Tuesday, December 31, 2013

But does it make sense?

Modernized Bibles may mislead people, but the other alternative—ancient forms of the Bible—would repel them. Translators, interpreters and publishers knowingly accommodate the Bible’s ancient dimensions into language and forms that make more sense in the twenty-first century. But it’s not a straightforward process; multitudes of decisions have to be made about how best to translate the words and the culture of the Bible into understandable forms for modern audiences. And it’s an imperfect process; some of what the Bible meant to the original hearers is inevitably lost.—The Lost World of Scripture, page 129

<idle musing>
I remember hearing someone from Wycliffe Bible Translators telling me many years ago that they originally held quite strictly to a literal translation philosophy. He said they have warehouses full of translations that are accurate—but unintelligible. And consequently, useless.

If it doesn't make sense to the target audience, then it isn't accurate. The purpose of translation is to make the original text understandable to the target audience. Yes, stuff gets lost. But the alternative is that everything gets lost...it's a tradeoff, as they say above. I guess that's why translation is as much art as science...
</idle musing>

Whatcha readin'?

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately; most of it won't ever be seen on the blog for various reasons—partially because I would be spending more time posting than reading! Anyway, here's a sampling, with special thanks to our 5-star library for their assistance on Inter-Library Loan.

While we were in Milwaukee visiting Debbie's parents back in November, I managed to spend a bit of time at a Barnes & Nobles bookstore. We're a bit lacking in large bookstores up here, so it was nice to spend some time there—not enough, but is it ever? I looked over quite a few interesting books, made notes, and once we got back home, I ordered a few via ILL.

The first was My Beef With Meat from Rip Esselstyn. Rip is the son of one of the leaders in the Whole-Foods, Plant-based diet, a former firefighter, and a champion triathlete. He's written a few books about what he calls a "Plant-strong" diet. In this book, he addresses the questions he is inevitably asked about why a plant-based diet is healthier than the standard American diet (SAD). As always, he is an entertaining author, but, again as always, I don't like his attitude. He seems to be trying to prove he's just as much a "man" as a meat-eater. Right. Consequently, you find profanity and tough-guy stuff throughout. That might appeal to some who are insecure in themselves (or more accurately, in who they are in Christ), but it keeps me from recommending his stuff. You would be far better off reading The China Study or either the book or DVD of Forks Over Knives. Another good resource is Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole.

Another book I discovered there was Straw Bale Gardens. This is actually an expansion of a shorter book he self-published, entitled Straw Bale Gardening. I've read both of them now, and the newer one is definitely worth the extra $5.00. Straw Bale Gardening sounds like a fascinating concept. I wish I had easier access to affordable bales around here. In Indiana, I paid about $3-5.00 per bale; up here, the going rate is closer to—hold on—$20.00! There is no way I'm going into this in a big way at that price! But the concept is fascinating and has potential. I'm going to try it in a small way next summer and maybe use it as a season extender idea in the 8' x 8' greenhouse that Dave built.

Another book I ran across quite by accident is The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook. It's a beautiful book with marvelous photography. I read it mainly for the 200+ pages of gardening wisdom from Eliot Coleman—anything he writes on gardening is worth reading and this book was no exception. There's another 200 pages of recipes, which are good, but not Whole Foods, so of minimal use to me. There are some good ideas, but that's about it.

Finally, on Christmas Eve I read The Secret Race. It's basically a confession by world-class cyclist Tyler Hamilton of how he doped—and how all the professional cyclists dope. When it first came out, Lance was still claiming he didn't dope, so Tyler caught a good bit of flack. The version I read (an e-book via ILL) included an afterword from after Lance's Oprah appearance. I used to say that I figured 80% of the riders doped— the top 40% and the bottom 40%. The top ones did it in order to win, the bottom ones in order to stay professional.

I was wrong! About 99% of professional riders dope. And Tyler explains why and how. Basically, it's the same reason that everybody does anything wrong: you put someone or something other than Jesus Christ at the center of your life. As I was reading, I couldn't help but draw parallels to the fall of Evangelical leaders. Anytime you place something other than the person of Jesus Christ at the center—and that includes "ministry in Jesus name"—of your life, you will fail. No question of if, just a question of when. It took over 10 years to out Lance, but he was outed. How long did Tiger Woods live a double life? How long has Mark Driscoll been guilty of plagiarism? Your sin will find you out!

Well, that's a bit longer than I intended it to be, but that's some of the stuff I've read recently...

Thems pretty bad odds

Most Roman Emperors suspected that nearly everyone was plotting against them. And rightfully so. Of the seventy-six emperors who took the throne from the reign of Augustus to the ascension of Constantine, only nineteen died natural deaths. Seven were killed in battle, forty-two were murdered, two others probably were murdered, and six were forced to commit suicide.— The Triumph of Christianity, pages 21-22

<idle musing>
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want the job on the basis of those odds alone...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dual citizenship

The cognitive environment of the gospel message was entirely oral. Jesus presented his teachings in oral forms, and his hearers grasped the truths that Jesus proclaimed by aural means. The Evangelist, who recorded Jesus’ words and deeds, preserved the orality of Jesus’ public ministry in their written records. There is no indication that they understood their written texts to somehow be different from or superior to the oral texts.—The Lost World of Scripture, page 127

<idle musing>
The oral and the written existed side-by-side. Bauckham makes a similar claim in his books; the ancient world was an oral one with a written element. But the written element was subservient to the oral element...not the way we see things, is it?
</idle musing>

Baby, it's cold outside!

We're in for a cold week here; this is from yesterday afternoon's prediction. Note that they were wrong about the low last night. It wasn't -18°F—it was -27°F! Yesterday morning, it was -17°F at 7:30 AM; at 9:00 it was -20°F. It did get up to -4°F. We went for a 6 mile walk—beautiful!—and by the time we got back 2 hours later it was down to -10°F...

It is all leading somewhere

The editorial twist of the Gen 1–11 protohistory, and perhaps one of the things that helps set it apart from its ANE counterparts, is that even though humanity advanced culturally and technologically, things were not at all the way they should be between humans and their Creator. Thus, the stage is set for Abraham in Gen 12, and through him and his offspring, the nation of Israel. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 239-40

<idle musing>
The narrative has a purpose; it is going somewhere. Indeed, it is eventually going to lead to David, then exile and the hope of restoration, with ultimate fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—and us united to him by grace through faith. That's a long trajectory, but it is foreshadowed by Genesis 1-11. And you thought it was all about creation : )

By the way, that's the final post from this very enjoyable and thought-provoking book. Next up: The Triumph of Christianity, and older book, but with some interesting tidbits.
</idle musing>

Friday, December 27, 2013

Folk theologian?

Nor should we think of Jesus’ style of communication as second rate or shallow. He was not a country boy spinning tales to the delight of barbershop friends. Jesus’ communication was truth-telling at the highest level. While anyone could appreciate Jesus’ stories and stand in awe of the authority with which he spoke (Mk 1:27), the most educated and intelligent in the audience could ponder Jesus’ parables for a long time and still never probe their depths. The Pharisees and Sadducees often felt the sting of Jesus’ stories but went away sputtering because they couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound stupid.—The Lost World of Scripture, page 112

<idle musing>
Far cry from a folk theologian, isn't it?
</idle musing>

We hold these truths to be less than self-evident...

If other ancient Near Eastern material is any indication, our material in Gen 1–11 might be arranged literarily to communicate its relevance in very specific ways, even if that relevance is lost or diminished today. It may not have transpired exactly how it is described, and it may also contain anachronisms. We have already spoken of the possible significance of the numbers found in the genealogies of Gen 4 and 5, which should suggest even more strongly the possibility of literary arrangement (and, by implication, a less-than-exact correspondence to reality). Numbers were often used to convey different “truths,” as we have said. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 236

<idle musing>
This should be self-evident, but it isn't because we import our own presuppositions into the text. We are the measure of all things (thanks for that, Protagoras!), therefore, whatever we want to find, we find there. And if you don't agree with me, then you are wrong! Genesis 3 all over again, eh?
</idle musing>

Thought for today

...when He thwarts men's plans, they are bent on misunderstanding Him. They will think that He is reckless of their welfare, and they are blind to the precious truth that He shapes all His ways toward them in love and kindness. He would lead us to judge thus, that if God spared not His own Son, but gave Him up freely for us all, then He will much more give us all things else most freely.—Charles Finney

Thursday, December 26, 2013

But can they read it?

Reportedly, two-thirds of the world’s population in the twenty-first century can’t, won’t or don’t read and write.—The Lost World of Scripture, footnote on page 95

<idle musing>
What does that do to those who have a bibliocentric view of Christianity? How can these people be saved?
</idle musing>

We've lost it

Essentially, history was arranged in such a way as to communicate its significance as effectively as possible, and often this significance is lost on us today, or at least somewhat veiled. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 235

<idle musing>
I'm wondering how the doctrine of perspicuity fits into all this...any ideas?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The significance attached to certain characters in our texts might seem puzzling to us, because our understanding of significance is defined by our culture. More often than not, protohistory was more concerned with the first “significant” generation rather than the actual first generation. This seems to be a reflection of the ancient concern for function as opposed to material significance. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 233

<idle musing>
Which we also hold, but don't realize it. For example, who built the first home computer? I suspect you answered either Apple or IBM. Wrong on both counts. Both of those were early populizers—the first significant ones, if you will. We could go on...think Xerox, Kleenex, Band-aids, to name but a few.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Taking it to the limit--and beyond

Scientific investigation, for its part, cannot either affirm or deny theological beliefs such as God’s role in creation, the origin of sin, the spiritual nature of humans or the image of God in us. These are theological beliefs not in the purview of science. In the same way the naturalistic operations of the material world and the investigation of its mechanics are matters for science and are not determined by the biblical text.—The Lost World of Scripture, page 54

<idle musing>
Do you really believe that? People mouth it all the time, but then turn around and act as if it isn't true, or say something that totally denies it...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 23, 2013

This is a problem

The problem with this approach [reading modern scientific understandings back into the text] is that it assumes the text is offering modern scientific information to the ancient audience, even though this principle cannot be applied consistently. This approach is selective in where it attempts to extrapolate modern science from the text, and where it does so it is often at the expense of the meaning the ancient audience would have understood. Overall it assumes something about the nature of Scripture’s revelation that cannot be hermeneutically defended or consistently executed. It misunderstands the nature of the Bible in that it assumes the Bible is vesting its authority in scientific statements.—The Lost World of Scripture, page 52

<idle musing>
"This approach is selective in where it attempts to extrapolate modern science from the text, and where it does so it is often at the expense of the meaning the ancient audience would have understood." That's a problem...we don't assume the "windows of heaven" when it rains—but it's almost heretical to suggest that a day in Genesis 1 might not be a 24 hour day. Of course, I have yet to meet anyone who wants the "day of the LORD" to be only 24 hours long...
</idle musing>

And we've changed in what way?

...the Mesopotamians believed that humankind was initially barbaric and primitive. Civilization, consisting of cities, kingship, arts, sciences and technology, among other things, was a gift from the gods, given to humans by the gods. Once humans received these civilizing elements from the gods, they moved beyond their initial state of primitivism and became civilized. For many of these cultural rudiments, the creator god and god of wisdom Enki is said to have passed them to humans, and the apkallu were often the instruments of this transmission. The Mesopotamians spoke of these cultural components as the me, a term used to quantify in concrete terms their conception of the various aspects of civilization. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 226

<idle musing>
The cynic in me wants to remark, "Initially barbaric and primitive? What about now?!" But I won't—oh, wait, I just did : )
</idle musing>

Review of Walton and Sandy's Lost World of Scripture

I recently received a copy of The Lost World of Scripture compliments of IVP Academic (thanks Adrianna!).

The book was co-written by two Wheaton professors, John Walton and Brent Sandy, in response to questions they inevitably receive as a result of students’ paradigms about inerrancy being shattered. The book is laid out as a series of propositions (twenty-one of them), which can be viewed here.

The basic premise of the book is that the cognitive environment of the ancient world—and scripture by extension—was oral. Given that our cognitive environment is written (they call it the “Gutenberg Galaxy”), we have a difficult time understanding how something oral can be authoritative and accurate. We unconsciously import the presuppositions of written culture into our reading of the text. When the text falls short of our expectations, as it will, we begin to doubt the authority of scripture. This is especially true for those who hold to some form of inerrancy. This book attempts to adjust our expectations and rewrite what inerrancy means.

For example, in an oral culture, what does authorship mean? If the stories have been repeated for generations before being written down, to what degree are they still the same story? And does it matter?

Walton and Sandy appeal to speech-act theory in an attempt to answer these questions. Their thesis is that God has an illocution (intended meaning) which is translated into a locution (the current text) by the “author,” resulting in a perlocution (action or response) on the part of the intended audience. A chart illustrating this is shown on page 41. They maintain that the illocution is the focal point of inspiration, with the locution being the speaker’s culture-bound attempt to get that message across.

The majority of the book is spent explaining how an oral culture operates. The Old Testament (part one) is the focus of the first four propositions, while the New Testament (part two) is the focus of the next nine. Part Three discusses four propositions about literary genres in the ancient world, three relating to the Old Testament and one to the New. Part Four has four final propositions which are their attempts at applying what orality means for the authority of scripture in general, and inerrancy in particular. The book concludes with a set of conclusions on what it is safe and not safe to believe concerning the nature of scripture and its authority/accuracy.

It would be easy for me, not working from a position of inerrancy, to throw stones. I am not employed in an environment that requires me to subscribe to inerrancy, so I can simply say to jettison it. I recall the “Battle for the Bible” of the 1970s and ‘80s. I didn’t subscribe to inerrancy then and don’t now. I’ve always felt it was a misguided attempt to bring scientific certainty into matters of faith—the result of the church subscribing to the rationalism of modern society. That being said, Walton and Sandy do a very good job of explaining the ancient world and its environment. Their attempt at redefining what inerrancy should mean is admirable. The section delineating the differences between inerrancy, inspiration, and authority was very well done, as well.

Nonetheless, throughout the book, I couldn’t help but keep asking myself if it wouldn’t be better to just jettison the term…but I also have to be a realist. The fight about inerrancy isn’t going to disappear; you only need to pick up a copy of Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society to see what I mean. I picked up one while I was working at Eisenbrauns that dated from the 1980s and compared it to one from 2011. Same debates. Same arguments. Same conclusions. Same anathemas being hurled around…it just isn’t going to disappear. In an environment as toxic as that, this book could be a real asset. But, I suspect not. Michael Bird recently pointed out that it is a strictly North American construct. (If you subscribe to inerrancy, you owe it to yourself to read that post, by the way.)

The introduction does a good job of putting the whole question of inerrancy into perspective:

It [the Bible] is a literary masterpiece, a magnum opus, a stellar performance. But there’s more to the story. The ultimate importance of the Bible lies elsewhere: it is the inspired revelation of Almighty God, a heavenly treasure in a world of impoverished ideas, a sparkling mountain stream in the driest of deserts. Our point, however, is not to worship the Bible; we worship the God of the Bible…

Christians may forget or not take seriously that the Bible is the one and only, absolutely authoritative book, that it demands our utmost attention. Living out its truths is the highest of callings. If we fail to show the Bible the respect it is due, we are to be shamed. And it’s more than theory; it’s the practice of bringing our thoughts and lives into line with God’s thoughts and life.

We hold a very high view of Scripture. We confess that the Bible is God’s self-disclosure. The Old and New Testaments are the literary deposit of divine truth. The ultimate revelation is Jesus himself. The central message is creation, fall, redemption and restoration. (page 12)

I can agree with all of that, although I would remove the sentence on shame and added that all is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. And I would have stopped there, but they continue in the next sentence:
We affirm inerrancy…Among other things, the evidence assembled in this book inevitably leads to the question of inerrancy. While we wholeheartedly affirm what the Bible itself reveals about its origin, authority and truthfulness, we recognize that there is always a bit of uneasiness when discussing inerrancy and related concepts in fresh ways. This is sacred turf, but the truth of the matter is, no term, or even combination of terms, can completely represent the fullness of Scripture’s authority. (pages 12, 13)
A hearty amen to all of the thoughts there except for the statement about affirming inerrancy!

If you are from a faith tradition that subscribes to inerrancy, you really should read this book. People whose faith has been shaken because of exposure to academic biblical studies would also benefit from it. Even if, as I, you don’t affirm inerrancy, you can learn a great deal about the cognitive environment of the biblical world.

A few random thoughts:
They really should have used the Oxford/serial comma. There are several places where it would have clarified a statement.

I think they go too far in their openness to potential later additions to the prophetic books, but am open to being persuaded. But it would have to be pretty strong evidence (as I suspect it would be for them, as well).

The discussion of joint authorship of the Pauline epistles was fascinating. Sandy suggests that we should take seriously the introductory paragraph of Paul’s epistles where it says they are from a list of people. He suggests that they should be considered co-authors. Fascinating idea!

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking of the fate of Peter Enns. It is a good thing that John no longer teaches at Moody and that Brent is no longer at Grace. I doubt those schools would tolerate this book, irenic and tentative in its conclusions as it is. I hope Wheaton is more gracious and open to their ideas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I've got to read this book...

Roger Olson has been reviewing Apostles of Reason lately (the link is to the third of a three-part review).

Having grown up in a mainline, Methodist family, I wasn't familiar with much of Evangelicalism's early years. Once I became a Christian in 1972, I started to run in Evangelical circles, but was always uncomfortable there. Now I know why—it was too Reformed...

But that's not why I'm posting. After reviewing the book, Roger offers some suggestions on how to overcome the anti-intellectualism that seems inherent in Evangelicalism. One of his suggestions is "evangelical organizations need to let it be known that conservative donors are not going to call all the shots." Right! That just isn't going to happen.

I went to a Christian liberal arts school with a very conservative donor base. The person who gave the money for the swimming pool said that co-ed swimming was not to happen in that pool. The school also didn't allow beards because of the donor base. The women were required to wear skirts/dresses to class. The men were required to have shorter hair—I believe it was only allowed to touch the collar, not be over it (I don't remember for sure, but I was always getting called on the carpet over that one...). All because of the donor base. Those rules are all gone now, because the donors who required them are dead...

I've seen a few purges at Christian schools in my life. All because the donor base felt the faculty was too "liberal" for them. The Christian radio station one place we lived wouldn't play contemporary Christian music because the donor base would stop giving if they did (not that most of the CCM stuff would have been any better theologically than the drivel they did play!).

It just isn't going to happen...unless God intervenes in the hearts of the people who are making the decisions and in the hearts of the donors...in other words, a revival!

Now that is something to pray for!

An alternate view?

The concept of “the first significant generation” from Shea may also lend itself to a more accurate understanding of Adam in the Genesis text, though this is neither the time nor the place for a thorough comparative analysis. Adam and Eve may represent the Hebrew “Everyman,” and the Eden account may be the symbolic Hebrew account of what was held to be their “first significant generation.” In other words, the significance of the Adapa story to its audience would have been primarily archetypal, as the Genesis accounts would possibly have been for its audience. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 224

<idle musing>
This sounds a lot like Walton's archetypal view, doesn't it? The main difference is that John believes that Adam and Eve are actual historical people, but this view doesn't require that. Interesting idea...
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 19, 2013

He reigned for HOW long?

The SKL [Sumerian King List] is comprised of two different types of material: lists containing the names and provenance of kings and length of their rule, and also epic and legendary material dealing with some of the kings. The amalgamated new “genre” is one of a list of kings and their rule, interspersed with brief legendary comments throughout. Each of the kings in the list has an unusually long reign attributed to him, by far the longest reigns coming in the antediluvian period (most numbering in the tens of thousands of years). After the flood, the lengths of reign diminish significantly but still remain unrealistically large for a while (most reigns are in the hundreds, still others are in the thousands), though as the list nears the present the reigns become progressively more believable. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 182

<idle musing>
Sounds a lot like the genealogies in Genesis, doesn't it...

Numbers are used symbolically in the Hebrew Bible; they weren't mathematicians and they weren't obsessed with dates the way we are. We need to stop reading our presuppositions back into the text!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Civilization begins

For example, history became endowed with a greater meaning only once it became civilized. In other words, “absolute beginnings” were not as much of a concern to the ancient mind. Rather, “civilized beginnings” were of extreme importance, and, for the Mesopotamian, civilization did not begin in a sense until kingship was introduced by the gods to the earth. As we will see below, the SKL [Sumerian King List] describes this as when “kingship descended from heaven." — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 181

<idle musing>
Notice where kingship comes from, too. Divine right of kings, anyone...it didn't start in the Middle Ages!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sumerian order

A sense of order, and the desire to see it established, were central concerns of almost all Sumerian literature. The Sumerians believed that the proper order of all things, both divine and human, was dependent on what they referred to as the me. The me were archetypally representative of culture and civilization elements in Sumerian thought and were of divine origin. Though divine, the me were not gods, and they were not personified. Nor were they a surrogate god of some sort, or any other numinous being. Much more often, G. Farber-Flügge explains, it was the gods who possessed the me, and it was their most-prized possession. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 167-168

Monday, December 16, 2013


In short, from the perspective of Genesis, civilization is a human accomplishment, as opposed to other ancient Near Eastern cultures in which the gods are largely responsible. In some sense, it is as though the biblical authors wanted to “demythologize” the understanding of world and civilization origins, to remove it from the realm of otherworldly origins and to place it squarely into the realm of human history.— Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 109

<idle musing>
Is it a case of God washing his hands of some of our "advances"? I don't think so. I think it is a case of letting us explore the imago dei and the creativity that phrase implies!
</idle musing>

Friday, December 13, 2013

Brrr, continued

Well, it seems that the cold will hang on a bit longer...here's today's

It's supposed to warm up to 10° tomorrow and give us 1-2 inches of snow. Sounds good to me. I'm getting used to it : )

The rabbits seem to be adjusting to it, too. Yesterday and today they've been more active. Earlier in the week, they were just huddling together in their house, sitting nestled up in the straw. Yesterday, they were out playing with the sheet of sheet rock that I put in there for them. They seemed to be having a grand time.

I've been changing their water anywhere from 2-4 times a day, they definitely enjoy when I do that! And they have been consuming more food to stay warm. But they seem to be doing well in it.

We've been keeping up our 4 mile walks, just bundling up better. Yesterday seemed almost warm; there wasn't a wind and the temperature was right around 0°F. What are we going to do if it warms up close to freezing?! : )

The good, the bad, and the ugly

That pretty much describes a few of my culinary experiments in the last few months (man, time flies!). First the good:

I receive a daily e-mail from Mother Earth News. Sometimes the stuff is great; sometimes the stuff isn't. As with most of life, it is a mixed bag. Back in August/September or thereabouts, there was a link to broccoli chips. Basically, you take the leaves of broccoli plants and bake them. They call for olive oil and other such stuff in the article, but we're avoiding added oils, so I figured I'd give it a try as just leaves.

We had a few broccoli plants that were done; I was going to pull them and compost them anyway. So, I cut off some leaves and cut them into smaller squares. I popped them into the oven at 250°F, stirred after 15 minutes, let them go another 15 minutes and pulled them out.

They were delicious! We scarfed them down and I made another pan. We've had them multiple times since then—until the deep freeze at the beginning of November happened. One piece of advice: make sure to cut them small enough! I tried to make some of them bigger, but when you bite into them, they disintegrate. Crumbs all over the floor...

The bad? Peanut butter granola. I had to try it...it was bad. 'Nuff said.

The ugly? I've made baked corn chips off and on for the last couple of years, with fairly good success. I would mix the cornmeal with whole wheat flour to give it substance. Once we got our grain mill in the fall of 2012, I couldn't get the flour fine enough anymore, so I gave up. Until earlier this week. I decided to try it with straight cornmeal. We currently buy our cornmeal at the Co-op and it is more a combination of corn flour and cornmeal than straight cornmeal. I like it a lot for cornbread, but hadn't tried it for corn chips.

I thought it might hold together better than traditional cornmeal. Well, it did—kinda...it stuck to the counter once I rolled it out. So, I figured I'd use the old wax paper method where you roll it out between two sheets of wax paper and transfer it to the stone. It stuck to the wax paper!

No problem; I'll just use parchment paper, so I thought...if it doesn't come loose, I'll just lay the whole thing on the stone. I figured that the baking would loosen it from the paper. Well, it did—kinda. It tasted good—when you didn't get a bite of parchment paper with it. And it was ugly!

So that's my latest experiments...the broccoli chips are a keeper! And I've tweaked one of my cornbread recipes again. I now like this cornbread better than the milk, eggs, and oil version that I used to make. That's saying a lot, because I grew up on that recipe and had always felt that the plant-based ones didn't quite measure up. Now it does...

We know better

First of all, we may conclude that the final editor of these two genealogies saw nothing wrong with placing them side by side in the text. Often, the motivation for seeking putative sources has been the apparent contradictions of the two genealogies, though McNutt warns that frequently what strikes us as contradictory or confused “may nevertheless convey crucial cultural information.” In other words, we might simply be missing the relevance communicated by these two passages, placed together as they are. In some sense, then, relevance theory allows us to think of redundancies and contradictions as possible generic signals. With this in mind, recall from above that Wilson suggested slight variations in genealogies may not have been seen as contradictory by original author and audience. — Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 105

<idle musing>
But we know better than the original authors/editors, right? They obviously weren't using our definitions of history, so they must be wrong! Hubris!

We need to have a bit more of the spirit (maybe Spirit with a capital would be better?) of Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word."
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It works!

I've posted a bit recently about my problems with iOS 7. Here's what I hope is the final update.

The AppleCare rep called me Monday morning to see if the iPad had arrived. Her screen showed it as on the truck, which it was. What she didn't know was that it is a 2.5 hour drive from Duluth to here : ) The iPad arrived around 1:00 that day. It was cold! But, because there are no moving parts, I didn't hesitate to turn it on.

I went through the set-up routine, answering all the questions. I also connected it to the MacBook via iTunes. Disappointment! iTunes said it couldn't be restored without the iPad updating its software first. Bummer! Oh well, I finished the set-up routine on the iPad and let it do its download of iOS 7.0.4.

Much later...it finished the update and I was able to restore it via iTunes. Boy, does it take time to restore 53 apps and their data! Late that evening, it was up and running—pretty much. The passwords for stuff all needed to be re-entered—a very wise decision on the part of Apple! But, all the other settings were there.

On Tuesday, I opened Accordance for the first time. Major bummer! I had forgotten this (it happened to me twice before), but when you do a restore of Accordance, you have to re-download all your add-ons and purchases. Of course, I had forgotten my username and password, too.

I dug around in my records and found the username and guessed (correctly) at the password and then carried on with the restore. It took a while to download and restore, but now it is all there and running fine.

Note to my Accordance friends: Please revise the restore so it contains the modules! Also, the interface for the username and password should check when you enter it, not when you try to synch. Minor issues, though...it's still my favorite Bible software program : )

I give Apple an A for their handling of this. They definitely know how to make things right once they decide to. From the time they decided to repair/replace the iPad until I had the new one in my hands was 5 days—and two of those were Saturday and Sunday, so effectively a 3-day turnaround. I doubt very many other companies would do that without an expensive service contract...

Don't import your own presuppositions

We may conclude that, in most cases, however, genealogies were intended to serve other functions in other spheres—most often as a charter of some sort, as mentioned above. A presentation of the past may occur, but this is a secondary function, subservient to a primary function of charter. Another way to put it, quite often when the past is presented in a genealogy, its most important functions have to do with what it accomplishes in the present. —Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 84-85

<idle musing>
Why do we insist on importing our own agendas into the text! Probably because we don't even realize we are doing it!

It's really a miracle that communication happens at all...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A little exercise goes a long ways

I've had this in my drafts folder for a few weeks...it's about the value of exercise.
After only a week, the young men who had not exercised displayed a significant and unhealthy decline in their blood sugar control, and, equally worrying, their biopsied fat cells seemed to have developed a malicious streak. Those cells, examined using sophisticated genetic testing techniques, were now overexpressing various genes that may contribute to unhealthy metabolic changes and underexpressing other genes potentially important for a well-functioning metabolism.

But the volunteers who had exercised once a day, despite comparable energy surpluses, were not similarly afflicted. Their blood sugar control remained robust, and their fat cells exhibited far fewer of the potentially undesirable alterations in gene expression than among the sedentary men.

<idle musing>
This is basically what Covert Bailey has been saying for over 35 years. Exercise doesn't just burn calories (it actually burns very few), it realigns the body's metabolism so that your muscles become "better butter burners" as he puts it.
</idle musing>


Full circle

"Within the perspective of Genesis as a whole, the primeval history serves to enhance our appreciation of the patriarchs and their calling...if the message of Genesis is essentially one of redemption, Gen 3–11 explains why man needs salvation and what he needs to be saved from. Chaps. 1–2, in describing the original state of the world, also describe the goal of redemption, to which ultimately the world and humanity will return when the patriarchal promises are completely fulfilled” (Wenham, WBC, Genesis 1–15, lii) cited inToward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 78

<idle musing>
And the final fulfillment of those promises awaits the return of the Son of Man. In the meantime, we are aliens and strangers here...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Define that, please

Texts speaking of protohistory come from many different genres of literature. We must be careful to allow the ancient cultures we study to define “history” on their own terms, which means we must accept whatever genre of text they put forth as “historical.” These texts frequently involve the use of myth, which has been greatly misunderstood in recent times. Correctly, we may understand myth to be analogical, and therefore full of ideologies, ancient perspectives and literary techniques that can (and frequently do) distort the presentation of reality in some way. Protohistory was often recounted metaphorically, or at the very least included metaphors, symbols, and other figurative language. The obvious result is that the texts are often difficult to understand today. This is because the tapestry of images is frequently culture-bound, and also because they may very well have lost their original vitality over the passing of time. Furthering the difficulty, mythic history often took narrative form, replete with ambiguities and redundancies. Reality was often reflected figuratively, though again we must not lose sight of the fact that the ancients believed they were indeed representing reality.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 72 (italics original)

<idle musing>
Indeed! But it is so much easier to come to the text with our own presuppositions and then slice it and dice it to fit. Or, to just say it's all a lie.

Take your pick. Both approaches do violence to the text and short circuit what God is trying to say to you through the text...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 09, 2013

One more time

[H]istory in the ancient Near East was written in the form of myth, which often used symbols and metaphorical, analogical language in narrative form, often intentionally ambiguous. This metaphorical structure of mythic history was frequently redundant, making abundant use of repetitive poetic devices to enhance the story and to perform various didactic functions. At times, metaphorical imagery was even “reified” and discussed in more detail later in the story, further adding to its ambiguity. Along these lines, the ancient mind did not avoid the ambiguous in storytelling; rather, it was embraced. Consequently, the mythic mind would have had no category for our modern discussions of “contradictions."—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 66-67

<idle musing>
Sounds suspiciously like the narrative sections of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Mess up?

Right after I got done with graduate school, I got a job as warehouse/operations manager for a company in the cutthroat business of video distribution. The gross margins were in the 5-7% range—and out of that they had to pay all expenses; net profit was probably in the range of less than 1%. With margins that thin, every customer counted. Consequently, customer service was highly emphasized. It was there that I developed the philosophy that the most important customer service employee was the warehouse employee. After all, what is the first thing that a customer sees from the company? That's right, the package. If it is mispicked or damaged, what is the initial impression on the customer?

Anyway, I digress...

One of the things I learned there was a tacky little phrase: Mess up? 'Fess up. Dress up.

Huh? OK, let me translate: If you mess up, then admit it ('fess up) and then fix it (dress up). Simple isn't it? Except it is hard to do for various reasons. For some it is pride; they are afraid that it will lower their standing in the eyes of some if they admit to being less than God.

For others, it is profit margins. To fix the product will cost money, so better to stonewall and hope the problem goes away. Pity the poor customer service rep who is trying to assist the customer, but the policies of the company get in the way.

So what is the point of all this????

Two fold. There has been a recent flap about plagiarism by Mark Driscoll. You can read about it here. Anyway, rather than admit to wrong-doing, someone (the publisher? Dricoll's PR team?) pressured Mefford to remove the accusations from the web site. Perhaps Driscoll's defense should be he was predestined to do it!

Personally, I see this as a case of pride getting in the way...

What's the other situation? My recent bouts with my iPad locking up/bricking because of iOS 7 (you can read about my woes here).

Well, I have to say that I am giving Apple a solid endorsement for customer service here. It was a bit hard to get them to admit it was their fault (Mess up?, 'Fess up.), but once they did, it has been amazing. The box to send the iPad back came the next day (Wednesday), I sent it out the day after that (Thursday), and they received it Friday.

The customer service rep called me to let me know it had arrived. Two hours later, I received an e-mail telling me it had arrived. A few hours later, I received an e-mail saying that a replacement was on the way. Today I checked the status and it is scheduled to arrive here on Monday!

Besides that, the customer service rep told me she would call to make sure it had arrived...

That is a clear case of "Dress up" if ever I saw one. So, even though the iOS update was screwed up, Apple gets an A from me for fixing it... Here are the relevant screen shots:

Friday, December 06, 2013

Just the facts, ma'am

This point is worth dwelling on for a moment longer: a mythical, figurative account of history in no way rules out the possibility that it may represent actual events. To say as much would be to misunderstand figurative language and its many possible uses. Wolters speaks of the “illusion” that figurative language is “somehow second best” when speaking of the events portrayed in Gen 1–11. There are those who feel as though it would be much more effective to have a scientifically accurate depiction of what actually transpired. “Figurative language is not necessarily a second-best way of conveying truth,” he says. “In some cases it is far more straightforward and effective than any other way of reporting facts."— Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 63

<idle musing>
Ever read Narnia? C.S. Lewis manages to pack more theology into those books than some tomes of theology do. When you are dealing with God, any statement is incomplete and somewhat inaccurate (at best). Sometimes myth is the best way to express the truth...
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Is it real or is it Memorex?

Mythic history operates on both the literal and the metaphorical levels simultaneously, precisely because it contains metaphorical language that operates on both levels simultaneously as well. While our primary goal is to recover the pragmatic meaning of metaphorical, mythic history, we must not do so to the degree that we lose sight of its semantic meaning. In other words, it would be fallacious to assume that, because an author recounts mythic history metaphorically, he may not also be referring to actual events in time and space. Metaphorical is not synonymous with fictitious.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 61

<idle musing>
Indeed! That seems to be a recurring theme in the book: myth is not equal to fiction. But all our training from grade school on has told us that myth = fiction. Hard to shake those early lessons...

I probably dated myself with the title of the post. How many remember that commercial for Memorex™ cassette tapes?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What was that?

Words develop in meaning and significance; symbols change over time, as we have also seen already. Because of these factors, it is not always possible to say that to know what a text says is to know what it means. Communication is far more complex than this allows, and one suspects proponents of this view might acknowledge as much in actual practice. There are numerous occasions, for example, when literal interpretation does not account for the intended meaning of an author’s utterance.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11 , pages 57-58

<idle musing>
I know you heard what you thought I said, but is what you heard what I really said?!

I had a Classics professor once who said you could read a whole page of Aristotle and not refer to the lexicon—but that didn't mean you knew what you had just read! Communication is more than just words; communication is the meaning behind the words...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

iOS 7.0.4 woes, continued

Well, it's been about a week since I last posted on my iPad woes. During that time, I've scoured the Internet and the Apple forums (fora?) looking for answers. What I've discovered is that about 1-2% of iOS devices are experiencing the problem I'm having. That might not sound like very many, but it works out to between 500,000 and 1,000,000 devices. Yep, the number of zeroes is correct. Up to a million devices!

I read here that you could get it to kickstart if you held the home and power buttons down for up to 15 minutes! I had nothing to lose, so I figured I'd try it. My fingers would slip off one of the buttons after about 10 minutes. Finally—I'm a bit slow sometimes!—I decided to take the iPad out of its case. Now I could actually hold the power button down without destroying my finger : )

I held it down for 20 minutes. No success : (

I decided to try Apple Support. I set up a chat session last night and was online with them for over 2 hours. The initial contact was somebody who called himself Micheal [sic]. I suspect he was in India; he went through the script, but I had already done everything there. We got disconnected, so I tried again and this time I got someone calling himself Mercedes. Again, I suspect India‐definitely not a native English speaker. After about an hour of more of the same, he told me it was a hardware issue and that I would have to pay to have it fixed.

NOT! I told him it was a software issue. I never had an issue until iOS 7. He told me to hang on for a minute. He transferred me to someone else. This person called himself Colsen and was very pleasant—I found out later in the conversation that he is based in Atlanta. He reviewed the case, asked me to resend a couple of screenshots and photos I had already uploaded but didn't make the transfer. We tried various things for about 30 minutes before he came to the conclusion that it needed to be reset by an Apple tech.

He asked if I could get to an Apple store. I told him I was about 5 hours from the nearest one : (

Looks like sending it in is the only option...so I'm waiting for the labels and packaging to come from Apple. The bright side: They pay the freight. And it doesn't look like I'm going to have to pay anything—which is the way it should be. It was their software screw-up that has "bricked" it...

By the way, Apple, if you happen upon this post...I suspect the problem is in a code change in the software power off sequence. Every time the software tries to reboot the iPad, it locks. If I'm not connected to a power source (either via USB to the MacBook, or via the power adapter), whenever the software turns the screen off, it locks. Anytime an iOS update tries to reboot (since iOS 7.0), it locks. Please fix it! You have about a million devices that are worthless until you do...

I just spent 33 minutes on the phone with 2 different people at Apple. They are going to repair/replace it free. They didn't even ask for the credit card information. Of course, I had to keep reiterating that it was a software issue, not a hardware one. But, hey, it looks like I'm going to get a working iPad again soon...

Asking the wrong questions

Often our modern misunderstanding of myth relates to its purpose. Not only may we miss the point of myths due to the nature of the language, but we also may misunderstand its significance (or relevance), which is itself implicit. It becomes a bit easier to appreciate the frequent use of symbols and metaphor in mythic history when we realize how different the ancient concerns were from what our own would be.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11 , page 55

<idle musing>
We're always asking the wrong questions of the text. We need to really read the text, get inside it, then we can ask questions. But that's too much like work, so we proof-text and use our concordances—and of course, Scofield's Notes!

Remember this?:
My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield's Notes and Moody Press...
Oops, maybe it should be My hope is built on nothing less than Zondervan and Moody Press...no, that's not right either...
</idle musing>


Indeed! With a vengeance, too. It's been snowing off and on now since Sunday afternoon. Wonderful stuff! Debbie and I have been out walking in it each day; we're loving it. Right now it is very windy and huge flakes. Here's the weather service warning (somebody should tell them that keyboards have lower case now!):






<idle musing>
I'd say we've gotten about 8 inches here so far. Hard to know for sure with the wind so strong today. The neatest thing is that everybody we talk to here is loving it!
</idle musing>

Monday, December 02, 2013


While we were away visiting Debbie's parents, IVP Academic was kind enough to send me the following books. You'll be seeing excerpts and a review of each in the next month or so (deo volente):

The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy

Different paradigm

As far as Gen 1–11 protohistory was concerned, the Israelites “did history” in ways similar to other ancient Near Eastern cultures because it was part of their common cultural heritage—this common way of doing history was the result of the common ancient cognitive environment. The importance of this for our purposes is the way the ancients, and by association the Israelites (in this section of Genesis), did history was through the medium of myth. They “did indeed make it their practice to express their speculations about world forces and their situation amid them by means of very sophisticated compilations of mythological motifs and patterns.” In other words, the ancient mind tended to (as we would describe it today) mythologize their past. That is, they speculated about their past in mythological terms. Kitchen rightly observes that in the ancient Near East they “did not historicize myth (i.e., read it as an imaginary ‘history’). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to ‘mythologize’ history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms.” Furthermore, our modern tendency to separate myth from history would be a completely foreign notion to them—that was not the way they “did history.” Again, all of this should make perfect sense in light of the values and concerns of ancient history writing discussed above. Mythological language was the perfect means by which to communicate the relevance of such weighty historical matters.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11 , pages 48-49

<idle musing>
We need to learn to let the text speak for itself. We have tried for too long to squeeze scripture into our Western, mechanistic materialism mold. It doesn't work!
</idle musing>

Ride those bicycles!

Via Mother Earth News:
For a given journey, the energy consumed by a driver is at least 42 times more than by a cyclist, a bus passenger uses 34 times as much, and a train passenger 27 times as much. The cyclist requires less space than all but the train passenger and pedestrian. For journeys of up to 6 miles (10 km), the bike is definitely best for both rider and the planet. In terms of lifespan, life-cycle analysis at MIT shows that the bicycle consumes the lowest energy per passenger-mile across its entire life, compared to other forms of transport.

<idle musing>
And that doesn't include the health benefits, which save how many $$ because it's hard to be obese when you ride a bike : )
</idle musing>

Friday, November 29, 2013

Myth defined

Myth is therefore more rightly defined as a reflection on the human world (immediate to the author) “by describing or imaging creative analogies between the circumstances and experiences of human beings in the world and beliefs about the world of the gods.” Here, we find the “analogical thinking” that Averbeck has mentioned. Mythological analogical thinking is the tendency of the ancient mind to relate their beliefs about the distant past (a usual subject of mythological writing) in terms more familiar to them. That is, they tended to analogize known elements from their world around them in order to explain the unknown (or lesser known) elements of their past.— Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11 , pages 46-47

<idle musing>
Or, as a seminary professor of mine said, "reasoning from the given to the divine." We still do that, but we don't call it myth anymore...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

iOS 7.04 woes

A while back I posted about my woes with iOS 7 and my iPad . Since then I have figured out a bit more of what's going on. As long as the iPad is plugged into either a power outlet or computer, it will come back on when you push the home button. Considering this is supposed to be a mobile device, that kind of puts the skids on it, doesn't it?

Anyway, if it isn't plugged into some power source, the screen is supposed to go black to save battery power. If it is allowed to do so, it goes into recovery mode. Usually you can get it back by holding the home and power keys at the same time until the Apple logo shows up. But not always right away; sometimes it takes dancing on the keys a bit and waiting around. Sometimes I plug it into the laptop and let it go through the restore—it doesn't really restore though. The Apple logo shows up on the iPad, then the progress bar quickly moves to finished—and it sits there, and sits there, and...well, you get the idea. The only thing to do is kill it by holding down the home and power buttons at the same time until the power goes off. Then, I can usually get it to come back by holding down the power and home buttons at the same time.

Unless, of course, it is an iOS software update...up until last night, I have always been able to get it to come back after an iOS update, but it would take a bit longer. This time, iOS 7.0.4, it won't come back. I can get the Apple logo to come up and the progress bar runs to done. But when I kill the power, I can't get it to come back. At all. Unless I run it through recovery mode; but then it freezes at the progress bar being done.

I've been messing with this for almost 24 hours and it's getting old...there doesn't seem to be any answers on the support forum and Google isn't being terribly helpful, either...

I'm sure it is a software issue; it only started happening with iOS 7. And it only happens when the software does the power shut off—unless it is an iOS update.

Anybody got any ideas? Otherwise, I just have an expensive paperweight...bummer!

It's in the mindset

Myth, however, is a different way of thinking from that of science, similar to the way that the ancient notion of history is different from our modern conception, so concerned with facts. “At all events,” Fawcett says, “it has become clear that myth and science work in two quite different areas of human concern and that a comparison of the two is misleading rather than enlightening.” As a possible example from the Hebrew Bible, it seems most unlikely that the ancient author of Gen 1:1–2:4 was concerned at all with disproving our entirely modern theory of evolution. As obvious as that may seem to many, certain schools of thought persist in wrongly defending this as a focus and concern of the ancient text.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 46

<idle musing>
We take our preconceptions and our issues to the text—probably via a concordance—and come out with the answers we already wanted. That's not inductive Bible study!

We need to let the text dictate to us. Granted, that's harder and requires real humility. We have to be willing to admit we are/were wrong. We have to be willing to let the Holy Spirit transform our thinking and consequently our life. But isn't that what Romans 12:2 is saying?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


From Xenophanes onward, then, the concept of myth has been misunderstood and misrepresented. The shift in thought favoring logic and reason has affected us to this day, to the end that when someone declares something to be “mythical” it is tantamount to saying that it is “untrue.” This, as Doty says, is a result of the “heavy burden of our cultural background” upon us that causes us to give myth the sense “unreal” or “fictional.” Myth has become a disparaging term that suggests an immediate dismissal of the account as credible or reliable. In the field of biblical studies, to be sure, many scholars perpetuate this unfortunate misconception by equating myth with fiction. Garbini, as one example of this sense, speaks of the Hebrew Bible as “a mythic reconstruction of Israel’s past.” It is understandable, then, how the term myth has come to be so sharply contrasted with the modern critical (scientific) notion of history as well. All of this is a logical consequence of equating myth with fiction.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 44-45

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's a matter of perspective

He [Averback] suggests that the underlying problem for us today is that we require an explanation for the presence of myth or legend in a historical work in the first place. The ancients would have understood this to be normal, whereas we today do not.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 44

<idle musing>
Indeed! Postmodernism has helped a bit, but we still tend to read everything through a mechanistic materialism viewpoint. Cold logical positivism is our default method. That doesn't leave much room for a more mythopoetic reading of things...
</idle musing>

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's the point?

J. Glassner says that the accuracy of chronological material in Mesopotamian royal inscriptions “did not matter much” to the ancient historian. Rather, the point was that chronologies, inaccurate as they may have been, put things in proper perspective for author and audience. That is, the historian’s interpretation and, in a sense, “use” of the past lent credibility and meaning to a present reality, and that was its purpose. This was its significance. We may not dismiss or exclude those historical accounts that are (by our standards) inaccurate, for that is to miss the point of ancient Near Eastern history writing entirely. Neither may we dismiss ancient history that speaks of the world of the gods and their involvement in human affairs, for this too misses the point.— Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 41

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No atheists

To begin, it is important to understand that the cognitive environment of the Near East was “thoroughly transcendent.” That is, deity and a desire to make sense of the divine realm were central to almost all thought and writing in the ancient world. This of course directly applies to ancient history writing in that most accounts were concerned in some way with the divine role in history. “History,” to the Near Eastern mind, was considered “the doings of the deity revealing the will of the deity.” [Walton] If this is true, history, and the task of writing history, was important not because it recounted events of the past with any accuracy (though it may have to varying degrees), but because it assigned meaning and purpose to the present by orienting author and audience properly to deity.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 40

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bridging the gap

The Bible reader’s role is further complicated by the fact that he or she today is significantly removed from the author’s original, intended audience. Indeed, a dominant premise of this study is that there actually is such a temporal divide between today’s audience and an original audience and also that this divide needs to and can be bridged. This is the end in mind when attempting to reconstruct the ancient cognitive environment surrounding our passage in Genesis. We are trying to reconstruct, in other words, the “givens” of the particular cognitive environment that the author and original audience shared.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 27

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The power of preconceptions

One final caveat: an interpreter’s preliminary generic conception will color all that is subsequently understood until, somehow, that conception is changed. In the case of the text of Genesis, when an interpreter’s religious values may also be intertwined with the interpretive process, the issue can become even more complex—it becomes all the more difficult for one’s generic conceptions to be altered. All too often, it seems, interpreters’ preliminary generic conceptions of the text (or, religious import) blind them to generic signals in the text. It is a difficult task, then, religious or not, to become alert to a text’s generic signals, referential ambition, and truth claims. We must do our best to allow the text to speak for itself. —Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 20-21

<idle musing>
Virtually impossible as it is...Personally, I think it is only the power of the Holy Spirit that can blast through our preconceptions—and we have to be willing to let it happen. I don't know very many people who are willing to have their preconceptions altered...

It's a miracle that communication happens at all, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Monday, November 18, 2013

The gospel

Good thoughts from Scot McKnight on the Sermon on the Mount:
Some don’t see gospel in the Sermon on the Mount because they are looking for the wrong thing: the plan for personal salvation.
<idle musing>
Amen to that! I've run across that quite a bit lately in my reading. One of the problems with the evangelical church in the U.S. is that the gospel has become nothing but a ticket to heaven once you die. In the meantime, it's every person for him/herself. God is way off there someplace; he's given us the Bible so we can figure it out, but it's up to us.

That is not the gospel. That is Pelagianism (a heresy that said we can work our way to heaven and be righteous on our own strength)! The gospel is about God transforming us and communing with us via the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Myth? or History?

[W]e should not confine ourselves to the traditional generic (form critical) categories myth, history, legend, folklore, and so on when speaking of Gen 1–11. This section of Genesis is inherently more complex than any of these categories could adequately account for, due in part to the apparent blending of genres found within it. For example, the language in places appears mythological, though at the same time seems to consider what it is communicating to be historical. Is this myth or history? At times certain names appear to be highly symbolic, and elsewhere they seem to be used more conventionally. Is it literal or symbolic language? Must we choose between the two genres in each of these examples? Could we rather deal with the data in an open and honest way and practice generic nominalism? The following sections will demonstrate, among other things, that the ancient mind often made much less of the distinctions between myth and history and also between the literal and the figurative than we do today. —Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, pages 16-17

Friday, November 15, 2013

Watch out!

We're starting a new book today:

Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11

Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11
Reading Genesis 4:17-22 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Background
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement - BBRSup 7
by Daniel DeWitt Lowery
Eisenbrauns, 2013
Pp. xii + 284, English
Hard cover, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575068169
List Price: $47.50
Your Price: $42.75

As our understanding of ancient materials advances, we find that the concerns of the text—being ancient itself—might be slightly other than what we had once thought. This becomes a safeguard for us today, as recognizing the ancient questions and concerns allows us to avoid reading back into Genesis what Longman calls our own “modern scientific perspectives and questions."—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 12

Thursday, November 14, 2013

too cool

We're at Debbie's parents right now, and Debbie's dad pointed this out to me today in the paper, the world's largest camera:

The camera is 35 feet long! You can read the full article here.

True peace...

It is built on the foundations of the apostles (Rev 21:14), not on the foundations of violence or greed, but on the gospel of the truth of God. The new city exists to bring peace and healing to the nations (Rev 22:2), rather than to establish “peace” by controlling, dominating, and subduing. The city faces no threat (the gates are never shut, Rev 21:25). Military conquest, international strife, struggles for maintaining a balance of power, are all done away with in this vision. Resources are expended no longer in futile wars and power struggles but rather for the well-being of all.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 124-125

<idle musing>
Even so, come Lord Jesus!

That's the final snippet from this book. I encourage you to read it all; it will repay your effort.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A challenge

John faithfully portrays a facet of God that many find distasteful, a facet that, though reflected throughout the Scriptures of both testaments, many exclude from the image of the God they worship. Nevertheless, John's proclamation challenges us to ask, if we are to worship the God known in the whole counsel of Scripture, whether we might stand in need of recovering a reasonable fear of God, a healthy respect for God's justice and God's power that will keep a fire kindled within us to get in line with God's agenda sooner rather than later, more rather than less, to the degree that God merits rather than to the degree we can comfortably accommodate. John's emphasis on judgment—and that primarily in terms of what we have done rather than what we have believed—challenges us to examine whether we are really hearing and heeding the words of Jesus when he said, “What's the use of calling me 'Lord' if you don't do what I tell you?”— Unholy Allegiances, page 124

<idle musing>
Ouch. I would sometimes prefer the comfortable God over the real one...but that's not what God calls us to. He demands all of us that we might know all of him.

When I stop to think about it, we're getting the better end of the deal! Of course, if you have a distorted view of who God is (and we all do to an extent), then you might not realize you're getting the better end of the deal...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wake up!

John's proclamation of a God who opposes domination systems challenges hearers in every age to examine themselves and their practices lest they be found among those who profit from and are privileged by the same, and who will therefore receive their share in God's judgment of the same. Rather, Christ-followers are called to take up their stand alongside God, God's prophets like John, and Jesus himself against the practices that interfere with God's good vision for all people—those practices that safeguard the interests of some at the expense of others.— Unholy Allegiances, page 111

<idle musing>
May we hear the call and take our stand! Lord, show us how to do it! Show us where we are so inculturated that we don't even know we are a part of the system!
</idle musing>

Monday, November 11, 2013

Blind mice

The label “domination system” has come to be applied to systemic social arrangements that institutionalize unequal power relationships and that use those power relationships in the interest of the empowered, often to the detriment of the less empowered or unempowered. Domination systems are the standard operating modes of societies that have ordered themselves around the goals of securing the privilege of the few, or the pursuit of wealth or power by the few, as the highest considerations. Such orderings of a society lead inevitably to the disregard for the fair distribution of this world's goods and to disregard for the socially, politically, and economically vulnerable. These systems develop their own “logic” into which they typically indoctrinate all participants, so that ongoing commitment to the system is assured even by those who are most disadvantaged by the system. They are also often accompanied by ideologies of self-aggrandizement, if not self-worship, that also serve to mask the costs of the systems in terms of human suffering and dignity.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 108-109

<idle musing>
If that doesn't describe the U.S. today, then it doesn't describe anybody! And it all stands under the judgment of God...Lord, remove our blinders that we might see how you want us to live!
</idle musing>

Friday, November 08, 2013

Good theology

Interesting post I ran across today (not sure where I saw it) about a person who left the Anglican Communion to become Orthodox and then left it after 2 years. Here's the part that drew me, as I can strongly identify with it:
I was drawn to the Orthodox Faith because of it’s faithfulness to the ancient understandings of the Faith. My theology is very heavily informed by the theology of the Orthodox Church. I understand sin as bondage and sickness rather than as transgression. As a result, I have an Orthodox transformative understanding of salvation rather than a judicial one, meaning that the real object of salvation is God effecting an inner change in us. Again, the model of atonement I have is an Orthodox one of recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In other words, the need for the atonement was not to satisfy a need God had for punishment, but rather to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost, and to free us from the bondage of sin. I also share with the Orthodox church the focus on theosis – our participation in the divine life which changes us into the likeness of Christ. In that sense I see salvation not as a one time act, but as a growing relationship with God. I also am certain that the Orthodox church is right in their understanding of original sin, not as inherited guilt, but as our inheriting the consequences of living in a sinful world.
<idle musing>
Good stuff. I agree with these aspects of the Eastern Orthodox faith, but have a hard time with all the added stuff...probably the same reason I could never be a part of a "high" church—I'm too much a product of the Jesus Movement and house church culture of the early 1970s...
</idle musing>

Everyday Worship

It is important to qualify this, however, by saying that a “worship service” is not the same as “worship.” A worship service fits into the realities of Monday thorough Saturday (and may even be dull by comparison), but worship puts one in touch with the realities that change Monday through Saturday. Entering into this kind of genuine worship is not as simple as choosing one music style over another, or seeking one emotional effect rather than another. Indeed, where the conversation centers on these externals, people seeking life-changing worship are barking up the wrong tree entirely. Rather, it involves becoming so fully aware of God's presence, character, and power that worship is the natural response of ourselves and those around us.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 99-100

<idle musing>
Amen! The "worship wars" show just exactly how wrong-headed we are...only the grace of God through the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to true worship. And true worship flows out of a transformed life on a daily basis.
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Image of God?

Fascinating idea about the image of God at Peter Leithart's blog Note especially the last paragraph:

"Why don’t we spring from the earth full grown, or at least with enough vitality to fend for ourselves? The answer must lie in the fact that human beings are made in the image of God, which in this case means two things: First, to be the image of God is to be a being in need of other beings, to be essentially a member of a community; autonomous animals are lesser precisely in their autonomy. Second, to be image of God means that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, individual development anticipates and recapitulates the history of the race, from infancy to sonship to adulthood (Galatians 3-4)."

<idle musing>
Interesting idea, isn't it? If the Trinity is relational—and I believe it is—then it makes sense that humanity comes into the world in need of a relationship to survive. And it is especially appropriate that it is a relationship of total dependence! Not I but Christ...
</idle musing>

Affliction goes both ways

Even more problematic for John are those congregations that seem to coexist all too peaceably with their neighbors in the shadow of Rome. There is not a hint that the Christians in Sardis and Laodicea have experienced rejection by their neighbors. Indeed, the indictment of these churches appears to stem from the fact that they blend in all too well and mingle all too effectively with the partners of Rome and worshipers of idols all around them. As we think about the diversity of the congregations John addresses, we should always bear in mind that John is equally interested in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.— Unholy Allegiances, page 86

<idle musing>
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12

"Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets." Luke 6:26

That about sums up God's view, doesn't it? Of course our response to this is love:
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." I Peter 3:13-16
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Where does our allegiance lie?

If, with John, we know Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth” and as the “one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father,” our primary identity will be rooted in our place in the kingdom of God, which we share with the redeemed from every people, tribe, nation, and language group. It will not be rooted in some national or political body constructed by human beings and their party lines. Our primary allegiance will be to this One Lord and One God in every aspect of our lives, out of gratitude for our costly redemption and in acknowledgement that we have been made part of a very real political entity whose head is Christ.— Unholy Allegiances, page 82

<idle musing>
I've been reading Bonheoffer the Assassin?. This excerpt fits in very well with what they are saying about the transformation of Bonhoeffer's thinking. He began (in 1929) as a typical nationalistic German, but by the mid-1930s he had realized, through an encounter with the Jesus of the gospels, that the church transcends national and political allegiances...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Here's the rub

Again because of our immersion, often from birth, in the assumptions, values, goals, and practices of our own society and its systems, we have a tendency to domesticate the voice of Scripture so that Scripture can live in the house that we have built in our society, rather than invite Scripture to tell us how to rebuild the house from new foundations. One strategy for pushing past this is to be particularly attentive to the places where Jesus, Paul, James, or John rubs us the wrong way. Where do we say, in response to something we're reading in the New Testament, “No, he can't possibly mean that”? Where do we jump to find some consideration that will blunt the force of the challenge or demand the text poses, so that we can move on without letting that word change the way we think, live, or relate to others? Where do we find ourselves making excuses for our country (“Nations have to do that kind of thing”) or for ourselves (“We've got to be practical as well, and not get carried away with this religion stuff”)?— Unholy Allegiances, page 72

<idle musing>
Good advice. If we think Jesus couldn't possibly have meant that, there's a good possibility that is exactly what he meant and you've just discovered an idol...
</idle musing>

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thought for the day

You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually.—A.W. Tozer

The goal of theology

The Psalms portray Israel at prayer. And it is when we pray that we find out what we really believe, what our theology actually is. Furthermore, true theology ought to end in prayer. If theology is the study of God, the knowledge of God, and if God is God, then the end of our study ought to be worship. If it is not, if it has been only a study about a subject and our thoughts on that subject, that is idolatry; I have made God a thing. It does not matter how accurate my thought is; if it does not bring me to Him as a living Person, I have only found a substitute for Him, a knowledge of something other than God. When one comes to know the true God, the only response is, in the language of the Old Testament, fearful worship. I do not mean fearful in the sense of craven terror, but rather a deep-seated awe that you have come into the presence of the Holy One of Israel, the Creator and Lord of all. In every one of those passages in the Scripture where we find a person meeting God, that response of fearful worship is always there. Whether it is Isaiah or Moses, or whether is it Paul on the road to Damascus or John on the island of Patmos, there it is. So in your study, whatever else you look for, look for God. You will know that you have found him if you find yourself on your face before him.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 15-16

<idle musing>
That's taken from a sneak peak of the book online; I'm going to have to get it via interlibrary loan, but I suspect I'll end up buying it. Kinlaw and Oswalt (he edited it) were both professors of mine while in seminary. Good stuff...watch for more excerpts once I manage to snag a copy—which won't be until December, probably.

I did a paper for Kinlaw on theophanies for his Old Testament Theology course. Life-changing stuff...
</idle musing>

How do we respond?

Exerting control and maintaining peace through violent suppression of dissent; promoting an economy arranged for the great benefit of the few; the prominent use of religious language and ritual to legitimate these arrangements—this is both the genius of Rome and the heap of her sins for which John excoriates her. To enter into partnership with Rome is to fall victim to its deceit (Rev 18:23), which intoxicates the ignorant (Rev 17:2), and thus to be united with her in her sins and their punishment at the hands of the just and judging God.— Unholy Allegiances, page 70

<idle musing>
Substitute the U.S. for Rome and you have the current state of affairs. As I asked on Saturday, what should our response as Christians who live in the U.S. be?

I still don't have an answer that fully satisfies, but I firmly believe we need to model lives that are full of the Holy Spirit. That means loving those who hate us, embracing those who are scorned by society, living lives of conspicuous nonconsumption in contrast to the conspicuous consumption of society. The list could be expanded, but the bottom line is probably summarized best by what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed: Love God and love others...
</idle musing>

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Share the responsibility

The wealth to be enjoyed by participating in the larger global economy was, as far as John was concerned, a dangerous lure toward sharing in the violence and political injustice that undergirded such an economy, as well as sharing in the economic injustice that allowed the resources and produce of the provinces to be siphoned off to satisfy the immoderate cravings of Rome's inhabitants and worldwide elite. John understood long before the modern era that a person cannot share in the profits of domination without also sharing in responsibility for its crimes.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 68-69

<idle musing>
John understood long before the modern era that a person cannot share in the profits of domination without also sharing in responsibility for its crimes.

Food for thought, isn't it? How do we respond to the rampant consumerism of the world around us? How do we respond to the conspicuous consumption that floods our culture? These are honest questions on my part. I grapple with this everyday.

One way we can respond is by being the opposite of what the culture around us is. If it is greedy, we should be generous. If it is selfish, we should be selfless. If it is controlling and power hungry, we should be open and humble. This response disarms the spirits behind the behavior.

What do you think?
</idle musing>

Friday, November 01, 2013

Rome unveiled

John calls attention to the parasitic side of the Roman imperial economy, countering any feelings of gratitude toward Rome by drawing attention to the pervasive self-interest that underlies Roman rule. Roma [the goddess] is an anti-benefactor, whose influence and interventions ultimately seek to secure self-serving ends. John includes no notice of anything Rome has done purely on behalf of her subjects. The emphasis on luxury, intemperance, and conspicuous consumption also nurtures indignation, as Rome is seen to consume more of the world's good than any one city, enjoying more than is due—and this often to the detriment of the provinces under her far-from-beneficent rule. If Rome brings prosperity, she does so only to the merchants and shipmasters and others who profit (or profiteer) as they direct the world's wealth and resources to her ravenous maw.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 67-68

<idle musing>
Ouch! There goes all the wonderful marketing, right out the window. John sees things as they really are—now let's turn that same light on the U.S. today...how does the U.S. differ from Rome of John's day? Exactly; it doesn't...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Looking behind the curtain

John helps his audiences to look at Rome and Roman imperialism especially through the lens of the Hebrew prophets, who had long ago spoken against the self-serving practices of empires as contrary to God's good will for human beings in every nation. In particular, he accuses Rome of (1) violence against dissenters, especially against Jews and Christians; (2) economic exploitation, nurturing a system that caters to the luxury of the powerful at the expense of the many; and (3) idolatrous presumption in its claims on its own behalf. John develops each of theses in such a way as to arouse indignation against Roman imperialism, supporting his call to Christians to keep themselves free from supporting or participating in such an unjust system of domination.— Unholy Allegiances, page 65

<idle musing>
Anybody else see the United States in that description, at least in numbers 2 & 3? Think 1% controlling 40% of the wealth. Think "American exceptionalism" which is just a variation of the 19th century's "white man's burden."
</idle musing>

For each and every

It's been a while since I posted some Finney, so here's a good one:
We are not to suppose that He died for the sum total of mankind in such a sense that His death is not truly for each one in particular. It is a great mistake into which some fall, to suppose that Christ died for the race in general, and not for each one in particular. By this mistake, the Gospel is likely to lose much of its practical power on our hearts. We need to apprehend it is Paul did, who said of Jesus Christ, "He loved me and gave Himself for me."—Charles Finney

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It depends on your viewpoint

[According to John in Revelation] The emperors themselves are not pious figures or mediators of divine favor, as the public image of them declares. Rather, they are founts of blasphemy against God (Rev 13:1, 5, 6). The emperor's divine titles (typically including “son of a god,” divi filius) are illegitimate, the “names of blasphemy” that offend the Most High. Flattering courtiers of Rome and local authorities in Asia Minor addressed their emperors as “lord and God”: what was for most of Asia Minor a matter of gratitude and welcome security was, for John, an insult to the one Lord and one God in the highest degree. Indeed, many of the titles ascribed to God and the Lamb throughout Revelation are stolen back by John from the emperor for the True God and for Christ throughout Revelation.— Unholy Allegiances, page 44

<idle musing>
How you see the reigning powers depends on your viewpoint, doesn't it? May we all have the viewpoint of John: centered on the Lamb. Then we will be able to see clearly; our vision won't be distorted by incorrect priorities and desires.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!
</idle musing>