Category Archives: Religions

God in a cave

Merry Christmas everyone!  The following is from Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton in The Everlasting Man. I’m not sure I get the fullness of all its meaning, to be honest, but it moves me closer to the awe and magic of Christmas every time I read it. It’s thick but worth wrestling through…

Excerpt: The Place that shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic; it was not a place of myths … explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true.

Traditions in art and literature and popular fable have quite sufficiently attested, as has been said, this particular paradox of the divine being in the cradle. Perhaps they have not so clearly emphasised the significance of the divine being in the cave. Curiously enough, indeed, tradition has not very clearly emphasised the cave. It is a familiar fact that the Bethlehem scene has been represented in every possible setting of time and country of landscape and architecture; and it is a wholly happy and admirable fact that men have conceived it as quite different according to their different individual traditions and tastes. But while all have realised that it was a stable, not so many have realised that it was a cave. Some critics have even been so silly as to suppose that there was some contradiction between the stable and the cave; in which case they cannot know much about caves or stables in Palestine. As they see differences that are not there it is needless to add that they do not see differences that are there. When a well-known critic says, for instance, that Christ being born in a rocky cavern is like Mithras having sprung alive out of a rock, it sounds like a parody upon comparative religion. There is such a thing as the point of a story, even if it is a story in the sense of a lie. And the notion of a hero appearing, like Pallas from the brain of Zeus, mature and without a mother, is obviously the very opposite of the idea of a god being born like an ordinary baby and entirely dependent on a mother.

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Get out your red pen; “exclusivism” revised

…for the new Redeemer blog

Redeemer Presbyterian is starting a new blog for Seekers, or those who are considering the claims of Christianity (and other world religions).  They have offered me an opportunity to do some writing. I wrongly supposed I could simply take content from inklingz and allow them to post it on the new blog, but they’ve asked me to trim (that is, massively edit) my work.  Here’s an edit below of Exclusivism that welcomes all. I’m curious to hear if you prefer the shorter version to the original post. Get out your red pens and have at it.

An exclusive invitation for all, revised and revisited

Christianity is unique among world religions because of the unique claims of Jesus Christ. No other religious leader (of a major religion) claimed to be God or promised to destroy death; and followers of no other religion claim its leader’s resurrection. Therefore, I contend that Christianity is either “better” or much worse than all other faiths. I use the word “better” simply because Christianity is based on truth claims that supersede all other truth claims. That is, either Jesus was God and was resurrected from the dead; or not. If not, then Christianity is a farce based on lies; I accept that.  But what if?

I recognize the intellectual problem presented by exclusive truth claims particularly for thoughtful modern people (that is, True Truth or truth that is universally true for all all people at all times–The Lens through which all other truth claims must be viewed). The general form of the argument against True truth is often illustrated with a story about blind men trying to understand the full nature of an elephant. One feels its trunk and believes the elephant is snakelike. Another man feels a leg and thinks the elephant much like a tree. A third man feels the tusks and has quite a different interpretation. Each man understands a part of the elephant, but none of them has the full picture. Such is life, the argument suggests. All any of us can hope to offer is the unique understanding we derive from our experiences, but none of us can understand the full elephant, as it were. That is to say, a person’s truth claim will reflect (only) his limited understanding, but it cannot be the complete picture–it cannot be True Truth.

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Home—or a fruit remembered (but never tasted?)

A Romantic, says Nietzsche, is someone who always wants to be elsewhere. If that’s so, then the children of the Internet are Romantics, for they perpetually wish to be someplace else, and the laptop reliably helps take them there — if only in imagination. The e-mailer, the instant messenger, the Web browser are all dispersing their energies and interests outward, away from the present, the here and now. The Internet user is constantly connecting with people and institutions far away, creating surrogate communities that displace the potential community at hand … dissolve(ing) the present away.

—Mark Edmundson, from “Dwelling in Possibilities”  in the Chronicle Review

What you have made me see,” answered the Lady, “is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before—that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you had not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished—if it were possible to wish—you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other…the world is so much larger than I thought.  I thought we went along paths—but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.

—C.S. Lewis, from Perelandra

In Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography, she tells the story of a visit to Oakland, California, where she had spent much of her childhood.  After living in Paris for several decades a lecture tour brought her back home, but she records that once there, she could not find her house—her school and park were no longer there and her childhood synagogue was gone.

“There is no there there”, she famously wrote.

She came back to where she started but found nothing that resembled Home as she remembered it—this home had faded into something unfamiliar.

***

I have an idea that stretches my mind every so often, maybe more than any other idea that weaves in and out of my thoughts.  It is sometimes a thread in my happiest thoughts, though most often it comes as a piercing sense of loss or of great longing.  It is an idea—or maybe a set of ideas—about “home”.  I will do my best to tie them together.

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