Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hummingbirds, and Dallas Willard On the Bible

Two weeks ago I and others got to spend 4 days with philosopher J.P. Moreland. He spoke out of his books Kingdom Triangle and The Lost Virtue of Happiness. Kingdom Triangle expresses three things that have been on my heart for many years. A balanced, full life in Christ will: "recover the Christian mind, renovate the soul, and restore the Spirit's power." J.P. is a brilliant and excellent communicator, an example of someone who is able to take deep truths and make them understandable to the average person.

J.P.'s presentation on Romans 12:1-2 is the best I have ever heard on this text. It contained echoes of his mentor, Dallas Willard, especially Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines, "Spiritual Life: The Body's Fulfillment" (ch. 6) and "St Paul's Psychology of Redemption - The Example" (ch. 7).

I am still thinking deeply about all of this stuff. It has, I believe, impacted me in a way that has not happened for a while.

This morning I am sitting on our back porch. We have 3 1/2 acres of trees and lawn on a river. There's a large, old pine tree adjacent to our back deck. I've got 4 bird feeders, a corn squirrel feeder, and a hummingbird feeder hanging from this tree. The hummingbird that has claimed my feeder comes every few minutes to feed. Chickadees arrive with their young babies begging for food. The same goes for a downy woodpecker family. I regularly see nuthatches, cardinals, redpolls, sparrows, grackles, starlings, robins, a baltimore oriole, even an occasional hawk.

I read my devotional literature, soaking in God's creation and his presence, with me. I read a quote from Dallas Willard on the Bible from A Faith and Culture Devotional. Willard writes:

"On its human side, I assume that [the Bible] was produced and preserved by competent human beings who were at least as intelligent and devout as we are today. I assume that they were quite capable of accurately interpreting their own experience and of objectively presenting what they heard and experienced in the language of their historical community, which we today can understand with due diligence.

On the divine side, I assume that God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide. Those who actually believe in God will be untroubled by this. I assume that he did not and would not leave his message to humankind in a form that can only be understood by a handful of late-twentieth-century professional scholars, who cannot even agree among themselves on the theories that they assume to determine what the message is.

The Bible is, after all, God's gift to the world through his church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourished that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading - that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or a mindless orthodoxy - is what it requires to direct us into life in God's kingdom." (pp. 78-79)

I finish typing this. There's the hummingbird again. He hovers, maneuvers, flies backwards, sips the sugar water mixture, moves three feet from my face and stares at me, then bullets away.