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 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. does the U.S. differ from Rome of John's day? Exactly; it doesn't...
</idle musing>