Contingency and Eschatology

Back in 2004, the Owl had occasion to address his mentor Harvey Guthrie:

Here is a question that lurks half formed in the back of my mind these last few months: Which is the truer understanding of the sheer contingency of our worldly lives? (1) to take hold of the world on its terms, grappling with its violence, cruelty, and dehumanizing culture; knowing that in spite of our best intentions we will often be in the wrong, and it will be others, not we, who suffer the consequences, as we now suffer those set for us by our predecessors? Or (2) to live withe our eyes on the prize in a heavenly world, in splendid isolation from the fray here below, ignoring the facts of our own and others’ deaths?

The first of these will require giving succor while we wait; taking care of each other in this crucible the best we can, improvising all the way, knowing that in spite of appearances God keeps faith with us. This is what I think Harvey meant by “living in the now.”

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A Moral Universe?

While our country and others are roiled by divisive political questions, the Owl proposes a theological one that cuts deeper: Do we live in a moral universe or not? Are we under a moral imperative to make the world better? Probably most American Protestants would say that it i, and we are so commissioned.

Another way of putting the question is this: Are there two worlds or one? Does God command us to turn this world into a peaceable kingdom? Or has he prepared another place for us, to which this is an anteroom, a way station, or a refining fire? Is it actually getting better, or ought we to confess our inability to make it so and long for the next?

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What Faith Is Not – Part III

The Owl continues unfolding the post “What the Owl Is Trying to Say” using its five main terms: Faith, Covenant, Love, Freedom, and Obedience, for an outline, under the title “What Faith Is Not. The negative approach is necessary to challenge people who think they know what it is. As some wise person said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that’ll git you; it’s what you do know that ain’t so.”

So far, the Owl has said faith is not religion; it is not spiritualism; it is not a belief system; and it is not an inner psychological state. Now we will go the rest of the way: Faith is not moralism, and nor humanism. Remember, throughout all this, God has the initiative. Faith is God’s gift to us. If it can be found in our insides, that is because God put it there.

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Having Moral Principles

People make ethical decisions every day. Some of them we raise to the status of moral principles. The word “raise” in that sentence is a problem. Why is it a rise to move from action to principle?

We admire people for acting in accordance with principles when the going gets hard. Principles seem to float free of the taint of sin, but they actually don’t. They belong to people, with all the temptations people have. One temptation is to enforce my principles—with all lofty intentions—upon people who have their own dilemmas to deal with. Another is to cherish unduly the ideas we learned in our formative youth. Today we have neighbors who seem stuck in some previous decade, whose insights no longer serve us very well.

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