The Philadelphian Correspondence

The Philadelphian Correspondence is a collection of “ancient” letters between Alexander, an aging Christian leader, and Doulos, a young Christian living in Philadelphia in Asia Minor. The letters connect Biblical themes with the experience of millennial young adults today.

My dear Doulos:

Thank you for your recent letter. Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ!

I must say, you handled my chiding well concerning your generation’s tendency to be spectators rather than players. I would not pretend that we have no such tendency in my generation, especially as we settle back into the holiday lifestyle of our later years.

You mentioned in your letter that you are especially taken by the mystery of the Supper left us by our Lord. You wondered about His words, “This is My Body. This is My Blood.” How can He be present in mere bread and wine when the best of your teachers have told you that God will never dirty Himself with the filth of ordinary things? You said that you like how you cannot figure this out, that it is bigger than your little mind. Your mind, Doulos, is hardly little, but next to the mind of God, the true God, the word puny is apt to describe both yours and mine. I treasure how you put it: “I cannot understand it, but I believe it because Jesus said it.”

I have noticed in your generation a willingness to accept something as a mystery beyond your ability to fully understand. I like that about you. You are in good company, my son. The apostle Paul reminded us in his letter to our friends in Rome, “Who has known the mind of God” (11:34)? There are many among us, especially the more sophisticated and learned who show no such humility. They will parse the very words of our Lord and make “is” mean something other than “is.” There are times in life, Doulos, when we realize the sheer wonder of our faith. It is like holding a priceless gem in one’s hand and realizing that only God can make such a thing so real and true. I should add that only God can move us to believe what is beyond our understanding. Care must be given here. One’s belief does not make something true. I have seen how your generation, as mine, may be tempted to say that something is true just because one believes it is true. That would be a grave mistake. We cannot say things or believe things into reality. They are either real or not. They are either true or false. Saying it doesn’t make it so. God makes the mysteries true, and His grace gives us the faith to believe them. Such is the case with the chief mystery – how God came as one of us in Jesus Christ.

Be cautious, then, in what you read and hear. The deceiver will tell you that everyone has their own truth. Mature thinkers, the great deceiver whispers, must accept that what is true for them may not be true for others. Nothing is more untrue. So hold to the mysteries, Doulos, mysteries as true and as real as God. The peace of Christ be with you.

Your father in the faith, Alexander.