John 1:16: It’s All Groovy Like a Movie

John 1:16 reads: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”

I appreciate the phrase “one blessing after another” as a catalyst for challenging our usual perception of time and space. It’s so easy to read those (now) common words, and think of God’s blessings in our lives as discrete, sequentially engaged experiences and things. My home is a blessing; my spouse is a blessing; this meal, my health, this beautiful day … they’re all blessings. And they are, of course. But that easy way of  defining and apprehending our blessings leaves undefined the infinite number and kind of moments between all our more immediate, readily tangible blessings. It leaves a whole bunch of stuff on the table. What’s the nature of all that stuff? How do we best understand all of those moments and experiences that exist around, behind, and in between—everything in our time and space that actually supports—our bigger, more obvious blessings?

I think John 1:16 is a wonderful reminder that it’s all a blessing. There is no moment, no experience, no perception, no context, nothing that is not an extension or manifestation of God’s grace to us. (As to the quick and obvious argument against that idea, please see my Evil! Surprise! It’s a Good Thing!) I think we live in the middle of God’s mind. I know that’s the kind of statement that makes our Guardians of Doctrinal Correctness wake up and reach for their Big Book of Biblical Brouhaha, but you know what I mean. Everything between the cracks is also God. I think “one blessing after another” is a cool little reminder that, like the individual frames of a film, the true blessings of our lives follow one another so rapidly that it’s simply not possible for us to register where one ends, and the next begins.

Previous posts in this series: The Trinity Explained in Four Sentences: A Look at John 1:1-4, John 1:5: The Archer’s Grief., and John 1:6-15: No One Writes Better.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Candace

    Yes, John. I agree. Exactly.

    I’m really enjoying this whole series.

    Soaking it up :-)

  • http://wineymomma.wordpress.com wineymomma

    my life is filled with blessings and growth opportunities…most of which I am thankful for right away…some of them it takes a while to be thankful for!

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    But if everything is a blessing, doesn't that mean nothing is?

    And yes, I do take my philosophical points from Pixar movies.

    "When everyone's super, no one will be!" -Syndrome, "The Incredibles"

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Morse: You're so young to be so bored. Again: Wouldn't you be happier looking for things to feel positive about, rather than spending so much time trying to make other people feel negatively about what they feel positive about? All you do—online, anyway, as far as I've ever seen—is poke fun at and belittle the beliefs of others. You read "John," smirking at and making fun of it the whole way; you're everywhere you can be on the Christian blogosphere talking about how Christians are shallow, ignorant dupes…. As I've told you before: I think you're better than that. I don't see why you wouldn't at least try to be. I think you can do better for yourself than spending as much time as you do wallowing in negativity. So what if Christians are wrong and stupid? You're not going to CHANGE that. Move on. Do something more FUN than simply poking sticks at the same old bear. You're an actor. Find something CREATIVE to do, rather than constantly playing the tired old game of "Bait the Believer." How can that be enjoyable for you? Fight a fight you can WIN, why don't you? Make what you do online about YOU, rather than simply reacting to what others are doing and believing.

    Anyway, to your point: Everything is a blessing because everything is absolutely unique.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    I asked an honest question with an attempt at humor thrown on.

    "you’re everywhere you can be on the Christian blogosphere talking about how Christians are shallow, ignorant dupes"

    I would ask you to show me where I called you shallow or ignorant.

    I've been nothing but polite and kind to you. I enjoy these conversations. And despite what you may think, I am not doing so to attempt to make fun of you and call you stupid.

    You make a statement. I respond with a question.

    Forgive me if questions from people who don't agree completely with you are not to be tolerated. I thought, and continue to think, better of you than that implies.

    I would ask you to stop assuming you know my intent or state of mind on my responses. If I find you stupid, ignorant or shallow, I would tell you so. I would not keep it hidden behind a question that I was curious about.

    If you find me so offensive for asking questions on your blog, I will gladly leave you be.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yeah, I think it's best you do spend your energies elsewhere. I'd appreciate that; thank you. Good luck in your ongoing war against the pervasive, insidious moronocy of Christianity.

  • Candace

    Morse, all one needs to do to discern your true (unwaiveringly scornful) feelings is visit your blog.

    Here, you do seem to try to maintain a modicum of politeness yet, still, you are so uniformly negative, derisive and antagonistic that many is the time I've been tempted to ask if someone has pissed in your cereal.

    John is not imagining it; it is very noticeable. You are being disingenuous in your response, as well. Again, anyone who visits your blog or other blogs you comment on can see that everything John said is true.

    John has proven himself to be ALL ABOUT genuinely responding to honest questions. You (and others like you)? Well, frankly, it gets really, really old. I've been thoroughly AMAZED at John's patience with it, and not at all surprised it is finally wearing thin.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks, Candace. Morse won't be able to respond unless I first "moderate"/ok his comment; his last words to me were so puerile I blocked his ability to comment again without my first okaying it.

    He is being extremely disingenuous. His questions are never "honest," in that they're never respectful. He just baits, and baits, and baits. His arrogance is exhausting.

  • Candace

    Yup. You did what you had to do. Your generosity in tolerating it this long is to be applauded.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    You block Morse but leave ME on!?!? I thought I would be the first to feel the knife!!

    J.S. said:

    "So what if Christians are wrong and stupid?"

    First; neither Morse nor I have every characterized ANYONE here as 'stupid'. I think the non-believers represented here, with varying success, have posited questions that some couldn't answer satisfactorily. This might make some FEEL 'stupid', but that is their internalization. In my opinion; Morse was infinitely more tactful than I here.

    As far as being wrong…

    Could there be anything more important than attempting to correct an error that influences so much public policy and foments so much intolerance? While it is a decided minority that sinks to the septic levels of the Phelps and the Bin Ladens; it is intrinsic in theistic belief systems to NOT tolerate segments of society (homosexuals, women, other faiths, non-believers). Can there be a worse wrong than needless intolerance?

    (I won't even get into public policy)

    So what?! So what?!

    The road to hell is littered with good intentions and absolute certainty.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    The difference between you and Morse, Mike, is that Morse tries to pretend like he's genuinely engaging. You, on the other hand, don't even pretend to think that all Christians are anything but rabidly intolerant culture imperialists. That makes you, if certainly no less condescending, at least very slightly less obnoxious.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    J.S. said:

    You, on the other hand, don’t even pretend to think that all Christians are anything but rabidly intolerant culture imperialists.

    John! Dude! I think that is a grossly unfair characterization. It is my contention that theistic belief systems [that I am familiar with] have intolerance INTRINSIC within them. The individual adherents run the gamut from insipid (Phelps) to tolerant/inclusive (er…Shore) and beyond. I would NEVER EVER EVER paint all believers with the same brush.

    I participate here because 1) it is cathartic, 2) there can't be anything but good that comes from people hearing scientific explanations of things, 3) people should be made to recognize when they exhibit unconscious intolerance, 4) your blog is busy enough that the topics change often enough to be interested, but quiet enough that there are not already 150 comments on my first visit to the page, and 5) you seem to be a nice guy.

    Hoping to avoid the knife,

    Mike

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    A. Why is it cathartic?

    B. Do you actually not understand how grossly arrogant and condescending it is to suggest that without your input Christians would have never considered the validity of SCIENCE? Ever-commenting Candace IS a scientist. My best friend IS a scientist. Continuing to contend, as you do, that inherent in Christian theology is the notion of the incompatibility of science and theism marks you as someone who's much less interested in thoughtfully addressing reality than in simply being argumentitive. What you and Morse do is nothing if not lazy; all either of you does is point and shoot at fish in a barrel. You never acknowedge the reality outside the barrel. You say I'm NOT the kind of Christian you're forever railing against—but then you continue to rail against Christians. You ONLY paint in broad strokes. Saying you don't doesn't change that. You just pick the fights you do because you like the ego strokes you then give yourself for being Super Truth Defender. And you can't give yourself those strokes if you spend any time at all acknowledging all the ways in which you actually AGREE with what and who Christians really are. So you chisel off the part of the whole you need to fight, and start punching at that. Fish in a barrel.

    C. "People should be made to recognize when they exhibit unconscious intolerance." God, your arrogance is just … absolute.

    And there, typing this, was five minutes of my life I'll never get back.

  • FreetoBe

    John 1:16- what a lovely reminder, and very well explained by you, John. Thank you so much, and I'm with Candace on this one, I am enjoying this series VERY much.

    (re: your comment above, what's 5 minutes when it's all a blessing? And I mean that sincerely. I think that comment is probably the first time I've read your blog and you have actually not been bend-over-backward tolerant. Anyway, )

  • Candace

    JS said: "Ever-commenting Candace IS a scientist."

    I cannot even express how much I LOVE this sentence :-)

    "Ever-commenting Candace! You have no IDEA! I have to go send this to all my friends. It's tooooo perfect!

    I am a pretty darn GOOD scientist, too, if my peers and bosses are any judge at all (and they are). Just had my annual review (so complimentary it made me blush) and was assigned a couple really exciting new bits of research for the coming year.

    I kid you not: When my brothers were doodling guns and house fires and Superman peeing and pooping on Metropolis as he flew over it, I was doodling my dream laboratory, with Bunson burners and volumetric flasks and everything. I still have the drawings, from the mid-60s, when I was 7 or 8 yrs old.

    Science has been my life. Actually, science is so thrilling and so lovely … I am entirely convinced God musta created it ;-)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Free: Thanks for saying you like this series. I don't think it's being read as much as it sort of needs to be in order for me to keep doing it, so … it's good for me to know people are … hearing it. (And thanks to you too, Candace—and for so articulately defending me, too.)

  • Candace

    You are entirely welcome, John. It's been my pleasure to do so, and it's been deserved on your part. Anyone who follows this blog knows that you'd have vastly preferred not to have been pushed to this point.

    I am sad you may not continue with the series on John. I've very much enjoyed it, both the reading and the subsequent thinking about what I've read. It's been excellent.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No, no: I mis-wrote. I'm going to continue the series. I'm actually thinking of doing it more often than once a week. I'm thinking two or three times a week.

  • Candace

    Oh, yay :-) Phew!

    I have been reading the Old Testament for quite a while now; several months. I am about halfway through 1 Chronicles. And I am glad I'm doing it. It is helping me pull together some great concepts relative to the New Testament.

    But, wow … to me, at least, the OT holds nowhere near the joy and hope and just general wonderment of the NT. So much law and history. The "mood" is a lot heavier.

    So your thoughtful, engaging doses of John (what an awesome book!) are quite tasty and sweet, against the backdrop of my current studying in the OT.

  • FreetoBe

    I'm glad you're continuing the series! Yay!

    BTW, are you still writing 2 other blogs? Are you letting us here know when a new one is posted on one of the others? Haven't seen anything lately, just wondering……

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Free: Yes, I have been busy on my other blogs, actually. I thought I posted in here somewhere that I wasn't going to do the "alert" things anymore, cuz I thought that seemed kind of obnoxious? But maybe I should let people know when I've put up something new. Anyway, I have! Thanks for asking.


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