The Fear of God, Texas-Style

6354555067_d52996f0c2_zRecently, I found myself in Texas. Driving mostly. Stopping here and there to eat, put more gas in the automobile, urinate.

When you step out of an air-conditioned car in the middle of West Texas you aren’t just making a transition from inside the car to outside. You are stepping into a new atmosphere, like a spaceman emerging from a capsule onto the moon.

Air, when it gets hot enough, has a flavor. It has a smell and a taste. It is metallic on the tongue, like aluminum. Hot aluminum.

Perhaps it was just being in the dead lands of West Texas in early August, with daily highs that never dipped below three digits, but those of us in the car started to think about hell. Hell, the shittiness of the world, and the existence of the state of Texas.

This was a conversation among friends, friends with no great love for the bleaker side of Texas. There was a great deal of laughter. You must laugh, passing through the emptiness, the forgotten towns, and the vast oil fields with their thousands of tubes shooting out flames that burn off the excess natural gas. [Read more...]

No Better Place to End, Part 2

By Brian Volck

aubreyworkContinued from yesterday.

In describing the nature of things, the sciences and faith also remind us of the following:

The universe need not be intelligible.

When Isaac Newton published his Principia Mathematica in 1687, he didn’t explain what made objects fall to earth or planets revolve around the sun. He showed instead how gravity works mathematically. That Newton’s equations suggest gravity works across a vacuum and at a distance infuriated followers of René Descartes. But the Cartesians’ complex theory of gravity, full of vortices whirling in invisible ether, ultimately lost out to Newton’s mathematical simplicity. [Read more...]

No Better Place to End, Part 1

By Brian Volck

aubreyworkThis post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

Not long ago, while walking on the Navajo reservation after sunset as the southwest horizon’s showy magenta yielded to purple and black, I spied the planet Venus, dressed as Hesperus, the evening star. Just below, closer to the now hidden sun, stood the fainter disk of Mercury. [Read more...]

Original Sin and the Warp Effect

Fleeing_bayeux_tapestryOne of the great writers—to my recollection, Flannery O’Connor—said something to the effect that everything we touch is warped by original sin, even our greatest virtues. If I am interpreting her correctly, this means that any display of a moral act is polluted somehow, flecked with impurity, however slight, simply by way of being performed by a human agent.

Of course, in a very simplified definition, original sin is the concept that a human being, through some primordial dissociation from God’s will—is by nature a creature morally flawed and faulted. This dissociation riddles his existence with tendencies, penchants, bents that are as innate to him as the desires of a lion to eat meat, a plant to seek sunshine.

More precise yet, they are as entwined with his makeup as a leopard is with his spots, a giraffe with her height, a gazelle with his speed. Indeed, the lower animals act by instinct and there is some rough barometer to their need. They may lay waste to field or to another population, but in doing so, there is a level of satiety that they are aiming for, and it is directly associated with their appetites.

Man, on the other hand, has no cap to his desires; they are boundless. Further, unlike animals, humans are not necessarily motivated by physical want. Pride is a metaphor applied to the lion; it is a deadly reality when applied to a human, as much a part of a man as his blood type. [Read more...]

Wrestling with Sunday Mornings

14597764532_57904b2b45_zThis past Saturday afternoon I warned my husband, “I’m not going to church tomorrow.” In the morning when he went off early to help with music for the service, I went for a walk, made bacon and eggs, sat by an open window, and read every single page of the New York Times.
I really, really enjoy not going to church.

I’ve been going to Sunday services nearly every week as far back as I can remember. I figure that between ages four and forty-four I’ve been to around 1600-1800 church services, subtracting vacation and sick days and adding the years I went twice on a Sunday.
That’s a lot of church services. I feel like I need a break, at least from attendance as my default setting, and while I feel relieved to come to this awareness and sense that it might be okay to take a break, there’s also sadness and a pinch of fear.

The sadness is because my identity as a churchgoer is such a longstanding part of me—I literally don’t know a life without it. The thought of changing that brings with it a sense of loss of something that has mattered a great deal to me at various points in my life. There’s also the sadness of thinking that perhaps the entire experience of church as I know it is a failed experiment in Christian community that got off track long ago. I’m not saying it is (and I’m not saying it isn’t), but even entertaining that thought makes me sad. [Read more...]