Friday, March 19, 2010

God Is No Fool

Fr. Stephen Freeman and John of the Commonplace Book have commented on Peter Hitchen's road to faith, and our friendly neighborhood Ochlophobist has commented on the fear of hell which Hitchen seemed to perceive through a particular image of Rogier van der Weyden.

I never bought the idea that, because of sola fide, my works had no effect on my life, nor my eternal life. I can relate to much of what Owen has written.

My grandmother--may her memory be eternal--had a book called "God is No Fool," which I remember reading as a young boy. I do not remember reading a book that resonated with me nearly as profoundly as that one. That I would end up in a faith that continually keeps one in a state of tension between "You are merciful and desire not the death of a sinner," and "My bones are strewn near hell" is not surprising.

What is ironic (and very, very sad) about this particular devotional jewel of the late sixties is that the new, 2009 printing has moved away, it seems, both from the wonderful cover and the even better subtitle ("WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE KIDDING?") that I remember from my grandmother's copy. I dearly hope that the editors in charge who have chosen to replace this cover...

...with this brighter, cheerier, cover...

...and have taken away the subtitle have left the text within untouched.

I found some of the excerpts from the book online that offer a taste of the work:
They say that God has infinite patience,
And that is a great comfort.
They say God is always there,
And that is a deep satisfaction.
They say that God will always take you back,
And I get lazy in that certitude.
They say that God never gives up,
And I count on that.
They say you can go away for years and years,
And He’ll be there, waiting, when you come back.
They say you can make mistake after mistake,
And God will always forgive and forget.
They say lots of things,
these people who never read the Old Testament.
There comes a time,
A definite, for-sure time,
When God turns around.
I don’t believe God shed His skin
When Christ brought in the New Testament;
Christ showed us a new side of God,
And it is truly wonderful.
But He didn’t change God.
God remains forever and ever,
And that God is no fool.
And again:
Who would I be? If I were then?

Would I stand on the curb and watch him go by?
Would I have knocked off for the afternoon to see what he had to say?
Would I have raised my eyebrows and wondered what all the excitement was about?
Would I have stood with a few on the corner and wondered pettishly, when were the authorities going to put a stop to this thing before it got out of hand!
Would I have drunk it all in, and been wide-eyed and wide-hearted with wonder?
Would I have clinched my opinion as soon as I saw he was associating with some of "those" kinds of people?
Would I have smiled benevolently at the stories of wonders and healings?
Would I have wanted to get his autograph?
Would I have stood aside and waited thoughtfully--oh so thoughtfully--for him to prove himself fact or fiction?.......
Isn't it nice to be here, now, for we can't make those mistakes.

God have mercy on us.
God have mercy on us.
And, yet again:
The pain of pain is disappointment, for it cannot be taped or healed or cut away. Dull, creeping out of nowhere, it settles and seeps, covering heart, mind and perspective.

The task that loomed as special, glowing with promise and challenge, slips into meaninglessness. The task aimed at, sought for, planned on, arrives; and what glowed is tarnished, and what beckoned seems hollow. And disappointment smothers.

The eyes that loomed as special, glowing with warmth and shared moments, slip into the sea of uncaring eyes. Moments awaited, arrive; and untrue words rattle aimlessly around the room. What seemed real now appears false; what appeared expansive now narrows. And disappointment smothers.

One could become angry and feel cheated in the disappointments that move into hopes, dreams, and daily steps. One could turn hard, cold--except for two questions.

How many times do others watch me in dull disappointment?
How often do the eyes of Christ look on, throbbing in disappointment?

God have mercy on us.
I cringe when I read the description on Amazon for the 2009 printing:
"In 1969, "God is No Fool" delighted readers, consoled them, provoked them and inspired them to consider God and life in new ways. The short musings in the book are funny, earnest, loving, probing and full of joy. Reading this book, you will embark on a journey whose ultimate destination is a better understanding of faith, people and the world around you. On the 40th anniversary of the original publication, Lois Cheney's reflections are as powerful and necessary as ever."
God have mercy on us.
God have mercy on us.


Rhology said...

I never bought the idea that, because of sola fide, my works had no effect on my life, nor my eternal life.

Do you really believe that sola fide, properly understood, does teach that?

Darlene said...


Why in the world did you link to the Ocholphobist's article? What a hopeless outlook on salvation he has. I was left with the same feeling like I'd had after reading "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Hopeless. Salvation is what, exactly? Apparently it's unclear and murky.

And what's with the swearing? I've noticed this trend among 30 something men from various Christian traditions thinking it's so kewl to swear. We have the foul-mouthed Mark Driscoll, and those who defend him. Then we have those who think any foul word is fair game. "For freedom Christ has set us free" they boast.

Surely you can do better than link to such an article, yes? I find encouragement reading your blog, but reading that link to Och's blog batted a zero.

David B said...

Hey, there -

I'm putting a response up on the blog regarding the questions. Regarding Darlene's objection to the language...well, he did put a disclaimer up before the post began, and, given what I know about his upbringing, the language isn't something he's particularly proud of, but it most definitely does reflect his frustration at pretension and his outright anger as a child. Sometimes "gosh darnit" just doesn't cut it when one is looking to self-disclose and be honest about it. The scores and scores of eloquent, brilliant posts on his blog which not only are free of profanity but also which make my brain sweat more than make up for the occasional lapse into subject-appropriate use of profanity. Profanity for the sake of profanity is not Och's style.

David B said...

And Darlene -- blessed chrismation, if indeed you were the one commenting on Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog.