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A Death Must Truly Be A Death Before There Can Be New Life (via David Zahl)

Popular culture and social media has made failure into a status symbol, but usually presents failing as an egalitarian stepping stone to entail success. Almost like a rite of passage.
David Zahl points out that this cultural tendency to gloss over failure as a stepping stone to success short-changes the suffering of those who fail, and whose failures cannot be stepped from quickly or easily.

The notion that failure is not failure but the first step toward its opposite may be absurd, but it is also suitably and undeniably cult-like. Ironically, such silver-lining-itis buffers us from the very suffering we are theoretically venerating.
Honest failure, on the other hand, hurts. It is painful. It is out of our control. And there’s nothing we like less than that.
Obviously some failures do lead to success. Some dead-ends do herald new beginnings. This is especially true in relationships. But some do not. A biblical truism captures this dynamic: you cannot pole-vault over Good Friday to get to Easter. A death must truly be a death before there can be new life. Christ was not hanging from the cross checking his watch — “another few hours of this and then it’s smooth sailing.” He really suffered and really died. He experienced true separation from God. What happened thereafter was unexpected.
Which is to say, failure in the service of success is not actually failure.

David Zahl, Seculosity, Fortress Press, 2019, pg. 37.


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Failing Into Love (via David Zahl)

David Zahl on grace in marriage from his book Seculosity.

Real love is not something we decide on. Nor is it something we earn. Love is more than something we fall into; it is something we fail into. What sounds like a somewhat more tragic view of life is actually a starting point for compassion, forgiveness, and joy. After all, we stand a better chance of loving our spouse (or neighbour) when we aren’t looking to them to do or be what they cannot do or be.
I think this is close to what the apostle John meant when he spoke of God being love. The love of God, as we seen borne out in the life and death of Jesus Christ, seems to assume from the outset that we are all severely handicapped in our ability to love other people, let alone our Creator. And yet, like a shepherd going after a lost sheep, it persists. It does not insist on proof of lovability but produces it.

David Zahl, Seculosity, Fortress Press, 2019, pg. 37.


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The Quiet Of Easter versus Performance Almighty

It interests me watching modern evangelicalism struggle more and more about what to do with Easter.
Good Friday was a spiritual pause, a pause that lasted until the acknowledgment of resurrection on Sunday morning.
Now any thought of pause seems something to be avoided and Good Friday seems to be identical to Easter Sunday.
How can you pause and rest in God when the focus is on the productivity of your own response to grace.
We can never allow the weekend that focuses on resting in the work of God to become the primary example of a never-ending striving to perfection.
From David Zahl.

Faith that more often than not begins with an admission of losing and need morphs into a hectic competition for spiritual justification, in which we baptize our busyness with religious language. Before we know it, God has ceased to be a good shepherd and turned into the Taskmaster-in-the-Sky, or worse, another name for the persecutor within. “I just couldn’t keep it up anymore!” is the refrain I’ve heard from many a refugee from performancist churches.
If there’s a difference today, it has to do with the vanishing of outlets where the pressure of perfection might be vented. It’s easier to develop a sense of enoughness, for example, when your pool of peers is in the hundreds rather than the millions, when the primary venues of comparison close shop at 5:00 p.m. Similarly, it’s a lot harder to recover from a youthful indiscretion when the internet has made the record of your adolescence permanent and searchable.
Capital-R Religion once provided a space to come clean and maybe even be absolved of shortcoming and guilt. Church wasn’t busy. If anything, it was boring and full of silence, a respite from the noise of daily demand, a local repository of peace and forgiveness. The good ones at least.

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The Cost Of Teenage Optimism (via David Zahl at Mockingbird)

A post by David Zahl dealing with the implications of a social science report that finds that tries to engage with optimistic teens turning into disillusioned 30 somethings.
From the report itself:

The researchers can only speculate about why getting older is less fun than ever, but it seems the downturn in happiness among today’s thirtysomethings is the lasting effect of an overly optimistic youth, Twenge said. “This is something I’ve thought about for a while,” she told Science of Us. It’s the natural, if unintended, backfiring of a childhood filled with messages like, You can be anything you want to be!
Soaring expectations, if left unmet, can lead to crushing disappointment; this is the kind of common-sense statement that happens to also be backed up by a raft of psychological research…

From Zahl’s reflections:

When we embrace an inflated anthropology, we set ourselves up for disappointment and confusion, rather than wonder or compassion. For example, a vaunted view of ourselves all but dictates how we will respond to the horrific events that transpired in Paris last week. Empathy is too frightening for what it might say about us, and so we demonize. We classify the perpetrators as completely other–bad as opposed to good, savage as opposed to enlightened, victimizers as opposed to victims–which only furthers the same dehumanization that makes such acts possible in the first place. Perhaps that’s too close to the bone.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.