Saturday, December 31, 2005

Site change

I finally took some time to organize my blog links a bit better. I figured that since my interests are a bit varied, maybe I should organize them better by topic. I'm always looking for interesting blogs, just because I don't list them doesn't mean I don't frequent them :)

By the way, have a happy and safe new year.


Friday, December 30, 2005

John the Baptist

I finished The Jesus Creed the other day. Very good book, but I think the most memorable section is the chapter on John the Baptist. This quote is worth the whole book:

"The first word out of John's mouth is 'Repent!' This is repentance with an edge—a sharp one. As Frederick Buechner puts it so memorably 'No one ever invited a prophet home for dinner more than once.' John maybe not even once."

<idle musing>
I remember reading in a book many years ago—I don't remember who the author was or the name of the book, but I think it was Elton Trueblood— this quote: "Every where that Paul went there was a riot or a revival. Every where I go they serve me tea."

Personally, given the choice (and we are), I would rather have the riot or revival. I like tea, but it doesn't have the same edge to it :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The year in review blog posts begin...

Scot McKnight has a nice summary of his experiences this year in blogging. I especially like this comment (bold is his):

"Sixth, I still am bewildered at the way some bloggers talk to one another — and you can get a good sample of this if you look at Tony Jones’ site and see the sort of meanspiritedness in the responses to his posts. This I simply can’t accept as a form of Christian discourse. The standard rule obtains: don’t say to others what you don’t want them to say to you, or don’t write things you wouldn’t say if you were facing the person yourself. If you do, you should be ashamed of your calling to walk in the way of Jesus. Disagreement and nastiness are not the same thing. Conversation and scoring points with cheap shots are neither winsome nor wholesome."

<idle musing>
Scot seems to have done a better job than most academics at getting the general public to interact. His site always has interesting posts and good discussion, whether you agree or not.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


It looks like Global Warming has come back from its brief vacation. The temperature here has been in the upper 30's to upper 40's for the last week. All the snow is gone and we are having a thunderstorm right now. They are predicting 49 for the high today.

This weather frustrates a person like me, too warm to showshoe or cross-country ski, too cold to bicycle—besides getting dark too early; ever since I got bronchitis real bad about 10 years ago I can't bike in weather below 50 degrees without getting bronchitis again. Definitely not worth it.

There is a bright side to it, though. My son and friends left last night/early this AM for Kansas City, MO and they didn't have to worry about snow or ice on the roads.

Ryan (our son) was loading the car late last night when our neighbor, the policeman drove by on duty. He thought it was I outside so he flashed the spotlight on him. Imagine a 21 year old caught in a cop's spotlight at about 1:00 AM. To make matters worse, Terry (the cop) turned into our driveway and flashed the lights. Ryan about died, he had never been to our new place and didn't remember our neighbor was a cop. Terry thought it was hilarious, as did Debbie and I. Ah, the little memories that he will take with him :)


I just ran across a post on Ben Witherington's blog with 10 comments on blog etiquette. I'll list only the first one, but you really should check out the other 9:

"Weblogs can be a wonderful form of having a dialogue or discussion on something that matters, though too often they are used just to vent. But what is really amazing is how many people are prepared to ask personal questions and make private remarks on a blog, when they could have sent an email to the person in question. Sometimes we even have people airing their dirty laundry for all to see on the internet. This unfortunately is another example of the narcissism of our culture, where people do not care or are oblivious to the effect of what they are doing on others who use the same public space. There need to be some suggested rules for bloggers. Here is a rudimentary set as a starter:

"1) Nothing strictly private should be posted on a blog. One should confine such comments to an email message or a private phone call or better yet a conversation in person. If you want to have a one on one private discussion with either the blogger or someone else who is commenting then do it appropriately."

<idle musing>
I was once told that you should never send an angry e-mail until the next day. Compose it in anger maybe, but always save it as a draft and then re-read it the next day. If you still feel the same way, send it. Good advice that I should have heeded more often. How much more important on a public forum such as a blog...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Jesus Creed

I started Scot McKnight's delightful little book Jesus Creed over the weekend. I got a pre-release copy from him way back in June 2004 and finally getting around to reading it.

I especially like this quote, from Chapter 18 (italics his):

"A concrete suggestion to aid us in preparing for eternal fellowship with Abba: we need to read the Bible Abba-centrically, or "Father-centered." Christians sometimes read the Bible too often to "figure things out," to come to terms with a theological debate, or to settle an old score. They read it for information.

"But, as M. Robert Mulholland explains in his very important book, Shaped by the Word, in reading the Bible for knowledge we can (and often do) miss the mission: for Abba to love us and for us to love Abba. When we let Abba speak to us through the Bible, we come to know him (and not just about him) and our reading moves from communication from God to communion with God, from 'information to formation,' from learning about love to learning to love."

He continues, almost Kirkegaardianly:

"My suggestion is simple: Put away study aids, commentaries, Bible Study Group materials: get out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down what we learn about God in a passage of scripture. Just what we learn about our Abba. We read, we meditate and we pray...There is no substitute for reading the Bible in order to hear from God."

<idle musing>
Not to disparage the use of tools to understand the biblical text better, but there is definitely a time to put away the tools and listen. Listen for God, commune with Him, follow the path of the mystics. Not an easy task in our fast-paced world with always-on-Internet, radio, TV, ipods, etc.

Perhaps as scholars we are asking the wrong questions of the text. Instead of judging the text, perhaps it would be better to let the text judge us. Of course, that's scary...I might not—no, I will not—measure up. I will be forced to rely on grace instead of my knowledge of the original languages and cultural background. I will be face-to-face without the comfort of my tools and training. But God is calling us, as he did Augustine, "Tolle, lege. Tolle, lege." "Pick it up, read it. Pick it up, read it."

Just a post-Christmas musing on too little sleep. Our son and friends arrived at 5:00 this morning after driving all night from Minnesota and we talked until 7:00, so I'm running on about 3-3.5 hours of sleep...everybody else is still sleeping.
</idle musing>

Friday, December 23, 2005

Biblical Studies debate

There has been a lively debate going on in the biblical-studies yahoo group for several days now on interpreting the Bible. I received permission from Professor Jerry Shepherd to post his contribution. There was some discussion of Luther's view as interpreted by David Steinmetz in Archiv fur Reformationgeschicte 70 (1979), saying basically that the Holy Spirit is all we need.

"In my hermeneutics class I teach that Christians have no cognitive or epistemological privilege in biblical interpretation simply because they are Christians. This goes against evangelical tradition which says that because Christians have the Holy Spirit, they can expect to be supernaturally illuminated in their interpretive activities. When I teach against this tradition, this at first rankles some of the students. But all I have to do to demonstrate the truth of my thesis is put a Greek or Hebrew text in front of them and ask them to pray for the Holy Spirit to zap them to make them understand what it means. Of course it never happens. From there, it is only slightly more difficult to show that there is no special privilege when it come[s] to an English text of the Bible either. So in this regard, I am somewhat uncomortable with Steinmetz's take on Luther, or perhaps with Luther himself, in that, frankly, it is our intellectual activity and careful, disciplined study that brings the text to intelligibility. In this regard, interpretation does belong in the hand of scholars.

"But on another level, the affective, many times those whose orientation is toward the text as an object of joy and love and delight, rather than away from the text, treating it merely as an artifact, are better able to understand the text and resonate with its ethos. Our study of the prophetic books has been greatly enhanced with the various critical studies that have been done in recent decades, but I don't think any of them understand the prophetic books as well as did Abraham Heschel. Our Psalms scholarship has been vastly improved over the last thirty years, but I'd rather read John Donne's sermons -- he understood the Psalms. This just to say that sometimes those who love the text can better understand the text than those who don't. And sometimes, after I've exerted much energy and spent many hours in my hermeneutical endeavors, someone in my class, or my church, or my small care group, may understand that text better than I do."

Dr. Jerry E. Shepherd
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Taylor Seminary

<idle musing>
Seems to go hand in hand with the quote from Bonhoeffer I posted this morning as well as one of my favorite Augustine quotes, which I can not remember the reference for: "The word of God is like an ocean, deep enough that the oldest saint cannot plumb its depths, shallow enough that the youngest will not drown exploring it." We need all of our abilities, as given by God, to understand what the scripture is saying. That's why I have a library full of books--and work for a bookseller with a warehouse full of them. And besides that, Heschel's book The Prophets is a great book!

But, in the end the secrets are revealed to the one who seeks with a humble heart.
</idle musing>

More Bonhoeffer

I finished Creation and Fall yesterday. Well, not really, I am reading the afterword now. Another great quote there, excerpted from a letter to his brother-in-law in 1936:

"One cannot simply read the Bible like other books. One must really be prepared to put questions to it...The reason for this is that in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot just proceed to think about God under one's own steam; instead one must ask God questions. Naturally one can read the Bible like any other book and so study it from the point of view of textual criticism, etc. There is absolutely nothing to be said against this. Only this way of going about things does not unlock the essence of the Bible but only what lies on its surface. Think of how we come to understand something said to us by a person we love not by dissecting it into bits but by simply accepting it as the kind of word it is, so that for days it echoes within us simply as the word of that particular person whom we love; the more we, like Mary, 'ponder it in the heart,' the more the person who has said it to us becomes accessible to us in that word. That is just how we should treat the word of the Bible."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter is here!

No, not because it is December 21st, but because today on the way to work I saw the true sign of winter--an icefisherman (person?). I'm not sure if the picture is good enough to make out, but there he is, standing on the ice with pole in hand.


Very nice post on forgiveness over at I quote in part:

"Our first internal objection to forgiveness is the need for justice. If I forgive so and so I'm letting them get away with what they have done to me. I disagree with that. God will judge people and that kind of judgement is too much for a victim to bear. It puts us in a place where the memory of our victimization only serves to make us victims once again. We become trapped in it. Eventually this trap begins to change how we see the world and we become oversenstive so that even friendly gestures can be interpreted as another attack.

"I ask God to help me forgive. I become to[o] tired to carry the pain and I want to release it and accept God's comfort and grace. I don't care if my adversary is properly punished I leave that to God as He has a much better grasp of the situation anyway. I feel the burden lift as the Spirit of God raises my eyes. Thank you God for enabling me to forgive. Help me to let you in deeper to my heart too root out all the bitterness and anger."

Brings to mind another new book that I am going to have to read:

Surrendering Retribution in the Psalms
Responses to Violence in the Individual Complaints
Paternoster Biblical Monographs-PBM
by David Firth
Paternoster Press, 2005
xix + 154 pages, English
ISBN: 184227337X

<idle musing>
There is a saying that Debbie ran across a while back:
"Unforgiveness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than the vessel upon which it is poured"

I need to practice forgiveness on a daily basis, Jesus said that if we don't forgive others, we won't be forgiven. Pretty heavy words and worth thinking about. No! Worth putting into practice, daily.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More Bonhoeffer

“Adam where are you…? This word of the Creator calls the fleeing Adam away from his conscience to stand before his Creator. Humankind is not permitted to remain alone in its sin; God speaks to Adam and halts him in his flight. Come out of your hiding place, out of your self-reproach, out of your cover-up, out of your secrecy, out of your self-torment, out of your vain remorse. Confess who you are, do not lose yourself in religious despair, be yourself. Adam, where are you? Stand before your creator. This challenge goes directly against the conscience. The conscience says: Adam, you are naked, hide yourself from the Creator; you dare not stand before God. God says: Adam, stand before me."

<idle musing>
We want to run and hide, knowing we deserve death and punishment for our deeds. We believe the serpent, that God will destroy us, ignoring the clear statements of grace and mercy by a pursuing God, Augustine's "hound of heaven." We create our own god, made in our own image: self-serving, self-centered, vengeful. We ignore the man on the cross and establish our own righteousness.

It never works, it never has and it never will. Bonhoeffer reminds us of that, calls us back to the Creator, to grace...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 19, 2005

New ICC volume

It feels like Christmas, all these great new books. The latest ICC volume just hit our doors, and in time for your Christmas shopping :)

Colossians and Philemon

Colossians and Philemon
A Critical and Exegetical Commentary
International Critical Commentary - ICC
by Robert Mcl. Wilson
T & T Clark, 2005
xxxvi + 380 pages, English
ISBN: 0567044718
List Price: $100.00
Your Price: $69.90


For over one hundred years International Critical Commentaries have had a special place among works on the Bible. They bring together all the relevant aids to exegesis - linguistic, textual, archaeological, historical, literary, and theological - to help the reader understand the meaning of the books of the Old and New Testaments.

The new commentaries continue this tradition. All new evidence now available is incorporated and new methods of study are applied. The authors are of the highest international standing.

No attempt has been made to secure a uniform theological or critical approach to the biblical text: contributors have been invited for their scholarly distinction, not for their adherence to any one school of thought.

Bonhoeffer quote of the day

I am still plowing through Creation and Fall. This time of the year it is difficult to get a lot of time to read, but this is worth posting:

"The Serpent asks: Did God really say, You shall not eat from every kind of tree in the garden? It does not dispute this word, but opens the eyes of the human being to a depth of which the human being has until now been unaware, a depth from which one would be in a position to establish or to dispute whether a word is God's word or not. The serpent itself at first only poses the possibility that perhaps the human being has in this regard misheard, as God could not possibly have meant it in that way. God, the good Creator, would surely not impose something like that on God's own creature; tha would surely be to limit God's love.

"The decisive point is that through this question the idea is suggested to the human being of going behind the word of God and now providing it with a human basis--a human understanding of the essential nature of God. Should the word contradict this understanding, then the human being has clearly misheard. After all, it could only serve God's cause if one put an end to such false words of God, such a mistakenly heard command, in good time...In this way the serpent purports somehow to know about the depths of the true God beyond this given word of God..."

It goes on for another page, well worth the read.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

House church

There is a nice post at House Church Chronicles about how to prepare for a house church meeting.

"Years of sitting in traditional church has not prepared us to do church in the manner described in the New Testament. We have been taught to come. To sit. To watch and listen to what others have prepared. (Someone described it as "sit, soak and sour".) This is Spectator Church. And it is no way to train believers to be priests!

"By contrast, the churches described in the Bible engaged in Participatory Church. This kind of church requires preparation on the part of all of it's members. This is new. We haven't been taught how to do this..."

He then goes on to do an exposition on Hebrews 10.

His post had disappeared for a couple of days, I'm glad got it restored, well worth reading.

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays?

This is a week old, but nonetheless worth posting (thanks to Scot McKnight for posting it), from Vanguard Church(italics are his):

"...I contend that consumerism is one of the top cancers for evangelical Christianity in today’s America. American Christians have participated in and are equally to blame for how consumerism has taken over the celebration of the birth of Christ.

"Instead of spending so much time, energy and money on fighting against retailers saying “Happy Holidays,” maybe we should spend it more on creating a body of believers who would be so Kingdom-minded and so counter-cultural that they would recognize how they’re voracious appetites for consumer goods is corroding their spiritual lives.

"And, maybe, instead of being a bunch of angry Christians demanding that people say “Merry Christmas,” we should joyfully proclaim the Good News that God came in the flesh in order to free us from such truly insidious powers such as consumerism and materialism."

<idle musing>
Now that is a good sermon!
</idle musing>

Friday, December 16, 2005


Overheard at Eisenbrauns today:
One customer service rep to another, "What's that sound? It sounds like a balloon being blown up. It's coming from James' office."

Rep two, "Oh, that's his head expanding. He must have just read Joe Cathey's post.

Rep one, "Quick, get a pin before it fills the whole place!"


Peace descends again...

New Book

Another intriguing book just came across my desk today, in the Paternoster Theological Monographs series. Here are the details:

A Theology of Work
A Theology of Work

Work and the New Creation
Paternoster Theological Monographs - PTM
Paternoster Press,
xvi + 207 pages,
ISBN: 1842273329

Given that so much of our contemporary lives are spent working and that so many major decisions and issues in life revolve around our work, it is surprising just how little serious theological reflection there is on the subject. A Theology of Work makes work itself the subject of theological enquiry. From within Christian doctrine it asks the pressing questions 'what is work and work's place in God's economy and thus, how shold we be carrying out our work'. Through dialogue with Jurgen Moltmann, Pope John Paul II and others, this book develops a genitive 'theology of work'. It offers a normative theological definition of work and a model for a theological ethics of work that shows work's nature, value and meaning now, and, quite uniquely, eschatalogiically related to the new creation. Throughout the book it is argued that work in its essence is about transformation and, as such, it is an activity consisting of three dynamically interrelated dimensions: the instrumental, relational, and ontological.

I tried to paste part of the introduction, but it wouldn't take...

Friday fun

This was on the Classics list earlier this week. Thought people would enjoy it on a Friday.

'Only 100 words' needed to read
England's strategy for teaching children to read could be overloading them with superfluous words, researchers have suggested.

The strategy recommends teaching them to recognise 150 words initially.

An ongoing study at the university of Warwick says 100 will do to read most written English, including books intended for adults.

Far fewer phonic skills than in the official strategy were needed to understand various letter combinations.

Minimal returns

Warwick researchers Jonathan Solity and Janet Vousden analysed a range of books including adult fiction and non-fiction, and two popular reading schemes.

By learning 100 key words, children found they could understand books designed for both youngsters and adults.

Being able to recognise the extra 50 most-used words, as recommended by the literacy strategy for the first two years of schooling, meant children gained an understanding of about 2% more of the texts.

Dr Solity told the BBC News website that his Early Reading Research project had reduced the incidence of children having problems with reading from about 20-25% to less than 2%.

It involved both phonics - the sound of letters and letter combinations, and "sight vocabulary" - recognising whole words from the letters in them.


He said written English appeared to have lots of irregular words, but in fact when analysed a significant proportion of it was highly regular and could be taught through a very small number of skills.

There are about 44 phonemes - sounds. But these are represented by a rather larger number of letter groupings. For example, an "ee" sound might be "ee" or "ea" or "ie".

He said the national literacy strategy required 108 of these, some said there were 195 and the maximum possible number of associations between sounds and the written representations of them had been calculated at 461.

But his approach meant children had to learn only 61.

"So we teach half the number but the principle is the same: they enable children to read somewhere in the region of 70% of all the phonically regular words in the adult literature," he said.

The core 100 words accounted for 53% of all the words in a database of 850,000 words analysed in the adult texts.

And just 16 words accounted for a quarter of all the words.

"If you teach more and more of them children end up being confused - and they are just redundant."


For example, the letter combination "dge", as in "fridge", cropped up only 11 times in the 850,000 words, he said.

The letters "ie" could represent no fewer than nine different sounds.

They occurred 267 times in the 850,000 words but because they could be nine different sounds, a child was left working out which "through nothing other than trial and error".

So the Warwick scheme focused on the most frequently occurring.

A key feature is what he calls "phonic self-correcting".

For example, if a child is taught that the letters "ea" have an "ee" sound, they will initially trip over the sentence "I went to the shop to buy a loaf of bread" - pronouncing it "breed".

But they know that doesn't make sense, so quickly correct it.

He said this was not "a return to the old days" - give children books and they would learn to read.

"It is underpinned by careful teaching. They are not encouraged to guess or look at picture clues, but to use their skills," he said.

Dr Solity said the findings were important not only for children but also for adults who struggled to read - not least because they were put off using children's reading schemes.

The researchers could say to them, "show us what you want to read and we'll give you the skills you need," he said.

The 16 most frequently occurring words:

a, and, he, I, in, is, it, my, of, that, the, then, to, was, went, with

The 100 high frequency words:

a, about, after, all, am, an, and, are, as, at, away

back, be, because, big, but, by

call, came, can, come, could

did, do, down

for, from

get, go, got

had, has, have, he, her, here, him, his

I, in, into, is, it

last, like, little, live, look made, make, me, my

new, next, not, now

of, off, old, on, once, one, other, our, out, over


saw, said, see, she, so, some

take, that, the, their, them, then, there, they, this, three, time, to, today, too, two

up, us


was, we, were, went, what, when, will, with


Story from BBC NEWS:

Now you know. All that energy that you put into learning new vocabulary was a waste. You could have learned just 150 words. I wonder if that works for other languages, just think, you could know each language in a week...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

And the answer is...

No takers on the Hittite. I'm not surprised.

It is from a trial transcript and the witness is defending himself, I have forgotten the tablet numbers, I think it is KUB something. It translates, "Some things get lost, but some things remain."

When I was working for the Chicago Hittite Dictionary, we had t-shirts made up with the logo and that phrase in cuneiform across the bottom of the shirt. We actually ended up selling them through the Suq at the OI Museum and Professor Hoffner made up a nice little paper explaining all about it.

So now you can tell people you know something in Hittite (Neshite).

Let's see how obscure we can get

Joe Cathey and Jim West have been posting Sumerian and Akkadian on their sites this week. Well, I never learned Sumerian and my Akkadian is so rusty I would barely recognize an infinitive, so I am not going to play that game. But, I do remember one phrase from my Hittite, so let's see how many Hittitologists there are :)

martariwaratkan nuwaratkana:szi

(I don't know how to make shin or macron appear, so a: is long a and s is shin)

Any takers?

By the way, the logo is from the Chicago Hittite Dictionary. It is the Hittite empire's official seal. We poor graduate students used to joke that the two heads were Professors Gueterbock and Hoffner and the rabbits were the graduate students...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New Hermeneia volume

One of the joys of working here is that I get to see all the new titles that come out. Yesterday I was in the warehouse, checking in books and this little gem arrived:

Matthew 21-28

Matthew 21-28
by Ulrich Luz
Fortress Press, 2005
681 pages, English
ISBN: 0800637704
List Price: $90.00
Your Price: $72.00

And you find out about it before I announce it tomorrow in BookNews :)

Oral Epic online

Take me back to my Homer class, full of visions of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, and others whom I have forgotten. Compliments of Jack Sasson:

From: John Foley at Missouri:


In the spirit of the holidays, I sending you a small gift: a link
to a web-based electronic edition of a South Slavic oral epic poem.

This instance of "The Wedding of Mustajbey's Son Becirbey" was
performed by Halil Bajgoric in the region of Stolac on June 13,
1935, and recorded on aluminum discs by Milman Parry and Albert
Lord. With the gracious permission of the Curators of the Parry
Collection at Harvard University, I have assembled an eEdition
consisting of a transcription, English translation, the complete
audio (as an mp3 file), various contextual chapters, and a
performance page with hyperlinks to the commentary and apparatus.

The edition also exists as a book, published in late 2004 in the
Folklore Fellows Communications series in Helsinki.

I hope you enjoy this small gift and will look forward to any
reactions you might have.

Simply click on this link to get started:

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Last new book of the year from Eisenbrauns

The last book that we will be publishing this year was just delivered last week:

Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue

Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue
Studies in the History of Jewish Prayer
Duke Judaic Studies - DJS 2
Edited by Ruth Langer and Steven Fine
Eisenbrauns, 2005
xiv + 261 pp., English
Cloth , 6 x 9 ,
ISBN: 1575060973
Your Price: $49.50

"From the ancient rabbis to medieval Ashkenaz, from North Africe to Syria, from the United States to modern Israel, the articles collected in Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue reflect the diversity of approaches and the questions that modern scholars residing in North America, Europe, and Israel bring to bear on the study of Jewish liturgy. The book spans the entire history of rabbinic prayer and presents a diverse array of approaches, ranging from classical methods applied to new topics to today's interdisciplinary approaches.

"Contributors include: R. Kimelman, S. Fine, D. Reed Blank, V. B. Mann, S. C. Reif, R. Langer, N. Feuchtwanger-Sarig, M. L. Kligman, J. D. Sarna, J. Tabory, and S. P. Wachs."


Monday, December 12, 2005

Creation and Fall

I started Bonhoeffer's Creation and Fall. I think Bonhoeffer is probably my favorite theologian, although Brunner is good, too. I have to agree with Jim West that Brunner is overlooked compared to Barth.

From the introduction:
"The church cannot please the old world because the church speaks of the end of the world as though this had already happened, as though the world had already been judged. The old world is not happy to have itself declared dead. The church has never been surprised at this. It also is not surprised that again and again there appear within it people who think as the old world does. Who after all does not still at times think like this? What must certainly arouse the church to real indignation, however is that these children of the world that has passed away wish to claim the church, the new, as belonging to them. They want the new, and they know only the old. And in that way they deny Christ, the Lord."

<idle musing>
A few years ago I gave my daughter a copy of Cost of Discipleship to read. She liked it so well she gave it to all the people in her wedding. A tad unusual gift for being in a wedding. But, Debbie and I gave everyone in our wedding a copy of The Imitation of Christ, so it must run in the family. Although, Bonhoeffer is a bit thicker to get through than a Kempis :)
</idle musing>

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Yesterday I went snowshoeing in the morning, we live about a quarter mile from a woods. During the summer the area is used for mountain bikes, but during the winter half is groomed for cross-country skiing and the other half is left alone. I was on the ungroomed half. I saw 7 deer beds and about 3-4 deer.

That afternoon Debbie and I went out again and saw about 5-6 deer. We have seen as many as 15-20 in a herd back there. Anyway, hope you enjoy the pictures.

House church stuff

We are part of a house church, and as I was wandering the web this morning, I came across this gem here, with some great guidelines for a housechurch, numbers 2-4 are the ones that especially spoke to me:

1. Personal time with Jesus away from the gatherings/meetings. Time by yourself, with your spouse, or with your family reading God’s word and praying is the backbone of what we are doing. You need to take time during the week to contemplate and meditate on the things of God. (His Word, His Creation, His Character) Jenny and I encourage you to do this not just by yourself but with your spouse and/or your family. If you have no family or spouse, grab a close friend. Our home calls this time “JAM Time”. (Jesus And Me Time) Our strength lies in our daily “personal relationship” with our Creator, Jesus Christ. He is the backbone of our gatherings. He is the grand architect for our meetings. He knows where to place each living stone. (First Peter Chapter 2) We must stay in constant fellowship with Jesus Christ in order for our gatherings to come to have life and meaning.

2. Bring something to share to each gathering/meeting. It could be as simple as a word of encouragement, a song, a verse from the Bible, or a testimony of how God is working in and through your life. Meetings are only awkward when we have not come prepared to build each other up and encourage one another. When we come prepared to share what God is teaching us, we come full of life, ready to give it away. There are times when we have nothing to share because we are just exhausted or have been distracted throughout our week. Come prepared to share just that... “I am exhausted and I have nothing to share, would you please pray for me to get through this time.” You see, there is always something to share!

3. During our times of open worship (Times that we sing, pray, read the word), quiet your heart before God and ask Him to speak to your heart. Listen for the “still small voice”(Ps. 46:10;83:10;95:6-11). He, the Holy Spirit, may remind you of God’s faithfulness to you during the week, and if so then share it. He may remind you of un-confessed sin, if so then share it with Him and if you feel led with the group. He may ask you to share something with the group from the Bible, make sure that you do so. Jesus is the head of the church and He will guide our meetings, if we come prepared to share and to listen.

4. Prayer...Prayer...and more Prayer! Pray without ceasing. We must learn to bring everything to God in prayer. He does hear us!

5. Gather outside the gatherings as “brothers and sisters” in the household of Jesus Christ. Get together to watch movies, have game nights, etc. The Body of Christ (those who are believers) need to learn the art of “fun” and “joy”. For some reason, it was lost over the last century.

6. Engage our community... Get involved in our communities and make a difference. Build bridges of relationship with those outside of the Christian community. Let the light of Jesus shine brightly in the world in which we live. Pray and ask the Lord to lead you into some sort of community involvement that puts you in touch with people who do not know Jesus Christ. This will give you an opportunity to “shine brightly” as a follower of Jesus Christ.

7. Lastly, remember that how we act throughout our day is worship. We are in the presence of God 24/7 whether we want to admit it or not. Being a Christian is something that you are... not something that you do once or twice a week.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Spirit and text

There is an interesting post over at the via media about the relationship between scripture and the Holy Spirit and the level of authority assigned to each.

<idle musing>
I have long said that for many evangelicals the Trinity consists of Father, Son and Holy Scripture. Nice to see someone developing unspoken assumptions and seeing what their logical results are.
</idle musing>

Friday, December 09, 2005


Wow, what a beautiful night it was last night. We got about 8 inches of snow, nice fluffy stuff, as you may be able to tell from the pictures. These were taken on the way to work this AM, before the sun was up.

I'll be snowshoeing this weekend!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


It's opening day for Narnia on the big screen. I love the Narnia Chronicles, I must have read them over 30 times over the years.

But here is the shocker for you, Eisenbrauns is carrying a Narnia title. Yes, that's right, see it here. It is an English translation of a book by a German theologian, published by our good friends and distribution partners, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Whoda thunk?

Christmas is Sunday this year, part 2

Another view, this time from Scot McKnight here. Here's a brief quote:

"As Protestants, we begin with the Bible.

"First, let’s ask this question: Does the NT teach a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day worship service. I think the answer to that one is pretty easy. Besides being a topic no one in the early Church apparently considered, we have to put its lack of interest in this topic in the context of OT legislations about feasts. Here’s a fact consider: evidently, God thought a bundle of days were so important for the Jewish calendar that he gave laws both on the necessity of their annual celebration and he told them just how to celebrate that day. And Israel did just that.

"Here’s something else to think about: evidently the same God didn’t think the same of Christmas, for there are no legislations about keeping but one “holiday”: the Lord’s supper.

"No one, to my knowledge, can argue or is arguing that the mega-churches are violating a biblical Christmas sacrilege. No one should can stake a biblical claim for Christmas being the most significant day of the year – I’m not sure what one can say about such a topic from the Bible."

He goes on for 8 more points. In all things charity...

I must agree that he has scripture on his side, and as one who claims sola scriptura (but doesn't always follow through...), I need to give his view serious thought.

Reconstructing Old Testament Theology: After the Collapse of History

I have been reading Leo Perdue's Reconstructing Old Testament Theology: After the Collapse of History at my lunch hour for a while now. I normally have two books going at any given time--one at home and one at work. When work gets busy, like it has been of late, the one I'm reading there seems to take forever.

Anyway, this book basically picks up where his earlier book, The Collapse of History, leaves off. What he does is give an overview of the various methodologies for reading the Old Testament that are currently available. He will take a methodology, say Feminist readings, and examine the leading practitioners of that methodology and interact with them. Currently I am on the Postmodern chapter. Leo is not very sympathetic to postmodernism, claiming that many of their accusations against classic methodologies are simply straw men, rightfully so in many cases, I would say. He does interact extensively with Brueggemann, (who is the editor of the series) acknowledging his contributions. But, he claims that Brueggemann comes to the precipice of postmodernism, looks over and backs off. I must confess that currently Brueggemann is my favorite Old Testament theologian, so I am not a good one to critique Leo here, but to an extent I think he is right. I'm not sure where I come down on the whole "postmodern" thing, since it has become such a catchall term that it really is difficult to pin down. Of course that is what postmodernists would like it to be :)

If you are looking for a book that overviews all the recent trends in Old Testament theology, this is a good book to get. Introductory uppper level OT classes would probably find it to be a good basic text, to be supplemented by others, such as (of course), Eisenbrauns own Old Testament Theology: Flowering and Future.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas is Sunday this year

And Jim West is having a field day with the megachurches closing their doors. Not just one, but 3 (at last count) posts here, here, and here.

He has some very good arguments, and those who claim that Christmas is a Christian holiday should take the time to think them through. I remember the first time a Christmas fell on a Sunday and church was canceled. It must be about 20 years ago, but I couldn't believe it. Now it is expected...


This is going to sound really trivial to most of you, but it was a big milestone to me. Last night I was riding my bicycle on the indoor trainer (a Cyclops magnetic one) and finally managed to break 20 MPH for an average speed. Normally, that is no big deal. My outdoor speeds average 19-21 MPH for 20-60 miles, and my indoor speeds are normally between 20-21 MPH.

So, why the big deal? Well, on August 23 I had an encounter with a Ford F-150 pickup truck. I lost. So did my bicycle. I was on crutches for 6 weeks and have been slowly recovering. Well, slowly by my standards; the physical therapist thought it was very quick. But, my average speeds on the trainer were hovering around 19 MPH, and have been for over a month. Last night, though, the average speed was 20.1 MPH. And that was with my normal settings: maximum resistance, 42x17 gear. Although I was strong enough to kick it up to 42x16 last night, which is probably why I broke 20 MPH. My cadence meter is broke (victim of the encounter), so I don't know how fast I was pedalling.

Now you know :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Another glorious day! It is about zero here, as global warming takes another day off. On my way to work I walk along Winona Lake, which is starting to freeze over. But, before the bay froze over it donated its water vapor to the nearby trees. What a wonderful view, frost on the tree branches making them glitter in the light. I didn't have my camera or I would treat you to it.

Checking the weather map, I see that it is colder here than at my daughter's place in Grand Marais, Minnesota. That's a switch!

Have a wonderful day and, if you can, enjoy the crispness of the cold air in your lungs and on your face. Refreshing and envigorating.

Monday, December 05, 2005

More on the authority of scripture

Scot McKnight is continuing his interesting series on the authority of scripture here, using Tom Wright's new book The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.

Very interesting. I am going to have to read the book.


It's cold here today--7 degrees F, very pretty, with the "steam" rising off the lake. Plus, it snowed over the weekend. Not much, but it reminded me of this quote, which I have mentioned before, from Space for God:

"When rain turns to ice and snow I declare a holiday. I could as easily resist as stay at a desk with a parade going by in the street below. I cannot hide the delight that then possesses my heart. Only God could have surprised rain with such a change of dress as ice and cold...

"Most people love rain, water. Snow charms all young hearts. Only when you get older and bones begin to feel dampnesss, when snow becomes a traffic problem and a burden in the driveway, when wet means dirt--then the poetry takes flight and God's love play is not noted.

But I am still a child and have no desire to take on the ways of death. I shall continue to heed water's invitation, the call of the rain. We are in love and lovers are a little mad."

What more need I say?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Bayesian algorithm applied to "Israel"

Fascinating use of the Bayesian algorithm (usually used to filter for spam) applied to the evidence for ancient Israel here. Thanks to Jim West for the link.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Scot McKnight is at it again, another provocative post, this time on (gulp) inerrancy. I quote the last 2 paragraphes:
"What I’d rather confess about the Bible is that the Scripture is true — and then I want the confession to go further to the point where the Scripture is trustable truth. And then we need to go yet further: do I live it out? Living trustable truth.

"That is, God speaks and we can trust that God is speaking to us in Scripture. But, believing that is designed so we will trust it and live it out. I believe the Bible is trustable truth. We can trust what is said. If you tell me that you think Scripture is true, well and good — what I want to know is if you trust it by living it out. This is what Scripture is all about: it is God’s story that we enter into so that God’s story becomes our story. This only happens if we trust it by embodying it — in how we live. Living trustable truth."

I also lived through the "inerrancy wars" of the 70s & 80s. I was never convinced and the word came to mean too many things unrelated to scripture. The thing that always bothered me was the lack of mention of holy living, all the emphasis was on intellectual assent. I think Scot has hit the nail on the head with this post. But, check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Friday fun

A little Friday fun. This links to a North/South U.S. dialect test. It appeared earlier this week on the Classics list. Of course, it is oversimplified and there was a follow-up post to a 45 minute test, etc. But, who wants to waste 45 minutes when you can waste 5 or less and have fun with it? As one who lived in Kentucky for 6 years, I can identify a lot of the "Southernisms," even though I don't use them in my daily speech. I scored 38%, a hopeless Yankee. When I went back and pretended I was still in Kentucky, I scored "81% (Dixie), do you still use Confederate money?" I sent it to a friend who has never been further south than Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He scored 35%, even more hopeless than I. What is your score?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thoughts on marketing

My title is Marketing Manager, but I hate marketing as done by most companies. My view is that our products should address a real need, not one created by my marketing blurb. My job is to let you, the book buyer, know what is available in our niche market. You decide what you need. Therefore, it was refreshing to run acros this post. Let me quote the summary, but you should read the whole thing:

"OK, Mr. Ugh, what would YOU have done?
That’s easy. I’d have avoided a promise I had to modify in the mice type. Maintaining integrity is as simple and uncomplicated as saying – and this is aimed at management, not at the grunts who have to implement obfuscations – 'I’m not going to have a single asterisk in my ad. I may have to make a different promise, but whatever promise I make will be one that’s clear, straightforward, and undamaged by the cancer of hidden take-backs.'”

That is the kind of marketing I can and do endorse, the kind I hope I am using.

Reform and Conflict

I began reading Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion, AD 1350-1648 over the weekend. I haven't gotten very far, but the introduction got me to thinking about what is the goal of the church. I feel sort of like Lawson Stone when he dove into Augustine here.

As I mentioned earlier, church history is a hobby, not a specialty. No doubt better informed people, such as Jim West, will set me straight. But, here we go...

<idle musing> (long)

The author introduces the book by reviewing (briefly) the history of scholarship on the Reformation, which is in even bigger turmoil than usual. He talks about the view that the church was meeting the needs of the people, as evidenced by the large donations, increasing numbers of confraternities, the veneration of relics, the reform movements within it, etc.

That is what got me thinking, "What is the goal of the church?" Is it to meet people's needs? In our postmodern culture, it would seem that meeting people's needs would be foremost, after all the church exists to serve, right? Well, yes...but.

It took me a bit to find out why I was having such a hard time with this statement. Finally it dawned on me, the church might have been serving the felt needs of the people, but it was giving them false direction. The people were being led to believe that works and correct ritual were what was needed. Now, and here is where I my protestant sola scriptura foundation comes blasting through, they were being led to believe that tradition was of greater importance than clear scriptural commands. Similar to the Pharisees in the New Testament, the church had constructed this huge edifice of doctrine without any justification in scripture. The medievel church taught that the way to heaven was via pilgrimages, viewing relics (or collecting them), attending Mass, doing penance, etc. If you were good enough, you got into heaven directly. If not, you made it into Purgatory, where you were purged of your unholiness. Yes, it was by grace you made it, but grace only got you so far, after that it was works. The blood of Christ was cheapened and the people were being misdirected. This is why the Reformation happened.

While I don't believe that the Reformation was inevitable, after all, Luther didn't set out to create a new church. All he wanted to do was debate his 95 theses in hopes that there would be internal reform to the church. Once the church refused to respond, then split became inevitable. The fact that the printing press was available assisted greatly in creating this new movement.

But, back to the original question, "What is the goal of the church?" According to Revelation, the church is the bride of Christ. If this is true, and I believe that it is, then our goal as believers should be to please our husband--Christ. Now this is where it can get tricky, and usually does. How do we please Christ? The medievel church would say by following their commands and going on pilgrimages, viewing relics, etc. Unfortunately, the modern Evangelical church usually answers it by saying, "Get involved, come early, come often, serve on committees, give of your time, resources, etc." How is this different from the medievel church? Different rules, same purpose--build this structure! Do this, do that! Where is grace in all this? As a friend of mine says, we come to Christ by grace and then spend the next 40 years trying to prove we didn't need it! Of course, the non-evangelical church answers it a bit differently, they say, "Serve your fellow man, be a good person, come to church on Sunday." Again, where is grace?

So, how do we please Christ? By obeying Him, humbly acknowledging our total dependence on Him, not just for salvation, but for daily living. Most Christians in the U.S. are practicing atheists, we believe God can do things, but somewhere else, to someone else (last part stolen from The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ron Sider). For daily living we are on our own, doing our own thing for our own glory, Christ forgotten. We are better Bultmannians than we realize! We have demythologized the Bible, and then try to explain it all scientifically!

But, I am running out of time and need to get to work.

</idle musing>

What does anyone think? Am I way off course? Hello, anyone out there...

Update, 7:55.
I have a few minutes here and will add another thought. I believe the heart of the gospel is found in the Sermon on the Mount. I don't mean as a goal, but as an actual prescription for living a truly Christian life. Wesley wrote a whole series of sermons on it, taking it literally and applicable to daily living. The first time I read them, it scared me, because he is right. I have already mentioned E. Stanley Jones' book The Christ of the Mount here. He builds his whole book around the same theme...