Embracing paradox and living to tell the tale

BOOK REVIEW:  Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes In God: How To Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace.  Frank Schaeffer, 2014

Frank Schaeffer Cover

I completely understand the puzzlement that comes over people when I declare myself a believer and an atheist. It’s not something that comes up all the time of course but occasionally there’s no avoiding it and you just have to come clean. Once it went like this: “I was a Christian, then I became an atheist.” It was sad for some people to hear. But at least it was neat and they knew where I stood. Now it’s: “I still don’t believe in the God the atheists don’t believe in, but I pray every day.” And that’s just messy. Explain it and it gets messier.

People aren’t good with messy. While I’m obscenely comfortable in this paradoxical pigeon-hole I’ve carved out for myself, I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that on questions like this people prefer ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and’, and so it’s felt like something of a solitary little niche. That said, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled on the totally messy title of Frank Schaeffer’s latest book, Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God. Continue reading “Embracing paradox and living to tell the tale”

Meister Eckhart and the ‘Wayless Way’.

What might a medieval German mystic offer spiritual seekers today? This essay is a personal reflection on the teachings of the fourteenth-century Dominican philosopher and theologian, Meister Eckhart, who offers a deeply refreshing perspective on human spirituality, particularly for those like me who have long thirsted for a draught more satisfying than that on offer from many Christian pulpits. Continue reading “Meister Eckhart and the ‘Wayless Way’.”

Jesus smiled at me today

Jesus smiled at me today, his radiant, beaming, toothless ‘thank you’, life’s extravagant gift. To me. Gracious unearned gift.

YESTERDAY I passed him by. Twice, that I recall. First outside Gloria Jean’s. It all happened in a blink. Continue reading “Jesus smiled at me today”

Spirituality, religion and the ‘God-shaped void’

Our species is universally blessed with a capacity for transcendence, and cursed with the corresponding appetite. Such is the human condition. And such is the nub of that singularly human concern that we call ‘spirituality’.

This claim is admittedly problematic. There was a time when people spoke without too much reserve of such things, of ‘self-evident truths’, ‘universal principles’ and ‘the human condition’. Amid the settling dust of the post-modern turn, though, the reticence of thoughtful people to talk thus – beyond a nod to the ‘universal declaration of human rights’, perhaps – is understandable. We in democratic, secular and pluralist societies are learning, belatedly and all too often reluctantly, to cultivate an awareness of the limits of our own culturally determined perspectives and to keep in check the temptation to declare this or that to be true for the whole world. None of us, we are slowly realizing, has title to the real estate from which to pronounce on such matters.

As a relatively thoughtful person, I share this postmodern reticence and find myself increasingly aware and respectful of difference, of particularity. And yet I stand by my opening statement. For, the more I learn of the fundamental social, cultural, historical and religious particularities of various human communities, the more I see an even more fundamental commonality among us. I remain convinced that the quest for ultimate meaning, for spiritual connectedness, for transcendence is, if not in our DNA, at least as basic to our humanity as our DNA. Continue reading “Spirituality, religion and the ‘God-shaped void’”