February 20th, 2014
It was with some fear and trembling last Sunday that we took up the matter of doubt. Would we end up repressing that sense of inscrutability we sometimes feel in our pilgrimage toward and with Jesus; or would we end up glorying in our uncertainties in such a way that we yielded to conventional wisdom that all discussion of faith should remain private? The psalm we considered walked a middle road between those pitfalls. Would we?
The ensuing Q&A was, as always, a thoughtful and sincere exchange. How facing doubt is both a personal and public matter centered our discussion. We all recognized how the church, while its calling is to promote and practice faith, must likewise create a space for expressing doubt, just as the psalmist did in his psalm, but with a view to reflecting His character even when we can’t comprehend His ways.
We gleaned from the psalm that we best take to God our doubts of God. The psalmist engaged his doubts to God by vocalizing them in prayer. Given the relational nature of our communion with God, and the nature of doubt as a tentative not final conclusion, praying doubts, we argued, was no oxymoron, but the only humble and intellectually-honest approach to doubt. So pray we shall and pray we must. If only to keep track of the conversation we might even journal it, not in a documentary but epistolary mode–addressing Him as we address our struggles to believe Him.
Our instinctual responses to doubt may indicate something true of us, quite irrespective of the content or validity of the specific doubt. By sheer fact of temperament, some may be outright dismissive of a contrary thought, while others may slip into despair at the slightest hint of antagonism. That doubt is both a delicate and necessary project, our inclinations have to become subservient to intentionality. Neither denial nor resignation will do.
Our often-consulted friends at Mockingbird in a sense corroborated that point, acting as courier of another rich excerpt on the nature of doubt, this time from the New York Times‘ David Brooks. As you’ll read, admitting doubt keeps us from a cold and feigned fidelity, while tangling with it–even when it is not dispelled–enlivens the very faith doubt can serve to squelch.
Perhaps more compelling than his prose is Brooks’ link to the following musical outpouring of hope. Audrey Assad’s story is as captivating as her music. When you listen to her sing, you realize that faith, while certainly not vacant of propositions, is surely more than them.
One idea that may too easily provoke doubt is that of spiritual revival. The ones we’ve read of in early American history seem so far in the past as to be almost legendary. While those we’ve heard about in a more recent era tend to inspire more not less incredulity. Even hearing the word “revivial” likely conjures up images like this scene from a film we posted a clip of last week.
In The Apostle, Sonny (Robert Duvall) stood in a century-old tradition of defining revival as a deeply ecstatic experience, and promoting revival through almost ecstatically impassioned pleading. While as the pastor of a particular tradition whose character too often resembles its caricature, I’m forced to recognize my bias against the unpredictable and euphoric–a bias not easily forsworn. But as we’ve discussed during multiple times of Q&A before, if forced to discern whether an experience of revival is of the Lord–surely a protocol with merit–we must ask what fruit is born of the experience. If the spread of the gospel and the planting of new churches is any indicator of prodigious activity of the Holy Spirit, then, as you might be surprised to learn, John Calvin stands as definitively at the headwaters of a genuine spiritual revival as any who might also claim likewise.
We’re going to take up the notion of revival this Sunday, listening to Psalm 85. I’ll “gladly” admit my trepidation at unpacking what the psalm reveals about revival, and moreover at coming to terms with God’s abiding desire for a real, life-altering, idol-smashing, soul-refining, community-building, city-serving transformation. The high calling of revival requires prayer for it (sounds like something we might take up on March 9th). So, as you’d expect from a series on improvisational prayer, we’ll have to ask at the end, if not throughout, how to put words to our groans for a renewal that, like many things, we might at first prefer to avoid and only later cherish.
But prayers is only one means to revival. So here’s a trivia question for you whose implications are anything but trivial: what phrase reappears in Psalm 85 that we’ve noted in another Psalm in this current series? (Hint: the Psalm begins with a “6”; Another Hint: the phrase appears late in each Psalm). If the choice of phrase is more than coincidence, then what might we infer from its place in Psalm 85, given its implications in the other Psalm? Where does revival go, so to speak? For Calvin it led to planting churches. For churches it might lead to planting other churches. It might also lead to looking beyond us–one block at a time: (HT: citypresokc)
We’ve got a couple game nights in the offing, but please, as always, ladies and gentlemen, no wagering.
We’ll all get together this Sunday night, Feb 23rd, from 6-8pm, at the Lafferty’s (6968 Capella Park Ave) for whatever your recreational pastime. We’ll have chess, checkers, backgammon, and Uno on hand–as well as game we affectionately refer to as “guess than vitamin supplement.” Feel free to bring amusements of a competitive sort, both indoor and outdoor. And do bring something for us to munch on. Battles of skill, wit, or chance tend to rouse an appetite.
Then on Saturday night, March 1st from 6:30pm until the cops arrive at the home of Breanna Elam (222 South Oak Cliff Blvd), the ladies will have a night out themselves. A snack and game are requested. For more information contact Karla Pollock.
Finally, we’d invite you to pray:
- for Anna Tanksley and Liesl Raikes, cousins to the recently fallen firefighter, Scott Tanksley
- for Imelda Ottmers as she recovers a car accident last weekend
- for Wanda and Horace Williams as she cares for her aging father
- for Chris Panneck and Michelle Kick as they wed this weekend
- for the courage both to pray our doubts and to trust Him as we work through them
- for peace to be restored in the Ukraine and Thailand
- for the church in hostile places like Syria, N Korea, and elsewhere
See you Sunday at 9:30,