Monday, September 10, 2007

More Eugene Peterson quotes

from 'Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places', (see 3rd September entry for others) section 2 'Christ plays in History'.

“It never seemed to have occurred to our biblical ancestors that they could deal better with God by escaping from history, ‘getting away from it all’, as we say. History is the medium in which God works salvation, just as paint and canvas is the medium in which Rembrandt made works of art. We cannot get closer to God by distancing ourselves from the mess of history.”

“God draws straight lines with a crooked stick.”

“The moment the moral life defines our way of life we turn our backs on most of what is revealed in our Scriptures.” we end up with 'moralism': “a way of life in which I have no need of a saving God. It works off a base of human ability, and arranges life in such a way that my good behaviour will guarantee protection from punishment or disaster. Moralism works from strength, not weakness. It uses God in order not to need God any longer.” Moralism also works with a distorted view of salvation: “what fixes the world is simply getting everyone forced or conditioned into good behaviour...we don’t need salvation any more, we need education and training.”
I hear resonances of New Labour in this, there are all sorts of religious and secular 'moralisms'. As Christians we are also living with the legacy of this sort of teaching in the thousands, possibly millions, who see Christian faith as about being 'good', see 'going to church' as a task to be done which doesn't make any real difference, and for whom baptism is the induction of their children into some vague moral code which they mistakenly think is the totality of the Christian message.

“The story in which God does his saving work arises among a people whose primary experience of God is his absence.” Peterson gives lengthy exposition of the Exodus story, the story of a people enslaved for centuries, for whom the absence of God is normal. The 10 plagues are necessary, not as a judgement for sin, but as a cleansing of 400+ years of mental geography which sees Egyptian ways as the way to be succesful, and an 8-month demonstration for every inhabitant of Egypt or the sovereignty of Yahweh rather than Ra.
The absence of God is part of the normal Christian life. It reminds us that God is not a puppy, at our beck and call, but a sovereign God who does not consult us on the timing of his activities.

there's lots more, but you really should read the book.

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