Friday, March 11, 2011

The Deadly Power of Tradition

A poem by Sam Walter Foss (1858 - 1911)

The Calf Path

One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail, all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then 300 years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still, he left behind his trail
And thereby hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way.
And then, a wise bell weathered sheep
Pursued the trail, o'er~vale and steep,
And drew the flocks behind him too
As good bell weathers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade
Thru those old woods, a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path,
But still they followed, do not laugh,
The first migrations of that calf.
And thru the winding woods they stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street.
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowed thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis.
And men, two centuries and a half
Trod the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a 100 thousand route
Followed the zig-zag calf about,
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A 100 thousand men were led
By one calf, near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way
And lost 100 years per day.
For this such reverence is lent
To well establish precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained , and called to preach.
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out, and in, and forth, and back,
And still their devious course pursue
To keep the paths that others do.

They keep the paths a sacred groove
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh
Who saw that first primeval calf.
Ah, many things this tale might teach,
But I am not ordained to preach.

Predestination: Some Thoughts

from an email sent to a friend inquiring on behalf of a friend:

Dear xxx,

All we can do is dance around the fire of God's love ... we cannot jump into it, or it'll burn us up.

Calvin jumped into it, and so did Augustine ... theologians jump in where angels fear to tread.

I think your friend has a good handle on it ... leaving plenty of room for all the dark stuff that happens, yet, years later, finding evidence of God's hand.

Calvin left us a legacy of "certainty" that doesn't stand up, either in Scripture or in experience ... but at the core of his work, we find an abiding faith in a very good God who is at work in ALL things for good.

I think pre-destination has to be taken in the largest sense possible - as Paul works with it and uses the terminology. But to examine it under the microscope of human suffering brings us to an impasse - which Calvin defended by saying, "Who of us can attack the character of God? Who of us knows anything?" But I think such a defense is unnecessary is we can see how much God suffers in the story, culminating in the cross. To live in this age, even for God, is to suffer.

The all-powerful "God of the Middle Ages," who looked and behaved more like an emperor than the God and Father of Jesus, the God of Genesis and the God of the Prophets, has left us a bad legacy, filtered through Calvinism. The God who is above everything, impassive and all-controlling, is NOT the God of the Bible.

Yet Calvin's point remains important - history, with all its dark materials, is undergirded by the hand of God.

Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976), British theologian, wrote a fine little book entitled, "The Will of God" (1944) - wherein he details three dimensions to God's will: intentional, circumstantial and ultimate. 

I think your friend has been dancing around the fire quite well.

Your comments seem equally appropriate and accurate.

We can only whisper the things of God that elude us; but of the things of God that we know for sure, we can shout to the highest mountains.

Blessings ...


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some Thoughts about Eternity & Good Friends

With friends like you, and the world in which we live, it'll never stop for sure. As for eternity, I've often taught that we all shall find and enjoy what has been our deepest and richest pleasures, and, for me, the life of the mind, ideas, books, and friends and coffee, will my eternity ... and God will even stop in now and then to have coffee with us all.