Category Archives: Further In and Higher Up

Be Forgiven, You Vanquished, Conquered Warrior

by Layton Friesen

What exactly is God’s problem with us?

When you look at our cure, you have to conclude we have a major sickness. In the story of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21–35), the King, representing God, forgives the servant 10,000 talents of debt. A day-labourer, I am told, might pay that in 20 years, if he spent money on nothing else. Jesus is using exaggerated figures to make a point: God has given you a mind-blowing forgiveness, now go and forgive your fellow servant likewise. Continue reading Be Forgiven, You Vanquished, Conquered Warrior

The Limits of Bible Background

by Layton Friesen

A Bible study leader will often say “in order to understand this verse I need to tell you about the background to this passage.” The leader then describes pagan religion in Ephesus, or farming practices in Palestine, or shame and honour in the Roman empire, and everyone comes to a better understanding of the passage. This is important. If I am reading the apostle John as if he were some white guy sitting in a cubicle in Saskatoon, I am going to seriously misunderstand his gospel. Continue reading The Limits of Bible Background

A Cornered Cat or Hungry for Honey?

by Layton Friesen

Christians have a complicated relationship with the law of Moses.
As far as we can tell, Jesus and Paul kept Moses’ law faithfully all their lives. For them this was part of how they lived their Christian lives. But in passages like 1 Cor. 15:56 and Rom. 7:5 the law is described as arousing sinfulness, goading it in almost demonic fashion. Continue reading A Cornered Cat or Hungry for Honey?

Layton Friesen: Without the Church, You’re on Your Own

by Layton Friesen

Do I need to be a member of the church in order to be a disciple of Jesus? Can I be saved if I am not a part of the church? By church I don’t mean some invisible, “spiritual” church, but the real live congregation of believers that meets in Jesus’ name down the street. Continue reading Layton Friesen: Without the Church, You’re on Your Own

Layton Friesen: I am Gobsmacked that I Exist

by Layton Friesen

Imagine you awoke to find yourself sitting in a meadow. You have no recollection of how you got there. You have no memory of life before this awakening. You get up and walk about, stretching these odd limbs you discover can support you.

Curious, you try to understand something of this place you have been plunked down in and how you got here. You meet other creatures like yourself, and discover that they too awakened with no memory of how they got there.

There is really no need to imagine this. This is how each of us enters the world. Sometime around the age of two or three we begin to awaken to the world we are in. Coming to life, to be me, is not something any of us remember; it is shrouded in mist. We are told about conception and birth, but that only pushes back the mystery. It does not explain it.

We all wake up in life and find ourselves already living, already loving, already going somewhere. Someday our lives will recede back into the mists from which we came. But in this brief moment of our days we sit blinking in the meadow.

What this fact does is stir in us the gasp of simply being that is basic to being a human. We can offer no account or explanation of how we emerged from nothingness to be these people.  Down deep at the bottom of our existence we discover that we receive ourselves rather than make ourselves.

My life is a gift to me I did not even pray for. No one asked me whether I preferred to be or not to be. I was simply plunked into a meadow, and there I woke, staring about in astonishment.

This is the basic question humans can ask: why is there something rather than nothing? The Christian tradition has always seen a great coherence between this un-explainableness of life and the fact that God is the creator who has no need for this creation. God is infinitely transcendent to creation. Creation is not bound to God by some logic other than love. Thus creation on its own terms cannot be explained.

God created the world not because some logic or law forced him, or because creation would fill up something missing in his being. There is no earthly explanation for why God created the world other than to say for the love of it. We exist because God enjoys the fact that people such as us should exist.

Layton Friesen

Cameron McKenzie has a signature to his emails that says, “When God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible” (John Paul II). When we no longer believe in a transcendent, personal God who loves the world and creates for the sheer love of it, the wonder of being human is deflated and our fellow humans no longer seem marvellous and fascinating. These objects, once called persons, now become just more matter to be manipulated and dominated at our own will.

Let God be exalted, magnificent, and infinitely perfect in our imaginations and confession.

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:4-5).