Planets Similar to Earth
A recent L.A. Times article, Two planets identified as most similar to Earth, which says in part,
The most recently discovered one is almost twice as large as Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet -- for extra-solar planet -- found to date. The second one was found in 2007, but new observations have shown that it is the only exoplanet to date that orbits its star in the so-called habitable zone, where water remains a liquid. Thus, it is the only exoplanet discovered that is likely to have oceans.I have said before that I am agnostic when it comes to the issue of life on other planets. But as a teen I was very much interested in UFOs, aliens and the like. I found the song "UFO" by Larry Norman to be helpful as it spoke to me of how if there is life on other planets, is known to God just as we are. Larry Norman sang of Jesus,
Intriguingly, both orbit the same star, a dwarf 20 light-years from Earth called Gliese 581, European researchers said Tuesday.
The identification of the small planet "is a remarkable discovery and bodes well for our eventual discovery of a true Earth-like, habitable planet," astronomer Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington wrote in an e-mail.
If there's life on other planets,An earlier post God in Outer Space is probably relevent here as well. As it quoted C.S. Lewis who said in part, "Space travel has nothing to do with the matter. To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others nowhere."
I'm sure that he must know,
and he's been there once already,
and has died to save their souls.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Labels: news item
O God Help Me!
The Christian life is not a constant high.-The Rev. Billy Graham (1918- )
I have my moments of deep discouragement.
I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes,
and say, 'O God, forgive me,' or 'Help me.'
Almost three-quarters of Catholics and Protestants who are now unaffiliated with a religion said they had "just gradually drifted away" from their faith. And more than three-quarters of Catholics and half of Protestants currently not associated with a faith said that, over time, they stopped believing in their religion's teachings.What caught my eye was the rationale for the drift. The article went on to quote John Green as saying,
Pew Forum senior fellow John Green said that result surprised researchers, who had expected policy disputes or disillusionment over internal scandals -- such as the clergy sex abuse controversy in the Catholic Church -- to play more of a role in people's decision to leave a faith.
It suggests that what leads people to leave their faith is that, somehow for some reason, it isn't meeting their needs. Religion becomes less plausible to the person.These are two interesting statements--not meeting my needs and less plausible. It sounds to me like a consumer mindset in which the church exists primarily to meet my needs, when I wonder if that is primarily what a church is for. Perhaps it is the place where one mininsters and meet the needs of others. And not just clergy, but all Christians. Is the church there to meet my needs, or am I the church, there to be part of a congregation that meets the needs of others? Even in asking the question, I am providing my own answer that the church is for me, but for me as a place to worship and serve according to the gifts God has given me. And when one is doing this, faith becomes not just head knowledge, but heart knowledge and part of my experience. When I put down roots and start to see how I can grow in the place God has led me, drift becomes less likely. I have seen this in my own life (before ordained ministry) and in the lives of others at King of Peace and elsewhere. What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Labels: news item
Who Would Jesus Torture?
A guilty pleasure of mine was to watch the early seasons of 24 as Jack Bauer saved the United States and sometimes the world from all manner of evil. Jack never flinches at using violence in the cause of peace, both enduring and dishing out torture is all in a day’s work for our hero.
As he lives through season-long days of a seemingly never-ending ticking bomb scenario in which getting at the truth can’t wait, torture is the primary weapon in his interrogation arsenal. His own brother is not immune to the Jack Bauer treatment.
If television has taught me anything then, it’s that sometimes evil must be fought by good guys using evil methods to preserve the good. 24 taught me that when the nation’s honor is on the line, torture is not only justified, but a pretty good idea.
This very issue has been in the news lately, as the Obama Administration has had to decide how to deal with the previous administrations use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Back in 2005, I wrote a religion column (Approving torture would kill the soul of U.S.) that I thought approving the use of torture would kill the soul of our country, making us more unsafe while eroding the values that make us great. I was supported in this contention by Senator John McCain, who had himself been tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Now we are faced with the aftermath of the use of waterboarding and other means of making prisoners compliant. Two issues arise: 1) How will we act now? and 2) Will we prosecute those who used torture on our nation’s behalf? I want to answer these twin questions with seemingly opposing views. I feel strongly that we should not torture and that the interrogators who did so on our behalf should be protected from prosecution. I will justify each of these statements in turn.
First, the specific techniques approved for use were referred to as SERE techniques. SERE is an acronym for “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape.” The military program, created during the Korean War and extended through the Vietnam War, exposed those at high risk for enemy capture to techniques used to get our soldiers to comply with communist propaganda.
According to Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force reservist and experienced intelligence officer interviewed last week on National Public Radio, the torture techniques used in the Korean War “actually compelled some of our pilots to admit to dropping chemical weapons on cities and so forth, when in fact that didn’t happen.”
The initial goal of these “enhanced interrogation techniques” was to get a serviceman to say whatever his captors wanted him to say. Kleinman who was quoted in a Senate Armed Services report told NPR, “that stands in stark contrast to intelligence interrogation, where the overriding objective is provide timely, accurate, reliable, comprehensive intelligence.”
I could, of course, produce battling quotes going back and forth between those who say the techniques are useful and those who say the techniques are unreliable as they can get someone to give false statements just to stop the torture. But that sort of argument is being made elsewhere and better.
Instead, we could look to the example of Jesus whose words and actions simply cannot be twisted to justify the use of torture. Jesus’ life and witness reveals that good does triumph over evil, but only by remaining good. Co-opting immoral means in the cause of justice, will always bear bad fruit.
Jesus himself willingly endured great suffering, rather than combatting evil with evil. In order to unleash inhuman suffering on others people, we must first demonize them. But Jesus counsels us to love our enemies, which does not make room for seeing those who oppose us as anything other than human.
Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero who was killed for standing up to El Salvador’s cruel regime saying, “There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God’s image.”
I realize by now, I must come across as hopelessly naïve. But I do believe that, for example, those who liberated Nazi death camps could not do so with warm thoughts, hugs and flowers. Violence was done in the cause of peace and I am thankful for those who fought to free Jews and others from the Holocaust.
I believe that sort of use of force in the service of a greater good is justified. And I do know that once the dogs of war have been unleashed, even the noblest fights will not always be neat and it will never be pretty.
This is precisely why we owe it to those who fight for our freedom, to keep the honor of our great nation clean. The stars and stripes on whose behalf so many have fought and died from Tripoli to the Mekong Delta and from Antietam to Faluja should not be soiled with crimes committed in defense of even the noblest of causes.
Interogators such as Col. Kleinman and FBI supervisory agent Ali Soufan, who wrote a New York Times opinion essay on why these interogation techniques are not reliable or useful, are making a different kind of case. They argue that harsh interogation techniques produce unreliable intelligence. I am arguing that using the cruel techniques of our enemies reduces us to become the very problem we seek to overthrow.
The so-called “SERE techniques” are the very means used by those who sought to bring down our country in previous wars. If we use torture to fight terrorism, we give our own approval to those who would torture our captured service men and women. We might not be able to hope that others will rise to our best level, but the answer is never to sink to theirs.
Now to my second point. We must protect those who followed orders they had every reason to believe were just and lawful. Good men and women asked to conduct the harshest of interviews need our support rather than condemnation. An interogator working in the field with the worst of the worst when told to waterboard until the truth comes out is not the place to find fault.
We also must make sure that every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine following lawful orders can never be prosecuted for following the orders. Any breach in this breaks a vital trust and undermines the foundation on which those who serve stand. No one in our armed forces should ever have to second guess their chain of command before taking action.
We all know the question “Who Would Jesus Torture?” to be a loaded one. For no one can conceive that the answer to “What Would Jesus Do” in this situation to be either to condone torture or to condemn those who carried it out when they had every reason to believe they were given just orders. Jesus would tell us to “Go and sin no more.” We can do just that by limiting our interogations to the effective means approved in the Army Field Manual and not venting frustration with previous policies on those tasked with carrying out proper orders. In so doing we will rise back to the standard all should expect of our great nation.
Kids in the Kingdom
During today's Kids in the Kingdom we read the book Twice Yours about how God made us and redeemed us. Then we talked about Jesus' death and resurrection and how the creator of all that is has the power to breathe new life into those who have died and so those we love can also be with God after their deaths. Then we talked about how we can be co-creators with God making things from the creation God has given us. The sun prints showed us the impression light can make and how light is stronger than darkness. We also used some left over crafts and those who wanted to could make church-shaped bird houses to paint at home and others made bead crafts. In all of this, we saw how those of created in the image of creator God can also be about the work of co-creation.
My friend, the Rev. Michael Pipkin, shared the above photo taken when Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia made his last visit to St. Anne in Reston, VA and someone captured a really beautiful moment during communion. Dashiel is the blond kid on the left. He always breaks his communion bread in half and gives one half back to the celebrant. His sister, Jocelyn, made Bishop Lee stop so Dashiel could bless him back. "Blessing back" is why he gives half back to the celebrant.
If communion is something shared - something given and received - it's an intriguing completion of the circle to tangibly give back a part of what you have received to the person who blessed it. The photo is by Ruthi David.
The difficult, intractable, concreteness of forgiveness
While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.In a Reflection for Day One, the Rev. Benjamin Anthony writes,
Jesus invites them to "touch and see" that he has the flesh and bones of a real body and not the pseudo-substance of a ghost. Though joyful, the disciples continue to disbelieve and wonder: uncertain of what it means to embrace a body that has passed through the hellishness of violence, the utter isolation of death and risen into endlessness of God's life.The full text of the reflection is online here: Folding Screens and Forgiveness.
And then he eats a piece of broiled fish. A human act and the very gross sort of material, physical act that is required of embodied existence. Eating the piece of fish could be construed as proof that the risen Jesus was not a ghost and simply left at that. Or we could see this act as the eternal and risen Jesus offering a simple demonstration of the body's profound significance. To be human is to have a body and to have a body is to eat, to hurt, to feel pleasure and to experience lack.
Jesus gestures to his wounds and then eats the piece of broiled fish. To be human and to have a body is to be vulnerable, liable to death and yet made for the endlessness of God's life. The crucified and risen Jesus knocks down the folding screen that we have set up to curtain off death.
In the presence of the risen Jesus, the disciples--and we along with them--find that our minds are being opened up to receive the truth disclosed in scripture. In the presence of the risen Jesus, the body's holiness is disclosed, the threat of death is evacuated of its force, and we begin to see that these and every promise of God begins in repentance and forgiveness of sins.
This is the truth of scripture and its trajectory will not be complete until it has been "proclaimed in [Jesus'] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." Which is to say, proclaimed to everyone, everywhere. A universally redemptive sweep that begins in the particular tissues of concrete events, in the lives of real people with real bodies and real wounds. The crucified and risen Jesus discloses the difficult, intractable concreteness of forgiveness: a forgiveness that begins wherever human judgment excludes and destroys. A forgiveness that must begin "in Jerusalem" and radiate outward, confronting the sins and violence of every nation.
Labels: Gospel reading
A Celebration for King of Peace Episcopal Day School
The Celebration was a HUGE success with lots of families on hand for free train rides, horse rides, face paintings, caricatures, slide, pizza and much more all to celebrate our school being named a Center of Distinction by the State of Georgia. We are thankful to Gillian Butler, our director, and her professional team of educators who put so much love, energy and devotion into our kids and the school.
Labels: King of Peace event
Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?
Irish rocker and U2 frontman Bono wrote an editorial for the New York Times, It' 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is? where he writes in part,
Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...He writes of how we in the west may have gained the world and lost our own souls if we can not reach out to help the poorest of the poor. In ending the essay, he writes,
Carnival — rock stars are good at that.
“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...
It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.
Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.
It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads. Whatever your religious or nonreligious views, the chance to begin again is a compelling idea.
But I read recently that Americans are taking up public service in greater numbers because they are short on money to give. And, following a successful bipartisan Senate vote, word is that Congress will restore the money that had been cut from the aid budget — a refusal to abandon those who would pay such a high price for a crisis not of their making. In the roughest of times, people show who they are.The full text is online and worth a read. It's a look at love of neighbor from a worldwide perspective: It' 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?
So much of the discussion today is about value, not values. Aid well spent can be an example of both, values and value for money. Providing AIDS medication to just under four million people, putting in place modest measures to improve maternal health, eradicating killer pests like malaria and rotoviruses — all these provide a leg up on the climb to self-sufficiency, all these can help us make friends in a world quick to enmity. It’s not alms, it’s investment. It’s not charity, it’s justice.
Strangely, as we file out of the small stone church into the cruel sun, I think of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, whose now combined fortune is dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty. Agnostics both, I believe. I think of Nelson Mandela, who has spent his life upholding the rights of others. A spiritual man — no doubt. Religious? I’m told he would not describe himself that way.
Not all soul music comes from the church.
Labels: news item
Father Matthew's latest video is on whether the Bible is inerrant (does it err in any way, can it be wrong in any sense). I know Matthew and know he takes the Bible seriously as guide for his life and the life of his family. I also know that what he says here would cause some dear friends and neighbors to be convinced that by what he claims in this video, Matthew is not a Christian. But does the Bible even claim to be correct on all things biological or genetic or whatever else? Or is the goal of the text something different from science textbook (which is where I think Matthew is coming from). Is he right, can we come to worship the Bible rather than the triune God revealed in the Bible? When do we cross over from worshipping The Word (the eternal "logos" behind the text) to worshipping the words?
One important point is that I worry more when verses are quoted out of context. One example of a problem this leads to is that the Book of Job consists of numerous dialogues in which Job's friends offer their thoughts and counsel which the book itself rejects. The text gives views it then opposes. One could say those verses are correct (not erring) only when read in context of the later verses that let you know that Job's friends were wrong.
There is much more that could be said on this and that I have said elsewhere. But what do y'all think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Now for something completely different...worshipping at the mall in Liverpool in an act of "guerilla worship" in the sense of "guerilla warfare" not meaning "the worship of guerillas:"
Sharing Our Grounds
The poor scared little black snake above is one of two I moved this morning from alongside the church building to deep within the woods on our property. They kept biting the leather glove when I was trying to catch them. But these guys are easy to like. When we first bought the land, rattlesnakes were common enough among the palmettos on our property. I have killed eight rattlers at King of Peace over the past nine years. But by killing rattlesnakes and moving non-poisonous ones back into the woods, we find that we don't have a poisonous snake problem anymore.
I know the idea of snakes on our property is not comforting to some and I certainly can't allow them alongside or in our building or playground, but I am glad to share the grounds with these guys instead of the canebrake and pigmy rattlers that conveyed with the property when we bought it.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Snake Wrangler
They didn't know what they were doing
At one point, when he was hospitalized, his mother asked, "Do you have any anger toward them?"It is a Christ-like act of forgiveness for those who did their best to kill him.
"She was harboring a lot of anger," Ireland told ABCNews.com. "To sum it up, I basically said, 'Please forgive them.' She looked and asked, 'Why?' Because they were confused and didn't know what they were doing.
"We have a choice in how we live our lives," he said. "You wake up every single day and have a choice as living as a victim or a victor. When you choose to be a victor, you have so much more positive impact on how people view you and the way you want to live your life."
All I need
Lord Jesus Christ,- Ambrose of Milan (340-397)
you are for me medicine when I am sick;
you are my strength when I need help;
you are life itself when I fear death;
you are the way when I long for heaven;
you are light when all is dark;
you are my food when I need nourishment.
Showing up as we are
Every Sunday, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church begins with “The Collect for Purity,” - which means a prayer that “collects together” certain themes for reflection by the gathered community:Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.This prayer, which Thomas Cranmer prepared for the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, acknowledges the anxiety and stress of being human. We often enter the liturgy preoccupied with the weight of our own concerns and with the unique struggles of others we care about. We may be thinking about the challenges of work in the coming week, a relationship that has been strained, or we worry about our health or feel anxious about a family member. God knows. All our desires are known. No secrets are hid.
In this collect we ask God to receive us as we are and grant us perspective to see our lives unfolding against the background of a larger design. The Creator of all life and well-being needs some space if we are to lead healthy and authentic lives. This prayer is our way of showing up, as we are, not as we think we should be—a small but essential requirement.
The Gathered Community
In tomorrow's Gospel reading we join the disciples locked away in an upper room in Jerusalem fearful for what will happen to them in the aftermath of Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus appears in their midst, very much flesh and blood and now in a locked room offering them peace. Thomas is not there and becomes famous for doubting Jesus' resurrection after all his friends vouch for Jesus' bodily return.
The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is executive director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee wrote a sermon on this passage saying in part,
The thing about this story that should be a lesson to us is that Jesus appears each time within the assembled community. Jesus doesn’t appear to Thomas alone. But he also doesn’t appear to Thomas in the group to embarrass him. Jesus appears to the group because it is within the group that they could continue learning about him, supporting each other, and being effective witnesses to the life of faith Jesus offers them.The full text of the sermon is online here: The Second Sunday of Easter
In the final verses of today’s gospel passage, Jesus tells the disciples that many would come after them who would not have the same experience of him that they did. No one would again walk and talk with him as the disciples had; and yet, these others would also come to believe. Even the writer of this gospel says that the things about Jesus that were written in this gospel were written so that others may come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and that through believing would have life in his name.
So, in one sense, Jesus was offering Thomas a chance to experience seeing him risen from the dead the same way the other disciples had. In doing that, Jesus also further strengthened the faith of that particular gathered community.
In another sense, Jesus is strengthening us all. We, too, are a gathered community – getting together at the beginning of the week in very much the same way the apostles did. They gathered to share their real life experience of knowing Jesus and working with him.
The apostles remembered him saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We gather to share in that story. For us, it is a remembrance of the story handed down to us, but unlike many of the family stories we tell, this is not just a remembrance – we continue to share in the presence of Jesus through the Eucharist. How that happens is a mystery, but in that mystery lies the powerful sense of belonging that draws us back here each week.
Labels: Gospel reading
Wounds That Don't Heal
The Rev. Martin L. Smith, a well-known spiritual writer and Episcopal at St. Columba’s, D.C. wrote a reflection for Episcopal Cafe that says in part:
Wouldn’t “Wounds that don’t heal” be an accurate title for an Easter sermon? I’m not alone in finding this single detail found in the stories of Jesus’ Easter appearances—that the Risen Christ has open wounds—to be the key that convinces me that the resurrection did occur. A made-up story would have had the wounds healed and an imaginary Christ as a figure of sheer glory. But no: the resurrection as it actually happened is God’s savage rebuke of all human tendency to cover up pain, all cosmetic smoothing over, all letting bygones be bygones, all conspiracies of silence, and phony cover-ups masquerading as reconciliation. “He showed them his hand and his side.”The full text of his reflection makes a good connection to children of divorce and the theme above. That essay is online here: Wounds That Don't Heal
Yet the resurrection of the wounded one is also the supreme gesture by God that bestows irrevocable permission for all time on those who have suffered to acknowledge their suffering as genuine, however others deny or minimize it. In the resurrection of the crucified, as the crucified, sufferers meet the Son of God as the one who keeps them company in the worst that can befall us. Through this meeting, we can find the redemption of what we endured, and delve into possibilities of grace in which buds of life and creativity can germinate just where injury and loss have done their worst.
End of Life Care
My religion column for today's Tribune & Georgian, Belief and Practice at the End of Life started out as a reflection written for this space, and the final text is better for the comments of Debbie and others which I took into account when writing the finished article. Thanks for the assistance!
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Life Is Just Outside the Door
A friend of mine from seminary, The Rev. Earnest Graham painted the above as an Easter meditation which he titled "Life is just outside the door." It's at Ernie's blog: Look Both Ways: The Crossroad of Art and Faith.
His main website is also well worth a look: Earnest Graham Illustrator for the work he and his wife are doing on graphic translations of the Bible.
Beliefs vs. Doctrine
What the church thinks Christians believe and what Christians actually believe are not the same. This is highlighted by a new survey by The Barna Group which found that not only are many beliefs not in line with the peron's churches teaching, but they labeled some as "contradictory" and "inconsistent."
The summary of the survey is online here: Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist.The inconsistencies they cite are:
- about half (47%) of the Christians who believed that Satan is merely a symbol of evil nevertheless agreed that a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces such as demons.
- About half (49%) of those who agreed that the Holy Spirit is only a symbol but not a living entity also agreed that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches, even though the Bible clearly describes the Holy Spirit as more than a symbolic reference to God’s power or presence.
- About one-third (33%) of the self-defined Christians who agree that the Bible, Koran and Book of Mormon all teach the same truths simultaneously contend that the Bible is totally accurate in its principles, even though the three sacred books have very different ideas about truth, salvation, and the nature of God.
Examples of beliefs not in line with church teaching are that a quarter of persons who describe themselves as Christians did not believe God to be the "all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe who rules the world today" but gave answers like "everyone is god" and "god refers to the realization of human potential."
Also more than a fifth of respondants (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat.
Is the underlying problem the church's inability to teach convincingly? Or will there always be a quarter to a third of Christians who claim views that are contrary to core Christian beliefs like one's view of the perfection of Jesus or the meaning of the divinity of God the Father?
Is this a problem or is living the faith more important than doctrine? What if you lived as Jesus lived and taught without believing any core doctrine of Christianity? What if you believed all the core doctrines of Christianity and didn't live as Jesus lived and taught? While neither is optimal, which is preferable? How could we have both reasonably orthodox beliefs and reasonably orthodox lives?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Arguing for God & the Experience of the Holy
We looked at The Question of God, particularly the arguments philosophers and theologians have made concerning proofs of God's existence. We considered the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, and the Teleological Argument, as well as Thomas Aquinas Five Ways proof which overlaps the other arguments in some ways.
We also looked at the proof some use to deny God, The Problem of Evil, and showed how people of faith have long reconciled the fact that there is evil in the world with the knowledge that God is all powerful, all good and ever present. We also considered whether religious experiences qualify as evidence for God's existence. Most philosophers have said "No" as religious experience is personal and so may offer proof for the one having the experience, but is not helpful as evidence for others. In this regard, we consider Sigmund Freud, the pioneering psychiatrist who was a convinced atheist and saw religions as something of a communal neurosis, a shared delusion.
Then we looked at Rudolph Otto's 1917 work The Idea of the Holy in which he defends the use of religious experiences in talking about religions as he notes that religious experiences happen all around the world in varying cultures in a way that shares too much commonality to be dismissed. Otto (shown at left) used the Latin word numen which referred to "divine presence" or "divine power" to create the word numinous for the feeling of holiness. Otto challenges that everyone has felt this. He would say that Freud and other atheists have felt it too.
Just to get a feel for what he wrote, Otto said this numinous feeling is
The deepest and most fundamental element in all strong and sincerely felt religious emotion.And is to be found in
in strong, sudden ebullitions of personal piety,... in the fixed and ordered solemnities of rites and liturgies, and again in the atmosphere that clings to old religious monuments and buildings, to temples and to churches.And may peaceful and:
come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship.or faster moving:
thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its 'profane', non-religious mood of everyday experienceHe called this experience Mysterium Tremendum a Latin phrase in which the mysterium refers to something wholly other, truly amazing, outside our normal experience; and Tremendum is comprised of three elements—awfulness (inspiring awe, a sort of profound unease), overpoweringness (that which, among other things, inspires a feeling of humility), energy (creating an impression of immense vigour).
For Otto, if we want to examine religion, we must take this common human experience of the Other in to account, otherwise it is as if we have torn the heart out of faith before examining and then wondering why it seems a dead and lifeless thing. For the experience of the Holy, the Other—what I would refer to as the presence of the Holy Spirit—is really at the heart of how people come to faith. We don't find faith in logical arguments like the ones we studied last night. No matter how compelling those arguments are, without some experience of the divine, there would be nothing animating our desire to believe in God.
Rudolph Otto's idea was that everyone has had numinous experiences even if they dismiss them. I think that this common experience of God breaking into our daily (Otto would say profane) lives with a feeling of something holy and sacred beckoning us is an important part of what leads people to faith and to worship. I told my class that I agreed this feeling the numinous in cathedrals and out in nature and elsewhere is something all us humans share. Not that anyone feels it all the time or everyone feels it frequently, but that all humans at time have this experience.
Did I tell my class the truth, or did I overstate the case from too little evidence? Have you had experiences in worship, in your daily life, in which you felt the presence of God? Do you think this is universal?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Alter Our Lives
Flowering the cross.
Mason was baptized.
Daniel is confirmed.
Gail is received into The Episcopal Church.
The King of Peace Ensemble.
Rachel with the Bishop wearing the Duct Tape Mitre she made as a retirement gift and wearing his real mitre.
In the moon bounce.