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>

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The tools are missing

Pentecostals have repeatedly tried to account for something that can be labeled "Pentecostal theology," but they have struggled mightily before such a task largely because of the fragmented nature of the contemporary theological enterprise out of which they have pursued such work. Pentecostal scholars often have had some intuited sense of what Pentecostalism is generally and experientially, but they have been ill served by the academy in finding categories and methods that can help them account for and articulate what they know at a tacit and visceral level about their tradition.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 6–7

Monday, April 09, 2018

Academic theology and life

Academic theology in the modern West has taken a number of twists and turns, but the divide between theology and spirituality is a legacy that more often than not obfuscates a working understanding of the Christian life. Whereas Christianity is in many ways declining in the trans-Atlantic North, it is flourishing in the global South, and these developments may well represent at least a partial indictment of some of the most troubling features coming out of the modernization of the West, one of these being the splintering and dissolution of theological knowledge. As a case in point, those in the global South are often able to speak of God out of a more confident posture than their Northern counterparts. Sadly, the latter, in a manner further indicated their malaise, might deem the former as naive and simplistic; the former constituency, however, may very well claim to be the future of Christianity on this planet, asserting that the latter have lost their theological and spiritual bearings.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi

<idle musing>
I guess you could call me naive! I firmly believe in the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the individual and the world. Anyone who has followed this blog very long should be aware that I frequently bemoan the "practical atheism" of most christians in the Western world in general and the US specifically. If we don't believe God is active in our lives on a daily basis, talking to us, prompting, empowering us, then what is our claim to historic Christianity?
</idle musing>

Friday, April 06, 2018

Grammar fun!

This was on yesterday's Eisenbrauns Twitter feed.
For those of you who might not get it, a verbal system in a language typically is either tense (time) prominent, aspect prominent (type of action—continuous, intermittent, etc.), or mood prominent (command, wish, statement, etc.). What she is saying is that she got so engrossed in an aspect paper that she forgot all about tense. OK, it sounds flat when you have to explain it…

New book!

Today we begin a new book, Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition. Here's the first excerpt:
Pentecostalism is best understood as a mystical tradition of the church catholic. The claim may not be self-evident to readers because of the number of reservations and objections on a host of matters, but I would say that this way of casting Pentecostalism is the most faithful way to preserve its traditional impulses, concerns, priorities, and overall ethos—features that continue to be present in its most vital contemporary forms. These mystical features have been prominent at different stages of the church's history, but sadly, Protestantism generally and evangelicalism particularly have often avoided or dismissed these as part of the gospel witness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi (emphasis original)
<idle musing>
I would qualify that statement a bit and say that the Reformed wing of Protestantism and evangelicalism has avoided it. The Wesleyan-Arminian wing, and to a lesser extent the Lutheran-German wing have embraced it. One only needs to consult Wesley's writings to see the embrace of the best of the mystical tradition, and it continued through out the nineteenth century as well. In the Lutheran-Germanic wing you have the pietistic impulse, which emphasized the mystical.

Because the Reformed are the ones who tend to write the history books and control the narrative, the assumption is made that they speak for all. Not much different than now, is it, with the Gospel Coalition claiming to speak for evangelicalism. But, that small caveat aside he is correct and this book looks to be a marvelous read. Come along for the ride!
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 05, 2018

There really is continuity

[T]he double name formed by the personal name “Jesus” (yšwʿ as the short form of yhwšʿ, yhwšwʿ / ”Ιησοῦς) and the title “Christ” (mʿsyḥ, mšyḥʾ / μέσσιας, χριστός) programmatically encapsulates the New Testament. Thus, when read as a sentence, the name Jesus Christ means “(The one who is called) ‘Yahweh is deliverance’ (is) the Anointed One/ Messiah.” On the basis of the divine names used in the Bible, the Old and New Testaments can be read as a reflection of the history of Yahweh and Jesus Christ. A textual linchpin of such an approach oriented around the names “Yahweh” and “Jesus Christ” is the motif of the transferral of God’s name to Jesus Christ in Phil 2:9–11 (cf. Isa 42:8).—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 63

<idle musing>
That's the final extract from this book. Quite short compared to the last one, isn't it? It's really a nice read at only 150 or so pages. Next up is a book that I received from Eerdmans about a year or so ago:

</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

It all ties together

The theological question of Jesus Christ necessarily leads to the question of the nature and development of God in the Old Testament; to reflection over God’s role as creator and as director of history by accompanying, freeing, teaching, and sanctifying his people; as well as to the interpretation of metaphors for God’s wisdom, kingship, and role as shepherd and father, which also took on significance in the New Testament. Christology thus requires a presentation of the basic theologies in the Old Testament and of a theology of the Old Testament. The history of Yahweh that emerges in the Old Testament and the theologies of creation, history, law, the cult, and wisdom collected therein—which, from the perspective of the New Testament, find their goal (τέλος [telos]) in the spatial-temporal focus and embodiment of God’s actions through Jesus Christ—thus contribute to the history of God in the New Testament, to the discourse on Jesus Christ, and to a biblical theology.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 101

Monday, April 02, 2018

April snow brings May flowers?

The weather forecast for the beginning of April. Seems more like February, but after all, this is Minnesota!

Yep. They pegged me

Debbie pointed this picture out to me at the local library. Not sure where it came from, as I can't find it online anywhere.

She laughed when she saw it, because it describes me when I get involved in reading a fiction book. Can you relate?

On its head

What is common to the different sapiential figurations of the righteous sufferer in the Old Testament, whether Job, the supplicants of Pss 35, 69, and 73, or in Wis 2–3, is the notion that suffering is not a sign of divine absence but is instead—as in the case of Jeremiah’s suffering or of the suffering servant—understood as a sign of unusual closeness to God, whose nature as creator and teacher is confirmed (Wis 3:1–9).—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 100

Friday, March 30, 2018

And three chapters later…

The conception of the sovereign creator-God in Gen 1 is set in contrast with the image of God as a punishing judge in Gen 3. The kingly human in Gen 1 is countered by the debased human who hides before God in Gen 3. The vitality of humanity emphasized by the blessing of multiplication in Gen 1 is contrasted with the prospect of mortality and the hope in eternal life in Gen 3. The human who was called and equipped to shape the world in Gen 1 is juxtaposed with the human who, despite having knowledge of what promotes life and what destroys it, kills his brother and is thereby confronted directly by death in Gen 3–4. Despite all of the failures that humanity experiences in the events constructed as a paradigm for human existence, what remains constant is the relationship to God as the one who gives life, who is known as the creator, and who can be invoked in prayer (Gen 4:25–26). In this respect, prayer represents a fundamental human constant.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 73

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Son of God

An appropriate post for Maundy Thursday, I would say.
The reference to Yahweh as the father of the individual believer is not attested in the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament but is found in the Greek version of Ben Sira from the second century BCE and in a Hebrew text from Qumran. In light of personal names that contain the element -ʾāb-, however, it is clear that Yahweh was also venerated in ancient Israel as “father,” that is, as the personal protector of an individual. [fn. Cf. Joab “Yahweh is [my] father” (1 Sam 26:6); Abijah “My father is Yahweh” (2 Chr 13:20–21).]

According to the Old Testament, the father-son relationship between Yahweh and the Judahite king is based in a historically conditioned choice or adoption, not in a mythical ancestry. Functionally, it characterizes the temporal designation of the king as the representative of God as well as the earthly guarantor of divine order and justice (Ps 2:7, 89:27). The functionality of the father-son metaphor is also reflected in its sapiential use with reference to a wise person who, by showing mercy to the poor, receives the title “son of God/son of the Most High” (Sir 4:10). The earliest profession that Jesus is the Son of God is in line with such a functional understanding (Mark 1:9–11). As a son, Jesus represents divine justice, the kingdom of heaven, and divine Wisdom.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 69

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Too true!

We moved to Red Wing, MN back in December. One of the joys of this new location is a much larger library. Of course, being interested in obscure stuff, I still live on Interlibrary Loan, but being closer to a large metro area means time in transit for those loans is a lot less : ) Anyway, all that to say, the library recently (or I just recently noticed it) put up this poster:

There is a difference

In early Christianity, the title παντοκράτωρ [pantokratōr] with reference to Jesus Christ marked Christ’s universal rule and position against pagan gods who bore this title, while the title Sebaoth remained restricted to God the Father in distinction to the Son.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 68

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A conundrum

Despite the need to value the literary and religio-historical value of the Old Testament texts and to be conscious of Jewish theology, which draws on the scriptures of ancient Israel, as a possible and authentic way of reading the texts, corresponding aberrations over the course of the history of the Church and the history of interpretation show that eschewing Christian and Christ-oriented interpretation is not only theologically inappropriate but also regularly led to a devaluation of the Old Testament and, by extension, often to a devaluation or even persecution of Judaism as well. Conversely, a Christian and Christ-oriented interpretation of the Old Testament is not in itself immune to taking on an anti-Jewish tendency, particularly if it sets up a sharp antithesis between Jesus Christ, understood as the definitive revelation of God, and the divine revelations to Abraham and Moses, regarded as provisional and obsolete.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 60

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The source of christology

For the New Testament authors, the God who is accessible in the person of Jesus is identical to the God to whom the Old Testament bears witness, and Jesus is the eschatological savior expected in the Old Testament, to whom the New Testament authors (at the latest) gave the title “Messiah/Christ,” which was also used in Judaism during the same period to designate an eschatological savior and deliverer. Finally, early Christianity, which adopted the sacred scriptures of early Judaism, understood itself both in continuity and discontinuity with biblical Israel as representing the (new) people of God. Yet if Jesus Christ is understood as the definitive revelation of God, then within the context of Christian theology, the discourse on God in the Old Testament ultimately becomes part of Christology.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 53–54

Monday, March 19, 2018

A difference in vocabulary

The term θέμις [themis] (“custom/law/legislation”), which was important in pagan Greek law and was mythically personified as Themis, daughter of Uranus and Gē/Gaia and mother (with Zeus as the father) of the Hours, of Dike, Eunomia, and Eirene (cf. Hesiod, Theog. 135, 901–2), only appears in the LXX in 2 Macc 6:20 and 12:14 in the expression “it is just/equitable,” while the New Testament authors do not use the term at all.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 49–50 n. 73

Friday, March 16, 2018

The problems with translating from a translation of a translation

Over the course of the literary and theological history of the Old Testament, the term ,תורה [tôrâ] which originally stood for the teaching or instruction given by a priest, a prophet, or a parent, increasingly took on the meaning of “law” (νόμος [nomos]), particularly the “law of Yahweh,” which, according to the narrative of the Pentateuch, was mediated and written down by Moses (cf. Deut 31:24), before ultimately indicating the books of Genesis to Deuteronomy as a whole—that is, the Torah/ὁ νόμος (Greek Prologue to Ben Sira, 4 Macc 18:10). Within the context of the Torah piety that developed during the Persian and Hellenistic periods, obedience to the Torah is regarded as a correlate to the “covenant” and is described as justice. Mediated by its translation in the Septuagint (generally with νόμος) and in the Vulgate (generally with lex), Christian translations of the Bible up to the present tend to translate the term תורה as “law,” which reflects its later use in the Old Testament in a one-sided manner. This also had significant consequences for the history of doctrine and theology and occasionally led to the devaluing of the Old Testament and to Christian anti-Jewish polemics.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 34–35

<idle musing>
Think Augustine, who knew no Hebrew and a smattering of Greek. He was dependent on the Old Latin translations—which frequently were less accurate than Jerome's Vulgate, which was in the process of being completed while Augustine was alive. Jerome knew Hebrew well and not infrequently chided Augustine about his lack of knowledge of Greek and Hebrew (Jerome could be nasty…).
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New book!

Today we start The Development of God in the Old Testament. It's not totally new, being published in 2017, but it's new in the sense that I've finally finished Standing in the Breach. Here's the first excerpt:
[T]hree characteristic elements of the biblical conception of divine and human justice can be identified. (1) Divine justice as communion between God and humanity is unpredictable and elusive but can nevertheless be experienced. (2) The human experience of injustice does not preclude communion with God and does not absolve one of the social responsibility to act justly toward others. This focus by Gen 4 on the explicit question of justice is also reflected in the earliest Jewish and Christian reception of the narrative: the Wisdom of Solomon characterizes Cain as the archetype of the unjust person (ἄδικος, Wis 10:3), and in the New Testament Abel serves as the archetype of the just person (δίκαιος, Matt 23:35 par. Luke 11:51, Heb 11:4). At the same time, the story of Cain and Abel points to the destructive potential of unequal economic relations, which within the Old Testament is further criticized in the prophetic books (cf. Isa 5:8–24, Mic 2:1–3), yet without legitimizing violence on the part of the disadvantaged. (3) As the figure of Noah demonstrates, actions and behaviors befitting communion with God and with fellow humans are not impossible but are the exception.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 33
<idle musing>
Two things jump out: (1) the destructive potential of economic relations, but without legitimizing violence on the part of the disadvantaged. As I told my kids when they were growing up, "Violence is never an option." It just isn't the Christian way—but neither is complacency. (2) "actions and behaviors befitting communion with God and with fellow humans are not impossible but are the exception." Unfortunately, that's been my experience, too. Including my own actions over the years : (

Let's see what else this little book can tell us…
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The end of the story

Intercessory prayer is not an option for the believer; rather it is an essential mark of Christ’s followers.—Standing in the Breach, page 529

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from this (long, but good) book. And an appropriate ending, to my way of thinking. Next up: The Development of God in the Old Testament. Stay tuned!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Identifying with the guilty

An essential characteristic of the Old Testament intercessory prayer is that the mediator stands in a good relationship with God. Even though the intercessors include themselves at times in their pleas for divine pardon that does not mean that they share in the guilt of the people (e.g., Moses: “pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance,” Exod 34:8). Rather, it means that the intercessors include themselves in a confessionary manner in solidarity with the people (cf. Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9). We have seen that this solidarity with the guilty party is an important aspect of biblical intercessory prayer. It is a solidarity that is characterized by love for the sinful people and reflects a corporate identity. Moses demonstrates in his prayer that genuine solidarity can be very costly: “if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written” (Exod 32:32). In a sense, here the mediator’s solidarity with the people supersedes the guilt of the people.—Standing in the Breach, page 527

Thursday, March 08, 2018

But what about wrath?

God’s wrath is not a divine attribute, but an aspect of God’s love. Like divine jealousy, so God’s wrath is a consequence of His love. As the revealed name of Yhwh shows, grace and mercy are fundamental divine attributes, while wrath is an inevitable outcome of Yhwh’s holy love that was betrayed. For grace and love to have any substance and meaning, sinners cannot but experience this love as wrath. Their sin cannot but produce a negative reaction from God if God is to remain loving and just at the same time.—Standing in the Breach, page 524

<idle musing>
If there is one thing people take away from these excerpts, this is it. I find myself repeating this over and over again to people, "God's wrath is not a divine attribute, but an aspect of God's love." It can't be said enough. If you make divine wrath an attribute, as some theologies do, you end up with a distant and untrustworthy god, not the God of the Bible; not the God revealed in Jesus Christ. But, if you remove wrath from an aspect of God's love, you end up with a vending machine god; the god of far too many prosperity preachers.

You can't pick and choose. God is a God of love, but divine jealousy is real and there are repercussions to straying. But, his love continually is drawing us back to him. And he is patient—extremely patient. And he listens to intercession.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

But where do you find such a person?

The intercessor is called to enter into the dialogue within God Himself. The advocate appeals to God’s larger purposes or divine reputation that would be endangered by fierce judgment. Also, if the intercessor can pray back to God a divine promise or appeal to Yhwh’s revealed gracious name, the prayer is likely to pacify God’s wrath and receive a favorable divine hearing.— ;Standing in the Breach, pages 522–23

Thursday, March 01, 2018

His ḥesed lasts forever

It is true that, according to the Old and New Testament, God acts both in wrath and judgment and in mercy and forgiveness. There is a duality in God’s dealings with humanity. We have seen, however, that divine wrath and judgment are always circumstantial and temporary. The scriptures consistently underline that Yhwh’s love and covenant loyalty lasts forever. Nowhere does it say though that divine anger goes on forever. The proportion that God keeps His steadfast love (ֶחֶסד [ḥesed]) for thousands of generations, but visits the iniquity of the guilty to the fourth generation confirms this.— ;Standing in the Breach, page 520

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's effective, but limited…

I would like to draw attention to another important dimension of the prophetic intercessory ministry that comes to expression through the metaphor of the “breached wall,” namely, the notion that the intercessor can only protect temporarily the breached covenant relationship. Just as the breach in the wall needs to be repaired to make the city a safe place in the long term, so intercessory prayer can only pacify divine anger temporarily. Persistent offense will eventually result in a divine prohibition to intercede and lead to severe punishment (e.g. Isa 58:10–12; Jer 15:1; Amos 7). In other words, in the long term the rebellious people need to return to Yhwh and recommit to the covenant stipulations to make the divine-human relationship whole again (cf. Deut 9:18–19, 25–29, 10:12–22). Understanding this dynamic confirms that the ministry of the prophet is essentially twofold: (1) “standing in the breach” in “defensive prayer” and (2) “repairing the breached wall” through calling a wayward people back to Yhwh and teaching the way of God (e.g., 1 Sam 12:23).—Standing in the Breach, pages 518–19