictures that have no pragmatic value, no strictly practical benefit to the community? Why has humanity, at least from the beginnings of recorded history, always made music and engaged in singing? And yet all of this is part and parcel of the “humanness” of humanity. In other words, creativity is fundamentally part of what makes us human.

As the Twentieth century Russian philosopher, Nicholas Berdyaev, observed:

Man is a being capable of rising up above himself, and this rising up above himself, this transcending of himself, this going out beyond the encircling limitations of his own self — is a creative act of man. In creativity, especially, man surmounts himself; creativity is not a self-affirmation, but rather a self-overcoming; it is ecstatic. [i]

How is this possible? Or, perhaps more appropriately, why is this possible? Or we should actually say, why is this true, because Berdyaev is quite right. And he answers the question in his book, The Meaning of the Creative Act, very clearly and (I believe) convincingly:

If there had not been a divine creative act, in which something which had never been before was created, then the creative act (or creativity) in our world would be quite impossible… The very idea of creativity is possible only because there is a Creator and because He carried out an original creative act[ii]

adamHumans are, in other words, creative because humanity was created in the image and likeness of the Creator. As we read in Genesis, God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness… So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[iii]  Hence, we are creative or, if you will, miniature creators; not merely constructionists or engineers, but … artistic in the broadest sense of the word.

And this idea of creativity flows very smoothly, almost seamlessly, into our apprehension and appreciation of beauty, neither of which can be adequately explained apart from theism – that is, belief in the divine or, more importantly, the existence of the very personal, Creator God. After all, the idea of beauty and appreciation of the beautiful simply does not fit into the scheme of atheistic evolution and philosophical naturalism.

Why? Well, because beauty in and of itself has no intrinsic value in environmental adaptation or survival of the fittest. Some would argue that beauty has no practical value at all, which probably goes a long way in explaining why our increasingly anti-religious educational system continues cutting funding for art, literature, music and the like … but that is, perhaps, another topic for another time.

Nevertheless, it remains true that humanity is intrinsically creative, and that fundamental to creativity in our innate apprehension and appreciation of beauty, which seems to rather convincingly point to something more, something higher, something or someone beyond our mere biological existence within this physical world. As Anthony O’Hear, professor of philosophy at the University of Buckingham, points out:

Through art, particularly the great masterpieces of the past, we … have intimations of beauty, of order, of divinity … beyond the biological… In appreciating the beauty of the world … we are seeing the world as endowed with value and meaning… In responding to our experience of the world in moral and aesthetic ways, we are implying that there is something to be responded to… We are seeing the world and our own existence as created … seeing the world as animated by some higher … purpose, operating (in and) through and behind the material process revealed and studied by natural science. [iv]

Beauty creates in us an almost nostalgic longing for something more, higher and better. Almost like a road sign, beauty points us to something, or someone, beyond this natural world; in fact, to that which this natural world cannot provide with complete satisfaction. Or as the Christian philosopher and apologist, Peter Williams, observes, “It is as if … finite beauty is a derived quality that draws our aesthetic attention into the heaven of un-derived and absolute beauty.” [v]

No wonder, then, that countless numbers of people down through the ages and in our own day and time have been moved, even inspired, by beauty. Whether the majestic mountains, lush and serene valleys, peaceful lake; whether by sun, moon and stars, or the smiling face of the newborn infant; whether by great works of art and architecture, riveting novel or heartrending poetry; people the world over, in all times and in all places have been passionately stirred into spontaneous doxology, to lift their hands and laugh and dance … yes, to praise and worship.

For example, in the Adi Granth of Sikhism, we read:ulun_danu-temple

This earth is a garden, the Lord its gardener, cherishing all, none neglected. [vi]

And in the Orient, from the Shinto religion:

Even in a single leaf of a tree, or a tender blade of grass, the awe-inspiring Deity manifests itself. [vii]

But, of course, our own Sacred Scriptures make the same point very vividly, very poignantly, in completely unadulterated praise and worship of God the Creator:

Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. It encircles the sky with its glorious arc; the hands of the Most High have stretched it out. [viii]

Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord. [ix]

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. [x]

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well
. [xi]

Again, thousands upon thousands – no, even millions – of people in every age, in every culture, in every part of the world have in some sense or other stood or, perhaps more appropriately, bowed in reverent awe of the divine, or supernatural. In this delicately balanced, finely tuned world of ours, filled with such variety of creative beauty, generations upon generations have testified to having experienced God, or at least something very much spiritual.

And this is really rather astounding, actually. While not, perhaps, fully convincing as an argument, still one must wonder if so many down through the centuries and in our own day and time could be so very wrong about the nature of their experiences. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that all of these different people, living in different ages and in different parts of the world have encountered the same divine reality? [xii]

On the other hand, these spiritual-religious experiences may be, after all, only emotional-psychological reactions to aesthetical, environmental stimuli. You know, someone feels overwhelmed by an astonishingly beautiful view from the top of some mountain, and so they interpret (or misinterpret, as the case may be) the experience as being spiritual or supernatural, an encounter with the divine, as it were.

I reject this hypothesis and my answer would be that offered by Peter Kreeft, that is: “No. Given this vast number of claims, and the quality of life of those who made them, it seems incredible that those who made the claims could have been so wrong about them, or that insanity or brain disease could cause such profound goodness and beauty.” [xiii]  But this leads us to a rather thorny but fundamentally important consideration, I believe, especially this bit about “quality of life … profound goodness and beauty.”

You see, eventually and invariably,  the vitally significant question necessarily comes to the fore:  What God? Or for that matter, what Goddess? Or what pantheon of gods and goddesses? When we talk about the spiritual, the supernatural or divine, of what or whom are we speaking? Precisely whose existence are we attempting to prove?

And here is the crux of the matter, really. One might justly suppose that in any assembly of professing Christians, we are talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whomever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life;” [xiv] that is, the God of the Patriarchs and Apostles, of the Prophets and Martyrs:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. Right?

So now we come to what is doubtless the greatest apologetic of all, for Christians at least, and it really ties in rather neatly with creativity and the appreciation of beauty. And this is the Novitate Vitae Argument (if we want to sound fancy about it) or, in plainer language, proof from the newness of life, which is what the Latin novitate vitae means. You see, you can plausibly argue from creativity to Creator, and from beauty to the Source of Beauty … but not so much so from there to the God of Christianity.

born-againThis is precisely where novitate vitae, the newness of life in Christ, becomes so vitally important in apologetics, specifically Christian apologetics. After all, was it not Jesus himself who said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven…[xv] so that the world may know,” as the Christ later prayed, “that God … sent me and loves you even as God has loved me.”[xvi]

This Jesus of Nazareth claimed that he came from heaven, from God the Father, “that we might have life, and have it abundantly,” [xvii] and apparently he had an awful lot to say about the nature, the constitution of this abundant life; after all, “a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” [xviii]  Right? And so what is the fruit of this “tree,” this novitate vitae, the newness of life in Christ?

The Apostle St. Paul tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” [xix] because, as he says elsewhere, “although you were once the personification of darkness, you are now light in the Lord. So act like children of the light For the fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. So make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord,” [xx] living in goodness and truth, bearing the fruits of the Spirit.

Do we want to convince the non-believer, the skeptic, of the existence of God? All of the classical arguments, and even some of the not-so-classical, are all well and fine. When I see creativity in others and even myself, my heart more than my mind almost instinctively reaches out toward the Creator. The phenomenal beauty of the world around me as well as the beauty created by so many gifted, talented men and women lifts my spirit to the Source of Beauty.

This is good, as are all of the other so-called proofs, but being drawn to the Creator and somehow spiritually “lifted,” as it were, to the Source of Beauty is not quite the same as actually, genuinely believing in God, much less the God of the Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs; the God conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, who lived and suffered, died and rose again that those who believe might die no more, but live an unending and most blessed life.

Is this the God whose existence we want to prove? If so, then may I submit to you that the most convincing proof will ultimately be the testimony of the life we live as Christians, the newness of life in Christ. And may I also submit to you that this is the very proof for which so much of the world is waiting; the very proof for which so many are hungering and thirsting? This is the proof for which this world is quite literally dying to be offered? So it would seem the only question that remains for us to ask ourselves tonight is, above and beyond all of the intellectually convincing arguments, are we each willing to offer this proof for the existence of the living, loving God whom we rightly praise and worship?

[i]  Nicholas Berdyaev, “The Problem of Man: Towards Construction of a Christian Anthropology,” as accessed at http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1936_408.html   on 06/21/2013

[ii] Nicholas Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act, 128 (Parenthetical Mine)

[iii] Gen. 1.26a, 27 (vs. 26a from GW, vs. from NRSV)

[iv] Anthony O’Hear, After Progress, as quoted at http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/williams-aesthetic.shtml accessed on 06/21/2013 (Parenthetical Mine)

[v] Ibid (Emphasis Mine);  Note: Not wanting to be unnecessarily repetitive, still the pseudo-philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, arrogantly pronounced (as if he were some unique repository of special insight and wisdom) that “God did not … make man in his image; on the contrary man … made God in his image.” Yet the supramundane idea and appeal of beauty, with the attendant ability and desire to create beauty do not fit this dogmatic, atheistic pronouncement, for one is still left with the question of the origin of beauty qua beauty. It stands as a question that atheistic evolution, anthropology, and secular psychology are utterly unable to answer. If, however, I am wrong, then I gladly invite correction!

[vi] Adi Granth, Majh Ashtpadi 1, M3, 118, as cited in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 204

[vii] Urabe-no-Kanekuni, as cited in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 204

[viii] Sir. 43.11-12, NRSV

[ix] Ps. 98.7-8, NKJV

[x] Ps. 19. 1-3, NLT

[xi] Ps. 139.14, NRSV

[xii] Cf. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, “20 Arguments for the Existence of God,” from The Handbook of Christian Apologetics as accessed at http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm on 06/21/2013

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Jn. 3.16

[xv] Mt. 5.16, NRSV (Parenthetical Mine)

[xvi] Cf. Jn. 17.23b, NRSV (Emendations Mine)

[xvii] Jn. 10.10b, NRSV (Emendations Mine)

[xviii] Lk. 6.43-44a, NKJV

[xix] Gal. 5.22-23a, ESV

[xx] Eph. 5.8-10, VOICE

Open Letter to Sir Skeptic

Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.
~ From the First Epistle of St. Peter

Honorable Sir Skeptic:

It is, to be sure, the supreme paradox of our skepticfaith that God came to us in order to call us to himself; that he enters our lives in order for us to enter his; that he died that we might live and lives that we might not die. What is more, in this blessed, idiosyncratic faith of ours, we believe we ultimately obtain life only when we die – that is, when we die to self to live for Christ, in Christ, whose Spirit lives in us that we might die no more.

And it is such that we find fulfillment precisely when we are not looking for it; that we are gratified only when we are striving to gratify; that we serve our own best interests first and foremost in serving others in the interest of Christ – in fact, that we are truly at liberty only to the degree we are enslaved to the only One who can really free us, for we say, “If the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed.”

Yet as paradoxical as our faith may seem, our hope is real and our destiny certain. Our days are not spent in vain because our purpose is the highest and holiest of all – that is, to love God and obey him as we enter ever more deeply into the life of the Holy Trinity, uniting ourselves ever more intimately with him who gave us life by his own death and resurrection, even Jesus Christ our Lord, the “author and finisher of our faith.”

All too many believers, it is true, lie awake at night, staring into the darkness, contemplating life and the emptiness of an abysmal and seemingly irrational world. And doubtless tears are shed, prayerful appeals are made, so many frightened children of the King asking nothing more than to fall asleep and never wake again. Faith is not faith if it is never tried and threatens to falter and fail; after all, even Jesus had his Garden of Gethsemane.

But the gentle yet compelling voice of the Holy Comforter whispers to our souls, reassuring each of us that the darkness is never more dangerous than it is safe, never more frightening than it is consoling. And the world will never be entirely without light, even in the darkest of times, and never completely without hope, even in the depths of coldest despair. And so the Voice sings to the heart, “Be strong and let your heart take courage in the Lord.”

He compels us to remember, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.” God is constant, faithful, reliable and never changing. And in a world where the only constant seems to be change, this fact is supremely heartening … and, of course, especially fundamental to the very real hope we have to offer “anyone who calls us to give an account for the hope” we genuinely have as Christians.

to thine own self be true … walk away


It is a universal law from time immemorial that, with very rare exception, if one possesses the metal acumen and ability to apprehend the wrong and the negative, then one also necessarily possesses the same acumen and ability to apprehend the right and the positive. If someone can carp and criticize, then the same someone can also compliment and comfort. Likewise, if someone can grumble and protest, then the same someone can show gratitude and praise.  This being so, when we discover someone, as sometimes happens, who seems intent on singing only dirges, wailing by the wayside, and snuffing out all light, then prudence dictates we distance ourselves for our own sake, even for the sake of our very souls. No degree of love and concern will aid the individual who adamantly refuses to do what is within their power to help themselves; by association, then, we only succeed in harming ourselves without helping them in the least.

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”
–  W. Clement Stone, 20th Century American Businessman

“Wise company brings wisdom; fool he ends that fool befriends.”
–  Proverbs of Solomon 13.20,  Knox Bible (Translation of Msgr. Ronald Knox)

How long should you strive and how much effort expend plugging holes in a sinking ship when the lifeboat awaits to carry you to some safe harbor of peace and tranquility?