Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I and Thou and Martin

           Let me be honest with you.  I have crushes.  My latest crush is on a Jewish philosopher/theologian named Martin Buber.  I heart Martin Buber.  For my most recent module we were required to read two books by Buber, I and Thou and Good and Evil.  I’d probably heard of Buber before that but I’d never read Buber before that.  I read I and Thou first and my initial reaction was, “Martin Buber, where have you been all my life?”  Buber speaks my language, or I speak his, and this little book gave me a grid for understanding myself and my little world a whole lot better.  Ultimately the book gave me some truth that empowered me to relate to other people in a whole new and much healthier way than ever before.
               In I and Thou, Martin Buber describes the nature of man’s relationship to the world around him.  He says that we experience or encounter the world as “I/It” or as “I/Thou”.  The world around us is bent towards experiences where we collect data, make observations and evaluations based on senses and understanding that always keep the other at some distance, “I/It”.  Buber calls us to the second way, the way of encounter wherein we discover the depth of “I” through relationship to the “Thou” that is transcendent in everything around us (even your cat).  In this level of relationship we actually discover the fullness of our own identity as it is reflected by our connection to the Thou we encounter in people, places and things around us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Editing Erasing Hell

I just finished Francis Chan’s book, Erasing Hell.  This was made possible, in large part, by Francis and his people – always good to have your own ‘people’ – making it available for a free download on Kindle.  It was a fairly easy read and it was written in a conversational style as opposed to a slow read done in an academic style.  It’s clear that Chan is writing this book as the “matter” alternative to Rob Bell’s “anti-matter” book, Love Wins.  It’s not a personal attack but an attempt to ‘set the record straight’ when it comes to Universalism and everybody getting a free pass to heaven.  Chan’s ultimate concern seems to be that by suggesting that hell isn’t real people will not turn to Jesus and decide that they don’t really want to be in the presence of God forever but settle for an undetermined life after this life somewhere else – but not in hell if there is no hell.  That last sentence was meant to be as confusing as I found Chan’s reasoning.


First, let’s talk about the stuff I loved in this book.  Let’s start with Chan.  I love Chan.  I love his style, I love the way he’s doing his best to live his utmost for God.  I love his commitment to the Scriptures.  I love his concern for people.  I love that he doesn’t try to define the exact nature of hell (ECT, Annihilation, etc.).  I love his approach in the book to come against ideas rather than against people.  I love how short the book is.  I love the endnotes that are a must read.  I love the FAQ section at the end of the book.  I love that this book was free.

Now for stuff I didn’t like.

Where to begin?  Francis wrote this book with Preston Sprinkle.  I could be wrong but here’s how it felt like this book came together.  Francis gets an advance look at Rob Bell’s book.  Chan and Sprinkle have a caffeine soaked conversation about what Chan has read.  The publisher has already subtly suggested Chan might write a reply.  Chan is a busy guy but feels like this is a worthy endeavour if Sprinkle will go along and do the “theology”.  Sprinkle agrees.  Chan sits in Starbucks one afternoon and hammers out the main points, a few stories, some impassioned pleading – all on his mac book – and then emails the document to Sprinkle with the note: add Bible, theology, FAQ and then email it back.  And that’s how a book gets made when you are a signed author with a Christian publishing house.

“So,” you’re asking me, “you’ve just made that up and you have a problem with something you just made up?”  Fair question.  Chan acknowledges the help of many in completing this short, non-academic book.  But read it for yourself and I think you’ll get the same feeling I did.  Is that a problem for me?  Not really, it’s just a frustration to me that Christian books come together this way.  Cook, the publisher, knew it had a ready market and with an established, best-selling author’s name on it, cha-ching.  My point is this: there are many other, better, more reasoned books on this topic already available.  Chan – or Sprinkle in this case – even references them.  But you and I won’t buy them because they’re “boring” and “cost too much” and they’re way too long. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

20 Questions for the Disciples on Good Friday/Holy Saturday

Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
I've been meditating today in an effort to make Good Friday and I/Thou encounter rather than just another I/It experience.

So many Good Fridays have come and gone.

I've been trying to imagine the state of the disciples.  What were they thinking, feeling, doing?  Here are some questions I thought of - please add your own in the comments.

1.     Mary did you consider recanting the Magnificat?
2.     Did any of you throw up your last supper?
3.     Did any of you go out looking for Judas for a little Galilean justice?
4.     Did your hearts feel as empty on Friday as he carried the cross out of Jerusalem as they had felt full when the donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem?
5.     Did you regret falling asleep while he prayed or were you sorry you ever woke up?
6.     How long until you could look each other in the eye?
7.     Who was the first to suggest a “plan B”?
8.     What were the last words you remembered him saying to you?  What was the last thing you said to him?
9.     Did you wet yourself every time someone knocked on the door of the place you were hiding?
10.  What made you stick around the city?  Fear, faith or shock?
11.  How hard was it to find someone to hide you?  Did people suddenly act like they didn’t know you?
12.  Who blamed whom first?
13.  Did you give Peter the silent treatment?  Did you mock him for his “great confession” at Caesarea Philippi?   Did he tell you all that night about his fireside denial?
14.  Who cried the most?
15.  Could any of you touch bread or wine that weekend?  Could you even look at them on the table without feeling sick or crying uncontrollably?
16.  Collectively, how many times did you ask, “Why?”
17.  How many of you considered doing what Judas did?
18.  Did Peter moan out loud every time a rooster crowed nearby?
19.  Did you men marvel at the capacity of the women to keep going in the midst of their mourning?
20.  Did any of you ask, “If a man dies, will he live again?”

I've got a lot to learn but I think asking questions will help me get there.