Sunday, March 29, 2015

God is dead

And it’s actually true – God is dead! Of course he isn’t really dead, but in the lives of people he is dead. Nobody gets very excited if you say “God”; that is one of the most boring things in the world. When a rabbit jumps up in a field, everybody calls out, “A rabbit!” and shows a certain interest. But for most people God is irrelevant. He is dead.

There is another way God is dead: our civilization simply doesn’t need God anymore. What good is God when you are on the train? The man at the controls, it is his job to get me to Stuttgart. The conductor can groan, the fireman can break his back, the engineer can worry, but isn’t it all the same to me? I just sit there on the train. That is why we can be so crude and ruthless about enjoying everything these modern times offer us; we do not need God. Science and technology do not need God. They are succeeding quite well without him! Hence the words, “They will look on him whom they have pierced” – killed, that is. God is dead, murdered. Nietzsche experienced more truth in his wrought-up nerves than all the boring Christians, who don’t have a serious thought left for God! God is of no real importance, even for people with religion, because religion has become more important than God. Though people get into tremendous arguments about religious questions, all the time God is dead. And it is perfectly all right with them if he is dead, because then they can do what they like. That is another trait of our times, people want to be able to do whatever pops into their heads or feels good at the moment....

Shame on us Christians who are always wanting to have it nice and soft, with a bit of God in our lives! We’ve got to fight until we’re dead, or we aren’t worth Christ’s name. God calls out to us, “Share in my business!” and we are fooling ourselves unless we do this.—Christoph Blumhardt in Action in Waiting

<idle musing>
I just discovered this guy from the 1800s, Christoph Blumhardt, thanks to Roger Olson's post from today. What I've read so far is great. You'll probably be seeing more excerpts from his books over the next weeks.

If you're interested in learning more, check out this link for free articles and e-books. I see that Wipf & Stock has some good stuff too; follow this link. They've even started a Blumhardt Series, although it doesn't seem to be producing a lot of books.
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Lord, the depths of a person’s conscience lie exposed before your eyes. Could I hide anything from you, even if I did not want to confess it to you? If I tried I would only be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. Whoever I am, Lord, I lie exposed to your scrutiny.—Augustine

<idle musing>
Augustine at his best. I think I'm hiding from God, but really I'm just hiding God from myself. Food for thought, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's a privilege to pray

"Seppli, Seppli!" he [Father Clemens] said kindly, as he pressed his hand, "what have I heard ? Are you not willing to follow Stanzeli when she wishes to go into the chapel? I wish to tell you something: our Heavenly Father does not command us to go into the church and pray; but He gives us the privilege of doing so, and every time we pray He sends us something, only we cannot always see it immediately."—Johanna Spyri, Red-Letter Stories, page 17

Word order in Greek

Within the framework of Functional Grammar, she [Helma Dik, Word Order in Ancient Greek, 1995; Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue, 2007] argues that the order of content words (i.e., Dover’s mobiles) in Classical Greek clauses can be accounted for by the following pattern:

(8) (Setting) — Topic — Focus — Verb — Remainder

According to (8) Classical Greek word order is pragmatically determined and fixed. The Setting slot refers to optional adverbials at the beginning of the clause (Dik 2007:36–37). Next follows the core of the clause: the first position is occupied by topic and the second position by focus; the verb is in the third position, unless it is itself topic or focus, and is followed by pragmatically unmarked constituents in an unspecified order.—Giovanni, “Word Order” in Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics, page 535

<idle musing>
Good stuff. I'm working my way through Simon Dik's The Theory of Functional Grammar, Part 1 right now. Wonderful! Maybe I should have done some linguistics in grad school—as if I didn't have enough to do : )

And, yes, I'm strange; why else would I label a post like this as "Just for fun"!
</idle musing>

God started it

Arminians affirm that it was necessary for God to initiate salvation because man was spiritually depraved by his Adamic inheritance.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 40

"To" or "from"?

Satan wants us to believe that God will reject us if we run to Him, convincing us that we had better run away from Him. Satan blinds us to God’s compassion and mercy and skews our perception of God. Convinced that God is mad at us, we buy into the lie that He will destroy us instead of the truth that God welcomes us in any state. Satan also knows that the best way to keep you from running to God is to keep you away from others, living in isolation.—What’s Your Secret? page 172

<idle musing>
Yep. Run from God and hide—by yourself. Away from the prying eyes of God and others—at least that is how we see it. But really, what are doing is running away from the compassionate love and care of God and the tender love of others...but we don't see it that way.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This is just plain evil

Got this today from "Catch the Buzz" a beekeeper e-mail. It originally appeared in Food Manufacturing News.
Inspired by the popular "USDA organic" label, House Republicans are proposing a new government certification for foods free of genetically modified ingredients.

The idea is part of an attempt to block mandatory labeling of foods that include genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The certification would be voluntary, says Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who is including the idea in legislation he is introducing Wednesday.

But here's the part that stinks
The bill would also override any state laws that require the labeling.

Under the legislation, the Agriculture Department would oversee the certification, as it does with organics. But while organic foods must be USDA-certified to carry any organic label on a package, the department's non-GMO certification would not be required for every food that bills itself as free of genetically modified ingredients. The idea is that foods the department certifies as free of GMOs would have a special government label that companies could use to market their foods. User fees would pay for the program.

Two things there: (1) It would override more stringent state laws.
And (2) certification would not be required for every food that bills itself as free of genetically modified ingredients. What!? You don't need to certify you are GMO-free to advertise it? But, you would need to be certified to have the label. Right! What happened to truth in advertising?

And what does the public think about GMO-free labeling?

According to a December Associated Press-GfK poll, two-thirds of Americans favor mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.
So for whom do these representatives really work? Obviously not for the 2/3 of Americans!

Write you congressperson and tell them to stop working for the big ag companies and start working for you.

This is just wrong!

I just ran across this editorial on Mother Earth News about seed sharing. Read the whole thing, but this paragraph grabbed me:
Minnesota’s seed law, for example, is so broad that it basically prohibits gardeners from sharing or giving away seeds unless they buy an annual permit, have the germination of each seed lot tested, and attach a detailed label to each seed packet. This law is enforced by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which has recently told seed libraries that they can’t distribute free seeds to gardeners unless they buy a permit and provide detailed labeling, even though the libraries aren’t selling the seeds. (The penalty for violating this law, by the way, is a fine of up to $7,500 per day!
<idle musing>
What!? Sure, Minnesota is home to Cargill and many other huge agricultural companies, but this is insane! I save seeds, not a lot, but I save seeds. They are the ones that have adapted and do best in our less than temperate climate here : ) I haven't given any away yet—I barely have enough for my own use at this point! But, what if my next-door neighbor sees how well my scarlet runner beans are doing and wants seeds? I'd have to buy a permit? You-gotta-be-kindin-me!

This calls for a new label: Insanity!
</idle musing>

It is assumed, prevenient grace, that is

The active force of the verb “suppress” (katechontōn) captures the intentional, counterworking effort of rebellios humankind to the effort of God or his revelation to show them his attributes. If the truth is actively suppressed, does that not suggest that the normal function of this truth is to persuade men—almost naturally? If they naturally and sinfully reject the truth, then is it not something like prevenient grace against which they fight? Human potential to accept the truth is presumed, as if that potential had been primevally established because God allowed humankind to see him through their ponderings about creation.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 36

<idle musing>
Sort of like the people who claim there is not an overarching metanarrative to life, and yet that there is no metanarrative is a metanarrative. Or the people who claim the law of noncontradiction isn't true, but have a bird when you point out that their stand depends on only one or the other being true—which means that the law of noncontradiction is true...
</idle musing>

The accuser

He piles on embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, fear, guilt, and shame by the truckload. The smooth-sounding tone, pseudo-promises, and seductive words of the deceiver quickly morph into the soul-crushing, shame-laden, degrading words of the accuser. He sweet talks us into believing a lie and then accuses us of being terrible human beings for doing what he asked. As soon as Adam and Eve gave in to the lies of the serpent, they looked for a hiding place. Why? They hid because shame had taken root in their hearts. Adam and Eve carried a burden that wasn’t meant for them. Shame forces us to carry something we don’t need to carry—but the enemy wants us to think that the burden is ours and that we deserve it.—What’s Your Secret? page 170

So stone me!

Recently, Chuck Pierce is in the news for "mantling" Glenn Beck. You can read about it here and the reactions, with Pierce's response, here. I chose Charisma News as the link because it is relatively favorable to this type of thing. I don't want to import biases before I say anything.

I was somewhat concerned when I read the first report, so I e-mailed a friend of mine who follows this stuff closer than I do. I wanted to know if there was a back-story to this that wasn't getting published. His response was pretty much the stuff published in the second article. He asked me what I thought. I didn't intend to give more than a short answer, but once I started writing, I couldn't stop. I'd like to think it was from the Lord, but you decide. It is relatively long, but you can read it faster than a cat video would take to watch...

Here's my response, slightly edited. I'm calling my friend Theophilus, which can mean either "beloved to God" or "lover of God." Both are true of him, and I hope of you. Either way, the former is true, you are beloved to God.

Dear Theophilus,

Lots of things going on in this whole scenario; I’ll try to deal with each one, but let me know if you don’t follow.

1. In The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel, Frankel, a secular Jew, looked at the land promises to Israel and came to the conclusion that they are conditional on Israel serving YHWH. The current regime in Israel seems more intent on political subjugation of non-Jews than anything else. Witness the treatment of Palestinians and the “Wall” that is being built.

2. One can disagree with the stance of Israel toward the Palestinians and not be against Israel. I know some Israeli Jews who are very much opposed to the direction that Israel is taking here. One can scarcely call them anti-Israel! I fear that the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors themselves.

3. The prophets called Israel to account and were doing so by the voice of YHWH. When there was injustice, Amos called it out. Of course, the ruling party in the Northern Kingdom kicked him out, but YHWH was the one who called him. See Rick Hess, ed.,War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, the last chapter (on Just Peacemaking) for more details (a great book, by the way!).

4. The close alliance between Christianity and Nationalism in the U.S. has me quite concerned. How much of what happened with Beck is related to his strong nationalism and the upcoming U.S. elections? Beck spews hatred and a strong civil religion with the U.S. as his real god. The fact that most U.S. Christians don’t see anything wrong with flying a flag in the church buildings while they won’t display a cross for fear of offending someone is a problem (and yes, I did have someone tell me that when I asked them why there was no cross but a U.S. flag!). The fact that patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc. call forth celebrations of “freedom” more that Easter does is a problem. The fact that most U.S. Christians don’t have a problem reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is terrifying. Where does their real allegiance lie? See just about anything by Michael Gorman for a good critique.

5. The U.S. is not God’s chosen instrument in the world. Well, let me rephrase that, it might be, but so was Assyria! But that didn’t keep God from judging Assyria for overstepping its bounds (see Habakkuk!). The Christians in the U.S. would do well to take a look at Augustine’s City of God for perspective. God was getting along fine before the U.S. became ascendent, and he will get along fine once it falls (and it will—every empire does).

6. The whole dispensationalist viewpoint on the end times is theologically deficient. At no time in the history of the church did anything approaching Dispensationalism appear until Darby and then Scofield’s development of it. It is based largely on a misreading of scripture through the lens of Germanic (and Enlightenment) anti-Semitism which equated the Old Testament with legalism and formalism (read Wellhausen, et al.). One only need read Hosea to realize that there is no covenant of law and covenant of grace. It is always and ever grace. The fulness of that grace wasn’t disclosed until the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but it was always grace. From the moment that Adam and Eve took the apple, God has been pursuing humanity! Praise God for that! That’s all grace.

7. The way that the Christian Right has been whitewashing Mormonism since the last election has me concerned. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took down their page on Mormonism as a cult after Franklin Graham endorsed Mitt Romney. When called on the carpet, the BGEA said it was removing it because of something that I don’t recall, but the bottom line was Romney was Mormon and Franklin wanted him elected. Why? Because he represented what the Christian Right wanted. Not because Romney was an Evangelical who wanted to exalt God, but because he stood for a strong America with values that they endorsed. Sorry, but that’s just a bunch of double talk for we want to stay in power. Forget the cross, we want the crown. Bomb the Muslims! Revenge!

8. Just as the church sold out far too much to Constantine and his successors, so has the church sold out far too much to the U.S. Government for the sake of “influence.” What has that influence bought? The rich are richer than ever. The churches are emptier than in recent memory. There is no revival. There is no cry for revival—but there are loud cries for bigger armies and more invasions. Defend American interests! What ever happened to the way of the cross? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to feed the poor and oppressed? I haven’t seen any bills introduced to eliminate abortion—the calling card that the Right has always used to get the Evangelical vote—but there have been bills introduced to slice benefits to the poorest among us. There have been letters written warning Iran that we want war. Quite the exchange, the glory of God for a piece of power that will wilt. Pure religion and undefiled is to make widows and orphans seems to be what the church is saying instead of taking care of widows and orphans.

So, yes, I have a huge check in my spirit about this whole thing. I think that nationalism has dulled the sensitivity of too many people to what God is really calling the church to: humble fasting and praying that holiness would grab the church. After all, the promise in Chronicles starts out by saying if my people will humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways… it doesn’t say if other people will turn… and as long as the divorce rate in the church is as high as the rest of society, I’d say we have a problem. As long as preachers are preaching prosperity instead of giving to the poor, we have a problem. As long as…you get the idea.

Sorry this got so long, but this is where my prayers have been going for the last 10 years or more—actually since before 9/11 and especially since. Especially when the Sunday after 9/11 when we were at a megachurch in Minneapolis and the pastor prayed for our soldiers to win. I felt the Lord nudging me to go up to him, so I did. I asked him if we couldn’t pray for the perpetrators as well, that they might experience the love of God. He told me he couldn’t. To his credit, within a week he was able to. But most pastors didn’t. That’s a problem. We’ve equated nationalism with Christianity. That’s sin.

<idle musing>
Now it's your turn...what's wrong with my response? Or, maybe a better question, what is God calling you to do in response to this? If he isn't calling you to prayer, something is wrong! And that prayer could be that I "see the light!" But if it causes you to classify me as a "liberal" or "Israel hater" or some such label, then know that your hope isn't in God, but in a political process that will ultimately fail you, because only God can fix matters of the heart, not laws and government processes...

Just an
</idle musing>

There's a textual variant

The way things are going, I thought maybe I had misread James 1:27:
θρησκεία ⸆ καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ °τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ⌜ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ⸂ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν⸃ ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.

True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. (CEB)

And maybe I did—after all there is a textual variant—see the ⌜ in the middle of the verse? Maybe the variant says ἀποκτείνειν (to kill)! Or maybe ποιεῖν (to make)! Wouldn't that be something! To think we might have been missing a variant that would justify our actions all these years!

So what does the variant say?

επισκεπτεσθε et ⸂υπερασπιζειν αυτους ��74; Lact

OK, what does that mean? Well, it changed the infinitive into an imperative with the same verb and added an infinitive that means "to hold a shield over them (as protection)." So we should translate the verse as

True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: Care for orphans and widows in their difficulties to hold a shield over them as protection and to keep the world from contaminating us."

So much for the vain hope of being justified in violence...the variant holds you to an even stricter account. No wonder it wasn't adopted! : )

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prepostions, you gotta luv 'em

I'm in the midst of reading Chip Hardy's dissertation on the Hebrew preposition. Interesting stuff—very linguistic in orientation. I came across this little tidbit, which I really like [I couldn't get the transliteration to paste correctly, sorry]:
One finds several BH examples of which may be understood as having either a locative formation or the comitative function. In Example (172), Saul is said to have met a group of prophets. Enthused by the Spirit of God, the narrative states that Saul prophesied בְּתוֹכָֽם btokam 'among (the group of) them'.

(172) וַיִּתְנַבֵּ֖א בְּתוֹכָֽם
wayyi nabbeʾ ɔm
prophesy-WCPC.3M.SG. INSIDE/COM+them
[Saul] prophesied among them. 1 Samuel 10:10

This usage could be understood as a locative relation denoting the location 'within the group of prophets'. Alternatively, it may be read as the COMITATIVE designating the pluralization of the subjective participant. Saul may be seen as prophesying as one of the group of prophets, namely 'together with them'. This latter formation appears to motivate the incredulous response and the proverbial saying: גַ֥ם שָׁא֖וּל בַּנְּבִאִֽים 'Is Saul among the prophets?' (vs. 12). This designation seems to suggest more than a location in the midst of a group but the extension of the identification with the primary characteristic of that group, namely prophecy.—Diachronic Development in Biblical Hebrew Prepositions, pages 265–66

<idle musing>
I like that...see, grammar (and linguistics) really does matter!
</idle musing>

Romans 1—noch einmal

Yet in Romans 1, Paul condemns those who fail to honor God and says they are without excuse for it. This does not seem congruent; it requires us to believe that these people are too depraved to repent before God, but not too depraved to be able to recognize his goodness. Some gracious revelation is at work here that elicits human response. Without going so far as to assume that they could be saved through natural revelation..., it is clear that they had some ability to recognize God.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 34

<idle musing>
Brand new book—well new to me anyway—that I recently read. I tell you, trying to get this book via interlibrary loan wasn't easy, either. It isn't in any libraries in Minnesota; my copy ended up coming from my alma mater, Asbury College—oops, University. I wish Francis Asbury Press would have a better distribution network...

Anyway, this is an excellent book that everyone interested in the concept of Prevenient Grace should read. Of course, you can just enjoy the excerpts that I supply you. Hopefully that will entice you to read the whole thing—and recommend it to your local librarian!
</idle musing>

Change isn't easy

The reality is that most people are deeply connected to their hurt. It becomes part of their identities. To let go of it means major change.—What’s Your Secret? page 158

The atonement

The death of Christ should not be seen as the expression of divine anger or even wrath, but as the expression of divine love. It is the gift of God’s son and, at least in some sense, the gift of God’s own self: “God was in Christ . . .” (2 Cor 5:19; MJG). If that is the major emphasis from the satisfaction/sacrificial/penal kind of atonement models, then there may also be room for the satisfaction and penal components as minor sub-plots in the atonement narrative, but only if they can be clearly found in New Testament texts, and only if they retain their minor role in relation to divine, covenantal love.— The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant, page 226

<idle musing>
I give a hearty AMEN to those sentiments! I can't really fathom how Penal Substitution, an idea which isn't even mentioned by the Church Fathers, has come to dominate so much of modern theology of the atonement. Well, that's not true, I can. Sadly.

First, you take a Latin/Roman view of justice, mix thoroughly with a misunderstanding of the curses in Genesis 3, add a healthy dose of shame and works, and what do you get? A mad god who needs placating or he'll blow you to pieces before sending you to hell...

There's a popular saying, "The god of the philosophers is not the God of the Bible." Perhaps we should modify that, "The god of the Penal Substitution model is not the God of the Bible." What do you think?

That's the final excerpt from this wonderful book (with many thanks to Wipf & Stock for the copy). Hope you enjoyed it.
</idle musing>

Passion—and virtue

Even though I object to the "us versus them" attitude in this post, this paragraph makes it worth posting:
While Christian theologians have typically regarded a concept such as love as both a passion and a virtue, modern secular society has collapsed the two into each other and made the latter dependent for its meaning upon the former. Love is now really nothing more than a passion. To put it more generally, passions are virtues. When this move is made, the whole vocabulary of moral discourse concerning love and other virtues may look the same as it has always done but conceptually it has been fundamentally transformed into something very different. It is subjective and rooted in emotional responses, responses which are easy to manufacture in our aesthetic age through the instruments of pop culture.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stuff only a geek could love

I just discovered that Steve Runge, whose blog has lain fallow since last fall, is now doing a weekly blurb on Greek and discourse grammar—the heading says it will eventually also include Hebrew. Right now, he is two weeks into every first year Greek student's favorite(?) subject, the participle! Good stuff.

Here's the link to the first one, All about Participles, Part 1.

And here's the second one, called appropriately enough, All about Participles, Part 2

I am especially fond of his last example this week:

Consider the impact of the participles in James 1:5 (a twofer!):

James 1:5 (SBLGNT) Εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας, αἰτείτω παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ·

James 1:5 (LEB) Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask for it from God, who gives to all without reservation and not reproaching, and it will be given to him.

The participles are not helping us determine which god James is referring to. Instead they shape how we think about him. Of all of the potential images that might come to mind in the context of asking him for something, James portrays him as the giving God, giving to all without reservation. He is also the “not reproaching” God. This is great news for those of us who might be too intimidated to ask him for things like wisdom. After all, what if our request makes him angry? The portrait that James paints of God serves to disabuse us of wrong ideas like this, and participles offer a great alternative to adjectives and nouns for creating evocative pictures.

I've often commented on the placement of the participle in this verse. I love that διδόντος (giving) comes before θεοῦ (God). James doesn't want you to import any ideas into whom he is mentioning, so he qualifies exactly what he wants highlighted about God before he even mentions him. And then, just to make sure you get it right, he follows up with what kind of giving we can expect.

Good stuff! See, grammar really does matter : )

Add it to your RSS feed. I'm sure the blog will be worth your time...

But who wrote it?

“But who wrote these words is quite a pointless question when we believe confidently that the Holy Spirit is the true author of the book. The writer is the one who dictates things to be written. The writer is the one who inspires the book and recounts through the voice of the scribe the deeds we are to imitate.—Gregory the Great, Moralia as quoted in Ascetic Pneumatology from John Cassian to Gregory the Great, page 187

<idle musing>
As long as this doesn't degenerate into the oral dictation theory, I agree. Although I love researching who might have written what, in the end, it's the Holy Spirit. And unless we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are just beating the air...and even though beating the air might feel like you're doing something, it won't result in a changed life. Or a closer walk with Jesus. And that is the goal, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Part of the problem

When we turn to bitterness or wrath, failing to forgive, we become part of the problem. Our humanity broke things in the first place, so why do we think our own fix will contribute to true justice? Do we really believe that getting even will make the world right?—What’s Your Secret? page 154

Necessary but not sufficient

The same new Testament writers who use new-covenant language also use the language of sacrifice. forgiveness of sins via the sacrifice of Christ is an essential, but not a sufficient, dimension of an atonement model rooted in the New Testament texts. To suggest that the new-covenant model and the sacrificial model are mutually exclusive would be to ignore the evidence of the New Testament itself. The prophetic promise of a forgiven covenantal people is realized in the sacrificial death of Christ.— The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant, page 225

Monday, March 23, 2015

Origen got it right

For as the different strings of the harp or lyre, each of which gives forth a sound of its own seemingly unlike that of any other, are thought by the unmusical who do not understand the theory of harmony to be discordant because the sounds are dissimilar, so are they who have not ears to detect the harmony of God in the holy scriptures. . . . But if a reader comes who has been instructed in God’s music, one who is wise in word and deed, and for this reason may be called David—which is interpreted “skillful player”—he will produce the sound of God’s music. . . . For he knows that the whole scripture is the one, perfect, harmonious instrument of God, which blends the different sounds, for those who wish to learn, into one harmonious song of salvation.—Origen of Alexandria, Commentary on Matthew 2 in Philocalia 6.2 quoted in The Harp of Prophecy

<idle musing>
Yes, there really is a metanarrative in scripture. And Origen got it right here, despite his horrendous etymology for David's name : )

And I've got to get this book! But interlibrary loan says I have to wait until it is 6 months old! Another 3 months...

But, endnotes! Why? It is a scholarly book for scholars. There is no way to justify endnotes instead of footnotes! The software can easily handle footnotes. Why or why? Maybe so we could take up a Psalm of lament? : (
</idle musing>

Just for fun

A week or three ago, we were in the Grand Marais Public Library, picking up an interlibrary loan book or two or three or...well, you get the idea, when I got to talking to the head librarian. One of the things we discussed was the Internet comic, Unshelved. It's a comic about public libraries and the experiences of the staff. Fun stuff.

Steve, the head librarian, started talking about some of his more bizarred experiences. The one that stood out the most was the time a person came into the library, pulled out a bag and began making a salad. Yep, making a salad. Not just eating one, but actually constructing one. With Italian Dressing, no less! Not a thick dressing that would stay on the salad when tossed, but a oily, splattery Italian one.

Well, needless to say, eating in the library is against the rules! So, Steve walked over and told them they weren't allowed to do it. They acted surprised, after all, isn't that what a library is for?

I thought the story would make a good Unshelved episode and told Steve to submit it. He said that he wouldn't, but gave me permission to do so. So I did.

Guess what? They liked it and today, they published a strip with a salad making patron. Go look at it and think of Grand Marais : )

Mary and Martha, two views

When speaking of Martha and Mary, Augustine’s emphasis lies with Mary as a type of the life to come: “Mary…has shown us a likeness of this joy beforehand…she rested from every occupation and was absorbed with the truth according to the manner of which this life is capable, and thus has foreshadowed the future life that shall last forever. For Augustine, Martha and Mary signify types of life separated by what is possible in this life and what is possible after death. “In these two women two kinds of life are represented: present life and future life…temporal life and eternal life…In Martha was to be found the image of things present, in Mary that of things to come. Alternatively, for Cassia, both Martha and Mary signify lives that Christians regularly lead on earth. One has to draw lines between Cassian and Augustine carefully: both Cassian and Augustine are convinced that the contemplation we will experience face to face is radically superior to the contemplation we experience now, and both are willing to consider that we progress towards that contemplation in this life as a regular part of the ascetic’s life, as we saw in Chapter 2. Contemplation is more than barely begun in this life according to Cassian. Contemplation is a regular part of the reading of scripture and prayer experiences of the Christian ascetic. For Augustine, on the other hand, “active” and “contemplative” most naturally name this life and the next. Contemplation is barely begun in this life, and is a rare experience, according to the mature Augustine.—Ascetic Pneumatology from John Cassian to Gregory the Great, page 185

<idle musing>
Where to begin...there is so much wrong with this—and so much right!

First off, we see the problem with the allegorical interpretation of scripture. Mary and Martha are reduced to types. But, if Mary represents the future, then how come she's experiencing it right now?! She is already experiencing a restful life in Christ, sure there will be more in the future, as both Augustine and Cassian acknowledge. But, there is indeed a foretaste of it now.

Second, Augustine is wrong to say that it is rare and barely begun! This flows out of his extreme embrace of the fallenness of humanity. His earlier stuff, before he encountered Pelagius, is a bit more optimistic. But once he began to refute Pelagius, he became more extreme on the extent of the fall. I'm not enough of an Augustine scholar to know if he ever says that the image of God is destroyed in humanity, but he certainly extends the extent to which is it effaced. Cassian is closer to right here. We can experience a much greater degree of the contemplative life here and now than Augustine allows here.

What's right? We only get a foretaste. But what a foretaste it can be! But it's still only a foretaste.

Now, I wonder how Augustine reconciles his extreme pessimism here with his optimism here?!

Just an
</idle musing>

Whoda judge?

Forgiveness is not about disregarding justice. For me, holding on to an offense reflects my desire for the offender to hurt as much as I have. We don’t like to be this honest, but our hesitance to forgive is often based in our desire for some kind of revenge. However, it’s not our place to see that others pay for their actions; that job belongs to God. Forgiveness is not a statement about disregarding justice but a statement about who will execute justice.—What’s Your Secret? page 152

<idle musing>
A bit too honest, isn't he? Forgiveness means letting God take care of the offense, not I. It is acknowledging that I'm not God—in fact, I'm not even a god...what a blow to my self-esteem—and we all know that self-esteem is the ultimate definition of who I am, right? He says, cynically.
</idle musing>

Cross-shaped witness

So what is an appropriate politic for those who claim allegiance to the crucified Messiah? It is the task of every Christian community, in each and every time and place, to seek the will of God, the mind of Christ, and the guidance of the Spirit in discerning how to be such a community of the new covenant within the host culture, which is to say in the “world.” That world, is both the object of God’s love and the locus of human rebellion against God. The church’s presence in the world, as an alter-culture, including its alternative politics, is thus grounded in the twin realities of divine love, on the one hand, and human sin and need, on the other. The world, or the human city (in Augustine’s words), is therefore both the focus of the church’s cross-shaped mission and the source of the church’s cross-shaped suffering, its temptations and trials. The church is salt and light. Its cruciform voice will be double-edged, like that of the prophets, offering both critique and hope, judgment and salvation, with both aspects of its message shaped by the cross.— The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant, page 221

I like that

Scot McKnight has a post of a recent interview with J.I. Packer concerning Anglicanism. This paragraph caught my attention:
[I]n Anglican circles, any question can be asked and the Anglican ethic is to take the question seriously and discuss it responsibly. There are, of course, Protestant churches which, I think you have to say, are always running scared and as soon as a question of this kind – a real puzzle of our Christian truth, of the ways of God – is raised in their circles, they bring out the big stick. “Now you mustn’t talk like that, you shouldn’t be concerning yourself about that. Just stay with the ABC of the Gospel and Bible truth”. Theological reflection is discouraged rather than helped on its way. That makes, I believe, for real immaturity. So I celebrate the fact that Anglicanism, characteristically is rational and reflective and believes in the discipline of debate and sustained discussion, believing, you see, that like panning for gold, the gold of truth will be distilled out through the discussion and the dross of error will be panned away.
<idle musing>
Yep. Especially in the U.S., people are afraid of questions. It might require thinking! And, even worse, it might upset my neatly laid out (but largely unthought, unexamined, and unbiblical!) way of living. We can't have that!
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Syriac tidbit

The term marí (“my lord”) is frequently used in Syriac literature to refer to holy people.—David Eastman, The Deaths of the Apostles: Ancient Accounts of the Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, Society of Biblical Literature, forthcoming, chapter 4, note 13.

<idle musing>
Cool! I didn't know that...
</idle musing>

Looking for a dissertation topic?

I therefore conclude that, in Hebrew, verbal forms were marked for social dynamics. Scribes chose unmarked forms when no distinction needed to be made between the social status of the speaker and that of the listener. In con- texts where the social dynamics were significant, scribes used marked forms and added the particle of politeness נָא for additional modality.—The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose, page 223

<idle musing>
Not sure how I feel about this—even after looking over her data...is נָא really a particle of politeness?

Dallaire looks at the Ugaritic and Hebrew data and concludes it is—which is a return to the position that was held pre-Ugaritic. Once the Ugaritic tablets were deciphered, scholar's noted n' was frequently used with the imperative. It became common to refer to it as the imperative marker. After all, in unpointed (without vowels) texts, there needs to be a way to mark the imperative when context isn't enough.

Now Dallaire has reexamined the data and returned to the old conclusion...As I said, I'm not totally convinced. But, I haven't studied the data as closely as she has. And I don't have the motivation or time to do it.

To do it properly, one would need to look at every occurrence of an imperative (or potential imperative) in the Ugaritic corpus. And, you would need to make a distinction based on genre—as we all know, poetry does funky things with grammar! And then you would have to do the same with the Biblical Hebrew texts.

Not this kid! But what about some PhD candidate somewhere? Sounds like it could be a good dissertation topic...
</idle musing>

Where is the power?

I’ve heard horrific stories of how people have been violated and traumatized. When I suggest that they need to forgive the one who hurt them, initially it might seem incomprehensible, even impossible. And I think it is … on our own. That is why we must rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us to forgive.—What’s Your Secret? page 150

Seeking the welfare of

Members of the new-covenant community are still to seek the welfare of the city in which they reside, as Jeremiah told the exiles (Jer 29:7). But this must be a good they seek in cruciform mode. Their lives should be a living presence and voice that reflect the cross of the crucified Messiah. This is not, I would submit, the way that most discussions of Christians and politics (or public witness) proceed. If politics as it is normally understood and practiced is at least in part about the exercise of power, Christians have far too often sought to share that secular power, to control the political and/or public realm, and even to participate in the exercise of power in ways that are antithetical to the cross. As we all know, in fact, at times the cross has ironically and idolatrously become the symbol of such un-cruciform power, whether in the execution of medieval crusades, or in so-called “cross-lightings” by the KKK, or in contemporary popular war propaganda in which crosses and American flags are merged into a single blasphemous icon.— The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant, page 221