The season of Advent is here — it officially started Dec. 2, 2012. It is the time of year we focus our attention on the coming of Christ. In our culture it has become a very sentimental thing of looking towards the baby Jesus and His birth. However, it should be so much more than that. The sweet baby asks little of us in terms of surrender or sacrifice. We should look at John the Baptist, who really knew what it was to prepare for the coming of Christ. He wore ugly cloths made from animal skins, not sweaters with sequins and gold bells. He ate locuts, not chocolate and homemade cookies. John the Baptist said “prepare,” he didn’t say “Happy Holidays.” John’s call is a call to full consciousness, a forewarning about the high cost of not being prepared for our meeting with Christ.
Wow! Over 300 families – more than 1000 Eagle River people — were provided a Thanksgiving meal, all from the donated food and manhours of hundreds of volunteers. Who led this gracious event? Our Lord Jesus Christ inspired literally hundreds of people in Eagle River to take strong and dedicated action to help their neighbors in need.
The last step of proper interpretation is application. With whatever we are attempting to learn, practical usage will always be the key to true understanding. Theories and suppositions may provide interesting discussion as they should but until they are proven or disproven in the field they aren’t likely to be of much benefit. Those advocating Christianity must view the Bible as something more than a good philosophy if it is to be viewed as something that can change lives in the most practical of ways.
The ideas that one holds regarding faith and reason will determine one’s outlook about yesterday, today and tomorrow. They determine what one holds to be true about the present condition of the world and whether the future holds destruction or deliverance. The superficial reality is that reason tends to be irreligious and faith tends to lack evidence and facts. Some might contend that a pragmatic approach to theology denigrates the value and necessity of faith, but true ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify; false ideas are those which we cannot. That is not to say that the superficial reality is the best reality that is available, however, it is the one most often seen. There is no gap between faith and reason when properly understood, but the superficial reality is that the gap is substantial and will not be bridged easily. Following the assumption of a gap, it is the gulf that is fixed between what one feels to be true and what is actually true. It may be that the pragmatic method is the most sensible and expeditious way to bridge the gap or settle the dispute between faith and reason so that both can be harnessed to work together as a powerful tandem. The pragmatic method is one that follows a proposition’s espousals to their practical consequences. For someone to suggest that having faith in God is not explainable in a practical way is to be uncertain by the outcomes of following God’s direction or worse, suggests that God is impractical. Faith without tangible, observable consequences is impractical because it does not serve to convince, concretize or convert anyone to a position that is closer to the truth. Unless faith results in the practical the truth cannot fully be known.
I remember as a child my mother teaching me a bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” My mother saw ending the day with prayer as the most vital part of raising the children in our home. Now that I have children of my own, I am trying to decide what aspects of my faith besides prayer have made the most significant difference in my life. Understanding the meaning of the Holy Spirit and how it dwells within us strengthens my faith. Explaining the experience of the presence of the Lord still has been the most difficult aspect of the Trinity to explain to the younger generation.
The follower of any belief system has an obligation to examine whether what they suppose to be true, actually is true. Theologian and educator John Locke (1632 – 1704) once said that, “He that examines, and upon a fair examination embraces an error for a truth, has done his duty more than he who embraces the profession of the truth without having examined whether it be true or no.” Locke’s statement is based on the logical assumption that if someone really has given a fair examination to any supposition they will discover the truth (or at least come closer to it) and embrace it, replacing that which was erroneous or what might be called only half true.
Bounded awareness causes people to ignore critical information when making decisions or arriving at conclusions. Bounded awareness is caused by many factors, but four seem to be predominant when it comes to matters of faith and reason.
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. — Colossians 4:1-6 (KJV)
And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem. — Nehemiah 2:16-20
The world has changed much in the decades since Soviet dominion in Eastern Europe. In this area of the world, one can trace through generations the legacies of atheism, oppression, communism, and hopelessness. The church, which over the centuries was the center of life, is now tiny, making up less than one third of one percent in a country of 10.5 million. Most Czechs have no religious affiliation.