Devotion, Ethics, & the Tree of Life

treeoflifeiiIn a few days I’ll be speaking at the Transmillennial 2009 conference in Little Rock. I’ll be sharing on The Incredible, Edible God: You Are What You Eat. (or, How Faith & Food go together like Peas & Carrots) – Love feasts! Home gardening! Farmers’ markets! The Tree of Life! What on heaven & earth do all these things have in common? Join Mike Morrell in an interactive conversation on spirituality, hospitality,  culinary pleasure and the coming deep economy.

The Tree of Life has always fascinated me – as a symbol, and icon, a pointer to a deeper reality of divine fellowship and a new way to live. When I heard that Frank Viola was doing a mega-blog-circuit for his latest (and quite possibly greatest) From Eternity to Here today, I just had to ask him about his take on the Tree of Life, which he discusses in Chapter 19, God’s Building Site.

Here’s the interview:

1.) Can you give us a practical example of what it might mean for an individual or fellowship to partake of Christ? Is this a way of describing all spiritual activity a person or church does (ie, worship, prayer, thanksgiving), or do you mean something more particular?

Worship through song, prayer, and any other “spiritual disciplines” or activities can certainly be the vehicle through which a person partakes of Christ. However, an individual can do all of those things without partaking of Him. So it depends on whether or not their inner being is engaged and they are connecting with the Lord through it. For example, in Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts the Asian believers to be filled with the Spirit by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Now, one can sing a song and their heart (mind, will, emotions, and conscience) not be engaged at all. In such cases, there will be no “filling.” Or they can sing the same song and be turning to Christ and receiving from the Lord’s Spirit through it, i.e., eating and drinking of His life. It’s the same with reading Scripture. One can read the Scripture in such a way wherein there’s no spiritual transaction at all. Or they can read it as a means of spiritual communion with the living Christ. That said, I think of various spiritual activities simply as utensils. But those utensils are designed to carry food into one’s body. It’s possible to put an empty fork or spoon into one’s mouth. We wouldn’t call that eating.

2.) You outline the superiority of living by eating from the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of Knowledge; you rightly point out that, biblically speaking, the Tree of Knowledge contains knowledge of good as well as knowledge of evil and that the only one who is innate Goodness is the Father. Can you share with us an example of an individual or fellowship who was partaking of the Tree of Life in a way that might have appeared ‘evil’ in the short term but was later vindicated as the highest Good (or Life) in the long-term? I’d love to hear a story from history or your personal experience.

I’m not sure if I can think of a case in my own life where something I did was considered “evil” in the eyes of others, yet I felt it was the Lord. Perhaps writing the book Pagan Christianity falls into that category 😉

Nonetheless, I can think of many cases where a certain action wasn’t understood or thought to have been wrong by others and the Lord’s vindication came later. (At the same time, I can think of times where I completely mistook what the Lord was putting on my heart and interpreted it wrong. Or where I expected Him to do something, and He didn’t.)

I’ll just share one case that comes close to what you’re asking. Once an individual came into our fellowship. For purposes of clarity, we’ll call this person “Pat.” Pat was frustrated because they felt I wasn’t spending enough time with them. Pat then began to sow seeds of discord between myself and a friend of mine. It got so bad that Pat and my friend visited me unannounced and began to rebuke me for all sorts of vague things that Pat had “sensed.” I didn’t say a word. The silence was deafening. I was then rebuked for being silent and not responding to the charges. In a private conversation with my friend sometime afterwards, my friend pressed me about what I really thought of Pat. Feeling forced to give an answer, I said that Pat was not being honest with us about who they were. I perceived that Pat came into our lives under false pretenses and was sowing seeds of discord. My friend defended Pat and asked for concrete evidence. I had none. I just perceived it, and I was certain enough to say it. Not long afterwards, it came out to everyone that Pat had lied about who they were and where they had come from. The story shocked everyone who knew Pat because the details weren’t pretty at all. As soon as we all found out, Pat disappeared.

As to your specific question about something appearing “evil,” some would offer Bonheoffer’s decision to support the plot to kill Hitler as a case in point. Bonheoffer felt it was God who led him to do this, even though he was seriously conflicted over God’s will in doing it.

So there you have it! What do you think, dear readers?

Mine is just one of 50+ blogs asking Frank questions and reviewing his CBA-bestselling From Eternity to Here today. Find out more about the book & join the Facebook group here; see a full list of the blogging participants after the jump.

PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate


Here is a full list of participants and the From Eternity to Here Frank Viola Q&A /review-a-thon!

Out of Ur
Shapevine (June newsletter)
Brian Eberly
Greg Boyd
Vision 2 Advance
David Flowers
kingdom grace
Captain’s Blog
Christine Sine
Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network
Church Planting Novice
Staying Focused
Take Your Vitamin Z
Jeff Goins
Bunny Trails
Matt Cleaver
Jason T. Berggren
Simple Church
Emerging from Montana
Parable Life
Oikos Australia
West Coast Witness
Keith Giles
Consuming Worship
Tasha Via
Andrew Courtright
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer
Jason Coker
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Home Brewed Christianity
Dandelion Seeds
David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck”
Chaordic Journey
Renee Martin
Bob Kuhn
Living with Freaks
Real Worship
Fervent Worship
Julie Ferwerda
What’s With Christina?!
On Now to the Third Level
Irreligious Canuck
This day on the journey
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity
Spiritual Journey With God
The Jesus Feed
Book Disciple
My Journey – With Others
On Now to the Third Level
Christine Moers
Breaking Point
Hand to the Plough
Jon Reid
D.L. Webster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life

19 Responses to “Devotion, Ethics, & the Tree of Life”

  1. 1 karenzach June 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Do you think God prefers a cracker cuisine? Or is he a curry-kind of fella?

  2. 2 A person June 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I loved the trailer, but I was surprised that the movie really didn’t get into whether or not God wanted Bonhoffer to kill Hitler. 😉

  3. 3 zoecarnate June 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t know, but I hear God bakes a mean bamanna bread! (groan)

    Well, Ms. Person, that’s because you thought you were ticketed to see a feature film when really this is an avant-garde audience participation piece. The “What do YOU think, dear reader?” is genuine. 🙂

  4. 4 A person June 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Hey how do I get in on the Frank Viola review-a-thon?

  5. 5 zoecarnate June 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Review From Eternity to Here – I’m sure he’ll blogroll you.

  6. 6 Travis Greene June 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    is that picture from disney’s animal kingdom?

  7. 7 A person June 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Hey, has The Incredible Edible been published yet?

  8. 8 zoecarnate June 9, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Travis – it is.

    Person – it has not. Believe me…you’ll know.

  9. 9 jason t. berggren June 9, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Good stuff. Thanks for the comments.

  10. 10 Heather June 10, 2009 at 2:09 am

    True – I’m sure it will be quite hard to miss… how silly of me 🙂

  11. 11 graham June 14, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    So gutted that I didn’t make it to T-2009.

    Hope your talk went well.

  12. 12 Julie June 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Hey Mike. Thanks for leaving a comment on my site. Many blessings at your conference!

  13. 13 Jill June 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    The Church desperately needs to hear this message. We need to reorient ourselves to line up with HIS eternal purpose and desires, and in the process I believe our deepest longings-and mission-will be fulfilled as well.

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  1. 1 The Blogosphere Discusses “From Eternity to Here” Today « Reimagining Church Trackback on June 9, 2009 at 4:57 pm

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