Connecting . . . with God’s Unfolding Creation

God is creative, continually bringing new things into existence. Creation not only began long ago, but continues today and into the future. Every new birth and every further development demonstrates that God is creative, seeking to bring new life into this world.

This creative God has described the consequences of this creation as “good.” Perhaps that is one reason why God’s creative activity generally follows a path begun long ago. God’s current creations connect to the past just as the work of Jesus connected to the promise to Abraham or as the risk of Esther connected to the promise of a nation. God’s creation connects to the past. When one perceives God’s creative work in the past, that person can move either with certainty in the present and with confidence into the future.

None should be surprised that identity is a key facet of moving with certainty in the present and with confidence into the future. Once a young adult has a good grasp on who they are, that person can begin to relate emotionally to others in positive ways and also can become productive in their life. Psychology teaches us this truth of identity and its importance.

In a similar way congregations experience life best when they come to know who they are. Such knowledge is complex, for there are many myriad parts of a congregation. Far too often, in our highly mobile and fragmented society, churches lose a sense of who they were and who they are. Change is always needed, but God’s change is most often built on an earlier foundation. Many change for the sake of newness, later finding themselves unattached from the past and uncertain of the future. Such experiences frequently result in frustration and loss, rather than in the unfolding of God’s creation.

The importance of self-knowledge, certainly for congregations, gives rise to the need to study courses that appear to be stale and tedious, such as Baptist History and Identity. Such is crucial for the congregations, as well as individuals and other groups. Each congregation needs to know who it is.

Still, congregations and other groups can discern how God created and developed them. Once they do so, they can relate intimately and productively with those they encounter. The self-knowledge is pivotal in order to become effective in the world. Once one knows where he/she is, that person can stand with God in confidence and productivity, whether they act as an individual or as the body of Christ.

– Robert D. Cochran, DCBC

A Time For Waiting

Theologically speaking . . .
The entire Church waits now as they have for weeks. Little ones wait naively for the human celebrations that many will have on March 31. Some are waiting for a new human leader to emerge in Rome during this time of Lent. Millions are waiting for a glorious experience, sitting on the cusp of Passion Week, a week full of services, tragedy and joy. The entire world, if not all of creation, waits, unconsciously, unknowingly, for hope. We are in a time of waiting, awaiting a time of redemption, a redemption we cannot initiate.

Let us ponder what drives God toward this redemption only God can offer, while we wait together lacking any power to save ourselves. Compassion drives God to offer redemption. Ancients in faith discovered that the characteristic of mercy drove God’s actions of redemption. Later, some saw this mercy as compassion, a major characteristic of the promised Messiah. It is this compassion which drives the passion which we will celebrate one week from now.

A congregation is the space where faith is practiced, rather than one in which the Christian faith is merely discussed. Clearly the Christian congregation may not become the only place that those who follow Christ express their faith. Wherever those who follow Christ go, they should express their faith in both word and deed.

Congregations should not only wait patiently during this time of Lent. They have the opportunity to practice the faith in the Messiah, demonstrating compassion, even mercy. Doing so such congregations will be driven to passion, participating in the redemption which all the world awaits.

How can academic communities wait patiently during this time of Lent? Certainly, these are not congregations, but their students and faculty take part in congregations gathering across diverse areas. An academic institution could become a catalyst for compassion among those who participate in a learning community as well as among those who are touched fully by its life. While waiting patiently during Lent, let us practice the compassion which leads to our passion.
Dr. Robert Cochran

Sandy Hook Revisited

The Sandy Hook Massacre has raised its share of questions for our society: How did this happen? Who is responsible? What must we do to prevent such things from happening again?  Such questions are natural, expected, and deserve our attention and best efforts in answering them. Questions concerning the proper place and availability of guns in our communities, about who should have them and how many they should have, about where they come from and how they should be accounted for, and what kinds of weapons are and are not legitimate under the provisions of the second amendment of the Constitution.   It also raises serious and important questions about public safety and the merits of arming teachers and the placing of armed guards in schools.  Other kinds of questions emerge concerning our society’s relationship to issues of mental health, and who is deemed mentally ill and again the limits of our society’s right to know the details of another’s health under the Constitution and our ideas about privacy and individual liberties.

It is unclear as to whether our society is prepared to answer any of these concerns seriously but it is reassuring at least that,  all these questions have an answer, at least theoretically.  In other words it makes sense to ask and seek an answer to these kinds of questions and hope for the political will to fashion better answers than the ones we have now.

But there is another class of questions that arise at times like this that does not hold out the promise of an answer, at least not in the same way.  These questions are not questions of policy – nor are they questions any kind of investigation could resolve.  In other words, they do not resolve the questions at hand by offering policy solutions or information, hitherto unknown.  Quite the contrary, the questions I have in mind are precisely the kind of questions that are made less intelligible by efforts to fashion policies or seek new information.  In other words, there are questions we are inevitably led to ask that all the journalists, pundits, police investigators, or psychiatrists could never answer, at least not as a function of their customary responsibilities.   And those questions are questions of Why?  Why did my baby die?  Why did this thing happen to us?  Why has God let this terrible thing happen?

Questions of this sort are not questions the answer to which is some kind of explanation.  In fact it is a feature of the kind of question it is that any kind of explanation only serves to confuse or deepen the misunderstanding.  In fact it is precisely because such questions have no answer in fact or theory that makes them what they are.  A mother asks, “Why did my baby die?”  If one answers, that a deranged maniac shot and killed the child, then the person attempting an explanation has clearly missed the point of the question.  Questions of this sort do not have explanations, because they are more like exclamations of anguish than questions or inquiries.

But because such exclamations have the form of a question, there is no shortage of answers offered.  “God has a plan in this” is one such attempt at making sense of the senseless.  It is does not take long for the obvious difficulties with God’s planning such things to become deeply problematic.  “Really, then perhaps the Almighty ought to keep his plans to himself.”

Another way to think about this very difficult human terrain is to say that what the people of Sandy Hook experienced was essential evil.  I say essential because the evil suffered is necessarily evil, evil without qualification, evil without mitigation.  And essential evil is fundamentally mysterious, because all attempts at explanation are empty. No explanation will do.  Essential evil is simply suffered.  And its overcoming does not come by way of an explanation, but by the experience of essential love.  And essential love is essential in that it too is necessarily so, without conditions, or qualifications.  And like essential evil, essential love is mysterious.  It defies explanation! Who can explain love that does not recognize distinctions or differences or degrees.

The Bible says that God is essential love. The Bible says Jesus is God.  Jesus’ life says essential love looks like this, ie the life we see in the person of Jesus, a life that loved without qualification, condescension, or discrimination. And when essential love meets essential evil, it inevitably suffers.  But it also entails the very possibility of resurrection, new life, or life more abundant, as is sometimes said.  That is not to say that essential evil cannot ultimately destroy a person.  It most certainly can.  But when essential evil meets essential love, the death that is the senselessness of evil’s conquest need not prevail.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If love can find its place in the midst of essential evil’s conquest, then true resurrection may come.  And when it does, “Alleluia”, is about all one could or should say!

One way of making the distinction might be to say that when innocence suffers, evil of an essential nature has taken place.  To call evil essential is an attempt to mark the character of the evil concerned.  There are all kinds of evils, but only certain kinds of evil present themselves to us a mystery.  The “why” of Sandy Hook is not about a nation’s gun policies or mental health practices, or about any kind of ignorance forensic or psychological information could overcome.  The why of Sandy Hook does not seek any explanations, because no explanation will do.

Dr. Jeffrey Willetts

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