Monday, October 31, 2011

Running the Cosmos

“The cosmic deities do not govern the cosmos from an independent existence outside the cosmos. The cosmos functions as a result of the gods’ being who they are. The daily function of the cosmos is the story of the lives of the cosmic deities. They are not only manifest in the components of the cosmos; the cosmos is their very identity. Though mythology developed personalities for these deities in narrative contexts, the foundation of these personalities is grounded in their cosmic identity. Running the cosmos is not something they do; it is a result of who and what they are. It is from this cosmic identity that their portfolio of competencies is derived. Cosmic deities are those who are associated with the static aspects of the cosmos.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 65

Study Bibles

David Lamb has a wonderful post on study Bible here. Here's an excerpt:

I want to invoke the curse at the end of Revelation (21:18-19), which states that if anyone adds to the words of the prophecy, all the nasty things that Revelation describes will come upon them. Seems appropriate, don’t you think?

Why? A valid question.

The comments in Study Bibles appear to have the same authority as Scripture because they are printed right there on the same page. That’s scary. Hence the Revelation curse. In fact, since the comments often attempt to clarify an unclear text, they seem to have more authority than God’s word. Obviously, discerning readers will view the comments critically and take them with a grain of salt, but most people don’t do that.

I can’t count the number of times during a Bible discussion someone says, “Well, my Bible says…”. I ask, “Is that your Bible, or a note in the margin?” It’s usually a Study Bible comment...

<idle musing>
A man after my own heart! I have had people say the same thing about a note in their study Bible. In their mind, if it is on the same page as the text, it is equal to the text in authority. I have but one answer, "NO!"
</idle musing>

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thomas got a bum rap

The apostle Thomas, that is. A co-worker forwarded a link to me that was primarily about the arts and Christianity (it's quite good, although relatively old, 2005). Anyway, buried in there was this wonderful paragraph:

Thomas has said he won't believe unless he can actually put his finger into the mark of the nails, thrust his hand into the place where the spear went into Jesus' side. And it would have been better if Thomas had believed without needing that, but Jesus meets him where he is. "OK, Thomas, here are my hands, here's my side, don't be faithless. But believe." And Thomas takes the flying leap of faith and doesn't just say, "OK, all right, I believe." He says what none of the others have said to this point, "My Lord and my God."

<idle musing>
See what I mean? Thomas is called "doubting" Thomas—but he is the first one to make the connection. He got a bum rap in history; he should be celebrated as the first one who truly comprehended (after the resurrection) who Jesus was.
</idle musing>

Cosmos as people

“In our modern, material ontology, we are inclined to think of the cosmos as a machine—often with no one running it (that is, the modern perspective is dysteleological). When we moderns think about the ancient world (including the Bible), it is most natural for us to imagine that ancient peoples simply thought of the world as a machine with Someone running it, rather than seeing that they did not in any respect conceive of the world as a machine. In the ancient functional ontology, the cosmos is more like a business. In this metaphor, it is clear that a business only functions in relationship to people, both the company’s employees and its customers.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 45

Thursday, October 27, 2011

But it's not that simple

“The idea that the ancients did not have a material ontology of course does not mean that they had no interest in or awareness of the physical world around them. That is, it is not as if they had a mystical view of the world rather than paying attention to the real world they experienced every day. The point is, however, that to them the 'real' world was a world of divine presence and activity. Their cosmological ontology reflects that it is the functioning of that ordered, real world that is of importance, not its physical makeup or the physical origins of the material objects.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 44


“In a material ontology, the world is full of objects. To us moderns, a cow or a tree can be nothing more than an object to be exploited for its material value (milk and meat in the case of the cow, wood or maybe shade or even beauty in the case of the tree). But in some cultures, where cows or trees have religious significance, they do not serve as objects that function only in terms of their material components or offer only material for exploitation. Although giving milk or shade are functions, the cow and tree are considered to have sacred functions that at times preclude the exploitation of their material functions. They have been personified (imbued with the divine) or at least sacralized. The personification or sacralization of material things was common in the ancient Near East. Israel’s theology moved away from the sacralization of the surrounding world. Isaiah the prophet argues that the wood used to make an idol is nothing more than wood and cannot attain the sacralized status that was attributed to the wood through the image-making process. But though the world around them was desacralized by Israel, this does not mean that the material of the world was objectified. The function performed by anything in the world is a result of its having been assigned this function by deity. The physical properties of the thing are designed to facilitate this function rather than to determine it. Israel’s movement toward desacralization may have been the first step toward a material ontology, but the functional perspective continued to dominate its understanding of the world.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, pages 44-45

<idle musing>
Take away sentence: "But though the world around them was desacralized by Israel, this does not mean that the material of the world was objectified." In a lot of ways, I wish that were still true. We see nature as something to be conquered and overcome instead of something to live in communion with. Look at the pesticides and herbicides that we use; look at the earth that we move to create subdivisions—to say nothing of all the trees that get chopped down in the process...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I don't follow sports at all anymore. I used to follow professional cycling, but that got too drug infested, so I gave up following it. Anyway, that disclaimer aside, Michael Gorman has an interesting observation about baseball and God and nationalism:

The God revealed in Jesus Christ is not interested in blessing America or Americans any more than any other nation or individuals. Even more importantly, the God revealed in Jesus Christ has absolutely no interest in blessing the American military machine or furthering American military interests around the world. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Sports have their place in any culture. But they can become, and in the U.S. have become, another arm of nationalistic and even militaristic propaganda. The book of Revelation might counsel us to be wary, and even to “come out.”

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! Read the whole post, it is very short.
</idle musing>

Give it a function

“The acts of creation involved naming, separating, and temple building. This coincides with what Eliade observed [Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (New York: Harper, 1954)] concerning the perspective prevalent in the ancient world: the 'ontological thirst' of the ancients was the pursuit of a view of reality that could give meaning to life. Modern material ontology offers no secure understanding of the meaning of life, but the functional ontology of ancient Near Eastern peoples gave meaning to the reality that they experienced in the way the world worked.

“In the ancient cognitive environment, it was more important to determine who controlled functions than who or what gave something its physical form. We could therefore conclude that in the ancient world something was created when it was given a function.Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 43

<idle musing>
I could try to be funny and make a snide remark about some people not really existing...but I won't :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's the matter?

“In Mesopotamian sources, as in Egypt, when the texts report on the components of the cosmos, the building blocks overwhelmingly involve functional aspects of these components rather than treating them primarily as material objects. Even when material objects are mentioned, it is their functions, not the structures or substance of these material objects that are the focus of attention. Causation, likewise, was not thought of as involving material natural processes; instead, causation is always the prerogative of deity.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 42

<idle musing>
Simply put, matter doesn't matter :)
</idle musing>

Monday, October 24, 2011

Creation as separation

“The principal acts of creation [in the Enuma Elish] are naming, separating, and temple building. While separating holds a prominent position in Egyptian and Sumerian texts, the significance of naming can be seen in its role in Enuma Elish...”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 34

<idle musing>
Pay attention. This is the beginning of his argument for the importance of the temple...
</idle musing>

What I've been reading lately

My sidebar doesn't reflect it, largely because I have been reading them too quickly to keep up, but here's a quick run down:
The China Study, Forks over Knives, The Engine 2 Diet, Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole. You can pick them up at your local bookstore, or order them here. I checked most of them out of the library.

As I was musing over the weekend about the path we've decided on, I realized that it was just a small step along the journey that began way back in college and before. I started adding whole grains back into my diet then; I've always been a fruit and vegetable guy. As the kids were growing up, we slacked off on the whole grains a bit and had more meat/fish than before. But, while I was working for a video wholesaler in the 1990s, I was exposed to Covert Bailey. He had a PBS program that we sold and I received a free video.

The video led to reading his books, especially Fit or Fat (which is now revised) and Smart Exercise. We made changes to our diet, incorporating more whole grains, dropping more fats out, etc. The stuff that I've learned in the last 2 weeks simply confirms what he was saying back then—just a bit more.

So, if you are looking for more reading, there you go...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quite the difference

“That all of the world was governed by the gods’ activities is an integral element of the cognitive environment of the ancient world, and it is diametrically opposed to the reigning modern paradigm, which is thoroughly dysteleological: origins and causation are seen in impersonal terms, the simple result of random reactions within the bounds of natural laws, discernible only within an empirical framework.”Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 38

<idle musing>
That is a significant difference in viewpoints. No wonder we don't "get" Genesis and the rest of the Bible so often. As I said yesterday, we're asking the wrong questions.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From unity to diversity

“Egyptians were not concerned with abstractions such as the eternality of matter, nor were they interested in the origin of matter per se; but the continuity of matter from the original precosmic condition to the current state of differentiated elements was of utmost importance. Creation involved the transition from primordial unity to the diversity of the world that they experienced.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 28

“The [Egyptian] texts are more interested in the unfolding process than the means or mechanisms by which the unfolding was accomplished. First and foremost, creation was considered to be not an account of the manufacturing of material things but a teleological account that reflected divine purpose.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 29

<idle musing>
As were the other ANE civilizations—including the Israelites. We are simply asking the wrong questions...
</idle musing>


I had a request for the recipes yesterday, so here you go. I don't claim they are anything special, but I like them.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/4 cup sugar/honey <---this was too sweet for me; try halving it
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients, add the liquid ones and mix. Avoid overmixing as it develops the gluten and make a tougher cornbread. Pour into a 9x9 glass pan. Bake at 350ºF for 22 minutes (may vary, depending on your oven).

2 quarts stewed tomatoes (I use home canned, obviously)
1 small can of tomato paste
1/4 t cummin
1/4 t chili powder
1/4 t paprika
chili peppers (I used a small can because I didn't grow them this year)
3 onions, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
simmer for about an hour, stirring periodically
add a can of kidney beans and heat through (about 30 minutes) (I have used dried kidney beans in the past, but they take forever to rehydrate!)

I add a few drops of habanero sauce to my bowl; it is too strong for Debbie, so I don't add it to the main pot. I also broke up some cornbread and added it to my bowl. I didn't miss the cheese.

We finished up the leftovers last night. The cornbread didn't age very well; it was still ok, but without the oil and egg, it gets old quickly, so eat it the first day :)

About substituting the flour in the cornbread recipe: our granddaughter is celiac, so our daughter started a blog that has some information. I know Renee found a good substitute for flour—a mix of various stuff. It actually is quite good; I eat it when we are visiting them. Maybe Renee would be willing to post it in the comments?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


“In the Classical world, Chaos in Hesiod’s Theogony and in Virgil’s Aeneid is personified as the primal state in which earth, sky, and seas were all merged. More generally, chaos is the opposite of cosmos, which refers to the ordered whole. It is this latter juxtaposition that is particularly evident in the ancient Near East. Egyptian philosophers conceived of the precreation state as the opposite of the created state. In Mesopotamian views of the precosmic condition, chaos was personified only secondarily in the conflict myths in which the created order was considered to be at risk. In this cosmological literature, the creatures posing the threat must be overthrown and order reestablished.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 27

Update on food

So, it has been one week now since the dairy and eggs disappeared. I have to say that I really haven't noticed the difference. The pizza was a bit strange without cheese, but I found that I could detect the flavors of the various ingredients better. I liked it.

One thing I have noticed is that the granola seems sweeter without milk—as did the cornbread we made last night. That was an experiment that turned out, but I wasn't too sure at first. I made chili and we wanted to have cornbread to go with it; I haven't been able to find a recipe without egg, milk, or butter/oil. So, we improvised. I substituted water for the milk, skipped the egg, and used applesauce for the oil. The texture of the batter was a bit strange, so I wasn't sure. I checked it after 12 minutes and it looked ok. I checked it again at 22 minutes and took it out. Believe it or not, it was good—except it was too sweet. Next time I'll reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons; if that isn't sweet enough, then I'll try 3 tablespoons. I know some of you were raised without sugar in your cornbread, but I like it a bit sweet.

The chili was good, too, but I've always made vegetarian chili, so that was no change. The one difference was that I didn't add cheese to my bowl, but I really didn't miss it. On the whole, not much has changed in my diet, except dropping the dairy. We've been experimenting with some recipes. Some work, some don't. But, that's always been true :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Some miscellaneous stuff that you might enjoy.

From the Wall Street Journal, about The Science of Irrationality:

We like to see ourselves as a Promethean species, uniquely endowed with the gift of reason. But Mr. Kahneman's simple experiments reveal a very different mind, stuffed full of habits that, in most situations, lead us astray. Though overconfidence may encourage us to take necessary risks—Mr. Kahneman calls it the "engine of capitalism"—it's generally a dangerous (and expensive) illusion.

What's even more upsetting is that these habits are virtually impossible to fix. As Mr. Kahneman himself admits, "My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions and the planning fallacy as it was before I made a study of these issues."

Read the whole thing, though. It is quite short, but good food for thought. We certainly aren't rational!

From Michael Gorman's blog:

...In addition to its approximately 1,000 military bases worldwide, the U.S. has drone operations in and from numerous countries. And, according to this apparently well-researched article, “In less than three years under President Obama, the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. It maintains that it has carte blanche to kill suspected enemies in any nation (or at least any nation in the global south).”

I know that many “progressive” Christians have been huge fans of Obama. Christians of all stripes need to remember that empires with two parties are still empires.

Killing should bother us—especially such impersonal killing and disregard for other nation's borders. Can you say hubris?

From the Brazos blog:

We are not so much integrating human and technology as we are confusing the two.

And for that reason, I think that the trend will continue, and even accelerate. Too few people are asking questions about what is desirable. We tend to ask, instead, only about what is possible. That is the nature of a culture, like ours, that is enamored with technology, and sees it as a means of salvation. And my main response to this is a simple line of questions. “Has it made us happier persons? Has it made us more content as persons? Has it made us better persons?”

Yep; sadly, we worship technology.

Finally, Roger Olson cites some examples of the exegesis of Romans 9, both Calvinist and Arminian, that don't go the double predestination route. He concludes with these thoughts:

But, as I said earlier, it is not only Arminians who offer exegesis of Romans 9 that conflicts with traditional Calvinist interpretations. Lesslie Newbigin, for example (hardly an Arminian!), also explained Romans 9 in the Arminian manner (which is also how it was interpreted by ALL the church fathers before Augustine!)–as dealing with nations and service rather than individuals and their salvation.

Finally, Arminius himself offered a very cogent exegesis of Romans 9.

My point in quoting Wesley was NOT (as some disingenuously imply) to say that Arminians have no alternative explanation of Romans 9 based on exegesis. It as simply to say that ANY interpretation of Romans 9 or of ANY OTHER scripture that makes God arbitrary and unloving, in brief, a monster, is impossible BECAUSE there is no reason to believe Scripture if God, its author, is evil and not good. The (perhaps unintended) view of God as actually WANTING many people to suffer eternally in the flames of hell for his glory (as Theodore Beza asserted) undermines the validity of Scripture itself. It makes it untrustworthy because it is only trustworthy if God is trustworthy and an evil God is not trustworthy.

Amen and amen!

Materialism in the deepest sense

“In the post-Enlightenment Western world, the framework of cosmic ontology has become strictly material—that is, the cosmos is perceived to exist because it has material properties that can be detected by the senses. The functioning of the cosmos is consequently understood as resulting from its material properties, and its origins are described in material terms. In a material ontology, something is created when it is given or otherwise gains its material properties. In material ontology, there is great interest in investigating and understanding the physical nature of reality, especially in terms of its building blocks, from the smallest constituents, including molecules, atoms, cells, quarks, and so on (the constituent parts), to the largest agglomerations of constituents, including planets, solar systems, and galaxies. In a material ontology, material origins are of ultimate importance and of central concern.

“However, we have no reason to think that cosmic ontology in the ancient world was conceived as having a material basis. Though an ancient material cosmic ontology cannot be ruled out, it certainly should not be assumed as the starting point for our consideration. Good methodology demands that we take our lead from the texts themselves when thinking about how the ancients framed their own ontological perspectives. If their ontology was not material, then they likely would have had little interest in material origins. The focus of their ontology would also naturally be reflected in their accounts of origins.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, pages 23-24

Monday, October 17, 2011


“...understanding the Hebrew Bible requires its interpreters to recognize the pervasive connection that ancient Israel had with the legacy of ancient Near Eastern literature and thought. This relationship, however, is not merely a matter of literary adoption at some point in time; that is, we cannot simply consider what we may think Israel has derived from contemporary literature. The relationship is more complex, because Israelite literature reflects the broad ancient stream of culture from which it was watered in the course of centuries or even millennia. As a result, the issue is not whether Israel borrowed or adopted another culture’s ideas. The stream was so pervasive and persistent that some of the ideas we are considering had become a “native” way of thinking; they had long been a part of the conceptual framework of the ancient world and had much earlier taken root in whatever context(s) the Israelite cognitive environment took shape.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 13

<idle musing>
Indeed. The idea of "borrowing" that was so pervasive a generation or two ago is overly simplistic. After all, does a fish know it's wet?
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

“Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter with their lips
but harbor deception in their hearts.

“May the LORD silence all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue—
those who say,
'By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?'
“'Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,' says the LORD.
'I will protect them from those who malign them.'
“And the words of the LORD are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold refined seven times.

“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
while depravity is honored by the human race.”—Psalm 12:2-8 TNIV

Eisenbrauns annual ASOR/AAR/SBL in October sale

I love this sale, although it is a lot of work to put together. Anyway, here's the announcement.

Friday, October 14, 2011

OK, that's it

I finished The China Study last night. But, even before that, I had made up my mind—and acted on it. I'm done with animal protein. No more. Nada.

What did it? The chapter on prostate cancer. My dad already had an enlarged prostate over 15 years ago and there is some evidence that it could be genetic. Large intake of dairy products was shown to increase your chances between 2-4 times. Later, he cited a study that said 9.5 times. Not worth it!

So, why not just reduce? The data showed that if you kept animal protein under 10% of your protein intake, everything was fine. Right. That's something like a 1/2 cup of milk/yogurt or 1 ounce of cheese a day. Why bother? Besides, I was nearly a vegetarian anyway.

Just to give some perspective, I'm healthy and quite fit. My resting heart rate is in the low 50s. My cholesterol was under 100 the last time I had it checked. I ride 11 miles a day to work and back all year round. I don't take any medication—prescription or otherwise. I like it that way; I don't want to increase any risk that there might be in ingesting animal protein. Oh, and my grandfather was a dairy farmer. I spent many hours on that farm growing up. I was drinking a quart of milk a day and loving it—until this week, so I'm anything but anti-dairy.

I welcome your feedback—even if you tell me that the study is flawed (it isn't, but the dairy and meat industrie$ would like you to think $o...).

The ancient cosmos

“It is clear from the cosmological literature of the ancient Near East that order in the cosmos and the control of the functions of the cosmos were more prominent in the ancient thought world than any consideration of the material origins of the cosmos. In what follows, I will show that ancient Near Eastern literature is concerned primarily with order and control of functions of the world that exists rather than with speculations about how the material world that exists came into being... A study of these concepts reveals how pervasive the issues of rule and authority were for ancient thinking. The model of the cosmos as a kingdom was more relevant in the ancient world than our modern model of the cosmos, which typically portrays it as a machine.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, pages 8-9


We just received a shipment from Germany today. Ouch is the best way to describe it

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Watch your perspective

“As with any other attempt to place ideas in context, comparing and contrasting the cognitive environment are both important. One of the most obvious dangers in this process is that we impose our modern cognitive environment on the ancients simply because we have failed to recognize that our own categories are not relevant to the ancients’ way of thinking. For instance, it was long claimed that Enuma Elish should not be considered a creation text because nothing was actually “made” by Marduk. This claim arises out of a basic assumption that the ancient understanding of the creative act should correspond to our own—or even more so, that creative activity can only be construed in one way (our modern way!). Consequently, the first important guideline to bear in mind is that we cannot seek to construe their world in our terms.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 6

<idle musing>
A very important, and usually overlooked point. We are frequently asking the wrong kinds of questions from the text. We need to see the text with fresh eyes, eyes that aren't glazed over with preconceived ideas of what it is saying.
</idle musing>

From an internal e-mail

"...repetitive reading of Eisenbrauns titles could render one more literate, geeky, or historically accurate with bouts of bibliographic brain swelling. Eisenbrauns titles are not to be taken in combination with doses of Biblical Archaeological Review or violent reactions may result with episodes of prolonged agitation."

<idle musing>
Sometimes the people I work with are almost too creative : )
</idle musing>


A delightful little musing on a parent who gave up her iPad for reading (do read the whole thing; it's short, but sweet):

I did love my Kindle app. I still do. But the most relevant feature of the iPad is that while reading is one option, Angry Birds and Facebook and e-mail are others, all available at a swipe.

A book — a real book — is one choice, taken from a pile, opened and entered as its own singular, separate world. Once chosen, you are not holding the constant opportunity to alter or improve your choice, or simply change it just for the sake of restless change. You are there, now, without the relentless pressure of the fact that you could always be, and maybe you should be, maybe you’d be happier or more productive or different, doing something else. It’s a choice I hope my kids will decide to make, often.

<idle musing>
I think that summarizes very well the difference between a physical book and an e-book. I read a lot on the screen, but I also get distracted a lot when I do. With a book, not so much...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Context is king

This is the first of series of excerpts from John Walton's new book from Eisenbrauns, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology:

“Reconstructing literary relationships often becomes an elaborate connect-the-dots game in which the results resemble more the apparent randomness of a Rorschach inkblot test than the clear literary links that are claimed. Our efforts should focus on using all the literature at our disposal to reconstruct the ancient cognitive environment, which can then serve as the backdrop for understanding each literary work. Rather than employing comparative methodology as an apologetic serving our own ideologies, promoting theological or antitheological agendas, we must as careful scholars allow the text, as a product of its cognitive environment, to be interpreted within the context of this cognitive environment.”—Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, page 2

Thought for the day

And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.—Zechariah 7:8-12 TNIV

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Last weekend, Jim, Shannon, and little Jacob came over. We had grown some potatoes and acorn squash for them and it was time to harvest it. One of the many things we talked about was a book that Jim was reading, The China Study. He had found out about it through a documentary that Shannon has discovered, Forks over Knives, which explored the role of protein in our diet. Wow, scary stuff.

Now, Debbie and I have been essentially ovo-lacto vegetarians for years. Not because we're anti-meat (we aren't), but because we prefer to stay low-fat and we like vegetables and fruits better. So, I wasn't surprised by some of the things Jim was reading. But, I had always thought that the problem was the fats and cholesterol. Nope. Seems the problem is the form of protein in animal products.

My interest was piqued, so last night I went to the library and checked out the book (see the link above). I have only read about 100 of the 400 pages, but it is forcing me to re-evaluate my diet. You see, I love cheese and I love milk. I drink over 2 gallons of milk a week by myself, plus about a pound of cheese and 2.5 pints of yogurt. That's a lot of protein! If what I've read so far is correct, I need to cut that down to almost nothing. If he had said to get rid of steak, I would have been in the AMEN! chorus. If he had said eat more vegetables, I would have joined the choir. But, he was telling me to give up one of my favorite foods. That's hard. If you've read this blog for very long, you know that I enjoy making cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Ouch.

So, I'll continue reading, but the documentation in the endnotes makes me know that he's right. This is a readable, but scholarly, book. The author is a well-respected university professor who has been doing this research for over 30 years. I'm out of wiggle room. I have to make a choice. Sort of like where God gets us when we consider his claims, isn't it?

Stay tuned and I'll post periodically on what I've decided and how I've changed my diet...

Ten Myths About Calvinism

Ten Myths About Calvinism

Ten Myths About Calvinism
Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition

by Kenneth J. Stewart
InterVarsity Press - IVP, 2011
255 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780830838981
List Price: $24.00
Your Price: $19.20

I just finished this book yesterday. Like Defending Constantine, which I reviewed yesterday, Nick gave this to me back in June (thanks Nick!); obviously, I'm not the fastest reviewer on the planet :)

First, let me say that I am unabashedly Arminian/Wesleyan. Second, I probably read more Reformed books than most Reformed people—ok, I probably read more books than most people :) Anyway, this is an excellent book. Every Calvinist should read it. And every Arminian would benefit from reading it. It was refreshing to go with the author as he reviewed the widely divergent takes on Reformed theology throughout the last 500 years. In our highly polarized culture of today, it was nice to see that history contains a plurality of Calvinisms.

Stewart's Calvinism is inclusive; he has no time for wall-building to keep people in or out. For him, Calvinism isn't about us versus them, but about trying to understand the workings of God. While I can't agree with him on how he sees those workings, I can appreciate the spirit of his endeavor.

One chapter stood out in particular, probably because it was the only myth I had believed, "TULIP is the Yardstick of the Truly Reformed." I had always been told—by Calvinists, mind you—that to be truly Reformed, you had to buy TULIP. Imagine my surprise to discover that the acronym is not even 100 years old!

I came away from the book having hope for the future. If there are still irenic Calvinist theologians like Stewart, then the future of the church won't have to devolve into pastors who tell people that God hates them and they only exist so God can condemn them, as one prominent Calvinist pastor did recently. That is the kind of love that, as Wesley said, "makes the heart run cold."

Monday, October 10, 2011


It has been a beautiful last two weeks. The temperatures have been in the mid-70s F, with the nights in the low 50s/upper 40s. The leaves are turning and the riding is wonderful. Fall is my favorite time of the year.

I've spent the time cleaning up the garden, adding to the compost pile, putting new compost on the beds, planting for the fall/winter. I added a threshold to the hoop house door this year. Last year, I couldn't open the door all the way because of frost heaves and snow buildup. That means I have to resize the door, too; I'm hoping to get that done early this week. I'm also putting new plastic on the hoop house this year. All my experimenting with different clips and using hog panels for trellis put too many holes in the old stuff.

My fall broccoli is looking good; the late beans are blooming, the peas are starting to bloom. The carrots are growing, the bunching (green) onions are a nice size. If I can get the top on the hoop house before it gets cold, they should all do well right into November and beyond for some.

I planted some more fall crops over the weekend. It is a bit late, but with the warm weather they might do ok. I planted kale and radishes in an exposed bed. I'm thinking I'll put row cover over them as it gets colder. I might even put a cold frame over them. I planted more bunching onions in the hoop house, as well as some radish.

I ordered some more Winter Density romaine, broccoli raab, and some sprouting broccoli yesterday. I'm planning on planting those in the hoop house, as well. We'll see how they do. The sprouting broccoli has a 90 day maturity, so it might not actually bear until next March, but the other two should do well.

Defending Constantine

Defending Constantine

Defending Constantine
The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom

by Peter J. Leithart
InterVarsity Press - IVP, Forthcoming November 2010
367 pages, English
ISBN: 9780830827220
List Price: $27.00
Your Price: $21.60

I just finished reading this a week or so ago. Nick from IVP gave me a copy back in June (thanks Nick!) and I didn't get to it until now, so here's a very brief review.

I know the book has generated some controversy, but I fail to see why. Sure, he attacks Yoder, but I've always felt that Yoder's history was pretty poor. I'm sympathetic to Yoder and think his pacifism is correct, but I never bought his historical justification of it.

Leithart refers to Fredriksen's Augustine and the Jews extensively (which I reviewed here, by the way). He also cites one of my graduate professors at Kentucky, Louis Swift, so he must be ok, right :)

The book does a good job of defending Constantine, rehabilitating him from the current anti-Constantine diatribes. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the 4th century would do well to read the book. When Leithart tries to draw parallels and conclusions related to the modern world, though, I would urge caution. That is where his anti-Yoderism is wrong. Pacifism is similar to the anti-slavery stand in the church, in my opinion. It is latent in the texts and just needed to be brought out over the course of time as the thinking developed.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The safe life

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“To everyone wanting a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger, stay away form Jesus. The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 167

<idle musing>
Yes! Amen! Good preaching! I get sick of hearing people go on and on about wanting to keep their children "safe" or hearing a radio station say "Safe." Jesus didn't call us to live "safe lives; he called us to live selfless lives.
</idle musing>

Thought for today

“That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people whom he would issue that command.”—Robert Gundry, quoted in — Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 120

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Material prosperity and the gospel

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“In the dawn of this new phase in redemptive history, no teachers (including Jesus) in the New Testament ever promise material wealth as a reward for obedience. As it this were not startling enough to first-century Jews (and twenty-first century American Christians), we also see no verse in the New Testament where God's people are ever again commanded to build a majestic place of worship. Instead, God's people are told to be the temple—the place of worship.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 117

<idle musing>
Take that you "name it—claim it—stomp on it and frame it" or, as my cousin says, "Gab it and grab it" preachers!

Pretty amazing, isn't it? We are the temple of God! That is so amazing...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Thoughts on the poor

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“So what is the difference between someone who willfully indulges in sexual pleasures while ignoring the Bible on moral purity and someone who willfully indulges in the selfish pursuit of more and more material possessions while ignoring the Bible on caring for the poor? The difference is that one involves a social taboo in the church and the other involves the social norm in the church.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 111


“Regardless of what we say or sing or study on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 115

<idle musing>
Harsh words, but very true. I sometimes think that people took Luther too literally and have knocked the book of James out of their Bibles:

Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”a you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.—James 2:6-9 TNIV

But, that still doesn't explain why they ignore Paul's warnings. Maybe it is just selfishness and an unwillingness to die to it? Nah, can't be that! That sounds too, well, biblical!
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

   The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.—Habakkuk 3:17-19 TNIV

<idle musing>
This has probably got to be one of my favorite set of verses in the Bible. Habakkuk has argued with God and then seen a theophany of judgment. What other response can you have? He's seen the end—God wins; nothing else matters. All the stuff in between is just a distraction. Not really, but you get my drift.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Empty stomachs

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry. If I am going to address urgent spiritual need by sharing the gospel of Christ or building up the body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire physical need in the process.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 109

<idle musing>
I think you could easily find more than a few Bible verses that agree with him—James comes to mind, as does Habakkuk, and Amos, and...just about all the prophets. The unthinking alignment in the United States between capitalism and christianity is definitely unbiblical. But, as I was once told, does a fish know it is wet?
</idle musing>

Thought for today

“Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

   “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
Has not the LORD Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea." — Habakkuk 2:9-14 TNIV

Monday, October 03, 2011


For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“In our Christian version of the American dream, our plan ends up disinfecting Christians from the world more than discipling Christians in the world. Let me explain the difference.

“Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good. In this strategy, success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, pages 104-105

<idle musing>
One of my pet peeves about American christianity has always been the emphasis on "safe." I don't see that anywhere in the Bible or Christian history; serving Jesus is anything but safe!
</idle musing>

First Frost!

On Saturday night we had our first frost—2 weeks early! I wasn't ready, but it wasn't a heavy frost, so almost everything came through. I did cover the raspberries, peppers and green beans; they're a bit touchier than the others.

Needless to say, I spent most of Sunday getting the garden ready for fall. I cleaned up the watermelon, the cucumbers, and the earlier plantings of beans (I succession plant my beans&mash;a new crop every 2-3 weeks). I also pulled the last of the San Marzano Roma-style tomatoes. They did really well this year.

So, how what worked and what didn't? This year we tried containerized gardening on some corn. It grew really well, but I should have side-dressed it with nitrogen earlier than I did. Also, we didn't get to eat any because the raccoons got it. The day before I was going to pick it, they climbed the fence, then the corn stalks and got all the corn. Bummer!

The watermelon were very good this year, but there weren't very many. Maybe that's why they were good? Anyway, I need to get access to some high quality manure to have good flavor and quantity. I probably won't do them again, although I might try cantaloupe there next year.

The turnips didn't germinate, nor did the rutabaga. That's ok; I prefer kohlrabi anyway. I can't get beets to grow very large in this garden. I'm pretty sure it's a mineral balance thing. Next year I think I'll add some boron.

The cabbage needed to stay under row cover—the cabbage butterfly caterpillars got to them. Same for the late broccoli and the Brussels Sprouts—although they recovered and I will get some. I need to plant more cucumber plants for the first planting and forget about a second planting.

On the whole, the garden was a success. I like planting earlier under row cover and in the hoop house. The plants get a head start and are pretty much done by the time the bugs catch up. I used to can more in August/September than any other month. This year, because of the row cover and hoop house, I canned more in July/August. That was nice; it left September freer for apples :)

Speaking of apples, I canned 23 pints of apple sauce over the weekend and we have dried about 2 bushels. I also canned 6 more quarts of rhubarb sauce. We're about out of jars now. I'm going to need to buy another dozen wide mouth quarts for the remaining dried apples.

So, how did your garden do this year?

Thought for the day

“Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning’s light they carry it out
because it is in their power to do it.

They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them.
They defraud people of their homes,
they rob them of their inheritance.

Therefore, the LORD says:

'I am planning disaster against this people,
from which you cannot save yourselves.
You will no longer walk proudly,
for it will be a time of calamity.'”—Micah 2:1-3 TNIV