The joy of Christmas

Dear friends,

A gentle reminder for those of you who celebrate Christmas. After the giving and receiving and eating and joking and fellowship and fun are over, please pause to reflect that the joy you experienced is but a drop in the bucket compared to the good things which are to come.

Remember that the joy of Christmas is Jesus. Not just an ordinary man but the incarnate God Almighty who came to right all wrongs, lift all burdens, heal all wounds, satisfy all hunger and deliver all who are oppressed.

In the words of the Christmas hymn by Christina Rossetti,

“What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I would do my part.

What I can I give him, give my heart.”

It is in giving that we receive, in righting wrongs that we are justified, lifting the burdens of others that we are relieved of our own, tending to the sick that we are healed, feeding the hungry that we are fed ourselves, and in delivering the oppressed that we are delivered. Go, and carry the Incarnate God in your hearts and do good in the world.

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The Virtue of Honesty

The greatest virtue of all is love. By it the entire cosmos will be changed. Yet there is another virtue that is prerequisite to love, and in that sense, more essential. That virtue is honesty.

Where there is a dishonest heart, Love is at best a mere sentiment and at worst, hypocrisy.

It is essential to be honest both with our neighbors and especially ourselves. Honesty is not mere recitation of fact. That is what the Greeks called truth. Honesty is more subtle. We speak of brute honesty, but that is not always what the virtue of honesty requires.

Honesty is in covenant with love and they temper one another. To speak honestly is both to love truth and to love ones neighbor. Yet, in point of fact, ones neighbor is more important than simple facts. So when we speak, we must first consider our neighbor. What is best for them? How would we wish to be treated if our positions were reversed? The answer to that question is the honest and loving one. We should not speak to our neighbors harm if he is innocent. Nor should we shrink back from justice when it is needed. But in general dealings, we should temper our words with kindness.

Facts are not always kind. But facts are not the measure of honesty. Honesty has an eye to our neighbor’s good. When we speak ill of them with the intent of casting shadow on them, even if we speak only the facts, we are not being honest. Honesty requires that we speak the facts as they are truly in proper relationship to our neighbor. Any other use of facts constitutes dishonesty.

This is called speaking the truth in love; love being that overarching motivation to seek the good of others even to our own loss.

Suppose a man has lived a life of failure. Whether by his own fault or not, he has arrived at a place where he believes the world would be better without him. The pragmatist will look at this man’s life and be hard pressed to disagree with him. Surely, he will reason, this man has been a blight to society and the world would be better off without him in it. Is the pragmatist correct? Perhaps. But though he is factual, he is not honest. Honesty remembers that every one of us has different gifts, abilities, capabilities, capacity for learning, ability to reason, etc… Further, honesty remembers that an individual does not gain his worth from society, but is intrinsically dignified as a human being. Thus in no way can the honest man assent to the judgment of the pragmatist. That failure of a man can be reformed, or taught, and honesty acknowledges this.

Now, this is a mere example not intended to speak to every possible scenario. I simply wish to illustrate that brute facts do not constitute honesty.

Think before you speak. Speak the truth in love. Be honest with yourself and each other.

Science and Faith

A couple of things.

One cannot know with infallible certainty, anything. Science is the only reliable objective method by which we may reach reasonable certainty about ourselves and the universe. Yet that knowledge is continuously challenged, changing, and sometimes upended.

Science is the realm of knowledge.

Theology is the realm of faith or belief. There are no accepted creeds of Christianity that begin “I know…”. They all begin with “I believe…”.

Faith has its own assurances that science cannot speak to. Yet science, unlike faith, is of such objective character, that only a fool rejects its findings. I dare say that we have an ethical, and hence MORAL obligation to accept the *clear* findings of science. The same cannot be said of faith. No one is morally obligated to believe, in spite of what many xtians say.

Faith is rightly understood to be a response to a perceived encounter with the divine. It cannot be subjected to the scientific method and therefore has no objective ethical obligatory requirement.

I speak as a xtian. I do not believe God has dropped a book in our laps that tells us everything we can and should know about him. There are no such books. Neither is there any divine authority on earth to tell us what to believe.

I do believe the cosmos speaks his name, but my experience is no one else’s experience and is probably irrelevant to anyone but me.

The long and short of it is that God may or may not exist. It cannot be proven by any means to the satisfaction of all or even of mankind in general. Therefore, we should get about the business of being better humans rather than trying to belittle those who do or do not believe.

The one thing we DO have in common is our humanity, and I think that is enough to warrant morality and good living.