This looks like it shall be an intersting blog: Ad Fontes.
Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.
- Name: Jonathan
- Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
This looks like it shall be an intersting blog: Ad Fontes.
Actually, I'm back in school now; spring break was last week, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it...
I stayed home for the first half of the week, but on Thursday one of my friends, Barry Bigham, and I drove up to the Great Smoky Mountains to do some backpacking. We spent Thursday night with some friends who were staying at a Pigeon Forge condo. Not too bad: we got to sleep in real beds, take a shower, and partake of the hot-tub and indoor swimming pool. We don't have such luxuries on most of our backpacking trips, so it was quite enjoyable before heading off into the woods. On Friday morning we awoke early and headed off to the trailhead for the Alum Cave Bluff Trail, which leads to the top of Mount LeConte (website with pictures here). LeConte is a magnificent mountain, my favorite in the Appalachians. It is situated within an area of Anakeesta slate, a dark gray stone that tends to erode into sharp points and jagged bluffs. The ridges and side peaks of LeConte and the immediately surronding mountains are thus much sharper and pronounced than much of the rest of the range in the park.
Of course, trails in the mountains tend to be steep at times, and our trail bore us up to the mountain's 6500 foot summit. Now, in Mississippi a hill is never so high that its crest cannot be reached after ten or twelve minutes. You get to the top and it ends. We had not been backpacking in the mountains for several months- since the previous summer- so we endured a period of adjustment, in which our lungs and legs reproved us sharply. I had been up LeConte only a few months before, but as a day hiker, not with a heavy pack. However, we pretty quickly got used to it, and trudged our way up. The weather was beautiful, as fine as one could ask for. It was a bit warm on sunny west and south facing slopes, but on the sheltered slopes and under cliff faces there was still some ice and snow lingering. Here and there on the upper crags we had to make use of the cables on the side, propelling ourselves along the ice. On the summit there were some nasty patches of frozen snow under the fir trees, but otherwise most of the trail was quite snow free, and the temperature was mild.
We made it to the top between twelve and one, and trundled into the shelter. After resting for a bit and hoisting our packs on the provided cable system (to keep it safe from bears) we walked up over the crest and to a magnificent overlook on the east end of the mountain, where we stayed for some time. Incredible views, almost 360 degrees. We then hiked to the western end, where Barry clambered on the rocks, much to my consternation (only a couple hundred feet to drop- instant death and all- nothing to be worried about). A little later we came back to camp and gathered fire wood, and met some local folks who would be sharing the shelter with us. We loitered about camp until sunset, at which time we all headed the quarter mile or so back to the western end to watch the sun go down. Beautiful, beautiful show!
Later in the evening Barry and I cooked our dinner (noodles and crackers), and not long after went to bed. The shelter wasn't to terrible of a place to sleep; the bunks were hard of course, but once I got to sleep they slept well enough (had a nasty ache in my back for a minute after waking though). In the morning Barry and I woke, not quite in time for the sunrise, but early enough to still get an incredible view of the sun coming up above the mountains. It had grown cloudy during the night, and the wind was ferocious, but the elements combined for just the right conditions, and gave a spectacular view. We had to drag ourselves back.
Almost immediately after we decided to head back down, as the sky was threatening bad weather. It actually began to rain on us a little ways down the mountain, persuading us to stop and put on our rain gear. Of course, it almost immediately stopped raining, and after a few hours the sky was almost clear and the sun shining... Back at the trailhead, we drove into Gatlinburg and, after navigating the insane traffic, ate at a pancake house. Having refilled our stomachs, we drove over to the Tremont section of the park and hiked to an excellent four-step waterfall, and admired a few early spring bloomers along the trail.
We spent a few hours there, then opted to head back home. We had originally intended to spend the night and come back on Sunday, but instead decided to come back that afternoon. A good decision, as it stormed that night, and we were planning on sleeping in tents: not the most comfortable or enjoyable venture. The trip back was uneventful, and we arrived safely home at ten thirty.
While hiking down, we met a fellow who was writing an article for the above website. He took our picture and told us he planned to incorporate it on the website. I'll be sure to post a link once it is available.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
From the Breastplate of St. Patrick
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
II Corinthians 5:14-15
Christ's death has thundered through the very fabric of the cosmos, and utterly changes mankind. In it the old is violently torn down, all the old dies: the body of sin is crucified, corruption is dragged down, and the foundations of death tremble. His death and His great un-making and re-making of mankind- and by extension, the entire cosmos- is worked out and applied to us through union with Him in His Person. This union brings us into His life- and death- as a man for our sakes. His death becomes our death, and in it we are killed and buried, the old passing away. We are raised up in Him through His Resurrection, to newness and fullness of life in Him. We are ascended into heaven, and partake of the very Life of God in Him. The actions, if you will, of Christ in His Incarnation form and bring about our life. Everything He does in the flesh is for our sake.
In the passage above, St. Paul brings out a particular aspect of Christ's death for us. In it we die. It is a cessation of our former life, our life 'in the world', our life in sin and corruption, and, especially, away from God. In this old life we live for ourselves. We are like the men Chesterton describes in Orthodoxy, living in a very tiny cosmos composed entirely of self. We stare in upon our inner walls, ignoring- hating- the world outside. We live for ourselves, and it is not life at all. Ours is an orbit turned inwards, ever spiraling down, down, in blackness and despair, and ending in death. Nature declares as much: our bodily existence depends upon things other than ourselves. If we refuse food we will naturally die. So it is with God. So long as we attempt to live for ourselves we are bound for death, rejecting God, rejecting all hope of life. And it is into this self-inscribed existence that we are born, for we are bound within this corruption. This is where the death of Christ delivers us: in His death, as we participate in it, we find this old order destroyed. We are dead; what is more, we are alive again, because of Christ. We are utterly dependent upon God again, and find our life in Him. Now we are free to live, not unto ourselves in the dark, cold inner cosmos, but in the light and glory of God. He gives entry into this new (eternally young!), real world, in which we find our life, our being, wholly in God. And thus we also live in organic unity with each other, for His love brings us into harmony, having torn down the old barriers and raised us up into His Body. He is the Firstborn of new humanity, having cast off the old, and we are made members of Him, flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone.
In His death Christ renews humanity by killing the corruption, the 'body of sin', that we had brought upon ourselves. He works death in us so that the evil might die, and we ourselves be saved by being clothed with the newness found in Him. 'The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.'
Or, A Short Examination of My Rambling Walk Through Christianity
Since I have not offered a terrible lot of information concerning myself in depth, I shall now do so, at least as regards my journey through the Christian faith: from Baptist roots to Calvinism to high-churchy would-be-Anglicanism.
I was born into the Baptist tradition: my father was, and still is, a Southern Baptist pastor, so I have, from birth, been saturated with the Christian faith, particularly of course the Baptist understanding of it. My first recollections of the Church involve Shuqualak, Mississippi, where my father pastored a small congregation, and we dwelt in the parsonage. Of that I recall only the cemetery in the backyard of the parsonage: cemeteries being an elemental part of the rural parsonage experience. Anyway, I grew up in the environment of conservative Baptist churches, in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. I experienced annual revivals, river baptisms, Sunday School, and a plethora of traveling evangelists. I was baptized at the age of eight by my father while he was pastor of a church in Tennessee. I participated in the activity of the church all through my childhood, and believed in accordance with Baptist confession. However, from a fairly early age I developed a desire to compare everything I heard in a pulpit to the Scriptures; and this, I think, is the definite strength of the Baptist tradition. In doing this I began to be bothered by the sometimes conflicting messages of different speakers and evangelists, and this feeling of discordancy grew in me gradually. Also, the knowledge of conflicts and moral lapses within the different congregational structures did little to help me.
However, none of these things were enough to cause my disenchantment with the Baptist tradition, much less from the faith as a whole. As I began to examine doctrinal matters- particularly during my first couple years in high school, after my family's return to Mississippi- I began to shift into Calvinism. I would suppose my 'discovery' of Calvinism to be my first serious theological undertaking. I was quite a determined 'convert', eager to debate points of predestination with my staunchly Arminian friends. I must confess a slight, er, nonconformist bent in my persona, which I found Reformed-dom to fit quite well.
At the same time, I retained most of my Baptist views, just with a strong Calvinistic bent (and a rejection of dispensationalism along with it). Granted, with the predominance of a sort of generic Arminiasm in modern evangelicalism, that was quite a change I suppose, though fully within the bounds of Baptist tradition (most modern Baptists tracing their roots back to the Particular Baptists). Also, I might add, I began to expand my view into the avenues of the Church's history, primarily within the Reformed traditions, but also elsewhere, including Thomas a' Kempis. But more on that shortly.
In the midst of this I underwent a sort of crisis of faith which would influence my next transformation. I have always had an avid love for history, inherited from my father (a graduate student at USM in history at the moment in fact), and it was this care for history that impacted me. Essentially, I began to confront the history of Christianity, and grapple with the problems posed by the Protestant evangelical church (which I understood exclusively in the low-church sense of course). Could I really accept that God had allowed His Church to languish in the worst sort of sacerdontal darkness for so many centuries prior to the Reformation? And if it was in such darkness during this time, how could I possibly be sure of the authenticity of the Canon, or of such essentials as the doctrine of God in Trinity? For if so many of the ideas I had been brought up on were true, then for most of the history of the Church error of all sorts had dominated.
At the same time, I began to notice passages of Scripture which seemed to conflict with my accepted notions. Particularly I began to notice those passages which deal with Baptism: the Bible seemed to be saying things I found 'Romanish'. I also began to be perplexed by the accounts of the Church's structure and ordering; talk of bishops and elders and such, along with St. Paul's bold statements on the nature of the Church, did not mesh with what I had always thought. I also found myself disagreeing, this time by way of my Calvinism, with different evangelists.
It was during this time- in my last year or so of high-school (I am freshman in college right now) that I began to acquaint myself with writers from the Church's past, starting, oddly enough, with Thomas a' Kempis. My interest in him led me to St. Augustine and others from the first few centuries, though Augustine captivated me in particular. I also read more 'high church' Reformed material, on the sacraments in particular, and rather quickly found my views becoming more and more 'catholic'. I also began to understand in further depth the Christology I had always confessed, my worries over historicity and such being gradually relieved. As I progressed further, I found myself understanding and respecting the mind of the Church, particularly as expressed in her first centuries. Also during this time I began to use the Book of Common Prayer for my private prayer: this probably had as much an impact as anything.
To condense the rather numerous and sometimes rather convultuous ramblings involved in this process (including a couple amusing- in retrospect- e-mails I exchanged with Mark Horne), I shall describe where I am now: essentially high-church, orthodox Anglican in my beliefs, with an inclination towards the catholicity of Anglicanism, and a strong respect for Eastern Orthodoxy. I have unshod myself of much of my earlier Calvinism: but that is another story. Also, I should add, that I am still very much a part of a Baptist congregation. There are not a lot options in the small Mississippi town where I currently reside: Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and then various Charismatic sorts. My current church is also pastored by my dad, which has a definite influence! I might add, we do have some rather weighty disagreements to be sure, but we only discuss those on occasion. Otherwise we get along quite well, and I still take part in congregational life to a great extent.
I am not entirely certain what direction I will take upon leaving my current two-year school and heading off to continue my education. I intend to continue in Anglicanism if I can, as several of the schools I am considering have orthodox churches nearby. But then, I would hardly call myself absolutely determined: lately I have been considering Lutheranism somewhat more, for example. There are a number of difficulties inherent in the Anglican Communion, which are evident enough for me not to list. But right now I am fairly convinced that the Apostolic, Scriptural faith is best met within the parameters of Anglicanism.
So that is a brief (sort of) summary of my somewhat curious walk through the Christian faith thus far.
I had a dream a couple nights back which, strangely, I still recall with some vividness (someone who knows about such things could probably explain why some dreams remain in one's memory longer than others; I certainly can't). I was with a friend, and we were discussing the grace of Baptism as expressed in life after Baptism. I brought up St. Maximus Confessor and quoted Ad Thalassium Six to the effect that Baptism gives us grace in fullness, in potency, and that we express it further and further through action in the rest of our life.
I wonder if anyone else dreams of theological discussion and brings up patristic texts and terms? And by the way, most of my dreams are quite boring; usually quiet and comfortable, or mildly tragic on occasion.
I recently purchased Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. It is a magnificent book: his delving into the heresy of secularism and the compartmentalization of Christianity into 'religion' is deeply insightful, as is his exposition of the sacramental life of the Church. I highly recommend.
This afternoon I perused through a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian at the local art museum: The Land Through a Lens. Very nice; a wide range of landscape photographs from throughout the United States. Here are a few that I particularly enjoyed:
Oak Alley Plantation: live oaks are simply incredible trees. There are several on my campus, and a few are scattered about town and in the countryside (no wild live oaks here; too far from the ocean). The live oaks in this photo are simply magnificent.
Things Have a Life of Their Own: this was one of several large prints in the exhibit. The photographer captured the glow of winter evening beautifuly.
Flint Hills Prairie Fire
Pine Forest in the Snow
Red Soil and Kudzu: classic Deep South scene: kudzu, red dirt, and pine trees.
The Passion is a magnificent, terrible film, one of the finest I have ever seen. I found it immensely moving: I have been taught about the Crucifixion all my life, knew of the scourging, the insults, the blows, but I must confess that I have never felt the reality of it all before as I did watching this film. I am afraid that in my comfortable middle-class environment the Cross is all too easily sterilized; it becomes a clean shaven symbol, not an awful object of offense. With such little ease I make the Gospel an emaciated thing; I become a Doceist in practice. A flesh and blood Savior Who suffers and loves down to His last agonized breath: that is an uncomfortable thing when the whole weight of it falls on you, for in His love your own love is shown to be what it is. And facing a suffering God: who has ever heard of such a thing? This is how He saves the world? This is surely an offense, a thing of foolishness: but in it is the salvation of the world, of the flesh-and-bone world. The film bears this offensive reality down mightily, even excessively perhaps. We are in no doubt of the terrible reality of the Lord's sufferings, of His fear and anguish. The film puts it in full focus, and we can only escape it by closing our eyes or turning our faces. Yet even when we close it out from our eyes, we can hear it: the machine-gun beat of the scourging, the nails piercing His hands, the Cross falling into position, the final words of the Lord upon the Cross, and the silence as Mary holds His broken form.
Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.