Posts tagged ‘Christianity’
So, this weekend I took my granny squares and met up with a group of people who meet every other week at the Central Market to knit and crochet. I now have 97 out of 100 granny squares completed. When I get done with the 100 squares I have to crochet a black border around each one and then sew them together. I anticipate that I may be done sometime between now and the year 3000.
I wasn’t sure what I expected out of the group exactly, maybe a bunch of old biddies or a group of soccer moms. Neither was true. It was a pretty large group. There must have been at lease eight or nine people there. There were even two men.
We looked at pattern books and ate cookies and worked on our projects and talked. The lady who sat on my right was a technical writer who lived within walking distance of my house. The one on my left was a crochet guru who worked for a library. The woman directly across from me was from Oklahoma, and she teaches composition and rhetoric at a local university. The woman to her left was a former high school English teacher and a former Christian educator. And the two men were mos. Could the group have been more tailored made for moi? I don’t see how.
We talked about the news, its quality or lack thereof. The tech writer and I talked about the zoning plans for our respective neighborhoods and how sad it was that the area was destined to be Downtown: The Sequel. This means that it’ll be all vertical multi-use with outrageously high rents. In twenty years, they’ll have stripped this neighborhood of its poor and its minorities as well as its character. It will be homogenized, pasteurized, pristine, pretty, progressive, and predominantly white. It’ll also be pricey. I was glad that someone else besides me found that sad.
The tech writer was an African American woman, and when the subject of marriage and children came up, and I said that I thought marriage and children were both wonderful things but that I was tired of being made to feel less of a woman if I didn’t experience them, she said something profound. She said, “I have two grown children and a grandbaby. I’ve been married and divorced twice. All I ever wanted to be was That Girl. You know, like Marlo Thomas. Just a cute little career girl with a steady boyfriend.” Funny how you never think about the grass being greener.
We talked about writing and reading. We talked about grammar and novels. The meeting started at 2 and didn’t break up until nearly 5. Afterward, I went to the Mr. Brewsters for enchiladas and to see baby Punky.
I had intended to try a new church this weekend, but I didn’t get my nerve up and procrastinated instead, staying in bed under the covers and reading issues of The New Yorker. However, I did go to the church building on Sunday afternoon and drive by the outside so I would know how to get there for next week. I consider that progress.
I think I found a church that might fit with my particular brand of theology. I think I found some place where they might not think of homosexuality as a sin and where gays might be welcome to worship without being given the cold shoulder or the love the sinner speech. It’s small, and it’s close. The website talks about their commitment to service.
I like the Presbyterian church my landlords go to except that it’s all money. They pour most of their resources into buildings and programs designed to fill the needs of the church members and very little money comparatively into service and missions. Austin Stone is committed to missions, and they’re close now. I like the people who worship there, but that church is a member of the Southern Baptist Conference. I’m going to be pretty diametrically opposed to some of their theology. Plus, I’m pretty certain you’ll never see any gay or lesbian couples filling the pews at either of those churches.
Some of my readers seemed to get a little upset that I would say that birth defects or being born gay or transgender might just be a part of God’s plan. They mentioned the fall, when Eve and then Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One said that as he understood it God wasn’t in charge of the earth now.
Well, I think God’s always been in charge of the universe, not just the Earth. If not, then who is in charge? Us? That’s a laugh. Satan? That’s even funnier. God’s in charge right now. God was in charge back then. He may choose not to interfere on a daily basis or not to interfere unless we ask Him in, but make no mistake that God’s ALWAYS in charge. He can step in any old time that He likes.
I also stand by my statement that what we often perceive as people’s imperfections are a part of God’s grand design, a design so big and complicated that you can only see it from God’s perspective. Think of corn mazes and crop circles. You don’t know what you’re looking at until you see it from the air.
I don’t mean that what a lot of us would think of as diseases and defects are personally visited upon particular people as a punishment. That makes no sense. A little baby has done nothing to deserve fetal alcohol syndrome, as an example. I only mean that God purposely designed a world in which these things could occur.
Let me ask you something: do you really believe that God is so small that the mere eating of a piece of fruit totally thwarted his original master plan for the universe? That’s it. Us all-powerful humans learn the difference between good and evil, and all hell breaks loose. It’s back to the drawing board for God, like Wile E. Coyote.
No, the world is the same world that was created on day seven. The fall didn’t thwart God’s plan. But there had to be consequences for Adam and Eve’s actions. The consequences were banishment from paradise amongst other things.
What was Adam & Eve’s sin? Well, for one thing it was thinking that eating a piece of fruit would make them as knowledgeable as God. It was that arrogance and hubris. And for another thing? It was believing the serpent, taking the serpent’s word over God’s and assuming that God lies. It was failing to communicate with God and failing to trust God.
Why would God purposely create a world from the very beginning that included the possibility for error? Well, I’m not God, so I can’t know for sure. But I believe that there are three reasons. The first is so that we would learn to love one another in perfect love. We would learn that other human beings sometimes require help and care. We would learn compassion that way. When we show love for our fellow human beings that pleases God.
The second reason is that if God created a world that was all paradise all the time, then it wouldn’t really be paradise anymore. In order to recognize that you’ve got it good there has to be a corresponding opposite state of bad. Otherwise, good is just the status quo. There’s nothing good about it. It’s just what you’re entitled to as a child of God. Ho hum. Just another day in paradise.
Adam: Do you think God will walk through the garden again tonight?
Eve: Who cares? There’s no reason to talk with Him. We have everything we need.
And the final reason that I believe that God created a perfect world of imperfection: so that we would learn to love God and to rely on God. The whole reason that the human race was created in the first place was to be in relationship with God. If we have free will and everything goes hunky dorey for us all the time, then there’s not much reason to be in communication with God. To thank him, some of you might say. But how do you recognize the need for gratitude when everything is just perfect all the time? That’s just the way it is. Why would I want to thank anyone?
If God didn’t want to be in communion with us he would have chosen, instead, to make us pretty dolls that he could just sort of move about the world, in much the same way that a little girl plays with Barbie’s dream house. Greek mythology often refers to humans in much the same way, as the playthings of the gods. I don’t think we’re playthings. I think we were meant to be companions. God didn’t create us just because he was bored. He created us because he was lonely.
I’m not so full of myself that I think these ideas are original to me. I’m sure that if I had gone to seminary that I could give you the name of at least one famous theologian who thinks the same way I do on the subject and can probably discourse on it much more intelligently than I can. What I’m doing is articulating my theology in a way that works for me. Hopefully, it works for you, too.
You can disagree. God made as many viewpoints in the world as there are people. The important thing is that we do think about God and speak with God and spend time with God and live our lives according to what we can best divine to be His will. But it would be a mistake to ever think that we can comprehend God’s plan for the universe, no matter how much time we spend reading the Bible…or how much fruit we eat.
St. Iranaeus (pr. Ear-uh-nay-oose) of Lyons was born in the first half of the second century in a Christian family, something unusual for theologians and priests of his time, most of whom were adult converts. He was the Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is where modern day Lyon, France exists now.
Iranaeus is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in America. Iranaeus first came to the spotlight as a leader among Christian leaders when several priests were imprisoned during their persecution under the Roman leader Marcus Aurelius. Iranaeus delivered a letter to the Pope of the time, concerning the heresy of Montanism.
Iranaeus’ writings were very contemptuous of Gnosticism, and his views on the subject were influential in forming early church doctrine. He was very opinionated on the subject of Gnostics, and his prejudice sometimes led him to record inaccuracies.
For instance, there actually was a written Gospel of Judas; a copy that surfaced in Egypt in the 1970s partially survives to this day. Iranaeus had railed against the oral tradition of a secret document that purported to show Judas’ betrayal as a calculated piece of the Lord’s plan for Jesus, not a treachery but a humble obedience.
Also, Iranaeus claimed that Gnostics were sexual libertines. The truth is that Gnosticism was all over the map. Some Gnostics were promiscuous; others were stricter in their sexual abstention than was the official church. Later, he lost some credibility when these inaccuracies were brought to light.
His most important work was a book called Adversus Haereses, Latin for Against Heresies. It is from Iranaeus that we get the first inkling of a canon. He believed that the Old Testament and most of what has survived to be the New Testament should be considered scripture. He famously argued for the fourfold Gospel.
The fourfold Gospel was the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we know to be the gospel today. In Iranaeus’ time there were many gospels. The gospels tended to each be more popular in certain geographical areas. As an example, there was a Gospel of Philip, a Gospel of Thomas, a Gospel of the Virgin Mary, a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the previously mentioned Gospel of Judas, to name a few.
The canon wouldn’t be officially deliberated or decided upon until many years later, but undoubtedly Iranaeus’ views were influential in shaping the Christian bible. His vehement argument in favor of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John being the only recognized gospels suggests that it was a novel idea for the time. However, one might also conclude that they were the most popular and widely read gospels for the time, whereas the gospels that didn’t survive were lesser known, less widely read, and also possibly contained Gnostic views.
In Iranaeus’ writings against Gnosticism he introduced the concept of apostolic succession. He argued that the bishops of the early church could be linked all the way back to the Lord’s first twelve disciples and that none of these church leaders were Gnostics. It is from the concept of apostolic succession that the concept of papal supremacy further emerged.
Iranaeus had many other fascinating insights, much too many to expound upon in a blog post. But his most important contributions to early Christianity were his denunciation of Gnosticism and his contributions of the fourfold gospel and the doctrine of apostolic succession. He undoubtedly greatly influenced the future solidification of the Roman Catholic Bible many years before its eventual canonization.
He died in the year 202 A.D. and was later buried under the church he served, St. John in Lyons, which was renamed for St. Iranaeus after his death. The church and his remains were later destroyed by the Hugenots in 1562. Some church traditions hold that he died a martyr’s death, although there is no evidence to support this fact.
To read more: