Who Am I?

Beyond Justification 2 – What does it mean to be human?

Posted: May 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Justification | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The article that spurred this series, Beyond Justification: An Orthodox Perspective, immediately caught my attention in its opening paragraph with the sentence:

Orthodox in general have never quite understood what all the fuss was about to begin with.

That precisely captures my state of confusion ever since my conversion to Christianity. It has seemed like the foremost question that most have had has been something along the lines of: Am I (or insert person of concern) in with God or am I out? The entire thing seems to revolve around the question of what happens to you when you die. Some might think that’s an overstatement or caricature, but the Southern Baptist Convention’s primary “evangelistic” program is predicated entirely on that idea. Hardly anyone on the ‘inside’ even seems to find it bizarre. Given that my pre-conversion belief about the afterlife tended toward a belief in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), concern about some “christian” idea of heaven and hell had absolutely nothing to do with my ultimate conversion to the Christian faith. So I never understood the huge fuss over any of the various ideas about what Paul meant by the term “righteousness” or “justification” (same Greek word, I gather).

To the Orthodox, the Western Church’s convulsions over the nature of justification, and particularly the relationship between faith and works, are largely incomprehensible because the presuppositions underlying the debates are often alien to the Eastern Christian mind. The Christian East espouses a different theological anthropology from most of Western Christianity – both Catholic and Protestant – especially with respect to two elements of fallen human nature: original guilt and free will. The differences in these two anthropological concepts, in turn, contribute to differing soteriological understandings of, respectively, how Jesus Christ saves us (that is, what salvation means) and how we appropriate the salvation offered in Christ.

The article above starts in the right place. The Latin and later Western Church’s obsession with justification does seem to flow from its idea of inherited guilt, which was probably drawn from its early neo-platonic influences along with a mistranslation of the Greek text into Latin. I suppose if you believe you were born ‘guilty’ and powerless to do anything at all about it, you might be concerned with exactly how you get to be ‘not guilty’. Even though I did not realize for more than a decade that my belief was the normative Eastern Christian belief, I never for one moment accepted the idea that guilt could somehow be inherited unless one also accepted the idea of reincarnation. If reincarnation were true then I could accept that a soul’s accumulated karma stays with it. But that is not the Christian story. Our soul in Christian parlance consists of our body and our spirit together and intertwined. There is no such thing as the eternality of the soul. We are created beings and did not exist before we were created. Our being is tied to these bodies. We have no natural existence separated from our body. And within that framework, only a capricious God would create a human being guilty.

I’m not entirely sure why it was that pretty much from the time of my conversion onward, I developed something more akin to what the article calls “the Eastern Christian mind” rather than the Western one. Other than my patristic readings, all things Christian which I encountered directly were distinctly Western. I do, for instance, deeply appreciate the way St. John Chrysostom describes baptism, but his teaching conflicts with almost all things Western..

Although many men think that the only gift [baptism] confers is the remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless, that they may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places of the Spirit.

Of course, modern Baptists (and really virtually all evangelicals) don’t believe that baptism actually confers anything whatsoever. I am probably foolish and even a fool in many ways, but that always seemed like a particularly foolish belief to me. Zwingli strongly influences much of the branch of Christianity that tends to call itself evangelical today even if they don’t even realize that’s who they follow. But I always understood that the things we do with our bodies and in the physical or material realm matter spiritually even when I wasn’t Christian. If anything, Christianity has deepened and strengthened that understanding. Zwingli believed what he did at least in part because he did not believe the material creation could house things of spiritual value. In his eyes the bread and wine could be nothing more. Water was just water. This belief approaches in some ways a denial of the Incarnation. It is certainly a denial that God is everywhere present and filling all things and that he can and does particularly infuse the material creation at times for our spiritual benefit and healing.

In addition to and connected with the idea of inherited guilt, the West simultaneously developed the idea that we had lost the ability to freely choose God. Even in the Roman Catholic understanding, Lutheran understanding, or Arminian Reformed understanding, which allow for and even require some activity of our will, our will is only able to choose God because of this odd thing often called prevenient grace. Those who lean more toward Calvin on the Reformed side tend to deny the existence of any will on our part at all. Whatever free will humans may have been created with was obliterated in the Fall. I know that Protestants don’t tend to actually study the ecumenical councils of the first millenium, but such statements are actually a denial of the sixth council. Since that has long been one of the councils that has meant the most to me, I appreciate the way the article brings that out. I will also point out that I’ve always understood grace as it’s described on the Christian text as describing the action of God. To say that we receive grace is to say that we receive God.

Thus, Orthodoxy understands human sin primarily not as deliberate and willful opposition to God, but rather as an inability to know ourselves and God clearly. It is as though God were calling out to us and coming after us in a storm, but we thought we heard his voice in another direction and kept moving away from him, either directly or obliquely. It is illuminating that the Greek word for sin, hamartia, means “to miss the mark”. Despite our orientation toward God, we “miss the mark” because, not only does the clouded spiritual vision of our fallen condition make it difficult for us to see God clearly, but we fail to understand even ourselves truly; thus, we constantly do things which make us feel only incompletely and unsatisfactorily good or happy because we don’t recognize that God is himself the fulfillment of our innate desire and natural movement.

That is not to say that people cannot come to set their will in direct opposition to God. They can and sometimes do. But that is not the primary manifestation of sin. That certainly better captures both my personal experience in my lengthy journey to Christianity and what I perceive with many of the people around me.

So we are guilty only for what we have personally done and it is an integral part of the image we bear that we have the will to choose what we do and what we worship. Our will has been damaged and is too often subject to our passions just as the image we bear is tarnished. But it is that damaged will which Christ assumed in order to redeem it in the same way that he assumed our mortal nature in order to free us from death. It seems to me that if you get these wrong, you badly miss the mark about what it means to be human.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my reflections on this article.


Beyond Justification 1 or How did I come up with a new series already?

Posted: May 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Justification | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Beyond Justification 1 or How did I come up with a new series already?

Earlier this week I was discussing with a friend the difficulty of actual communicating anything meaningful about sex or sexuality in our cultural context without first exploring the question of what it means to be a human being created in the image of God. I think a lot of American cultural Christians, especially those often labeled ‘evangelicals’, seem to assume they already know, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. Having been thoroughly formed and shaped by what has effectively become the predominant American culture, I do know that its answer to that question is very different from what we find in the Christian story. However, the mainstream American Christian perspective has become so dualistic that I’m not sure it places the human being or even the creation within which we live in the proper context in the story anymore. (Father Stephen Freeman has an excellent series on that topic he has consolidated into a single post for those interested in exploring that aspect: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe.)

Scot McKnight has been running a series on N. T. Wright’s book which was itself spurred by a need to respond to Piper’s critique of what is called in academic circles the “New Perspective on Paul”. (I’m not sure I’m convinced that it’s actually new, per se, but it is different than the Protestant Reformation perspective.) I was reading and trying to respond to a  recent post in that Justification and New Perspective series when I realized that much of what I’ve been struggling with in that whole series revolves not so much about the specific term “justification” but rather why it’s so important to some people. It seems that the entire subject is reduced to a question of whether you as an individual are in or out while begging the question of what it actually is that you perceive yourself to be within or without.

After framing my brief and rather confused comment on the post, I thought I would look to see if I could find something anywhere that would give me better language for what I wanted to articulate. During that process, I stumbled across the article Beyond Justification. It wasn’t really what I was looking for, but in many ways it’s probably what I needed to read right now. The following posts in this series will be explore my thoughts and reactions to that article. I’m not sure where this series is going to go, but it should be an interesting journey.


Fasting and Humility

Posted: May 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Only weeks into this gluten free fast, I already begin to understand the reason for the linguistic linkage between humility and humiliation, at least for someone with my longstanding private and often even stoic demeanor. That private aspect to my nature is the primary reason I never started my own blog. Celiac is taking that and stomping it into the ground.

My now familiar litany when I step into a restaurant, especially if I have not had the opportunity to research it online, is: Hi. I have celiac disease. Do you have a gluten free menu? Often, I have to clarify and explain exactly what that means. Frequently I end up speaking to the manager, who consults with the chef or cook to see if they can safely feed me something. The question becomes less about what I like to eat and more about finding something I can eat without damaging my body.

It is unpleasant to have to do that – every time. The great joy for me of the meal at Flemings was that this unpleasantness almost, but not quite, vanished. For a brief time, I felt almost normal. If I’m offered something to eat, I can no longer simply take it and try it. Instead I have to ask what is in it or simply decline the offer. It becomes impossible to simply be one of the group. If food is involved, I am forced to stand apart and always will be to one extent or another.

In a very small way I begin to understand the ‘chip on the shoulder’ that some of those with real disabilities can acquire. There is something soul crushing about always being the one who is different, the one who is limited in some way. My illness cannot even begin to compare to an actual disability. But through it, I can see how the perceived humiliation could easily turn to anger and anger to bitterness. Even though my situation is not a true parallel, I understand now in ways I would not have understood before.

Fasting, at least as described by Jesus, is something to be undertaken with humility. If not, then the recognition and honor you receive or expect to receive from others is all that you will receive. It’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to be forced to expose your weakness and rely on the care and empathy of others – even in small ways. As I proceed forward, I also begin to understand that a little better than I did before.

I don’t know that I am any humbler than I was before, but I have certainly, in some ways, been humbled.


Red Lobster

Posted: May 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

To celebrate our mother’s doctoral graduation, my brother took everyone out to Red Lobster. I told our server that I had celiac disease and asked if they had a gluten free menu. They do not have one. I ended up talking to the manager who consulted with the chef. They told me that anything grill off the fresh catch menu with broccoli should be fine for me. I order the grilled salmon with broccoli.

Everyone was helpful and nice. I have no complaints about the service. And the food was ok. I never had the sort of pain or other strong symptoms that some with celiac have before my diagnosis. I am only now beginning to figure the various reactions and symptoms I have had as a result of celiac as they gradually clear up and go away. So I am by no means certain, but I think something I ate during the meal did contain gluten in some form after all. I’m not sure at all, but it would explain how I felt and my body reacted afterwards.

That’s one of the frustrating things about my particular experience with celiac. I don’t get badly sick like some people do. I don’t have major pain or anything else obvious. It’s not that I want to be sick or feel pain. But since the damage to my body is the same whether I know I’ve eaten gluten or not, it worries me when I’m unsure as I was after the Red Lobster meal. It could have just been my paranoia over eating at a place I had not had the chance to research that was not very celiac friendly combined with the physical effects of all the driving I had done combined with a short night of sleep.

Or maybe there was some amount of gluten in the food.

I probably won’t go to Red Lobster again. Or if I need to for a social event, I think I’ll just get coffee. 😉


Breaking the Fast – the Ancestral Sin

Posted: May 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Breaking the Fast – the Ancestral Sin

For several days, I’ve been reflecting on the story of the ancestral sin. I had never really considered this aspect before, but the whole story revolves around a fast. God gives the adam, humanity, a single and apparently simple fast. Anything in the garden you may eat, but of the fruit of this one tree, do not eat.

Do not eat.

It’s strange, in a way. We try, rightly I think, to understand what the symbol of this command might mean. We struggle with the impact of what it means when we choose that which is not God, turn to face non-existence, and reflect chaos into creation instead of the God whose image we bear. And we should so struggle. It is not some ancient event for which some distant ancestor is to blame.  We participate daily not only in our destruction, but in the fall of mankind and the ruin of creation. For we each set our will against God, against life itself, and embrace the non-existence of death instead.

And yet, in our reflection we miss the most basic aspect of the story: its crunchy, gritty, embodied reality. Don’t eat that fruit, God says. Come on … eat, the serpent whispers. And they eat. They pick the fruit. They hold it, feeling its texture in their hands. They smell it. They lift it to their mouths, bite into it, chew, and swallow. It’s not some disembodied spiritual or intellectual act in the story. They eat. They consume something and make it a part of who they are, a part of their body, a part of their being.

They break the fast that God has given them. They were surrounded by food created by God and given them to sustain their existence, to give them life. But when they swallowed the one fruit from which they were to fast, they swallowed death instead. Our materiality is part of nature, our being, our soul. What and how we eat matters.

We see this theme of food writ large across the story of what we Christians often call the Old Testament. We see famine – the absence of food – threatening God’s people and we see God providing them food in strange and marvelous ways. We see it again and again. And in the central event, in the penultimate liberation that defines the people of God for generations upon generations, we see death itself passing over those who have the blood of the lamb which they have consumed on their doors. Then those same people are fed by God through the manna, the bread that appears from the heavens, the bread that sustains their life in the desert.

And we see the people of God turn again and again to those which cannot sustain life. It might be a golden calf, or an asherah pole, or bloody baal. But they turn from the one who has given them food by which to live to that which offers only the coldness of death. The people of God continue to recapitulate the story of the fall. Do we not still do this as well?

And so God does the unthinkable. He comes to us as one of us. The sustainer God of all creation is contained in the womb of Mary, growing and being nourished from Mary as all human beings grow and are nourished in their mother’s womb. When the baby is born, entering the world of humanity through pain and struggle and blood, this is God joining our nature to his. When Jesus suckles at the breast of Mary, drawing life, it is intimately human life.

In this context, is not the first recorded temptation of Jesus fascinating? The Spirit of God has driven him into the desert to fast and pray and sustained by the Spirit Jesus has fasted beyond the natural capacity of human beings. How does the tempter then first tempt him? Make some bread. Eat. We can almost hear the serpent hissing in the background. Break your fast. Eat. Give yourself food in the desert. Fill your mouth with manna drawn from barren rock. Trust your passion rather than God.

But Jesus is faithful. He maintains the fast that God has given him. He does not eat. He remains true where we do not. In order to change our nature, Jesus had to not only be fully human, he had to keep the fast we had never kept. This fast provides the foundation for the fast that God desires in Isaiah. The two are linked. We are not dualists.

Jesus makes himself into the food which gives life. He is the true bread that comes down from heaven. He is the water that quenches all thirst, the cool refreshing life-giving draught. We chew and swallow his body because he is the tree of life, the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. We swallow his blood to quench the desperate thirst that only God can quench.

We who have eaten death must now eat life instead.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen

Posted: May 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

This post collects the permanent links to all the posts in the series, Not the Fast I’ve Chosen. I wanted to provide this to make it easy to reference the entire series.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Epilogue

Posted: May 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

This series has barely managed to scratch the surface of many different and often deep topics. I never intended it to deeply cover everything in depth, but rather to lay the groundwork for my focus on this particular subject on this blog. I’m sure I will visit and revisit many of the topics touched on in this series in other posts and in other series. If you’ve read this series, you now know something of what I intend here, what my life has been, and how I speak and think.

I don’t know what this journey will be like. I don’t know what to expect. It’s very strange to have a whole category of food turn from something nourishing into poison. It’s even stranger when that category includes all that we normally think of in that most basic of staples, bread. Jesus, of course, transcends all. I’m not overly concerned that I am in any way cut off from his life-giving substance, especially after a reassurance from an Orthodox priest I know online and whom I trust. But bread is so central that Jesus described his body as the bread that comes down from heaven. He said that we the bread and the life. He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

There are many worse diseases I could have and may one day have. I know that. And I’m grateful that I don’t need chemo, radiation, surgery, or any of a host of similar treatments. If I change the way I eat, I will recover. And yet it is disturbing at a very deep level when bread, the stuff of life, turns deadly for you. At least it is for me.

Thank you for reading. This particular series is concluded, but the discussion will continue.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 9

Posted: May 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I closed my train of thought in my last post with the idea that, though God has not given me celiac disease for any reason whatsoever, he has been quietly at work preparing me and giving me the tools, should I care to employ them, to stand and perhaps even grow in the face of this disease. For the reality is this: though the diagnosis is still so new to me that I have a difficult time truly wrapping my head around it, celiac disease has been working havoc in my body for years now. My gastroenterologist can’t even say how long it’s been active, but from the visible evidence and the other physical effects, it has clearly been a long time. That means that for at least some significant portion of the journey of discovery about Christian fasting that I have described in this series, I was actually suffering from this autoimmune disease.

I may not have known I had celiac disease, but God certainly did.

Now, I suppose I could be angry at God for knowing I was sick and doing nothing to heal me or somehow making me aware of it sooner. But that seems rather pointless to me. Further, I know that God’s purpose is to bring me into his life, to have me and all humanity participate in union with God and with each other, to conform us to the image of his Son, who lived the life of the faithful man God intended each of us to live.

My core cultural formation was such that the center of my being was shaped in more hedonistic and narcissistic ways than not. Would God physically healing me, especially if I didn’t even know I was sick, move me closer toward the center of the life of God? Or is my true and holistic healing to be found in the proper ascetical practice that allows me to heal from the effects of this disease? Might not that path carry healing not only of body, but also of spirit and will? I see the possibility. I see it through the lens of all I have read and heard and encountered of Christian fasting. No, I’m not angry at God at all. I know him. I know how much he loves all of us. And I’m beginning, just beginning, to understand something of the way of life. I understand enough to know that I desire more than simply a body which functions properly. I want to become truly human.

So no, this is not the fast I’ve chosen. It’s not a fast I want. But this is the fast I’ve been given. Will I have it be a fast for the physical and spiritual healing of my whole soul? Or will I have it be a fast of misery and destruction? Will I take advantage of the tools that God has graciously prepared me to use, even if I am still a neophyte and clumsy in their use? Will I choose instead to fast the fast of demons, a narcissistic fast, a fast that is all about me? Or will I ignore the fast altogether and destroy my body? Those are truly the only real choices I face at this  juncture. As the Didache says, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.” Narrow is the way of life. Broad is the way of death and destruction.

I choose life, in the fullness of the sense of the word.

This is my fast.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 8

Posted: May 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 8

If God is not any of those images of God from my last post in this series, then what sort of God is he? Why does it matter that he is not a God who sends illness and disease? The answer to both of those questions is the same: Jesus of Nazareth.

It seems to me that many in the modern era, whether they profess belief in the Christian God or not, profoundly misunderstand the so-called “miracles” of Jesus. I hear the miracles believed (and disbelieved) as these interventions into the natural order that Jesus did in order to prove that he was divine. The secular division between things that are natural or normal or mundane and things that are of God and holy is accepted almost universally except by those who believe the second category entirely unnecessary. The first category seems everywhere assumed.

The Incarnation itself gives the lie to these ideas. It is less an external intervention into creation than the ultimate coming alongside or joining of the creator and his created. God reveals himself within his creation not as its powerful sustainer on whom it is all contingent from moment to moment (though God is certainly that), but as one with his eikon, man. He joins his nature with ours. He shares in all we are. He participates with us in the most intimate manner possible.

The miracles are never about Jesus proving anything. God had nothing to prove. He was giving up his natural honor and becoming the servant of all. The things we call miracles, excepting the special and unique nature of the Resurrection, always are presented as what happens when God joins his nature to ours, when creation begins to be healed.

Jesus commands the elements. Man was created to rule creation and reflect God into it. We were meant to be the steward of all and lovingly order and care for creation. Of course, the storm bows before the true and faithful man.

Jesus feeds the people. This is what God has always done. From the garden to the desert, God provided food for his eikon. Now, in Jesus, he has come that we might consume God himself and receive life. Of course Jesus fed the people. Where else would we find life?

The demons and invisible powers bow before him and flee his presence. They have long ruled mankind through deceit and the power of death. But their tools are useless against the undeceived man, against the God-man who has come to break the power of death over us all. They have no power over Jesus and they see him as he truly is. I would suggest they see him as he was glimpsed by his followers during the transfiguration. Of course they flee the uncreated light of his glory. His simple presence must have burned them with the knowledge of what they had made themselves to be.

And Jesus healed. What are disease and sickness but the fruit of death at work in our bodies? Our bodies sicken and die because we, collectively as mankind, choose non-existence over life. We make that choice every time we turn from God and in some timeless manner we make creation what it is. There is no singular fall of mankind, some distant past event in which I share no responsibility or culpability. I don’t get to blame some faceless, distant ancestor. Every time I face the void and choose that which is not God, I share in the fall of man, I participate in the ruin of creation. In the Incarnation, God wed his nature to ours in order to enter death and break its power over us. This is the mystery of the Resurrection. Death swallowed a man on the Cross and found it had swallowed God instead. How can disease and illness and death, simultaneously the physical symptom and cause of sin (they are so inextricably intertwined) not flee from the very fount of life itself? Jesus heals sin and heals disease, often together and at the same time. This is part and parcel of the renewal of creation and a foretaste of the ultimate defeat of death.

Now, that is not to say that we get sick because we sin. It’s bigger than that, less individually focused. It is true that we can certainly damage our bodies through our thoughts and actions. But most illness and disease are simply part and parcel of a disordered creation. Did Jesus get sick in the Incarnation when he fully assumed the human nature? It seems likely to me that he did. We know he so fully assumed our nature that he was able to die. And could he have experienced all that we experience, could he have been tempted in every way we are tempted if he was never tempted to blame God for an illness? It’s one of the oldest temptations. I recall what Job’s wife said to Job when he was sitting in dung covered with boils. “Curse God and die!” Would a Jesus never so tempted ever even understand, much less have been faithful through, so basic a human temptation?

No, God did not give me celiac disease. That would be an almost blasphemous claim. But perhaps he did work to prepare me for this disease. Let’s explore that idea next in this series.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 7

Posted: May 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 7

But it is the fast that I’ve been given.

As I’ve written the posts traveling the thread of my own experience and personal journey, it’s dawned on me that some, perhaps even many, might read that statement from my earlier posts as some form of fatalism or even is if I’m blaming God for this disease. Neither is even close to the truth, as I’m sure anyone who knows me well would recognize, but I should spend some time to explain why that’s so.

It’s extremely common in our culture for people to have an image of God as a figure who stands apart from us, guiding and intervening in our lives. There are a variety of different images of this sort of God. I want to take a moment to explore a few of the more common ones.

Sadly, some people have internalized an image of an angry God smiting those who cross him and punishing those who screw up in some way. It might be all people with whom this God is angry or only certain ones. It seems to vary. This is also one of the more common images of the God whom those who have abandoned God have rejected.  Personally, I don’t blame them. If I believed that God was anything like this particular God, I wouldn’t worship him either. This God is a God unworthy of worship and certainly unworthy of love. Worthy of fear, maybe, in the same way you would fear a rabid wolf, but not worthy of love at all. So no, I don’t believe that God is ticked at me for not adopting and practicing the “right” rule of fasting and prayer and celiac is his way of punishing me for my failure.

Others hold a milder version of this same God. It’s not a God who is necessarily angry with us, though perhaps he does get disappointed. This is a God who is, perhaps, more like the stern parent who will sometimes reward you and sometimes punish you in order to train you properly. I don’t believe in this God either. Yes, God teaches us. The Dark Night of the Soul shows us one way that he sometimes teaches us and moves us on to deeper and more solid practice of our faith and lives. He never actually leaves, of course, but for a time he lets the strong sense of his presence fade so we trust him and not that emotional experience. He also teaches us through the consequences of our actions, through illumination and revelation of Holy Scriptures, through other people, through the saints, and in a host of ways. He is the one truly good Father. But as such, he does not “teach” us by doing evil to us. Never. So no, I do not believe God gave me celiac disease so I would be able to move past the point where I have been waiting these past couple of years.

Still others imagine God controlling the minutiae of all that is. Of course, God does sustain and create all that is, but that is a different concept than the concept of control. Still, there are a small minority of ‘Christians’ who perceive a universe without any freedom whatsoever. God manages everything down to the smallest of subatomic actions and absolutely nothing ever happens at any level that is not precisely and exactly as God intended it to happen. There are varying degrees of this perspective and I will point out that I’ve never seen anyone who actually lives moment to moment as if they truly believed this were so. This God is perhaps the worst God of all of these. This is the God of scientific determinism. This is a personal, active God who originates all evil as well as all good. In such a scheme, there isn’t really any such thing as evil or good in any sense we would recognize. Every permutation and manifestation of this God that people paint makes me absolutely shudder. No, I do not believe that God foreordained I would have and manifest celiac disease and is putting me through my paces for his own narcissistic self-glorification and honor.

Indeed this is the fast that I’ve been given, but God didn’t give it to me. More on this in the next post.