Back in my Mormon Matters days (a John Dehlin website), it seems like we’d get a post every couple of weeks about how the scriptures are full of bad stories of God commanding the death of someone. We’d get complaints about Nephi and Laban, of course, but the story that seemed to get the most attention was that of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac.
I remember one post, in particular that suggested the story should be changed to have Abraham refuse to sacrifice Isaac and the angel of God then praises Abraham for refusing to do something immoral even if God commands it.
I can see why this story is so troubling to theological liberals and non-believers. This story simply leaves no room to ethically explain it away. Continue reading →
By any standard, I am still in the bloom and pluck of life, being only 35 years of age currently. My physical health is outstanding, my hair is not going prematurely gray, and by contemporary American standards I am fit and within my recommended weight limit. Financially I am fine (although “secure” is probably not the appropriate word). I have a brilliant, loving wife and special children. Truly, there is much to be thankful for.
And yet…I have sobering moments of reflection in which I survey the climate and landscape and resist shudders of despair. By nature I am not overly pessimistic; I truly believe that over time, the good guys eventually win. I look forward, with an eye of faith, to the time when righteousness will cover the earth as the waves cover the sea. Continue reading →
Before the tragic attack on the World Trade Center, I had a grudging respect for the Muslim faithful. They seemed the most spiritual and religiously conservative group on the planet, untouched by the Western immorality and atheism. There was the accusation that was only because of the lack of educational opportunities, but even those who went to Western and U.S. schools went back home without losing religious convictions. There was something about Islam that a person who had their own strong faith convictions had to admire.
When the infamous 9-11 attack happened, there was hope that citizens of the United States could learn something about themselves out of the deadly chaos. Perhaps the Christian nation as a whole would re-evaluate the moral direction it had taken. They would take notice of Muslims and look within to question how they had lost their spiritual way. Certainly they could contrast the strength of conviction and moral cohesion of such a large group of people and come away determined to change. For one brief week it seemed possible.
That illusion was quickly shattered. It didn’t take very long for people to continue going about their business like always. Each generation seeming more intent than the next to rid themselves of religious and moral guidance. Meanwhile, the extremist Islamist leaders ended up sharing the anti-Christian, anti-Israel, and anti-United States stances of Western liberals. That wasn’t a surprise, but how they played off each other was. They ended up doing the your enemy is my enemy dance. The terrorists came off not as moral crusaders, but political despots eager for attention with the blood of the dead. Still, the question stands how Muslims remain faithful stalwarts in such large numbers while Christianity, and Mormonism included, continues to stumble. Continue reading →
My wife says I have a naturally skeptical personality, sometimes to the point of pessimism. I have probably passed up being a millionaire many times by refusing to take serious any network marketing scheme. And come to think of it, I’ve probably let many a conspiracy run amok due to my refusal to believe in conspiracies unless there is, ahem, some sort of evidence worth mentioning.
So maybe this is why I can relate to C.S. Lewis’ character, Puddleglum. Puddleglum is a wet blanket who is skeptical of just about everything. He’s as much a joy to read as he is joyless.
One day, while reading C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair I came across a passage that caused me to have one of those religious moments; you know, one of those rare moments where a truth that you are pretty sure you already knew suddenly gains clarity it never had before. I wish to share that moment with everyone:
I used to love to watch President Hinckley in action with the press. Whenever he fielded a really difficult question, he would answer simply and directly, and then follow with a cheerful, “Isn’t it wonderful?” His sharp mind and guileless manner always won over his detractors. He was absolutely disarming in his warm, clear and plain witness of what was true.
Perhaps the thing that stays with me the most is his hopeful declaration: “Isn’t it wonderful?” With these three words he expressed faith, hope and charity all at once. It makes me think of the account of Dutch sisters Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom, who were imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for their role in protecting Jews during the Holocaust. Their barracks were the most detested by the prisoners, because of the infestation of fleas. Through it all, Betsie urged Corrie to follow the Lord’s counsel to give gratitude in all things. Corrie was a good soldier through most of what they had to endure, but could not reconcile how the Lord’s love was manifest in such a meaningless pestilence as the fleas.
Much later Corrie came to know that the reason that the Bible they huddled over for clandestine prayer meetings in their barracks was never found–nor much less, the prayer meetings themselves–was because the guards themselves were loath to enter into the barracks where the fleas were such a problem. The very fleas were a gift from God–a gift that allowed them to share hope and faith with so many others who were without a reason to live.
Isn’t it wonderful?
The very things that seem to try our patience, our faith, our endurance, our good will–these, not least of all, are the things that represent the Lord’s abundant kindness to us. We all know this, in hindsight. Would that, like Betsie, like President Hinckley, we could see with the eyes of faith and praise God for the fleas.