Fear Of Whales

Archive for February, 2008

Faith: A Crisis of the Evidence of Things Hoped For

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I’ve been wrestling with the understanding of faith from a 1st century perspective for 2 years now, I haven’t gotten to any solid ground, but I promised you all some half baked theories, so I’d like to share where I am now.

The study has taken me trough 3 ancient cultures and 4 languages I don’t speak to come as far as this:

The new testament use of the word is not specific enough to make a solid definition (“evidence of things heard of and assurance of things not seen” does not count as solid)

The Hebrew word translated to faith means “sturdy” most of the time, and sometimes “dependable” when referring to promises.

The Greek word means “believe’ or “accept to be true” it’s not an exclusively religious word the way it is in English, but sometimes it is applied to which religious group you are a part of (Pharisees, Sadducees, so on..)

The Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Greek uses two different translations for the Greek word, depending on whether it’s used as a known or a verb.

When it’s a noun the Vulgate uses “fides” which means “dependable” again. It’s where we get out word “fidelity” and it’s rather directly related to our word “faithful”

When it’s a verb it’s the word “credes” which is where we get the name “creed” for our Christian statements of faith. It just means “believe” again or sometimes “think” and once again, it’s not exclusively religious.

In other words, I’m nowhere. I’ve studies the word, in literary context, in historical context, through intra-biblical and extra-biblical uses and I have “it means something to do with thinking its true that is somehow correlated to stability in some sense I don’t understand”

I have noticed that it’s not until we get past the Vulgate, into the popular Latin use that we start to see the word “religio” which is translated into the English (along with credes and fides) as “faith” meaning “belief in something in a spiritual sense of for spiritual reasons in the absence of evidence”.

“religio” if you haven’t guessed, is where we get the English word “religion”

Here’s where I am with it now:

“Faith” is not supposed to be a crutch, it’s not supposed to take the place of good reasons to devote your life to something, it was almost certainly not taken as a religious word by the first disciples, and the phrase “just have faith” would absolutely never be used to comfort someone who had a loved one who was dieing.

We have taken it too far, as a church, and as a religion. I don’t know exactly what it means, but I’m confident it doesn’t mean what we’re using it for and I don’t think we need it.

I think we could create a Christian faith, in the absence of faith. I think we could get by with nothing but the truth, and the reasonable acceptance of it.

I think if we take our bibles and we just insert “belief”, or “confidence” or “trust” in the place of “faith” we will find ourselves with a “religion” that’s a whole lot more down to earth.

And for the worshipers of a god made flesh I can’t think of anything more appropriate.

We could feel the freedom to investigate our doubts without needing to make excuses.

We could start going toe to toe with the atheist scientific community and not be discounted as zealots

Matematics,, and Philosophy cease to be mundane secular efforts and join the ranks of art and music as recognizable opportunities for authentic worship that is glorifying to God.

It would be freaking RockAwesome!

The only problem is that I don’t think I can justify it, biblically. Try as I might there is still a sense of something transcendent in the text regarding faith and I can’t just get rid of it.

I wish I could. Because I think a faithless faith would do us good.

And I’m tempted to say we should do it anyway. Every denomination in history has had some practice or idea that they could never justify entirely biblically. The only difference between this and them is that we would know our mistake going in.

So that’s the tension.

Luther said that the state of orthodoxy was akin to that of a drunken peasant attempting to mount a horse, each time he rises from one side he falls of the other into the mud.

We are on the left side of this horse representing an understanding of faith, but the only mount I can manage would land us straight on the other side of the truth from here.


Written by RyanGaffney

February 27th, 2008 at 11:11 am

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I go to a post-contemporary service at a Presbyterian church…. I realize that’s a little odd, but I’m going to have to suggest that you get used to it because it’s one of the less paradoxical aspects of my walk… Anyway one of the things we do as an expression of worship is make sandwiches in the service.

Some people clap their hands, other people make sandwiches to feed the homeless, it’s just something we do…. Ya know, because Christ is Lord

Anyway some friends of mine went to deliver the sandwiches last Sunday afternoon, and found that the mission we give them to was closed.

I dunno why, president’s day I guess.

That night they invited me out to go and find some homeless people on our own since the mission was closed…

We looked for 2 hours

We found 2 hungry people

We had 80 sandwiches

Monday we checked the mission again.. still closed. So I brought 78 day-old sandwiches to my college campus, and gave them to the freshmen.


You would not believe the reactions of 80 rich kids who have no trouble affording their daily bread when they are handed a homemade sandwich they don’t expect.

Anyway I’m pretty sure that has something to do with Jesus, but I’ll let you make your own connections.

I’m more interested in the direct pragmatism of the whole thing. Do you think I could ever get anyone else on board with me for a “Feed the Peckish” ministry?

Mark 5:11

Written by RyanGaffney

February 20th, 2008 at 11:11 am

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Surfboards Cars And Unicycles

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You guys still don’t know me out there, I want to do the normal blog thing for a post and talk about my day, That way you can get some perspective on the kind of person talking to you.

I woke up this morning at 11am after sleeping through 3 alarms trying to wake me up in time to get prepared and bike to my 11:10 class which is about 10 minutes away by car, 13 by bike.

I threw my clothes on and woke up my roommate, Rob, to ask if I could borrow his car since mine was broken, he let me and I raced off to school.

I arrived in class at about 11:17 to find my professor sitting in an empty room. I say “well obviously I’m late” he says “class was canceled” I say “see you tomorrow!”

I go back home and back to sleep

I woke up again at about noon-thirty, a little bit before Rob, who is headed out to go surfing. I ask if he wants to go to lunch first, he does, we go.

At lunch we talk mostly about girls, and a little about theology. Then we spoke about their intersection a little bit. Speaking of which, leave me a comment, where do Christians get the idea that it’s not okay to date casually and get to know a girl? Both Rob and I think that is a fantastic plan compared to DTRs and “courting”.

When I came home, I watched some Lost, and then met my dad, who I worked with to fix my car.

After we finished we went out to dinner, where talked mostly about nothing and a little about theology. Speaking of which, leave me a comment, if my pastor told me, about a mission application I turned in that was lacking two out of the three references accidentally, that I should “Not even worry about sending them” because he will “call me if the committee needs them”… Does that mean I’m almost defiantly in or almost defiantly out? Because neither my dad nor I could tell.

After dinner I checked my e-mail, and worked on an article about abortion until 7, when I headed off to Unicycle Club.

Unicycle Club is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a club for people who like to ride unicycles or who want to learn. It meets at the giant university a few blocks away from my little private one.

In case you are wondering… I’m in the learning to unicycle category, not the enthusiast category. I can go about 4 yards before I fall.

After Unicycles I went dancing. I swing dance at a ballroom in my town. Today I think I finally learned the “swingout”, which, assuming I got it right, means that I am now officially “intermediate”

Then I went home, made a salad, ate it, and wrote this blog

Now I’m going to sleep.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 13th, 2008 at 11:11 am

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So Ash Wednesday was this last Wednesday… that can only mean one thing! It’s Lent.
Happy Lent Everyone!!!

…Can I say that?
…Sad lent?….Contemplative lent?
I really don’t know. Either way it’s lent, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.
For those of you who don’t know lent is the period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) that lead up to Easter. It is a typically somber period of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Lent is most famous as the time in the church calendar when people give something up for 40 days.
The Lenten Fast.

It’s always a little strange for me when this time of the year comes around. Because as I see it, it’s simultaneously one of the coolest practices of liturgical Christianity, and one of the gimpiest trends in the Christian subculture.
The idea that there is a day that is set aside from the other days of the year as a day to celebrate the risen Christ, and that there should be a time of preparation of our hearts for it. It’s just an incredible idea. The realist mysticism of it, it’s the kind of thing that really gets me going.

So much in the Christian life is “spiritual” that we tend to get lost in the theories of theory.
Christianity becomes something theoretical, something happening out in the white spaces somewhere.
But it’s not supposed to be.
NOTW (NotOfThisWorld) gets plastered on the backs of born again trucks. And I shake my head as I go past on my bicycle (which as far as I know is still an agnostic) thinking.. what about the part where the bible says we are “still in this world though not of it”
Of course the other extreme is to ignore the mystery all together. Make Christianity a religion entirely about the here and now. The stuff we can touch and feel.
That’s not satisfying either.

But lent… lent is so earthly and visceral. You can feel it and live it. and yet it’s so transcendent.
It exists in the wood between the worlds

As if that weren’t enough it’s just a solid idea, to begin with. Fasting from something makes you appreciate it more. Fasting on a regular basis helps to make sure you do it, having a definite ending time helps make sure you don’t go overboard.
And if you are going to fast, 40 days is a good amount of time to do it. 40s are used in the bible a lot for time periods during which changes take place. In that time it’s more than likely that if what you gave up for lent was something compulsive or addictive, you’ll have beaten the habit by Easter
So it’s really an all around great idea. I wish I had thought of it.

Still…Leave it to us to find a way to make self denial into something egoistic.
Jesus said when we fast we should clean our face and oil our hair so nobody knows what we’re doing. Instead we like to start out, literally, by rubbing ashes on our faces.
Then we spend the next week talking to all our friends asking “what did you give up for lent”
Then everybody at the table throws theirs down and we see which fast wins.
Whoever is giving up the nicest thing is the holiest.
I’m trying to think of a tradition that could make people less prepared for Easter.

It’s okay though. After 4 years at a liturgical school I have the answer. When someone asks you “So what are you giving up for lent” you tell them “Fasting”
“Whaddya mean Gaffney? I don’t get it”
“Well I just feel like fasting has really become kind of thoughtless in my life and I need to give it up for 40 days, then after Easter I’ll consider fasting again”
I guarantee you it will shut up even the most pietistic of pietistic Christians wanting to compare their holiness to yours… what can you say to that?

“Oh…Because I’m giving up chocolate…”
Well good for you,

To all you out there.. if you are going to fast for lent… Don’t tell me about it… for your sake,.. really.
Otherwise don’t bother fasting. You already missed the point. You might as well have your chocolate too.

Philemon 1:23

Written by RyanGaffney

February 10th, 2008 at 11:11 am

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First Post

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Hello and welcome to the dreaded first blog!

The first blog has got to be the hardest to write because it is the blog that everyone goes back to and reads “how did this get started” and all that. So it needs to epitomize what the rest of the chronicle is going to represent.

At the same time it can’t just be any random old thing… I mean that would be awkward.

“oh and here is Gaffney’s first blog which is about Philemon… because today Gaffney sent a slave back to his master.. or something.

No it can’t work like that, I’m writing a blog today, and so the interesting that happened to day must be the fact that I have started a blog. The problem comes of course from the fact that that in itself is not interesting.

Of course I have the option of talking about what the blog will become some day.

But the truth is I have no idea.

Here’s my guess:

Faithvine has a section for blogs, devotionals, bible studies, and articles. The good stuff I write that I have combed over multiple times will go into articles. Unless it deals with a particular scripture, in which case it will go into bible studies… I never likes devotionals much but I might wind up with something that belongs there sometime, who knows.

The blog then has to be the daily stuff. The stuff that hasn’t been combed out perfectly. The ideas that I haven’t thought through all the way yet.

The blog, if I am to use it as a blog aught to be a window for you to see me in the wrestling match that is the Christian life.

So that’s what I’m going to put here… as far as I know.

The picture you see is of a delicious In-n-Out cheeseburger known as the Double-Double. It is delicious. The reason that I provided you with this image of a cheeseburger is twofold.

First, it is delicious, and so I hope that you may look upon it and read of the Inn-n-Out Double-Double and then go and partake of it’s goodness the next time you are in the southwest.

Second, I needed a picture for a first blog, and this showed up on a Google Image search for “first blog” so I went with it… I figured I would be able to squeeze enough content out of it to help fill a page so that it cannot be said that my first entry is a non-entry.

And as it turns out that is exactly the case because, as a Christian owned chain, inn n out wraps all their burgers with a tiny bible reference on the bottom.

On the Double-Double wrappers in Nahum 1:7

“The LORD is good, in times of trouble he is a strong refuge, and he knows everyone who trusts in him.”

Which is cool and all… but I’ve never been real big on individual verses… Cool… God isn’t bad…Good to know.

But it’s in Nahum!… Let’s face it… Most Christians don’t know the first thing about Nahum.

They put John 3:16 on the bottom of the cup, and then on the big burger they quote Nahum.

::High Five:: Inn-N-Out Burgers! Way to remind people that the book of Nahum exists.

Still that’s not Inn-n-Out’s real triumph.

On their regular burger wrappers they reference Revelation 3:20

“Here I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, and answer the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me. ”

Man would I like to grab a cheeseburger with Jesus

If you are going to take a verse out of context for no reason… That’s the way to do it!

Aaaaaannnnndddddd that’s my first blog!

… hopefully you have sampled my writing style. Next time maybe I’ll actually write about something.

1 Samuel 13:1

Written by RyanGaffney

February 8th, 2008 at 11:11 am


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The first several posts of this blog were written years ago on a now defunct site called Faithvine.org In 2010 i took up writing again for a less explicitly evangelical audience.

The posts have been copied here and backdated.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 7th, 2008 at 8:18 pm

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