Friday, February 26, 2010

All by God

Justification by faith, then, is a death-and-resurrection experience. Three important theological comments on this contention must be stressed.

First, justification is not in any sense a self-generated experience. The passive voice—”I have been crucified with Christ”—implies an external agent, a divinely initiated action. As Paul says in Gal 3:1-5, he “exhibited” Christ crucified, the Galatians received the Spirit, and they responded with “faith.” This can only mean that the Spirit somehow effected the Galatians' experience of co-crucifixion and co-resurrection. We cannot here solve the mystery of divine initiative and human response, but we must rule out any semi-Pelagian or Pelagian interpretation of faith (and specifically co-crucifixion and co-resurrection) as something that initates or effects one's own salvation.

Second, justification is not a private experience but a public and corporate one...

Third, justification is an experience of both death and resurrection, and both must be stressed. But the resurrection to new life it incorporates is a resurrection to an ongoing state of crucifixion: I “have been” crucified means I “still am” crucified. Therefore, justification by faith must be understood first and foremost as a participatory crucifixion that is, paradoxically, life-giving (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-15).——Inhabiting the Cruciform God, pp. 69-70

<idle musing>
I really like this: "justification is not in any sense a self-generated experience." It is all God from beginning to end. I like to say that you can tell a lot about a person by whom they have as the subject of their sentences...
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Death equals life

Justification “by faith” is for Paul justification by co-crucifixion. Those described as “hav[ing] come to believe in [eis] Christ Jesus” ([Galatians] 2:16)—meaning those who have responded affirmatively to the gospel with faith and thus moved from outside Christ into Christ—and having been justified by pistis Christou rather than by doing the works of the Law, are subsequently redescribed (if we assume that Paul is speaking representatively) as those who have died to the Law and been crucified with Christ in order to live. It is hard to resist the conclusion that faith is, for Paul, a death experience, a death to the Law (and/or to the “flesh”) and a death with Christ. —Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 67

<idle musing>
Are you starting to get the picture? Death to self = alive in Christ. Real life, vibrant life, real freedom, true freedom. All available to us here and now through Christ, as long as we are in Christ
</idle musing>

Where is God in all this

is the question that Lawson has been asking this week here and here. He is looking at the destruction of Shiloh and wondering why it happened. Of course, we all know why it happened, but Lawson gives lots of good details in the first post, which you should definitely read.

But, where was God? He still didn't answer that until today when he—well, I'll let him tell it in his own words:

God often speaks through the contrarian voice, the voice questioning all our assumptions, challenging our most basic ideas, the ones we take for granted. Even as the sons of Eli defile the women of the sanctuary and despise the Lord’s offerings (1 Sam. 2:29) we, the readers, know that these two men had a death-warrant on them, straigh from God. I once practically emptied a room full of clergy by preaching a sermon on 1 Samuel 2:25b…”for the Lord was minded to slay them.” Two clergy whom God wanted to kill! Admittedly, presumptuous for a young man, but God had a strong opinion about these two, and when Eli failed miserably at confronting them, God brought the Mysterious Stranger to remind them that long ago, he had revealed his truth. God is often in the last voice we really want to hear, reminding us of truths we have never really found false, just been false to…

God is also present in the form of his call to a young man, Samuel. He lived at the epicenter of the corruption and degeneration of Israel. In a mongrelized sanctuary, in a messed up liturgy, among corrupt or indifferent priests, one young guy hears God’s voice. Eli has been awakened just enough to know in the voices coming to Samuel, God is at work. Eli at least remembers how one is supposed to answer when God calls. That much we can give old Eli. At least when confronted with the real thing (for the second time!) he knows how to tell the kid what to do.

And last…that captured ark, hauled off to Philistia…God is present in his ark! I love this. When the Israelites tried to manipulate the ark for their own purposes, it was just a funky box. But as soon as it arrives in Philistia, the ark declares war! You can read about it 1 Samuel 5-6. While the Israelites are moaning and groaning in defeat, the ark is cleaning out a Philistine temple, scoring two knock-downs and a KO against Dagan, the Philistine corn-king deity. Then the ark books itself a free trip back to Israel courtesy a couple of Philistine milk-cows! It’s almost comic.

A beat-down, hurting, praying woman; a cranky, contrary stranger saying all the inconvenient stuff; a kid swimming alone in a sea of corrupt mediocrity and outright evil, learning to say “Yes, Lord” for the first time; A sacred artifact that is more alive than anyone realized, that still serves God’s purposes (not his peoples!)…

God, it seems, is busier than we had realized. We just have to look in the right places.

<idle musing>
We frequently are looking in the wrong direction—usually because "God is often in the last voice we really want to hear, reminding us of truths we have never really found false, just been false to…"

Good stuff to chew on...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gardening books

Ever since the beginning of January, I have been checking books on gardening (and cheese making) out of the local library. I don't know how many, probably 15-20. Of those, only two of them stood out enough to actually buy. I took a few notes from most of them, but then returned them. So, here they are...

The first one is for the new gardener. If you have never gardened and are scared, this is the one for you. Personally, I think he is a little too full of himself, but his ideas are good:
All New Square Foot Gardening

If you have gardened for a while and want to increase the season a bit (like all year!), then this is the book for you:

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long

I read the earlier edition from the library and am now reading the newer edition. This book has so many good ideas that I had to either write almost the whole book on note cards, or buy it. I bought it :)

What about you? Have a favorite gardening book? Or, do you disagree with my choices?

More on co-crucifixion

We come next to Paul's distinctive understanding of faith—pistis—as the human response to the gospel and the instrument of appropriating justification, and therefore also once again to what Paul means by justification itself. Our focus will be on the two passages where Paul uses the Greek verb sustauroo, “co-crucify”—each time in the passive voice. We will see that, according to Gal 2:15-21 and Rom 6:1-7:6, faith is co-crucifixion with Christ; faith is a death experience. For Paul, justification—restoration to right covenant relations with God and others—occurs, not through performance of or zeal for the Law, but through participation in Christ's quintessential act of covenant-keeping. This restoration to right covenant relations is therefore an experience of death and resurrection, or resurrection via death.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 63

<idle musing>
I frequently say that people want to go from Romans 5—freely justified by faith—to Romans 8 without going through Romans 6—buried with Christ. We want the benefits, but we don't want to die. I think Gorman is correct here; without death, there can be no resurrection and new life. After all, if the old life is still living, why would you need a new one?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I want to suggest that for Paul there is one soteriological model: justification is by crucifixion, specifically co-crucifixion, understood as participation in Christ's act of covenant fulfillment.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 44

<idle musing>
This is central to Gorman's thought. I think he is correct, but the last 200 years of cheap grace have dulled this concept for the majority of Western believers.

What do you think? Have you heard a sermon on death to self recently? I know I have heard occasionally about taking up your cross, but usually that just means you have to endure a bit of discomfort—which is not what the gospel writers had in mind. In the ancient world, the cross had but one purpose: death!
</idle musing>

New books

I just received a new book from Hendrickson Publishers, compliments of Bobby (thanks!).

Vines Intertwined

Vines Intertwined
A History of Jews and Christians from the Babylonian Exile to the Advent of Islam
by Leo Dupree Sandgren
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010
xxiv + 835 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781598560831
List Price: $34.95
Your Price: $29.71

This is a monster of a book, size-wise, and it even includes a CD in the back with the text of the book in PDF format! At the price, how can anybody not pick this up if they are interested in the subject matter?

I have no idea when I will get around to reading this, but when I do, you will hear about it :)

Talking about size and good deals reminds me, this just arrived late last week:
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha:

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha:
Apocalypic Literature and Testaments
2 volume set
Edited by James H. Charlesworth
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010
1056 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9.25 inches
ISBN: 9781598564891
List Price: $69.95
Your Price: $39.87

Another great deal! Sure beats the hardcover all I need is the time to read them all!

Monday, February 22, 2010

cheap grace

There have always been legitimate theological arguments about justification, as well as less noble but understandable interconfessional squabbles. But it may also be the case that there is another, more subtle (and thus more dangerous) theological reason for at least some aspects of the current situation regarding justification. To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, parts of the Christian church have become enamored with cheap justification. Cheap justification is justification without justice, faith without love, declaration without transformation.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 41

<idle musing>
Just like cheap credit, cheap grace is alluring. But, in the long run, again, just like cheap credit, it will eat you alive. It isn't real and, so, it can't save or transform.
</idle musing>

Cheese update

On Saturday morning, I made yogurt, as usual. But, I also started some colby; the process from start to the beginning of pressing took about 3.5 hours, maybe a bit more. My press is a home made one that cost about $5.00 to make, maybe a bit less. I'll try to remember to get a picture of it posted. Without a picture it is difficult to picture the problems I had, but I'll try...

You are supposed to press the cheese for 20 minutes at 20 pounds of pressure. If you have a fancy $250 + press, that is easy. My $5.00 one relies on me adding weight to the top. Well, I know that a gallon of water weighs about 7 pounds, so that means 3 gallons of water. I proceeded to balance 3 gallons of water on a 2 x 4 on top of a 10 x 12 frame on top of a 2 x 4 placed vertically. It worked! After that, you flip the cheese and increase the weight to 40 pounds. That was easy; I just put a 40 pound salt bag on top. Well, it didn't quite work out so nice; the bag tipped and one side of the cheese had more pressure than the other. After an hour, you flip again and add 50 pounds. That took some figuring, but I finally came up with a criss-cross of 2 x 4s that allowed me to put 7 gallons of water on it. But, it fell over after about an hour :( I finally put the 40 pound salt bag back on and just added 2 hours to the time. The cheese came out looking beautiful.

I put it on a mat to dry in my study. It needs to dry for a few days before waxing and then aging for about a month. About halfway through Sunday, my curiosity got the better of me so I cut it in half and sliced off a nice chunk to try. Hmmm, not bad. It tastes like colby, but milder. I think it might be OK after aging a bit.

On the mozzarella front, Jim and Shannon came over Saturday evening and we made another batch. Delicious, the best batch so far. I think mozzarella sticks are going to be a staple around here! So much fresher—and they even squeak as you eat them. That's the real test of freshness!

Today's thought

We are all like caged wolves that may escape at any moment—Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/4

Friday, February 19, 2010

Can you separate justification and sanctification?

Our goal is to show the connection between justification, on the one hand, and co-crucifixion and co-resurrection on the other, arguing that for Paul justification is an experience of participating in Christ's resurrection life that is effected by co-crucifixion with him.

This is a much more robust, participatory, and costly understanding of justification than one often finds attributed to Paul. It does not, however, in any sense whatsoever reduce the need for, or meaning(s), of Christ's death as God's gracious salvific act on our behalf while we “still were sinners” (Rom 5:8) and were “dead through our trespasses” (Eph 2:5). Nor is justification by co-crucifixion a form of self-justification or justification by “works,” for it is only by grace and the work of God's Spirit that co-crucifixion is possible. What justification by co-crucifixion will imply, however, and not surprisingly, is that a theological rift between justification and sanctification is impossible, because the same Spirit effect both initial and ongoing co-crucifixion with Christ among believers, a lifelong experience of cruciformity, or, in light of chapter one, theoformity—theosis.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 40

<idle musing>
I like this, "a theological rift between justification and sanctification is impossible, because the same Spirit effect both initial and ongoing co-crucifixion with Christ among believers." That sums up my view pretty well.
</idle musing>

Suicide bombings, U.S. style

Jim West has a comment on the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin:

...amidst all our concern about attacks from Muslim terrorists, we have plenty of our own home grown murderers to be more concerned with. It wasn’t Muslims who blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City. And Mr Stack doesn’t appear to have been a Muslim either.

America, perhaps it’s time to look at the cancer within and uncover its cause so it can be cured. Or to use a biblical image- perhaps we need to look at the beam in our own national eye before we try to clear out the speck in the eye of Islam.

<idle musing>
Let's expand on that a bit...You can claim that the Muslim attackers are motivated by religion, and the one yesterday wasn't. But, wasn't it really religiously motivated? I submit that his god was money—and he didn't have as much as he wanted. Take a step back and think about it. Where were the 9/11 attacks aimed? At the real gods of the U.S.: Money and military might. They didn't waste their time on the Statue of Liberty or other symbols that we claim are important; no, they attacked the real gods in our culture. They saw more clearly than we do as to what is really important to us.

Don't you think it is time we repented?

Just an
</idle musing>


I saw this post today about books via Andy Unedited. Here's a snippet or two:

I agree with the monk in Normandy who, in 1170, wrote that “A monastery without a library is like a castle without an armory. Our library is our armory.”

This means we should engage in building it, fortifying it, at every opportunity. When I was in graduate school, I recall one of my professors saying that we should have a line-item in our budget for books. That building a good library is one of the most important things we can do in ministry and for impact.

I tell my own graduate students the same thing - to invest in books. They are our tools. A mechanic has his set of wrenches; a doctor has his stethoscope; a chef has his cookware. Those of us in ministry, or scholarship (and ideally they are joined at the hip), have our books...

The great concern of George Orwell, as conveyed in his novel 1984, was of a day when there might be those who would ban books.

Aldous Huxley’s portrait of the future in Brave New World was more prescient; Huxley feared that there would be no reason to ban a book.


There would be no one who wanted to read one.

<idle musing>
Interesting that the people in Brave New World substituted drugs and sex for reading. Or, how about Fahrenheit 451? They substituted entertainment for reading. Take your pick, either one describes our culture quite well, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another new sale

I just posted a new sale on the Eisenbrauns web site. Here's the scoop, from BookNews:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

For the next 10 days, I am taking a risk: these books are
all Eisenbrauns titles that I have read from cover-to-cover
in the last 12 months, give or take a month or two. It doesn't
include any that I have read a chapter or two in, that list
would include most of our recent books.

Got a better list? Why not submit your own to me for a future
sale consideration? It has to be Eisenbrauns titles, and you
have to have read them from cover-to-cover, although it doesn't
have to have been in the last 12 months.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns
will be permitted. Offer is good only on orders placed at through February 28, 2010.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
"Cult and Character: Purification Offerings,
Day of Atonement, and Theodicy"
by Roy E. Gane
Eisenbrauns, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061016
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $34.65

"Critical Issues in Early Israelite History"
Edited by Richard S. Hess, Gerald A. Klingbeil, and Paul J. Ray Jr.
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement - BBRSup 3
Eisenbrauns, 2008. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575068046
List Price: $44.50 Your Price: $31.15

"War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century"
Edited by Richard S. Hess and Elmer A. Martens
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement - BBRSup 2
Eisenbrauns, 2008. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575068039
List Price: $34.50 Your Price: $24.15

"Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible"
by Gerald A. Klingbeil
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement - BBRSup 1
Eisenbrauns, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575068015
List Price: $39.50 Your Price: $23.70

"Chosen and Unchosen: Conceptions of Election in the
Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation"
by Joel N. Lohr
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 2
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061719
List Price: $39.50 Your Price: $27.65

"The Eden Narrative: A Literary and Religio-Historical
Study of Genesis 2-3"
by Tryggve N. D. Mettinger
Eisenbrauns, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061412
List Price: $29.50 Your Price: $17.70

"Literate Culture and Tenth-Century Canaan:
The Tel Zayit Abecedary in Context"
Edited by Ron E. Tappy and P. Kyle McCarter Jr.
Eisenbrauns, 2008. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061504
List Price: $37.50 Your Price: $22.50

"The Biblical Saga of King David"
by John Van Seters
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061702
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $34.65

More Kenosis

The counterintuitive God revealed in Christ is kenotic and cruciform, the Eternal vulnerable and self-giving One, the God of power-in-weakness. Thus we may now paraphrase Ernst Käsemann, who said that the cross was the signature of the Risen One, and assert that the cross is the signature of the EternalOne. Any other understandings of God are henceforth rendered either incomplete or obsolete or idolatrous.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, pp. 32-33

<idle musing>
It certainly is counter-intuitive; the mind can't really grasp it. But, to call it idolatrous? But, when you think about it, it is creating a different God than the biblical one. And that is definitely idolatry.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Option two [of a translation of Phil 2:6] would be something like the following:

Although Messiah Jesus was in the form of God, a status people assume means the exercise of power, he acted in character—in a shockingly ungodlike manner according to normal but misguided human perceptions of divinity, contrary to what we would expect but, in fact, in accord with true divinity—he emptied himself and humbled himself.

In this reading, Christ exercised his deity. What is out of character for normal divinity in our misguided perception of the reality of the form of God is actually in character for this form of God. That is, although Christ was in the form of God, which leads us to certain expectations, he subverted and deconstructed those expectations when he emptied and humbled himself, which he did because he was the true form of God.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 27

<idle musing>
We just don't get it, do we? It is too radical, too incomprehensible to us. But, so like God!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The work of the Holy Spirit

Guy Muse just posted an old tract that you might find interesting. I'm not a big fan of tracts, but this one I liked—maybe because it is directed at Christians instead of non-Christians... Here's a snippet, but do take the extra minute to read the whole thing.

Others may boast of themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into a deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or may have a legacy left to them, or may have luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

Imitation of Christ

When Paul describes himself as an imitator of Christ and calls others to be imitators of him and thus of Christ (I Cor 11:1), he is speaking, not about an option, but about a nonnegotiable mandate in which one does not deny but rather exercises one's true identity as an apostle (and one's true apostolic freedom), or, more generally one's identity (and true freedom) as a “Christian.” Imitatio Christi (or, better, conformatio Christi) is nonnegotiable because those whose freedom is defined by being in Christ must be conformed to Christ, as Phil 2:5 suggests by linking 2:1-4 to 2:6-11.—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 23

<idle musing>
I like that, conformatio Christi. And, we definitely can not be in Christ unless we are being transformed and conformed to Christ. I'm really liking this book...
</idle musing>

Monday, February 15, 2010

Inhabiting the Cruciform God

Several—OK, I just checked and it was over 6 months ago!—Nick Norelli mentioned a book, calling it the most quotable book of the year. It was the next book on my booklist at the time, but got bumped multiple times. I recently finished Inhabiting the Cruciform God, and I have to concur. I am going to extract some stuff for the next week or so, but this is just barely skimming the surface. You would serve yourself well to buy/rent/beg/borrow a copy.

In a careful analysis of the text to determine the validity of this theological interpretation, the question arises—answered affirmatively by a line of exegetes from C.F.D. Moule to N.T. Wright, Gerald Hawthorne, Markus Brockmuehl, and Stephen Fowler—whether the first words of thepoem should be translated “Because he was in the form of God” rather than “Although he was in the form of God.” This chapter, consisting of an exegetical explanation followed by theological reflection, contends that Phil. 2:6-11, as Paul's master story, is (in part) about the counterintuitive, essentially kenotic—or cruciform—character of God. More specifically, we will argue that the Greek phrase en morphe theou hyparchon in Phil. 2:6 (“being in the form of God”) has two levels of meaning, a surface structure and a deep structure (to borrow terms from transformational grammar), one concessive and one causative: “although he was in the form of God” and “because he was in the form of God.” These two translations, which, as we will see, are really two sides of the same coin, correspond to two aspects of Paul's understanding of the identity of the one true God (or “divine identity”) and manifested in this text: its counterintuitive character (“although”) and its cruciform character (“because”).—Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 10

<idle musing>
This seems to fit well with I Corinthians 1: God's wisdom is foolishness to mankind. I like it, and all the more since it appears to be based on sound exegesis :)
</idle musing>

Eisenbrauns Valentine's day contest results

The results of our third annual Valentine's day contest are in!
Our judge and webmaster has made his final decisions; it's too late to bribe with chocolate, hot peppers, etc. The entries this year, as always, reflected a good deal of thought and talent. You can see the results here:

The results this year:
Honorable Mention:
Houria Lauffenburger, with a cuneiform heart
B.C. Hodge with a dialog between Gerlab and Helomatt
(in Hebrew and Ugaritic, no less)

Third Prize and a $25.00 Eisenbrauns gift certificate:
Rosa Hunt with a Syriac poem

Second Prize and a $50.00 Eisenbrauns gift certificate:
Max Roglund with a Hebrew poem entitled "The Song of the Four Locusts"
complete with translator's footnote

And, finally, First Prize and a $75.00 Eisenbrauns gift certificate:
Olivier Lauffenburger with an Old Babylonian Love Poem

Congratulations to our winners, and thanks to all who entered. Those of you who procrastinated now have a head start on next year. I know there are a lot of talented people out there; don't you want fame and glory (and an Eisenbrauns gift certificate)?

Cheese making

is a lot of work. I made two batches of mozzarella over the weekend and got the starter going for cheddar, colby, etc. The first batch of mozzarella didn't turn out very well; I got too anxious and didn't let the curd set long enough. It looked ok, but the flavor was weak. The second batch turned out much better—good flavor, with a good texture to the curds. We saved some of the curds out on the second batch to eat as curds; they were nice and squeaky.

My favorite part was cutting the curd and watching what looked like a solid mass begin to lose its liquid and shrink by about 80%. Debbie's favorite part was stretching the mozzarella; it's sort of like pulling taffy. Fun stuff! But, time consuming...

Friday, February 12, 2010

What am I doing this weekend?

Debbie just called me a bit ago and told me that my cheese making supplies arrived today. Finally, about 25 years after first deciding I wanted to try making cheese, I will. We'll see what happens... I'm starting with mozzarella, since it doesn't need aging. But, I hope to make cheddar, colby, brick, muenster, and maybe swiss. Again, we'll see.

Don't expect results on those others too soon, though; they have to age anywhere from 30 days to 6 months. So, maybe I'll have a nice aged cheddar for Christmas :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Christian life

I've been reading the autobiography of our Staples delivery man, Facedown. He had a rough upbringing and even after becoming a Christian had some issues to work through. But, one thought keeps recurring over and over in the book, this particular version is from page 255:

I knew for certain hope was attainable, not by anything I could do, but I learned the priceless commodity of truth.

I knew there was healing in repentance.

I knew I would never be alone as long as I walked with God.

I also knew there was a force out there ready to perch on my shoulder and take me down. It happened every time I wasn't moving forward, learning from and depending on and trusting in the God who showed me mercy.

<idle musing>
I think that about sums up the entire Christian life.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Job versus Ruth

"The whole concern, from beginning to end of Naomi's story, is how to deal with calamity in such a way as to restore those whose lives have been so grievously diminished. what a contrast with the almost interminable theological disputation in Job 3-26!

"One could, then, take the book of Ruth and the book of Job as case studies in how to, and how not to, come to the aid of friends and neighbors who have suffered one or another of life's calamities. The besetting temptation of religious folk — especially those who are concerned with right doctrine — is to offer an explanation of why the calamity has happened and what God is doing in it...The men and women in the book of Ruth engage in no theological explanations. They just set about helping Naomi and her daughter-in-law get back on their feet. In this way they are the counterpart of Job's brothers, sisters and kinfolk in Job 42:11."—At the Scent of Water, page 114

<idle musing>
Interesting, the way he parallels the two stories of disaster, isn't it? I have to confess that far too often I am in the Job 3-26 group. What about you?
</idle musing>

Monday, February 08, 2010

Annual Eisenbrauns contest

I haven't mentioned it here yet this year, but:

Get those styli ready! We're continuing our annual Valentine's Day contest. If you haven't started composing your sonnet yet, get going on it, this is the week:

The judging is extremely arbitrary, and the prizes are thus:
1st Place: $75 Eisenbrauns Gift Certificate
2nd Place: $50 Eisenbrauns Gift Certificate
3rd Place: $25 Eisenbrauns Gift Certificate
Honorable Mentions: Fame and glory.

Have fun!

The measure of all things

The problem with Jung's statement, and with all arguments from the triangle [of good God, all-powerful God, people suffer] that give up on divine goodness or justice, is that in doing so we pay ourselves the compliment of possessing within ourselves the high-water mark of moral consciousness. That is a claim on behalf of the finest moral consciousnesses among us, which I for one find immodest. The implication is that in this respect we are superior to God and in a position to instruct God on issues of right and wrong. But then, who among us is to be the teacher? Especially now, in our so-called postmodern world, there will be many applicants for the position, and not only their credentials but their pedagogical programs will differ from one another. And if our claim to possess a moral consciousness superior to God's in fact amounts to self-deification (as in Gen 3:5, “you will be like God (or gods), knowing good and evil”), the result will be a cacophonous polytheism.—At the Scent of Water, p. 62

<idle musing>
Wow! Talk about hubris! We know more than God. We rarely put it that baldly, but that is exactly what we do—all the time. Whenever we whine or complain, we are basically telling God that he isn't doing it the right way, id est, my way.

Lord, forgive us and have us see things through your eyes, not ours!
</idle musing>

Friday, February 05, 2010

Sports and Christianity

I haven't read the whole article yet, but I sure am going to...Huh? February's Christianity Today's cover article on sports. Here's a short little snippet from the first page:

Americans are consuming sports on an unprecedented scale. The ancient Romans, long considered the gold standard for how sports-crazed a culture could be, were dilettantes compared to the sports fans of this century. The Romans could squeeze 50,000 spectators into the Coliseum for gladiatorial contests—a quaint assemblage next to the 107,000 seats regularly sold for University of Michigan or Penn State home football games. In 2006, Americans spent over $17 billion on tickets to sports contests and $90 billion on sporting goods, over double what they spent on books ($42 billion).

<idle musing>
America's true religion. Be sure to join the sacrifice this weekend, lest you offend the gods. As the article goes on to say:
</idle musing>

None of this has been lost on evangelicals, who have been quick to harness sports to personal and institutional agendas. Less than a century ago, major segments of the evangelical community considered sports a cancer on the spiritual life; today their denominational progeny lead the parade to stadiums. The cozy coupling of sports and evangelicalism shows itself not only in the outsized athletic complexes that are common features of church architecture, but also in the ease with which sport and its symbols show up in the sanctuary. Pastors incorporate pithy sports metaphors into their sermons. Famous athletes are invited to pulpits to tell how their faith helps them compete. Some churches celebrate Super Bowl Sunday by canceling the evening service and assembling in the sanctuary to watch the game on large-screen TVs. "Faith nights" sponsored by local baseball teams draw entire congregations to the ballpark. Evangelistic organizations that center on the public's fascination with sports flourish.

<idle musing>
Does anybody else see this as a problem???

Anyway, read the article, I know I will be finishing real soon—unless I throw up first from the way the church has sold its soul...
</idle musing>

The glories of the past

“We need to sift through the dirt of history to find the gems, no matter what tradition we come from. Part of my frustration with the Methodist tradition that I was raised in was that I began to read John Wesley and I began to fall in love with his life, writing and teaching… and it put me at odds with many of the things I saw in Methodism today. I mean it had a fiery beginning, that’s why there is fire wrapped around the cross in the Methodist symbol – fire and cross – if we’re not careful the only place the fire will remain is on the cover of the hymnal and the pages of the past. We can’t forget our histories and the men and women who made it. I’m not talking about war heroes, but church heroes, heroes of the cross. Talk about John Wesley – there’s a radical leader. We cannot forget these folks from the past. Methodists need to read Wesley again. We need to take the best that our little part of Church history has. We need the fire of the Pentecostals. We need the roots of the Catholics and Orthodox. We need the sharp thinking of the Episcopalians and mainliners. We need the politics of the Anabaptists, the grace of the Quakers. And we need to confess the dark sides of church history, where our denominations justified slavery with the bible, where we baptized the crusades and militaries, where we killed each other over theology. True leaders are able to see the good and the bad… to confess the bad and try not to repeat it, and to celebrate the good and try to reproduce it.”—Follow Me to Freedom: Leading As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins

<idle musing>
I can identify, being raised Methodist. Once I started reading Wesley, I wondered what had happened! But, on a larger scale, what he is saying is true; we need to identify the heroes from whatever tradition. We also need to confess the sins of our fathers in the faith. But, above all, we need to be true to Jesus.
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Buy local, but commute to church...

“One of the things we have nearly lost is the simple idea of a neighborhood parish. Every neighborhood should have a congregation or parish that they can walk to, worship with and learn from. But we can’t get sloppy with our language. We don’t call services or meetings on Sunday “church.” We call them “public meetings”. Weekly services are great things to do—gather publicly for worship, share prayers and needs and upcoming events, put our money together, to read Scripture, share communion. But that is not Church; that’s just the Church gathering together in a building. We are the Church. We don’t call a building a “church.” The Church is who we are—the body, the bride, the living incarnation of Jesus in his people...So the idea of a “commuter church” or “church shopping” becomes quite senseless, especially if the sermon or soloist is not the center of our public meetings—but what is the center is Jesus, taking communion together, sharing needs and activities coming up and ways to find community. You can do those things anywhere. And they don’t need to be fancy or take lots of money. These make a lot more sense to be grounded within walking distance or close to it from where we live. One of the congregations we are connected to here in Philly is growing rapidly. The Spirit is just doing beautiful stuff among us. But every time we grow beyond 200 people in services we start up a new location for public meetings. We don’t need them to be big, in fact they work much better small.”—Follow Me to Freedom: Leading As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins

<idle musing>
Yes! The church is not a building; you can't go to church. Church is people, Christian people. Once you realize that, the size of a church is inversely proportional to how much it can truly be a church.
</idle musing>

Why publish?

is the question that Lawson Stone asked today. His wording of the question and the answer are worth repeating:

Why do scholarship anyhow? It sure isn’t for the money! Very few scholars make much money with their writing. The ones that do could make more moonlighting as refrigerator repairmen! And it’s not for the power either. That a few professors think you are cool because of some obscure article you wrote doesn’t get you free coffee, even in your own school! And believe it or not, people who go into scholarship thinking they can change it for the kingdom, make it a more friendly and positive place for faith, are often self-deceived. Scholarship is tribal, and those who think they can change the cynics, skeptics, relativists, and atheists with their brilliant arguments end up either giving up, or having their audience confined to those who already agree with them, whom they encourage and support...

So…why have I invested so much in restarting something for which there are not a lot of romantic, exciting reasons? It’s actually very important, and very simple.


In the classroom, we professors spout off our opinions and theories with a lot of authority. We typically persuade our students, who think we have a great “take” on this or that issue. But the simple fact is, very few students are equipped or inclined to offer serious resistance. They don’t know the biblical languages as well, they don’t know the cognate languages and literatures, they don’t know the history of research, in short, they just don’t know enough to be sure that what I or my colleagues is giving them is really worthwhile.

And popular publishing won’t help on that point. If I write an evangelical Christian book, published by an evangelical Christian publisher, sold in evangelical Christian bookstores…am I really putting my views before a critical, competent, potentially hostile audience for review?

<idle musing>
I think he has a very good answer. And, I might add, this is a big reason that self-publishing is looked down on in the academic community...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

New monthly sale

Here it is the third of February, and I haven't told you about the new monthly sale—and it's a short month at that! OK, without further ado:

For the short month of February, we are featuring a selection of
Van Gorcum titles. Van Gorcum sold their biblical studies section
to Brill a few years ago, but we still have some of the titles
available at the Van Gorcum prices, and we're discounting that
price 20%. You net savings over the new Brill prices is about 50%,
in some cases even more.

To easily access all the sale items, please visit:
"Delimitation Criticism: A New Tool in Biblical Scholarship"
Edited by Marjo C. A. Korpel and Josef Oesch
Pericope: Scripture as Written and Read in Antiquity - PERICOPE 1
Van Gorcum, 2001. Cloth. English and German.
ISBN: 9023236564
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $55.96

"Studies in Scriptural Unit Division"
Edited by Marjo C. A. Korpel and Josef Oesch
Pericope: Scripture as Written and Read in Antiquity - PERICOPE 3
Van Gorcum, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023238400
List Price: $70.00 Your Price: $56.00

"A Parametric Model for Syntactic Studies of a Textual Corpus,
Demonstrated on the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 1-30"
by L. J. de Regt
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 24
Van Gorcum, 1988. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9023223810
List Price: $32.00 Your Price: $25.60

"Tiberian Hebrew Phonology: Focusing on Consonant Clusters"
by A. W. Coetzee
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 38
Van Gorcum, 1999. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023234316
List Price: $70.00 Your Price: $56.00

"Alleged Non-Past Uses of Qatal in Classical Hebrew"
by Max Rogland
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 44
Van Gorcum, 2003. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023239733
List Price: $49.00 Your Price: $39.20

"An Ancient Israelite Historian: Studies in the Chronicler,
His Time, Place and Writing"
by Isaac Kalimi
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 46
Van Gorcum, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023240715
List Price: $79.50 Your Price: $63.60

"Corpus Linguistics and Textual History: A Computer-Assisted
Interdisciplinary Approach to the Peshitta"
by P. S. F. van Keulen and W. T. van Peursen
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 48
Van Gorcum, 2006. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023241940
List Price: $109.00 Your Price: $87.20

"Untersuchungen zur verbalen Valenz im biblischen Hebraisch"
by Michael Malessa
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 49
Van Gorcum, 2006. Cloth. German.
ISBN: 9023242408
List Price: $85.00 Your Price: $68.00

"Religious Identity and the Invention of Tradition: Papers Read
at a NOSTER conference, Soesterberg, January 4-6, 1999"
Edited by J. Willem van Henten and A. Houtepen
Studies in Theology and Religion - STAR 3
Van Gorcum, 2001. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023237145
List Price: $75.00 Your Price: $60.00

"Towards Religious Identity: An Exercise in Spiritual Guidance"
by Tjeu van Knippenberg
Studies in Theology and Religion - STAR 4
Van Gorcum, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 902323815X
List Price: $42.75 Your Price: $34.20

""Welche unendliche Fulle offenbart sich da...": Die Wirkungs-
geschichte von Schleiermachers "Reden uber die Religion""
Edited by Nico F.M. Schreurs
Studies in Theology and Religion - STAR 7
Van Gorcum, 2003. Cloth. German.
ISBN: 902323975X
List Price: $48.50 Your Price: $38.80

"Evangelienharmonien des Mittelalters"
Edited by Christoph Burger, August den Hollander, and U. B. Schmid
Studies in Theology and Religion - STAR 9
Van Gorcum, 2004. Cloth. German.
ISBN: 9023240529
List Price: $45.00 Your Price: $36.00

"Religion and the Good Life"
Edited by Marcel Sarot and Wessel Stoker
Studies in Theology and Religion - STAR 10
Van Gorcum, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9023240693
List Price: $79.00 Your Price: $63.20

Great deals!

A real role model

“There was a pastor with a church in Pittsburgh. He was an older man and for 19 years he did a good job, but he died. The church didn’t name a replacement right away, they just went on for five or six years without a pastor and did not miss a beat. How could they thrive for so long without leadership? The pastor who died had told people that he had never felt that he was in charge. He led the church, but was not in charge. Profound. He raised up people in the church who became football chaplains, Sunday school teachers and shelter workers. He raised up elders, ushers and role models. The pastor had influenced a lot of people not by being in charge or over them, but by living among them.”—Follow Me to Freedom: Leading As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins

<idle musing>
Would that his tribe would increase!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


“Sometimes the moments of crisis are easier to navigate than the mundane routine of going day to day. At least a threat or disaster pulls people together in the urgency of survival. It’s not as easy to rally people when today’s tasks look just like yesterday’s.

“Despite how it looks and feels, the daily routine does not have be be dull, and come to think about it, that is where most of life happens.”—Follow Me to Freedom: Leading As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins

<idle musing>
It is the daily obedience that allows one to respond appropriately in the crisis situations. It isn't glamorous, but as they said, it doesn't have to be dull. I don't find my daily life dull—how can I when every day there is a different sunrise and sunset? Or, like today, a beautiful new snow covering the ground and resting on the black tree limbs. I see every day as a gift from God, a chance to rejoice in his goodness to me and others. But, it is a decision to do so; I could ignore those things—some days I find that I didn't even notice what I was riding past until I am nearly at work. But, why would I chose death over life?
</idle musing>

The worship of sports

Jim West, always at his best when trying to make enemies, has a very good observation today about the upcoming football game:

I think that ‘churches’ which cancel worship for a ball game aren’t worthy of the name church. Furthermore, I think that when entertainment becomes more important to Christians than worship, they should just throw in the towel and call themselves unitarian universalists, because they’ve ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

<idle musing>
I remember one church we were a part of back in Minnesota. The Vikings had made it to either the Super Bowl, or the game just before it, I've forgotten which, but the music leaders all dressed in purple, and the pastor cut the sermon short in the third service, so that no one would miss the opening sacrifice—I mean kick-off.

What idolatry! I wrote a letter asking if they had thought about the message their actions sent. The response seemed to indicate that they hadn't. Cultural blindness is understandable in non-Christians, but in those who have the Holy Spirit opening their eyes?
</idle musing>

Monday, February 01, 2010

That crazy Lingamesh

Boy, is David Ker ever on a rampage! And, he's right:

...Christians get so excited about cockamamie pseudo-scientific explanations for Biblical miracles that it just makes us look really dumb. It’s not just that our science is bad, it’s that we’re leaning on science at all. Christianity in the last two centuries has never really escaped from its Napoleon Complex that started in the Enlightenment. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-intellectual. But the same Judeo-Christian worldview that allowed a flourishing rationalism sent many Christian thinkers on a snipe hunt for scientific proof of the Bible’s claims.

At this stage you might accuse me of disrespect for the divine Scripture because I am insisting that you can’t prove the miracles and events of the Bible through scientific enquiry. But the truth is that those who read the Bible in a way it was not intended by its author do more violence to the spirit and intent of the Scriptures.

<idle musing>
Yep! Where is faith? Why do we need it if we can walk by sight? Where is good exegesis? That's obviously gone :(

I once heard someone say that so-and-so must be an Evangelical, because they claimed to believe the Bible but then came up with all kinds of rational explanations for the plagues in Egypt! It makes me wonder if Evangelicals really believe in the supernatural...
</idle musing>

What part of a plain command don't you understand?

Guy Muse ran a training session last week, with interesting results:

In [Luke 10] verse 9 Jesus commands, 'heal those...who are sick' and say to them, 'the kingdom of God has come near to you.'

After my teaching on how to implement these two commands, a pastor stood, and took it upon himself to interpret Jesus words for us. He felt Jesus instructions needed to be clarified. What did Jesus actually mean by 'heal those who are sick'?

*First, these words were addressed to the 70, not to us today.
*Second, 'heal the sick' means heal their soul by preaching the Gospel to them.
*Third, why waste time healing, when they'll just get sick again?

Up to the time of that pastor's well-meaning intervention, people had been excited, motivated, and eager to get out and, in faith, implement Jesus words. After the pastor's explanation, people were staring at the floor, doubtful, and no one knew what to say.

When the microphone was given back to me, I responded, kindly, but firmly, "brother, the argument is not with me, but with Jesus. He is the one who instructed this command. If you have a disagreement with his telling us to heal the sick, please take your case and argue it out with Jesus."

I may not fully understand some of Jesus words, but to take clear, imperative instructions, and seek to reinterpret, negate, and dismiss them is simply bewildering to me.

Is it any wonder so many churches continue to struggle, seeing only a handful of new converts per year, and live powerless, sub-normal Christian lives?

Not only do we disobey, we don't even believe Jesus words!

Do we really think our ways are better than the Master's? Do we know better than Him? If our ways are so great, where is the harvest? Where are the results? Where's the beef? (as the old Wendy's commercial used to say.)

The point of all the above?

It almost seems as if we first come up with our theology, and then have to make Scripture fit that theology. When Jesus words do not align themselves our theology, we are forced to reinterpret and reword them until they do fit our theology.

What is your take on this? Does our theology too often get in the way of obeying what Jesus said for us to do?

<idle musing>
Hmmm...wasn't that what I was talking about 2 weeks ago?

Of course, this is nothing new. Bonhoeffer was bemoaning the same thing in Discipleship over 70 years ago!
</idle musing>