and Nicodemus might as well be speaking different languages. Jesus speaks of
birth from above; Nicodemus is befuddled. Jesus speaks of the spirit as wind
blowing where it will; Nicodemus wonders how this can be. They are like a
creationist and a paleontologist comparing notes on fossils--they simply can't
fathom each other. Their organizing assumptions are too different.
when we sense that Nicodemus begins to understand what Jesus is saying: when
Jesus reinterprets the story of Israel in the wilderness, drawing from the
language that has oriented Nicodemus's life and thought. It doesn't seem
likely, after all, that the series of puzzling metaphors Jesus begins with
would push Nicodemus to understanding. But something clearly does.
Pat Robertson had a ready explanation for the Haiti earthquake—he said that it was an expression of divine wrath at a centuries-old pact with the devil. Robertson's explanation may offend many of us, but attempts at offering a theodicy have a long pedigree.
During college I was a member of the Flying Couch Potatoes, jugglers extraordinaire and comedy novices. I remember those performances fondly. We were more enthusiastic than skilled, but enthusiasm will carry you far. Who doesn't love a competition among friends juggling five eggs, in which the winner celebrates by smashing the eggs on his head?
has a way with a sneer. Nineteen times in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul mentions
wisdom, and each time we hear a growing sneer in his voice, until he nominates
Christ as the wisdom of God. The word "wisdom" is distasteful to him because it
is wooing the Corinthians to pursue a dead wisdom when they might turn to a
wisdom he calls the "source of life"--and come alive.
Paul writes that Christ is the wisdom of God, he's tapping into an ancient way
of speaking about God. He's drilling down into proverbs, where wisdom plays the
part of the creative spirit of God. Wisdom is begotten of God, the firstborn of
all creation, the very spirit alive in Creation, a feminine expression of God.
This isn't just some hocus pocus
stuff from the Old Testament, either. The New Testament writers are so
influenced by this thinking that they pay homage to Lady Wisdom everywhere.
A statistical projection is not a prediction, but if the number of Christians in Britain continues to decline at the current rate, there will be no more British Christians by 2067. Between 2001 and 2011 the church lost 5.3 million members—about 10,000 each week. The rate of decline in the Church of England is higher than that of other denominations. In one survey the numbers dropped from 40 percent of the population in 1983 to 29 percent in 2004 and just 17 percent last year. The decline in the Catholic Church is not as precipitous because of the influx of Catholic immigrants. Sometime in this century Muslims will outnumber Christians in Britain (Spectator, June 13).