The Spirituality of Contemplating Uncertainty

Certainty -- Having means you never need to contemplate ... anything.

Certainty

If fundamentalism had a logo, it would be certainty. Fundamentalism might be described as certain people with no uncertainty. And if you have uncertainties, you’d best keep them to yourself. Uncertainty is doubt, doubt is lack of faith, lack of faith clearly means that you are lost.

Yet there are also things about which one cannot be too certain. Are you saved? Do you know that you’re saved? Do you know WHETHER you’re saved? Are you absolutely certain that you’re saved. Is there even the slightest possibility in the darkest recesses of your soul that you might not be saved? Of course enough of this and you’ll be confessing to anything.

Others may have questions and doubts. But we will allow no ambiguity to cloud our judgment about the Bible. And since the Bible speaks to all of life, we won’t allow ambiguity into our social stances. Or our politics. Or our view of science, of economics or anything else. We get to live with divine certainty about pretty much everything.

Meditation

These things said, at least one spiritual practice seems out of place in Independent Fundamental Baptist circles. BibMeditation for Fundieslical and time-honored as it may be, the spiritual practice of meditation seems a poor fit for fundamentalism. IFBs may sing how ‘Jesus bids us shine’ and ‘like a little candle, burning in the night.’ But generally, a little candle burning in the dark is not the image that comes to mind when one thinks of IFB preachers and their trade.

Some reject meditation as a Christian spiritual practice. Some Christians reject Christmas and Easter. Why would they do anything sometimes practiced in non-Christian faiths? Lighthouse Trails ‘ministry’ is built on opposing meditative practices. ‘Got Questions’ courageously declares:

‘True Christian meditation is an active thought process whereby we give ourselves to the study of the Word, praying over it and asking God to give us understanding by the Spirit, who has promised to lead us “into all truth.”‘

Some assumed that when he wasn’t fighting/resisting the devil, Jesus’ 40 wilderness days were spent in meditation. Apparently they were wrong. Jesus was actually studying the Torah, poetic books and the prophets.

Beyond squabbling about what it means to clear the mind or center the thoughts, the real problem with meditation is far more sinister.

Spiritual Practice

Christian meditation presupposes ‘respect for mystery.’ A contemplative life weighs many things and counsels restraint. It prefer questions to answers, and humility to certainty. It prefers breadth of perspective over flat pronouncements. None of these grant room to fundamentalists to influence or manipulate the mind. This means that fundamentalists must resist meditative spiritual practices as a deviation from truth faith.

Meditation on the meaning of life and the struggle to find Biblical and redemptive import in it will always be part of our Christian existence.

Fundamentalists as much as anyone face a world that sometimes makes little sense. Like the ‘preacher’ who authored Ecclesiastes, fundies will be drawn into the quest to find meaning in life. If nothing else, the flat, one dimensional answers fundamentalism offers will drive them to it.

When Pretending Doesn’t Cut It

By the grace of God, some fundamentalists will learn that there are things better than certainty. One is the ability to be honest with ourselves and with others. Another is to live with doubts and questions with grace and confident trust in God. That is a good place in which to be.

 

Grace for a Broken World I

Pray for the World

Christie Thomas makes a spiritual practice of something I’ve long thought should be a spiritual practice. And while it isn’t my own practice, I wish it had more exposure. Ms. Thomas’ days begin with newspaper reading and prayer over world crises. There is plenty for which to pray. Ms. Thomas lists these points.

We have unstable world leaders with fingers too close to weapons of mass destruction.

We have terrorist cells scattered everywhere, caring for no one except their need to destroy others and bring in their own versions of “heaven” with them as kings and rulers.

We have grinding poverty shoving hard-working people face-down to the barren ground.

We have an over-sugared world exploding the epidemic of metabolic diseases, the most common being diabetes.

We have political leaders who have no concept of the common good, driven instead by personal ambition and a need to take down the “other,” whomever that may be.

Ms. Thomas’ post also observes that:

And we have a Christian church that . . . well, it does do a lot of real good, but primarily turns inward on itself, arguing over minutia, seeing its own power plays and back-room dealings.

Poverty [including food insecurity and public health] and political failure [the erosion of democracy and rise of militant extremism] are grave issues. They work injustice and havoc worldwide.

And the church? It does do much good. Years ago, I learned that the Seventh Day Adventists maintain a world-class flying hospital that can land anywhere on earth within 24 hours.

Yet many church bodies do spend reserves on minutia. Others deem kingdom life as a distraction or heresy. Darrin Yeager notes that 1Co 15:1-4 sums the gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Then he adds:

‘Strange. No mention of social justice, or regulating inputs and outputs; Paul must have been negligent in failing to mention the heart of the Gospel.’

1Co 15:3-4 was a very early church creed. With resurrection being denied, [1Co 15:12ff], Paul very reasonably replies with 1Co 15:3-4. Does that make Jesus’ death and resurrection a case against kingdom justice? Hardly. And what Mr. Yeager says Paul ‘neglected’ to ‘mention,’ Peter proclaims freely in Cornelius’ house:

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him’ [Ac 10:38].

Peter weaves kingdom life with Jesus’ death and resurrection into a seamless narrative [Ac 10:39-43].  It is bookmarked on both ends by the Spirit’s presence and power  [‘anointing with the Holy Spirit…God was with him’ (v. 38) cf. ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them’ (v. 44)]. There is no Gnostic kingdom/gospel dichotomy here. Nor should there be with us.

 

Lent and Other Papist Heresies:

Just Say ‘NO’ to Lent!

Did you know that Lent is a slippery slope toward sacramentalism?

Or that practicing Lent means walking by sight rather than by faith?

You can’t help but be impressed by some ‘YouTube’ channels and videos. Consider this video in which we surely find …

  • The right, Biblical grounds!
  • Air-tight argumentation!

Until watching that video, I thought that I actually believed those verses! Or is this another ‘any text can be a pretext for anything’ campaign?

For many, lent involves a variety of spiritual practices. These may include ‘giving up’ something for that season. Some may say that lent is no reason for suddenly living right. Perhaps, but neither is lent a reason for not living right. Oh, and don’t IFB pastors do ‘New Year Resolution’ sermons?

Speaking of giving up stuff, this from John Fugesang’s Twitter Account:

For Lent I gave up fundamentalist Christians who talk all about Jesus while ignoring all Jesus talked about.

That might be classified under ‘things that make you go hmmmm.’

Moreover, the Church Year is tied to Scripture, and lent is no different. Where this system is practiced, people know that. Do detractors?

Generally, Baptists don’t observe lent. Ditto for Advent and Epiphany. Generally, Christmas and Easter are observed, although the Sundays after them [Christmastide and Eastertide] most likely are not observed.

Do the stated rationales apply in to each, or must other grounds be found to show that not only lent, but that advent and epiphany are bad ideas? Maybe lent is the lone, ugly duckling of the church year? Who knows?

Might resistance to Lenten observance and the Church Year as a whole answer to another causes? Suppose that a church followed the church year as outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary. What then becomes of the pastor’s ability to flog his hobby horse?

Where the selection of the text is concerned, some churches might rejoice to be delivered from the tyranny of the pastor’s choice. Of course this fails because whoever said a sermon must follow or be based on the passage!

Unless, of course, you use the lectionary.

And follow the Church Year.