Thursday, December 31, 2009
Pay the debt
“If the suet of a purification offering is food that is transferred to YHWH, but it is not a gift, what is its function? Milgrom comments on Lev 4:35: “The logic is clear: the Lord is surely pleased with the offering of the repentant wrongdoer (v 31), but it is not a gift; it is his humble expiation.” While a purification offering could be regarded as a gift in the broader sense that it is something given to YHWH, it is not a gift in the more common sense, because it is not voluntary. Rather, it is a mandatory payment of an obligation or “debt” to YHWH, whose order has been violated. This explains why a purification offering belonging to the same ritual complex as a burnt offering must be performed before the latter (see, e.g., Lev 9:7–16): a debt must be paid before a gift can be accepted.”—Cult and Character, pages 65-66
I thought this thought was central: "a debt must be paid before a gift can be accepted." Take that to the New Testament and Hebrews (especially) for some profound Christology...
Have a happy and joyous new year!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
“Slaughtering an animal, putting its blood on various parts of a dwelling and its furniture, and then burning the suet and carcass (Lev 16:11–28) do not accomplish any kind of cleansing in physical terms. To the contrary, these activities create a mess and are impractical and wasteful, transforming a live, valuable animal into bloodstains, smoke, and ashes, none of which are put to practical use. Nevertheless, the text informs us that the goal of another transformation is achieved at a higher level: nonphysical pollution, consisting of ritual impurities and moral faults, is purged from the sanctuary of supramundane YHWH on behalf of the Israelites (vv. 16, 18–19, 33). While the activities themselves do not produce this goal through physical cause and effect, as they would be expected to in ordinary life, they serve as a vehicle for transformation that takes place on the level of symbolic meaning.”—Cult and Character, page 17
This is a recurring theme in the book: ritual works on a different level from the visible. Gane argues that this is also true of pollution (moral and physical); I think he is correct.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The problem with people
But, things are so much easier! Do we really have to deal with people? It's easy to spin a theological web in the abstract, but put people in it and you find out what it is really made of.
Monday, December 28, 2009
The social aspect of the gospel
Those are questions that the early church answered in a way that made them stand out in contrast to the surrounding culture. Unfortunately, they are also answered in a way that makes the church stand out today: The government offers assistance while much of the church criticizes them for it :(
Thursday, December 24, 2009
in a humble stable...
That seems an appropriate post for Christmas eve. Reminds me of this:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philppians 2:6-8 TNIV
Have very blessed Christmas, remembering him who came to set us free!
Last night, on my bike ride home, I encountered all three. I'm not sure that qualifies my ride as great literature—I suspect not—but it does give it a narrative framework :)
We had freezing rain yesterday. I had to pick up some stuff after work, so I had my panniers (saddle bags) on my (new) bike. I ended up with about 14 pounds on one side and 7 on the other, so a bit unbalanced. That's not ideal in the best of situations, but with icy roads, it is even worse. Given the ice, I figured I wouldn't have much trouble with traffic. I was right, in fact, I only got passed by about 3 cars the whole way home.
So, here I am, riding along on slick, ice covered pavement with an unbalanced bicycle in the freezing rain around 6:00 PM, so it was dark. The studded snow tire in the front kept me steering well, but the rear doesn't have a studded tire (yet!) and it kept sliding out. I only actually fell about twice, but nearly fell uncountable times. It took 40 minutes to do a 20 minute trip. Man against nature, that's for sure.
Internally, I kept thinking I should just quit and either walk the bike home or call Debbie and have her come and get me. I decided against the latter because of the ice. I figured one person at risk beat two. So, man against himself; the stubbornness of going on won.
I figured that man against man was not likely to happen. There wasn't likely to be another bicyclist on the road to race against! And the traffic was non-existent; everybody else was too smart to be out :) But, I was wrong...about half way home, there is a corner where a lesser traveled road (250 South) joins a higher traffic road (Packerton). A car was traveling down 250 towards Packerton, a bit too quickly; the driver applied the brakes too hard and slid partially into the intersection. They saw me coming down the road and apparently decided it would be fun to scare me. Gunning the engine, they came towards me, fishtailing and clearly out of control. I don't think they realized how slippery the main road was. They missed me by about 2 feet. I think they were more shaken that I was, as they came to a stop, then started very slowly, watching to see that I was still upright. I suspect they won't try that again—or at least I hope they don't! Man against man...
I made it home without further incident, just going very slowly. When I got home, Debbie told me that God had grabbed her heart and had her praying for my safety. Who says God doesn't hear and answer prayer? So, is that God against evil? I don't recall that category.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The greatest is love
“Part of our study of Christian history ought to be devoted not to doctrinal disputes, creedal formulations, heresies, and schisms, but to the finest examples of Christian love. By contemplating these we may be able to see what the standard from which we deviate really is, and we may have encouragement to go deeper.”—Company of the Committed, pages 102-103
I love church history, but as I think about it, there are few histories that don't major on the disputes, heresies, etc. Anybody out there looking for a topic for a book? :)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
More on the "true" church
They [those who judge the validity for a “true” church of Christ by ceremonial aspects] are still pre-Christian in their assumption that membership in Christ's true Church is limited by external performance.—Company of the Committed, page 95
Not content with that observation, he twists the knife when he observes:
It is paradoxical, indeed, that each of the criteria which is popularly supported is concerned with something which Christ did not propose, while the criterion which He did propose seems not to have become the battle cry of any organized group. His own piercing words are: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). This sentence must not be taken alone, for Christ gave other commandments, such as the injunction to witness, but no sincere Christian can fail to take it seriously. It may not indicate the sufficiency of love, but it at least indicates the necessity of love. We know, then, whatever else we know, that the unloving fellowship is an heretical fellowship, so far as Christianity is concerned. How strange, in the light of the Biblical insistence on love as the principal thing, that we have emphasized it so little in comparison with other elements.—Company of the Committed, page 96
But it is a hard command! It is easier to make rules and regulations, gates and fences. How are we supposed to know who is in and who is out? No, we want our own version of christianity, but thank you for the offer, God. And then we wonder why there is no power, no love, no transformation...
They just keep following me home
And, it happened again last weekend. I was minding my own business when this cookbook just jumped off the shelf and into my hands. It even had the gall to open up to a herb cheese bread! What could I do? I had to buy it! And, once purchased, I had to try it. Not content to tempt me with the cheese bread, it also contained a recipe for soft pretzels. How could I resist? So, Sunday evening, our house had the fragrant aroma of baking bread. The pretzels were good, but the herb cheese bread was phenomenal. I substituted oregano for the rosemary they called for; Debbie doesn't like rosemary. It will become a common bread around our house...
What cookbook is it, you ask? Why, The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook, of course. I'm sure Debbie and I will be trying more recipes from it soon :)
Monday, December 21, 2009
A true church...
What more can I add? He says it all—sadly :(
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
Psalm 112:6-8 (TNIV)
It just seems like a good Advent verse...
Friday, December 18, 2009
“Once we begin to alter our conception of what the Church is, viewing it as intrinsically missionary — not merely in Africa, but in every part of the life of the West as well — we realize that we have hardly begun to see what our major task is.”—Company of the Committed, page 89
If he saw this as a problem in 1960, I wonder what he would think of megachurches! This goes nicely with the Out of Ur post from yesterday: "It is our consumer-mentality that causes us to think we need buildings."
idle musing about commuting
As I mentioned, I have a new bike—and I'm loving it. But, I got to thinking about the economics of it. I commute 11 miles per day, about 48 weeks of the year—3 weeks of vacation and about 1 week of holidays brings it to 52 weeks. That comes to about 2600 miles per year. For round numbers, I'll say 2500. Gas currently costs about $2.50, but for argument's sake, let's use $2.75. That means, if I were to drive, I would use about 50 gallons of gas per year; total cost of gas per year would be $137.50.
So what, you say? That means it will take me over 2 years to save enough in gas to pay for the bicycle! Now, granted, we have a Prius, so the numbers are probably skewed. But, it just reminds me that I don't ride to work just for the economics of it...
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Hey! That sounds "missional," doesn't it? I wonder what they called it back in the 1960s? :)
Could it be that many of us are under so much stress during this time of the year because we are trying to achieve so much? Perhaps some of the stress is due to our efforts to achieve something perfect instead of simply receiving graciously all that we are given. Ultimately, it is only what we receive from God that will satisfy. Our efforts to create and achieve something to satisfy will always be lacking and will have its limits. After all, the Bible presents God himself as the ultimate achiever.
Isn't that the truth? We struggle and strive, when all we need to do is rest and abide. Too simple...
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A church wrapped up in itself makes a very small bundle
The Church is never true to itself when it is living for itself, for if it is chiefly concerned with saving its own life, it will lose it. The nature of the Church is such that it must always be engaged in finding new ways by which to transcend itself. Its main responsibility is always outside its own walls in the redemption of common life. That is why we call it a redemptive society. There are many kinds of religion, but redemptive religion, from the Christian point of view, is always that in which we are spent on those areas of existence which are located beyond ourselves and our own borders.—Company of the Committed, page 69
and, a bit later, he makes an interesting observation that is probably even truer today than it was 50 years ago:
In many contemporary Christian congregations the entire church operation points to a climax on Sunday morning, a conception which would have seemed very strange indeed to the early Christians. Often the major effort during the week is promotion of Sunday, the printed church paper plugging constantly for a bigger attendance. Sunday morning, then, when it finally comes, has something of the mood of a much advertised athletic contest, for which the team has prepared and to which it has been pointed all week. Finally, at twelve o'clock on Sunday, the whistle blows, the climactic event is over for another week, and the spectators go home to relax. If any reader imagines that this is a caricature, he ought to study the promotional material put out by countless churches — material which gives the undeniable impression that, for the Christian, the week is a preparation for Sunday. This is a complete reversal of the Christian pattern and something which finds no support whatever in the New Testament. The Christian pattern, if taken seriously, means exactly the opposite — namely, that what happens on Sunday is defensible only as a preparation for the daily ministry of the week which follows.
Worship is important, but it tends to be overemphasized in the contemporary church. It is very easy for the emphasis on worship to become a throwback to the Temple rather than a pushing forward to the strategy of Christ as represented in the Valiant Seventy.—Company of the Committed, pages 71-72
Can you say prophetic? This is especially relevant in the time period leading up to Christmas. Christmas, the time we are supposed to celebrate the birth of the one who frees us from bondage! And what do we do? We get ourselves all tied up in knots of bondage trying to celebrate it!?? What a sad commentary that is. We cry, "Lord! Set us free!" little realizing he already has, but we walked back into bondage. If only we would walk in the freedom we already have!
A little Greek is good for the soul
Steve Runge responded, followed quickly by Mike Aubrey. Both are linguists and make very good points. I personally believe they demolish Mounce's arguments.
But, lest this urban legend spring to life again, Steve took up the challenge of educating us all about pronouns today. If you read Greek, or even if you don't but are interested in how pronouns work, read it! Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
Quality pronoun, you like, you buy!
I have a number of pronouns lying around, so I have decided to sell them to earn some cash for vacation this next summer. Took this picture last summer when we took the pronouns to the beach for exercise. As you can see, they are fine specimens.
All of the pronouns come with a basic morphology: case number and gender. For a little extra, I will throw in a “demonstrative” add-on kit that enables deictic reference to near and far things.
Besides the morph and potential deictics, the use of the pronouns is almost limitless, but you begin with an empty bucket. It has no reference until you assign it to something. My pronouns are suitable for bi-directional usage, either pointing back to an antecedent, or forward to something that you want to highlight and draw attention to...
...But if you want a little free advice, I would not suggest trying to make something emphatic that isn’t, it will only end in heartbreak. Invest the time and energy to learn about what brings about emphasis, and beware of those trying to sell you something that ain’t real. Emphatic pronouns cannot be bought, they are made using a combination of reference and context.
Great use of humor to illustrate a basic linguistic truth :)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Apologetics in perspective
I have often heard it said that the best witness for Christianity is the lives of Christians—and the worst witness for Christianity is the life of Christians.
Bear in mind that if you are trying to live a Christian life, you will fail—miserably and continually. But, if you allow the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life through you, it will happen.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Take Christ OUT of Christmas
Let me explain. For the majority of people in Britain Christmas is a time for families to get together, exchange presents, eat good food, watch TV (, and argue).
I have nothing against this.
I like presents.
I like good food.
I like worthwhile TV.
I like families.
(but which is best? There's only one way to find out ... [that parochial allusion will make no sense ot Americans])
But this is not Christmas. It is a secular Winter Festival. So here is my inclination - Let's take the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas' and call it for what it is - Wintermas.
Take the time to read it all. I agree with him. Let's take Christ out of Christmas!
“The older idea was that the lay members were the pastor's helpers, but the new and vital idea is that the pastor is the helper of the ordinary lay members in the performance of their daily ministry in the midst of secular life. And always, the problem with which the members need the help of wise and compassionate pastors or teachers is that of how daily witness is to be made. Insofar as we really understand the strategy of the Christian revolution, we shall train our pastors for this highly specialized and imaginative task. It cannot be pointed out too clearly, therefore, that emphasis on the vocation of universal Christian witness, far from lowering the vision of the function of the pastorate, immensely heightens it...
“The universal ministry is a great idea, one of the major ideas of the New Testament, but the hard truth is that it does not come to flower except as it is nourished deliberately. Indeed the paradox is that the nourishment of the lay or universal ministry is the chief reason for the development of a special or partially separated and professionalized ministry. We cannot have an effective universal ministry of housewives and farmers and merchants simply by announcing it. It is necessary to produce it.”—Company of the Committed, page 63
Would that the 50 years since he wrote this had seen a fruition of these ideas!
Midway through last Thursday afternoon, they called me and told me to stop by on my way home. I did, and what they had was a beautiful Specialized cross bike—a cross bike is one that is part mountain bike, part road bike; it is a great commuter bike. The best part is that it was essentially new. They had rented it out for 2 years and needed to retire it for a new model. Because they had already gotten most of their money out of it through rentals, they could offer it to me very cheaply. I took them up on it! "But," I asked, "do you have a studded snow tire for it?" They thought they did, but would have to look.
I stopped by Friday night to pick it up and pay for it. Sure enough, they had found a studded snow tire for the front. I road it home, with the studs singing against the pavement. The bike cut right through the ice on the path without a slip or slide!
This weekend, Debbie and I went to REI in Chicago to pick up a pair of boots for me. While we were there, I also grabbed a very nice rain jacket. My old one had started leaking—too many falls and years had done it in.
So, I feel spoiled: new bike, studded snow tire, new jacket, new boots. What more could I want?
Friday, December 11, 2009
Can you say TV Preacher?
OK, not just TV preachers, but they seem to dominate. It must be stressed, though that Trueblood says "a few"—and I agree. Most clergy feel called to what they are doing and genuinely care for the flock. But, the few are the ones who give the rest a bad rap. Heaven knows most clergy will never get rich; some barely make enough to live on. And some spend it all on books...
Mind you, I am not saying that I think the pastorate as currently done is a biblical office, but that is another story all together.
Eisenbrauns Deal of the Day
From now through December 27, Eisenbrauns is offering a deal of the day at only $5.00. Retails run from $42.50 to $65.00, but you pay only $5.00.
Today's deal is Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel
To see what is being offered, you may check each day, follow us on Twitter, fan us on Facebook, or subscribe to our RSS feeds.
Our holiday gift to you, from Hanukkah through Christmas weekend.
I hope you enjoy it!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Letting your light shine
That was the battle cry of the Reformation: The priesthood of all believers. How the mighty have fallen; we accept and expect paid staff to do it all. Then we have the nerve to claim we are heirs to the Reformation?!
Beautiful day for a bike ride
It is a bit warmer now, 13 F, with a 20 mph wind. It will be nice getting blown home tonight :)
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Marketing at Christmas
Novel idea, eh? Bare my soul to over 2,000 people. Well, he helped me craft it Monday evening and it went out. I figured if I sent it to BookNews, I might as well share it with the 15 people who frequent this blog, as well :)
So, here is the relevant part:
BookNews from Eisenbrauns
Any other time of the year I enjoy making things available, but this season seems to flood my Inbox with gift suggestions; I'm sure it does yours, as well. I dislike the feeling of being perceived as a part of the consumerism that seems to be inherent in December. I like the things that Eisenbrauns sells; I enjoy creating the mugs (with a lot of help from others!). I like that people enjoy and use what we sell. But, I don't want to be one of those who is fighting for your holiday dollar (or Euro).
So, with that in mind, feel free to delete this message and get that final term paper done, or study for that exam, or grade those papers. Or, perhaps the best option, spend some time enjoying those you love and enjoying the lights that are everywhere this time of year.
If you did decide to read on, here's a table of contents for what ignited that soul-searching:
1. SBL sale
2. Weekly sale
3. Monthly sale
2. Scholar's Source
1. Gift certificates & wish list
4. Brass bookmarks
It's not perfect, but it sums up how I feel quite well. I hope you enjoy a peaceful—in the שלומ sense of the word—Christmas season.
The rush of time
Especially this time of year, right? As I said in BookNews on Monday: spend the time with those you love. Don't give in the the pull of the culture to rush around; take the time to enjoy the snow and the lights—and especially to enjoy God!
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I forgot again
What am I talking about? The first snow of the year around here always melts and then forms a thin film of ice over the roads. Not a problem, really; the cars melt it down very quickly. Except on the bike trails! I ride on the bike trail about 3/4 mile through an area called Boy's City or Boy's Club. It is a beautiful ride, full of trees with mountain bike trails criss-crossing it, going up and down the hills. Wonderful area to ride and nice to ride through.
But, at the end of the trail is a hill that has a sharp curve at the bottom. Of course, all the melt runs downhill to the corner... Every year, I forget that and the first snow results in a first crash. My shoulder hurts a bit and there is a bit (OK, lots) of blood on my cheek, but the real problem is my handlebars came loose. I rode the last 1.5 mile to work with handlebars that seemed to move on their own accord—a rather interesting experience.
So, does anybody have a 6 mm Allen wrench I can use before I go home tonight?
Monday, December 07, 2009
Bought with a price
Freedom is the watchword of our society. But, freedom as we use it is actually just another word for bondage to self—certainly not compatible with Christianity!
Anyway, the snow made me want to celebrate, so I am posting my favorite description of snow. I post it ever couple of years, but I think it is worth reading again. I used to have outside my office; I might just do that again...
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.
From Space for God. Looks like there are some cheap used copies for sale...Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful snow!
I can't believe someone actually said this
David Frum, White House speechwriter in 2003: "The sooner the fighting begins in Iraq, the nearer we are to its imminent end. Which means, in other words, this 'rush to war' should really be seen as the ultimate 'rush to peace.'"
Almost 7 years later, I wonder if he still believes it? Or, if he ever really believed it. It certainly isn't scriptural!
Friday, December 04, 2009
To go forward, we go back
Contrary to what some may believe about me, I am not a restorationist; I don't believe we can "get back to the New Testament." I agree with the sentiment expressed above; I believe that we have lost some/most of the vitality that the Church had in the New Testament. I also believe that a good part of that vitality was from meeting in smaller groups and meeting frequently—both in homes and elsewhere. Of course, the major vitality always must come from the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of each person!
To what end fear?
You want fear? Take a look at the ancient Middle East and the period of over a thousand years covered by the Bible. Read the stories. Floods, famines, and plagues; war, scorched earth, and exile: life, applying the memorable words of the seventeenth philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And you didn’t have to exaggerate, manipulate, or manufacture anxiety in the face of the ever-present threats to human well-being: they were in your face...
And yet what is the refrain that you hear again and again throughout the Bible? “Be afraid, be very afraid”? On the contrary! Without even a hint of denial of the daily struggle for survival, the Lord says to his people, “Do not be afraid.” In the very midst of big trouble, the Lord says, “Do not be anxious.” In the face of death itself, the Lord says, “Peace be with you.” On what grounds? Not because there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be anxious about, nothing to make our stomachs sink and our knees knock. No, no whistling in the dark, not a bit of it. What then? “I am with you,” says the Lord, “I am with you!”
It is that simple. Life is hard, but faith is that simple. “Be afraid, be very afraid”? Don’t be silly! The Lord is with me! The seas roar – the Lord is with me! The mountains tumble – the Lord is with me! The troops are breaching the city walls – the Lord is with me! The angel of death pounds at the door – the Lord is with me! Or: I’ve just been told I have cancer, my husband – it’s the Alzheimer’s – doesn’t recognise me anymore, we’ve missed our mortgage payments again – fill in the blank: at one time or another we’re all going to have a pack of troubles, and we’ll have two chances to get out of them – slim or none. “Do not be afraid,” says the Lord, “I am with you!”
The Bible is full of the refrain "Be not afraid." Our western culture is full of the opposite, so much so that we have created a three letter acronym for it: FUD. It has become a standard marketing tool: "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" and it is used all the time. Keep your eyes open for it, and then laugh. Be not afraid!
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Billboards and churches
I have to continually remind myself that this book was written almost 50 years ago! Not a whole lot has changed, unfortunately.
Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she [Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University] says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful.
This is a perversion of the gospel, pure and simple. Jesus calls us to die to self, not to live for material gain—I Timothy 6:5 comes to mind: διαπαρατριβαὶ διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν.
and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (NRSV)
I think that's pretty accurate, depraved in mind and bereft of the truth.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Aslan isn't a tame lion
Again, this was written in 1961. If he wrote it now, he would probably note that we spend more on coloring hair than we do on missions. Or, he might mention that we spend more on cosmetics than many countries GDP. Or...well, you get the idea.
New sale at Eisenbrauns
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Just an <idle musing>
Sound like it was written yesterday? This book was written in about 1961! Not a whole lot has changed, has it? :(
Monday, November 30, 2009
What's with this sign?
The first time I saw it, I thought I was in the women's restroom...
The building and its effects
Which results in the dichotomy of secular and sacred. A classic example is the cabbie in my preceding post. I'm sure he didn't see the disconnect between his actions and the music; he probably is a good churchgoer and thinks of himself as a good christian.
SBL, the return flight
Because we got done so early, we had quite a bit of time at the airport, so we had one last New Orleans lunch. I really do like New Orleans food; I like spicy foods. So we waited for our flight, some of us reading, others knitting, others napping (or napping while reading...), some trying to make the wireless work (it was free, and worth every penny of it, but no more than that...). Then comes the lovely news that because of a glitch with Airtran, our flight to Atlanta was delayed ½ hour and our flight out of Atlanta was delayed a full hour. We were already getting into Indianapolis at 11:15 or so; now it would be about 12:15. From Indianapolis to Warsaw in about 2.5-3 hours; can you say tired?
The flight to Atlanta was without incident, but once we got there, the gates had all changed. No problem, except that our flight was sharing a gate with another flight. Talk about confusion. One person missed their flight; I think she ended up spending the night in Atlanta. Our plane was on the ground and waiting for us, but we couldn't embark; the flight attendants were still in the air on a different flight. Ah, the joys of air transportation: crowded flights, tight security, getting charged for luggage, late flights, should I continue?
Anyway, when the flight attendants came rushing up, there was a round of applause. They missed the irony, but I can't blame them. They probably wanted to get going as badly as we did. We embarked and left Atlanta behind on our way to Indy, arriving about 12:15. Disembarking, we headed for the baggage claim; we could still get home at a fairly reasonable time—NOT! We watched as another flight's luggage was unloaded within 5 minutes of their landing. We, on the other hand, waited for our luggage to be unloaded for 45 minutes! No explanation was given; we just had to wait. In the end, we arrived home after 4:00 AM EST. Our return trip had taken us more than 13 hours...needless to say, none of us were at work at 8:00 that morning :(
ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. (I Thes. 5:18)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NRSV)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
SBL Day 4 and return
It was interesting to watch the response as people came in. Even though the prices were identical, people would grab a book and possessively hold it while looking at the next book. The attitude around the table was also less relaxed and more tense. Interesting, isn't it? I'm not sure I will do it again; I don't like the selfish attitude that it surfaced, but interesting, all the same.
Because I had a head start on tear down, we got done about 1/2 hour earlier than usual. So, we grabbed a cab—actually two—and headed to the airport. Getting the cab was an interesting experience. I'll post pictures on Monday and continue; right now they are cutting off the Internet to update the firewall...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The purpose of the law
This is very hard to get some people to understand. They feel certain that without the law to keep them in line, they will wander. Why don't they understand that the law can't keep them from straying? (honest question)
Monday, November 23, 2009
God is good--to me
“Sure, we may know that God is good. But “God is always good to me” is an altogether different thought...”—The Naked Gospel, page 195
This is a really interesting idea; I need to think about it.
SBL Day 3
I must say that the conference feels about 20% smaller this year. There is less of a buzz around the conference hotels and the the exhibit floor seems less crowded. But, we're still selling books at a good clip, for which I am thankful.
Monday night is always our Eisenbrauns dinner. The dinner always happens the last night and is a chance to reflect on what has happened, what we would do differently, what we would do the same, and what we've learned about the industry. During the conference we are so busy and running in different directions that we don't always have a chance to keep up with each other, so this is a good chance to do that. Oh, and the food is always excellent. Tonight was no exception. I can't remember the name of the place, but it was on Dauphine street, about 3 blocks in. Good food, good company, good year at SBL.
Here's some pictures of the booth:
Gina, getting ready for the day
A view of the new release tables
Your friendly Eisenbrauns staff (from right to left: Dave, Marti, Gina, yours truly) (Merna is taking the picture)
Sunday, November 22, 2009
SBL days 1 & 2
We have a lot of new books this year, and are almost sold out of A Manual of Ugaritic; there aren't a lot of A Syriac Lexicon left, either. We're totally out of The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought. It seems I never bring enough of some titles, and too many of others. If only I could read the minds of our customers and bring all the right books!
Saturday night I made it to a few receptions: the SPS/WTS, Augsburg/Fortress, and de Gruyter. Tonight (Sunday), I managed to find a bit of floor space to hear N.T. Wright speak. After the question and answer section, two of us stood around and talked theology for about an hour before I headed off to the Brill reception. Now, I'm ready for sleep...tomorrow comes early.
Speaking of which, the number of people in the workout room the last two days is zero. Yes, a goose egg; nada; zilch. I noticed that at a conference earlier this year; the attendance to a workout routine seems to have been one of the victims of the economic downturn. Never mind that it doesn't cost anything; the right way to assist in the economy is to stop exercising. I know, it doesn't make any sense, but that's what I have seen this year in my travels.
Friday, November 20, 2009
But it's sounds so touchy-feely...
“God doesn’t override us. However, God hasn’t left us to our own devices to cope with life and be godly. Either of these extremes can harm our understanding of the gospel. God wants us to know that his Son works in us, through us, and alongside us since we’re spiritually joined to him. Having Christ live through us begins with knowing that his life resides in us.
“In all of this, we’re talking about a knowing, not a feeling.”—The Naked Gospel, page 194
We were discussing this concept of Christ in us with some friends once. The comment was that it sounded like you do whatever you feel like, it's too "touchy-feely" and not rational enough. But, as Farley points out, that's not true.
SBL day -1
We have 6 booths at SBL this year and have rearranged our floor plan to give us more space for books. I think you'll like it. We also have a new back drop behind our checkout this year. I posted a picture of it below. It contains over 160,000 book covers; Andy had to split it into 5 different files to keep his computer from crashing.
Setup went amazingly well, considering that at first there were only two of us instead of the normal four. Marti was stuck in Indianapolis overnight because of the FAA computer screw-up; Dave was tending ETS so I could do SBL setup. That left Gina and me. I don't know why, but it seemed to go faster this year. By the time Marti rolled in a little after 10 (she had a 6:00 AM flight!), we already had the backdrapes up, the tables draped, the posters up, and we were ready to work on books and the Skyline. I had already made one trip to ASOR for stuff we needed and had transferred some stock from ASOR to ETS as well—I was sure loving that the three conferences are only 2 blocks apart this year!
By 2:00, Jim had delivered all the ASOR stock and was helping Dave inventory and box the ETS produce. When Jim had to leave for a meeting around 3:00, I took over. We were completely done with setup by a little after 4:00—an amazing accomplishment! If we hadn't needed to inventory and move the ETS stuff, we would have been done even earlier. I don't know what was happening, but I sure am thankful!
Here's some pictures of the setup:
Gina, putting together book risers
David Orton of Deo (we distribute Deo in North America)
Gina and Marti setting up the rest of the Skyline display
Putting the finishing touches on the Carta posters
Thursday, November 19, 2009
ETS day 2
I managed to get around to a few other vendor's booths today. There's some good stuff out there. I grabbed a copy of The Faith of Jesus Christ: at the Hendrickson booth. It was just published, even though our website says January. It looks very good; I can't wait to read it. While at the Hendrickson booth, I got a copy of another Michael Bird book, also just published: Crossing Over Sea and Land:. Good reading ahead!
Well, tomorrow I head over to SBL right across the street for setup. The FAA mess this AM really has caused problems for us. Marti got stuck in Indianapolis until 6 AM tomorrow. At least Gina got out; she just arrived about an hour ago. If Dave hadn't come yesterday, it would be a real mess; Dave will man the ETS booth while Gina and I do setup and pray that Marti gets in on time!
OK, time for dinner. I'm getting hungry.
Just live, will ya...
“Today’s alternative is a message that’s an inaccurate part of the whole. All around us, we’re inundated with a lackluster gospel that advocates partial forgiveness, a pressure-filled motivation for behavior change, and the promise of earned rewards in heaven or a cash return while on earth. This counterfeit is the reason that the church sometimes doesn’t appear much different from the world. It’s time for us to start over, if necessary, and seek the real thing.
“Jesus Christ in us as our resource for everyday life is our only hope for any real change.”—The Naked Gospel, page 192
“Of course, sometimes we still turn dependency on the indwelling Christ into an opportunity to self-examine and introspect. And this isn’t any better than any other religious move: 'Am I abiding? What do I need to do to abide better?'
“The term abide, I’ve noticed, is often used by those who seek something to do in order to maintain the reality of Christ living through them. The word abide simply means “to live,” and Christ already lives in Christians! Some have made it out to be something beyond what Jesus intended it to be. Christ abiding in us is a truth, not a command for us to keep up our end of some bargain. Of course there are moment-by-moment choices to walk by faith, but the religion of “I must get Christ to abide in me” is a self-focus that is not the intention of the New.”—The Naked Gospel, page 193
Yep, he's right
...since Americans don’t really believe the Bible, oh, they say they do, but they don’t lay hands on the sick or cast out demons or any of that other stuff that Jesus was always telling his disciples to do, so they get these weird peripheral applications out of Bible texts.
Read the whole thing for the context, otherwise you will miss the whole point. He isn't talking about charismata, he is talking about worldview. And, he's right.
What is in that box?
The breakfast is sorta ok. The eggs are powdered, the potatoes are reconstituted—fairly typical hotel fair. They do have fresh fruit, bagels, yogurt, juice, etc. So, you can get a decent breakfast; it's just that the hot part is disgusting :(
But, that is all an aside from the point of this post. For the last two mornings, as is my wont, I went up to the exercise room at about 6:00 AM for my morning 1/2 hour of cycling. Both mornings, there was another gentleman there before me. Yesterday he was finishing up his run on the treadmill, after which he went over to the weight machine. Only, he didn't do anything except sit there with his eyes glued to a box that was elevated about 6 feet off the floor. He sat that way, as if transfixed, for about 20 minutes, occasionally lifting a few weights. Then, he suddenly got up, as if released from a trance, and left the room.
This morning, he was already done with the treadmill and was sitting by the weight machine already. Again, he was sitting, as if spellbound, looking at that same box, elevated about 6 feet above the ground. And, just like yesterday, after about 20 minutes he suddenly got up and left the room.
This box has noise coming out of it, and characters that look like people moving around on it. I think some people call it a television. So, what is in that box that kept him so mesmerized?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Live what you already are in Christ. Don't wait for death to experience the rest of God.
ETS day one
We had sent a backup shipment of newly published books to the hotel, so I had to run back and forth with a two-wheeler from one hotel to the other. It was a beautiful night, so that wasn't too burdensome. But, UPS managed to misplace 3 boxes. Unfortunately those boxes contained Siphrut 1 & (A Severe Mercy and Chosen and Unchosen). Not a good thing :(
The day started out slow, but got busier as it went on. In the end, we had a good day actually selling out of a few titles. Here's a picture or two:
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
and they're off!
I am attending ETS; Jim and Merna are taking care of ASOR. So, if you are attending either one of those, come by and see us. We won't even make you buy a book! But, I bet you will; we have some great titles this year and, as always, some great deals. I will be posting pictures tomorrow, as well as commentary on the conferences.
“Notice that the apostle doesn’t say that Christ is important to him. He says that “to live is Christ.” Paul is not trying to give Christ a proper place among other things. Instead, he is recognizing the fact that Christ is everything to him. We may nod our heads in agreement, saying, “Yes, Christ is everything to me.” But do we grasp the truth that Christ resides just beneath our humanity? That he is actually fused to our own person? Here Paul captures our attention with some radical statements:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“Paul claims that he participated in a crucifixion of sorts, and as a result Christ now lives in him. Many people make this claim out to be either symbolic if true or insane and untrue. But to claim anything short of this is to adopt a partial gospel. The very core of the New is that through Christ we receive what we lost through Adam, namely, the literal presence of the divine.
“This is real Christianity. A promise of heaven is not restoration of life. Studying a book written by God himself is still not restoration of life. Attending weekly gatherings in a building is not restoration of life. Even changing one’s behavior in dramatic ways is not restoration of life. Of course, these things may result from restoration of life. But they’re certainly not the means to life, nor are they a confirmation of the experience of life. Restoration of life occurs when God himself, through the person of Christ, resides within us.
“Anything short of this is weak religiosity.”—The Naked Gospel, page 189
Yes! Real-life Christianity today! Not just in the future, but now! Life that is alive and moment-by-moment dependence on Christ via the Holy Spirit. No more partial gospel (Debbie calls it a decapitated gospel), but full restoration in Christ.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I am always trying to get more whole grains into my baked goods, so back in January I tried substituting whole wheat flour for the unbleached flour in cornbread. It was a failure; the taste of the whole wheat overpowered the cornmeal—yes, this is about successes, hold on :) Well, Saturday, I decided to try dark rye flour instead of unbleached flour. It looked pretty strange going into the pan; it was very dark and almost playdough™-ish in texture. I wasn't too hopeful...25 minutes later, out comes this nicely dark, slightly risen pan of batter bread. I put the knife in to cut it, pulled out a piece, letting it cool for a few seconds before tasting it. Hey! It was pretty good; in fact it was so good that I'm going to make it that way all the time. Well, for visitors I might make it with unbleached flour so they don't freak out at the dark color :)
Second experiment: I thought that since that turned out, maybe I could go with a rye only rye bread. I know, there isn't much gluten in rye flour, almost none, in fact. But, maybe...well, I should have stopped at the kneading stage. It had a very strange texture and didn't get springy at all. But, hey, what have I got to lose? I let it rise, and rise, and rise. Right, it didn't! Oh well, maybe it will still make a loaf that is edible. So, I formed the loaf and let it rise, only it didn't. That's all right, I'll bake it anyway. It might make a nice solid loaf, sort of like a cracker. Thirty-five minutes later, not done. Let's give it another 10 minutes. OK, the edges are starting to burn, better take it out. This, my dear reader, was a complete flop. It is finding its way into the compost pile.
Somewhat discouraged, but not to be deterred, I decided to use whole wheat flour instead of the unbleached flour in the rye bread. Hmm, it feels more normal as I knead it. It actually rose, although not as much as normal. It formed a nice loaf, and then rose again. Thirty-five minutes later and I had a very nice, although dense, loaf of rye bread. Ah, but will it taste like rye bread? Nope! It tasted like whole wheat bread. But wait! As it cooled, it began to taste like rye bread. Maybe there's hope...sure enough. Once it was cool it tasted like rye bread, just very dark. Success! But a few hours later...how much fiber is in that monster? Too much! Intestinal problems...I don't think I'll try that one again!
Oh, did I mention that I had just eaten whole wheat waffles an hour before the rye bread? Maybe it isn't the rye bread alone...
The advantages of being chosen
“To be sure, there are benefits to being specially loved and blessed by God, yet it becomes clear throughout the biblical story that the people of Israel are often less than excited about their special relationship to YHWH. They are led into a wilderness, encounter lack of water and food, and often complain that it was better to be slaves under Pharaoh. While we might be quick to condemn Israel in this, it may also be instructive simply to allow the story to communicate what it does. Israel did not find it being a possession of YHWH particularly easy or advantageous. By and large, the people of Israel do not seem to recognize the gift that YHWH is giving to them because their life now has very high expectations...Life would probably be easier without such obligations. To maintain otherwise reads against the thrust of the story as the Bible presents it.”—Chosen and Unchosen, page 173
Sounds only too familiar, doesn't it? As long as we think we have to maintain the obligations, it is way too difficult.
Friday, November 13, 2009
“Growth doesn’t happen by trying harder. It doesn’t occur by a “two steps forward and one step back” approach. Genuine growth occurs as we absorb truth about who we already are and what we already possess in Christ.
“Believers shouldn’t passively sit around waiting to receive something new — more cleansing, more of the Holy Spirit, or more of whatever popular teaching says is lacking in us. We have everything we need for a godly life. We have an unshakable kingdom, an eternal covenant, and every spiritual blessing. We are complete and lack nothing. The only logical response is to spend our lives reminding each other of these extraordinary truths and giving thanks to our God.
“Requesting and possessing are polar opposites. Once a person is in Christ, they are a possessor, not a requester. We see this point illustrated in the Lord’s Supper. We shouldn’t participate in this celebration in order to obtain something. Instead, we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Just as this celebration is based solely on the work of Christ, we should conduct all of our business in the light of what he has already done.
“To thank God for every spiritual blessing and then to ask him for more patience, for example, is to ignore Christ within us. Isn’t patience part of what we need for a godly life? Do we have all the patience we need already implanted within us or don’t we? Through the Scriptures, God answers this question with a resounding yes. Because we possess Christ himself, and since Christ is not lacking in patience, we already have all we need.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 187-188
Review of Chosen and Unchosen
Chosen and Unchosen
Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 2
by Joel N. Lohr
xviii + 254 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
List Price: $39.50
Your Price: $35.55
Chosen and Unchosen is the second book in the new Eisenbrauns series Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures. The book is a revision of Lohr's doctoral dissertation, but it doesn't suffer from dissertationitis—the tendency to footnote every other word and repeat the same thing 27 times. Indeed, it is a good read, although slow going at times because of the content.
The book is divided into two sections: section one (about 1/3 of the book) is devoted to an overview of Christian and Jewish work on election in the last 50 years. The second section is a close reading of four sections of the Pentateuch where the chosen encounter the unchosen. Lohr chose the Abimelech/Abraham story, Pharaoh's daughter, Balaam, and Deuteronomy 4, 7, and 10, which features the herem, or ban.
The section on Pharaoh's daughter saving Moses is a textbook example of what a close reading should look like. Lohr picks up details that most interpreters miss; the story is richer after reading Lohr's exposition.
Balaam has suffered some bad press in the history of interpretation, including inner-biblical interpretation. Lohr seeks to read the Numbers account of Balaam on it's own terms, ignoring the later interpretation as much as possible. The result is a prophet who knew and feared God; a prophet who dared to stand up against a king and bless Israel when he had every reason not to. If we did not know the later history of Balaam, how he ended up betraying Israel into sin, we would never guess that he would die the death he did at the hands of Israel. I would say that this is the strongest section of the book and worth the cost of the book by itself. I will never read the Balaam story in Numbers the same.
Turning to Deuteronomy, Lohr confronts the issue of herem head-on. While you have to admire someone who is willing to take on the challenge of explaining herem (the ban) and trying to understand it, it still is less than satisfying. Despite an excursus and an appendix, I felt like he could have said more. Lohr himself admits that herem makes no sense to the modern mind. In my opinion, this is the weakest chapter. I would like to have seen him develop Deuteronomy 10 further, with the stranger dwelling among Israel and how that affects the unchosen theme. But, in the introduction he said this was but a first step in exploring the ramifications of being chosen and unchosen. As a first step, it is admirable.
On the whole, this book is well worth reading, especially the chapters on Pharaoh's daughter and Balaam. The weakest chapter, Deuteronomy, perhaps couldn't have been written any other way; there is just too much happening in Deuteronomy 10 to easily distill it down. Indeed, whole books have been written, and even they fail to do it justice.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Raised with Christ
“Too often, I see the church today functioning like any other morality-focused social group. It’s time for us to wake up and realize that being born of the Spirit means we possess an amazing life within us. Because we’re already different on the inside, we can live differently on the outside.”—The Naked Gospel, page 186
Yep. Dead, buried, raised, seated. I like that.
Interesting thought, isn't it? "The text" can be dangerous to our preconceptions, can't it?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Slaves to whom?
I think this is something we forget; Paul talks about the same thing in the New Testament. We are not our own; we were bought with a price.
Americans don't like that kind of talk! We're "the land of the free" after all! Right...free to sin; free to be moody and mean; free to gossip and talk behind each others backs. Oops, that isn't sin anymore; we've defined it away—of course, that also means we don't need repentance anymore, nor a savior. Kinda lonely out there, isn't it, being your own savior and all?
Rewards or relationship?
“Paul urges believers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1). In Romans, he highlights the teaching that there’s no benefit to sin and that the outcome of those things is death (Romans 6:21 – 23). At no time are we told to live an upright life in order to garner a more righteous standing or to collect prizes in heaven. Quite the opposite! We’re urged to grasp an important spiritual truth: when we come to Jesus Christ, we receive his life. Through our expression of him, we find fulfillment.”—The Naked Gospel, page 182
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Hmmm...something to think about, isn't it? How much of our interpretation is based on modernist (and post-modernist), Aristotelian logic? Too much, I wager.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Chosen and Unchosen
I will be excerpting from Chosen and Unchosen this week and then post a brief (maybe!) review at the end.
Review of ZIBBCOT
The first thing I do when I get something like this is check the abbreviations section. That alone tells you a whole lot about what you will find in the text. The abbreviation section is 9 pages long, and covers just about every major journal and reference work in the field, not just English ones, either. Next, I checked the bibliography, or rather, bibliographies. There is a general bibliography, and each biblical book has an annotated bibliography at the end, before the endnotes for that section.
Having been thoroughly encouraged by what I found so far, I began looking over the individual sections. There is a main text, but also sidebars and charts. The sidebars highlight items in the main text that may need a bit more explanation or are translations of ANE texts that relate; they have their own set of endnotes. The main text follows a traditional commentary approach in that there are section headings with verse numbers. The difference is that, unlike a traditional commentary, the notes relate to cultural background—this is a Bible backgrounds commentary, after all :)
I have looked through Genesis quite closely, and some sections of Jeremiah. I have to say that this commentary is high quality. The contributors are first-rate scholars, and the sections they were assigned play to their strengths. For example, Leviticus is done by Roy Gane; if you can't get Milgrom (and he's Jewish, so you can't!), then the next best person is Gane. In fact, I think Gane is right in his correction of Milgrom's atonement theology.
While the commentary is unabashedly conservative Evangelical, it presents multiple sides to issues in a fair and balanced manner. The authors make their preferences known, but do so in a way that doesn't demean the other opinions—a definite plus, in my book.
So, what don't I like about the set? Basically, one thing. Endnotes. With modern typesetting/prepress software, there is no reason that endnotes should exist. I understand that in a work like this, which is aimed at multiple markets, the scholar and the interested lay person, that footnotes could be distracting. But, don't you think that people could ignore them if they don't want to read them? I hate having to keep a marker at the end of a book to flip back and forth all the time. Usually, what I do in a case like this is pre-read the endnotes; it isn't great, but at least I know when I hit a note what it is about. (Yes, I pre-read endnotes; I read dictionaries of the fun of it. I even read grammars of dead languages as a recreational activity! There's no hope for me...)
This is definitely a set worth owning if you are interested in the ancient Near East and how it intersects the biblical world. John Walton and all the contributors should be proud of the results. Now, excuse me, I'm going to go read some more in it...
Update, November 10: After an exchange of e-mails with John Walton, I have to agree with Zondervan's decision to go with endnotes. John's argument was that if they had used footnotes, on some pages over half would be notes. This would result in people being intimidated by it; they would think it was written strictly for a scholarly audience when it isn't. Consequently, they would put the book back on the shelf and walk away.
It's too bad this is true, but it is. As a marketer, I understand. As a (wanna be) scholar, it bothers me. But, the book is eminently readable and deserves to be read and used. I would have made the same decision, although reluctantly.