Friday, April 30, 2010

Whose side is he on, anyway?

"...the encounter [Joshua 5:13-15] might be understood as anticipating the ambiguity of the question of whether ‘God is on Israel’s side’ as a prologue to the stories of Jericho and Ai (and indeed the whole ‘conquest’), reflecting the stories of Rahab and Achan. God is neither straightforwardly for Israel (i.e., for Israel on Israel’s terms) nor straightforwardly against her enemies. Rather, as seen in the stories of Rahab and Achan, what matters is alignment with and obedience to YHWH; the right question is to ask whether one is ‘for YHWH’ or not, and not the other way around. The question that arises for the reader is not that of asking whether God is ‘on my/our side’, or a matter of trying to ‘co-opt’ God onto ‘my/our side’, but of asking whether I/we have ‘aligned’ myself/ourselves with God."—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 140

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! Would that a few political commentators (on both sides) would take this passage to heart!

On a more practical, daily living level, it is healthy to remember that we serve God, not the other way around. We can never manipulate God onto our side, no matter how many Bible verses we might quote, or how ever long we fast, or pray, or do whatever it is we are doing to try to manipulate God. It goes back to the quote from Byerly's article in The Faith of Jesus Christ, 'the opposite of faith is not works, it is religion” (for the extended quote, go here). The problem is, of course, that humanity is so good at religion and so poor at obedience.
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Patristic exegesis

" contrast to our own biblical studies, patristic exegesis can seem foreign and off-putting but at the same time stimulating, adventurous, and useful to the life of the church. Patristic exegetes assume (without making a case for it) that Holy Scripture is the voice of the Triune Living God. Reading Scripture is therefore an act of faith and obedience, almost even a sacramental act.

"Patristic exegesis of Scripture holds as its goal the formation of its reader in the love of God and the love of neighbor. Reading Scripture is therefore a school from which we never graduate, because in this world love of God and love of neighbor are always imperfectly practiced. The authoritative context for the exegesis of the Fathers is ecclesial; it is neither academic (as is modern exegesis) nor individualistic (as is much of popular American Christianity’s biblical interpretation)."—Kathryn Greene-McCreight, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT in Journal of Theological Interpretation 4.1 (2010)

<idle musing>
Nicely put. Sometimes I think the patristic exegetes were way off base, but more often I bow down in worship of God at their insights.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crossings in Joshua

“But boundaries, and their crossing, will be important throughout Joshua, with the Jordan crossing being the parade symbolic example. Indeed, Israel begins her journey by crossing the Jordan. But the ‘Jordan valley not only constitutes a boundary but also a defining symbol and a point of reference. Traversing it signifies Israel’s entry into the measure of life YHWH gives.’ We will see how this theme of crossing into (or out of) life with YHWH is recapitulated throughout Joshua. But for now, we may observe the symbolic character of the land, where the land symbolizes Israel’s life with YHWH, and that crossing into the land (Israel) symbolizes crossing into this life in its fullness (as the fulfilment [sic] of promise). This symbolism is reinforced by the attention given to the Transjordan tribes (1:12-18). Here, they affirm Joshua’s authority and respond in the most positive way possible (something that the other tribes are not reported as doing), indicating that they are indeed ‘crossing into’ the fullness of life with YHWH, even if not the land.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pp. 122-123

<idle musing>
Interesting insight, isn't it. Previous generations used to talk about becoming a Christian as “crossing the Jordan,” which seems to be an apt word picture. Of course, they also used the same expression for death at the end of one's life; I would be more inclined toward seeing it as the here and now, the “presence of the future” as some put it, or “realized eschatology” as others put it.

The fact that there are multiple crossings in Joshua also maps well onto the Christian life, doesn't it? And, the fact that it is crossing into—or out of!—life with YHWH is especially interesting. Earl comments on that in the next paragraph
</idle musing>

If, as we shall see, Joshua may be understood in terms of what it means to possess the land and live in the land in the fullness of life that YHWH gives so as to move toward ‘rest’, then it suggests that in the Christian context Joshua might be understood to relate to what it means to live so as to move to possess or inherit the ‘kingdom of God’, an idea that will need further exploration.—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 123

and, a bit later

Indeed, perhaps a weakness of traditional Christian readings of the Jordan crossing is that the crossing has been interpreted ‘atomistically’ and somewhat independently of its narrative context, a context that gives content to something of what is envisaged in the nature of the new life of the community being entered.—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 133

<idle musing>
It will be interesting to see how he develops it...
</idle musing>

Monday, April 26, 2010

Signs of Spring

Most would say that the blooms and blossoms are signs of spring. I have different take; here's a picture of our canning shelf.

So many empty jars means spring is here!

While I'm at it, I made brick cheese over the weekend. We'll see it it took in about 2 weeks. Meantime, it is (hopefully) incubating in this makeshift humidity box (bottom shelf on the left):

Every day I have to wipe it down with a brine mixture to keep the bad bacteria from growing. And, we opened the next 1/2 pound of cheddar yesterday; it was even better after another week of aging.

Cheese making tip of the week: Always clean up with cold water. Hot water sets the curd and makes it virtually impossible to get out! You heard it here :)

Substitionary atonement in the early church

“Of particular importance here is the translation of חרם [Herem], for it is rendered as ἀνάθεμα [anathema] in the Greek of Josh 6:17, which is a crucial interpretative move that sets up all sorts of resonances and allusions that are not present in the Hebrew. For example, one might expect the use of ἀνάθεμα in Gal 3:13 (citing Deut 21:23, applied to the crucifixion) to set up a resonance with its use in Joshua in the Greek, which (returning to Hebrew) might serve as the basis for a typology in which חרם could be said to be ‘fulfilled’ in Jesus on the cross, in that he takes the ‘ חרם of the world’ onto himself, perhaps reflecting a ‘substitutionary’ understanding of the crucifixion. But it is interesting that there is no evidence of that sort of move being made in the early Christian tradition, despite the common imaginative use made of similar typology. This observation might suggest that there was little interest in interpreting the crucifixion using the category of ‘substitutionary atonement’ within the early church.”— Earl, pp. 118-119

<idle musing>
Isn't that interesting? And this is especially so in light of the huge battles being waged now on “substitutionary atonement” versus any other understanding of the atonement! If we want to pay more than lip service to the early church, maybe we should learn from them—even if it means we have to acknowledge that some emerging elements of the church might be right, after all. Nah! Never happen; they can't be right, can they?

Watch out for the NIH monster (not invented here) in your theology! God was moving and giving insight long before you or I were born. And, he didn't stop giving wisdom and insight to others once we came along. A bit—ok, a lot—of humility will go a long way! Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, April 23, 2010

Who am I?

"There is, in short, a real "I" who believes — yet at the same time, it is "not I, but Christ" (Gal. 2:20). Barth's whole doctrine of reconciliation could be read as one massive theological exposition of this Pauline dictum. I participate in the history of Jesus; I am activated by the event of his faithful existence. Within his history, I become a new creature, a new subject liberated for faithful response to God. Within his death and resurrection, I live — yet not I, but Christ, since his faithfulness to God is the internal determining principle of my own subjectivity. My history is imprinted with Christ's, so that even the imitatio Christi is not my own work, but his — and in that way, it is truly my work.

"I live — yet not I, but Christ." In Barth's hands, this paradox becomes a christological rendering of the nature of subjectivity itself. all Christian existence is imitatio Christi, since the Sirit has fashioned us from the mould of Jesus' faithful existence. Through the power of the Spirit, the history of Jesus generates its own corresponding imitatio — and it is true imitatio just because it is real participatio. the Cristian is a real "I" who responds faithfully to God, but this "I" is always already formed by Jesus' own history of πίστις before God."The Faith of Jesus Christ:, page 307

<idle musing>
I like that; a very good exposition on Galatians 2:20; I don't think I've heard a better one.
</idle musing>

This week

has been a blur. Last weekend, Jim Baad and I started building the hoop house. We got the frame together and up, but no plastic on it Friday. Saturday, I got 4 pickup loads of compost, and one of wood chips, and bought the plastic. That about filled the day. Sunday, I started filling the boxes that were left to fill. And that about took Sunday.

Monday evening, with Debbie's help, I put half the plastic on the hoop house. Tuesday, I finished the plastic, including a door on the west end. Wednesday it was windy and it showed me that I really wasn't done—the wind managed to loosen some of the plastic on the ends and sides. So, Wednesday evening I tightened up the structure.

Finally, last night, I was able to plant stuff. I planted the potatoes and piled 6 inches of straw over them. To keep the wind from stealing the straw, I put row cover over the bed. Most of an 18 foot bed is filled with potatoes. Then I planted about 1.5 pounds of onion sets and some more spinach, radishes, rutabaga, and maché. I also planted some cucumbers, wax beans, 2 kinds of green beans, and kohlrabi in the hoop house.

The stuff I planted in the cold frames is doing well. The spinach is almost ready to cut; the radishes are developing nicely, the beets look good. The peas are almost too tall to shut the door at night and should start blossoming soon. The onions are looking very good; they are almost too tall for the frame, too.

With all this gardening, I haven't had time to make more cheese, but I'm hoping to make some brick tomorrow. The cheddar is now 6 weeks old. We tried some last Friday night; it is quite sharp and has a good flavor—at least that's what Debbie, Jim, and Shannon told me :) It is a bit dry; I think I pressed it to long, or maybe it got too hot. I still have 1.5 pounds aging in the basement.

We experimented with yogurt this week. Debbie was wanting thicker yogurt for something she was doing, so we made a quart with Half & Half™. It was just like sour cream, but sweeter. Wow! Get all of your daily fat and calorie needs in one small tablespoon full!

Here's two pictures of the hoop house:

Looking from the south. There are two 16 x 3 beds inside.

Looking from the west. In the foreground are the peas and onions in their cold frames

Thursday, April 22, 2010


"Barth's crucial emphasis here is on our participation within the heilsgeschichtlich [salvation historical) occurrence of Jesus' death and resurrection. Through the Spirit we are inserted into Jesus' history, so that the history of Jesus becomes our "own Heilsgeschichte". This is how Barth understands baptism with the Spirit; we are plunged into the history of Jesus, incorporated in his death and resurrection. Through the Spirit, we participate in Jesus' own faithfulness to God, with the result that we also "turn to faithfulness in God".

"Barth thus insists that participation in Christ is not merely the production of new "religious and moral impulses", nor an infusion of supernatural capacities, nor again a mere forensic declaration that leaves us essentially unaltered. Such conceptions, Barth observes, all share one thing in common: they fail to explain "how the Christian comes into existence, the person who responds to God's faithfulness with faithfulness". In contrast, the reality of Christian existence is to be explained by the Spirit as the power of participation.""—The Faith of Jesus Christ:, pages 300-301

<idle musing>
That is refreshingly God-centered and Trinitarian. So often salvation is made into a man-centered, Jesus-only thing. Here, we have the whole Trinity moving together to save us from ourselves.
</idle musing>

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the 40th one. It seems ironic now, but back when Nixon (a conservative, mind you!) proposed the first one, the radical anti-war people (the liberals, mind you!) accused him of trying to take the eyes of the public off the war in Vietnam.

How times have changed! Now, Earth Day is seen by many conservatives as a plot to become a socialist country, or to push a mother earth goddess onto us all. But, I wonder what God thinks of our exploitation of others and the earth? Maybe we should re-read some of those biblical texts about stewardship, servanthood (ironic that my spell checker doesn't recognize servanthood as a legitimate word!), sabbath rest for the land, etc... Just an
<idle musing>

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Barth and faith

Resuming the interrupted excerpts from The Faith of Jesus Christ:, Ben Myers writes:

Faith is not the opposite of works, therefore, it is the opposite of religion. So Barth contrasts faith with "devout contemplation" and "experience" and whatever can be "handed down by tradition" — in a word, he opposes faith to "every positive religious achievement". Indeed, he insists that there is no "way of salvation" (Heilsweg) at all — there is only the darkness and scandal of Jesus' death. And by the faithful action of God, we are made to participate in this death. Our existence is seized and displaced, and we are situated within Jesus' own history. In short: "Grace...means neither that human beings can or should do something, nor that they can or should do nothing. Grace means that God does something." Thus the real contrast, for Barth, is not between faith and works but between the faithful "action of God" on the one hand and "all human doing or not-doing" on the other.—The Faith of Jesus Christ:, pages 295-296

<idle musing>
I really like that; it places the emphasis squarely on God's activity in salvation. It also emphasizes the positional status of the believer—dead to sin and alive in Christ. Wonderful summary of the good news!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What kind of God?

Robin Parry comments on the kind of god many people are looking for versus the God he wants:

I don't want God as an inflated version of my best mate (who is always in a good mood and just wants to cuddle people when they fall down). I want a God who smokes (in the Sinai sense). I want the transcendent-immanent God of the Bible. I want to know the God who surpasses knowledge.

Don't give me that slushy-puppy-God and don't teach my kids that God is like that!

Give us the God that makes us fall down on our faces in wonder, love, and awe. Anything else is in danger of being an idol.

<idle musing>
Personally, I agree with Robin. Don't give me a "nice" god; that would be too much in my own image. I need a God that can save me from myself!
</idle musing>

Monday, April 19, 2010

Preach it, brother!

Jim West talks about Goldman Sachs and their bonuses (which are way too high), but then comments: "Being the thief of $3 is just as much a sin as being the thief of $3 billion. And all such greed driven sin arises because our entire western culture is bereft of an ethical center."

<idle musing>
As many have heard me say, when money is your god, you will do anything to serve that god...
</idle musing>

Friday, April 16, 2010

Entrusted to Jesus

"The believer entrusts himself or herself to Jesus in a way that Jesus would not entrust himself to human beings ([John] 2:24). An interesting contrast is thereby set up. Jesus would not entrust himself to human beings because he knew them and what was in them ans what was in their hearts. by the end of the gospel, the readers of the gospel are invited to entrust themselves to Jesus because they have seen what is in the heart of Jesus; the have seen the revelation of the Father and his love and can therefore entrust themselves to both with confidence."The Faith of Jesus Christ:, page 235

<idle musing>
I had never noticed that before; quite the contrast, isn't it? The evidence reveals that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are fully trustworthy. I'll take the plunge!
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New book

I just received

The Filioque
History of a Docrinal Controversy
by A. Edward Siecienski
Oxford University Press, April 2010
368 pages, English
ISBN: 9780195372045
List Price: $49.95
Your Price: $44.96

I can't wait to read it! I think it will jump to the head of the line of books I'm trying to read. Thanks to Jennifer at Oxford for it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How old is too old?

Out of Ur asks if 26 is the new 18, based on the new health care law. Apparently so, if we go by the statistics. But, is that a good thing? Here's what he says, in part:

“The continuing relationship between parents and young adult children is a really momentous change in the operational meaning of being a parent in the early 21st century,” Brookings senior fellow William Galston told The Washington Post. “No one resists or resents it. Young people expect it.”

They expect it because their parents won’t let them fail. Some employers report phone calls from parents demanding to know why their son or daughter did not get a job. It’s understandable that parents would want to ensure a secure standard of living for their children. But that’s just the problem. Parents may actually train their children to immediately expect the same standard of living they achieved after decades of work. No wonder their children don’t think they can get married until 30 and have secured a suitable paycheck, good health benefits, and a nice home of their own.

<idle musing>
"Train up a child" goes both ways, unfortunately. Training your children to expect life to be easy and have everything handed to them on a platter is sinful on the parents' part and encourages a cor curvatus in se—a heart curved in on itself—on the child's part.

Let the kid fail! Someday they are going to; everybody does! If you let them fail when they are younger, the damage is less and, hopefully, they will learn...

OK, go ahead and shred me for that :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Faith in the gospel of John

As promised, the first of a few excerpts from The Faith of Jesus Christ::

[Raymond] Brown echoes a general consensus when he remarks that the use of the verb marks for John a sense that faith is not an internal disposition so much as an active commitment. [W.] Carter comments further that the verb and its various forms denote 'an activity that constitutes and expresses an identity in an ongoing way of life...It has the sense of living faithfully and loyally, of acting with fidelity'. This is reflected in his suggestion that instead of 'believe' the verb πιστέυω [PISTEUW] be more frequently translated 'entrust' so as to communicate a dynamic sense of commitment and attachment and emphasize the activity involved.—The Faith of Jesus Christ:, p 234

<idle musing>
I like that, entrust. I think we have used the word "faith" so much that it has almost ceased to have any meaning. Maybe if we used "entrust" it would make us see things a bit differently? What do you think?
</idle musing>

Strange book description

As I've mentioned many times, I get lots of book catalogs—I'm a book buyer, after all! Well, today I got a catalog from a well-known distributor, displaying their wares. I happened to glance at the description of a book with a strong dispensational, pre-tribulational, Israel of now is the Israel of prophecy, Iraq is the source of all evil, etc., viewpoint. After a paragraph describing the way the end will come, they ended with these sentences:

With the Kingdom's inauguration will come a cessation of global hostilities. Peace alas!

<idle musing>
Bad proof reading, or Freudian slip?
</idle musing>

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend doings

Over the weekend a lot of garden work got done. Last year, Debbie, Jim, and Shannon convinced me to abandon my 25 + year objection to raised beds, so this weekend was the weekend to build most of them and fill them with 10 inches of compost.

We get the compost free from the city of Warsaw. They have an excellent composting program; they take the leaves and brush that they collect and compost it, giving it back to the community for 6 weeks every Spring and Fall. This weekend was the first of the Spring weekends, so Jim drove down from Goshen early Saturday to grab the first load. They are only open from 8-12 on Saturday morning, so it is a fight against the clock to get what you can.

We managed to get 4 loads, which is one more than I had managed last year. We spent the rest of the day building 5 new beds, transplanting raspberries, and filling some of the beds. A very time consuming task. By the end of the day, we were both a bit tired, but happy with the results.

Sunday, I finished transplanting most of the raspberries—they were in the garden last year and we are making 2 separate beds for them this year, and filled the remaining beds with compost. Because I ended up with too many raspberry plants for the 2 beds, I made a smaller bed on the west side of the garden; I'll transplant the rest of the plants tonight.

I also found time to transplant the tomato seedlings into a cold frame. I'll let them grow there until it is warm enough for them to survive in the open. I also planted 3 rows of carrots in the frame to fill it out. And, I planted some more peas.

Overall, a very profitable weekend...

The Faith of Jesus Christ

The Faith of Jesus Christ:

The Faith of Jesus Christ:
Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies

Edited by Michael Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle
Hendrickson Publishers, 2009
356 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781598564297
List Price: $19.95
Your Price: $16.96

I recently finished this book. It is a great introduction to the status questionis (state of research) on the whole πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) debate. The books examines all the major (and some minor) suggestions that have been proposed over the years, so if you want a quick (well, not terribly quick) update, this is the book to read. It is full of technical arguments from the Greek and exegetical gymnastics defending each position.

The two article I found the most interesting were the one on the gospel of John, and the one by Ben Myers, probably because they are tangential to the normal arguments :)

I'll be excerpting from them this week.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Why do people walk away?

There is an article at Out of Ur on why people leave the church. He identifies two reasons:

The biblical understanding of a “wonderful life” looks dramatically different than the consumer culture’s definition of a “wonderful life.” If this assumption is never identified, named, and deconstructed, a person may hear “God love you and has a wonderful plan for your life” very differently than we intend. This is the problem we must begin to address if we hope to slow the exodus of people from the church. It’s not that we are failing to preach the gospel, but that we are failing to deconstruct the consumer filter through which people twist and receive it. The result is a hybrid consumer gospel in which God exists to serve me and accomplish my desires in exchange for my obedience—voila, Moralistic Divination.

He calls that the false gospel. People leave because their theology demands a god who serves them. The other reason he identifies is the structure of many churches:

Unfortunately for the last few decades, our ecclesiology in North America has been heavily influenced by the values of secular corporations. And I can’t think of a profitable corporation that has achieved success by promoting love above efficiency.

<idle musing>
Take the time to read the whole thing. But, it seems in both cases it boils down to a church that is too enamored with the world to be different from it. Jesus said that we would be known as his disciples by our love—not the size of our congregations or budgets. Not by the correctness of our doctrine, but by our love. Why do we always get it backwards? (Rhetorical question)
<idle musing>

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Thought for the day

I get lots of e-mails, many of them plugging new books. Yesterday I received one from Smyth & Helwys plugging a new book titled Hoping Liberia: Stories of Civil War from Africa’s First Republic. Eisenbrauns won't carry it; it isn't our kind of book. But, the opening paragraph caught my eye:

Where does hope begin? Strangely enough, hope begins with depravity. We do not hope unless we are without. If we have it, we don't hope for it, whatever "it" might be.

<idle musing>
Interesting place to begin, isn't it? I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it is true. If we know we have nothing, then we can begin to hope for something—in this case holiness.

You can read the first chapter here
<idle musing>

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tozer on Tuesdays

If you like Tozer (and you should at least read him before you say, "no"), you might be interested in a new series that Out of Ur is running: Tuesdays with Tozer. Here's a snippet from today's:

What made Tozer extraordinary was his approach to prayer and faith. He became enthralled by God in a way few men or women do-though many hope to. In his first editorial, he wrote:

“It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”

<idle musing>
I love reading Tozer; he was a man ahead of his time. He saw the problems that are plaguing the church before others noticed them. Even now, reading him is fresh and alive. Would that there were more writers like that...
</idle musing>

Monday, April 05, 2010

how does your garden grow?

I took a few shots of the cold frames on Saturday; thought you might enjoy the end of Sunday, they were a lot bigger.

Radishes, spinach, romaine lettuce, and beets:

Snap peas:


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Special Eisenbrauns April First sale!

Breaking news from Eisenbrauns:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

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