“Wonder”… Duane W. H. Arnold PhD

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52 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I’m so glad to know someone else keeps all the cool packaging…

    One of the the things that has turned me off of evangelicalism is that it seems to have what someone once called a “greasy familiarity” with God.
    There is little sense of transcendence…and thus, no wonder.

    I love this piece…

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… and, truly, you’re not alone in keeping the packaging!

  3. Michael says:

    “Sometimes it seems that given the tools to create a garden in which the sheer variety of growth and life should astound us and fill us with joy and wonder, we instead use the tools to dig our own trenches and bomb shelters until what should have been a garden looks like a battlefield from the First World War. ”

    That…is so good…

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    #3 As I’ve gotten older, I realize how blessed I’ve been through my education, mentors, experiences, friends, colleagues and all the rest. I’ve only scratched the surface in realizing that these are all tools that should be used in teaching and encouraging. For too many years, I simply saw it as “climbing a ladder”. If we could put our energy into the rediscovery of the wonder of our faith and assisting and encouraging others, I think we would be in a much better place…

  5. Michael says:


    I was one who studied theology to win theological arguments.
    I received the full blessing for such and found it empty of joy.

    Living Gospel principles is unseen by most and the blessing is full…and often wondrous.

  6. Jean says:


    I identify with your search for wonder. I have discovered wonder in the writings of the Church fathers and the ancient liturgy, which exude and inculcate wonder. The most personal example I can give is in my study and writing on the Lord’s Prayer. I had no idea of the breadth and depth of His prayer until I actually discovered hour the Church fathers read and understood it. I with we had more men and women today who expressed the wonder of God in Christ the way one can read it expressed by the Church fathers (and here I included the Reformers).

  7. Xenia says:

    This is a terrific article, Duane. Thanks for writing it!

    I think certain types of theology, especially certain theories of the Atonement, can quench wonder because they are so contractual, so lawyerly, that all mystery and delight has been explained away. I think the forensic/ penal substitution/ satisfaction theories of the Atonement will kill wonder pretty quick, if that’s where the emphasis lies.

  8. Michael says:


    “I think certain types of theology, especially certain theories of the Atonement, can quench wonder because they are so contractual, so lawyerly, that all mystery and delight has been explained away.”

    I think you have a point…

  9. Jean says:

    I am afraid, however, that one’s theology is deeply relevant to the issue of “wonder.” Gerhard Forde wrote a book titled, “Theology is for Proclamation.” His concern was that one does theology for no other reason than in the service of the proclamation of the Good News.

    If, as many evangelical churches do, one views justification through the rear view mirror, then what is proclaimed through the windshield week in and week out is Christian sanctification (i.e., the Law). The Law does not create wonder or love of God or man, but it judges and condemns. So, I can see how people who fill the pews of these churches are left bereft of wonder. I do everything I can to make the case that Christians need to hear the Gospel just as much as the non-believer. It is a tough sell. Churches would rather attempt to manufacture their own wonder. There is a lack of authenticity for those that search the Scriptures.

  10. John 20:29 says:

    wonderful essay…
    knowing that the Swedish hymn “How Great Thou Art” sets some folks teeth on edge, i still have to say that it’s lyrics should be the testimony of us all…
    “…..when I in awesome wonder consider…..”

    by far the greatest wonders for our souls launch from the pages of the Book

    after my late husband retired i used to smile when some young person, seeing the grey head, would patronizingly start to explain some kindergarden version of technology to him, unaware that he probably knew more about it than its designer did… he hated what he saw as a slavery developing, taking away our ability to think for ourselves

    IMHO – technology + art or science is not necessarily good, but rather an alluring trap, if we’re not careful… probably saying the obvious, i know 🙂

    giving God His place in the universe gives real wonder to technological understanding

    your essay today should produce some great comments to think on, Duane A… looking forward to reading here

  11. John 20:29 says:

    because i’ve been discussing elsewhere what seems to be the growing inability of the race of man to bring his emotions under the control of logic, to discern good and evil in any rational way… i am wondering (not the same exactly as wonder) if the criticism today of evangelicalism as shallow and emotion driven isn’t just a manifestation/mirror of the times?

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    #7 Xenia

    The Orthodox have always “gotten” the idea of wonder. I think of the Russians visiting Constantinople…

  13. Michael says:

    John 20:29,

    It’s partially a sign of the times…and also a reflection of theology and practice…

  14. Xenia says:

    Some of it is probably based on one’s personality. Some people are hard to amaze.

  15. Duane Arnold says:

    #9 Jean

    Agreed. It’s also a Barthian idea of the the Gospel being in the Word in proclamation. When theology becomes only the domain of those who use it as a weapon to bludgeon others, we’ve lost the point – whether that bludgeoning is is to convince others that they are wrong, or the search for sanctification. I think I’d rather be “lost in wonder, love and praise”…

  16. filbertz says:

    I think the issue with evangelicalism is that they/we have treasured all the cool packaging and never enjoyed/loved the Product.

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    #16 You nailed it…

  18. Michael says:


    Boom! 🙂

  19. Josh the Baptist says:

    Is this gonna be another thread where we all unite together against evangelicals?

  20. Xenia says:

    There’s a Russian story, maybe a fable, maybe true, about three men who became marooned on an island in a lake in the wilderness. They were simple fishermen with no theological training but they had a joyful love for God. When some monastics heard about them, the abbot and his monks set out to find and instruct them in the finer points of theology. This is how the fishermen were praying to God: “You are three and we are three and we praise you O Lord.” Obviously a heretical view of the Holy Trinity! So they were taught the Lord’s Prayer, which they received with humility.

    Satisfied that that they had done a good day’s work, instructing the ignorant and correcting heresy, the monastics got in their boat and began to sail away. Then they saw the three fishermen approaching the boat, walking on water, crying out “We can’t remember that prayer you taught us, can you give us another lesson?”

    Pretty good story and might even be true.

  21. Michael says:


    I think you should write an article on why you are an evangelical…I’d be glad to post it as a balance to those of us who have left or are leaving evangelicalism.

  22. Steve says:


    I am an evangelical because I don’t have a better term to define myself. But I agree with most people’s comments on this thread. Its right on the money.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    #19 Josh

    I hope not, because I still consider myself an evangelical! Take away the degrees, training,experiences and all the rest… and I’m still that kid being baptized on a beach in So. Cal.

  24. Josh the Baptist says:

    The evangelicalism I am a part of is nothing like the evangelicalism you guys always describe.

    Doesn’t matter. I am evangelical because that is where I found the love of Jesus. Was going to comment on the article, but see folks like me aren’t included. We are the problem. All good.

  25. filbertz says:

    Josh, I understand your concern and anticipated it by using “we” in #16. I still identify with many of the characteristics that warrant the label, but also reject many of the traits that led to my departure from regular church attendance.


  26. Michael says:


    We’re describing our experiences.

    You are welcome to share yours.

  27. Kevin H says:

    Yes, Josh, write that article that Michael suggests. It would be good to reflect on the good of Evangelicalism, as this site does have the tendency to gang up on the bad and lose sight of what is good (while acknowledging that some of the bad is truly bad and worth ganging up on).

    And do it by Wednesday, because I’ve got nothing so far this week. 🙂

  28. Owen says:

    Great words….

    I like what Jean mentioned – when the Gospel is left as past tense, where is the wonder in that?
    The recent/current events in my family life have been bringing me back to basics, and I find that when I lose my sense of wonder at God’s work in our lives, I find it helpful to observe my children. They are good teachers in the wonder department. They will discover something I have known for years as if it is brand new, still in the shiny packaging.

  29. Josh the Baptist says:

    It would be too much to stop broad-brushing one another.

    Here is my story of wonder…

    I grew up in a conservative Baptist town. Grandfather was a baptist preacher. You went to church on Sunday morning, even if you still smelled like liquor and your wife and kids had bruises. You just went. During those sermons we always heard why Baptists were the right way, and everything else was wrong. Methodists don’t believe the bible, Pentecostals are just getting high on emotion, Catholics are idolaters, etc…One broad-brush condemnation for every stripe.

    I was saved at 19 years old. Hadn’t been to church in years. Read from a bible on a break table at work and realized my need for the Lord.

    6 months later, I set out with a guitar across the country to tell people about Jesus. I found people across the country, from every little sect that you can imagine that loved Jesus just like me. That’s where I found the wonder. In the greater Body of Christ. I still have relationships with many of those people today, 23 years later. They still love the Lord. One of them is now a UMC pastor in PA. My charismatic friend from WV left that, and is now at a UMC church in SC. But these guys (and there are dozens more) defied every stereotype that I had heard my whole life. I was literally afraid to be with them at first. Some of their fake Christianity might rub off on me. Now, they are the first I call on when I need to rediscover the wonder.

  30. Disillusioned says:

    If you take a single blade of grass and carefully examine it, you will be amazed its intricate structure. Just a single blade! Yet it’s like a tiny city.

    This is where I find my wonder. I’m in awe of the God who created all that is created. And if the Bible is to be believed, He made it for me.

    The evidence of His astonishing imagination He left behind for us to enjoy fills me with the wonder that I lost being part of the CC machine.

  31. Josh the Baptist says:

    Unfortunately, Kevin, I never wanted to be the defender of evangelicalism. Of course, I can find bad in every single tradition that anyone here adheres to, but that seems to miss the point of learning from the greater witness of the body of Christ.

  32. John 20:29 says:

    i will gladly wear the label “Evangelical” because i’ve know too many good followers of Christ in the ranks. folk that i don’t feel worthy to shine their shoes and some, lots of, plain, simple minded plodders, like myself, and some lemons (God help me, even their memory is hard to love)… i firmly believe that God moves and moves on… He gives to each what He deems best to paraphrase a song… Xenia’s simple souls left stranded by the erudite? didn’t phase God He responded to their hearts and…
    He loved the men in the boat also…

  33. Duane Arnold says:

    #29 Josh

    I’m in the Anglican tradition, many of my mentors were EO, my bandmate and best friend is UMC, our recording engineer goes to a mega-church, our project was encouraged by (now) an RC Cardinal… the list could go on. It’s not about the sign we hand around our necks, it’s about the faith we hold… one of the reasons I embrace creedal Christianity. If anyone can sign on to the Nicene Creed, we’re in the same ballpark.

  34. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree Duane (though some of my friends know nothing about the Nicene Creed, but still love Jesus), and that is where I find the wonder. I stay in my own lane for safety sake, really. I can trust what we are teaching, and what is being taught. But when I really need for God to surprise me, I look outside my box.

  35. Dan from Georgia says:

    Good words and testimony Josh! I find God’s wonder in creation and the arts and sciences. Music, sunrise, oil painting, thunderstorms. To play off of Josh’s testimony, i too thought that God has his approval only on the faith expression in the E Free church when I attended there. Later on for a time I attended Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis. When I left there I felt like I was leaving the faith – that is not a commentary on BB, but on my narrow view of who the Church is – but it took a while to heal/recover from that belief.

    Overall, what I like about this blog is the mixture of faith expression and that we are all welcome here.

  36. Josh the Baptist says:

    Creation is big for me, too, Dan. I can get choked up watching birds out my back window.

    As a musician, even before Christ, I always knew there was something different happening at times. At special moments, you’ll have three guys playing together, and its like this whole orchestra is whirling around you.

  37. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I ‘wonder where the yellow went?’ — probably only me and Bob Sweat can relate. 😉

    I find wonder every time I am called to the altar – I ask nothing else of my faith.

  38. Duane Arnold says:


    “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying…”

    There is certainly wonder…

  39. Jean says:

    “It helps the Sanctus come alive for us as we consider the words of the Proper Preface leading up to the Sanctus: “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud [praise] and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying…” As we pray the Sanctus, we recognize that [we sing] with … “the company of heaven.”

    As we look at the words of the Sanctus itself, noting their biblical origins will help us consider the bold claim of the Proper Preface that we sing with angels, archangels, and the company of heaven.

    “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth [hosts];

    Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory.

    Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

    Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He

    who comes in the name of the Lord.

    Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.”

  40. Duane Arnold says:

    #39 Jean

    Now your talking my kind of eschatology – the breaking in of eternity! As I said, wonder, indeed!

  41. John 20:29 says:

    “Maybe it is because “wonder”, like love, is fragile.” well…
    granted we use the word “love” to express many different emotions, but love isn’t fragile, vulnerable maybe… i seem to remember that according to 1 Cor. 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

    that said, i am definitely examining wonder today – up here in the mountains, under several feet of snow…
    for me wonder shuts down under certain revelations, i.e., i cannot contemplate space with its galaxies and black holes and even the asteroids flummox me into some form of mental processing paralysis… wanna take a trip to Mars? no thank you (but it might have been fun to walk on the moon)

  42. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, I think love… Christian love…. can be strong. But I also think that love is fragile. When we have people like Jerry Falwell, Jr. bragging about carrying a gun to take out Muslims, we have clearly lost something that speaks to the heart of what it means to exercise Christian charity… I think many have traded love for the “glitter and the rouge”…. Just my opinion.

  43. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    I don’t have any significant trouble identifying myself as evangelical in spite of what happened at the church I used to be part of. But I HAVE reached a point where I regard the red state and blue state civic religions that are passed off by partisans right and left as “real” Christianity as American imperialist apostasy. 🙂

  44. Duane Arnold says:

    Agreed. Let the Church be the Church.

  45. Linnea says:

    Duane…great expose’.

    I for one have been pretty offended by many things written on this blog site as of late. The interpretation of scripture is not what I have come to know.

    Most of you don’t know, but I have been a long time blog reader for the last 12 years.

    I’ve chosen not to comment on those things I’ve found most offensive. I choose to come back and read because you are all the body of Christ.

  46. Duane Arnold says:

    #45 Good to have you here….

  47. J Keller says:

    Came across this song and thought of your Wonder post


    Or YouTube if you don’t subscribe to iMusic:

  48. J Keller says:

    Off topic but this one is deeply compelling:


  49. J Keller says:

    Sorry – this was supposed to post first – I had said I came across this song called Wonder and I remembered your Wonder post:


  50. Duane Arnold says:

    #48 Yes, I love it…

  51. J Keller says:

    By the way, Duane, I have meant to tell you that your Mystic Chapel record is wonderful. I listen to it often in the morning. It’s joyous and worshipful and I’ve saved it to my library. I’m fixin to order the hard copy soon too.

  52. Duane Arnold says:

    Many thanks! It is the album we felt that we “needed” to make…

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