Sorrow And Grief

I have not been writing very much, some would say almost nothing, because of the workload in trying to remodel my father’s house so my sister and her family can move in with him. Since I arrived at Dad’s in early October, he has not been alone for a single day.

Even though I haven’t done much writing, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and reading. It is just harder to try and find the time to write, which takes energy and uninterupted time, both at a premium these days. However, one of the people I read, Mike Russell at Eternal Perspectives, has decided to close down his blog. He says he is tired of creating controversy and hurting people. Mike’s mother died recently and I believe the effects of that loss are part of the reason he feels the way he does and is unable to continue fighting upstream against the prevailing currents in the Christian community.

However, one of the quotes on his blog (from Ecclesiastes 1.17-18) struck me as I was reading his last posting. I found it at the same time enlightening and challenging, if not a little scary. The statement comes out of Solomon’s search for meaning.

So I worked hard to distinguish wisdom from foolishness. But now I realize that even this was like chasing the wind. For the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow. ” Ecclesiastes 1.17-18

One of the things that all theologians aspire to, even those of us of the armchair variety, is to distinguish wisdom from foolishness. It is also one of the essential pursuits of all Christians as we struggle to understand God’s will for our lives. We need to separate his good and acceptable and perfect will from the foolishness of human wisdom (Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 5:17). It is an ongoing and apparently never-ending struggle.

With that in mind, Solomon’s statement is at best difficult. If it is true that “the greater my wisdom the greater my grief” then the pursuit of wisdom, the search for God’s will in our lives, will bring us ever greater anguish and heartache. That is not a good advertisement for deep Christian living and the pursuit of discipleship, both of which require the search for and conformity to God’s will.

Most of current popular Christianity, at least in my opinion, has been influenced by two significant streams from the last century: the success and prosperity gospel (PG) and the quest for cultural relevance, which includes the desire to be heard within the cultural marketplace (CR).

While most of the Church threw off the excesses of the PG movement, it did insinuate itself into the common life of the Church in the sense that almost all Christians now believe God should bless them if they are faithful in their Christian efforts. If I pray, confess my sins, do good works, study and try my best to do what God wants, then he will bless me and those around me with <insert specific desire here>.

In addition, since the public sphere has moved away from the traditional understandings of Christian faith and in many case has become hostile to the traditional Christian message, we have felt the need to recast, retranslate, reconfigure, find new words and images for what we need to communicate, to become more CR.

Marshall McLuhan explained that to a large extent the medium was the message, that the presentation environment, the vocabulary, and the technology you use to present the message influences its meaning and content to a large degree. In trying to make our message relevant to the 21st century person, we have begun to effect not only presentation of the message, but its content. The current controversy over the Emergent or Emerging Church in the Christian world with its aligned theology of Open Theism demonstrate the problem with this approach, which to my mind is an attempt to take the hard edge off the demands of the Gospel, to avoid the starkness of Solomon’s observation.

Solomon’s words and others in Scripture such as Hebrews 10:31, which warns us that “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” have caused me to pause and reassess my expectations as I attempt to grow closer to God by living out my Christian life in earnest discipleship. I am sorry that this posting only touches on this significant issue, but I wanted to let you know that I am still thinking about the things that draw you to read this site, even if I don’t have the time and energy to pursue them in depth at this particular moment.

Grace amd peace to your day and remember me your prayers if God brings me to mind.