On the Patio by Samuel J. Mikolaski - Read Online
On the Patio
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The Fork in the Road ...which route to take? Idealist traditions from the ancient past... Cosmic Divinity replicated within oneself... Trancendental Meditation... Far Eastern Mysticism... Self actualization? Or, the modern popular secular mentality... atheist, agnostic, or just purely the no-god pursuit of the good life... the exact copy of the Epicurean hedonism the Apostle Paul rejects? If not, why Christian faith? Why God? Perhaps it’s time for mutual recognition.
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ISBN: 9781618561695
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On the Patio - Samuel J. Mikolaski

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AS PATIOS GO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, Sam and Jessie’s patio is quite small. It’s a zero lot line plot plan, shaped like an inverted L. Along the side of the house the patio is about fifteen feet wide. A paved walkway extends the length of the inverted L to red Arizona flagstone pads that end at a small pool. The walk is flanked by a rose trellis, several bushes and a small apple tree. Next to the pool is a little peach tree, planted last year, laden with fruit. The stone-lined pool features a waterfall. A nice place to sit and talk as the water splashes gently down the short stone slope of the pool.

Behind the house the patio extends about ten feet, on which Jessie arranged several potted plants, especially her carefully nurtured cacti.

Westward in the distance the Pacific Ocean is visible at Carlsbad. Viewed from this vantage point the sunsets are gorgeous. Over the back fence native California chaparral blankets the hills where the coyotes hunt at night, the road-runners scurry about, and the partridge pick their way.

They’ll be here soon, said Sam as he arranged three chairs next to the pool, alongside a small table for biscuits and a cold drink. It was a pleasant afternoon. The prevailing westerly breeze from the Pacific cools the coastal towns of southern California in stark contrast to the searing inland desert heat.

We’ve been planning this discussion for a long time, he added; dialogue on the web is one thing, but face to face conversation is another.

What more do you know about Chris and Bill, asked Jessie. Not much more than emerged during the months of our internet dialogue. Just a few details that I picked up on the phone as we made the arrangements, he replied. Here’s what I know:

Bill Mason grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the third son of a devout Southern Baptist family. During college years he sensed a calling into Christian ministry. He enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth which, at that time, was probably the largest divinity school in America. There he completed the Master of Divinity degree and was called as senior pastor to a church of fifteen hundred members in a thriving Dallas suburb. He quickly became disillusioned with the ministry.

Denominational issues, especially the diminishing of women by the denomination for ministry in the churches led by a factious right-wing group, and the fat cat mentality of prominent pastors in the denomination put him off. Divide and Conquer, Fat Shepherds and Thin Sheep, seemed to him to be the golden texts of the times. Add to that the inerrancy controversy – whether the Scriptures are inerrant and to be interpreted literally – devastated him emotionally. He could not understand how such an issue and its related irresolvable textual and historical questions could divide a denomination of several million people.

He remembered that while at seminary he made a tentative approach to the theology of Paul Tillich. At the time he did not explore Tillich’s views further because of the reaction against Tillich at the Seminary which resulted in the forced resignation or dismissal of several professors at one of the other Baptist seminaries. Becoming increasingly vocationally disenchanted, he resigned from the pastorate. For a while he got into politics as administrative assistant to a prominent Texas senator. He renewed his earlier interest in Idealism and began exploring ancient eastern mysticism. He then became a broadcaster and developed a number of programs about mysticism for National Public Television, which made him quite well off on the public purse, much to the disgust of his former conservative friends. Beyond that, they could not understand why he could turn his back on core teachings of the Christian faith. They felt that he exemplified the lines from Robert Burns, Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, this is my home, my native land."

I want to hear from him. Why and what? Why did he turn away from the common, core elements of the Christian faith, and what has he found to satisfy himself spiritually and intellectually?"

What about Chris? Jessie asked.

Ah yes, Chris!, Sam exclaimed. What an anomaly! His name is an adaptation of Christ but he is one of the most vociferous atheists today. As you know, I read his essays regularly. Chris Hitchcock has a very quick mind. Like me, he studied at Oxford. He was at Lincoln College, while I was at Mansfield. He got a first in Greats (Classics), followed by studies in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). His prose is stiletto-sharp, incisive and scathing and is often at odds with positions contemporary American establishment liberals take: he despises religion intensely, including the Christian religion, but admires the career and ideology of Martin Luther King.

Though a severe critic of right-wing conservatism – especially right-wing religious leaders – he supported the Iraq War and urges more intense attention to the worldwide Jihadist threat of radical Islam. While his politics and economics are liberal, he is devastatingly critical of the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, as self-serving political hucksters. His books have sold very well. I’m keen to explore his intellectual formation: the totally secular, materialist position he takes regarding the nature of human existence and the relation of such a view to the spiritual and moral values he holds.

And where in this dialogue do you fit? asked Jessie. You’re an evangelical, some would even say that an evangelical is a fundamentalist. You try to take the Bible and its message seriously.

The word ‘fundamentalist’ is a rather tricky term, Sam replied. It is now used indiscriminately regarding Islamic terrorists, sects of Mormon polygamists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and right-wing Christians. It’s a pity to group these and others together under such a misused umbrella term.

"Historically, the term fundamentalism had a very respectable beginning in the early part of the twentieth century. During those early years of the twentieth century in America a reaction arose within most Christian denominations against the Modernism that had infiltrated many of the divinity schools. The resulting tensions divided all the major Christian denominations, including both Protestant and Roman Catholic — though Roman Catholics were able to keep their divisions under the umbrella of the Papacy.

Baptist denominations in Canada and America fractured and new divinity schools were established by those who separated themselves from what they deemed to be Liberal denominational leadership. For example, two competing Anglican divinity schools were the result in the University of Toronto, though they now work amicably together. From within Presbyterian ranks protesting seminary professors at Princeton established Westminster Seminary. There were many secessions from divinity schools of other denominations. Churches and denominations split.

New denominations of dissenting Christians were formed such as Pentecostals, the Christian Missionary Alliance, The Nazarene churches, Conservative Baptists, The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, the Bible Churches, and others including thousands of stand-alone, independent churches and sub-groups."

"A key factor in the protest against Modernism was the emergence of the Bible Institute, or Bible School movement. Dozens of such schools were formed all over North America by enterprising Christians. It was from one of these, The Bible Institute of Los Angeles that four volumes of essays by well-known conservatively minded Christian scholars were published under the title of The Fundamentals. These were written by Christian leaders and scholars with strong academic credentials, of various denominations not by religious fanatics. In fact, some of the essays, such as the one by B. B. Warfield, the well-known inerrantist, favored responsible Biblical critical scholarship and an irenic approach to the possibilities of evolutionary theory informing a biblical understanding of the doctrine of creation.

"The essays in The