Friday, September 21, 2018

Countercultural advice

Blessed is the man who possesses nothing. If we possess nothing, God will allow us to have plenty. If we possess anything, we are cursed by it. So get it outside of you. Get thoroughly detached from earthly possessions. Look out for a thrill if you get a raise. Look out for a thrill if you get more money. Look out for a thrill that comes from possessions.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Not just book reviews

A few months back, I ran across an interesting blog (no, it's not on my horrendously out of date blogroll): Bob on Books. He reviews all kinds of books; some I'm interested in, others not so much. But periodically he also comments on stuff. Today, he takes on the way men are dodging the #metoo revelations. Here's a relevant paragraph, but the whole thing is spot-on; read it!
The other thing I believe we as men need to do is to assume full responsibility for our own sexuality. We must stop blaming women for our sexual longings and desires. We must stop blaming what women wear for our sexual responses. A sexually responsible man does not need a woman to tell him “no.” He makes it his responsibility to understand and honor the boundaries of a relationship. I would go so far as to say that men should not say with their bodies what they are unwilling to say in their commitments to a woman. I would go so far as to say that a man should not engage in the activity that can father children unless he is ready to assume the responsibility of being a father (and the woman wants him as the father of her children).
Amen and amen!

Thursday's dose of Tozer

If you are not detached from earthly possessions, every dollar you accumulate will be a blight on your spirit. If you have an understanding with God that goes clear down deep about who owns everything, then your increasing riches will not hurt you at all, because they are not yours. You will hold them for the Giver. God gave them, and you hold them for Him.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Good advice

I've been reading the long series of posts by Greg Boyd on Jordan Peterson's ideas (HT: Jim Eisenbraun). I'm up to part 14 of what was originally 15, then 19, but it looks like it's up to 20 now. Definitely worth your time, but I just read this, which rings so true to me:
This is advice I wish more American Christians would take seriously, both at an individual and ecclesial level. Instead of trying to “take America back for God” by positioning ourselves as Caesar’s wise advisers who assume we know better and care more than others about issues that divide the polis, we ought to make it our highest aspiration to simply be who God has called and empowered us to be; namely, individuals and communities that imitate God by living “in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph 5:1-2). I’m personally convinced that if Christians stopped trying to fix the world by grabbing hold of political power and simply focused on demonstrating God’s love in practical ways to all people, and especially to people in need, the transforming effect we would have on society would dwarf in significance whatever positive changes political regimes can occasionally manage to bring about. (emphasis added)
If you can find the time, definitely look into the whole series. Boyd takes a fair and balanced look at Peterson, acknowledging his many good points, but critiquing the points where it differs from a Christian response—and it does in significant ways.

Tozer for Tuesday

It is a solemn thought that the history of humanity and of nations and of churches shows that we trust in God, as a rule, when there is nothing else in which to trust. A Christian ought to be a realist. That is, he ought to stay by the facts, as they are, not invent or twist them. The simple fact is that the history of men, Israel, the Church and the nations and of individual churches shows that we trust in God last. We tend to trust in God when we have nothing else in which to trust. As other things to trust in appear, we turn from God to them and excuse ourselves eloquently by saying that we are not trusting them, we are trusting God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 128

Monday, September 17, 2018

Take a day!

! am not a Sabbatarian. I do not believe one day is above another day. But I believe we ought to have some time for God, The man who works seven days a week has no time for God, and the office that keeps open to get a few extra nickels on that seventh day has no time for God. Whether he takes Wednesday, Sunday or Friday off, he ought to take a day off; but Sunday would be the day to take off. It is a testimony and enables the man to get into the house of God and mingle and raise his voice in the songs of Zion with the people of God. We are not Sabbatarians, but we do believe that there is a time for everything, and secular business can ruin men, unless they take time to cultivate God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 123

Friday, September 14, 2018

But are we saying anything?

We could well cut down the decibels in our homes and in our churches. I am always cautious and afraid of noisy people. It takes a very wise man to talk all the time and say anything of value. So let us learn the scriptural silence.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Too busy

We are likely to be so busy that we do not get anything done, and so talkative that we never say anything. The prophets sought the silence; and in the silence, they learned what to say. Then they broke the silence by saying it and relapsed back into the silence again.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Men who cannot be silent will not say anything when they talk. It is only out of the silence that the Word speaks. In the beginning was silence, and then there was a word.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 06, 2018


I am positively sure that nervous breakdowns do not come from working in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. They come from frustrations, hidden sins, stubbornness, refusing to hear God and wanting your own way; but they do not come from working. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 118

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Why the two-week silence

We were gone for two weeks, visiting family. Debbie's dad fell and is in rehab. We went to see him and to help her mom. He's doing better and probably will be able to go home again on the eleventh. He's 89 and not very strong anymore.

I've been neglecting this blog terribly this summer, but maybe with the advent of fall I'll be able to spend more time reading—and therefore blogging.

I've been working on some interesting projects, though. I just finished up the NICOT 2 Samuel volume (not on the Eerdmans website yet), which should see the light of day early next year. Before that I did the final volume of the TDOT, covering the Aramaic. That was pretty intense because they were trying to keep consistency with the other volumes, going all the way back to 1974. Needless to say, typography has come a long way since then and standards have changed. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun. I also did an Eisenbrauns Festschrift The Unfolding of Your Words Gives Light, and three SBL books, two of them on the LXX. The collection of essays by Rosel, Tradition and Innovation:English and German Studies on the Septuagint is really good; you should buy it when it comes out—or pick it up at AAR/SBL. Somehow I managed to crowd in The Abu Bakr Cemetery at Giza for B.J. at Lockwood Press, and Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester. All while creating a garden (which is doing wonderful! I'll try to post some pictures…), working for PSU Press part-time, and walking 5–8 miles a day.

I'm currently working on the Lexham Geographical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts–Revelation and an Eisenbrauns book in the EANEC series: Life and Mortality in Ugaritic, which should be out next spring or summer (also not on the web yet).

No wonder the blog has suffered!

Tozer Wednesday

There is a notion abroad that labor is a sin or, at best, a curse resting upon us. Some Christians even have the notion that work is a disciplinary punishment, which the Lord laid at the world at the Fall. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read the Bible before the third chapter of Genesis and the Fall and you wlll see that God told the newly created couple that they were to replenish the earth and subdue it.

Replenishing the earth meant there were to be children born into the world. Anybody who imagines there can be children without work has never had children or even been around them. The command to subdue the earth certainly embraces the idea of work.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 116

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Among the Woo People

Just in time for back-to-school!

Disclaimer: I grew up a block from a university campus; my dad was a university professor for ca. forty years. While we didn't live on fraternity row, there was a sorority house just down the block. One night, a car crashed into our basement window at about 1:00 AM as a student was trying to get his date back to the sorority house before curfew. He missed the corner—and the curfew! But we did get a new window in the basement. Of course, once I grew up, I went off to college—for fourteen years, ten of them as a married student. So, I figured I had heard or seen a good bit of campus life. But this book, Among the Woo People, is a delight. It's chapters are short enough to read in a couple of minutes—and usually left me laughing or recalling similar situations from my own past.

Sure, I work for PSU Press, but even if I didn't I would recommend this book! Hey, have I ever steered you wrong? And right now, it's on sale for 30% off! Use coupon code NR18 when you check out. And then let me know how you liked it! Sure, it isn't about the ANE or biblical studies, but I'll bet you can relate : )

Tozer for a Tuesday

Spirituality does not lie in the length of your hair or the length of your beard. It does not lie in the style of your garment or the quality of your garment. The rule I would lay down is the easiest rule in the world: If it is modest and you can afford it, it is appropriate. That is all God cares about dress.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 109

Friday, August 17, 2018


Victory is certainly one of the goals in the Christian life, but whose definition of victory are we using? We strive to live the victorious Christian life, but who is telling us what that really is? We must vigorously search the Scriptures to discover God's definition of the victorious Christian life and then commit ourselves to that. No other definition is acceptable to the Christian. Because this is so utterly important, we must not misunderstand what victory is all about.

Let me point out that the victorious Christian life is not a life absent of any problems or difficulties or failures. Actually, the opposite is true. The victorious Christian life is a day-to-day or even moment-by-moment victory over enemies and situations that we confront in the way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tozer for a Wednesday

Fools chose whom they wanted to marry, but they did not think of eternity when they did it. They chose what they wanted to do with their money, and they did it. They chose what they were going to say, and they thought, Our months are our own; our tongues belong to us. Wh can tell us what to say with our tongues? Therefore, they said what they would, but they did not think of tomorrow, of the judgment day, of the awful face of God or the Great White Throne. They were fools.

Hell is full of fools, and heaven is full of wise men. There are wise men in heaven that could not read and write when they were on earth; and there are learned fools in hell that had degrees after their name like the tail on a kite. They knew everything but the one thing: They were fools.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 76

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do you believe it's possible?

It's an erroneous idea that justification is an imparted robe of righteousness put over a dirty, filthy fellow who terribly needs a bath and is filled with cooties and the accumulation of the dirt of a lifetime, who stands boldly in God Almighty’s holy heaven, among seraphim and cherubim and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect, and blithely and flippantly says, “I belong in hell. I’m a filthy man but what are you going to do about it? I have on me the robe of Christ’s righteousness and that’s enough.”

God saves only sinners, and He saves only sinners who know they are sinners. He saves only sinners who admit they are sinners; but He saves sinners and turns them from being sinners to being good men and full of the Holy Spirit. When we teach anything else, we are teaching heresy.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 73–74

Friday, August 10, 2018


This guy "gets it" about that big river in South America that sells books (and lots of other things) online:
Some may wonder, why don’t I use an Amazon link?

I did at one time until a bookseller friend whose work I value greatly challenged me that I was helping to dig the grave of his business. Since I want to see him, and other brick and mortar booksellers stay in business, I paid attention. He pointed out that I was essentially endorsing Amazon as “my bookseller of choice” by directing traffic to their website.…

I’ve concluded that for all the convenience Amazon offers, we are sacrificing a rich, local culture, as well as the subtler delights of relationships with librarians, publishers, and booksellers, as well as the serendipitous delight of finding what you weren’t, as well as were, looking for on the shelves of a local book store. That is not something I want to lose.

<idle musing>
And that's the issue in a nutshell. Sure, you might save a few bucks buying via the river, but what are you doing to the local culture? Not just bookstores, but the local hardware store, or other local businesses?

Buying local puts money back in the community. Buying online drains the community.

Sure, I buy online, but almost always it's only because I can't find what I need locally.
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 09, 2018


The act of accepting Christ, if it is a true act, has an instant effect upon our entire moral life, and it changes the man from being a bad man to being a good man. God will not, by some trick of grace, take evil, foul-minded, self-righteous and vile people into his heaven. When He saves a man, He saves him from sin. If he is not saved from sin, he is not saved at all! There is no act of grace and no trick of mercy and no justification that can take an unholy man into the presence of God or an evil man into God’s holy heaven. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. He came not to call people who thought they were righteous but people Who knew they were sinful. When He calls us to Himself and saves us, He saves us out of our past and out of our iniquity and by a threefold act of justification, regeneration and sanctification, makes people fit for heaven.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 73

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Why tithe?

If I were not a Christian, I Would not tithe. All of those button pushers that come along and try to show that if you tithe you’ll have more money than you did if You don’t tithe; all of that low-grade effort to get peop1e to give isn’t Christian; it isn’t spiritual; it isn’t decent. What kind of person would you be if you brought your offerings to God's house knowing that if you did you would be more prosperous than if you did not? Knowing that you will have more than if you did not tithe? That’s tithing to get more. What kind of person would you be?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 68

Monday, August 06, 2018

Religious bores?

To be as honest and realistic as possible, I will say that some people are religious bores. They have a way of introducing religion into the most impossible situations and do it out of habit, without sincerity or any spontaneity whatsoever, but only because they have been trained to do it, like trained seals. They would bore an archangel. But if an honest, happy—hearted Christian turns and talks about God, and it bores you or embarrasses you, you are in the wrong company. If you are bored with spiritual conversation (I’m not talking about religious chitchat that would bore anybody), something has gone wrong inside of your heart. The best thing to do is admit it and acknowledge it before God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Friday, August 03, 2018


Backsliding resides in the heart, and these other things are only external aids to the devil. When a man is backslidden in heart, he tends to get a little bit bored. If a glowing, earnest Christian bores you a little; if when you are in a little group drinking coffee or soda, and it bores you a little or embarrasses you when somebody brings up the thought of God, you had better look to your own heart. Whenever talk of God and His Word and His work in the world bores us, be sure that we are wrong inside.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Thursday, August 02, 2018

If it feels good…

People tend to follow what is easy and what goes the natural way. Outside of taxes and certain other duties forced upon us from the outside, either by nature or by law, we mostly do what we like to do or what is natural to us. That is fertile soil for backsliding. A person under some great pressure of bereavement or fear turns to God for a while, but the instinct to stay there is not in them. The instinct is to go the other way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 62

Monday, July 30, 2018

Would you?

If God never answered another prayer for me as long as I live, I still want God to know that I want to serve Him until I die. If He never did another thing for me from this day on, if He withdrew His hand and let me go to pieces physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and every other way, I would still want Him to know I want to serve Him just because He is God.

The modern emphasis that God is a convenience and Jesus Christ so kindly died for us in order that we might have peace of mind is a travesty of the gospel. Sinners know it, and the liberals know it. Only we poor, lethargic evangelicals fail to see it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 58

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thought for a Friday

We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend but not be contentious. We must present truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people. In earlier times, when men were wrong, they contended, and in contending, they became contentious. In an attempt to preserve truth, they destroyed those who held error. Let us preserve truth but injure no man.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 45

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What does your God look like?

Some Christians have taken all the justice, judgment and hatred of sin out of the nature of God and have nothing left but a soft god. Others have taken love and grace out and have nothing left but a god of judgment. Or they have taken away the personality of God and have nothing left but a mathematical god—-the god of the scientists. All these are false, inadequate conceptions of God. Our God is a God of justice, grace, righteousness and mercy. While He is a God of mathematical exactness, He is also a God who could take babies in His arms and pat their heads and smile. He is a God who forgives. So We had better make the study of His Word the business of our lives to find out what He is, and then we must conform our views to His.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 41–42

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tozer for a Tuesday

When truth has been revealed in the Word of God, our business is to find out What that truth is, and in all of our teaching conform to that truth. We are not to edit or change it, but to let it stand just as it is.

Let an engineer be wrong about a position, and if he builds according to that wrong concept, his building will collapse around him. Let a navigator be wrong about where he is taking his ship, and his ship will run onto a sandbar or a rock and shatter, sinking out of sight. Nonconformity to the truth brings disaster. The enormity of the disaster depends upon the high level or the low level of the facts you have before you.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 40

Monday, July 23, 2018

Do your own thing?

What we must remember is that only he who takes orders from Jesus Christ belongs to Him. The evangelical church is in the process of compromising this very thing and ignoring “thus saith the Lord.” Yes, we want any benefits that Christ may confer upon us. We want His help, protection and guidance. We even get misty-eyed over His birth, life, death, teaching, and example. The problem comes when we will not take orders from Him. Christ cannot save the one He cannot control. To claim to be saved while ignoring His commandments is to live in utter delusion.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 35–36

Friday, July 20, 2018

The church is an "also ran"

Our literature is no different. If there is a best seller out in the world, you can be sure it will be imitated in the Church eventually. Instead of writing great literature that honors God, the Church and the things of heaven, we are duplicating the dreary, morally questionable literature of the world. It seems to be a trophy to some writers to see how close to the edge they can get and not fall over. I have a news bulletin. They are not in danger of falling over the cliff; they have already fallen and do not know it yet.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 29

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Are you bored?

Boredom with religion is conceivable, but being bored with God is not. Those who have encountered God and His mighty, awesome presence could never come to the point of boredom. Religion, however, with all of its tiresome dos and don’ts, sets us up for such boredom. Anyone who tries to follow his religion religiously experiences great moments of boredom in the minutia.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 28

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tozer again

In the Early Church, everybody was part of the ministry team. Everybody was expected to go out into the world and preach the glorious redeeming message of Jesus Christ. Certainly, there were categories—such as elders and bishops and apostles. The Church ran quite efficiently by all Christians working together, each of them knowing where they belonged, and doing their part. Now we have teams of experts who only know the letter of the law. We have people who have become religious snobs putting on a show for Christians in the hopes that the Sunday offering would be more than sufficient to subsidize a lifestyle of greed. It is not hard to see that a spirit of Babylon creating a condition of spiritual lethargy has invaded today’s Church—all of this orchestrated by spiritually impotent theologians.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 23

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tozer for a Monday morning

However, a new, updated translation of the Scripture is not the answer. It is amazing that i n a generation of Christians with more modern translations of the Scriptures than all the other generations put together, it is just about the weakest group of Christians we have ever seen.

It is not by reading the Scriptures in the original languages or in some contemporary version that makes us better Christians. Rather, it is getting on our knees with the Scriptures spread before us, and allowing the Spirit of God to break our hearts. Then, when we have been thoroughly broken before God Almighty, we get up off our knees, go out into the world and proclaim the glorious message of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 22

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pastors and leaders

Then we have celebrities who are leading our so-called worship today. This mirrors the culture around us. To be a leader in the Church, a man does not have to have spiritual qualifications as much as a personality and a celebrity status. The converted football player wields more influence in churches today than the man who is before God on his knees with a broken heart for his community. Celebrities are now leading us, but they are not leading us down the same pathway the Fathers Of the Church established.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 19–20

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tozer on worship

The average Christian today is addicted to exterior pleasures. Can any Christian church survive today without a heavy dose of entertainment? It is the culture of fun, fun, and more fun. Performance has replaced worship. We no longer have worshipers but rather observers and spectators who sit in awe of the performance. The demand is for something that will make us feel good about ourselves and make us forget about all of our troubles.

The Church Fathers were fanatic worshipers, and their worship carried with it a heavy cost, which incidentally, they gladly and eagerly paid. The grandsons are now observers with an appetite for entertainment that has gone wild. They are addicted, with an insatiable appetite, to have one thrill followed by an even bigger thrill. They are as fanatic about entertainment as their fathers were about worship, which explains the difference.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 18–19

<idle musing>
Tozer wrote/preached this in the late 1950s! I wonder what he would think now? : (
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Beyond words

The Spirit-baptized life trades in holy mysteries. When Pentecostals speak in glossolalic tongues, they do not know what they are saying, and that is very much an appropriate epistemic space to occupy. In some sense, they do not need to know what they are saying because what is happening at such moments resists and defies description beyond the surface, since the One at work is infinite, transcendent, and thus beyond words. Pentecostals at various moments implicitly sense this dynamic in their spirituality. For instance, we have already alluded to how Smith speaks of testimonies that have a "I know that I know that I know" quality—they operate out of a certainty principle that runs deeper than conventional forms of cognitive or linguistic affirmation. [James Smith, Thinking in Tongues] But then again, when Pentecostals move from their spirituality to the theological task, the temptation to register their intuitions in a kind of totalizing and corrupting discourse persists. As a case in point, some Pentecostals suggest that these tongues are spiritually edifying, that they encourage the believer, and so on. The danger of such comments is that they signify a benefits orientation toward the Christian life that is in need of a dark-night purging of its own. On the contrary, and first and foremost, glossolalia stands as a phenomenon that points to the superabundance of the God Pentecostals believe they experience in their worship settings. This effulgence, this glory, this radiance simply defies logo-centric parameters. Glossolalia points in this direction, and Pentecostals and others have continually sensed this.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 176

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Life is complicated—sometimes very complicated

[Simon] Chan wishes to expose an overreahzed eschatology as the chief culprit at work in the inability of Pentecostals to see trials and difficulties as part of the Christian life. He believes that, when Pentecostals fixate on signs, miracles, and the like, they lose sight of how Christian existence really is. The spiritual life cannot be a movement from one peak to the next; quite the contrary, "progress in the Christian life may involve many dark nights and many re-fillings of the Spirit, each experienced in greater degree of intensity." [Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 79] Pentecostals may not be forthcoming in claiming this dynamic, for typically their tendency is to emphasize the powerful demonstration of God's power, the victorious battle against sin, and the manifestation of an awe-inspiring miracle. However, if these are the emphases, what happens when their contraries are very much in evidence? What if the sought miracle does not take place? What if the battle against sin is ongoing? What if God appears to be absent or missing? As Paul Alexander has noted of his own experience, an awkward silence typically ensues in such cases, one quickly Filled by counterevidence and countertestimonies.[Paul Alexander, Signs and Wonders, ch. 1] The questions are often dismissed, ignored, or reinterpreted; they cannot be lelt to stand. Nevertheless, these concerns are valid because they are true to experience. They point to the multifaceted nature of life in general and the Christian spiritual life in particular.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 167–68

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Customer service?

My phone died today. It wasn't even a year old, ten months to be exact. So I set up a chat session on the phone provider's web page. As you log in, they ask for details about the problem. So, I proceed to type in the issue, complete with the fact that I have already removed the battery, sim card, and sd card and reseated them all.

I wait a couple of minutes and the person on the other end asks what the problem is…hmmm…I thought I just told them. Oh well, I retype the issue—and wait another couple of minutes before they ask me to remove the battery, replace it, and try powering it on again. Hmmm…I thought I just told them that. Oh well, I'll humor them.

No change in the phone—what a surprise : (

The agent types, well, we'll just have to reset it then. OK. Remove battery, replace, and press the power and up volume at the same time. No change, as expected. Agent types, we'll check to see if it's eligible for exchange. Several minutes later: it is. Ok, needs all my contact information, address, etc. And phone number. Hmmm…it doesn't work! I give them Debbie's.

More exchange about how to return it, etc. Finally, "Would you like to participate in a survey about this exchange?" Sure, why not? They reply, "Great! You will get a text message…" Face palm! I don't have a phone that works! Response, "Well then I guess you won't be able to receive the text message." Oh, the irony!

You gotta either laugh or cry. I'll laugh. Without a phone for at least a week, which isn't so bad, I guess. Unless someone wants to call me or text me : ) Good thing most of my work interactions are via email!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Clearing hidden field codes in Word for Mac 2011

Because the references are disappearing from the web and I never remember it:
To remove field codes in Word™ for Mac 2011 but retain all the formatting, select the text and then press Cmd-Shift-F9
Very handy in editing when you get a document that links all their bibliography to who-knows-where!

Bring out the stones!

It's that time of year again when the christian nationalists get to turn the worship of God into the worship of country. Well, they always are doing that, but on the two Sundays surrounding July 4th, they get the stage. Roger Olson has a great post today on the difference between nationalism and patriotism, and why nationalism is idolatry.

Here's a short excerpt, but do read the whole thing:

Nationalism is patriotism on steroids; it is patriotism degenerated into jingoism and chauvinism. It is near idolatry of country and often appears in mixing celebration of nation with worship of God. Patriotism thanks God for the good of one’s country and asks God to “mend its every flaw.” Patriotism is honest about the country’s failures and urges leaders to push on toward better achievements of its founding ideals. Nationalism rejects all criticism of country as almost (if not exactly) treason. . . .

Idolatry is such a subtle and seductive force (nobody ever thinks they are engaging in it!) that Christians ought always to be on guard against it. It is best to steer clear and wide of it. That’s why I prefer not to have a national flag in any worship space. While it might not constitute idolatry, it presents that possibility. Too many people even in Christian churches do treat the national flag as an idol. One “good Christian man” I know threatened violence to anyone who removed the flag from the church’s sanctuary.

<idle musing>
So, bring out the stones and cast them at all of us who think that the nationalism displayed by far too many who call themselves christians is really just idolatry and worship of a false god. I personally would go even further than Roger Olson in saying that much of what is called patriotism is also veiled nationalism. For example, I don't see how a Christian can recite the Pledge of Allegiance or stand and sing the national anthem. For me both of those are idolatry.

So bring on the stones! You're probably going to get your Supreme Court justice who will cause SCOTUS to endorse the death penalty anyway, so why not do it now? : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

But what does it mean?

Pentecostals need a working sense of what a Spirit-baptized life looks like and what difference this kind of life makes in the world today, especially if Spirit-baptism is called upon to substantiate and characterize the Pentecostal ethos.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 160

<idle musing>
I believe we used to call that "holiness." But that word has fallen out of favor as everyone scrambles to get more out of life. Pretty small life to my way of thinking. It used to be that the experience of Spirit-baptism was seen as an empowerment to serve. I don't hear that phrase anymore. Now it seems that Spirit-baptism is all about self-enjoyment and "soaking" up God.

Mind you, none of that is wrong in and of itself. But when it becomes the focus instead of a byproduct, then we have a problem.

Which brings me to a question I've been asking myself and Debbie a lot lately: When was the last time you heard someone talk about death to self? Several years ago I told someone who asked me for counsel what I suggested in a particular situation. I responded, "You need to die to yourself." The person's mom was present and she said, "I come against that word!" Wow! What can you say?
</idle musing>

Monday, June 25, 2018


The phenomenon of tongues has a place in these discussions to be sure, but when it is front and center epistemically, as it has usually been within initial-evidence logic, one wonders whether this appropriation is perpetuating and masking a more basic lacuna. Generally put, the empirical availability of tongues may have contributed to a theologically impoverished account of Spirit-baptism among classical Pentecostal American denominations.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 159

<idle musing>
In a word, Yep. It certainly has...
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 21, 2018

One size fits all—except when it doesn't!

By speaking of distinct, available, uniform experiences in the Christian life that are simply “there for the taking,” revivalists of various stripes essentially cast the goal of spirituality as “obtaining" or “having" these discrete experiences. The danger is in portraying these experiences as commodities that people obtain or consume, just as they do other things. Furthermore, when traditions discriminate on the basis of the "haves" and the “have-nots” of these experiences, political dynamics are introduced, including power-laden structures of those who are and who are not entitled to carry on the Pentecostal identity in formal capacities. For those who do not fit this narration, they can be dismissed, marginalized. and patronized as a result. Through the commodification of religious experience, the Christian life is depicted as a ladder of achievement or as a status-filled dynamic. Most Christians, including Pentecostals, would formally object to these outcomes. The difficulty for Pentecostals is that the logic and the language they tend to prefer in handling Spirit-baptism point this direction.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 147

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Too modern?

Evangelicalism’s tendencies toward abstraction and rationalization frame an account of God-knowledge that is at its core pneumatologically deficient. Even with the overtures toward spirituality and renewal an author like Grenz is willing to make, difficulties still present themselves. Grenz and others continue to privilege “the contribution of modernist foundationalism,” even if undertaken at a more local level (in the case of Grenz, the community of faith). Within such conditions, Scripture continues to be the revelational authority par excellence. The Spirit as such becomes primarily—and in some sense, reductively—an enabling and capacitating mechanism by which to see, interpret, and apply faithfully that which is fundamentally available in Scripture.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 126

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's screwed up from the very core

Pentecostalism cannot subscribe to the deep-seated methodological and epistemological impulses inherent in American evangelicalism. Even with calls to reform, evangelicalism is continually haunted by a particular methodological heritage. It is exceedingly difficult to imagine American evangelicalism apart from its scholasticizing and rationalizing tendencies, and these features stand opposed to what Pentecostals most value about their own tradition. To consider but one example, Pentecostals cast biblical authority and practices of Bible reading in ways very different from those of evangelicals, especially when they try to explain the logic of how Scripture functions in their practiced spirituality.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 125

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

It's a super(natural) life!

When Pentecostals live out their spirituality and then reflect on it, they simply must frame the results in terms of pneumatology. Their first inclinations are not to think of vigilance, exertion, self-monitoring, and the like; rather, Pentecostals are inclined to speak of how they delight in and enjoy the presence of God. For Pentecostals, Spirituality is not a project; on the contrary, it involves an ongoing paradox between resting in God and desiring earnestly after God. As Steven Land suggested in the very subtitle of his book, Pentecostals are genuinely passionate for God and God’s kingdom. And these flames of holy desire are fanned by the power, beauty, and goodness of God’s manifest presence, God’s Holy Spirit, who is experienced within the corporate modality of worship. Pentecostals pursue and live out their spirituality not from obligation but because of the sweetness that is the Holy Spirit’s touch. Over time, they often learn to hear the Spirit’s voice, recognize the Spirit’s presence, join the Spirit’s work, and yearn restlessly for the Spirit’s reign. Quite simply, from the Pentecostal viewpoint, Christian spirituality is a Spirit matter. It requires a Spirit-logic (alongside a Christ-logic, to be sure) for making sense of growth and maturation in the Christian life.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 125

Monday, June 04, 2018

The bankruptcy of self-improvement (or, just try a little harder next time)

[W]ithout a Spirit-logic infusing an account of Christian spirituality, one is left with a call for human striving. Without ongoing attention to the Spirit’s presence and work, proposals in Christian Spirituality teeter on woefully inadequate strategies of self-improvement or self-construction. Obviously, Grenz would wish to denounce these tendencies, but what resources does he employ to avoid these undesirable outcomes? When on a single page Grenz remarks that Christians ought to take seriously “their own responsibility to become spiritual,” that spirituality needs to be understood “in terms of a balanced life,” that “Christian spirituality is an individual project in the process of which we must dedicate all our personal resources,” what work can a single reference to hearts being warmed “by the regenerating power of the Spirit” actually do? [Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, 56] Once again, for all the promise Grenz shows in his work, his call for an evangelical spirituality betrays the lonely Christocentrism of previous generations of evangelicals. The pneumatology that is present is simply not robust enough for his program to lift off the ground in a theologically salutary way.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 124–25

Friday, June 01, 2018

Tomb-robbing, ancient style

From a new, forthcoming volume on the Abu Bakr Cemetery, published by Lockwood Press:
A secondary burial was found lying on a bedrock shelf about halfway down the shaft. The undertakers had evidently used the occasion to plunder the original burial chamber at the bottom of the shaft. Since there are no portcullis slots the robbers were able to pull the portcullis back enough for a child or a small man to squeeze behind the portcullis and penetrate the brick blocking to enter the chamber itself. All that remained of the contents are a flint blade and a fragment of a copper tool.
<idle musing>
Some things never change! : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Down with the idols!

Observers often point out that, in terms of both race and gender, Pentecostals have been generally more successful than their evangelical counterparts in integrating and recognizing a multitude of gifts across the divides that stratify society. Admittedly, Pentecostals have a number of difficulties to face on both scores, but it is true that, on the American scene, both women and people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds have played significant roles in the Pentecostal movement as a whole. Such developments are not due to any kind of prescience by Pentecostals that led them to be more inclusive and open to nonmajority voices; such a reading would be blatantly anachronistic. On the contrary, something deep within Pentecostal identity and existence has made these developments possible. One of these constituent factors, I believe, is Pentecostalism’s character as a mystical tradition. With the affirmation of such things as worship, the affections, spiritual practices, “the anointing” and others, Pentecostalism has created a space in its contexts for other dynamics besides intellectualization and abstraction, which in turn have allowed for a disruption of the status quo and the true participation of God’s one people in the economy of grace.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 122

<idle musing>
I would detail that a bit and say that because Pentecostalism is a mystical tradition, it is able to be more open to the Spirit's leading, hearing the voice of God calling for the destruction the idols of patriarchialism and prejudice in our society.
</idle musing>

Friday, May 25, 2018

The problem with inerrancy

The implications of this pneumatic epistemology for a doctrine of inerrancy are significant. Pentecostals cannot hold to inerrancy without compromising their distinct hermeneutical vantage point and all that such a move would entail for their understanding of God-knowledge. In the words of Smith, “I think it is precisely this one vestige of Princeton [i.e.. maneucy] . . . which frustrates any Pentecostal theology which attempts to be evangelical. It is not simply that Pentecostalism precludes the doctrine of inerrancy—that is, it is not an issue of errors in the Bible. The doctrine of inerrancy signals a more fundamental relationship to texts—one of textualization." [Smith, "The Closing of the Book," 62] In this article, Smith pits certain accounts of orality and textuality in contrast to one another. In his opinion, the kind of texualization at work in evangelical accounts of inerrancy runs counter to other revelational themes within Pentecostal spirituality, including orality, continuing revelation (in terms of prophecy, illumination), receptivity, and the like. In other words, it is contrary to a pneumatic epistemology as outlined above. This kind of textualization runs akin to Henry’s notion of axiomatization, and in both cases, there is a rationalistic closure involved in the reading and engagement of Holy Scripture.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 115

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What is inspiration, anyway?

"What is the inspiration [of the Bible] can never be properly defined—there is a mystery therein. It is a mystery of the divine-human encounter. We cannot fully understand in what manner 'God's holy men' heard the Word of their Lord and how they could articulate it in the words of their own dialect. Yet, even in their human transmission, it was the voice of God. Therein lies the miracle and mystery of the Bible, that it is the Word of God in human idiom."—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 114–15, quoting Ervin, "Hermeneutics: A Pentecostal Option," Pneuma 3.2 (1981): 17–18, quoting Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing, 1972), 27

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How do you read the Bible?

In this approach to Scripture, Pentecostals are much closer to those of the ancient church, which practiced lectio divina than they are to their fundamentalist and evangelical counterparts. Their similarity is their view that the ultimate end of reading Scripture is not “accounting for the facts” so much as it is hearing from God. This kind of activity would posit its own form of “objectivity,” one anchored in the matrix of communal worship. Given this orientation, one could say that Pentecostals read the Bible as a mystical text; they repeatedly seek to encounter God through this book, making this spiritual discipline a significant feature of their mystical outlook within their wider spirituality.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 113–14

Monday, May 21, 2018

Why do you read the Bible?

Broadly, one could say that Pentecostals read Scripture not so much to encounter the facts or truths of the Christian faith as to encounter the living God of Christian confession. That is, the Pentecostal hermeneutical orientation is relational and experiential to its core, especially when on display within the broader gamut of their practiced spirituality. Pentecostals operate out of an epistemology that in many ways would be complicated by the rationalism at work in the form of evangelicalism surveyed above. In the Pentecostal dynamic, Scripture comes alive in a unique way. Encountering the living God who inspired these texts is not so much a spiritually solipsistic or nebulous form of engagement but rather one that illuminates and grants greater clarity to the reading of the texts themselves.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 112–13

<idle musing>
Reminds me of something that Koskie said in Reading the Way to Heaven: A Wesleyan Theological Hermeneutic of Scripture, which makes sense, because Pentecostalism has most of its roots in the Wesleyan tradition.

Oh, and I think it's the best way to read scripture, too. Not the only way, just the best way. : )
</idle musing>

Friday, May 18, 2018

Arguing in a vacuum

Henry does not go into great detail about the definitional possibilities for mysticism, assuming instead a very specific account and in turn generalizing it to the whole. Undoubtedly, one significant reason why Henry can do this is that he does not speak of the Spirit much, if at all, in his considerations of mysticism. And this critique could be extended even more so to the whole of Henry’s project in God, Revelation, and Authority: the work is pneumatologically anemic, especially in the way it sets up methodological concerns. Henry’s project is first and foremost a theology of the Word. or Logos. Without recourse to a pneumatological idiom at critical points along the way, Henry has constructed a theological epistemology that all too easily defaults to a modern, rationalist paradigm. No wonder, then, that mysticism cannot fit within such a program; the agenda has been constructed so as to exclude it from the very beginning.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 108

Thursday, May 17, 2018

But what if the philosophical underpinning is wrong?

The claim of the Bible’s inerrancy has been defended on the American scene by many evangelicals in a manner that reveals a certain epistemological militancy, one that forces a person to take sides regarding the Bible’s truthfulness, again with the latter being understood in a very particular, modern way. This militancy has emerged in a myriad of ways across a number of forms. One of the most popular cases occurred in the 1970s, when Harold Lindsell published his book Battle for the Bible (1976).Soon thereafter the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) was formulated, a document repeatedly appealed to as a way of building broad consensus. Institutional purgings, denominational divisions, strategic initiatives, and similar efforts have collectively contributed to the sense shared by many that to be evangelical, one needs to subscribe to biblical inerrancy. Otherwise, one would be on precarious footing, slipping inevitably toward heresy and unorthodoxy—that is, caving in to the cultural and worldly pressures to relinquish the fundamentals of the Christian faith.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 89–90

<idle musing>
Yep, Father, Son, and Holy Bible. That's what counts, not the Holy Spirit! Bibliolotry tied to a marriage to the Enlightenment, which, ironically, those tied to inerrancy frequently decry as anti-God. But what if that view is wrong? Your whole doctrinal system falls like a house of cards.

Wouldn't it be better to cling to the traditional Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Then you are free to rest instead of continually battle. But maybe, Roger Olson says, those who tenaciously cling to inerrancy don't want to rest. They prefer to fight and judge and declare who is in and who is out. : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

But what we lose in the process...

The penchant to rationalization betrays itself usually in terms of how the Bible is conceptually viewed as authoritative and inspired. Both groups (and even subsequent evangelicals beyond this particular strand) find it appropriate to speak of the Bible as inerrant because it is assumed that only this kind of affirmation will secure its truthfulness over and against the modern pressures represented in historical-critical biblical scholarship, evolutionary theory, and debates surrounding cosmological and human origins. As many have lamented in the face of such pressures, without something as conceptually, morally, and practically demarcating as “inerrancy,” one is left with the prospect of relativizing the biblical witness through appeals to metaphor, symbolism, literary genre, and so on. And once such a reinterpretation happens with topics such as, say, the historicity of Adam and Eve or the dating of Daniel, it is often assumed that the “slippery slope” effect will lead to questioning the legitimacy and truthfulness of the gospel itself.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 89

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Reasonable faith—or Reason instead of faith?

In light of these and other details surrounding the epistemological and methodological forms evangelical theology has taken over the centuries, one could venture the following thesis: the story of American evangelicalism in particular can be told as the tale of how Christian theology was overdetermined by methodology. Of course, American evangelicalism can be narrated in a number of ways, but for purposes of this study, it is important to highlight just how significant epistemological and methodological issues have taken hold within the theological efforts of this strand of American Christianity. Perhaps out of both apologetic and protectionist concerns, American evangelicalism imbibed and adopted a very specific theological methodology, one that was particularly developed with ongoing reference to reason.

For purposes of perspective, Charry proves helpful once again in showing how reason changed from the Middle Ages to modernity in theological reflection (although what we have entertained thus far might nuance this claim further): “The use of reason in theology had started out as assistance to revelation by theologians like Anselm and Thomas. But in spite of their insistence that faith should seek understanding, reason as a tool of absolute knowledge took on a life of its own that bent in the direction of denying the intelligibility of Christian claims unless knowledge of God was empirically or rationally demonstrable.” [Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds, 10] American evangelicals embraced and promoted this usurpation of theological reflection by reason, and the signs of this capitulation were very much on display in the developments of the nineteenth and twentieth-century forms of this Christian tradition. Rather than critically and creatively resisting the forces that promoted the marginalization of Christian theology, American evangelicals sought to employ those forces—consciously or subconsciously as a "plundering of the Egyptians”—in ways that larnentably have led to a kind of intellectual unraveling. That effort was largely methodological, driven as it was by an implicit account of reason that framed Scripture as an epistemological foundation that cohered on the basis of a given account of truth—one that was modern to its core.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 84–85

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Study in Translations

I was reading in Matthew 8 this morning in my currently favored translation, the Common English Bible, when I noticed that all the references to the "sea" were changed to "lake."
23 When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.

27 The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!” (emphasis added)

That's also true of the NIV (although they change the last "lake" to "waves") and NLT, but not the NRSV, ESV, or HCSB (those are all I checked). I've noticed it before, but it never really hit me the way it did this morning.

So what's the big deal, you ask. After all, Jesus still showed his power over the water— and the "Sea" of Galilee really isn't a sea, it's not saltwater, so it really is a lake.

Ah yes. The old dilemma of how to translate rears its ugly head. The NRSV, ESV, and HCSB chose to stick with the philologically correct "sea" while the CEB, NIV, and NLT chose to be geologically correct, but philologically a bit off. But if I were a betting man, which I am not, I would wager you that all six translations missed the theological point of the passage.


Yep. Why is it so important that Jesus calms the θάλασσα (thalassa)? If you rummage back through the posts of this blog as far back as 2016, you will find excerpts from a snappy little book by my British friend Robin Parry. On March 30, 2016, referring to the walking on water, not the calming of the sea, this is what he said:

We all know the story of Jesus walking on water. And for most of us it is simply a great show of his power and authority but, truth be told, we don’t really see the point of it. However, Jesus did not actually walk on water. You did read that correctly. Jesus did not walk on the water . . . he walked on the sea. There’s a difference and it is important. (emphasis original)
Follow the link to read the rest. But the point is that the sea represents chaos and destruction. Everything God isn't. By Jesus calming the sea, he is showing that he is Yahweh, God, incarnate.

But, if you read the excerpt from Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition today, you will know that modern Christianity has a problem with the supernatural—well, you probably already knew that!—but that excerpt just exemplifies it better than most.

Once again, to quote that old saw, traduttore tradittore, the translator is a traitor. And as I said, I doubt the NRSV, ESV, HCSB stuck with "sea" because of the theological import of the passage. They are just as captive to the naturalistic mindset as the CEB and NIV.

So, perhaps I shouldn't have called this post "A Study in Translations" as much as "A Study in Preconceptions" or some such. Anyway, it's just an
<idle musing>

A prisoner to Modernism

[T]he Christian life on the whole trades on holy mysteries, the American evangelical movement, although citing Scripture as its one true authority, has significantly failed to account for the mystery-laden qualities of this life. Much of this failure is attributable to epistemological matters. We have already seen indications of this difficulty even in such a promising work as Boyer and Hall's The Mystery of God. Despite their appeal to mystery, which they claim must transcend reason because of the superabundance of God’s life, they nevertheless feel compelled to give reason some kind of prevailing acknowledgment, saying awkwardly that, even while transcended, reason still must operate. Of course theological reflection is reason-oriented; we as creatures are rational and use our rational capacities in our theological efforts. The reference to reason in Boyer and Hall’s presentation, however, is awkward by its inclusion as a postscript of sorts, as if its presence was necessary to register, even if in terms of an afterthought. Their implicit assumption is that whatever theology amounts to, even theology surrounding the mystery of God, it needs to be affirmed as rational in some sense. One could hypothesize that a fear is operative in Boyer and Hall in particular and within evangelicalism in general, one that has to do with avoiding certain methodological alternatives. If this hypothesis is true, then some options are simply to be avoided and others maintained at all costs.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 84

<idle musing>
Ouch! That is too true. Evangelicalism sold out to Modernism long before it sold out to Trump and the Republican Right.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Encounter as transformation

In this chapter I have sought to situate the language of mysticism within Christian theological discourse so that it could be of use for the narration of Pentecostal identity. Pentecostalism can be identified as a mystical tradition within the church catholic, but only if we recognize the mystical features of Christianity that hold the knowledge of God to be both intellectual and relational. Once we do so, we can recognize that Pentecostals implicitly operate out of mystical sensibilities in the ethos they sustain regarding worship and how it in turn reflects their belief that God engages and encounters those who thirst after God. The ultimate goal is a sense of the divine that is, in short, transformative. As Warrington remarks, “One experience with God can be more life changing than an encyclopedic knowledge of God. . . . Thus, Pentecostals value experience-based encounters with God because they have the potential to transform believers. They believe that if God initiates an experience, it must be in order to positively transform the individual concerned.” [Pentecostal Theology, 26] In this particular sense Pentecostals can be identified as modern-day mystics. The mystical dimensions of ancient Christianity are not dead for those who have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear" otherwise.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 82

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Teresa of Avila a Pentecostal?!

For Pentecostals, the theme of encounter involves an implicit theological realism. Rather than going deeper within, Pentecostals typically urge seekers to “get more of God” by pressing deeper into God’s reality. Therefore, in their corporate worship settings, Pentecostals strive to create the space for people to encounter and (more fittingly stated) be encountered by the God of their worship. The assumption at work is that God is available and in turn can act and surprise through a kind of “event” in which ane’s creaturehood is overwhelmed by the sheer glory of the Creator. It is no wonder, then, that many Pentecostals fall prostrate, are “slain,” shake, scream, or cry at such moments. Genuine cases of these experiences do not represent psychological contortions or expressions of pent-up frustration or despair; rather, these happenings are simply signs of a body overwhelmed by the “touch of the living God.” If Pentecostals were familiar and comfortable with the language, they could join Teresa of Avila in calling this sense of the divine “mystical theology."—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 80

<idle musing>
Definitely! This is Pentecostal worship at its best. Unfortunately, it frequently degenerates into a "me-first" encounter. : (
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Now that's church

Both Pentecostalism and features of the Christian mystical tradition emphasize dimensions of formation, growth, and maturation. In both of these currents the spiritual life is cast as something lively and in need of attention and care. Rather than manipulation or construction, the favored actions in these schemes are attentiveness and devotion. Activies such as praising God through music, the sharing of testimony, responsive preaching, altar tarrying, laying on of hands, and “praying through" collectively contribute to a kind of modality of knowing and being that is both spiritually and theologically productive. In short, Pentecostal spirituality facilitates and inculcates a specific account and form of God-knowledge, one that is personal, demanding, humbling, and enriching. On the whole, participation is crucial, for the deepest registers of the self are engaged in this Christian tradition.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 80

Monday, May 07, 2018

An answer to self-destruction

At the same time, if Pentecostalism is to be called a mystical tradition of the church catholic, it needs to be so within its own context and theology. In this sense, Pentecostalism is unique. For Pentecostalism appears to exhibit premodern characteristics, and yet it emerged in late modernity. How can we account for this combination? Broadly, the rise of Pentecostalism can be read … as a kind of indictment of some of the most difficult happenings in the modern Christian West. The movement has also helped usher a global Christian revival, which few people could have anticipated a few decades ago. The Pentecostal ethos draws people from all walks of life with a message of God’s presence in the mundane, God’s power among the poor and the oppressed, and God’s hope for a world suffering the stifling weight of its own self-destruction.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 77

Friday, May 04, 2018

Lively theology (is that an oxymoron?)

As noted previously, Pentecostals want to see the spirituality-theology divide be lively and interactive, which is definitely not the case in the modern Western theological tradition. Therefore, whatever use they make of the language of mysticism, it would have to fit within a framework that would allow for this kind of interaction. They would want to avoid both a scholasticizing tendency within theology (in which it is abstracted from the very realities of lived Christian experience) and a privatizing tendency within spirituality (in which it is fostered through techniques and patterns that improve focus and push consciousness toward interiority so as to find God already present in the soul). It is no wonder, then, that scholars have from time to time noted that Pentecostals fit better within a premodern worldview, for within contemporary issues and debates, they at times exude a particular kind of eccentricity; on many registers they are simply out of step with several currents in Western theology.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 76

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Is spirituality a "mechanical quest"?

McIntosh notes that around the twelfth century the term spiritualitas shifted from being concerned with "the power of God animating the Christian life" to characterizing a privatized quality, one referring to a "highly refined state of the soul, with the focus on how one achieves such states of inner purity and exaltation." McIntosh further adds that, by the time of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the term "spirituality" in both the Latin and the vernaculars came to signify inner dispositions and "interior states of the soul." Put another way, "spirituality" gradually became an anthropologically oriented category in the West, in the sense that human interiority and maybe even a "technology of the self" (even if treated through explicitly theological categories such as "sanctification," moral theology," or even "mystagogy") became the focus. McIntosh concludes that " the mystical dimension of Christian spirituality, that transforming knowledge of God which early Christian writers often saw as the very foundation of theology, grew ever more estranged from theology" by gradually focusing on the "mechanics of the spiritual quest." [MacIntosh, Mystical Theology, 7, 8.].—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 71–72

<idle musing>
I find that a terrifying thought! Yet, I see it in all kinds of books: 10 Steps to this or that, How to become such and such a person, How to grow your faith, etc. Everything in me resists that. Over the years I have reacted here to some of those books, which while correctly identifying the problem with the Western church, have simply prescribed a different medicine of the same sort—you don't get better, but some of those nasty side affects disappear, only to be replaced by other equally nasty side affects. No thanks!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

On thinking too highly of oneself

Scholasticism always ran the risk of overestimating the power of reason securing knowledge of God. As Pieper and many others have highlighted, William of Ockham (ca. 1287–1347) represents the consequence of this overestimation; in Pieper's words, one of Ockham’s hypotheses was that “belief is one thing and knowledge an altogether different matter and that a marriage of the two is neither meaningfully possible nor even desirable.“ The perceived intellectual integrity of God-knowledge could not help but be affected as a result of reason's rising place of privilege.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 70–71

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Why all the Greek terms?

The issue, then, did not revolve around whether Christians were going engage the wider culture, thereby choosing either to separate from it or capitulate to it. Rather, for Christianity to have emerged in the context that it did meant that philosophical terms, sensibilities, and inclinations of the time period were appropriated by those Christians who wished to pursue public accounts of their identities as Christians.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 59

Monday, April 30, 2018

A divorce made in hell

In a manner of expression that MacIntosh recognizes as blunt, he remarks: “Theology without Spirituality becomes ever more methodologically refined but unable to know or speak of the very mysteries at the heart of Christianity, and spirituality without theology becomes rootless, easily hijacked by individualistic consumerism.” [MacIntosh, Mystical Theology, 10] The interrelation between spirituality and theology allows for both a critical and a legitimizing process that keeps each honestly directed to its proper subject matter—the God revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The divorce between theology and spirituality has been none the better for either.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 58

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Did I say that it's complicated? But not really

One must encounter and be encountered by the mystery of the triune God so as to be captivated, moved, and struck by the Trinity’s beauty and glory. The event must be a genuine encounter, one in which Buber’s “l-Thou” dynamic is at work. When people relate to others or to works of art, a realism is necessarily at play—someone or something exists outside of one’s gaze. Applied to our main concern, God cannot simply be a projection of one’s desires or a form of wish fulfillment. God must be a truly self-subsistent Other. And yet a touchpoint or connection of sorts must be at work as well. In some fashion, a genuine engagement must take place. Of course, on both scores—alterity and connectedness—these features of encounter are complicated, given that God is being considered. God cannot simply be a Thou like other persons or subjects, nor can we simply speak of meeting or finding God, since God is the ground of our being. Again, the analogous nature of this exercise (and of all theological language for that matter) must be recognized.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 53–54

<idle musing>
It sounds far more complicated than it is! Trying to describe God is almost impossible simply because he is beyond our ability fully comprehend, let alone describe! But, by setting the background in this way, we begin to understand why a mystic way of looking at things is helpful. At least it is to me!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Still good

Out of curiosity, I was looking back over the first dozen or so posts that I had ever written (way back in 2005) and saw this one entitled Worship? Already back then I was pulling quotations from books and thinking along the same lines I do now. Because I know most of you won't click through, here's the core of it:
As a matter of fact, the purest worship—like the purest gift—has little or nothing to do with the satisfaction of the worshiper or the giver, but with the satisfaction of the recipient. We seem to have a good deal of misunderstanding at this point. So frequently we judge worship by the pleasure or fulfillment it gives us. There could hardly be a more dramatic perversion. Worship is not about me; it's about God. When I become absorbed with how much worship benefits my person, I make myself the object of worship rather than the God I profess to adore. If in my worship of God I happen also to be blessed it is a happy coincidence, and I can indeed see it is a blessing, because it isn't the point of worship and I am fortunate therefore to receive it. But God is the issue of worship, not I or my pleasure.—Grace in a Tree Stump, 17 (emphasis added)
It's still true! The other day I was reading an article (can't find the reference right now) that compared modern "worship" to a sexual orgasm. Sadly, I think they are correct. Here's hoping and praying for a revival of true holiness and godly fear. May God deliver us from our idols!

Update: Here's the link: A Call to Reject Orgasmic Worship and Return to Liturgy. I disagree that the return to liturgy is the answer, but he certainly put his finger on the problem!

Where is boasting?

To put it starkly: God has to make Godself known in order to be known, and the way God wishes to be known makes all the difference as to whether God is known at all. The initiative must come from God’s side, since human striving cannot bridge the gap between Creator and creation. All these points lead to the conclusion that knowing God is not a human achievement but a kind of participation in grace. The solving of an investigative mystery brings with it the accolades of human achievement, but with knowledge of a revelational mystery, a sense of devotion, attentiveness, and dependence to that which is given is crucial to acknowledge.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 53 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lego Classicists?

I didn't know there was such a thing as Lego Classicists! But this showed up on Eisenbrauns Twitter feed today!

Let's start at the beginning

As to the first point, God is an infinitely rich, superabundant mystery. Such is what is involved when confessing God as Creator. Too often the radicality of this confession is lost in the midst of other pressures and tangents associated with the language of creation. But the claim that God is Creator assumes that creating ex nihilo is a unique act undertaken uniquely by a unique Agent. These claims underscore the point of God’s transcendence. We must make the claim of God’s transcendence noncontrastively or noncomparatively, for only in this way can God be spoken of as fittingly engaged and involved with all that is.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 52

Monday, April 23, 2018

Embrace the mystery!

This last way of expressing the point hints at an important feature of senses of mystery for theological purposes. Boyer and Hall quite appropriately find themselves brushing up against the Creator-creation interface when speaking of the fittingness of mystery for speaking of God. Essentially and ultimately, when Christians dare speak of their God, they do so within the conditions of their creaturehood; they attempt such work as creatures who are struggling to account for their source, their Creator. Such conditions make the category of mystery quite fitting for describing God, given that creating is a unique kind of activity and that creaturehood is a category largely registered in terms of limitations or boundaries.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 51

Friday, April 20, 2018

Never-ending mystery

Quite the opposite, however, is true for revelational mysteries. Here the mysterious sense is not something to be overcome but, rather, something to be apprehended and taken into account as such. This prospect is not to be lamented but rather championed and celebrated in that a revelational mystery, by continuing to retain its mysterious quality, has an available storehouse of riches to be perpetually discovered and mined. The specific kind of ignorance at work in this case is not so much an exposure of human frailty as it is an invitation to anticipate surprise, awe, wonder, and amazement. A revelational mystery has the potential for being beautiful, true, and good in that it can enrapture and enchant those engaging it.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 49 (emphasis original)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Table of Contents for Forti, Like a Bird on a Roof"

Here's the Table of Contents for Forti, "Like a Bird on a Roof":
The Psalms as Liturgy
Imagery, Metaphor, and Simile
Synopsis of Research on Metaphors in the Psalms
The Focus of Investigation and Methodology
Chapter 1 Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Psalm 49:13, 21: A wisdom motif of human ignorance and the futility of wealth—בהמות ‘beasts’
Psalms 59:7, 15; 22:13–14, 17, 21–22; and 118:10–12: Animal imagery as representing the psalmist’s adversary
Psalm 59:7, 15: Wild-dog imagery to denote the psalmist’s enemy—כלב ‘dog’
Psalm 22:13–14, 17: Bulls, mighty ones of Bashan, lions, dogs, and wild oxen as metonyms for the psalmist’s adversaries—כלב ‘dog,’ פר ‘bull,’ אריה ‘lion’
Psalm 118:10–12: Bee imagery as denoting the psalmist’s enemies—דבורה ‘bee’
Chapter 2 Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Proverbs 1:10–19
Psalm 84:4: Intimacy with God—צפור ‘bird’ and 'sparrow' דרור
Psalm 102:7–8: Desolation and isolation—קאת ‘great owl,’ כוס ‘owl,’ and צפור ‘bird’
Psalms 33:16–17 and 32:8–9: Wisdom motifs within theological contemplation—סוס ‘horse’ and פרד ‘mule’
Psalm 32:8–9 83
Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture
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Table of Contents for Rollston's Enemies and Friends of the State

For some unknown reason, the ToC of Enemies and Friends of the State isn't showing up on the web site, so here it is:
Part 1: Setting the Stage
Defining the State (pp. 3-23). Alexander H. Joffe.
The Politics of Voice: Reflections on Prophetic Speech as Voices from the Margins (pp. 25-56). Miriam Y. Perkins
Part 2: The Ancient Near East
A Land without Prophets? Examining the Presumed Lack of Prophecy in Ancient Egypt (pp. 59-86). Thomas Schneider.
A Royal Advisory Service: Prophecy and the State in Mesopotamia (pp. 87-114). Jonathan Stökl.
Prophecy in Syria: Zakkur of Hamath and Luʿash (pp. 115-134). Hélène Sader.
Prophecy in Transjordan: Balaam Son of Beor (pp. 135-196). Joel S. Burnett.
Part 3: Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History and the Chronicler
Prophets in the Early Monarchy (pp. 207-217). William M. Schniedewind.
Friends or Foes? Elijah and Other Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 219-256). Gary N. Knoppers and Eric L. Welch
Unnamed Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 257-275). Jason Bembry.
The Prophet Huldah and the Stuff of State (pp. 277-296). Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
Prophets in the Chronicler: The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah (pp. 297-310). Lester L. Grabbe.
Part 4: Prophets in the Prophetic Books of the First Temple and Exilic Periods
Prophecy and the State in 8th-Century Israel: Amos and Hosea (pp. 313-328). Robert R. Wilson.
Enemies and Friends of the State: First Isaiah and Micah (pp. 329-338). J. J. M. Roberts.
Jeremiah as State-Enemy of Judah: Critical Moments in the Biblical Narratives about the “Weeping Prophet” (pp. 339-358). Christopher A. Rollston.
Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (pp. 359-383). C. L. Crouch.
Obadiah: Judah and Its Frenemy (pp. 385-394). Alejandro F. Botta and Mónica I. Rey.
The Prophet Ezekiel: State Priest, State Enemy (pp. 395-410). Stephen L. Cook.
Yhwh’s Cosmic Estate: Politics in Second Isaiah (411-430). Mark W. Hamilton.
Part 5: Prophets and Patriots of the Second Temple Period and Early Postbiblical Period
Haggai and Zechariah: A Maximalist View of the Return in a Minimalist Social Context (pp. 433-448). Eric M. Meyers.
Apocalyptic Resistance in the Visions of Daniel (pp. 449-462). John J. Collins.
References to the Prophets in the Old Testament Apocrypha (pp. 463-485). Robert J. Owens.
Prophets, Kittim, and Divine Communication in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Condemning the Enemy Without, Fighting the Enemy Within (pp. 487-512). James E. Bowley.
John the Baptizer: More Than a Prophet (pp. 513-523). James D. Tabor.
Jesus of Nazareth: Prophet of Renewal and Resistance (pp. 525-544). Richard A. Horsley.
Late First-Century Christian Apocalyptic: Revelation (pp. 545-564). Jennifer Knust.
Oracles on Accommodation versus Confrontation: The View from Josephus and the Rabbis (pp. 565-581). Andrew D. Gross.
Index of Authors (pp. 583-591).
Index of Scripture (pp. 592-613).
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Mystery as an ever-deepening experience

[A] theological account of mystery must be of another order. They [Boyer & Hall The Mystery of God] argue that God is a mystery who reveals Godself through what God does within various contexts; that is, God is a revelational mystery. On this score, the mystery in question is to be considered primarily in terms of what is known: Christians behold a self-disclosing God, and within such moments of disclosure God is apprehended as One who defies categorization and definition. Notice the distinction: people approach an investigative mystery out of ignorance with the goal of finding more so as to explain it away, whereas a revelational mystery involves some basis of knowledge that over time reveals ever deeper and richer dimensions that cannot be adequately categorized or defined. Boyer and Hall summarize the point as follows: “A revelational mystery is one that remains a mystery even after it has been revealed. It is precisely in its revelation that its distinctive character as mystery is displayed.”—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 48

I wish I had said this!

From today's Anxious Bench
Here, ironically, the attempt by some evangelicals to sanctify Donald Trump might work well if given a quarter turn: he is no Cyrus, a pagan ordained of God to restore Jews to Israel, but Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan invader of Israel ordained of God to punish them for their unfaithfulness, and banishing the best of them from the promised land in the bargain. As intriguing might be the possibility of seeing that pagan’s later fate play out again—that is, to see the proud trumpet of egotistical greatness reduced to crawling around like a beast in the field, eating grass and growing literal instead of just figurative claws (Daniel 4)—one’s relish at the prospect bespeaks an unsanctified longing of its own.
<idle musing>
Nothing quite like turning the mirror back on oneself, is there? Before congratulating ourselves that we haven't fallen prey to nationalism, perhaps we should find the log (whatever it might be) in our own eye.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's your starting point?

I sometimes point out to my students that Protestant primers of theology commonly have a first chapter on revelation or the Bible, whereas their Orthodox counterparts often start with a treatment of mystery. The differences here no doubt relate to the various ways that theologians view God-knowledge. Whereas some Christians may be suspicious of the term “mystery," a renowned theologian like Vladimir Lossky can make the following claim: “In a certain sense all theology is mystical, inasmuch as it shows forth the divine mystery.” For such an assertion to make sense, we need to recognize a certain epistemological sensibility present here involving how we form and develop God-knowledge.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 47–48

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First, let's define the terms…

If the term “mysticism” is to be of any use for Pentecostals, it will have to be conceived, appropriated, and applied largely in emic (i.e., insider) ways. “Mysticism” would have to be a term Pentecostals use of themselves to affirm their identity as distinct from, and yet part of, the larger Christian world. It would have a use different from that of religious studies scholars. Such distinctions are difficult, if not impossible, to maintain for those who both use and hear the term. Many contemporary discourses tend to overlook such distinctions, even while claiming to be accommodating uniqueness, diversity, and openness. But such is the challenge with any range of terms, including “scripture,” “tradition,” “experience,” “spirit,” “the sacred,” “charisma,” and “sect.” For widely employed language to be useful for specific ends, it must be deliberately and determinedly limited. The running assumption in what follows is that this process can and should happen in the case of “mysticism" as Pentecostals articulate their identity in productive ways.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 47

Friday, April 13, 2018

The act of theologizing and the Holy Spirit

Origen strives after consistency within a given methodology, and his starting point includes a rationalistic rigor. lrenaeus, in contrast, is striving after faithfulness within an economy of holiness—the theater of God's participation and engagement with the world that leads to its healing and divinization.

As I understand them, Irenaeus’s vision and those like it will typically be appealing to Pentecostals. This vision calls for the systematic theologian and his or her writing, speaking, and conceptualizing (i.e., systematizing) to be located within the economy of God's activity and purposes. On this score, sanctification is a more fundamental category than scholarly completeness—conviction and passion are more determinative here than coherence and rationality. What sets the tone for Pentecostal theologizing is the reality and confession that God is at work in the world, including the academic realm. With such a baseline and orienting claim, Pentecostals cannot help but think that falling prostrate on one’s knees in prayer is more basic to a faithful form of engagement than typing one's thoughts on a keyboard. The prayer-logic, however, can be sustained to a deeper level still: typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 35–36

<idle musing>
I like that: "typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness." I'd like to think that's what I do when I'm editing and marketing books.
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Print versus digital

I'm reading a report about the differences in comprehension and analytical thought between digital and print (ironically, I'm reading it digitally on a MacBook Pro!). After pages of conflicting studies and evidence of reader preferences, here's what he says:
How is the current threat of digital distraction any greater when reading an e-book versus a print codex? Isn’t it just as easy to put down a print book and pick up a tablet or smartphone as it is to close out your e-reading app and start browsing Facebook? The answer, in my view, is no, and again I return to neuroplasticity. The digital environment is literally rewiring our brains to seek stimulative, short-­term gratification at the expense of our ability to think and read in depth. In this situation, how much more challenging is it to read at length on the very same screen from which your brain expects quick scanning, 140-­character tweets, and amusing cat videos than it is to read from a printed page or on a dedicated e-reader that does not offer such opportunities for distraction?

Thus the digital reading environment offers not a difference in degree but a difference in kind, one that is transformational in nature rather than evolutionary. As the digital age unfolds, it is likely to substantially alter both the nature of reading and the nature of the book itself as deep linear reading fades in importance and functional tabular reading becomes more widespread than ever. This will in turn alter the way people write and even the ways they think, leading to a likely decline of deep analytical thought for the purpose of forming broad conceptual frameworks in favor of a more immediate, purely functional form of decision-­oriented thinking based on rapidly acquired snippets of information.—Reading in a Digital Age doi: (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I agree. I read voluminously—both digitally and in print—and I know it is much easier to get distracted when I'm reading on a screen. Take this study as an example. I keep getting distracted by incoming email. I get tempted to check this or that. Not so when I grab a book. Consequently, I remember better what I read in print than what I read digitally.
</idle musing>

Learning styles?

I've been hearing about learning styles for what seems like forever—especially related to language acquisition. It sounds good in theory, but...
“by the time we get students at college,” said the Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.—The Atlantic, April 11, 2018

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

The spiritual matters

[I]f theology is to be theo-logical (i.e., properly about God), then it must be understood as directly related to spirituality. To separate the two is always a theological mistake. If the object of theology is the God of Christian confession, then how and in what manner this object is engaged and known is significant.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 31 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Your way of life matters

On Pentecostal terms, the life of piety is the essential and orienting grounding for one's work of theological reflection. This way of putting the matter may sound altogether too pietistic for some, but early Pentecostals were explicitly disposed to consider the theological effort as necessarily dependent upon something greater than intellectual prowess and creativity. There was something vitally at stake for them in assessing and taking into account a person's Spirit-imbued power and anointing before moving on to evaluate his or her theological proposals. The theologian, in other words, had to be located within a broader context and reality, one in which spiritual matters were front and center.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 20–21

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! That's why Barth's theology, as interesting and provocative as it is, doesn't pass the scratch and sniff test. Anyone who can justify having their mistress move into the family dwelling and live with them has a serious issue. It will affect their theology in ways that aren't immediately obvious, but are foundational.
</idle musing>