Steve Garber gave the final message of the Jonathan Edwards Institute Conference in Annapolis. It was called "Lost in the Cosmos: Finding our True Home in a Trinitarian Universe."
I. Ideas Have Legs, One More Time.
A. Tom Shadyac's "Bruce Almighty."
Steve originally decided that he would not see this movie because he was sure it was blasphemous. But, he was surprised when he watched the movie - it was different than he expected to be. Steve had dinner with Tom Shadyac the night after he watched the movie. He found out that Tom was not just a good man, but a godly man. Throughout the conversation, Tom kept talking about God, calling and story. It became clear to Steve that God was first in Tom's life. Tom is serious about his devotional life, reading the Scriptures daily, reading the gospels, reading Augustine's Confessions.
Tom says that when he walks into the studio they don't ask him about his devotions they ask him if he has a good story to tell. His calling is to be the best storyteller he can be.
When asked about having a film where a couple lives together and are not married by Christian, Tom says that if you think that you shouldn't read the bible. For example, we have the story of David and Bathsheba in adultery and David's murder of Uriah.
Tom named Jennifer Anniston "Grace." Jim is living with Grace. There is a purpose in this.
Jim Carey thinks he could do a better job of being God than God. In the scene where Jim Carey lassoes the moon he does so in order to have great sex with Grace. The next morning, when the TV shows typhoons and other disasters, it communicates that small, selfish actions have tremendous consequences.
Bruce Almighty is a funny story that tells us that our actions have consequences for all of life.
B. "Magnolia" and "13 Conversations about One Thing."
Magnolia is a very hard story of ten people whose lives seem very fragmented, and in the movie it tells their stories. It tells the story that there are consequences to the choices we make, and they affect other people. We do not live in a world that is governed by chance or fate.
13 Conversations about One Thing is a similar story. Before the story is all over a tapestry has been woven showing that choices and relationships affect others. The "one thing" in the title is the answer to the question "what is it that will make you happy?"
II. On Being Lost
A. The profound desire to belong, to know and be known, to love and be loved. Think about it.
For most of us there are very few days of life where we are free from the cracks and crevices created by our desire to know and be known, to love and be loved. This is true for individuals and institutions. Live8 shows the desire to be part of something bigger than me, something more important than me.
B. E. M. Forster's Howard's End, "only connect."
It is the story of a wealthy industrialist who makes decisions based on economic factors and one part shows how this affects the real lives of others. The message is that we ought not to think that we are on our own, by ourselves.
C. Vaclev Havel "It Always Makes Sense to Tell the Truth."
Havel was the most famous playright in Czechoslovakia whose plays became too provocative for the communist government. He was put into prison in the 80's. He later became President of the Czech republic. Havel believed that if there was to be a future for Czechoslovakia they had to change the paradigm from thinking of themselves as victims to that of responsible people.
"I believe that with the loss of God, man has lost a kind of absolute and universal system of coordinates, to which he could always relate anything, chiefly himself."
When we lose God we lose who we are, we lose our place in the universe, we become Lost in the Cosmos.
D. Henri Nouwen in Making All Things New
"Boredom, resentment, and depression are ally sentiments of disonnectedness."
III. Thinking Theologically
A. Covenant is critical. To whom or what do you belong? God's means of communicating with us is always by covenant. God is the covenant promising and covenant keeping God. The banishment from Eden is a loss of home, a loss of place, a loss of identity. It is God who says "you have a home here in this garden of paradise, this place of delight." "You are sent away from this place and you no longer have a place to call home."
The pilgrimage out of Egypt is a pilgrimage to find a place to call home again.
In the New Testament, many of the stories are answering the questions, "to whom do you belong?" "to what do you belong?" and "where do you belong?" Think of the stories of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost home.
B. Heidelberg Catechism
Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer 1: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own,but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
My only hope in life is death is that I belong to the Trinity.
C. C.S. Lewis, Beyond Personality, "The Three-Personal God."
"Well,Theology's like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting . . . Doctrines aren't God; they're only a kind of map. But that map's based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God - experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused."
Calvin - you can't know yourself without knowing God, but you can't know God without knowing yourself.
D. Colin Gunton in "The One, The Three, and The Many."
"The Trinity is the idea of ideas, in some way at once the clue to all thought and to all reality.
The modern world disengages us and causes us to feel fragmented.
Billy Corrigan, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins - "You say you love me, but why is it you never want to live with me." He says he writes music for alienated young people like him.
E. Book of Common Prayer
"You have graciously accepted us as living members of Thy Dear Son . . ."
At its very heart, the gospel tells us that God knows us thoroughly and loves us.
IV. Counterpoints: The Prophetic Voices of Berry, Percy and Polanyi
A. Wendell Berry as prophet calling for a connected, coherent cosmos, a universe where human beings live in a more healthy relationship to each other and the world around. An antidote to Marx.
Marx saw alienation from beginning to end and addressed the alienation in Tiny Tim's heart and Oliver Twist's experience with a vision that was fundamentally flawed. The 20th century is a testimony to the failure of his vision.
Wendell Berry -- The Wild Birds, That Distant Land.
Berry talks about a world where we are connected to each other and responsible to each other. B. Walker Percy as prophet exploring the human condition in a universe where we have lost our way, become lost in the cosmos. An antidote to Freud.
B. Walker Percy Percy's recommended book -- Love in the Ruins. People trying to learn to love and making bad, distorted choices. At the end of the story he takes us back to where we need to be - back in bed, husbands and wives, loving and being loved.
C. And Michael Polanyia as prophet critiquing the reductio absurdams of the modern world, the fragmening of values from facts, of "objective" knowing from "subjective" knowing. An antidote to Darwin. Polanyi says that we can't just know in the abstract. He asks, at the end of World War II, how it is that people can be brilliant and bad at the same time. He asks if there is a way to know the world that leads to responsible action. We can know in a way that leads us to be responsible.
V. The Truest Truth
A. From the Garden to the City, the deepest reality is that we are creatures made for community, e.g. communio sanctorum, a community of the saints.
B. Francis Schaeffer on the final apologetic.
The final apologetic to the world is the way that we love each other. We love each other, we take care of each other, we long for each other, we delight in each other, we take each other seriously.
C. Leslie Newbigin on the Church, and the congregation as the hermeneutic of the gospel.
The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel. It is as we live together and love each other, that is the hermeneutic of the gospel. People understand Father, Son and Spirit as we live it out.
D. C. S. Lewis
God can show himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body. Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for him together.
E. But Edwards has the last word, fittingly.
"Holy Spirit is the act of God between Father and the Son, infinitely loving and delighting in each other."
Works, 13, p. 448
"[Edwards] proceeded on the assumption that the Trinity is in fact at the center of the Christian faith and devoted himself to showing connections between a Trinitarian vision fo God's communal love and questions of religious experience, ecclesiology and eschatology."
The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards
Amy Plantinga Paw
The supreme harmony of all? The point of life? The end of all hopes and dreams, all longings and yearnings?
Do you have a telos which can be meaningfully orients your praxis over the course of life, individually and institutionally, personally and publicly?
There is no possibility of true relationships in this world if the Trinity does not exist.
Augustine's question - not "what do you believe?" Rather, "what do you love?" Do we not merely know about the Trinity, but love Him? Do we love the Father, love the Son, and love the Holy Spirit.