Posts Tagged: religion


This is from a little treatise called, “The Challenge of the Present Crisis” by Harry E. Fosdick.  Written in response to the first world war.  Even more relevant after a second world war, the rapid increase of nuclear weapons, the growth of technology that makes taking lives easier and more remote, and as we are still in the longest war in US history.

"If religion has such a part to play in the program of internationalism, we, as Christians, are challenged to a searching examination of our faith and works, and to a fresh devotion to our cause.  One of the wisest and most picturesque explanations of the present crisis is attributed  to Bergson, the Frech philosopher.  He says, in effect, that the chief work of science has been to enlarge man’s body.  Telescopes and microscopes have increased the power of our eyes; telephones have stretched our hearing to some three thousand miles; telegraphs have made our voices sound around the earth; locomotives and steamship lines, better than the seven-league boots of ancient fable, have multiplied the speed and power of our feet; and French big guns have elongated the blows of our fists from two feet to twenty-five miles.  Man never had such a body since the world began.  The age of giants was nothing compared with this.  But man’s soul - there the failure lies.  We have not grown spirits great enough to handle our greatened bodies.  The splendid new power which science furnishes are still in the hands of the old sins - greed, selfish ambition, cruelty.  We must have a new access of moral vision and power or we are utteerly undone.

"As a thoughtful Christian stands before the challenge he must repent, for himself and for the churches, the lamentable inadequacy of our organized religion to meet the crucial need.  This war will fail one of its most beneficent results if it does not drive the sense of shame into Christian churches with a poignancy that no excuses can palliate.  In the presence of abysmal need, we stand tithing "mint, dill, and cumin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness."  We are challenged by this war to a renovation of our popular Christianity, to a deep and unrelenting detestation of the little bigotries, the needless divisions, the petty obscurantisms that so deeply curse our churches, to a new experience and a more intelligent expression of vital fellowship with God.  Unless we can answer that challenge, there is small use in our trying to answer any other.  We must have a great religion to meet a great need.

"The saddest aspect of Christian history is the misrepresentation of Christ and the spoiling of his influence, not by irreligious men but by the official exponents of religion.  The belittling of religion by it devotees is the most tragic narrative of Christendom."


You may be familiar with the prayer from Mark 9, “I believe.  Help my unbelief.”  The man was expressing his desire to overcome his lack of faith for a fuller and deeper conviction in Jesus.  The prayer that follows this post is formed with those exact words and even with the same desired end, but with a significantly different meaning and means.  The prayer I want us to pray makes the first sentence, rather than the second, the place of confession.  And the second sentence, therefore, becomes one asking for increase rather than decrease.  The first statement, not the second, is the place where transformation is needed.  The second statement is what is to be honored, not regretted.  I want us to pray for a diminished sense of belief and conviction and an increased amount of doubt and questioning.  And I want us to do this for the same reason the man in Mark 9 prayed - to draw us nearer to Jesus… not our inherited, accepted, limited portrait of him.

Enough of that.  Let me get on with it.  A few quotes will be helpful:

John Keats, 19th century English poet, once wrote, “There is a need in contemporary spirituality to find ways of praying and engaging with God, ourselves, and one another that have room for simultaneous contradictions, the experience of opposite emotions.  We need the sacredness of living in the tensions and to admit how unsacred, how disconnecting, and profane are the attempts at praying and living while surpressing half of the stuff that fascinates or plagues us…”

Kathleen Norris calls the phenomenon “sacred ambiguity.”

In talking about the different lenses we all use to interpret the Bible, Shane Hipps says, “An examination of our lens is not a process of changing the Bible, the world, or truth; it is a process of changing ourselves.”

I offer all of this to make a suggestion for a pathway to great freedom.  

I have heard all my life people claiming to be “serious about the Bible.”  This was usually in a polemic context which implied that people that saw things differently than them were not “serious about the Bible.”  Churches split, people fight, names get called, labels get assigned.  You know the drill.  If you were “serious about the Bible” you would hold as strongly as I do to some certain truth, and you would be just as devoted to defending that truth from all compromises.

But I have come to a place where I have seen that doubting my convictions is a more respectful - or “serious” - way of treating the Bible than defending them.  

I have observed within myself that I have too often been more devoted to my lens for interpreting the Bible than to the Word of God.  

I am coming to see that “serious” commitment to Scripture looks less like a fierce defense of certain positions and more like a courageous openness to seeing it in fresh, new, challenging, and disruptive ways.

I say this because if I truly love and long for the Word of God to be alive in my life I can never confuse my understanding of the Bible with the Bible itself.  To do so is the highest arrogance.  ”My views = what the Bible says” is perhaps one of the greatest idolatries that has ripped apart the church and made Christians appear before an unbelieving world to be a petty and divisive religious sect arguing over issues no one else can possibly understand.

I am not saying there is no room for belief or conviction.  I am not advocating for some flimsy, relativistic, privatized understanding of truth.

I am actually calling myself to a more rigorous commitment to Scripture than I ever had in my more “serious” days.  I am asking myself to be so doggedly devoted to the Word that I constantly ask questions, doubt convictions, and allow others to challenge me with different views.  If I love the Bible I must hold it tightly and hold my interpretations lightly.  I must allow for contradiction, doubt, abiguity, and uncertainty.

I must not ever disrespect the Bible by thinking that my limited, sinful, arrogant, selfish mind can fully understand it truths and completely contain all its claims.  

I must love the Bible enough to let it and others who are reading it differently than me disrupt my life.

I am not advocating for making the Bible whatever I want it to be, I am trying to get to a place where the Bible can make me more of what it wants me to be.

And… in the spirit of honestly about lenses… I am on this journey right now with the assumption (or lens) that Jesus and his words/life are the filter though which we read everything in there, and when an argument/conversation/contradiction appears, it will be his life and words that teach me which side to fall on.

Lets love the Bible enough to enjoy the “sacredness of living within the tensions.”  I think this is a pathway to freedom.  I think it is a pathway to greater unity.  I think it is a pathway to discover the Jesus way.  

So…. “I believe. Help my unbelief.”



'Confirmation bias' is seeing the world through a filter. You want to be right about how you see the world, so you seek out information that confirms your beliefs and avoid contradictory evidence and opinions…. Even your memories fall prey to confirmation bias, recalling those things that support even recently-arrived-at beliefs and forgetting thing that contradict them. Over time, by never seeking the antithetical, through accumulating subscriptions to magazines, stacks of books, and hours of television, you can become so confident in your worldview that no one can dissuade you…. Confirmation bias is the most dependable of all delusions. You see what you want and ignore the rest.”

For the sake of your soul and the soul of the nation we celebrate today… seek the antithetical… betray to obey.


- David McRaney in You are Not So Smart