Dr. Walter Shurden
2008 Stagg-Tolbert Biblical Forum
First Baptist Shreveport
Flight of the Dove, Ascent of the Mountain
Dr. Walter Shurden, Minister at Large, Mercer University
A THEOLOGY OF DISCIPLESHIP: GIVING IN TO BEING LOVED: Part I
I am confident that each of your previous speakers in this lecture series has spoken warmly, affectionately, and genuinely about the honor of giving these lectures. But I must tell you that words fail me in expressing my appreciation at the invitation to give the Stagg/Tolbert lectures.
Frank Stagg made such an impression on me in my seminary years that I thought of naming our only son “Stagg” Shurden. My wife will attest to that. We had, however, made an agreement that I would name our girls, and she would name our boys. She named our only son, “Walt,” after me, for which I have always been grateful, my devotion to Dr. Stagg notwithstanding.
Only two or three other people have influenced my life and thinking as did Frank Stagg. I was in absolute awe of him as a seminary student. And as a graduate student, when I heard that Southern Seminary was trying to steal Dr. Stagg away from us at New Orleans Semnary, I led a group of graduate students into his office and brashly asked him not to go to Southern.
But he did. And irony of all ironies, years later, I joined the faculty of Southern Seminary and my office was directly across the hall from Dr. Stagg’s office. It took me years to call him “Frank,” and then only after his own persistent nudging. For years at Christmas Kay and I would call Frank and Evelyn to wish them health and happiness and to catch up on their lives.
Only three weeks ago, Kay and I returned to Louisville where Kay made a speech as this year’s recipient of the Wayne E. Oates award in counseling. To our great surprise, Evelyn, well into her 90s, was one of the first persons there, smiling, gracious and affirming, as always. She had made an extra special effort to come hear Kay.
Frank was my teacher who became a friend. Malcolm Tolbert was from the beginning a friend who has become my teacher in many ways. Malcolm has been one of my dearest friends since our days as graduate students at NOBTS. He and Nelle had returned from the mission field to pursue his doctorate in New Testament under Stagg. I was a graduate student in church history. I could tell you stories about the two of us that would tarnish the reputations of us both. I dare not!
I have always believed that Malcolm Tolbert was Frank Stagg’s theological successor in the teaching of the New Testament to our Baptist family. I believe Malcolm lived out the Stagg tradition both in his teaching at New Orleans and at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries. In fact, I believed that so much that when I was dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, I tried my best to hire Malcolm in the New Testament department, literally as a successor to Frank. To my great chagrin, he went to Southeastern Seminary to teach and blessed scores of students at that school.
All of this is to say that these lectures are not ordinary assignments for me; they are extraordinary opportunities to say grace over two people who have graced my life profoundly. So thank you for the invitation to be here. And thank you for the insight and foresight of having such a lecture series named for these two outstanding New Testament scholars and churchmen.
The Flight of the Dove: Giving In to the Gift of Being Loved
In these two lectures I want to take a run at an idea that that was critical to Dr. Stagg’s understanding of the Christian life and one that has remained so for Dr. Tolbert. I refer to the theology of salvation or a theology of discipleship. I will contend that we separate those subjects, salvation and discipleship, at grievous risk to ourselves and our churches. Dr. Stagg spoke often and passionately of salvation as both “gift” and “demand.” Dr. Tolbert has followed that interpretation in much of his teaching and writing. In this first lecture, I will deal with the theme of salvation as gift.
To unwrap the subject I want to tear a couple of pages out of my personal diary.
Let’s begin with a passage from the book of Ephesians that are among the most familiar words in the Bible to Baptists. I will follow up in the second presentation with another passage from Ephesians. I will argue that it is more than suggestive that these two passages are found in the same New Testament book. This first passage will speak of what God does for us. The second will speak of what we must do.
First, Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."
Eugene Peterson translates those words this way: “It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing
Back in 1971 Michael Novak wrote a book entitled Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove.1 It was an invitation to religious studies and a bit of Novak's spiritual autobiography up to that time. It was his way of saying what being a person of faith meant to him.
Novak used the metaphors of mountain climbing, Ascent of the Mountain, and flying doves, Flight of the Dove. To tell my personal story of faith, I must turn those metaphors around and reverse their order. For me it was first "the flight of the dove" and only then came "the ascent of the mountain."
So, I am calling this first presentation: The Flight of the Dove: Giving In to the Gift of Being Loved
Flight of the dove! That is a gift. Doves do not fly after a careful analysis of the situation. They do not take courses in aeronautical engineering and thereby learn to fly. Flying is part of the "doveness" of doves. It is part of the gift of life that doves fly. And for me, Christianity began when I was literally "swept up" one night by the gift of a Presence I had no way of anticipating.
I. Varieties of Religious Experience
A. Unlike many of you, I was not nurtured at the altar of the church. I did not come to Christ from within the church. My point of entry was not because I had heard the songs and knew the fellowship and had heard the stories all my life. I did not, as Horace Bushnell said, grow up as a Christian, never knowing myself otherwise. And even though I am what William James called "a twice-born man," I do believe that many have come to faith exactly the way Bushnell said. But for me it was different. When I was growing up, my family did not attend church. I say it with regret now, but I did not go to church as a youngster. It simply was not a part of our family tradition.
My mother and daddy, both deceased, were simple, uncomplicated people. My daddy went only to the fourth grade and my mother to the tenth. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I have tried never to forget that I stand upon the shoulders of those who provided me with opportunities they did not have. Simple people with simple tastes, my folks also had a very, very simple faith, one could even say “simplistic” faith. And they came to it in a simple way.
I was a sophomore in high school when they were won to Christ. They were converted on the corner of Highways #82 and #1 in Greenville, Mississippi. Eddie Martin, a fiery and colorful evangelist, had come to town. He put up a huge tent, inside of which was a huge stage. Each night Eddie Martin bobbed across that stage like a kangaroo, blaring into a microphone, punching holes in the air with his index finger, and that is precisely how he won my mother and daddy to Jesus Christ. And then they begged me to go with them to hear this colorful preacher.
A stubborn high school sophomore, I reluctantly gave in and went to the "meeting" one night, mostly, however, out of curiosity and only to enjoy the gospel theatrics of an uninhibited evangelist. But like a tree planted by the rivers of water, I would not be moved. Not even by Eddie Martin! I do believe, however, that many, many Christians have had their vision of reality radically altered in places like that tent during the 43rd stanza of "Just As I Am" or the 22nd stanza of "Have Thine Own Way."
So, my point of entry was not from within the church community, nor would I fall prey to evangelists such as Eddie Martin. But I celebrate "the entry from within" as one of the most common and authentic roads leading to Christ. And I also gratefully acknowledge that evangelists such as Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, and Eddie Martin have moved thousands toward the love of Christ.
B. Moreover, I did not enter the church by way of a prolonged philosophical search for truth.
I am no Justin Martyr or Augustine who rummaged through all the prevailing philosophies of the day only to end up at the foot of the cross. You may identify with me when I say that, while I found the clue to life in Jesus Christ, my experience launched me on a lifelong romance with the questions. My spiritual journey with God has not provided me with all of life's answers; it has, however, made living with the questions an astonishing joy.
Some of you here this morning may have come to Christ through an agonizing intellectual pilgrimage. You examined all of the existing options, and in the end you came to believe that the path of the Nazarene made more sense than other ways. I know people who have come to faith by that route. I have had students to tell me that such was the way of entry for them. They examined all of the faith perspectives available to them, and finally they made a commitment to Christ based solely on the fact that Jesus made more sense than anything they had come across. I did not begin my faith journey that way, although I honor that way as authentic and genuine. It is the way of some of the greatest minds of the Christian church.
C. For me it was different. Like the Apostle Paul, I was unhorsed by an unexpected Presence.
Three years after my parents became Christians I was a college freshman. I was in Room 221 in Stadium Dormitory at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. I can this very day take you by the hand to that precise room and drive a nail at the place where I first met the Holy in life. If you cannot do that, please do not let it worry you. You doubtless have much more company throughout two thousand years of Christian history than do I. Many of the most devout Christians of the Christian church cannot recall the exact moment where they first knew the love of God. The crucial issue is not how or where faith begins, but that the journey unfolds.
It was the spring of the year. New life was being birthed all around me. It was a very good time to be "born again"! And that night I did something which I had not been doing regularly that entire semester; I read my English assignment! My professor had whetted my appetite when she said to us the day before, "Now your assignment for tomorrow will be excerpts from Thomas Paine's (1737-1809) The Age of Reason (1793-94), and if you have any interest in religion, you ought to read it."
For some reason, which I have absolutely no way to explain, I had recently developed a curiosity in religion, although I still did not go to church. I remember vividly taking that big freshman literature book, and, wanting to be alone, walking down the hall because my roommate was studying in our room. I found a vacant room, and I began to read Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, a book that questioned almost supernaturalism of all religions. That notorious statement of eighteenth century deism, which was such a thorn in the flesh of the Christian church, became a catalyst for my coming to Jesus Christ.
Later that evening in my dorm room I experienced for the first time in all my eighteen years "the flight of the dove"-- the lift and the gift of the grace of God. It came in conversation with my roommate. I had not prayed for it. I had not anticipated it. I didnot know how to contrive it. I was, in the words of C.S. Lewis, "Surprised by Joy." My roommate was surprised as well.
We didn't know what to do, so my roommate went down the hall for Charles Smith, a country preacher about fifteen years older than we. He had come back to school to get his education, after getting out of the military. He was the part time pastor of a little country church near Duncan, Mississippi.
I never shall forget that preacher walking into our room at 1:30 in the morning. He had a double-barrel, industrial-sized Bible under his arms. When he entered the room, I thought to myself, "If any of my friends come in here (all of my friends were out at that time of the night!) and see this country preacher and this humongous Bible, I will not only be embarrassed to tears but the talk of this campus tomorrow."
That slow-talking, theologically uneducated, compassionate country preacher came in, sat down, heard us recite our conversations about faith, and read two passages of scripture. Only later, after I had studied the Bible myself, did I realize that he had read to us from Isaiah 53 ("He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities...") and Luke 24 (the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus). He read those passages slowly and deliberately, caressing every word with his marvelous Mississippi Delta accent. He talked to us for a while about what it means to become a follower of the Christ. Then he said, "Buddy and Bobby, I am going to say a prayer. After the prayer, if you want to commit your life to Jesus Christ, I'd like for you to shake my hand." He prayed. When he looked up, I gave him my trembling hand. So did my roommate.
Two weeks later on a Sunday evening, I walked down the concrete aisle of the Second Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, and appropriately, I think, those wonderfully unsophisticated people were singing about "the flight of the dove." It was the third stanza:
"Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home."
I told M.E. Perry, the pastor of the church, that I wanted to give my life to Jesus Christ. I was both scared to death and deafened by the flapping of dove’s wings.
Several years later, when I was a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary studying for the ministry, Carlyle Marney came to our campus. Carlyle Marney is, for my money, the best and brightest mind Southern Baptists produced in the 20th century. He came to our campus and lectured in chapel one day. He gave us vintage Marney, an address so overlaid with historical allusions, poetic images, and abstruse thought wrapped in such mysterious language that we all walked out of the chapel that day oohing and ahhing over his address. And not a half-dozen of us, including the faculty, understood what he had said. Certainly not I.
It just so happened that after chapel Marney came to elaborate upon his chapel address in the very class of which I was a member. Marney asked if there were questions or comments about his chapel address. Some ole first year boy from Alabama who hadn't learned to keep his mouth shut (you eventually learn that silence in seminary and in all graduate schools), raised his hand, waved Marney down, and said without the least trace of intimidation, "Dr. Marney, I was in chapel and I heard what you said, and frankly, sir, I didn't understand a word you said." Concerned and serious, this wannabe preacher pushed Marney, "Can you tell me in simple language what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is?" Marney stared a Grand Canyon in that fellow, turned around, walked to the chalk board, picked up a piece of chalk, and waited for what I thought was an eternal moment. He then turned and wrote four words on the chalkboard. "God...is...For...You!" And he underlined it. God is for you! Then Marney said, "That's the gospel!"
One of my favorite themes in The Shack, the recent, controversial best seller that is still atop the New York Times best seller list, is what happens to us when we live an unloved life. “Living Unloved” appears as one of the sub-themes in that book: 97, 114, 125, 142, 146, 175. “Living unloved,” said William Young, “is like clipping a bird’s
wings and removing its ability to fly” (97). Creation is first of all about love. It is not first of all about sovereignty or holiness or authority. Creation is about love. God created so God could love.
Fifty-three springs have come and gone since I first experienced that initial flight of the dove. Fifty-three springs since I first learned that God is for me! And because I learned that God is for me, I realized that God is for everybody else. And I have been running into that message for a half a century in the most contradictory places.
D. Bumping Into Grace
When I was a college student, God trusted me with a little mission church in the Delta of Arkansas, located precisely on the Mississippi River. That little church was filled Sunday after Sunday with sincere, earnest Christians, most of whom were not well educated. And I never shall forget a little lady that sat over on my left up against the wall. She was a sharecropper and had never been to school a day in her life. She could not sing all the hymns because she could not read the words. But many of those hymns she had, as we say, "learned by heart." And I can still see Mrs. Heavren, leaning up against that wall. When we sang one she knew "by heart," oh! she would throw her head back, and she would sing with gusto: "Living he loved me, dying he saved me, buried he carried my sins far away." I knew then and I know now the meaning of the smile on her innocent but wrinkled face. She was singing about "the flight of the dove."
And then a few years after that, while I was in seminary, I was in a theology classroom with a professor who, I thought at the time, had read almost everything. He was lecturing on the love of God as demonstrated in the cross of Christ. The scene is etched in my mind so clearly that it could have been yesterday. Bob Soileau was his name. With arms outstretched, his face became red, and veins bulged from his neck. The single best lecturer I ever had, Soileau spoke passionately about this love that would not let us go. I knew then and I know now the meaning of the redness on his face. He was lecturing about the flight of the dove, the lift and the gift of God's grace that comes to us so freely.
And then sitting in my living room one Christmas eve, I watched as Pope Paul VI celebrated the Catholic mass thousands of miles from me and in a language I did not understand. What he believed about that mass and what I believed about it were quite different. But in spite of the distance, the language, and the differences of interpretation, I confess, while sitting there in my living room on Christmas eve, I heard the flutter of doves' wings.
Never in my forty-one years since that spring in Cleveland, Mississippi, have I been able to explain "the flight of the dove." Words, for all their majesty, simply fail. Nor have I ever been able to explain Marney's line: "God is for you." I have never been able to explain it, but neither have I ever had the slightest inclination to deny it. Never able to explain it! Never wanting to deny it! That's what it has in common with the flight of the dove. I understand completely what Mary McDermott Shideler means when she says in her spiritual autobiography, "My key to meaning...is not commitment but receptivity, not `I love' but `I am loved'."
Malcolm Tolbert tells in a forthcoming book about a very rigid member of the church he once served as pastor. She had decided to leave the church because she thought Dr.Tolbert was too soft on the human race. She wrote a letter explaining her decision in which she said, “Your problem is that you emphasize grace too much.” For some people, stressing grace, the flight of the dove, is a cardinal sin.
D. “Giving In to Being Loved” As a Synonym for “The Flight of the Dove”
At least a part of the way that I now understand my beginning of faith is that I “gave in” to the gift of being loved. While I could have never put it in these works, I decided that night at Delta State College that I would no longer live an unloved life. “Giving In” to being loved is, as I understand it, one of the first steps of Christian discipleship.
To hear those words, “You are my beloved son” or “my beloved daughter,”
to be awakened to Cosmic Generosity,
to be told that “God is for you,”---that is the part of the gospel that I continue to have the hardest time believing. Indeed, the most incredible part of the gospel to get my arms around are not the so-called facts of faith, what happened and why and when. The most incredible part of the gospel for most of us is, given who we are and how we act, that “God is for us.” Is it any wonder that they have called it “Good News” for 2,000 years?
I have been thinking for the last several years of what it means to be “lost.” At least part of what it means to be “lost” is to live as though you have never been loved. All are children of God, but some have resisted the embrace of being loved.
Years ago when I was a very young pastor in Ruston, I encountered a college student who had been sent my way “for counseling” by a member of my church who was also the dean of students at Louisiana Tech. I know of no other way to describe the college student: she was a wreck of a human being.
For an hour I made absolutely no access to her soul. But as she grabbed the door handle to leave, I said, “Let me ask you one more question.” “Shoot,” she arrogantly shot back. In as pastoral a way as I knew how, I quietly asked, “Who loves you?” “That’s a stupid damn question,” she countered; “Why do you ask?” “Because,” I said, “My business is to tell people that they are loved.” I pressed the issue: “So tell me who loves you.” Long, long pause with obvious pain and then sadly: “My brother . . . maybe.”
When we live unloved lives we end up overreaching like Adam, lying like Eve, manipulating like Jacob, being fearful like Saul, living unbuttoned like David, amassing like Solomon, denying like Peter, boasting like Paul, and killing ourselves like Judas. Living unloved, we end up
puking in alleys,
living self-destructive lives,
buying till it hurts,
climbing ladders made of others’ heads,
building barns too big to live in,
confusing ambition with vocation,
hoarding rather than sharing,
hating folk who don’t look like us,
driving by Lazarus, and using rather than serving people. To tell the truth, we end up on trash heaps on the southwest corner of Jerusalem. They called it Gehenna. We call it Hell! We end up as waste, and we waste the only life given to us. That is hell: waste.
Hell is living an unloved life. But “Giving In” to the gift of love, to the lift and the gift of the grace of God, is the beginning of Christian discipleship.
I hope that you have questions that arise from the presentation, but I would like to suggest some issues that are raised by my remarks that I would like to hear some discussion around. Questions for discussion for us:
1. Do we moderate Baptist people genuinely respect what William James called “the varieties of Christian experience”?
2. While there are varieties of Christian beginnings, how do we Baptists maintain the vital role of experience in Christian beginnings. I ask because for years the vehicle of that experiential faith was, for many, revivalism. My sense is that revivals don’t work in many of our churches.
3. Do moderate Baptists speak of grace too much? M. Tolbert
4. Do we moderate Baptists call people to an experiential faith too seldom. To say it another way, “Are we good at invitations?”
5. If it is true, as I assume, that eschatology/going to heaven/missing hell, has diminished as a factor in our understanding of salvation/discipleship, how do we today speak of what it means to be “lost.”
It seems to me that Christianity has, from its earliest beginnings, been involved in a conflict between what I am here calling “the flight of the dove” and “ascent of the mountain.” Some would interpret Paul as a “dove” person who spent his life fighting against the “mountain” persons. Paul, the argument goes, stressed grace and God’s love while Judaism stressed Torah and God’s demands.
I have come to believe that such is a misreding of Paul and Jesus. Each stressed both the “dove” and the “mountain.”
This false dialectic between the dove and the mountain has caused some to differentiate too rigidly between Judaism and Christianity. Some see Judaism as “mountain” or Torah religion while Xry is “Dove” or grace religion. Abraham Heschel, maybe the greatest interpreter of Judaism in the twentieth century, understood Judaism differently. While he would begin with “demand,” he certainly followed with the grace and love of God. Said Heschel,
“To the Jewish mind life is a complex of obligations, and the fundamental category of Judaism is a demand rather than a dogma, a commitment rather than a feeling. God’ will stands higher than man’s creed. Reverence for the authority of the law is an expression of our love for God. However (bold is mine), beyond His will is His love. The Torah was given to Israel as a sign of His love. To reciprocate that love we strive to attain ahavat Torah.” (Abraham J. Heschel, “More Than Inwardness,” in Jewish Perspectives on Christianity edited by Fritz A. Rothschild [New York: Continuum, 1996] 282.
While I am sure that Heschel would not agree with the first part of Galatians 5:6, it seems to me that Paul captured the essence of the dialectic, although with different language. Paul said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Bold mine) In the language of Paul “faith” is the “flight of the dove” and “love” is the “ascent of the mountain.”
Martin E. Marty in the April 23-30, 1997 issue of The Christian Century, p. 431, comments on Marty Kaplan’s comment in the March 31 New York Times regarding the statement by a group of Orthodox rabbis declaring the Reform and Conservative braches of the faith “not Judaism.” Kaplan, while not agreeing with the rabbis, sees their zealous and uncompromising faith in certain positive terms. There is certainty there, after all. While Kaplan can’t accept the faith of the Orthodox rabbis, he believes that there is a “sadness at the heart of our secular lives,” since and Marty agrees, “no one wants to live in a pointless, chaotic cosmos.” Marty opines that Kaplan is only half right when he says that the firm beliefs of the Orthodox rabbis are a reminder of modern unbelief. The rabbis, says Kaplan, touch a tender spot “in all people, of all faiths, whose idea of God has an asterisk after it.”
Marty comments as follows:
“Has Kaplan exhausted the alternatives? I’d argue that all the heroes and heroines in the Bible, from the first page to the last, wrestle with a God with asterisks. We late modern people did not invent doubt and the struggle for faith. And millions living with old texts in new worlds do not all live in sadness. We ... live in a universe of mixed signals and bewildering complexities, with unsuppressed affirmations and with asterisks.”
WBS: We all live some time, do we not, with the God of the Asterisks. And it is not irreligious to say so. To the contrary, it is at the heart of the spiritual struggle to acknowledge it.
Stages in My Spiritual Life:
2. Experiential and Ethical Negatives. During my college years I defined myself by what I did not do. Later I came to realize that it was good that I did not do some things, but that usually what I was using for criteria were not the most important issues in the XR life. Morever, I was using them to whip up on other XRS who did not agree with me.
3. Doctrinal. Belief in certain doctrines which led to a kind of intellectual arrogance. When I went to seminary I was typically conservative but open. When I left I was typically more progressive but closed. I came to see that fundamentalists do not have a monopoly on closed door Xry or dogmatic xry.
4. Socially Ethical. Growing awareness that social ethics played a major part in the XR life. I came to believe that I had overindividualized and overspiritualized the Xr life, neglecting the social issues of justice and mercy. Most all of my “negatives” which I mentioned above were personal issues, smoking, drinking, going to the movies, listening to rock music. “Therefore come from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor 6.17). But the separation had nothing to do with racism, chauvinism, materialism, poverty in my town, country, or world, how I spend my money,etc.
5. Where am I now? I still am a great believer in experience, personal experience with God, but I have come to believe that this is not the exclusive motivating factor in the spiritual life. I lean toward “following Jesus” or “doing God’s will” or “being obedient to God’s will and and teaching”; I lean toward “the ascent of the mountain” as the most important component in being a XR. “Following” is more important to me than “faith”. That is, following Jesus is more important to me than defining what I should believe or defining what others should believe. I believe that Jesus’ religion was essentially ethical. When he was asked to summarize the total teachings of his native Judaism, he said, “Love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.” I have come incrasingly skeptical of an experience with God which never hits the ground. Maybe the reason for my skepticism is that I have too often seen my own personal spiritual experiences become little more than “dangling inspiration.” I tolerate heresy better than I tolerate the lack of love for neighbor. In other words, what a person believes about doctrianl issues is not as important to me as what a person does. I find myself able to tolerate both doctrinnaire fundamentalists and doctrinanire liberals who have a grip on the love of Jesus for others. It is when they use God in dogmatic ways to shut others out or to hurt others, that I get suspicious.
1WBS: see Thomas Cahill’s brief introductory essay to his The Gifts of the Jews at the very front of his book. The essay is entitled “The Hinges of History” and I think you will find it printed in each of his several volumes, the one on Ireland, the jews, and Jesus. Others of the volumes had not been published when you wrote this paragraph. The opening two paragrpahs of his essay are:
“We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage--almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance.”
If you paragraphed after the above first two sentences, the first paragrpah is about what I call “struggle,” and the second paragraph is what I call “grace.” The first is the “Ascent of the Mountain,” and the second is “The flight of the Dove.”
WBS: see for your struggle motif article 31 of the First London Confession in Lumpkin, 165. “That all beleevers in the time of this life, are in a continuall warfare, combate, and opposition against sinne, selfe, the world, and the Devill, and liable to all manner of afflictions, tribulations, an dpersecutions, and so shall continue until Christ comes in his Kingdome, being predestinated and appointed thereunto.”
See also for the struggle motif the line from Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian is headed for the Celestial City after hearing discouraging words from two who turned back on the journey: “And Christian went on his way, but still with his sword drawn in his hand, for fear lest he should be assaulted” (McClendon, Ethics, 61).
. Novak, Michael, Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove (New York: Harper and Row, 1971).