Introduction to My Book in Progress: “Through The Wilderness”

The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22 [1]

For many people, modern society has become much like the wilderness through which the Israelites traveled during their Exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan.  Wilderness in this ancient context referred to a disorderly and dangerous place where demons existed beyond the limits of human settlement and government control.  Similarly, the original English meaning of wilderness was a terrifying wasteland where travelers became confused and disoriented.  The Israelites stayed on the correct path by following God-directed pillars of smoke and fire.

The competing interests, differing claims on our religious and political affiliations, and rapid technological advances of our present society often bewilder and perplex us.  Our modern wilderness journeys require that we follow valid directional signs, our own symbolic pillars of cloud and fire.  We must go forward as did the Israelites but without their disobedience to God on several occasions and disturbing conflicts with Moses. In this way, we can exhibit a remarkable Judeo-Christian characteristic:  We are at our best when times are at their worst.

I define myself as a Judeo-Christian on the basis of the following profession:  (a) God, first known as Yahweh to the ancient Israelites, created and rules all that exists, seen and unseen; (b) Jesus Christ, Son of God, lived and died sacrificially because of his great love for God and for us, a love through which the forgiveness of our sins is mediated; and (c) The Holy Spirit, the active presence of God in our lives, transmits all truth from God to humans.

I cannot logically profess Jesus Christ as Son of God without a prior belief in God as creator and sovereign of the cosmos, a statement of faith (belief) that established the foundation of Judaism.  This declaration about the identity and function of God, therefore, makes me a theological Jew and, by extension, a Judeo-Christian [2] in order to acknowledge, honor, and respect the fertile religious ground out of which Christianity grew.

A constant feature of human existence from our beginning relates to the persistence of the questions we have asked coupled with the transitory nature of the answers we have developed.  Each generation must work out appropriate and sometimes different answers to the same questions.  We should always ask questions and always question answers:  God tolerates our questions and also expects us to find answers to them so that we may follow pillars of cloud and smoke specific for our generation.

This search for life-affirming and sometimes life-changing answers within our own times resembles climbing a rope.  To go up, climbers must hold onto the rope with one hand and both feet while letting go with the other hand as it reaches upward.  When climbers pull themselves up with their higher hands, they must momentarily release their other hands and feet from the rope.  Maximum danger of falling exists at this moment.  Security cannot be reestablished until both hands and both feet again grasp and wrap around the rope.  Then, of course, the process must be repeated, if we are to reach the goal.  Searching for answers to primary questions means we must hold securely to relevant knowledge from the past while letting go of what does not benefit us in our generation.

Through The Wilderness attempts to provide insights into obtaining answers to fundamental questions dividing and causing animosity within the Community of Believers in Jesus Christ.  This division comes about because we frequently frame our questions improperly:  The quality of the questions we ask determines the quality of the answers we receive.  For instance, asking Is abortion equivalent to murder or simply the legitimate outcome of a woman’s reproductive freedom? does not yield pragmatically helpful answers.  Focusing exclusively on Who created all that exists, seen and unseen? precludes any profound exploration and understanding of how creation came to be, that is, the mechanism by which God created and maintains the cosmos in all its parts.

Judeo-Christians who are neither professional theologians nor trained scientists, but who have open minds about theology and science, make up the target audience for Through The Wilderness.  I hope some theologians and scientists will find this book interesting and useful; however, I have purposefully tried to minimize the “jargon” associated with these disciplines.  This book presupposes at least a familiarity with the principles of the Judeo-Christian faith and the concepts embedded within the Community of Believers.  Accordingly, I do not flatter myself by assuming any non-Judeo-Christians readers will be converted to the faith by Through The Wilderness.

Through The Wilderness should not be viewed as scholarly work in the traditional sense.  The text is not extensively footnoted with references to the work of other authors, although the Bibliography contains a list of sources I have found helpful in my faith journey.

[1] All references to Holy Scripture are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

[2] I am aware that some commentators attempt to distinguish among Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew, and even believe Jew resulted from an erroneous translation of early New Testament documents. I use the descriptor, Israelite, to refer to people derived from the descendants of Abraham through the progeny of Israel (Jacob). Israeli refers to a citizen of the State of Israel.

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  • j

    hi Mike I like your books.

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