Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Academic

Someone just told me (in an email) that the type of writing I do sounds rather academic. I responded that some of it is, but that the most academic writing I've done (Covenant And Community) has changed me in countless ways. She asked me to explain. Here is my response.

To begin with, you need to understand that I’m religious, Christian. That’s why I do theology.

For years I had seen my religion as being primarily between myself and God. I tried to have a relationship with God, study his word, obey him, etc. Of course, that has plenty to do with other people, because God has lots to say about how we treat each other. But still my personal religion was my account with God.

Thus, I could be a perfectly good Christian with or without other people. And I generally found it preferable to spend most of my time alone. It was just me and my Bible and Jesus. (I exaggerate somewhat, but that was the general direction of my life.)

Then I began studying the idea of the image of God. In the first chapter of the Bible God proposes to make humanity to be his image. That, I think, is our primary purpose in creation. The more I studied, the more clear it was that this image is not each of us separately being God’s image. Instead, we all together are to be his image. That makes personal/private religion almost like no religion at all.
As I worked through some of the implications, I found that I needed to really be willing to become part of a community of Christians, all working together, all working for each other, all building each other up.

This all has changed how I think of myself (no longer so much as an individual, more as a member of a group of like-minded folk), how I think of the church (no longer as a place only to learn, now as a place to work for the benefit of others), how I think of evangelism (no longer as trying to prove my point and convince someone of some vital truth, now as drawing people into the community and letting God work as he chooses). No longer is my religion primarily academic, now it is almost entirely interpersonal.

Thus, my whole life is changed. Where once I was content to do my work, try not to sin, repent when I did, etc, now whatever I am doing I know that God is working through me to build his image through me and those around me. At every moment the people around me (Christians or not, no matter) matter much more now than ever before. And I don’t have to convince them of anything! And everyone is just as vital. No longer are pastors and teachers the great people and the rest of us just followers. Each person has their own gifts to bring, each person is absolutely needed.

Depending on your background, this may sound like “Well, duh!” or it may make no sense. I hope it is at least somewhat coherent.


Devika said...

It makes all sense Doug to me, though I am more spiritual than religious...Born in a radical Hindu family (to an athiest father, and orthodox/highly religious mother) and educated in a Convents, it was difficult to hold on to any religion...and my interest was almost academic with all religions...I have a saint, of unknown religious identity, as my beloved Guru, and Jesus is always close to my Heart...it all depends on how we connect with God, the superior authority, and others, which He made like us,

i was recently gathering links from my blogs and added to reader...(i lost track in between again...because everytime my computer goes for a revamp i lose links)...and i saw you weren't posting since long,

Hope all is well, and look forward to reading also your poetry and poets, you introduce...hope you find time for that :)


Doug P. Baker said...


Very long time since I got to talk to you. Too long!

Have you read any Anna Akhmatova lately? Your post on her was really a great piece of work! She's long been one of my heroes, but you know her far better than I do.

You have told me a little more about your background than I knew before. A very diverse set of influences! I knew you to be very spiritual, but now I know a little more detail. Thank you!

I would not ususally use the word "religious," because it really doesn't fit me in the sense that most people give that word. But I have no idea of the background of the woman who asked the question, so it seemed the simplest/shortest way to tell her that thoughts of God dominate my life.

As it turns out, I today see that she has broken the link, and I don't know how to contact her, so evidently she didn't care for my response. Ah well, I only wish she had taken time to let me know what bothered or offended her. But I guess I don't need to know.

You are right, Devika, that I need to get back to posting. Wan Dee, whom you can see on the left of the main page here, recently sent me a very cool poem. But unlike most people, she sent both the original, and the final version. It is dangerous to send out first drafts. That takes guts! I never have; even what I send to my father for comment is always a third or fourth draft. So I tried to reciprocate and wrote a short poem and sent her the first draft of it. It needs work, this and that still bug me, but because I am delighted to regain contact with you I'll post that first draft on here. I may regain my senses in a couple of days and remove it, but for now it will be here.

Blessings, Devika!

Devika said...

So nice to have this note Doug, and get to talk again :)

Anna Akhmatova is an influence -- i have read only the main works..One I read recently was
"I am not among those who left our land" in the background of the Russian civil war,

And on your postings Doug, i wish you were regular and the new poem, i think it's good -- ofcourse only the poet knows :)