Thursday, June 28, 2012

Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is here yet again! The Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox convictions. As such, while on this blog Papists represent, the reader should bear in mind that not every article linked here is written by persons who would consider themselves such.


Josh Wiley submits Daryl Evans' post Bible Verses About Trials: 20 Scriptures on Tribulations, over at What Christians Want To Know.
We all go through trials in life. Check out these inspirational Bible verses about trials and tribulations.
Romi brings us God Knows from his blog In the Way Everlasting.
"There is no such thing as coincidence."
Isabel Anders submits Guidance in Small Doeses from her blog BlogHer.
 What words of wisdom have influenced your choices or given your life new direction?
General Theology

Dave Moser sent along All the Commands of James from his blog, Armchair Theology.
The book of James has a reputation for being full of legalistic commands but if you look at all of the imperative verbs all at once you will see something interesting.
I present The Story of a Soul here at keyboard theologians.
I will (perhaps boldly) claim that in the Christian tradition it must be said that a soul's response to God is the primary and founding response it makes to all things.

Paul Kuritz presents Not By Bread Alone: The Hunger Games: The Book at Paul Kuritz: Opinions.
Does the novel The Hunger Games achieve its strength by tapping into the Christian story?
Shannon Christman submits Fellowship that Endures from InFaith's Mission Blog, a post by Jeff and Cheryl Norbie.
It seems as though the Lord is teaching us that His love transcends time and location.
Christman also sent along History from Ridge's Blog, by Ridge Burns.
Sometimes my history and my sentimental emotions get in the way of progress.
There you have it, folks. Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Christian Carnival. Feel free to go to the Carnival's official site to submit a post for next week!

ADDENDUM: I've added the entry under devotionals that was submitted via Blogcarnival. I had told Maryanne that I would be counting those and then forgot to do so. But please note that Blogcarnival is not really an approved submission method anymore and as far as I know, no host is bound to honor it.

The Story of a Soul

Marilynne Robinson, in the first of her so-far-excellent collection of essays When I Was a Child I Read Books, makes an interesting observation.
In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered some set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it.
Robinson is critical of this and sees a reductionism of the soul to a "token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with [...] the felt experience of life."

I find this interesting. I'm not sure if I totally buy it, though to be honest, I'd be hard-pressed to name offhand the last time I heard a Protestant minister or even a Catholic priest mention a soul without talking about salvation pretty explicitly.

That said, I'm not sure it's as bad as all that. I think there might be a way to recover some of what Robinson believes we've lost (which I take from further context to be a sense of creativity of the soul, the soul as a world-experiencing object) without sacrificing the importance of salvation. Where the rubber meets the road, whether the soul is saved or lost is certainly the most important thing. And whether or not this implies a reduction of soul to its status, I will (perhaps boldly) claim that in the Christian tradition it must be said that a soul's response to God is the primary and founding response it makes to all things. Creativity, perhaps all experience at root, is all co-creativity, sustained only by the God who made the earth. That said, I do think there's already some talk about people who are creative in religious circles, whether their creativity is explicitly religious or not, and I think maybe, to a degree, Robinson is being a bit picky about the fact that maybe we just don't refer to peoples' souls in these contexts.

And while some people might see the following list as still reducing to a saved-or-lost mentality, I think the Catholic tradition has a lot to offer in terms of developing one's soul in relationship to God--morally and ethically, in the confessional and in the works of great theologians, philosophically, in some of those same works, aesthetically, in appreciation of nature, and prayerfully, in standards like the Liturgy of the Hours.

I wonder if the notion of vocation and co-creation could serve us well here as well. Encouraging creativity among Christians can never hurt. Certainly the Catholic souls of Augustine, Aquinas, Chesterton, Tolkein, Percy, O'Connor, Greene and Endo are present in their works. Certainly the souls of Calvin, Wesley, Lewis, and Robinson herself are present in theirs. The souls of many of those saved are not merely saved, they are in rapture. The how, the story of how a soul responds to that salvation--perhaps that is where the real creativity (or at least co-creativity) begins. How do we respond to the fact of salvation and sacrament after the fact, how does it change our response to the world, how do we then develop in relation to God? A plant emerges from a seed, but the plant does not reduce to the seed; perhaps this is how we could retain a healthy respect for the fact of souls saved and lost, without sacrificing other aspects of a soul's development. I'd be curious to see what Robinson has to say about souls she may doubt the salvation of. I would certainly volunteer that I would like to look at each of them and find them beautiful enough to help develop creatively or to experience more, but perhaps most of all enough to save.

For the record, a good bit of this post was written while listening to Jars of Clay. That awesomely, explosively creative first big album. (It's also been sped up a bit by Winamp, but that's my own special thing, and the music's just as good otherwise.) Just thought that was worth mentioning.