Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What does it really take?

door to heaven, God
I read an article on the internet some time ago. It wasn't up for long, because it was pretty controversial. The author told the story of a young woman or a teenager whom he had met. She was vehemently anti-church. On talking to her he discovered that she had been gang-raped when she was a child and could not accept the existence of a loving God. The author asks how is it possible that God could exclude someone like that from heaven. In fact he was not willing to go along with the idea that God excludes anyone from heaven. And if God is in fact like that, then he was not interested in God.

I've been thinking about this for few days, for some reason. What always bothers me is - what about the rapists? Do they also get to go to heaven? Somehow life becomes a little arbitrary, if not quite meaningless with this philosophy.

A couple of days ago a 'little old lady' from our church was beaten up after a car accident with a taxi. Totally crazy. How must she feel? How does God feel?
But the one thing that I know is that this lady will look at the situation and say - Jesus, this world has become rotten and disgusting, but I for one am going to continue to stand for you.
And the God that can do that for someone is the God that I am interested in, rather than a God for whom anything goes.


digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hi J,

I agree, this is the tension between 'everything goes', and 'nothing is allowed'.

Every theology comes with an up side and a down side. The up side of the emergent church is that it allows enough freedom for people who have been constrained by, or hurt by, structures and hard nosed ideals to find a place within the faith. The downside is that it lacks enough structure to be safe for those of us who need it.

I have recently been reading in the areas of 'post liberalism'(who are the 'brains' behind the ideas that inspired the emergent movement) and radical orthodoxy (what I perceive to be a further move beyond post liberalism - with the Anglican theologian John Milbank). Both are very popular movements in contemporary theology.

Among the post liberals you have persons such as Hans Frei and George Lidbeck (from Yale), and my favorite - Stanley Hauerwas from Duke.

Check out the following links for some insights:

Whilst there are some shortcomings, this still seems to be the most sensible theology for our time. It is a mistake to think that there are no boundaries in this theology, and that everything goes (that is liberalism, and some would say heresy). Rather, this theology asks 'what is truly orthodox?', and also 'why have we believed certain things to be wrong and others to be right?' i.e., do we still believe that this is where the boundaries should be? Or should they be shifted (as opposed to completely doing away with all boundaries, which seems to be a simplistic liberal approach)?

Rather than being unquestioning, which is what most assume, it is asking MORE rigorous questions in the pursuit of real truth... However, many of us (myself included) often feel a little bit uncomfortable with some of the questions that are asked, and also by who is asking them. The questions are no longer framed by respectable old white men from Europe and America. Now they come from young women, people from the two thirds world, young Americans who dislike their society and don't have jobs... Of course their questions are just as valid as those of the 'old theologians' like myself.

I think that this too will change... These radicals will one day become the establishment and a different process will challenge the same old content when that happens. Then, those people will wish for the days when things were their way once again... I guess that's part of being human. Revolutionise the world until it is your world, then build structures to support it (like the oxymoron of an 'emergent' 'church' - church is establishment (i.e., it has already emerged). You know what I mean!? I hope I've been sensible enough with this.

Of course, all this is great for theology! It pushes the boundaries, and stretches our thoughts... But, it is not so great for a person who has been beaten up.

Rich blessings,


Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Hey J
you asked about the rapists - or those who beat up the old lady: would they go to heaven?
I hope so - because only if there is place for them will there be place for me. I am only too aware of my own shit, and of just how easily God could tell the doorkeeper to throw me out.

That said: I think that we do not all enter God's presence in the same place. I suspect some of us have more to learn about life than others. So I will be at the back of the crowd, while people such as Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Ghandi will be in front.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Dion

I think asking questions and moving boundaries around is great. I think it's cool to look at things from a new perspective. We have to do all these things. And I'm at a stage where I am asking lots of questions about the emergent church. And I ask questions about myself. And I recognise that analysing and systematicising (is that a word?)are not really post-modern. So that we cannot actually define post-modernism because the more we look at it the more out of focus it becomes. And this is so reminiscent of the uncertainty principle of particle physics that it seems like it might be right. And God is bigger than it all and made it all and I enjoy exploring the possiblilities that he has put in our minds. And I look for the truth. And I look for the way of love. I think that's what most of us in the church are doing.
Thanks for your comment!!!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Pete

Thanks for your response. I am glad to have my mind stretched and challenged. I am on a journey with this emerging church thing, but I can't imagine myself coming to a point of saying that all will be saved regardless. But I am with you in saying that if God gives me what I deserve it won't be heaven. He is gracious and has promised that those who turn to him will be saved. I trust in him and so I turn to him. I can recommend only that route to others, because I know it. Maybe there are other routes, but I don't know them.
Thanks for keeping conversation going! (I know there is so much more to be said.)