Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Faith Works 3-19-16

Faith Works 3-19-16

Jeff Gill


Next question, new considerations



So we were talking about apologetics.


More particularly, a category of Christian theology referred to as apologetics, laying out some of the most common responses to arguments against faith in God and belief in religious propositions.


I was moved to consider this subject after reading a pretty solid, and lengthy volume by the distinguished preacher and pastor Tim Keller, "The Reason for God." It's a good read for those interested in a book-length treatment, but for many, it's hitting a tack with a sledgehammer.


Which is why I thought it might be interesting for us to break the whole subject down into three questions -- first: is there a God? Or more personally: do you believe in God? In the existence of a someone who is above and beyond our own human limitations?


And in fact, the overwhelming majority do, even if in a variety of constructions. But I'm not here to argue with your depiction or understanding of God so much as to move on to what is my second "apologetics" question: do you believe God, as you understand that person, is still involved in creation, in this world we live in?


The structure of belief called "Deism" that was very common in the century of our nation's founding was an Enlightenment era framework for a Cosmic Being who was our Creator, and the Author of Laws through which the world found its own being . . . but this form of God was described often as a sort of "Divine Watchmaker."


This watchmaker model and metaphor basically argued that God, or a god, may well have created the world and how it works, but this Entity was no longer involved in creation. The cosmos was built and wound up and set to working, and in the times and seasons we know, the watchmaker is not involved in any sort of ongoing, day to day basis.


To argue that God is still directly, personally involved in the world as we know it from day to day opens up the biggest challenge in the entire field of apologetics, particularly Christian apologetics (at least as I see the landscape of debate on all this). It's known by the technical term "theodicy," and it means this: how can a God as you define such a one, be good and just as yet still allow everything from "nature red in tooth and claw" to the death of innocents. Charles Darwin wrestled with this concern in the form of the question as to how one could believe "that a benificent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae (species of wasp) with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars." This is a strong question, even as many of his biographers note that Darwin was probably speaking indirectly in those questions about the painful death of his beloved young daughter, Annie at age ten, a much more personal challenge in theodicy.


There are many responses to this question, but Darwin still puts his finger on the problem of too quickly saying "why, yes, God is still regularly intervening and active and involved in caring for and protecting those who worship." If so, ask many, why does God not intervene and care for the helpless? How does a directly engaged God allow victims to suffer at the hands of evil, let alone through simple illness and chronic disease?


But there is another problem indeed in suggesting that God is so detached and dispassionate as to "wind up" creation and then step back and watch the automatons and music boxes and spinning ballerinas rotate until the mechanism finally winds down. Which is harder to account for, a God who creates but then only observes, or a God who is involved in creation but not always where and how we (part of creation as we are) would expect? It is not a simple question, but the latter is one I can work with, and am working with.


Which is why I can say to an inquirer: first, I believe that the world and everything in it points me to a one I call God, the Source and Savior of what has been made, and second, I believe that this God I honor and worship is still at work in creation, for reasons I but imperfectly understand.


This simple apologetic does not automatically answer every question, but it does give me a secure place to stand as we discuss these questions as they arise.


Curious about the last question in the three-part series, as I see this discussion resolving? Yep, come back next week!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he believes in God. Okay, not surprising. Tell him about what you do and don't believe at knapsack77@gmail.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Notes From My Knapsack 3-17-16

Notes From My Knapsack 3-17-16

Jeff Gill


Spring in our valley



With the fevers of the primary season past, the patient, the body politic, can now be assessed for any lasting illness or ongoing syndromes. Are we well and truly sick, or just dealing with a touch of the electoral influenza?


Any patient, on reaching a certain level of recovery, will hear that exercise is best for the limbs, the heart, the body as a whole. So the best response to these last few weeks of heated in-house online overly-obsessed scenario-chewing anxiety is to get outside, under a clear blue sky.


This being Ohio, it's more likely to be slate grey and drizzling, but no matter. Let's get out there and stroll. Saunter, even.


The vistas across the hills and valleys will soon be limited, in ways we can only appreciate when they're lost to us, like so many things. The slope of ground and slightly hidden structures are going to be covered over with a blanket of green, curtains and draperies of foliage that is what we're used to thinking of as normal even though it's really only true for six or seven months at most of our year.


The leaves return the distant viewscape to mere glimmers after dark, of where homes are seated on hilltops and across ravines. Even as they shroud, they soften, returning the curves of the earth to the spiky and irregular terrain of wintertime.


Peepers are singing out, snowdrops have blossomed, daffodils are stabbing their green spades up through the mulch into the sunlight, a sort of reverse excavation into the warmth of the air.


Buds are popping along the branches and limbs all around the trees over sidewalks and driveways, with infant leaves ready to poke through and unfurl. Some trees have long lost all their dried brown leaves from last year, and a few await the pressure of new growth to push them off the branch and onto the ground. Non-native grasses and long-established shrubs are shedding buff and grey debris as greenish-gold sprouts and shoots are pushing through.


I've started to see great blue herons slowly flap their way across my intersecting path below, their distinctive profiles lifting my heart obscurely. Do they settle down into a sort of hibernation through the cold months, stay active if largely invisible, or do they migrate? I should look that up. The buzzards are here year-round, with the pickings good on the blacktop; robins may over-winter but the last few I've seen seem to have arrived from the south, disgruntled with the cold when it surges back for a night or two. Crows have never gone anywhere, or so it seems to me. Sparrows are starting to show up in the spindly forsythia behind my house.


Bugs are appearing, in my home, on my windshield. Bees I am familiar with are humming insistently within their hives, and there are no doubt other such colonies (yellow jackets, hornets, wasps) vibrating into new life. Mosquitos and deerflies can take all the time they want.


And the numbers of runners, joggers, bicyclists, simple strolling fellow walkers: their tribe is on the increase. The paths and byways have been largely lonely for months, but now they're nearly what you could amusedly call crowded. But the crowding is not much, and the added population a sign of health. In those bodies, and in the body politic generally.


Let's stay active, outside, observing, and above all talking to each other. Even if it's just a hello on the bike path.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him about the spring sights you've seen at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.