Dear John Calvin


(I originally posted this in 2016. The first part contained a mysterious parable that may have caused some readers to skip the post, so I’m reposting without the parable.)

It’s winter here in South Africa. A friend gave Revien and I a truckload of wood last week, and so the two of us spent the best part of Saturday sipping Cappucinos and listening to the crackling of a blazing fireplace and some great music.

That was the nice part.

But then I began to fiddle on my Ipad, and stumbled onto a five year old Classic iMonk post with almost three hundred comments. The Calvinists and Arminians were at it again, and of course I felt obliged to follow the whole thing and ride it out. Right to its very end.

But it left me feeling strangely empty and fatigued. And wondering what on earth the point was of it all, and what Paul and Peter and John and the others would have had to say about it.

To make matters worse, I spent the previous Thursday doing research for a project that involved tracing the origins of Calvinism’s famous TULIP acronym, only to be reminded that it never existed before the twentieth century.

For those who are interested: Its first known use was in 1905, when the American Presbyterian minister and hymn writer, Dr. Cleland Boyd McAfee, was heard using it at the Presbyterian Union Of Newark New Jersey.

And even then it was not fully developed. McAfee’s “U” stood for Universal Sovereignty, not Unconditional Election.

Of course it is said that the so-called Five Points are much older than that, dating from 1619 and the famous Synod of Dordt, where they were stated in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. But even that does not solve the problem of TULIP’s relative late arrival at the Calvinistic party. Not all Calvinists are wildly excited about the acronym, or convinced that it faithfully represents Dordt. As Kenneth Stewart put it in The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect:

There is the striking fact that twentieth-century writing on behalf of TULIP has only very infrequently engaged with the actual Canons of Dordt of which the acronym purports to be a paraphrase or summary. This meant, and means that writers have been implying the fidelity of the acronym as a rendering of Dordt’s meaning without ever being pressed to demonstrate that this fidelity exists in fact. To call the paraphrasing of Dordt by TULIP a ‘broad brush’ approach, is arguably too kind! Why has there been no inquiry as to whether there is actually a true correspondence between this alleged paraphrase of Dordt, and the actual intention of the Canons – widely available in English? We may well be overdue for a revisiting of the Canons of Dordt themselves – even to the point of quoting them, or making a fresh compressed summary of their actual contents.

That explains something I have often wondered about, namely why many Dutch Reformed dominees here in South Africa have never even heard of TULIP.

Thinking of all this, my cheery Saturday morning mood dampened, and in its place memories arose from over a decade ago. That was my post-Pentecostal period, during which I, too, earnestly tried to become a Calvinist.

The thing that I could not wrap my head around at the time (perhaps I should say heart) was double predestination, a term derived from John Calvin’s assertion that the decree of election is symmetrical with the decree of reprobation. In plain English, it means that the God whom I had come to know as the ultimate source of love had chosen to damn some to the very extent that he had chosen to save others.

Some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death. (Institutes iii, xxi, 5)

To make matters worse, the “eternally damned” weren’t mere stats on some theological pie chart, but a significant portion of the very broken children, teens and widows that I had been ministering to for years as a pastor and shepherd. God chose the majority of them to be damned forever and no one shall stand in his way? Has God then become my opponent in the ministry? Was Jesus even aware of this? Would he be angry if he found out?

These were the crazy thoughts that haunted me. And so I devised a plan: I would become a four-point Calvinist. I would not limit the atonement, and my acronym would simply be TUIP. That would allow me to have the best of both worlds. I could still listen to MacArthur, and distribute recordings of Sproul’s The Insanity of Luther, and read Piper’s The Pleasures of God, and introduce a younger generation to Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy, and collect Pink’s books, and dislike TBN.

I could have all of this without the nagging thought that there was something darkly terrifying about God, that perhaps he did not love my children as much as I did but hated them, that perhaps the whole unfolding nightmare would drive me to a place of such insanity that I would want to escape from this terrifying God, revealing myself to be one of the reprobate after all, and ultimately suffer the inevitable fate of joining the rest of them in a cosmic concentration camp where we would suffer forever without the merciful prospect of death by gassing or gun or suffocating under a pile of corpses – all of this so that God’s perfect sovereignty and justice would prevail.

I figured that I would never have to worry about any of this again. Calvin’s reference to a “secret decree” under the guise of God’s loving exterior would never give me another sleepless night, and I would never even have to wonder whether the decree was still secret after Calvin caused it to leak out.

All of this would magically vanish through a simple subtraction!

Which brings me to the flashback. I had to test my plan, and so I presented it to one of the brethren of my newfound Reformed community. The man had a formidable intellect, and was regarded as one of the more mature men in the group. I told him that I had made peace with the fact that I am a four-point Calvinist, and asked him for his opinion. His response was immediate and to the point: “We have a name for four-point Calvinists. We call them…ARMINIANS!”

Pop. That was it. There was no way out.

During that time another brother, whom I had grown to respect and love, proved to be somewhat more gentle in his approach. He used the term “inescapable conclusion” in reference to TULIP’s L.

And then there was the discussion where all of this was applied to the hopeless fate of non-elect children dying in infancy, which was perhaps the single most disturbing experience of them all.

I’ll spare you the rest. In the end, it all became too much and my effort to morph into a follower of a dead Frenchman by the name of Jehan Cauvin failed spectacularly. Which, in the long run, turned out to be one of the best things that had ever happened to me.

I put it all behind me, and conceded that my reasons for wanting to become a Calvinist (Cauvinist?) were infinitely stupid in the first place. It really had nothing to do with a desire to rethink my view of God, grace, election, free will, the atonement or anything else. These questions had been settled in my heart and mind years before, as a result of the teaching of the Bible, prayer, study, contemplation, fellowship, and simply walking with Jesus Christ through the thick and thin of life for two decades.

No, the reasons why I was attracted to Calvinism were all circumstantial. I can list them, but it is really unnecessary as the late Michael Spencer himself has already done a wonderful job in another one of his classic posts: Why Calvin is cool: An infomercial for Calvinism.

Note that Spencer starts the updated post with the words “Even though I am no longer a Calvinist, a lot of this essay is still true…”

Here’s some extracts from the post, providing us with a synopsis of Spencer’s reasons for calling Calvin cool, and perhaps providing some penetrating insights into the real reasons for Calvinism’s recent resurgence. Ironically, none of them has anything to do with the stuff that almost drove me batty over a decade ago, and ALL of them are to be found in other expressions of Christianity. (If one would only look!)

Calvinists have their problems, but going the openness route or denying the authority of Scripture are not dangers in the near future…Calvinism is fired up about missions…Calvinism is the strongest resistance to the excesses and errors of the church growth movement…Calvinism is warmly God-centered…Calvinism is contending for the Gospel…Calvinism is evangelistic, when practiced and not just debated… Calvinism has a wonderful reverence for history… Calvinism has the best approach to cultural issues… Calvinism isn’t detoured into fads (Jabez, Left Behind etc.)… Calvinists are great apologists… Calvinists aren’t on television…

Those things were all true, and wonderful, and available without having to become a double predestinationist! (or whatever it is called).

And so, in the end, I was happy to write a dear John letter to Mr. Cauvin. The whole thing was just a bad affair. I was attracted to him for the wrong reasons, which blinded me to his dark side and simultaneously ruined any possibility of other, more wholesome relationships.

These were the memories that surfaced on Saturday. And then, for a moment, I felt like phoning my old friend who had trashed my dreams of becoming a four-point Calvinist. I wanted to ask him: “How could you? How could you use a novel and questionable doctrinal construct, not a century old at the time and a babe in comparison with the doctrine of the rapture that you so despise, to bully people into a category of your own making and subject them to a ridiculous stereotype that flatly ignores their personal histories of following the Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching of Scripture to the best of their abilities?”

But of course it would be useless. I realized how little effect humanitarian considerations have on Calvinists when I read John Piper’s response to Thomas Talbott’s On Predestination, Reprobation, and the Love of God: A Polemic.

In fact, I reread it just now, and experienced a near irresistible temptation to get back in the fight and tell the whole world why Piper is wrong, and how both Scripture and common sense contradict him at every point, and why it is not okay to pray for your children thinking that they may be reprobates, and…

But then I’ll just go back there, and I’m not sure I want to do that.

Bye bye, John…

The Church of No Anticipation (Part 2)

MonkeyThe price for the exhilaration of anticipation is a high one. When we indulge our desires by creating a Jesus that promises to fulfill some or other expectation, we do so at the expense of our commitment to the real Jesus. We pay for banana fever with lettuce leaves.

The reason for the trade-off is simple: The rush that we experience has nothing to do with the divine nature of God, or the power of the Spirit, and everything with the strong emotions that accompany expectations. As such it is not a valid portrayal of the life-giving capacity of the object or ideal that we are focused on, but an entirely subjective emotion forged by our belief that it will impart life.

The Anatomy of False Faith

This explains why the enchantment of anticipation offers such a viable alternative to real faith. Anticipation is, in fact, a form of faith, and here lies the subtlety. It sounds like faith, it looks like faith and it feels like faith. To make matters worse, it is globally proclaimed as faith.

But of course it is not faith, at least not as the Bible defines it. This should be obvious from the very emotions that we are discussing. True faith does not produce sensual feelings, for its object cannot be detected by the senses. As such it is wholly indifferent to that which appeals to the senses. It is moved by reliance on God alone, regardless of any experience (or lack of it). In fact, the Greek word for faith, pistis, can be better translated as “trust,” i.e. a strong reliance on the person and character of God, rather than mere “belief” which carries the connotation of simply believing in the existence of God.

Faith means I believe without having to see, smell or taste. It means I trust before I partake. The character of God is primary, the experience secondary. It is only the believing who get to be nourished in the end. The rest are disqualified.

And so, for faith to remain faith, its experience must of necessity be wholly different to the experience afforded by images that stir up the sensuality of desire and anticipation. Faith is the only antidote for the human irresistibility to desire, for it is in fact unfallen desire – desire pure and uncontaminated. Faith is desire under the governance of trust. It endears the believer to the Giver, not to his gifts. Faith is desire as love, not as lust.

False faith is something entirely different. It tells us that the lettuce will turn into bananas if we believe hard enough. It is an extension of our own delusions, not the antidote. It feeds on and furthers the greed that got us into our predicament in the first place, rather than challenges it. It reduces God to the status of a cosmic genie whose powers can be harnessed if we follow the correct formula.

To use Bonhoeffer’s term, false faith is a “wish dream.”

With the above in mind, it becomes clear why the banana trick is counterproductive. When we use the charm of sensual excitement as a means to motivate people for God, we are in fact messing with their perceptions. Faith is then no longer seeing the unseen, in the sense of that which is invisible to the naked eye, but seeing the unobtained, namely that which is visible in other people’s lives but invisible in mine.

This explains the trade-off. When we sensitise people to that which is visible and tangible, we desensitise them to that which is spiritual. When we teach them to live by banana excitement, we rob them of their capacity to live by lettuce. Sensual desire and faith are like God and Mammon. You cannot have both. They are mutually exclusive.

Mediation, all over again…

When we try and engineer the excitement of religious commitment, we are in fact suggesting that there is some experience that eludes our hearers. The only way we can make people lust after life is to question the validity of the life presently available to them.

The irony is that once we stir up desire and anticipation, we effectively create a gap between life and its partakers, for how can we desire and anticipate something unless it is first established that we do not have it? By promising that God is going to show up, we suggest that he is not present at the moment, and so we undermine the very essence of what the New Covenant is all about.

Our obsession with experience is nothing but a new type of mediation, and we are every bit as enslaved to it as our forebears were with priests murmuring in Latin. The packaging has changed, but it is the same old content. It is still guruism, albeit in a postmodern form. And here lies the difference: The new gurus are the guys who can best stir up expectation.

A simple visit to the Bestsellers section of your local Christian bookstore should reveal this quite clearly. Note how many of those books follow the famous formula of the television commercial:

  1. This is where you are.
  2. This is where you want to be.
  3. This is how you can get there.

The relief and bliss that one experience when reading these types of books have little to do with God, his power or his peace, and much with the absence of unwanted emotions – emotions that are temporarily suppressed by the intrusion of expectation.

Like a big drug company, our business has become the tranquilisation of the masses. The problem is that we have created a generation of addicts – people who no longer know how to use their primary resources to cope with the disillusionments that are so much part of this world. Our faith is no longer resource based, it has become vision based. And here I am not talking about the resurrection and the new earth.

The way in which this has come about is all too clear. The quickest and most efficient way to deal with a grumpy monkey is to repeat the banana trick – to use a new round of anticipation as therapy for the disillusioned and disenchanted, or, if we are really clever, for the potentially disillusioned, that is, to repeat the trick before reality hits home. We tell them that 2018 is the year of breakthrough before they have had a chance to wonder why the breakthrough eluded them in 2017.

The point is that the wish dream has penetrated our churches at an alarming rate, and that the masses have become enslaved to a type of enchantment that is entirely reliant on expectation. This year is the year of breakthrough. The revival is around the corner. God is doing a new thing. We are about to enter the realm of the miraculous.

On and on it goes. Where it will stop, nobody knows…

The Cost of it All

Again, all of this comes with a price. As Proverbs grimly reminds us, hope deferred makes the heart grow sick. There are limits to our capacity for anticipatory excitement. Sooner or later we realize that we are on a fast train heading nowhere, and that swopping stations makes no difference. Inevitably, the day will arrive when we will have not only lost our taste for lettuce, but also our capacity to dream about bananas.

It has been my experience, both as a professional pastor for many years and in my present post-institutional Christian life, that hearts sickened by deferred hope is the new epidemic that is sweeping the ecclesiastical landscape like the Bubonic plague. Its victims are countless, and their final words before breathing their last always follow this line in some or other way: Why didn’t it work out like I was promised?

We are, it seems, picking up the tab for the hysteria that we have been inducing with our vain promises over the past few decades.

Some of us have been wondering about the new type of Christianity for a long time, and have finally reached a point where we make every effort to stay out of its way. It has, in fact, become entirely impossible for us to derive any comfort whatsoever from any form of Christian prediction, except that God knows what we need and that he will provide it as and when he wishes to (terms and conditions apply), that the believing dead will be raised incorruptibly and that this beautiful earth will be restored in all of its splendor.

So did Jesus ever say anything about all of this stuff? In Part 3 we will address this question.

(PS: For a number of reasons I have put that one on hold, but I’ll post when the time is right.)

The Church of No Anticipation (Part 1)

MonkeyIn the late 1920’s, a researcher with a name reminiscent of a character from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale – Otto Tinklepaugh – conducted a series of experiments at the University of California at Berkeley. Tinklepaugh’s subjects were macaque monkeys. He wanted to see what they would “learn” in a variety of settings.

In one experiment, a monkey was put on a chair. A piece of lettuce was placed under one of two empty cups on the floor while the monkey was watching. The monkey was removed from the room. After a few minutes, it was returned and released.

Here is an excerpt from Tinklepaugh’s notes:

Subject rushes to proper cup and picks it up. Seizes lettuce. Rushes away with lettuce in his mouth, paying no attention to other cup or to setting. Time, 3-4 seconds.

Tinklepaugh repeated the experiment using bananas, with the same result. There was a difference, though: The monkeys showed greater enthusiasm when uncovering the banana.

It should come as no surprise that monkeys love lettuce, but that they love bananas even more. Most people know this. What is surprising is the monkeys’ response to a slight alteration of the banana version of the experiment. Once the monkey was removed from the room, Tinklepaugh did something sinister: He exchanged the banana with a piece of lettuce.

Here is his record of what happened next:

Subject rushes to proper cup and picks it up. Extends hand towards lettuce. Stops. Looks around on floor. Looks in, under, around cup. Glances at other cup. Looks back at screen. Looks under and around self. Looks and shrieks at any observer present. Walks away, leaving lettuce untouched on floor. Time, 10-33 seconds.

A Life Lesson

Tinklepaugh’s experiment reveals something disturbing about the dark enchantment of anticipation, which is insightful for those of us who are interested in the present state of Christianity.

Note the setting of this experiment: A creature of God is exposed to the life that comes from God alone, and then given access to it – a life that is intended to fill, satisfy, nourish and sustain the creature.

But note something else: The single factor that has the potential of seriously undermining a perfectly natural and organic process, is the prospect of a type of life that is more appealing than the provided life. Furthermore, when the anticipated “higher” life fails to appear, the effect of the resulting disappointment is so intense that it overrides the creature’s normal appetite for life sources that appear less exhilarating, no matter how accessible or nutritious they may be.

Thus, there is a correlation between the excitement stirred up by anticipation (I’m gonna get me a banana!) and the eventual absence of life (Lettuce sucks!). The irony is obvious: Those who are most passionate about receiving life are oftentimes those who go away most hungry.

Note that that the only thing that trumps that which is most valuable and desired, is an improved version of the same thing – not another thing altogether. This explains why Satan does not appear to his minions as a red horned goat-man with a sulphurous body odour, but as an “angel” (or “messenger”) of light.

If it is life that we seek, then the greatest temptation is not to discard life, but to become greedy for it – to want more of it than that which is proper, available and timeous. Satan knows this, which is why he uses it so effectively to deceive people who are looking for God.

None of this should come as a surprise. The first three chapters of Genesis reads like a version of Tinklepaugh’s experiment, except that the subjects are human: Life provided, life eclipsed by higher life, life lost.

The very thing that God intended for his creation, conformity to his image and likeness, was flashed by Satan: “…you will be like God.” The appeal offered a shortcut to the destination that they were heading to, yet without the disciplinary restraint of the growth process and its comparatively humdrum nutritional requirements. The result, according to the Genesis author, was “desire”[1] – a sense of anticipation gone out of control, a feverish enchantment stirred up by the prospect of arrival without sacrifice.

The New Testament authors understood this dark magic well, and identified it as the core problem of humanity. According to them, both the “old self” and the “world” are corrupt because of one reason only: Deceitful desire.[2]

Furthermore, they understood the gospel and cross of Christ as uniquely designed to counter this force. Paul tells us that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,[3] and that they are uniquely free to live a life void of the momentum generated by desire and anticipation.

They live by faith, which means they are immune to the lusts of the eyes. They trust in the provision of their master, and bananas no longer mesmerise them. They understand that life comes from above, and stones turning into bread seem boring in comparison.

Our Present State

If we understand this, we would rightfully become suspicious of life-offerings that are out of reach, but that promise to become accessible based on some or other precondition. We would be skeptical of any form of energy, excitement or momentum that is generated as a result of anticipation. We would understand that idolatry has very little to do with the objects of our desires, and everything with the rule of desire in our hearts. We would understand that the single greatest potential idol in all of the world is Jesus Christ, and that he becomes so when commitment to him (along with its benefits) is presented as some or other ideal to be fulfilled, rather than as an immediately accessible reality through faith, regardless of whether it is accompanied by bells and whistles.

In short, we will stop believing in the type of Christianity that requires words like “dream,” “vision,” “destiny” and “best life” to sell itself, for we shall see it for what it is: A cheap trick designed to make Christ desirable to people who have never been liberated from the governance of desire in the first place.

The problem is that the desirable Jesus is never there when we get to him, and he has not been for there two thousand years. The even bigger problem is that we have responded to his absence not by questioning whether his anticipated form was real to begin with, but by creating a church machine designed to deal with grumpy monkeys.

Our counseling rooms are emergency wards for the disappointed. Our prayers are pleas for the evasive breakthrough to manifest. Our revival services are designed to churn out newer and better versions of the banana Jesus, forever hoping to maintain the levels of excitement that were stirred up by our initial idolatrous depictions of him. Our worship services are choreographed to incite anticipation. Our evangelism strategies are aimed at the needs of the seekers. Our books are saturated with jargon that promises deliverance, healing, prosperity, a better tomorrow and everything conceivable that we do not have but want.

And, of course, all of it is cloaked in religious rhetoric. We truly believe we have turned from the world to Christ.

We have created a monster, and we are working feverishly for him, thinking that we are working for God.

(End of Part 1. Part 2 will deal with the solution to our predicament.)

[1] Genesis 3:6

[2] See Ephesians 4:22 and 2 Peter 1:4

[3] Galatians 5:24

Who Are We?

FingerprintOne of my favourite smart people in all the world is a fellow by the name of George Lakoff. I like Lakoff for a number of reasons, but mostly because of his knack to trace ideas and opinions back to their origins – origins that most of us are blissfully unaware of.

In his 1996 book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, (I blogged about it here) Lakoff refers to American politics and makes the point that the real difference between “conservatives” and “liberals” has to with their understanding of morality: Conservatives hold to a “Strict Father” morality and liberals to a “Nurturing Parent” morality. Everything else is commentary.

One logical conclusion (there are many others) of Lakoff’s insights is that we bring our ideas to the party of our choice – a choice that has first been made based on those very ideas. Thus, our ideas are not shaped by our party, but amplified by it. Politics becomes an extension of our ego. This explains why so many of us are willing to lay down our lives for the party’s cause.

What we learn from experience…

C S Lewis relates a fascinating story in his 1947 book Miracles: “In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves… If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy that excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience.”

Lewis is not alone in his observations. Demosthenes said: “Nothing is easier than self deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” Aquinas pointed out that “we construe the world according to the principles of our own constitution.” Aldous Huxley confessed: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.”

As the old adage goes, we see the world not as it is, but as we are.

We See Jesus…

All of this becomes rather scary when we apply it to the realm of the Christian religion. In short: We see Jesus not as he is but as we are.

According to Rastafarians, Christ was a black man. The flower children thought of him as the first Hippie. Cuban freedom fighters drew paintings of him holding an AK 47. John Avanzini and the proponents of the prosperity movement teach that Jesus was a wealthy man who wore designer clothes and lived in a mansion. The Ascetics saw him as the great mystic. The Zealots wanted to turn him into their political liberator. The Pharisees expected him to be a Pharisee.

The list goes on and on: Jesus the apocalyptic prophet, Jesus the travelling sage, Jesus the inspired Rabbi. It seems as if everyone who has ever been excited about anything, has also, in the process, enlisted Christ as an apologist for their cause.

As William Blake wrote:

The vision of Christ that thou dost see

Is my vision’s greatest enemy:

Thine has a great hook nose like thine,

Mine has a snub nose like to mine….

Both read the Bible day and night,

But thou read’st black where I read white.

The Heart of the Matter…

This brings me back to Lakoff. If we dig a bit we will see that the great and seemingly complicated schisms of the Christian faith can be traced to a few basic presuppositions that are at odds with each other.

This is a book in itself, and we cannot explore it here. Suffice it to say that our doctrinal idiosyncrasies are oftentimes nothing but vehicles for a basic and rudimentary self-expression. The theology that resonates best with us is the theology that we most want to hear, and we most want to hear it because it best expresses who we are and where we see ourselves going.

This means that denominationalism is a social/cultural phenomenon rather than an ecclesiastical one. Jesus said: “There will be one flock with one shepherd,” (John 10:16). We say: “Birds of a feather flock together.”

But note the words preceding Jesus’ statement: “They will listen to my voice…” Here is the crux of the matter. Only when we listen to his voice will we be delivered from the dominating influence of those convictions and assumptions that we have been adopting and nurturing since early childhood – all in the hope of constructing the semblance of a real and lasting identity.

Of course this is what idolatry is all about, and the totem pole with its carved images is its perfect metaphor. But note: The price that we have to pay for this adventure is the inevitable dissociation from those who identify with a different series of images. As we learn from both the Babel story and the history of the church: It is the yearning for an identity and a name, expressed in a monument, that underlies all division, factionalism and partisanship.

To listen to his voice is the beginning of real and lasting fellowship. It is to depart from the traditions and opinions of men, even those ideas that are so profoundly and eloquently stated that they leave the hearer in awe.

To listen to his voice is to die to your own, and a good place to start is to acknowledge your own as but an echo of the voices of others. It is to step out of the constructs of human scheming and ingenuity into the glorious freedom of God’s thoughts, the fullness of which is found in Christ.

Are we liberals or conservatives? Calvinists or Arminians? Reformed or Orthodox? Pentecostals or Cessationists? The list goes on and on, with each category expressing allegiance to some or other formulation in space and time of that mystery which can only be grasped in union with Christ.

And so we are none of these, and we do not need them as categories for self-identification.

No, our identity begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the perfect expression and representation of the One True God.

Wat moet ons met Jurie van den Heever doen? (3)

Jurie van den Heever Wat moet ons met ons kerk doen copy
My weergawe van Jurie se voorblad simboliseer die woorde van Rom.1:22-25: “Terwyl hulle voorgee dat hulle wys is, het hulle dwaas geword…
hulle wat die waarheid van God verruil het vir die leuen en die skepping vereer en gedien het bo die Skepper wat geprys moet word tot in ewigheid.”

(Apologies to English readers. This is the third reflection on an Afrikaans book that is causing some disturbance in the Christian community over here in South Africa.)

“Maar ons spreek die wysheid van God, wat bestaan in verborgenheid wat bedek was en wat God van ewigheid af voorbeskik het tot ons heerlikheid, wat niemand van die heersers van hierdie wêreld geken het nie — want as hulle dit geken het, sou hulle die Here van die heerlikheid nie gekruisig het nie.” 

Paulus aan die Korinthiërs

Ons het reeds die punt gemaak dat die tipe Christenskap waarteen Jurie in opstand kom ons meer vertel van Jurie en sy sienings as van die Bybelse idee van geloof: Christene is mense wat kinders bang maak met die hel. Christene aanbid ‘n God wat ‘n moordenaar en boelie is. Christene gebruik die hiernamaals as ‘n magspel om lede te werf. Wetenskaplike bevindings help ons om beter en veilige lewens te lei omdat ons nou weet dat epidemies, aardbewings en vuurspuwende berge nie meer aan ‘n opportunistiese en wraaksugtige opperwese toegeskryf word nie. En so aan.

Die implikasie is vanselfsprekend: Geloof in Christus is lekker vir ouens wat so bietjie agter-die-klip is.

Die idee dat God ‘n inhiberende beheervraat is, en dat hy bedreig voel deur ons vryheid, is nie nuut nie. Volgens die Genesis verhaal is dit hierdie gedagte wat die mens laat wegdraai het van God, en wat die ideaal van onafhanklikheid en selfverwesenliking in hom/haar geplant het.

Ongeloof word dus moontlik gemaak sodra God onder verdenking is. En dit doen ons sommer maklik deur die “kerk” se wandade uit te wys, en dan te maak asof God die argitek van die kerkorde en haar tradisionele absurditeite is.

Boem! Die koeël is deur die kerk, en sommer deur God en Jesus ook.

Die Bottom Line…

Die enkele gedagte wat in Jurie se boek uitstaan as ‘n wanvoorstelling van die verskil tussen geloof en ongeloof, is die idee dat ons “ons fiktiewe posisie as kroon van die skepping” moet verruil vir die “voorreg om ‘n integrale deel van die Kosmos te wees.” So kan die self getransendeer word en is die uitsig “nie meer vanuit ‘n posisie van mag en eiebelang nie.”

Steven Pinker word aangehaal in die verband: “… occupying another’s vantage point and imagining his or her own emotions as if they were one’s own.”

Dit bring my by die vraag wat ek laas op hierdie blog gevra het: Versluier Jurie met opset wat in die Bybel staan, of is hy onbewus daarvan?

Die voorstel dat selfloosheid en die kweek van ‘n empatiese bewussyn bevorder kan word deur geloof in God en Christus af te sweer, spreek van majestueuse teologiese onkunde en/of verwarrring.

Die rede is voor die handliggend: Elke woord wat ooit uit die mond van God gegaan het, en wat gespreek is deur engele en profete en op talle ander maniere, en uiteindelik gekulmineer het in die lewe en lering van Jesus Christus, het ten doel gehad om die inherente narsisme van die mensdom te stuit.

Die sogenaamde Augustiniaanse idee van die “erfsonde,” wat soveel ontsteltenis veroorsaak in Jurie en Sakkie en Piet en Hansie se kringe, en wat afgemaak word as ‘n vyfde-eeuse konstruksie, moet geïnterpreteer word teen hierdie agtergrond.

Die Bybelse storie is van begin tot einde konsekwent en eenvoudig: Êrens in die geskiedenis van die mensdom het daar ‘n gebeure plaasgevind wat ons bewussyn geswaai het na die self en die belange van die self. Dit het gelei tot die fenomeen van “begeerte,” naamlik die drang en sug na dinge, mense en insidente wat die pelgrimstog na selfaktualisering en selfverwesenliking kan moontlik maak.

Die donker kant van hierdie avontuur is natuurlik ‘n onafwendbare afgestomptheid en gevoelsarmoede teenoor diegene wat nie waarde kan toevoeg tot die “ek” ideaal nie.

Terwyl ons lekker kan vuisslaan oor die historisiteit van die tuinverhaal, is die boodskap daarvan duidelik en ondebatteerbaar: Om betower te word deur die projeksie van ‘n toekomstige self wat groter en wonderliker is as die self van die hede, is om weg te kyk van die God wat “is” en nie “word” nie, en om vervreemd te word van ‘n vorm van levensonderhoud en groei wat uit hom uit spruit en alle hunkering na ander vorme van “word” oorbodig maak.

Kom ons kyk vir ‘n oomblik verby die vreemdheid daarvan dat die eerste motiveringspreker in die mensegeskiedenis ‘n slang was, en ons let op die boodskap agter die storie: Die essensie van menslike motivering, soos ons dit ken en verstaan, kan teruggetrek word na ‘n duister en bose mag wie se eksplisiete doel die verheffing van die self en die vernietiging van die liefde is.

Die sogenaamde “erfsonde” is dus niks anders as ‘n universele geneigdheid om die belange van die self bo die belange van ander te stel nie.

Ek is jammer, Jurie, maar ek dink dit is ‘n geniale beskrywing van die probleem van die wêreld waarin ons leef. Jy en Sakkie is welkom om julleself uit te sluit, maar ek is met hierdie vervloekte ding gebore, en dit het die rigting van my hele lewe bepaal.

Die woord wat die Bybel gebruik vir hierdie universele toestand van die mens is “ongeregtigheid.” En hier moet ons onmiddellik afstand doen van Calvinistiese konstruksies en ander denominasionele konnotasies wat ons aan die woord mag heg (die Engelse “righteousness” wat in Afrikaanse Bybels “vryspraak” geword het, eerder as die Hebreeuse tsedek en Griekse dikaiosune wat “justice” beteken).

Ongeregtigheid in die Bybel is dus niks anders as die onvermoë om reg te laat geskied aan ander nie, m.a.w. die onvermoë om ander te ag met dieselfde intense belang wat ons vir onsself koester en preserveer.

‘n Wraaksugtige Opperwese?

Die refrein van God se “wraaksug,” wat Jurie se boek kenmerk en hom so lekker vir Dawkins en sy tirade teenoor God laat aanhaal, is ‘n mistasting. Dit is duidelik dat Jurie nie God se aard en karakter verstaan nie.

Let daarop dat God se belang in die moord van Abel voortspruit uit die “bloed van Abel” wat uitroep uit die grond. Kain se sogenaamde “skuld” voor God onstaan as gevolg van dit wat hy aan sy broer gedoen het, nie omdat hy een of ander arbitrêre drif of drang of wet in God teëgestaan het nie.

Die rede hoekom God vir Kain aanspreeklik hou is nie wraaksug nie, maar liefde. As God bloot vir Kain sou “oorsien,” sou hy saam met Kain skuldig geword het aan ongeregtigheid. Abel word die “slagoffer” van Kain se ongeregtigheid, en God tree in as Abel se verdediger en dring aan op ‘n regstelling om die ewewig van geregtigheid te herstel.

Kain het ‘n lewe geneem, en nou skuld hy ‘n lewe.

Dis soos die boelie se pa wat hom voor stok kry omdat hy sy jonger boetie afgeknou het: “Jy het Junior seergemaak. Ek is lief vir Junior, daarom hou ek jou aanspreeklik. Jou skuld bly staan totdat jy regmaak met Junior. En jou regmaak beter op dieselfde vlak wees as jou oortreding.”

Hoe op dees aarde verander dit God in die boelie?

Die offersisteem van die Ou Testament is niks anders as ‘n verlengstuk van hierdie liefde van God nie, dus ‘n voorsiening vir die Kains van die wêreld om “reg te maak,” en vir die Abels om kompensasie te ontvang.

Die punt is dat God ook lief is vir die boelie, en dat Junior boonop self skuldig is aan sy eie tipe boeliery. God se liefde en geregtigheid vereis nie net ‘n betaling nie, maar help ons ook om die betaling te maak. Hy vereis die lam, maar dan voorsien hy dit.

Dit is genade, en dit is nie goedkoop nie. Daarom word restitusie dwarsdeur die Bybel voorgeskryf as deel van die regmaak of versoeningsproses, en altyd in ooreenstemming met die oortreding.

Die vader se liefde het ‘n finale doel: Hy wil hê die boelie en sy jonger broer moet versoen, en mekaar liefhê soos hy hulle liefhet. Dit is die “Konkryk van God en sy geregtigheid,” ‘n term wat grootliks ‘n niksseggende kerklike cliché geword het.

Beroof God se Wet ons van ons Vryheid?

God se “Wet” staan in diens van hierdie relasionele geregtigheid – ‘n stel reëls wat ons verbied om ons naaste te benadeel, met eksplisiete voorskrifte vir boetedoening indien ons dit wel doen.

‘n Oog-vir-‘n-oog maak nie die hele wêreld blind nie, soos Ghandi beweer het nie, maar gebied relasionele geregtigheid deur die oortreders daarvan aan die ontvangkant van hulle eie ongeregtighede te plaas. So word die ewewig van Deuteronomium en Levitikus se “skale van geregtigheid,” wat wêreldwyd op hofsale verskyn, herstel.

As ons nie hierdie onderbou het in ons benadering tot die Nuwe Testament nie, word Jesus se konstante verwysings na geregtigheid niksseggende mistiese praatjies. Dan word hy Jurie se “nobody” en “gewone mens” – met ‘n irrelevante boodskap.

As ons dit egter het, dan merk ons op dat Jesus die hele wet en profete opsom in die woorde “doen aan ander soos jy wil hê hulle aan jou moet doen,” en “jy moet jou naaste liefhê soos jouself.” Hier is die geregtigheidsformule – die onmoontlike opdrag om dieselfde bewussyn te koester teenoor andere as wat ons vir onsself het.

So vertel Jesus storie op storie om aan ons te verduidelik dat geen vorm van fanatiese wetsonderhouding die ongeregtigheid van die menslike hart kan demp nie. Die probleem is nie die Wet nie, maar dit wat binne ons aangaan. Daarom het hy nie gekom om die Wet te ontbind nie, maar te vervul.

Hy verduidelik dit deur te praat van ‘n praktiese geregtigheid wat groter is as die wettiese geregtigheid van die Fariseers en Skrifgeleerdes – ‘n geregtigheid wat die tirrannie van begeerte en die drang na selfgelding neutraliseer, en ons in staat sal stel om ons vyande lief te hê en dienaars van andere te wees.

Paulus het presies dieselfde storie: Jesus het gekom het om die skuld van ons ongeregtighede te betaal, maar ook om ons te verlos van die oorsaak daarvan. Dit het hy gedoen deur ‘n daadwerklike hartsverandering binne in ons te bewerk – ‘n bonatuurlike wedergeboorte deur die Gees van God – wat ons in staat stel om te deel in God se natuur van liefde en geregtigheid.

Die vereiste? Ons moet bereid wees om ons selfvertroue te vervang met ‘n vertroue op God. So sal die regverdige deur die geloof lewe. So sal ons ons narsistiese lewens verloor en die lewe van God vind wat ons in staat stel om selfloos en empaties te lewe.

Ons hoef dan nie meer offers te bring nie, maar ons word die offer – soos wat Jesus gedoen het. Dit beteken ons is bereid om ons lewens af te lê vir ander en hulle hoër te ag as onsself. Dit is geregtigheid. Dit is die Koninkryk van God.

Die “Vervulling van die Wet”

Hierdie fenominale kapasiteit vir liefde vervul die intensie van die Wet. In Paulus se woorde: Die liefde doen die naaste geen kwaad nie; daarom is die liefde die vervulling van die Wet.

Diegene wat deur die “Gees gelei” word is nie onder die Wet nie, want hulle doen alles en meer wat deur die Wet vereis word. Die verskil is dat hulle dit spontaan en onbewus doen. Hulle is die kinders van God, en deel in hulle Vader se natuur.

Die gedagte dat hierdie boodskap ‘n persoon in ‘n “posisie van mag en eiebelang” plaas wat lekker opgelos kan word deur jouself te sien as ‘n integrale deel van ‘n godlose Kosmos is absurd. Die Kosmos het nog nooit enigiemand tot verantwoording geroep vir dade van onreg teenoor minder bevoorregtes nie. Die Kosmos het nooit haar lewe vir ons gegee om ons te verlos van ons narsistiese selfobsessies nie, en om die ellelange lys van aanklagte wat teenoor ons staan vir ons relasionele wandade uit te wis nie.

Ten Slotte… 

Meer as enigiets anders is dit die valse voorstel van hierdie sentrale boodskap van die Bybel wat Jurie se boek ongeloofwaardig maak. God word uitgewys as die probleem, eerder as ons. As ons maar net ontslae kan raak van God, dan sal alles uitwerk.

Volgens die evangelies is dit hierdie tipe argumentering wat gelei het tot Jesus se kruisiging. Die skuldiges het hulle skuld projekteer op die onskuldige, en hulleself verontskuldig.

Let daarop dat Jurie Bybelwetenskaplike op Bybelwetenskaplike aanhaal om sy konklusies te staaf. Hierdie ouens weet meer as ons almal, sê Jurie. Hulle het agter die gordyn ingeloer, en ons moet na hulle luister.

Dit fassineer my dat nie een van hierdie intellektuele reuse die eenvoudige liefdes- en geregtigheidsboodskap van die Bybel snap soos dit in ‘n paar paragrawe hierbo uiteengesit is nie.

En dit laat my wonder of ‘n persoon fenominale geleerdheid nodig het om blind te raak vir iets wat so opsigtelik is…

Wat moet ons met Jurie van den Heever doen? (2)

Jurie van den Heever Wat moet ons met ons kerk doen
My weergawe van Jurie se voorblad simboliseer die woorde van Rom.1:22-25: “Terwyl hulle voorgee dat hulle wys is, het hulle dwaas geword…
hulle wat die waarheid van God verruil het vir die leuen en die skepping vereer en gedien het bo die Skepper wat geprys moet word tot in ewigheid.”

(Apologies to English readers. I am still reflecting on an Afrikaans book that is causing some disturbance in the Christian community over here. The author, a well known South African palaeontologist, suggests that churchgoers should drop the idea of an almighty, omniscient and all knowing God, who has a son named Jesus, for a “natural spirituality” or “ecomorality.”)

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” G.K. Chesterton

In sy boek Wat Moet Ons Met Ons Kerk doen, stel Jurie van den Heever God en Christenskap op so ‘n wyse voor dat geen regdenkende mens iets daarmee te doen sal wil hê nie. So berei hy sy lesers voor vir sy eie groot antwoord: ‘n “Natuurspiritualiteit” of “ekomoralitiet” wat losweg geskoei is op die volgende beginsels:

  • Daar hoef geen God erken of aanbid te word nie. (Inderdaad, want daar is “bewese navorsing” wat die idee van ‘n Almagtige, Alwetende en Alsiende God weerlê!)
  • Gebed as ‘n “gesprek met ‘n opperwese” is nie ‘n opsie nie, want dit bestaan nie. Dit is bloot ‘n vorm van selfterapie.
  • Daar bestaan nie iets soos ‘n menslike “siel” of “gees” nie. Die mens is ‘n somtotaal van biologiese funksies.
  • Daar is geen sprake van lewe na die dood nie. Die hiernamaals is ‘n mite en fopspeen. Enige godsdiens wat die idee van ‘n nadoodse voortbestaan steun is besig met ‘n “magspel om steun te werf.” (!)
  • Daar is geen eindoordeel of finale geregtigheid nie.
  • Jesus was ‘n “nobody amongst nobodies” – ‘n “verstote Jood” wat misluk het in sy poging om Israel godsdienstig te vernuwe. Van sy uitsprake en voorspellings het nie “steek gehou nie.” Die rede hoekom hy aan God as sy vader gedink het is omdat hy in werklikheid ‘n vaderlose uitgeworpene was. Natuurlik het hy nooit opgestaan uit die dood nie, nie opgevaar na die hemel nie en is daar geen sprake daarvan dat hy ooit sal terugkeer aarde toe nie.
  • Die God van wie ons lees in die Ou Testament is iesegrimmig, inmengerig en manipulerend. Die ateïs Richard Dawkins is korrek as hy van hom praat as ‘n “unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
  • Daar is goeie nuus! Die biologie bied ‘n gesonde en spiritueel bevredigende alternatief vir ‘n “fundamentalistiese godsbegrip.” (Anders as die Bybelse God is die aarde heilig en onderhou lewe!)
  • Die slotsom is eenvoudig: Enige formulering oor die betekenis van ons aardse bestaan kan nie sonder ‘n “wetenskaplike onderbou en veral die insette van die ewolusionere Biologie geskied nie.” Die biologie bied ‘n uitsig op die kosmos wat veel meer sê as wat enige tradisionele vorm van geloof kan hoop om te doen. Dit spreek tot ‘n spirituele dimensie.

Ek wonder oor die venyn in Jurie se boek.

Ek wonder oor die ekstreme verwerping van klassieke spiritualiteit in alle vorme, en hoekom iemand ‘n behoefte sou hê om dit te herdefinieer en te reduseer tot ‘n blote verwondering oor/bewondering van die materiële. (Is die Mona Lisa meer bewonderingswaardig vir mense wat sukkel om Leonardo binne-in die skildery te vind, en daarom aflei dat sy haarself op een of ander wyse geskep het? Verwar ons nie dalk raaiselagtigheid met verwondering nie?)

Ek wonder hoekom Jurie bereid is om sy akademiese integriteit te kompromiteer deur absurde stellings te maak, soos dat daar “bewese navorsing” bestaan wat die dogma van ‘n “Almagtige, Alwetende en Alsiende God” weerlê, asook die bestaan van “‘n siel” en “die wederkoms.” Hoe op aarde bewys ‘n mens dit? Ons weet mos die afwesigheid van ‘n bewys is nie ‘n bewys van afwesigheid nie.

Ek wonder oor Jurie se blatante oneerlikheid, as hy die eksplisiete stelling maak dat enige godsdiens wat die idee van ‘n nadoodse voortbestaan steun besig is met ‘n “magspel om steun te werf.” Dit is nie waar nie. Met die stelling beskuldig hy elke groep opregte gelowiges deur die eeue, wat glo of geglo het in een of ander vorm van ‘n spirituele bestaan buite die grense van hul huidige aardse liggaam en vlees, van duister motiewe. Die sin is so ‘n growwe veralgemening dat geen eerstejaar op universiteit oorgesien sal word vir dit nie.

Ek wonder oor Jurie se voorstel dat daar belangrike aanpassing in die “kerk” nodig is. As ons alles moet glo in sy boek, dan bestaan daar nie iets soos ‘n kerk nie en is daar ook geen gronde vir ‘n kerk nie. Dan is sy voorstel net so sinvol soos om Sinterklaas se huis te probeer herbou of die plaaslike tandemuisklub te probeer hervorm.

En ek wonder natuurlik oor die slotsom van die boek – dat mense soos Jurie eintlik die rol van die geestelike leier en profeet in die samelewing moet oorneem. As Jurie beweer dat die biologie tot ‘n spirituele dimensie spreek en ‘n uitsig op die kosmos bied wat veel meer sê as wat enige tradisionele vorm van geloof kan hoop om te doen, dan beweer hy maar eintlik dat ouens soos hy veel meer sê as diegene wie op ‘n tradisionele wyse oor geloof dink, besin en praat, en dit sluit Jesus en Paulus in. (Onthou, die enigste wyse hoe die biologie en paleontologie met die leek kan “praat” is deur die bemiddeling van diegene wie dit bestudeer en ken.)

Maar te midde van al my verwondering oor Jurie, wonder ek die heel meeste of hy onkundig is rondom dit wat werklik in die Bybel staan, en of hy dit met opset versluier.

Meer hieroor volgende keer…

Wat moet ons met Jurie van den Heever doen? (1)

My weergawe van Jurie se voorblad simboliseer die woorde van Rom.1:22-25: “Terwyl hulle voorgee dat hulle wys is, het hulle dwaas geword…
hulle wat die waarheid van God verruil het vir die leuen en die skepping vereer en gedien het bo die Skepper wat geprys moet word tot in ewigheid.”

(Apologies to English readers. I am reflecting on a new Afrikaans book that is causing some disturbance in the Christian community over here. The author, a well known South African palaeontologist, suggests that churchgoers should drop the idea of an almighty, omniscient and all knowing God, who has a son named Jesus, for a “natural spirituality” or “ecomorality.” How can one not say something?)

“A man can no more diminish God´s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling `darkness´ on the wall of his cell.” -C.S. Lewis

Wat maak ‘n mens met Jurie van den Heever en sy nuwe boek? (“Wat moet ons met ons Kerk doen?”)

Ek sou graag niks wou doen nie. Toe ek tien jaar gelede my verhouding met denominasionele Christenskap gebreek het, het ek belangstelling verloor in kerkpolitiek en alles wat daarmee gepaard gaan.

Ek het ook belangstelling verloor in geeslose fakulteitsteologie en die absurde idee dat daar ‘n kousale verband tussen akademiese geleerdheid (van watter aard ook al) en kennis van God bestaan.

So ek hou gewoonlik verby boeke soos Jurie s’n.

Maar ek kon nie help om op te merk dat Jurie se boek vir ‘n rukkie hier in Bloem se Exclusive Books ‘n “bestseller” geword het nie. Dit beteken dat mense die boek lees, en (soos dit dikwels gaan met nominale kerkmense) dat van hulle glo wat hulle lees.

En so het ek met ‘n sug my kopie gekry (teen ‘n pynlike prys van 10 Cappuccinos), en ook begin lees…

Jurie se “Kerk”

Die boek gee ons wel insig in die probleem van Jurie se kerk (Hy is klaarblyklik steeds ‘n NG lidmaat – vandaar die “ons”), maar dit het eerder met Jurie se denkwyse en benadering tot teologie te doen as met sy gevolgtrekkings. Jurie openbaar op ‘n besondere wyse die psige van ‘n lidmaat wat ontnugter is met ‘n kerkgod wat geskep is in die naam van godsdienstradisie en menslike oorlewering. (Daarmee suggereer ek hoegenaamd nie dat alle NG mense ‘n kerkgod aanbid nie.)

Dit is Calvyn en Calvinisme net waar jy kyk, en natuurlik Augustinus. Kuyper en Dooyeweerd steek ook kop uit.

En hier is Jurie se voorstel: Ons moet breek met ‘n middeleeuse Augustiniaanse paradigma wat daartoe gelei het dat die Christelike godsdiens en teologie nou in ‘n krisis verkeer. Maar let op: Dit is nie net NG lidmate wat moet herbesin oor hul geloof nie, maar sommer ons almal.


Dis Jurie se reg om sy kerk aan te vat, en te besin oor haar teologie. Maar hy behoort dit daar diep binne in sy kerk te doen. Wat hy nie moet doen nie is om God en Jesus Christus op die markplein aan te vat, en sy aanval te verdedig met absurditeite wat lewensvreemd is vir gelowiges wat buite sy kerktradisie staan.

Hierdie is ‘n ou laai van ongelowige/afvallige susterskerklidmate en -professore. God is onder verdenking want die “kerk” het allerhande vreeslike goed aan ons gedoen, soos om apartheid te regverdig uit die Bybel, en ons te verbied om te dans, en ons te dreig met ‘n hel waar demone ons gaan martel as ons na Rodriguez se musiek luister, en en en. Nou is ons kwaad.

As die kerkgod val dan tuimel sy aanbidders saam na benede. Dit maak seer en dis ‘n verleentheid. So kom ons kyk wie ons kan saamtrek.

Met groot respek: Ek ken nie hierdie god van wie jy praat nie, Jurie. Hy het niks met my uit te waai nie, en dit voel vir my ‘n bietjie verwaand dat jy insunieer dat ek en ander oor ons geloof moet besin omdat jy joune verloor het (of nooit gevind het nie). Jy laat my dink aan ‘n vreemdeling wat my in die middel van die nag wakkerklop en vertel dat ek my vrou moet los omdat sy huweliksverhouding nie op dreef kom nie. Hy het my innige simpatie, maar ek gaan nie na hom luister nie. En ek sal almal in die straat af vertel om hom ook te ignoreer.

Weet Jurie dat daar talle gelowiges wereldwyd is wat nie ‘n saak het met Augustinus se teologie nie, en hordes wat oortuig is dat Calvyn nooit die God geken het in wie se naam hy sy teologiese opponente laat opsluit, martel en verbrand het nie?

Weet hy van die Hervormers se terreurveldtog teenoor groepe soos die Anabaptiste, en dat lg. sal giggel vanuit hul bloedbevlekte grafte as hulle moet hoor dat iemand oor Christenskap wil herbesin op grond van goed wat Augustinus en Calvyn kwytgeraak het?

Weet hy dat die “kerk” (die ander een) ‘n formidabele mag was om apartheid tot ‘n einde te bring?

En so kan ons aangaan…

Die Christenskap waarteen Jurie ten velde trek is ‘n karikatuur wat soos Frankenstein se monster aanmekaargeweef is vanuit ‘n seleksie van denominasionele persepsies en onkundige afleidings, meesal vanuit die Calvinisme en hiper-fundamentalisme, en is (genadiglik) nie verteenwoordigend van die Christelike geloof soos dit in die eerste eeue bestaan het nie, en steeds in menige vorme buite institusionele denominasionalisme bestaan nie.

 Jurie se god

Die god waarteen Jurie in opstand kom is net so karikatuuragtig.

Om maar een voorbeeld te noem: Jurie drup van sarkasme as hy die Bybel se skeppingsverhaal gebruik om na God te verwys as ‘n “nutsman.” En dan noem hy God ‘n leuenaar omdat Adam en Eva kwansuis nie oombliklik gesterf het soos God gesê het nie.

‘n Mens sou graag vir Jurie wou herinner dat die “dood” ietsie meer is in die Bybel as om bloot jou laaste asem uit te blaas, maar dit sal nutteloos wees. Jurie weier botweg om die Skrif te gebruik om die Skrif te interpreteer (‘n majestieuse hermeneutiese beginsels), want hy glo nie in die inspirasie van die Skrif nie. Die Bybel het ook maar net ge-ewoleer, soos alles rondom ons. Daar is nie sprake van enige intelligensie agter die skerms nie.

Dit is dus onmoontlik om vanuit ‘n geloofsperspektief ‘n sinvolle gesprek met Jurie te hê. Dit is jammer, want ek sou graag vir hom ‘n paar goed wou sê. Soos dat geen boek in die wereld meer eksplisiet is oor die versluiering van God as die Bybel self nie, en dat God oral daarin getuig van sy gewoonte om sy spore uit te vee vir mense wie hom soos ’n navorsingsobjek wil benader.

Hierdie karaktertrek van God het niks met moedswilligheid te doen nie, en alles met liefde. As die ontdekking en kennis van God, en ons toegang tot hom, met dieselfde voorwaardes gekom het as wat vereis word deur die fossiele in die grotte waaroor Jurie so lekker praat, en wat onlangs weer in die nuus was, dan was ouens soos Jurie ons profete en ons was die leke. En dan het die ongeletterdes van hierdie wereld nie net ‘n sosiale agterstand gehad nie, maar ook ‘n geestelike een.

Die Bybel sê dit werk andersom. God ontsluier nie homself, of antwoord die vraag oor sy bestaan, op ‘n wyse wat afhanklik is van die nuutste “navorsingmetodiek” waaroor Jurie so opgewonde is nie, en waartoe hy uitmuntende toegang het as ‘n geleerde wit professor nie.

Nee, hy doen dit op ‘n manier wat toeganklik is vir ‘n weeskind in die strate van Calcutta en ‘n enkelouer in droogtegeteisterde Midde-Afrika wie haar kinders aan die lewe hou met broodkrummels en gebed.

Jurie sê hy slimmer as sy. Haar gebede is “selfterapie” en niks meer nie. Daarmee verwoes hy die hoop van elke slagoffer van ongeregtigheid wie ooit in sy/haar diepste nood vir God aangeroep en op hom vertrou het toe niks anders meer gewerk het nie.

Jurie kan nie aanvaar dat God homself kan openbaar buite die sfeer van dit wat ons “wetenskap” noem nie. Hy kan nie aanvaar dat die wyse waarop die Bybel oor God se selfopenbaring praat ooreenstem met die wyse waarop ‘n vrou kies om haarself te ontsluier vir haar man nie, en dat dit haar prerogatief is om dit te doen soos en wanneer sy wil nie, en dit te beperk tot ‘n verhouding van wedersydse liefde en kennis wat kopkennis (en Jurie se geliefde “rede” waarna hy so dikwels verwys) transendeer nie.

Nie alle ontdekkings hang af van die inisiatief of slimmigheid van die ontdekkingreisiger nie, veral nie as dit heilige grond is wat ontdek word nie.

En dit laat my weer dink aan die man wat my wakkerklop in die middel van die nag. “Ons moet herbesin oor jou verhouding met jou vrou,” se hy vir my. “Ek het navorsing gedoen, en die Victoriaanse beskouiing van die huwelik is nonsens. Jy moet uit hierdie ding kom. Daar is geen intimiteit of seksualiteit in jou huwelik nie. Ek sien niks nie en en ek vind geen bewyse daarvoor nie. Ek weet. Ek is ‘n Paleontoloog.”

Ek onthou ‘n vakansie lank gelede. Ek het my 1985 Honda XR500 saamgevat, en soggens vroegskemer by die huis uitgesluip terwyl almal geslaap het. Ek het langs die wit strande afgery tot by die langste strand, met die koelte van die seebries in my gesig. Daar het ek tussen die golwe geswem en dryf, waarna ek op die strand gaan sit en kyk het hoe die son opkom oor die magtige Indiese Oseaan. Ek het my verwonder oor alles – die seemeeue, die branders, die sout op my lippe, die onuitspreeklike heerlikheid van die lewe wat God vir ons geskenk het. God was oral, en hy was so sigbaar soos die dag wat rondom my ontvou het. Ek het met hom gepraat, en gepraat – in verwondering oor sy beeldskoonheid, en oor die voorreg om te kan wees. Daarna het ek ‘n entjie opgestap met die strand, tot waar ek kon kofffie kry en sit en skryf oor God. Ek was betower, en vredevol, en gelukkig.

Dit het my jare geneem om uit te vind dat hierdie ongelooflike emosie nie vlietend hoef te wees nie, maar dat dit so deel van ‘n persoon kan word soos asemhaal. Om God te sien, en dankbaar te wees, en te vergeet van jouself en jou ambisies, is binne bereik van ons almal. En daarmee saam die onuitspreeklike vergenoegdheid en vreugde wat die saad is van alle selfloosheid en liefde en geregtigheid teenoor ander.

Selfterapie? Daar is net twee moontlikhede, Jurie. Of jy weet nie waarvan jy praat nie, of ek is die briljantste terapeut wat nog ooit geleef het. Veral as ek in ag neem hoe mislik, miserabel en depressief ek was voor my terapie.

(Word vervolg)