It Sounds Good, But...

Sometimes we need a wake up call. Sometimes we need to put some thought into an idea, movie, message, book, or quote. 

I need to do this often. I thoroughly enjoy making others do it as well. 

A couple of months ago, during the Sunday School class I was teaching, I asked the students to tell me everything they could about King David. They come up with a huge list. But, it was mostly good stuff. I had planned for this response and had a question ready. 

What did David pay King Saul as a bride-price for Michal? (see 1 Samuel 18:25-27 for the answer). 

I went on to point out the severely messed up, and mixed up, life of David, and concluded by asking why we, and the scriptures, call David "a man after God's own heart." Interesting discussion ensued!

Then today, again during the Sunday School class I was teaching  I borrowed a thought from John Stackhouse and asked the students if they had ever thought about ridiculous Christianity can sound. 

"We believe in God. But not just any God. Our God became a man, a Jewish carpenter turned Rabbi over two thousand years ago. God did this, becoming man, in order to save the world. He succeeded in saving the world by dying on a cross and then rising from the dead; that is how he paid for our sins. He promised to be with us always, and we talked to Him this morning actually, and he promised he would come back one day. And if you want you can talk to Jesus too, and invite Him into your heart whenever you want!"

Now, as part of an entire narrative, it all makes sense. And I believe it. But laid out in a series of propositional sentences, it can sound ridiculous. 

Other examples I have used include the Twilight series (barf!), Kung Fu Panda (the power is inside of you! you just have to believe! there is no secret ingredient! Booyah....), and the false gospel preached at History Maker Conference last year.

Today, I came across yet another chance to make people think.  How many of you have ever heard this quote: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson in her book "A Return To Love" (which is an examination of, or reflection upon, "A Course in Miracles") {new age distorted spiritualistic garbage}

If you have seen the movie "Coach Carter" then you have heard this quote. Sounds good, doesn't it? But it is complete nonsense.

Whatever our deepest fear is (for we fear both rightly and wrongly), our deepest problem could be stated precisely in terms of our inadequacy: we are sinful and incapable of saving ourselves, our lives are inadequate to 'earn' forgiveness, reconciliation is beyond our reach. Only God can save us. We are not powerful beyond measure; we are finite, fallen, broken, and fragile human beings. And it is not our light, or our darkness, which ought to most frighten us but the light of God (John 3:19). As for being brilliant, gorgeous, talented, or fabulous, these are not the goals of life. We are to be faithful, hopeful, and loving. God has created us all unique, and called us to our very best, whatever that looks like; though we are all incredibly loved and valued, beyond anything we can imagine, by God. You are a child of God, and you ought precisely to humble yourself before Him so that he can lift you up; playing big will serve the world even less than playing small (though false humility is still unhelpful). We are meant to shine by reflecting the light of Christ into the world; no other light will help anyone (Matt. 6:23).  It is as we throw ourselves wholly on God that we free others to do anything worthwhile, and it is as He liberates us from our fears, through His perfect love, that we can become ministers of reconciliation and liberation to those around us.

So I urge you, think! Think about what you hear, see, read, and take in. Much will sound, or look, or smell, or taste, or feel good, but... 


Dana Ouellette said...

Sometimes things sound ridiculous because they are ridiculous. The message of christianity is not only illogical but just plain stupid (if you ask me).

Andrew said...

Lol. Would it be too cliche to quote 1 Cor. 1:18?

Or perhaps a recent New Yorker article: "'Our imagination is stretched to the utmost,' the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman noted, 'not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there.'"

Obviously you and I put the Christian message into different categories in that last quote; this is not news to me :)

Funny poster.

Dana Ouellette said...

He is one of my academic heros though. I just recently read surely you're joking mister feynman a few months ago.

Feynman was very anti-religion (he was also anti humanities and social science). He was commenting on how incredible so you don't need too make up stuff that isn't there. He is quite right that it takes a huge amount to wrap ones head around quantum electrodynamics.

you are not interpreting that quote the way feynman intended it.The world is amazing and it takes a lot of imagination just to understand the natural world without made up absurdities about a supernatural world.

Andrew said...

I wasn't trying to say his quote supports Christianity, and it is fairly obvious (even from the limited quote I put in my comment) that he is contrasting what he believes to be real with fiction, and noting that the real alone takes all of our intellectual powers to comprehend (and then we still aren't 'there yet').

My more nuanced point was that if what we know of the physical world defies imagination, the same may be true in a broader sense. The New York article from which that comes makes the point, earlier, that physics has advanced by believing, and then testing, 'absurdities'. Things people thought were nonsense, illogical, and just plain stupid; but they turned out to be true.

Equally obviously, there is a massive difference between the field of religion/spirituality/faith and that of physics. However, my comment was in the same spirit as yours: you find Christianity ridiculous, I do not. You said that some things sound ridiculous because they are; but some things sound ridiculous and are true nonetheless.

Dana Ouellette said...

you are quite right. Some things that sound ridiculous are true (quantum electrodynamics, anti-matter etc...). But I stand by my point. Some things sound ridiculous because they are.

Of course you understand that ridiculous sounding things like quantum electrodynamics have mathematical and theoretical underpinnings before they are confirmed by experiments. They are not so much ridiculous as counter-intuitive because we have no experience to allow us to understand how things work on the scale smaller than an electron or larger than a galaxy.

As opposed to religion that has antiquated stories behind it and can never be confirmed.

we might never agree on this. But I still hope you dont think i'm being overly antagonistic. I actually enjoy reading your blog and appreciate your friendship now as I did when i was a believer. I appreciate debate. I sometimes forget that other people don't.

Also thanks for the Feynman quote. He is awesome. If you've never read it i highly recommend reading Surely You're joking mr. feynman

Andrew said...

I don't find you too antagonistic at all; I enjoy your comments and thoughts as well.

And all those differences you point to are what I was referring to when I said "Equally obviously, there is a massive difference between the field of religion/spirituality/faith and that of physics."

I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog, and hope you continue to :)