If you wish to have one God…

From John Calvin, The Institutes:  “If we wish to have one God, we should remember that we must not pluck away even a particle of His glory and that He must retain what is His own.”

God gets the glory to be all. In this Calvin is concerned about veneration of the saints and placing trust in the righteousness of another person. God is all or we must resort to polytheism. You can’t have it both ways.

Obama and Iran

We are all trying to get used to Obama’s style of foreign diplomacy. I, for one, grew tired of American swagger in situations that did not call for it and wasted our influence and authority. But I am struggling with Obama’s slow response to the demonstrators in Iran. As a community organizer who has been immersed in the politics of demonstration I was surprised by Obama’s reticence to give comfort and encouragement to those who believed they were being disenfranchised and were willing to risk their lives to protest.This has been one of Obama’s great themes in the American experience. Where did his instinct go?

Here is an article by Caroline Gick of The Jerusalem Post that probes the issue. It’s worth the reading.

Today’s Quote 6/25/09

“The happy result of a theological understanding of people as sinners is that the pastor is saved from continual surprise that they are in fact sinners. It enables us to heed Bonhoeffer’s admonition: ‘A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”
– Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor

A moody God? An article by Steve Paulson interviewing Robert Wright on his book, The Evolution of God

“Jesus wasn’t the great guy we thought he was.” That’s a line that is going to get attention in the article, “God, He’s Moody” at salon.com today. In this article Steve Paulson interviews Robert Wright, author of the book, The Evolution of God.

Interestingly enough, and positively, Wright gets that religions do not share a certain core truth that makes them essentially just different roads to the same place. This is the prevalent view of the man-on-the-street. They might share roughly the same ethical codes, but that is a different matter. The core of religion is not its ethical teaching. It is its explanatory power, the power of its worldview. And different religions have different metanarratives for the world as we know it. Wright sees this.

I like it when people take on sacred cows, and Wright does just that when he takes on Jesus. No one gets by with speaking badly of Jesus, but that is a public relations gambit. If the truth be told, lots of people have lots of trouble with Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels. They just couldn’t get away with saying it. In this case Wright makes the Apostle Paul the hero (a different twist from the usual slant) and Jesus less of a Christian than Paul. Here are Wright’s words. “Paul says something like love your enemies, but he doesn’t say Jesus said it. It’s only in later gospels that this stuff gets attributed to Jesus. This will seem dispiriting to some people to hear that Jesus wasn’t the great guy we thought he was.

If you are going to take on Christianity, you are going to have to take on Jesus. People keep trying to take on Christianity and give Jesus a free pass. Can’t be done. And Wright doesn’t do it. This reminds me of CS Lewis’ argument that you can’t hold Jesus to be a great moral teacher and at the same time deny that he was God. He is either who he said he was, God, or he was the very devil of hell. Wright does’t go that far, but he goes far enough to keep Jesus in the dock without immunity.

The bottom line is that Wright is a materialist with a materialistic explanation of religion. When a person honestly presents the alternatives so that the issues are out on the table and they are not trying to have their cake and eat it, too, then something good can happen. The choices get clearer and the horizon takes shape so that we know in what direction we are really traveling.

Needless to say, Wright is wrong. But honest atheism is always refreshing to me. Enough with the “Jesus was a good man” but not God. It’s philosophical drivel and unworthy of intelligent discussion. Maybe that is why Nietzche is still a favorite on the college campuses today. He takes no prisoners and sharpens the point. The middle of the road is no place for Nietzche or Wright.