My Journey

Posted May 3, 2015 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Faith

Tags: , , , ,

Walking


It’s time for a little update, not much, but I am no longer new to blogging. I have been at it a few years. Not that I have gained any particular stature. I simply can’t claim to be new at it. I still write as part of my profession, but blogging is more interesting. Blogging is my way of sharpening ideas and fleshing them out. I know I don’t always “get it right”, but it’s the journey that counts.

I have been on a journey for truth since I emerged from the haze and confusion of adolescence, much of it self-induced. Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that a world of truth lay in front of me to encounter, and so I set off. I didn’t realize, then, how much faith is required to seek truth. Read the rest of this post »

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Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Ehrman – Part 2 – Wooden Fundamentalism

Posted May 25, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Jesus, Miracles

Tags: , , , , ,


This is a continuation of observations in regard to a podcast interview of self-described agnostic, New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, by the atheist, Sam Harris.  In the first installment, I focused on Ehrman’s personal story about “losing his faith” as he transitioned from high school to Moody Bible Institute to Wheaton College to Princeton Theological Seminary. Along the way, he went from fundamentalist to agnostic. In many ways, though, he never left his fundamentalist view of the Bible.

Ehrman says that he began to shed his fundamentalist views as he learned the original languages and began to read scripture in those original languages. He describes how his rigid, nonintellectual reading of the scriptures began to crumble as he discovered issues with the text that didn’t allow such a strict interpretation of a text considered to be inerrant.

As the interview progresses, Erhman relates that he used to believe in a literal rapture, alluding to the Book of Revelations read in light of 1st Thessalonians (being caught up in the air).[1]  Erhman comments that, “I not only believed in the Rapture, I knew it was going to happen in the late 80’s” (followed by a hearty guffaw).  He goes on to describe that his loss of faith was a long process, but the “rapture was one of the first things to go”.

This was Ehrman’s fundamentalism, but “the Rapture” is hardly a point of “doctrine” on which even fundamentalists (whoever they may actually be) agree, let alone the rest of believing world. The verses in the Bible from which the idea of a Rapture has been formulated are few, and they are wrought with difficulty in the interpretation, like the visions in Revelations and other apocalyptic writings. There are many interpretations[2], and the whole idea is quite ancillary to the central tenets of the faith.

A person certainly doesn’t have to believe in the Rapture or in any particular formulation of the rapture to believe in God or to have faith in Jesus Christ, but we often get the peripheral things inextricably intertwined with the essential things in our minds, and it’s hard to untangle them. When peripheral things begin to unravel in that case, they are likely to begin to unwind the essential things if we have bundled them too tightly.

This is a hallmark of a rigid and wooden fundamentalism. It’s an all or nothing way of looking at scripture, that cements secondary things into the primary framework of our belief system. We have to hold on tight to the whole thing to keep the faith. When we allow any part of it to come unraveled, it’s likely to unravel the whole thing. The issue isn’t with Scripture, however; the ishpoliersue is with the approach.

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Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Ehrman – Part 1 – On Being Born Again

Posted May 25, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Faith, Spirituality


I recently listened to a podcast interview of Bart Ehrman by Sam Harris on What is Christianity? Bart Ehrman is a New Testament scholar and professor at North Carolina who, famously, journeyed from self-described fundamentalist Christian to self-described agnostic as he graduated from Moody Bible Institute, to Wheaton College, to Princeton.  Sam Harris is one of the so-called “new atheists” who have been evangelistic in their atheism. Following are some comments and thoughts that I have about the interview.

The first thing that strikes me is Sam Harris’s statement about approaching a subject with which he is familiar as if he were not familiar with it and getting re-acquainted with the subject. This, of course, is a good, scholarly and open minded way of approaching any subject. What strikes me, though, is that this exercise for Sam Harris isn’t really what he makes it out to be. Sam Harris is an atheist, and Bart Ehrman is a former believer, self-described agnostic. In that sense, he is not approaching Christianity from an unfamiliar position. He has brought into his studio someone who thinks the same way he does. It would be far more interesting for Sam Harris to adopt the same approach with a scholarly believer.

That aside, as I listened to Bart Ehrman tell his story, a couple of things immediately jump out at me. One is that he describes his “born again” experience as a kind of social induction into a group (like pledging for a fraternity or something) orchestrated by a charismatic youth leader. Then he comments that he was “supposed to have been changed”, but he “wasn’t sure from what”.

These statements are telling. First, Ehrman doesn’t describe an experience with God, but an experience with a group of people to which he was drawn, presumably, by the “charismatic” youth leader. He wanted to be part of the group. Anyone who has had a born again experience knows that this is not an apt description for the experience.

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Under the Sun

Posted May 24, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith, Christian, Philosophy, Bible, Hope, eternal life

Tags: , , , , , ,


“What advantage does a man have for all the work he has done under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). The Book of Ecclesiastes is sobering, though it is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I was drawn to it in college because of the candid assessment of life that it reveals. That candid assessment was refreshing to me as a young adult as I surveyed life and my place in the world.

We work most of our lives to earn a living, to keep up appearances, to obtain things, to advance our station in the world, to keep our yards neat and clean. We go about our labors often without much thought for why we do it. I don’t mean that we don’t have goals. Of course we do, but our goals are temporal.

I am reminded of the carrot attached to a stick mounted on the harness of a horse. We chase after those carrots. When we catch one, there is always another carrot to chase. Often we don’t achieve our goals, and we are left unsatisfied as a result. The truth is, though, even when we do achieve our goals, we are rarely satisfied by having attained them.

The author of Ecclesiastes takes a step back from the busyness of life, as I was doing in college. The author contemplates the arc of life, the beginning to the end, and asks what it all means. We rarely do that. But, if you stop to think about it, what is the point? We labor and toil on this Earth through our 60, 70, 80 or more years, but for what? What do we get in the end?

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Can Hell be Reconciled with a Loving God? Part 2

Posted May 17, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Doctrine, eternal life, hell, Sin

Tags: , , , ,


In the first piece in this series about hell, inspired by a talk given by Tim Keller in 2010, we explore the idea that hell isn’t a place that God sends us; it is the result of our own choosing. When we choose anything other than God as our highest and best good, our most treasured thing, the thing we identify most with, that choice becomes our ultimate aim.

If we choose anything other than God as our ultimate aim, our most treasured thing, we lose ourselves to it. What we value most consumes us and we lose our identity to it.

Keller uses the parable of Lazarus and the rich man as the backdrop. The rich man, not even realizing he is in hell, demands Abraham to send Lazarus to him to wet his lips to relieve him from his discomfort. The rich man is delusional. He still thinks he has the wealth and station he enjoyed during life, but he has completely lost his identity. Abraham and Lazarus have names in the parable, but the rich man is without any name.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book, Sickness Unto Death, in which he defines sin as finding our identity in anything other than God. The word for sin, in the Hebrew, means, literally, missing the mark. To find our identity in anything other than Godis missing the mark.

The first point Keller makes about the idea of hell is this: when we choose anything other than God as our highest and best good, the thing we most identify with, we lose our identity to it, and it becomes our hell. If the thing we cherish most isn’t our identify in God, we lose our intended identify (given by God who created us) to the things we have chosen over God. And this becomes our hell.

Keller says that the idea of hell is crucial in helping us to understand the problem with our own hearts. We have a tendency to want things other than the purpose for which God made us. God made us for Himself, to reflect unique facets of His nature, and to have relationship, forever, with God. If we choose as our greatest treasure something other than this purpose for which God made us, we lose our identity to those things.

In this blog piece, we will explore this idea further.

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Can Hell be Reconciled with a Loving God? Part 1

Posted May 17, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, hell, Sin

Tags: , , , ,

Depositphotos Image ID: 45826369 Copyright: kamchatka

Tim Keller gave a series of talks on the biggest objections to Christianity about eight years ago. In one talk, he addresses how can we reconcile a God who is loving with a God with the idea of hell. I’m going to summarize what Keller says partly in his words and partly in my own words. I will also go off script down some side roads. I will cover the subject in several blog posts.

Before we start, I want to observe that truth and reality are not always how we would like them to be. The nature of truth is that “it is what it is”. We don’t advance in our knowledge and understanding by denying it. If we are going to take the Bible seriously, and particularly the things that Jesus said, we have to contend with the idea of hell. Jesus mentions hell more than any other person in the scripture.

Tim Keller claims that hell is crucial for understanding our own hearts, for living at peace in the world, and for knowing the love of God. The text he uses to set up the subject is Luke 16:19-31. This text is known as the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. I encourage you to read it before continuing on. I am only addressing the first point in this blog post – that hell is crucial for understanding our own hearts (because it is something we choose).

The idea of hell, of course, is a basic Christian principal. Jesus did not shy away from the subject, and neither should we. Hell is a principal that doesn’t sit well with the sentiments of modern people, but that is no reason to dismiss it anymore than we should dismiss the idea of disease just because we don’t like it. We dismiss it only to our detriment.

One interesting quirk about this parable is that two of the characters are named (Abraham and Lazarus), and one character is not named (the rich man). Keller says this parable is the only one in which Jesus named any of the characters. (I didn’t double check him on that.)

In Hebrew culture, even more than in our day, names were intimately connected to the identify of a person. In this parable, Lazarus is identified by name, but the rich man remains anonymous. He has lost his identity. Why is that? And how does that relate to understanding our own hearts?

The fact that Jesus named characters, but he didn’t name all the characters, is a window into understanding the parable and understanding our own hearts.

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Jesus in Our Midst

Posted May 13, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Faith, Jesus

Tags: , , ,

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Reading from Luke 24:13-21.

That very day two [men] were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

This encounter took place after Jesus was publically seized, tried and crucified. These men were discussing the events that everyone was talking about. Jesus had stirred up the hopes and dreams of the people in the region, including these two men, but that all ended shockingly and abruptly just a couple of days ago.

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Becoming Mindful of God

Posted April 29, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith, Lifestyle, Phsychology, prayer, Self-Help

Tags: ,

Depositphotos Image ID: 48782201 Copyright: danr13

The March 2018 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal includes an article by Ed Finkel, an Evanston based freelance writer. The subject is mindfulness for attorneys, inspired by presentations given by Naperville business and estate planning attorney, Mark Metzger. This all may seem too professional and industry-based for this blog, but it got me thinking.

First of all, the legal profession is where I spend a large chunk of my time every week, week after week, month after month, year after year. Finkle correctly notes that the practice of law is a highly stressful occupation. Other occupations also have their share of stress, of course.

 We experience stress often in our everyday living as well. The stress of strained personal relationships, financial difficulty and burdens, raising children, and many other kinds of stress weigh upon us. We all feel stress from time to time.

So what does mindfulness for lawyers have anything to do with a blog on navigating by faith? Quite a bit, it turns out.

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